On the Grid

Image: Draiocht on the grid this spring.

It must have been a really good summer for barnacles.  When we put the Draiocht in the water this spring, she was freshly cleaned.  Now, only four months later, she has multiple layers of barnacles on her bottom and leg.  Looks like it’s time for another haul out and copper painting.

In the spring, we hauled the Draiocht out on a couple of cedar logs to check some issues with the steering.  This worked, but it was obviously a very temporary arrangement.  We decided to make something a little more “permanent”, and based on materials that we had at hand, came up with a grid/cradle for the boat mostly consisting of supersized black polyethylene  pipes all bolted together.


Image: New grid on the beach.

We weighted the grid down with stones (poly pipe tends to float), and at a good high tide, brought the Draiocht up to the beach and let her settle onto the grid as the tide went out.  The first time we did this, it worked perfectly.  However, as it turned out, we ended up being three days doing maintenance and painting on the grid.  This meant that we had to take the Draiocht off and on a couple of times.  The second time we brought her in, things were a little more difficult.  We had wind and a bit of a swell, and discovered that the Draiocht was able to drag the grid around quite a bit when the swell hit us before the tide had gone out enough to allow her to settle completely.  Clearly, we will need to anchor and weight the grid more securely next time!

Three days on the grid reminded me only too well how much I hate copper painting.  Copper bottom paint is one of those necessary evils in my life.  I hate the stuff, and I hate the impacts it has on the environment.  However, I have yet to find a suitable replacement for our fiberglass boats.  Without copper paint, the barnacles immediately overtake the hull, and the boat quickly becomes inefficient and uneconomical in the water.  Ken figures that we lost a good 5 knots of speed with the fouling we had after four months.  An inefficient hull means more fuel burned, more CO2 produced, and ultimately, we contribute more to global warming.  So its a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.  And at the end of the day, no matter how much you try to avoid it, you end up with copper paint on your skin, in your hair, and everywhere else, and come away from the project feeling like a toxic waste dump.  I’m still hoping that somebody someday invents something better for antifouling …

I had hoped that a smaller boat would be easier to paint (after all, we have downsized from 40′ to 24′).  However, while the Moody Blue had a relatively smooth bottom, the Draiocht has a series of “lifting strakes” on the bottom – long horizontal ridges that make excellent barnacle habitat.  These ridges, also known as “planing strakes”, help counteract the deep V of the hull.  The deep V makes the ride a little gentler when hitting waves, and makes the boat more seaworthy, but reduces planing efficiency, and results in greater fuel consumption.  The strakes are supposed to help lift the hull out of the water and up onto step more easily, thus increasing fuel efficiency.  They also help to strengthen the hull.  So, the Draiocht has a good hull design, but each strake was a real pain to scrape free of barnacles.  In the end, it took us nearly as long to clean and paint the Draiocht as it would have taken us to do the Moody Blue.  Oh well …