The Arrow of Rejuvenation
By Tom Neale, 4/17/2008
Boob jobs, nose jobs, wattle jobs, vein jobs—none of them do half as much good as a paint job. At least on a new engine. My Yanmar is over a year old now, but it’s still brand new to me. And yes, I’m beginning to store up parts for inevitable old age, but for now, the best part I’ve got is a can of “Yanmar Gray” paint. All you’ve got to do is point and push the button and any blemish is covered by newness. And it’s not that it just looks new. It glistens. I wish the rest of boat maintenance and repair could be this easy.
There are special tricks that make the job even more fun. One of my favorites is when I see a little blemish on the shaft coupling. I start the engine, put it in gear and then squirt. The coupling is “evenly coated” in a few seconds, spinning in glistening glory. I learned this trick from the Marine Pro (www.marinepro.us) technician who gave me a partly full can when they finished installing my new engine. (See “The Boutique Boatyard,” column 75, under Past Articles.) Another trick I learned on my own is to spray a part that I know will get warm the next time I start the engine. (AFTER the paint dries!) I do this whenever someone is coming aboard whom I want to impress. When I paint something like that, my 1975 boat smells just like new. Well, almost.
I am having a few problems. Like pointing the little hole in the right direction. There’s an arrow on the top of the squirt thing that’s supposed to tell you where the hole in the side is, but I can’t see that arrow without a magnifying glass. And I wouldn’t think of taking a magnifying glass into my engine room. There’s something about that old saying, “what you can’t see won’t hurt you.” So I just try to line up my index finger in the right direction on top of the squirt nozzle before I go into the engine room, and hope it’ll stay there. But it never does. Somehow that nozzle turns no matter what. So I don’t always get the paint on the engine. At first you don’t know that you’re missing, until you see Yanmar Gray dripping down into the bilge or running down your elbow. It’s really great to have a nice paint job on the palm of my hand, or on a through hull valve or, best of all, covering the lenses of my glasses.
Another problem has to do with spraying places that I can’t see—like underneath the transmission or the bottom of the oil pan. Now, the careless boater might ask, “Why paint places that you can’t see?” Actually, that’s exactly what I was asking not too long ago. My answer was, “You don’t, dummy,” until I realized one thing. It’s the very places that you can’t see that those hot shot surveyors like to look at. To be really impressive and to make sure that you think they’re great, they bring along an inspection mirror and stick it all sorts of places the sun never shines. Well, I’ve now got that covered. I paint all those places too. I even got my own inspection mirror so that I can look under there and make sure I haven’t missed any spots in need.
But I have a bit of eye/hand coordination problem. It’s bad enough when I’m looking straight at what I’m trying to do. Add to that the concept of kneeling and bending over so that my head is upside down, and the concept of looking in a mirror to see where to point the nozzle, and the concept of not having a clue which way the arrow is pointed because the can is upside down, PLUS the concept that I only have a squirt or two before there’s only air coming out because the can is upside down, and add to that the concept that I can’t see after the first squirt anyway because the paint always drips on the mirror, then you begin to understand how not impressed I am with those surveyors.
Life was more simple (and less fun) with my old Perkins. Nobody had cared for it like I would have when it was new. No one had gotten a nice little can of Perkins Blue and kept up with the blemishes. Rampant blemishes are not a good thing on an engine, and that old Perkins had them so rampantly that they looked like what a herd of buffalo on the prairies must have looked from an airplane before the pale-faces came with their rifles. There were so many blemishes that they sometimes looked like they were moving, just like those buffalo. I finally realized that they weren’t moving, it’s just that they were so close to each other. The one I thought had moved was the one next to the one I was watching. Go ahead. Try it. Make a lot of little spots on a piece of paper and then try to stare at one of them. They’ll start moving for you to.
The best part about the blemishes on that old Perkins was that they would really throw a surveyor. (Kinda like a buffalo would have if he had climbed on its back.) They would come in with that inspection mirror, take a quick look, and start backing away. You can’t document blemishes when there are too many to count—especially when they’re also moving.
Now, we all know that if you paint over rust; the rust will keep on doing its thing. I don’t have that problem yet on my new engine, because I watch it like a hawk and, when needed (and often when not) apply makeup like a 110 year old dowager going out on a date. But, having had an old engine, I worry about the rust of the future. For awhile rust will do its thing in secret, but not for very long. Also, on a boat (at least my boat) any time you have a hint of bare metal it only takes a second or two for rust to start growing. It’s like dandruff on a dog. (Or maybe prairie lice on a buffalo.)
I could just ignore this fact for awhile and spray right over the rust. You can’t tell rust is there if you cover it quickly enough. This way, I’d have a lot more fun. But I think that soon I’d be worrying. I’d be looking at those little blisters of paint and I’d be thinking, “Who knows what’s lurking under there.” My boat has enough lurking aboard, I don’t need to add to the mix. That’s why I also keep a little piece of medium grain Emory cloth near my paint can. Any time I see a little rust starting to materialize, I take a swipe at it before I hose the spot down with paint. I admit this really smacks of work, but the results are stunning.
I figure that if I can do this with my Yanmar I can do it with my generator and my dinghy outboard and my windlass and lots of other things aboard. What I really need is a spray can of simulated glistening gel coat. I could turn my whole boat into a sparkling child instead of the well worn 30 something she looks like now. I watched recently as a guy did a total renewal job on a somewhat elderly sportfish boat. The man was an artist and the boat looked like new. Actually, it looked newer than new. But the bill must have been tens and tens of thousands. I can’t afford that. But I sure can push a button on a can of paint—never mind that it might not be pointing in the right direction. But who cares about that little detail. When you’ve got a whole boat to play around with, it’s hard to miss. And if I do, well, maybe I could use some blemish removal myself.
Copyright 2004-2008 Tom Neale