What Sandblasting Looks Like


March 23

Sandblasting has been underway since Monday and is slow work, reports Randy, the man in the white jumpsuit.

Each of my twice-daily visits to the shed finds him in just such get-up, swinging the blast nozzle as if watering a lawn. By now I’ve shaken Randy’s gloved hand and found his eyes behind the clear plastic shield, but I have no idea what he looks like beyond his height and general build.

Communication is challenging, too. Randy wears ear plugs as defense against a machine whose sound is that of 10,000 hissing snakes, and when he talks, his voice comes from deep within a protective mask and respirator surrounded by a protective hood.

Necessarily, conversations are short.

But the nub is this: Gjoa’s exterior hull appears to have been perfectly preserved by, if nothing else, an inordinate amount of high quality paint frequently applied. I think the muffled description was something like, “I’ve never seen so much effing paint.” The layers are upwards of 1/4 inch thick near the water line. And the epoxy is hard as a rock. All good news from my perspective, if not Randy’s.

The blaster being used is purposefully small. “More power would be nice,” says Randy, “but can get us into trouble. Paint’s the only thing I want coming off.” Even so, the job has been progressing at such a pace that he’s upgraded to a courser, more aggressive sand, which is green and whose consistency is that of the granulated stone used on asphalt roofs.

It’s noticeably heavier and has more bite, this new sand, when ricocheting off the face of an over-eager owner standing too close when the hopper fires up.




Note the nozzle size. The white that boarders the area of black is the primer; the black is anti-fouling paint. The surrounding gray is the boat’s bare aluminum hull whose dull, even finish now has the consistency of 100 grit sandpaper. 


The hopper that holds the sand. Note the mounding green over the shop floor, a floor swept clean before the job began. 

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The sand, very like asphalt roof granules.



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