The Pros and Cons of Do It Yourself Bottom Maintenance
Paul Browne
Geezer Boatworks

Ahoy there Shipmates, 

Down here in the swamp, boats get foul very quickly, especially in brackish water. Boats kept in a wet slip really should have their bottoms brushed once a month. The best way is to dive on the boat, but sometimes it’s hard to find a diver who will come to a small, shallow, mucky marina. So lately I’ve been doing the best job I can with a deck brush on a long handle. You know, I’m not sure I’ll continue. It’s a nasty job. Those barnacles are right sharp! And then sometimes you stir up those little water bugs off the hull, and they decide that you might make a better place to live. So when you climb onto the dock they’re all over you, creeping and crawling this way and that. But that’s not what’s got me wondering about doing it myself. 

The other day the Resident Love Goddess and I were getting ready for a sunset cruise. I looked over the stern at the prop, because I thought the Icebreaker Danielle had been a little sluggish last time out. And sure enough the little devils were back, and there were enough of them to knock a half knot off her. I hate that. So I fished around in my tool bag for my rusty trusty scraper, and then I made a beeline for the stern. Now I/B Danielle has an outboard rudder, and the steering cables run out of the hull and around grooves in the curved outer edges of wings that stick out on each side of the rudder. They’re something like steps, about 6” above the water, and they’re strong enough that you can stand on them. Anyway, here I’ve got one leg over the stern and a foot already on one wing, and the scraper in my teeth, and I’m about ready to sling the other leg over and lower myself down, when the Resident Love Goddess spies me and starts questioning my judgment. She does that sometimes. Beats me why. You’d think after 30 years…

The Icebreaker Danielle

“Where’re you goin’?” she asks, looking worried. “There’s barnacles on the prop,” I answer, taking the scraper out of my mouth, ptooie – fishy. “I’ll just knock them off, and then we’ll go.” “But that looks dangerous,” she said, “And you can’t reach the prop from there.” “I just put one foot on the shaft and squat till I can reach it. I do it all the time,” I explained. “But you’ll get all wet,” she objected. “It’s warm enough,” I retorted. The RLG tried again, “Yeah but, John says there’s this…” I cut her short. It’s sweet when she gets worried about me, but a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do. “It ain’t John’s boat,” I said flatly. “OK, do what you want,” said the RLG, a touch annoyed. She left me to it and started packing away some drinks. 

“A man’s gotta smell like a man,” I thought. “What’s John know anyway? I bet his prop is just full of barnacles.” I put one foot onto the shaft and started to lower myself in. Oooo, cooler than I thought….Whoo hoo, sorta bracing. Dowwwn slowwwly… No up! Up!…Now down…eee, eee…. there. Glad that part’s over with. And I starts to scrape and mutter. “Friggin’ barnacles, they always get right in there behind the leading edge, and right…unnngh… down by the root of the blades, makes ‘em hard to get off, and you can’t keep bottom paint on a prop. Ouch-ooo, blessed scraper slipped, sharp. Uuuhn, there, just a couple left……” 

I was almost done. Takes a bit of concentration, balancing like that on one foot, holding on with one hand, and scraping with the other. “Uh, Paul,” the Resident Love Goddess was interrupting me; I didn’t pay much attention. “I’m almost done, Sweetie. See, I told you it wasn’t too hard.” “That’s nice dear,” she commented nonchalantly, “But maybe you better have a look over there.” And the RLG pointed to a log about 20 feet off the stern. I glanced over. 

Whoa ho, Shipmates!!! It warn’t no log!!! It was about 8 feet long! It swam with a slow side-to-side motion to its stern! And it had one heck of a big smile just for me!!!! Man alive! You want to see somebody get into a boat in a rush! Banged my knee, flung my rusty trusty scraper somewhere, knocked my head on the overhead getting in. “Alli, alli-g-g-g,” I stammered, shaky hand pointing, knees knocking, upper lip quivering. “Yes dear,” the RLG assured me, “John said there was one around here.” “B-b-big t-tee, eee…” I stuttered, eyes as round as saucers. “Yes dear,” the RLG said calmly, “Those were big teeth, weren’t they? Now you just sit down in that deck chair for a few minutes, and then we’ll go for a nice ride.” And after a while we did. But now I’m not sure I want to do the bottom myself anymore.