All Hands on Deck: On Painting 18metres of Steel Barge Deck

20140420-074034.jpgIt may not look like it, but these hands have been through a lot this week.

it took 13 bodies various hours over 4 days to angle grind approximately half our revised conservative estimate of what we thought we’d get done in 2.

Turns out angle grinding is the filthiest, most deafening, backbreaking work I’d never imagined. Here is me before I started:

20140420-074133.jpg And at the end of day 2:

20140420-074215.jpg Broken.
Here are some of our favourite people in the world, beavering away on Saturday (poor innocents. Little did we know at that stage what a major pain-in-the-ass of an ordeal lay ahead):

20140420-074317.jpgAnd here’s what the deck looked like when we’d finally finished:

This is 18 square metres up to the first set of port lights – less than half what we’d been hoping to manage. But a start nonetheless.

The paint we bought needs to be applied in sequence within a fixed period, after the epoxy has gone off (10hrs min, 7 hours for the topcoat) but before it’s cured rock solid (about a week, depending on temperature).

Tempting as it was to spend all week angle-grinding, we decided to crack on with painting at least the section we’d ground, so that we had enough time and could experience one whole round of treatment, making us better able to plan the remainder. Also to be honest I’m not sure my sanity could have withstood any more grinding. Or my back. Or my right elbow.

So we painted. Day one was the Jotamastic 87 Aluminium. Turns out it’s silver, not black, but that’s fine. Went on with brushes and took me and my dad precisely three hours, which made us ridiculously happy:


We had a lot of fun pretty much from this point on. Turns out mixing highly toxic paint with my dad on my boat in the sunshine is one of my favourite things – it was like being a kid again making mud pies, we haven’t spent time together like that since I was about ten. It was totally brilliant. Here is the paint:

20140420-075519.jpg And then we made Spag Bol and went and bought some plant pots from B&Q.

By the end of day 2 we looked like this:


Now. This was just the second coat of five coats of paint, and this area isn’t going to end up green – but it is the correct green we’d chosen. And we just didn’t like it half as much as we thought we would. Rookie error: DONT CHOOSE PAINT COLOURS OFF A COMPUTER SCREEN. On screen, it looked like an elegant, lovely dusty sage green colour. In real life and especially sunlight, it is blinding in its bright limey-ness.

So we’re rethinking the green. In the meantime, we cracked on with covering it up and Day 3 looked much more like it (3rd layer of Jotamastic (90) in white):

20140420-080259.jpg I’d totally forgotten that Day 3 was Good Friday and therefore a bank holiday. This did not stop me getting a major “do” on and planting all my plants out:

20140420-080805.jpg (I’m starting modestly with herbs, geraniums and french marigolds, and we’re designing custom planters for the top deck to grow beets and greens and MASSES of parsley and mint, thanks to the excellent book on Crops in Pots a friend recently gave me).

Then I went to pottery to glaze my dragon’s egg:

20140420-081106.jpg (here is the inside):

20140420-081158.jpg And drop off the sgraffito pot I’ve been working on in the evenings:

20140420-081313.jpg And get started on the next one:

20140420-081347.jpg And finally, we also started thinking about stoves and back boilers vs flue boilers, so we called the fellows at Kings Worthy Foundry (right near my mum’s) and we’re now investigating Charnwood (“the Rolls Royce of stoves”.)

Yesterday we moved onto the penultimate layer of deck paint: the first layer of polyurethane topcoat. The technical spec said coverage was nearly double that of the primer, so we thought it was going to be easy. Nearly there, and all that. IT LIED. Jotun Hardtop Flexi is the Diva Queen of gloss paints. It’s sticky, thick and cures surprisingly quickly. It is an all round pain in the neck. So much so that after we’d done one layer, we had to have several glasses of wine to calm ourselves down, and were thereby in no fit state to do the last and final coat seven hours later. We’ll have to come back on Monday…

It looks nice though:

At least, the bit we’ve painted does. Now we’ve just got to do the rest of it.

The thing about my hands is, they’ve had quite the learning curve this week. They’ve wielded power tools, they’ve measured, mixed and applied some ferocious chemicals, and gone over every square inch of the deck in minute detail with the odd bit of expert commentary from my engineer dad. As a result of which, I’m pretty confident they are capable of learning to weld. So that may be something to look forward to in future…

Once the deck’s painted, obviously.


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