Friday, September 30, 2011

NKOTB - "Down Under"

NKOTB (New Kids On The Boat) ... A Weekly Series Sharing Our Thoughts and Questions as Beginner Sailors and Future Cruisers.  NKOTB or Experienced Cruiser ... Tell Us Your Thoughts!

When writing about this past weekend's "catch", I started wondering about what cruisers do when they have to go "down under" ... you know, under the water and beneath the sailboat!  Not only does one have to go"target="_blank" below when something inevitably gets wrapped around the prop, but then there's the need to keep your boat's bottom clean.  There's barnacles to scrape off the prop and shaft, and algae to wash off.

Does cruising require a set of iron lungs?!  I always lost those competitions at summer camp, staring at each other while sitting on the bottom of the swimming pool.  I don't know if it was poor lung capacity or just the fear of being "down under" that got to me, but I was usually the first one to race back to the surface.

Ken's lungs seem pretty good, especially considering that he's a smoker (ugh)!  This past Saturday he unexpectedly went "down under" to remove a crap trap from our prop while sailing in the lake.  On Sunday, he went there again, about 10 times, to scrape the barnacles off of our prop and shaft.  After two visits in one weekend, we both started wondering if there's an easier way!

We're not divers (although it sounds awesome), so we don't have tanks to help us breathe underwater.  Also, the thought of large and heavy tanks taking up precious space on our sailboat doesn't appeal to us.  Somewhere along the way, Ken heard of some sort of underwater breathing apparatus that runs off of 12 volts ... any suggestions?  We'd love to think that there's an affordable option for us.  If not, we'll suck it up ... and hold it!

I have heard that some cruisers actually sail their boat into an area during high tide, then wait for the low tide to expose the bottom of their sailboat for washing.  Ken and I aren't fond of that idea, especially with our lack of experience!

So, what do you do when there's the need to go "down under"?  How often do you find yourself holding your breath or using some sort of device?  Maybe I'm making a big deal out of nothing, and going "down under" in clear, blue waters will be less intimidating?  We'd love to hear from you!

Hasta luego ... until then.  Mid-Life Cruising!

Note:  Here are the previous posts from this series.  Check them out and feel free to give us your advice.  We've really enjoyed reading your comments!


Robin said...

we've been in the water for a year now, and the beard on the bottom has been making itself obvious in our speed.

We're in Maine, so the name of the game is cleaning the bottom without going into the water ever!

Step one was a line. We each held one end, and starting at the bow, I walked down the starboard side and Elias the port, rubbing the line back and forth to work growth off the keel and sides. By the third swipe, we were getting bottom paint on the line and the growth was coming free in the water.

We attached a scraper to our gaff hook and, from the tender, got to a lot of the bottom and released a lot more growth.

Our next step will be a ground out. We'll head to a wharf at high water and tie up with extra fenders, and at low water get in for a thorough cleaning.

Last resort will be a wet suit, but I'm really hoping we don't have to go that route!

Neophyte Cruiser said...

The good news is, the most active area of growth will be along and just below the waterline. Sooner or later you will have to do the rest of the bottom and keel. Free diving, without the aid of SCUBA or hookah gear, can be done. It will eventually result in better lung capacity and may even motivate Ken to give up on smoking. There are 12-volt hookah systems available ( that might be worth considering. With regard to careening your boat at low tide, fin-keel, spade-rudder boats are not the ideal candidate for this practice.

Carolyn Shearlock said...

We had a hooka -- AirLine brand. Ours was gas powered, others are battery. Brownie also makes them. Not cheap, but well worth it in remote anchorages!

Careening (putting the boat aground at high tide) is only possible in areas of wide tidal swings. In the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, there's not enough of a swing.

Lots more info on cleaning the bottom yourself in an article I wrote for CW several years ago. See a copy on

It's not that hard to do . . . one you've learned what NOT to do!


Leslie Payne said...

My husband had gear and an air tank on board when he cruised year round. We still have it and it came in handy when our favorite anchor broke off the chain. He was able to retrieve the anchor fromm several inches deep in the mud bottom. He said it was like wrestling a greased pig in the dark! LOL

This past summer while living aboard we were in Long Island, NY and discovered the town of Port Washington. They had free moorings for transients, and the driver of the water taxi cleaned our bottom for $2 foot. He did a great job.

Drew Frye said...

* A plastic paint scraper mounted on a 12-inch handle made from a notched (saw kerf) broom stick is great for hard growth. 6-inch berber carpet squares are great and easy on the paint for the soft stuff.

* A dive light can be very handy. A small one is enough.

* I always keep the full snorkel kit, including a wet suit. Unless you are in the tropics, s__t happens.

* I can reach most of my cat with my head above water or with very short dives. Normally, we park in 4 feet of water and walk around. I'm told that lines tied snugly under the keel, to hold, are very helpful when free diving.

And just to make you smile, yes, catamarans do present twice the opportunity to snag crab floats. I get several every year, sometimes towing them for some distance before I realize it. Fortunately, I can often get them off with a boat hook, but I must nearly stop first, to relieve the pressure. It also helps to haul the pot up, to relieve pressure. It's not good to just cut them loose; not only is it private property, ghost pots keep catching for years.

Ken n Cheryl said...

Thanks for all of the great info! We'll have to look into those hookas before we start cruising. A dive light is a great idea too.

Jessica S/V San San said...

We think the most simple plan is a tank and a hooka hose. We have 100' of hose, and two tanks that we store on deck. It's super easy to hook up and go under to clean the bottom, change zincs, look for conch and lobsters, all that good stuff! Plus we can throw the set up in the dinghy, and go wherever we want without the need for power. Lots of awesome snorkel spots in the Bahamas!

We actually love getting in the water and cleaning our bottom, it's a family affair. We each have two noodles to keep us floating and we make our way around the boat slowly scrubbing off what we can get at while we cool off at the same time!

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