Cleaning bottom DIY in SF Bay? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 34 Old 09-26-2018 Thread Starter
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Cleaning bottom DIY in SF Bay?

Hello! I'm a fairly new boat owner and have so far been hiring divers to do bottom cleanings on my boat since I got her. But I'm young, I love to learn new skills and I'm scuba certified, so I was wondering if it would be a crazy proposition that I clean my bottom myself? I'm trying to do as much DIY as I can to train for hopeful long distance cruising.

I'm at a Berkeley marina and I'm just wondering if the water requires special equipment (protection against pollutants maybe?) or if just a thick wetsuit/drysuit is what I need?
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post #2 of 34 Old 09-26-2018
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Re: Cleaning bottom DIY in SF Bay?

Welcome neighbor. I'm in Oakland Marinas. You certainly can do it yourself. Use a wetsuit (a dry suit keeps you too buoyant) and get some suction cup handles so you can "anchor" yourself to the hull while scrubbing. It's generally dark water, maybe with only about 6 inches of visibility, so it can be a little disorienting. Maybe just plan to do a little bit such as scrubbing the waterline and just the hull underneath (not the keel) until you get used to things and make sure your weights are sufficient and not too heavy. If you seem to be hyperventilating, then this is not the environment for you. You'll also want to identify where your zincs are located and what size you'll need. I have a one-inch prop shaft and there are two types of zincs that will either need an allen wrench or a screwdriver to open. Make sure you remember to bring the right tools before you go under. Also, know how you are going to get out afterwards. Is there a ladder nearby? I take off my weight belt on the dock and leave my inflated BCD/tank in the water, then use my fins to hoist me back up on the dock. You're young, so this should work for you. You can then reach down and pull the tank out of the water. Don't drop the weight belt! I've done that before.

Blackwater search and recovery will be lesson #2....

As far as pollutants are concerned, the main thing to be aware of is fecal coliform levels can be high usually after a rain storm. I try to dive during high tide and at least two days after first flush. I've never been sick that I'm aware of. But if it concerns you, check this site before you dive: https://sfwater.org/sapps/beachesandbay.html. Though Berkeley is not one of the sites routinely tested, it's the only thing I am aware that gives you some sense of the bacterial levels and it will show if there's been a sewage overlfow reported in your area.

It's all very satisfying. Let us know how it goes

Last edited by gamayun; 09-26-2018 at 02:32 PM.
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post #3 of 34 Old 09-26-2018
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Re: Cleaning bottom DIY in SF Bay?

I began cleaning boat bottoms in Sausalito in the 60's and continue to do so to this day, though in the warmer waters of the Caribbean now.
I've found it requires a variety of brushes and scrapers and a big screwdriver to clean the thruhulls. Some have lanyards to prevent them being dropped and some don't, mostly because they float. Some grasses require very hard bristles and some do better with a soft brush. Barnacles can be scraped off with a metal or a plastic scraper, but on my running gear, I prefer metal. Also, a S/S wire brush is good on running gear. You'll just have to find out what works best in your area by trial and error, or watch the professionals when they clean a boat near yours next time.
Be careful if you have spurs or another line cutter on your shaft as it will cut you every bit as easily as a line. You can also do your own zincs. No need to pay a professional to do such a simple job. Just make sure you have a couple of Allen wrenches of the right size in case you drop one. Make sure the shaft is super clean before installing new zincs.
I have also moved from SCUBA gear to a 12 VDC electric compressor hookah system called a Sea Breathe deck snorkel. I find it much more convenient and easier to use and it does not require tanks or as much weight. In reality, you can easily do a bottom job without tanks or a hookah rig, just freediving it. At any rate, you may find it simpler to do the first foot or so down from the waterline w/o any type of breathing apparatus, even if you do use it for the rest.
It certainly is convenient to have someone clean your boat's bottoms, but if you have the time, it's a complete waste of money to pay someone else to do it.

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post #4 of 34 Old 09-26-2018
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Re: Cleaning bottom DIY in SF Bay?

Simply balance the cost of DIY (time/effort/equipment, etc.) v. your marina dive service....

I'm certified SCUBA with 250+ logged dives, but wouldn't even think about DIY v. modest dive service costs in my area....in your area, conditions, marine growth, frequency of cleaning will dictate and may certainly differ...just do the math...
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post #5 of 34 Old 09-26-2018
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Re: Cleaning bottom DIY in SF Bay?

I kinda enjoyed strapping on a tank and cleaning the bottom. It's pretty easy. Now the cold water of SF Bay might give me pause.

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post #6 of 34 Old 09-26-2018
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Re: Cleaning bottom DIY in SF Bay?

I'm a certified diver, for a number of years I also paid to have the bottom cleaned. Mostly because I didn't have the time to do it myself. That's changed and now I DIY.

I don't use my regular SCUBA gear though, purchased this set-up:

https://www.divers-supply.com/surface-air-system.html

Much easier to use with the tank on the boat.

Get one of these :

https://www.homedepot.com/p/MOEN-Hom...-202884186-_-N


A good scraper, large screwdriver and a couple of good scrub brushes. Personally, I prefer to not clean the bottom at the marina. I take the boat over to a nice secluded cove, more light and cleaner water. However the pro's do it right there.........
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post #7 of 34 Old 09-26-2018
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Re: Cleaning bottom DIY in SF Bay?

Ah, my apologies. I think this is the site for water quality data in the East Bay: https://mywaterquality.ca.gov/safe_t...county=Alameda
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post #8 of 34 Old 09-26-2018 Thread Starter
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Re: Cleaning bottom DIY in SF Bay?

Thanks all!

The cost to get my bottom done around here is at minimum 100$ for the cleaning only. My thinking is that it won't take many cleanings before I'd recoup my investment, and it might be fun. Not that I'm against supporting my local diving service, more that the economics make the opportunity worth a shot. By this I mean, if after 5 attempts I realize it's not worth my time, the experiment will have been a zero cost one and I'll have acquired some diving equipment.

Now for the question of "is it worth my time": if I'm not doing this to fill my hobbies, I'll probably be spending that time spending money on something else. So keeping busy... is a form of money saving! It's like a friend once said "maybe this video game is 70$, but when I'm playing it, I'm not spending money on anything else".
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post #9 of 34 Old 09-27-2018
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Re: Cleaning bottom DIY in SF Bay?

It takes substantially more effort than you might imagine, especially at first. Slow and steady, wins the race. Pace yourself. The biggest trick is to get used to positioning yourself, without over exertion. Use the softest media that will remove the fouling. You need to be careful not to remove all your antifoulant paint.

At first, I expect you'll find it exhausting. After you've done it a few times, it will settle in and be more comfortable.

There is a reason folks make a living doing this for others. It gets old. Once you combine the effort to set up the equipment, clean the hull, then clean, dry and stow all the dive equipment, you'll eat the better part of a day. The fee to get it done, so one can have that day back to go sailing is an easy decision for many.
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post #10 of 34 Old 09-27-2018
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Re: Cleaning bottom DIY in SF Bay?

I have been cleaning my boat's bottom for decades. Just use a mask, snorkel, fins and a brush. I do haul each winter so don't have to worry about changing zincs or such jobs. It's mainly knocking the slime off the bottom and the barnacles off the shaft and prop.

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