Yay, I’m back! We’ve been boating without doing much boating, and boozing without much boozing. I’d better explain.
Herbie’s roof underneath where the old roofbox lay, needed painting. The box feet had wrought their terrible damage on the roof and patches of paint had peeled off leaving scabby rust beneath. I couldn’t put my shiny new box on top of that could I? No way.
However, I’ve said before that the weather is never right for painting a boat and this time the problem was the warm sunshine. After cruising down to Banbury to stock up at Morrisons with food to keep us going, we turned and headed back to this lovely spot below Slat Mill Lock and settled in for a the best part of three days.
I suppose that after the rain of the last two nights, a lot of that beautiful May blossom lies on the water like confetti, but we seemed to have hit it at its peak. The air was thick with the scent of it and I’ve never seen it so dense.
Lots of other wild flowers were out too including these Speedwell right next to the boat, again thicker than I had ever seen them.
Anyhow, I digress. While the solar panels were busy knocking out lots of amps in the hot sun, I set to work with the electric sander powered from the inverter and soon had the rusty patches ready for a lick of Fertan rust converter, which on the already very warm roof set dry in about 20 seconds. This didn’t augur well for the paint, but that was for the next day. That evening we broke out the old barby and a nice bottle of plonk and watched the sun go down.
There was a huge hatch of insects on the water and clouds of millions of them swarmed over the canal.
Thankfully they didn’t seem to be of the biting sort, or if they were, they had their minds on other things. It was Kath who first noticed that as they rose into the air they rapidly paired up, a larger one flying close behind and slightly below a smaller one. They were all at it. Then once the more skilled ones had manage to lock together they seemed to forget how to fly and spiralled back down towards the water. All very romantic.
Next morning I was up relatively early to get back to the roof before it got to hot. After washing off the Fertan, out came the Isopon filler, which I have discovered is the best way to smooth out and level off the indentations where we have rubbed back to the metal. Some people express concern or disapproval about using filler, but Phil Speight says it’s OK so that’s more than good enough for me. If you’ve use Isopon, you’ll know that you have to work fast once you have mixed in the hardener. Well this day fast wasn’t fast enough! I had to work like flippin’ greased lightening, only mixing enough filler at a time to last three or four minutes before it set hard. I lost count of how many batches I did. You can normally sand down this filler after an hour, but I reckon fifteen minutes might have been enough. Anyhow it sanded down to a lovely smooth finish, and after vacuuming the dust of the roof and giving it a wash with white spirit. I was ready with the primer/undercoat. The idea is not just to paint over the patches but the whole width of the roof for a section long enough to cover all the repairs. As well as the big spots under the boat feet, there were numerous small blemishes that had emerged over the eight years since that bit of the roof was painted. Mostly damage from poles, the gangplank and the like.
The aforementioned Mr Speight was now whispering in my ear that it was now far too hot for painting, and it was, so I pressed on and did it anyway because I’ll never get the flippin’ job done otherwise. “Keep a wet edge” is the mantra. Well with a roof that's too hot to kneel on (I suspect hot enough to fry an egg), I had to stand on the gunnel and paint as fast as I could. Having broken one rule I now broke another. On a roof you are supposed to lay off the paint with brush strokes across the roof. Well from the gunnel I couldn’t reach that so I opted for a longitudinal approach, painting like a mad man with a nice four inch brush. Luckily the paint was very good stuff and went on thickly but flowed well. Whilst I was fast enough to stop the paint dragging, by the time I got to each subsequent pass the previous one was beginning to dry so a pleasing striped effect was beginning to emerge. Never mind, it was only undercoat. Once half way across the roof I had to brave the canal side gunnel to reach the other side, so not only was I splashing the paint on like a maniac, I was hanging on to the hand rail with the non brushing hand. I would think any observers on passing boats found it all rather amusing.
By now I was getting paint all over my hands, so once finished I washed it all off with white spirit and now I smelled so much of the stuff I was scared to step into the sun for fear of spontaneously combusting! I retired to the shade and did a couple of crosswords. That evening another barby in this lovely spot. Despite us using the sander and charging our plethora of phones, ipads, Dyson vacuum etc and running the fridge in the very hot weather, we ended the day with the batteries fuller than we started. Solar rules OK.
I know a second undercoat should have been the job next day, but we had to get back to the marina and then shoot off to Cambridge (more of which in the next post). As this is only the roof under the rood box and I only had one day left so I opted to put on a top coat of raddle. This I did after we arrived back at our berth in Cropredy. The roof was warming fast so using a kneeling pad I climbed up and raddled away , this time using a proper transverse lay off. I suppose the area I had to paint was about nine feet by six, and it took about half an hour. Here and there the paint was grinning a tiny bit (undercoat showing through), but that’s what the next coat is for and you cant go back over drying paint. No, really you can’t. Anyhow it looks not too bad now. Rather than put the new roof box in place we stowed it inside the boat before leaving for Cambridge (in the car of course). I’ll apply at least one more top coat next time I go back to Herbie.
If you plan to patch up a scabby boat roof, please do not follow my example. Take more time and choose cooler weather. I only did it this way to get the job done in the time I had available. No doubt it won’t last as long as it would have if painted in better conditions with more primer and undercoat. It’s a risk I consciously took. Had this been the sides of the cabin, I would absolutely definitely never do it like this. Roofs I regard as a bit more expendable and the finish required, especially in raddle which is matt(ish), is not so critical. Nevertheless it looks OK, and with another coat or two and under the box, it’ll hold for a good while.
Here’s a little puzzle for next time. Any idea what this steel structure is?