A Quick Trip to the Yard


Once I got her home to San Francisco, the first job on Moli was a quick haul at KKMI in Richmond.

While at anchor in Hanalei Bay the month before, I dove on the hull and found two lengthwise scratches in the new bottom paint so expertly sprayed into place by the guys at Homer Boat Yard.

Both scratches were narrow but four or five feet long and both looked to have penetrated through the gray barrier coat all the way to the aluminum. How they got there was a mystery. The water was murky and my mask, uncorrected for eyes that now need bifocals; so, what I saw was disturbing but not definitive. In any case, there was nothing to be done from such a remote location except to get the boat home.


After a winter in Alaska and a summer in Hawaii, experiencing a full-service yard like KKMI is equivalent to coming off the Pacific Crest Trail and checking into the Four Seasons.



A few conchodroma virgatum around the stern’s dead zones were the only sign we’d made an ocean passage. Easily scraped off with a thumbnail.

Viewed from a position on the hard, the scratches turned out to be so minor as to not warrant the haul (or a photograph, apparently), but alarming was a persistent drip coming from the forward edge of the keel. Some digging into the drip point revealed a deep, long crack into thick fairing compound.


First explorations of a drip coming from the keel.

It took me some moments to recall that the leading edge of the keel has a “false nose.” I’d learned this from Tony Gooch while Mo was still in the shed in Alaska. Here we’d been happily blasting the hull to bright aluminum when we encountered multi-colored layers of fairing at the bow.

Baffled, I reached out to Tony, who explained that the original leading edge was a blunt, right-angle. Not surprisingly he’d wanted something more aerodynamic for his 25,000-mile, singlehanded, non-stop circumnavigation in 2002, so he had a rounded cowling fashioned from aluminum, welded into place and faired.


Here is Mo in the shed in Homer, Alaska. The rounded cowling is seen as the multi-colored fairing at the leading edge of the keel. It’s quite a complex shape, and the job has been nicely executed.

There had been no drip coming from the bow while the boat was on the hard in Homer; thus, the crack must have formed after the paint job. My best guess is that we put too much pressure on this spot while Mo was in transport by trailer from the shed to the Homer Spit boat ramp.


Wet fairing has been cut back to dry and a few holes have been knocked into the light aluminum cowling in order to drain the water.

As the saying goes, “one thing led to another,” and before the afternoon was out I’d removed an area of wet fairing about two feet by four. The aluminum under this was indeed light and hollow and very clearly welded onto the center-of-the-earth dense main keel. Still, the drip persisted, so I poked a few holes in the cowling to drain the water and then let the whole dry out for several days.


The lower part of the cowling from the side, fairing removed.



First round of fairing on and sanded. Note the pile of old fairing pieces.

Once dry, I brightened the metal with a stainless steel wire wheel and filled the drill holes with West System epoxy mixed with colloidal silica before applying the larger first batch of fairing, here the brick-red West 407 Low Density Filler.


Second round on.

Low Density filler is difficult to smooth, especially while holding a heavy orbital sander over one’s head, so the minor flaws I filled with West Microlight 410.


Ready for barrier coat.

The result was as smooth and shapely as the original and had the added advantage of not leaking any water.


Barrier coat goes on.

To waterproof the area, I applied three, thick coats of Interlux Interprotect 2000E two-part epoxy and then applied the first coat of bottom paint, Epaint SN-1, before the epoxy had fully kicked.


Sure. Why not more bottom paint!

Then I gave the entire bum two more coats of bottom paint because there’s just no such thing as too much bottom paint.


Ready to hit the water after a mere five days on the hard, the quickest turnaround I’ve ever experienced.

At the suggestion of the lift operator, I not only marked the sling positions but also the aft end of the cowling so as to avoid setting the boat down on that weak-point in future.

Just before splashing, I asked the operator for a reading from the lift scales. Report: 40,000 lbs. By way of comparison, the lift in Homer pegged the boat’s weight at 32,000 lbs, but at the time Mo was without her mast or water, and this was well before my epic Costco runs (note plural). Months later, I departed Hawaii with full water and fuel tanks (nearly 200 gallons each) and enough stores to survive at least one post-nuclear holocaust, very little of which was used on the short ride home.

Upshot: whether or not she’s actually 40,000 lbs loaded, she’s is, without doubt, a heavy displacement boat.

4 Comments on “A Quick Trip to the Yard

  1. This reminds of the summer of ’87 when my father was building his Thomas Colvin design steel sailboat. I spend the summer in Pass Christian, MS with a 5lb orbital air sander sanding down a two part epoxy spray on the hull. It was hot, heavy work!

  2. Hello Randall,

    Needless to say I was most interested to see these pictures and to follow along as you made the repairs. I think that you suggested that the damage was caused by excessive strain ( knock) to the area while she was being handled in Homer. Certainly, the the crane driver’s recommendations re marking lift points make sense. It looks like a very good repair job and hopefully will remain slid for the trip.

    Thanks for sharing it
    Season’s Greetings to you and Jo

  3. Hey Tony,

    Thanks for the creds. Guess I’ll know at next haul how good my workmanship was, in fact. Yes, my guess is this happened in Homer. It was a tough business getting MOLI on the boat trailer, which could take her weight OK but wasn’t really designed for such a keel. Getting her propped up and then blocked up from beneath was a chore, and as I recall, we drove some of the under-keel supports into place. So, she was likely resting on the false nose for the drive to the boat ramp.

    See here for the trailer ride: http://figure8voyage.com/launch-day-in-homer/. In particular, the photo called “Re-positioning the bunker under the keel” shows what I’m referring to.

    In any case, all fixed. Best to you both, RR

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