17 Feb Why We Chose Micron Premium Bottom Paint & How We Applied It
Choosing The Right Antifouling Bottom Paint
As boat owners, we are all in search of #ThatFeeling when we set sail, but first, in preparation for our voyages, we must spend time researching and choosing products to prepare and protect our boats properly. Choosing the protective coating system for our beloved boat is one of those big decisions from which there is no turning back. It is a time-consuming and expensive process with lots of variables, especially when planning to venture far from your home dock on extended long-distance cruising adventures. Things like water type (salt, brackish, or fresh) and temperature, sailing speed, itineraries and layups, hull construction (fiberglass, aluminum, or steel), and paint compatibility and availability, polishing vs hard paints, all have to come into play.
Our Experience With SeaHawk Antifouling Paint
We originally chose the AkzoNobel’s SeaHawk Islands line of ablative paints as our paint of choice to complete our circumnavigation when we repainted our bottom in April of 2021 in Carriacou, Grenada. We also re-faired our keel at the time using Interlux 2000e. SeaHawk is widely used and available in the Caribbean and was compatible with our boat’s existing paint system at the time. It also works very well on all types of growth, and its self-polishing chemistry means any growth and slime wash away and refresh to a new layer as the boat moves, making for an excellent low-maintenance cruising bottom that does not require constant diving and manual cleaning. With five coats applied, we expected to be able to complete our circumnavigation before returning to the Caribbean for a refresh.
After over 6000 miles of sailing and halfway through our second Transatlantic voyage in a year, our bottom was still clean, and fast, and had lots of life left in its antifouling and self-polishing layers. There was a problem though, we struck an unidentified floating object about 800 miles off the coast of Sierra Leone, Africa, nearing the doldrums, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Our Worst Fear – A Collision While Far Offshore
It was a rainy cloudless night, the Autopilot was driving, and Kate was working hard to keep the boat moving at 3-4 knots in very light air. It was impossible to see anything on or in the sea ahead. The strike made three loud thumps, the last, impacting our rudder, spinning our boat 180 degrees, and tossing her onto her side. Our boat weighs about 30,000 lbs when fully loaded, so whatever we hit had to be big for it to toss us as it did. Luckily, it did not cause us to take on any water, but it would cause some damage hidden from us at the time, which would be revealed later in our voyage.
Fast forward to Brazil. After winning 1st place in a double handed regatta in Ilhabela (a testament to our SeaHawk bottom after over a year and thousands of sailing miles) we sailed south towards our goal of Cape Horn. It was 75 miles offshore though that we noticed water ingress into our hull behind the rudder. Our hull was cracked!
Connection With Ocean Racing History
We knew it had to be leftover hidden damage from our earlier collision and immediately headed to the closest place we knew of with a travel-lift in this foreign land, Itajai, Brazil. As racers and aspirational ocean sailors we have long followed The Ocean Race, an evolution of the Whitbread Race, the images of which we gleaned at for years in the sailing magazines inspired our own journey. This is why we knew about Itajai, as it is a stopover for The Ocean Race. We knew the city would have the resources we needed to complete our repairs.
Facing A Big Problem
There were two other problems though, our visas in Brazil were running short on time and could not be extended, and we had not budgeted for a collision, haulout, repair, repaint, etc. All very expensive stuff, we had already blown through our emergency funds weathering the pandemic for over a year as so many others have, plus we had no collision insurance coverage available while sailing so far offshore. We were in a bind and our long-planned for and dreamed of around the world voyage was in dire jeopardy.
Finding A Solution
We decided to make a long shot and reach out to a brand we knew and trusted for help. We sent an email to AkzoNobel asking if they would assist by sponsoring our repair and repaint project. Amazingly we heard back and after a few conversations, we realized that this was a great chance for us to get back onto the water and get the wind back in our sails all the while sharing the process and materials, and experience with others.
We hauled out in Brazil, repairing the rudder, and hull, but the Marina has a small working yard catering to big yachts with a long waiting list. We were thankful for Marina Itajai to fit us in for emergency repairs, but we would have to go in the water and wait in line to complete a longer project. Along with the clock ticking on our visas, we had to make other plans for the next stage of repairs, which was removing all of the paint to the barrier coat to inspect and repair other areas potentially damaged by the strike with an unknown object at sea, and properly apply a new barrier coat and antifouling.
Overcoming A Giant Hurdle
We had to move the project to another country, over 600 miles of sailing away, through the cold and dangerous waters offshore of Uruguay in a Southern Ocean winter! Being forced out of Itajai though was a blessing in disguise, we made our new destination Piriapolis, Uruguay. Yet another South American port with sailing history tied to the famous Whitbread Race! We would now be hauling our boat in the same travel-lift and working in the same yard of the great ocean racing machines of the past! The lift still bears the plaque from the original Whitbread Race.
AkzoNobel saved the day yet again, helping us overcome the logistical problems involved, and we were able to secure top-quality International paint and get product application knowledge from their local retailer in Montevideo, Todo Sailing. Now, it was time to get to work!
Preparing The Boat For Paint
The first step was to haul the boat, wash the bottom, and remove all of the old layers of paint. Because our boat is 22 years old, it had quite the buildup of old layers of bottom paint. All of this needed to be removed so that we could inspect the underlying epoxy barrier coat, which is the important layer that protects the underlying fiberglass from damaging osmosis.
Once the paint was removed we found a few small areas which were damaged from the impact. Luckily it was nothing major but did need to be addressed properly to ensure our boat would remain seaworthy for years to come. We made repairs to the fiberglass via vacuum bag and faired them back to the original shape, maintaining the lightweight and strength of the original construction. It was now time to seal the boat’s bottom and rudder completely with a new watertight epoxy layer.
Applying a Complete Protective International Yacht Paint System
First, we applied two layers of International Galverette, an epoxy primer, to seal over any remnants of old coatings and to adhere to the underwater metals. After this, we applied two layers of International Intergard Yacht, an epoxy barrier coat, and primer. The combination of the two works similarly to a product we had used in the USA and Caribbean, Interlux InterProtect 2000E. Because of AkzoNobel’s global reach and production, different products are available in different markets with different names, but compatibility and product data can be easily identified.
Normally we would apply the International Micron Premium directly onto the Intergard layer, however, the boatyard’s operating hours and the unique old fashion wooden stands (locally called sticks or tacos) did not allow this to be done efficiently. We decided to use another International product as a tie and fairing coat to accomplish a smooth bottom in this case, Intertuf. Intertuf is a one-part vinyl-based layer that is easy to sand and offers good adhesion and additional hull protection. It was also highly regarded by the local professional applicators for this purpose.
The Finishing Touches With Micron – A Performance Cruising Bottom
Next up, after a light sanding, was the airless spray application of International Micron Premium polishing antifouling paint, in blue of course, to achieve the smoothest finish possible for a cruising boat. Micron is an excellent paint choice for performance cruisers due to its excellent antifouling chemistry and polishing properties. It also requires no extra sanding or burnishing to achieve a smooth finish, acceptable to us with an eye for racing-level bottoms. The application was easy enough for us to DIY, but we didn’t have spray equipment (it is possible to roll on to a good finish as well) so we enlisted the help of Cris, from CrisMar Servicios Nauticos, to assist with the application which turned out beautifully.
Lastly, after re-installing the rudder and steering system, it was time for the storied lift to once again lift us up in its shadow and place us back into the water, ready, with our boat now repaired and protected, to venture into the challenging southern ocean and around the infamous Cape Horn, just like the Whitebread Boats, The Ocean Race, and in the footsteps of the great and storied sailors of yesteryear.
What This Means To Us As Sailors
We want to take a moment to give a special thanks to AkzoNobel for supporting us, and all the sailors that work so hard every day to get #ThatFeeling: when the wind fills your sails after many long hours of hard work preparing your boat, #ThatFeeling when the boat leans over and begins silently gliding through the water, #ThatFeeling of release when you leave the troubles of land behind as you move into open water, #ThatFeeling as you sail in the shadows of the great men and women that have forged a path through the oceans ahead of us, #ThatFeeling of camaraderie and respect for the ocean between sailors and mariners in every harbor all around the world.
We invite you to share your stories with us and join us on our journey across oceans. We want to hear what gives you #ThatFeeling and drives your passion for the sea?