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Old 03-28-2012, 08:47 AM   #1
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 8
Default Steel repair/maintenance - Prepping for the big trip -

Hi All,
Finally got my 31 foot steel cutter to London and now need to do repair bits and pieces before we set off to the french canals and beyond...so wanted some advice on a number of things :

- I want to remove the sea toilet and block off the two holes it needs (replacing with a porta potti)...what is the best method to cover up the in/out holes outside and in?

- the deck is an ugly grey and there are a few bubbly spots around the wooden hand rails etc....our plan is to remove all fittings, use a powered wire brush to sand/brush down any existing paint/surface rust (and use rust remover for nooks and crannies), weld any rusty spots then two coats with appropriate primer and 2 or 3 coats with top coat (white this time)..does that sound right? would we have to remove all of the old paint on deck before priming?

- I'd like to replace the wood handle bars with stainless steel ones are there any issues with that?

- also going to check all hull valves/skin fittings...we should be left with engine water in, and sink water in and out as our sink is connected to salt water at the moment...if I need to replace any hull valves or skin fittings what material is best for steel...plastic? brass? As part of this I need to install a log and depth sounder..both of those have plastic skin fittings...how would I fix it to a steel boat, is it same as per plastic? (I only ever fixed such things to grp boats)

I need to check gaskets on the engine water inlet or pump as one of those is leaking a little I think (got about 2l of water in the bilge on a 30hr motor sail) so will do that also

And it seems anodes are doing their job...being eaten fairly equally everywhere so will replace with new ones also...

Is there anything else I should check/do below waterline?

The only other concern below the waterline is that the hull has two large (3x1 foot) patches either side of the keel (just above the fwd section of the keel) below waterline...it looks like a professional job though it is patched on rather than in...for whatever reason the previous owner was advised to patch over (probably cheaper)...I know that grease has been inserted between plates to remove moisture...so my question is should I worry about it and get it done properly now (ie cut out and weld inline) or is this broadly ok for now...we were thinking of fixing this once over the Atlantic as we would probably have more work after the crossing then...

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Old 03-28-2012, 01:45 PM   #2
JeanneP's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 2,098

I don't have the knowledge to answer most of your questions, but I would like to address a few issues.

Replacing head for porta-potty. Do you really want to handle an Atlantic crossing with a "holding" tank you have to dump overboard? You might be using a bucket halfway across. In my view a direct-overboard discharge head is the best setup for blue water cruising.

Don't the French canals have pumpout stations? The rest of Europe does, so I don't see the issue with a marine head and holding tank.

I know so little about steel boats that I have more questions than answers, but every owner of a steel boat that we've met has had their older, rust-showing hull, sand blasted and started from a clean steel surface before priming and painting. So it seems to me that wire brush and painting without removing all old paint is a short-term patch that will have to be redone more completely in the near future. Wouldn't it be better to bite the bullet now and do it properly the first time?

Looking forward to enlightenment from the steel-hull owners on this board.

In 1986 we went cruising for a few years. After 20 years and 50+ countries and several oceans, we are STILL "cruising for a few years".

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Old 03-28-2012, 11:10 PM   #3
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Home Port: Washington DC
Vessel Name: SV Mahdee
Posts: 3,236

Agree that generally you've got to get down to clean metal in order to do a proper job of keeping corrosion away. Rust converters are helpful but only after you've done the bulk of the work of getting the rust off the metal. We have several items constructed of mild steel on the boat--the large windlass case and various parts of the steering system come to mind. I sanded all of them, treated them with a rust converter, rinse, and then rust converter primer before painting. Lot of work. Your deck is bigger and will be even more work but well worth doing.

Several of the things you mention are the sort that you'd get excellent advice from a reputable surveyor. If you did not have your boat fully surveyed when purchased, now is the time to figure it all out. Our boat is wood, not steel--so can't help there, but we hired an excellent surveyor familiar with wooden boats who worked with us from the get-go to identify and stay on top of all things which require maintenance, repair, replacement. As we went through a major rebuild we continued to call him in periodically. It was well worth the money.

A surveyor can point you in the direction of a boat yard or craftsperson to do things you don't want to take on yourself. If you're not an excellent welder already and quite familiar with the needs of steel hulls I'd think you'd be very happy to have a good steel-boat surveyor in to take a look.

Regarding toilet--if you have direct discharge w/o a holding tank, I can see the problem you might wish to get rid of. However, installation of a holding tank system seems most logical. We have two toilets--one is a composting head (Natures Head and Air Head are the two USA brands) for use most times and the other is an offshore only use direct discharge w/o holding tank (legal to have in USA IF installed before 1978 or so AND locked down so it cannot be used unless out to sea). If you don't have room for two, then the holding tank is likely the way to go. If you don't have room for a holding tank, then a composting toilet is worth consideration. With it, you will have to remove a couple gallon liquids holding tank and take it to a marina toilet every day or two but you'll only have to deal with the compost (solid waste) part every month or even less frequently depending upon how much you have access to shore side facilities so you don't have to use the toilet.

Best of luck in figuring out the right thru hulls to use--I prefer bronze but have a wood boat. Dunno how you deal with the dissimilar metals on a steel boat. A good surveyor can help you on this, though.

Fair winds,
"Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda

What we're doing - The sailing life aboard and the Schooner Chandlery.

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