The sky was filled with menacing clouds, the wind was hurdling over the fence and racing around the boat stands, and the rain was coming down in sheets – conditions a result of nearby Hurricane Paul. Was it the perfect time to wet sand the bottom of the boat?
Wet sanding last season’s paint off the bottom is a dreadful chore. Not only do you get wet paint on your hands, face, feet, and in your hair, it also runs down your scrubbing arm to settle your armpit before it continues down your side to dye your underwear. Your fingernails become colored (in our case, black and blue) and the paint that gets stuck in your toenails takes days to come out. And this isn’t just normal paint – it is heavy duty, copper antifouling paint. It is impossible to come out unscathed.
My first ever experience with wet sanding was at the beginning of last season, and I swore I wouldn’t do it again.
Unfortunately for me, in the government-owned Singular (aka Fonatur) boatyard in La Paz there is a rent-paying company that has a monopoly over all of the work that is done there. You don’t have the option of hiring outside help. After a ridiculous quote for $2,000 USD (we actually thought it was in pesos at first!) for a wet sand, paint and polish, I immediately had the apprehensive feeling that we’d be back on the wet sanding wagon ourselves….
On the morning of the pending hurricane we headed out into the downpour and flooded streets and made our way over to the yard. Normally we would walk, but some of the sidewalks were already covered with rising water. Finally we found a taxi that was willing to dodge potholes and burst sewage mains to drive us the rest of the way. When we arrived, the yard was deserted. The potential storm seemed to be a good enough reason for all of the workers to take the day off.
There was no use whimpering about it so we got straight to work. And, surprise, surprise: the conditions were perfect. We had a nice, quiet boatyard all to ourselves. It wasn’t too hot thanks to the rain and strong breeze. The extra water made it a job well done in record time.
Eight showers later, I still have paint in my nails and random flecks on my arms and legs, but I’ll clean up eventually.
(Side note: Hurricane Paul passed far north of La Paz and the rain and winds up to 30 knots were the worst of what we experienced here)