It's that time in the schedule of a narrowboat owner. LJ is unceremoniously being hauled out of the water for blacking. The last time it was done, according to Whilton chandlers details, was some time in 2010. Assuming the worst, that was probably three and a half years ago. We had budgeted for a boat yard to do all the work and had put aside about £600 all in. Over the last year though we had pretty well decided that we would probably prefer do the job ourselves. Its not the painting of the Rylards bitumous blacking that was an issue more that we wanted to spend a bit of extra time on the prep work and that we would take the opportunity to do some other painting jobs whilst LJ was sat on sleepers.
More recently we had chosen Debdale boat yard to do the work. For no other reason than they had the time slot available when it was convenient to us and that their prices seemed very reasonable. We will be blacking LJ every two years from now and as we are fairly careful drivers we have opted for the straight two coats after pressure washing. For a sixty foot boat Debdale charge £390 which is well within budget. Having booked in with Nicky (owner/director) we arrived opposite the marina entrance the day before LJ was due out. We popped over to introduce ourselves to Dean who was busy blacking the bottom (underside) of one of their berth occupiers. He appeared to be doing a thorough job and was using a roller for the larger areas and stabbing blacking into the creases of welded joints and around rubbing strakes with a stout brush. Not many yards offer the service of blacking the underside. The benefits are debatable for us as we seem to regularly scrape the bottom of the cut and rarely are we not sitting on the bottom on our of 'out in the sticks' towpath moorings. If/when we are permanent mooring dwellers or (less likely) pay for a long term marina berth I think we would get the bottom done as well (from memory it is about another £ 1.50 per foot.
We had to wait a few hours extra as Nicky had a boat coming out in the afternoon to go onto a lorry to be transported to another canal. This was quite fortuitous for us in the end because once LJ was out Dean only had time to pressure wash and not start painting before clocking off time. The pressure washing took longer than I thought it would have it, he was getting on for two hours in the canal crud and mist of jet washed molluscs. Making use of the extra time, first light this morning we were up and checking for any old loose bits of blacking that could come off. The pressure washer had stripped everything off below the water line but there were a lot that we could chip off higher up and some neatening up to do on the upper subbing strake. It was well worth the effort and by 08.45 when Dean arrived we had scraped and wire brushed most of the hull (blisters to prove it!). Dean has been busy for the last hour or so and has got about three quarters of one side done. He has also taken out the weed hatch and pressure washed both the weed hole and the cover ready for painting.
All being well the weather looks good for this afternoon so Dean will be able to get the second coat on and after overnight curing we should be off some time tomorrow.
As a cost comparison we asked Cowroast how much to haul out for a DIY slot so we could do all the work ourselves (plus the rest of the painting, servicing and winter jobs). They had a ten day slot available for £600. Ouch! when you add blacking, brushes, overalls etc it would have been close to £800. For £495 we can let Debdale do the blacking and go back to Hinckley Marina for ten days and use their wet dock to do all the rest!