So after getting 3 quotes in the neighborhood of $2,000 to have the old bottom paint removed via soda blasting, I decided to see how much effort was required to remove it by hand. So I headed to the boat shed with belt sander, orbital sander, scraper, and razorblades in tow. To my surprise, my first weapon of choice (home depot hand scraper) removed the two old layers of blue and red bottom paint without too much protest. I guess it took about 40 minutes to remove a 3'x3' area....which leads me to believe I could strip the whole thing in 3-4 long days. Verdict: Crank up the IPod and start scraping- $2,000 will come in handy else where!
This leads me to the discovery that I made during my foray into the bottom paint: Blisters....and lots of them, albeit tiny. The 3'x3' area I uncovered was the texture of a golf ball in reverse (maybe not quite the frequency of bumps but about the size, maybe slightly smaller). When applying pressure with my finger nail, some of the blisters would emit a tiny amount of clear liquid (almost unable to be seen with the naked eye.) If it turns out that the entire bottom is covered with blisters (imagine golf-ball-like gelcoat), what course of action should I take? Sand the gelcoat smooth until all blisters are popped and then take moisture readings until satisfactory, then barrier coat?