Episode 14: Kym Fleet & David Hanton Show Notes

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Hi folks, this week on the Ocean Sailing Podcast, we’re down at the Gold Coast City Marina. We’re here with Kym from the Gold Coast City Marina and with David from Bradford Marine and we’ve got an episode today that’s probably a little bit more technical than what we normally do and we’re going to focus on some of the important things around boat maintenance and taking care of your hull, decisions and choices around paint selection, particularly around anti-foul and also some thoughts around steel versus wood versus fibre glass. 

If you’re in the market to buy but you’re not really sure about some of the differences then obviously considering some of the maintenance issues whether they go with those types of hulls it’s going to maybe help guide you along the way. So guys, welcome along with us today, thanks for joining me. Let’s start off with the Gold Coast City Marina facility, so that’s where we are, it’s on the Coomera River, it’s about 90 minutes from Southport Yacht Club if you come here on incoming tide. So Kym, tell us about the history of the Gold Coast City Marina?

Gold Coast City Marina on prime land in the Coomera marine precinct

Kym Fleet: The Gold Coast City Marina, the concept was first thought up in the late 90’s. Obviously, it’s the biggest shipyard facility, marina facility in the southern hemisphere. So it was a fairly big call to make the decision to move forward with the facility as you said, its 90 minutes up the Coomera River from the broad water. Its 15 hectares in total, so it’s a huge site. We’ve got five hectares of concrete hardstand, we’ve got five hectares of sheds and about five hectares of water. So all in all it’s a huge facility. 

The hull was starting to be dug, the marina was started to be dug in about 2000 and it opened in 2001. The buildings were progressively built over a period of time, they didn’t start out with everything. So it was pretty well finished off by 2004, complete.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so interesting timing when you open up a facility of this size and you’ve got a large number of businesses based here. How did you manage kind of I guess rolling it out two or three years before the GFC and then having the weather I guess a bit of a storm during the GFC, and then how’s it faired since?

Kym Fleet: Yeah 2000, the marina industry in Australia was actually booming, there was lots of manufacturing going on, so the sun was shining and the birds were singing. It takes a lot to fill this facility and obviously a lot of that is the relationship we have with our tenants. We treat our tenants like customers because they probably are the most important part of the business to us. They bring their own customers into here. 

I describe it as a little airport, we provide all the infrastructure for those around us to do what they want to do, we provide the hard standing, the buildings and we provide the machinery as well, which is the lifting equipment. So we’ve got a couple of forklifts up to 12 tonne or 50 tonne travel lift and a 250 tonne traveller. So the whole facility, the whole process, there’s a lot behind the scenes that make it all tick. But one of the most important things to us is our tenants because they bring a lot to the business.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: How many tenants have you got here?

Kym Fleet: Today we got over 60. We’re very, very fortunate that the facility can cut with that amount of tenancy and we’re also are very fortunate that along the way we’ve managed to gather together a really good crew of people. They paid to be here and the part of that relationship is that we provide them with what they need and consequently they provide us with what we need. 

Steve Sammes and Kym Fleet of the Gold Coast City Marina with one of many awards

So in the end, it’s excellent for the customer coming in off the river with their boat. We can provide them with choices virtually for every aspect of marine maintenance and repair, the only thing we really don’t have here is a sailmaker and we’ve got one down the road so virtually everything else is covered at least twice if not three times.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So it’s pretty handy if you’re doing a refit or an upgrade that covers lots of different areas to have those tenants available nearby rather than having to pay for travel time for contractors to come from far and wide to do all sorts of what can become expensive jobs instead of small jobs?

Kym Fleet: Well, we’re regarded as a one stop shop in the marina industry. It is the biggest facility of its type in the southern hemisphere, not necessarily by its capability of lifting or by its volume of boats it holds in the marina, but the overall picture of the whole facility is we’ve got more tenants, more services, more hardstand and the total of that is, you’re right David in exactly what you say, you don’t have to leave the gate to get a service done here and ultimately you’ve got a couple of choices along the way too. 

Not everybody gets on with everybody. Some people do their work a little bit cheaper than others. So you’ve got the opportunity to get a couple of quotes somewhere along the line you’re going to start a relationship with somebody within the facility that you’re happy with the work they do and for the price they do it, ultimately, we don’t want to have your boat here once, we want to have your boat continually going forward. So it’s about building relationships and making sure ultimately the end of the day, we want people to leave the facility thinking, “Well that was good, I got what I wanted to get done, done. It was at a reasonable fair price and I’m happy with the end result.”

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and the facility here is actually part of an even wider marine precinct. It employs several thousand people. How many businesses actually are there in the total precinct, including the areas outside of the Gold Coast City Marina?

Kym Fleet: Yeah, that’s a good question. This precinct was first thought of back in the late 90’s and the reason for that is the marine industry in Australia was spread all over the place. Australia is a big place, lots of distance between each capital city and there was manufacturing going on in Victoria and New South Wales. Queensland government came up with a concept of getting everybody as many people as they could in a reasonably tight area.

At 250 tons there is not much they can't lift

On a good day there could be 5,000 people working in this facility. Most of them are manufacturing in Australia has done in or around the precinct now. Obviously there’s come some competition with servicing and shipyard facilities in the area, which is great. The biggest manufacturers of luxury boats in Australia are both here. The biggest manufacturer of aluminium boats in Australia is here, as well as all the sub services as well. 

There’s some big names in the industry here, we’ve got Volvo, we’ve got Mercers, we’ve got Riviera,  Maritimo, Quintrix, most of the big names are within the facility and consequently that attracts the smallest supplies as well and the smaller repair people as well. So all in all it’s a hub, it’s about 5,000 people, I don’t know the number of business but it’s certainly several hundred.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: With where you’re based, four or five hours motoring from here to sort of Manley and with all the yachts that go up and down the east coast each year for racing and cruising the various things, do you find that you get your fair share of the traffic from up the road in Morton Bay and those that are going to go up and down the coast as well coming here for servicing and for work.

Kym Fleet: Yeah most definitely. Our focus has changed a little bit over the last few years and I’d have to say that we’re getting more involved with collaborations with different businesses and different marinas. Southport Yacht Club’s an example of that. This year we’re getting involved with the 50th anniversary game, fishing tournament up in Cannes. The reason for that is there are lots of areas in the boating industry in Australia that we would like to be involved in. 

Obviously sailing is one of those, you’re aware of that. The game fishing federation is another one, obviously we got the capability of lifting big boats, and our top end is 250 tonne of about 40 odd meters. So there’s a lot of wide boats go up and down the coast this time of the year heading up to Hamilton Island for the racing and the game fishing season and everything else.

The idea of this facility is to attract as much of that as we can where our mentality has changed to the point where we’re starting to get into partnerships with different businesses up and down the East Coast to help us in attracting those people in. We’ve got the facility here to do it, we’ve got the tenants here to deal with all aspects of the boating industry. So it’s about being wise and utilising those tenants and the facility to their best and attracting people in.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. In terms of the depth, if people think you’re coming here, what’s the depth that we’ve got in the river from a keel depth point of view?

Kym Fleet: That is one of the issues that we face here because we’re as we said, an hour and a half up the river from the sea way or south port yacht club, the Gold Coast is an internal inland water way and it does suffer from the level of the river changing. We call it three and a half meters of dead low tide, at three and a half meters dead low tide we’ve never had anybody touch the bottom. There has just been a program put in place now and the dredging of the river has started. So from the seaway, all the way to Sanctuary Cove which is two thirds of the way to us has already been a program put in place.

Black Jack Too in the slings at Gold Coast City Marina

The spoils from that dredging is going back out to see because principally it’s silt and sand so that’s just being pushed back out in the ocean again and that’ll disappear in the currents. From Sanctuary Cave to us, there is a program in place, there’s the spoils yard being designated behind us here at forward road. The style of dredging changes because it goes from being a suck and dump to a suck and run situation. The programs in place.

When that’s finished we’ll be at five meters dead low tide, so there’s not too many boats around that we have the capability of lifting that won’t get to us and we don’t have the drama with it at the moment, we’re just cautious and we ask people to come in on an upcoming tide. If necessary we’ll send out a boat to help them come in and help them take the best course up the river also.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s pretty good. I mean that’s a lot of depth, and you’ve got more than that on the rising tide.

Kym Fleet: Some of the bigger boats that we get here, some of the big super yachts we call them, anything sort of over a hundred foot we regard as a super yacht. They tend to draw about three meters, boat’s like a north haven which is a big bilge keel, ocean going boat, they can draw a little bit more but we’ll just send that our boat. They can follow them up the river and as I said today, I certainly haven’t had any drama in my time here. We had a Volvo 60 here just prior of Christmas and drove over four motors and it just got in and out without any issues, we just had to time it on the tide. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, So if you’ve got anything less, you’ve got no problems.

Kym Fleet: Nota at all.

DH1: Okay great. So what’s the longest boats you’ve had in here?

Kym Fleet: We can work berths up to 200 feet, we’ve had a couple of 200 footers here just in the marina berths. We’ve got a couple of super yacht fingers out the front in the main river, we got plenty of pair there with 63 amp principally what’s ever needed out there. The real capabilities of the facility are anything from a tinny, we can deal with an eight foot tinny without any problems at all, and we’ve got a 250 boat dry store facility in the end of the marina. As far as our maximum lifting capacity goes, 42 meters by 10 meters by 250 tonne is what we call our maximum. 

There’s not too many of those boats around on the coast. As I’ve said, we deal with a lot of super yachts which are anything from a hundred to 130 to 140 feet long and they tend to be about as heavy as they are long. So you’re talking 150, 160 tonne. We’ve had a couple of 200 tonners up here. We lift a lot of boats. This financial year, which is about to be completed, we’ll be at about 1,700 job sheets. So that’s 1,700 lifts out of the water. We don’t get another mark for going back in the water so it’s purely job sheets. So that’s anything from an eight foot tinny to 150 foot super yacht. So that’s a lot of volume.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: A lot of volume. And if you’re a typical yachtie, these kind of tonnages sound over the top but in my experience, I had my 45 footer lifted out here a couple of months ago for some cleaning and tidy up and on the 250 tonne lift and it was the first time, and I’ve used three different lifts on the Gold Coast in the last 15 months for weighing and anti-foul and various things. It’s the first time I didn’t have issues with the forestay either hitting the front of the lift, or the backstay, which has got my HF aerial attached to it for my HF radio.

Been hard up against the back of the lift, it had actually been bent, which I had the unfortunate experience just before Christmas when I got it weighed for an IRC rating. So the great thing about the big lift here is if you’re a yachtie you’ve got no issues with forestays and backstays because 250 tonnes over sized for your typical 10 tonne yacht but you actually need that extra space to not have those damage issues with your forestay and your backstay, which is something I found.

Kym Fleet: That’s totally correct and what people, customers need to know is you don’t pay any more because it’s a 250 tonne traveller. If what you’re paying for, all the marinas certainly on the East Coast of Australia charge out by length. Once you get over a hundred tonne, there is a weight charge there as well and that adds up to a figure but when you’re talking anything from a 30 foot yacht to a 60 foot yacht, you’re paying by a foot length. 

So whether or not we use the 50 tonne travel lift or the 250 tonne travel lift. The cost doesn’t change but the level of ease changes and the stress value changes because our big machine with the 10 meter beam with the capability of 140, 150 feet, a 45 foot yacht fits in there very nicely and there’s no stress involved.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I mean it would be fair to say you don’t worry about the capability of the machine. It actually looks like it’s lifting a toy boat when you look at the scale of the machine against the boat. I mean it’s big enough to lift a 737 aircraft I think. I think they’re about 200 tons.

Kym Fleet: Yeah that’s correct. The other side of it is too, when you're operating a machine like that, we use 20 tonne slings. So a boat like yours David, a 45 foot Beneteau, we can pick that up with two slings quite comfortably. The slings are a foot wide, we lift them on the manufacturer’s recommended spots on the boat so there’s no issues of no stress on the boat. There’s no damage that can occur to the boat itself because they’re sitting in something soft. The boats weight are just absorbed in the slings. 

Once we get you down on the hardstand we’ve also got a keel pit here you know so we can pop your boat down into a keel pit. That pits three meters deep, so at the end of the day when the boat’s sitting on virtually on ground level, we come back and give it a little wash where the slings have been but the rest of the boat’s been cleaned off with the high pressure cleaner and there’s no damage at all.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and I did notice your guys are pedantic about where the lifting spots are and for those that don’t know and especially if you’ve got an older boat, there’s these manufacturers marks on the side of the hull, in the front and the back, you need to lift your boat and I’ve had the boat lifted up before where no one’s paid any attention and in fact I’ve had to actually ask them to move the slings more than a foot sometimes, to put them in the right spot and then I think if I wasn’t there as the owner, well what sort of stress is it putting on the hull? So having people that are pedantic about that is quite important because if you have a structural hellfire in the middle of the ocean at night one day just because somebody’s lifted your boat in the wrong place and stressed it all, you can pay the price.

Kym Fleet: Yeah, that’s correct and another thing we do here at the Gold Coast City Marina is we have photo records of virtually every boat that we bring out. Bringing 15 to 1,700 boats out a year, that’s a lot of lifting but also it gives us a good database, or good knowledge base for what boats look like underneath. Obviously every boat is not the same. Most 45 foot Beneteau’s are the same so we’ve got a record of that on file. If it’s 140 foot super yacht and we don’t know what it looks like underneath, we’ll just get a diver in. 

We can pay $300 for a diver for an hour’s work, but it’s just an insurance policy. So they can get underneath the boat, understand where all the skin fittings are, all the water intakes are, where the shafts start and stop, where the rudders are. So before we even start to take any weight, we’re totally convinced that we’ve got it under control. When we do lift it to water level, we can then get a visual underneath it and just make sure we’ve got it all covered. We lift boats, the boat needs to be balanced correctly in the machine as well, and you don’t just lift them and hope for the best so that’s part of the process. 

If we’re lifting a boat we aren’t aware of or boat we haven’t seen before, we will allow all day to get it up, get it out of the water and set it on the hard stand, we won’t have another two booked in behind it and put the pressure on ourselves to make sure that we keep moving, we’ll just allow the time to make sure we’ve got it right.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Wow, you almost need a clear river so you can have underwater cameras.

Kym Fleet: That would be nice and no sharks.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Exactly. So what are some of the stranger’s sites or challenges you’ve had to deal with here with lifting vessels out of the water?

Kym Fleet: We’ve had a couple here, some of the bigger boats. We’re reliant on the skippers of the bigger boats because generally they’re not driven by an owner, they’re driven by a skipper. So if we start a conversation with somebody about hauling their boat out of the water we need some specifications on the boat, some drawings, and some lifting files. Sometimes we don’t always get told the truth and that sometimes makes it difficult. 

In my time here, we’ve only ever walked away from two lifts. They were quite heavy boats but they were quite short boats also, which has its own set of complications. The other side of that, we’ve lifted boats out of the water here and they’ve never gone back in the water. They end up getting cut up and thrown in a bin, which is sad, but we’re trying to avoid those as much as possible. They’re usually houseboats.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah right. You see a few of those sunken around the place?

Kym Fleet: Yeah, we will refuse to lift something if it just doesn’t look right, if the insurances aren’t in place. What happens with us is we try and help everybody as we do, that’s part of our role. We don’t sell an angle, what we do is provide a service so you want to do the best for everybody, sometimes you can’t help people and you wish you didn’t sometimes.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well I guess there’s some boats where the conditions are that bad, that it might actually fall apart if you lift them.

Kym Fleet: That’s the danger is then we become responsible for it, but 95% of the people that are boating up and down the East Coast of Australia are sensible people. As I said, we don’t physically sell anything. We sell a little bit of diesel, we sell some ice creams and we sell some ice but apart from that, this whole facility is based on providing people with a service and we need to be good at it at the end of the day, we need to do it safely. So sometimes we will back out of it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, so looking to the future, I mean, the facility here is I guess 15 years old, something like that? So what do you see the next 10 years holding for the future of the marina and how it unfolds and goes forth from here?

Kym Fleet: We’re very fortunate because the people that initially designed the place were industry people, they knew what they wanted to achieve out of. We’ve still got one of the original partners. He’s here, he owns the place, him and his son Trenton and Patrick they own the place right.

What we want to do going forward is we want to maximise the capabilities of the facility, the mentality’s change, as I said, over the last three years. So currently we’re at a 100% tenancy as far as the ability to take any other businesses on board to utilise facility, we’re maxed out there at the moment, we’re in a bit of a scramble to get some more space. Having said that, we know we need to change with the times. Our super yacht ships, we got eight super yacht ships here, which are 150 feet long. 

They’re constantly booked out, they’ve been booked out for the last two years. So part of the process going forward is to add on to that to give us a little bit more facility out on the hardstand, a bit more covered area where we can do specific jobs on the hardstand and protect all the boats around us. The other thing we’re looking at doing now is adding a couple more super yacht arms in the main river. So the idea of that is a super yacht can come in, get works done without having to lift it out of the water or anybody can utilise the facility but also so you can drive vehicles down to the wharf, be right next to the boat so you can replenish the vessel without having to walk 50 feet every time you come out a box down there. It gives the tenants here or the industry here the ability to come drive a vehicle right down to the boat. 

Other things we’re doing, we’re heavily involved with the Gold Coast Expo here, which is one of the boat shows on the calendar in Southeast Queensland, and we want to expand on that. We’re just here to help the industry as much as anything. I’ve described it before as an airport. It is an airport. We provide all the infrastructure for the industry to do what they need to do and we listen strongly to what the industry suggestions are and where the industry is going so we’ll just adapt to suit their needs.

If it means more infrastructure or bigger machines, we’ve replaced our travel lift 12 months ago with a bigger machine because there was a need to be able to lift heavier boats. If we can get to the point where the river is dredged, quarter clearance on the gold coast, it’s really important to us at the moment, we’re championing the government to allow us to have a port of clearance either here in this facility or at Southport Yacht Club.

If we can do that and provide people with the ability to come straight out of the pacific, clear customs come and see us, get the work done, do what they need, they can dry store their boat. If they want to fly home for Christmas, we can dry store their boat here, look after it four to six months, we do a special rate for long term hardstand. It’s about what the industry and what our customs are telling us we need to do. We’ll do our very, very best to fill in the gaps.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s great if you can get a port of clearance down here, that’d be fantastic. I mean right now, having to sail into Brisbane, up the river to the body gateway to get cleared in and then come back down to the Gold Coast is you’re coming in from overseas. Its eight hours are easily to the trip and you felt more. And I know personally from that, it’s a pain in the ass if you didn’t have to do it, you wouldn’t.

Be able to come here is a cruising sailor, clearing here, enjoy the gold coast and get all your work done here without that extra detour in and out, that will be a great plus for you.

Kym Fleet: Yeah well it’s proceeding actually quite well. This is first came about, we do a bit of sailing of the marina in and about the pacific. We go to Fort Lauderdale every year, we go to Singapore, we do a Tahiti rendezvous, and one of the things we learn from going to Tahiti was apart from the fact that there’s 200 puddle jumpers in the middle of the pacific right now coming out of the west coast of America, out of California.

What we learned is we’re losing business to Brisbane and although it’s a reasonable sort of a facility, the Brisbane River is not wonderful. The marinas up there are underneath the airport, the international airport in Brisbane. So constantly we get the fall out, out of that. At the end of the day, it’s not so much about the Gold Coast City Marina, it’s more about what the Gold Coast has to offer as a region and that’s fine dining, it’s the best golf courses on the planet. It’s the best beaches on the planet. 

You got the green behind the gold, which is the hinterland up in the hills there, which is just absolutely stunning. So there’s much more to the Gold Coast than just us, the Gold Coast City Marina in the precinct, it’s more about what the whole region has to offer and it’s part of our sell going forward is to make sure that people out in the pacific up in Asia and then the Americas know about that and that’s part of our process going forward is to keep selling that.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You can drop your boat off here and be at the theme park in five minutes.

Kym Fleet: That’s correct and another thing that we do here is we’ve got a customer courtesy vehicle, we’ve got access to both the airports reasonably easily, we got a train station five minutes down the road. Part of the process of what we provide to anybody, being it an internal tenant and one of their customers or somebody sailing in and out of the pacific, is we will store their boat for them, long term over the summer if they want to go back to America or Asia or the UK, wherever it is, we will happily look after their boat for them. 

Its 24 hours a day, seven days a week security. We’ll happily store their boat, plug it in, get them back to the airport, we’ll happily drive them to Brisbane Airport or to Coolangatta Airport or pop them on a train within reason, whatever they need to do, we’ll accommodate that. That’s a free service, that’s part of what we do.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and it’s a pretty good location. Over the summer we’re pretty much south of where the cyclones hit generally. You don’t have some of those risks you’ve got if you go a whole lot further north and leave your boat there over summer.

Kym Fleet: We’ve got some people arriving in the next two weeks, they’re sailing over from New Zealand, and the idea is we park their boat on the hardstand for three months, we plug it in, we monitor the boat for them, they’re jumping in a high car and they’re touring Australia. So they’ve never been here before so they’re enjoying a sailing, but once a year parked up, they know that their boat’s safe and they go off and do their land based stuff. Come back, jump in the boat and go and do the Whitsundays. So it’s a perfect scenario.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that’s a good idea, why would you leave it in the water if you can take it out of the water for a similar cost, given the risks that are attached with this.

Kym Fleet: Once we do our long term hardstand thing, that’s actually cheaper to be out of the water on the hardstand and then your maintenance is down then as well and we can keep a good eye on it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: You’ve got no risk of anyone running into your boat, no risk of your skin the fittings or pipes rupturing, your boat’s sinking while you’re away.

Kym Fleet: And as you say, we’re below the cyclone belt, we can occasionally see the effects of cyclones, we have a contingency in place if we’ve got a big blow coming down the coast, we’ll have to strap the boat down to the concrete so it’s more than safe. We’re boat people so we understand the ups and downs of having boats on hardstands and it’s again, just a part of the service we provide, we want to make sure that you can drive or sail away from here knowing that we’ve done a good job and that’s the plan.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, have you seen that marina in Fiji on the west coast where they’ve dug all the holes in the ground and then we stayed there last year and it’s a circular marina, it’s like a basin and there’s about 40 boats that holds and when you walk around there, there’s all these holes in the ground in tires and I asked, “What are these for?” They say, “Well if people leave their boats here over cyclone season, we lift the boat out, we lower it, the keel into the ground of course, the hull sits on the tires and then we just strap it down. 

So if the cyclone comes through theatrically, the damage to your boat is going to be debris flying through the air but it’s not going to tip the boat over but it’s quiet, like there’s probably 30 or 40 holes in the ground that had been dug out. I thought it’s just so you can work away at your boat at ground level. The cyclone’s better. Fortunately we have to think about things like that here.

Kym Fleet: What we’ve got is we’ve got a lot of meter square concrete blocks, which basically spoils from left over concrete when they come back from doing a job and the council requires that they have a process for getting rid of the left over concrete. So we happily take it on board. What we do particularly with the catamarans in summer, because the catamaran is so light and there’s so much windage to it once it’s out of the water it will just literally ratchet, strap them down to concrete blocks so it just give them that bit of extra protection. Those blocks are well over a tonne. We’ll put two or four down as necessary and that works really well, we’ve never had any issues, touch wood, but that’s part of the plan.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Well that’s great. Thanks Kym, thanks for sharing all of your experience and thoughts there in such a great description of the facility here and what it has to offer.

Super yacht sheds make it easier to do work in all weather

Kym Fleet: No, my pleasure mate. As I said, it’s is a service industry, we need to know, we need to let people know what we’re capable of and what we’re trying to achieve and at the end of the day, as I said, we want people flight back out of here and believe that they’ve got a good job for a reasonable price and that’s the process.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, well that’s great. Well what we’ll do now is we’ll switch over to David, your partner in crime from Bradford Marine and for most of us, we’re lifting boats out with a purpose in mind and usually it’s to get antifouling done and occasionally it’s to get more than that done and maybe a full repaint.

In terms of a bit of a background, when I bought my boat five years ago and I discovered this whole antifouling thing, because I’ve come from being a dinghy sailor. I kind of saw it as a necessary evil. So I sort of pulled my boat out every 18 months to try and stretch it out. I did it myself and I did that the first two or three times and I started getting a few issues where the keel paint started bubbling because I had a diver who would give it a clean every month because it was a starting to race and had issues with the keel paint starting to bubble off.

So I thought, “Maybe this isn’t so good and I should get a professional to look at it,” which I did a year ago and after talking to another fellow sailor who had his boat sand blasted right back to glass and steel which is something I hadn’t heard of. I was then advised that I should probably do that as well. So it was interesting about the process but the boat was sand blasted, right back to bare glass and as part of that in the preparation for painting process, they’d discovered eight osmosis spots and two were actually quite serious and required quite a bit of work to repair them but ultimately, the process from there was my hull was completely re-primed, my keel which was steel and pitted was re-primed and filled and feared back to basically a brand new finish and then I applied three coats of really hard international antifouling paint.

I’m not sure exactly what the technical description is. I’m sure you’ll know that. Then boarded it up smooth and then did an 800 grade wet and dry sand paper. So it’s changed my whole view of painting and antifouling. I guess the end result now is I’ve got a 23 year old hull with a new lease of life, it’s made a massive difference in terms of boat speed, particularly in light winds. Substantially in terms of bench marking against other boats. 

Now, my view now is I believe I have the best products and the professional finish because it’s the one thing that keeps the sea water out of your hull basically and the risk you’ve got is that the whole integrity of your hull is compromised if you don’t get the paint part right, particularly the part that sits in the water. So I’ve done a lot as a result. So David, you’ve got a lot of expertise in theory, so we thank you for joining us today to share a bit of that expertise with us, and with our listeners. 

How would you describe I guess from where you sit, the antifouling choices and levels of quality that are available? Somebody’s bought say a 10 year old boat and they’re looking to get their anti-fouling done for the first time and they’re not sure what the history of that boat’s been. How would you describe the choices and decisions they need to make as part of the process?

David Hanton: Yeah, good morning David, thanks for having us. Well, when you sort of looking at that boat and you want to make a decision on what anti-foul, there’s quite a range of products available on the market. Ideally, it’s always good to know what paint is currently on the boat. If you’re not aware of that then we can sort of do a little bit of a test once it comes out, whether there’s a selection of anti-foul such as ablative hards, especially for you racing guys, you sort of tend to go for the VC offshore.

The vessel Alaska Pelula after sand blasting at Bradford Marine

Much like the big boats that do the Sydney to Hobart, they’re generally running on Durepox, which is a very sort of hard two pack and they get a lot of speed out of that. There’s a selection, really depends on what sort of boating you’re doing but in regards to what you’re saying with the 10 year anti-foul, it does have a life expectancy. You can’t just keep putting anti-foul on a boat time after time. It all start to crack off and basically fall off because it’s like putting on house paint, wall paper, there’s only so many layers that will fit on there.

So what you’ve done, I believe you’ve gone and done the process, you’ve sand blasted it off and basically when we do that, it’s all about specifications from the paint manufacturer and how it’s applied. We do it by Micron after that’s looked at. So yeah, important decision is what sort of boating you’re doing really is what sort of paint is going to fit the boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and if I’m a cruising sailor, I’m spending a lot of time in warmer waters, do I have different decisions to if I’m spending time in cooler waters?

Sand blasting a hull back to bare gel coat

David Hanton: Yes, if you do, there’s several products that suit warmer waters and, but if you’re racing also, if your boat’s not staying in the water, if you’re pulling it out after races then you’re probably better off not having an anti-foul on the boat at all. Just staying with the Durepox or something but VC offshore is a good option for that or Micron 66 with international.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay. So if you’re racing and you’re using a harder anti-foul paint, then what’s the trade off there in terms of maintenance of that with keeping your hull clean?

David Hanton: Hard anti-foul gives you the option to give it a good scrub more so rather than an ablative. When you go down and dive on ablative anti-foul, you’re tending to take a bit off each time you go. Whereas a harder anti-foul is actually giving good adhesion to the boat, you can go down and give it a good scrub and you’re not taking so much off. 

In terms of getting any speed out of any different anti-foul there’s really no difference. As long as you haven’t got a build up of anti-foul there, you’ll be surprised if you’ve got 10 or 12 years of anti-foul on there, you’re probably losing probably up to three to five knots.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right. Okay. With the harder anti-fouls, so they foul up faster than the softer anti-fouls? Is that part of the trade off?

David Hanton: Not generally, once again it will come down to your boating if you're leaving your boat in the marina and it’s not getting used, anti-foul loves to be working in the water, hard or soft, it doesn’t really matter. But maintenance wise, you tend to get a bit more time out of a harder anti-foul than you would an ablative if you're not using your boat as much. But if you’ve got an ablative on there and you’re using your boat a lot then you’re going to get 18 months, two years possibly.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, I’ve certainly found that when I had the old, well the original anti-foul would have been the softer anti-foul, I could when a diver gave it a clean, I could see all the blue in the water as it was coming off. Then when I lifted my boat out for re-antifouling, I had all these white patches where the anti-foul is gone.

So the more that the diver cleaned it once a month, the more it wore off. Whereas the hard anti-foul, I pulled it out just last month here at the Gold Coast City Marina after 12 months. Fully covered still and it’s been cleaned every month by a diver and none of it’s come off or didn’t look like it had. So substantial difference if you’re getting it cleaned every now and then. In warmer waters you generally are going to have to get your boat cleaned by, whether your snorkel or you do it yourself or you get a diver because it’s just the nature of the beast. 

Especially if you’re on river outflows like we are on the Gold Coast, we’ve got all sorts of stuff coming down the river that fouls up and helps accelerate the fouling of the boat. Okay, can you describe I guess, if someone’s got an older hull and they’re thinking of stripping it right back, you said the sand blasting process, can you describe, how does that work? What are the steps, what are the stages, what would make you want to do that?

Treating osmosis after sand blasting the hull back to bare gel coat

David Hanton: The process, generally we’ll find that out on your maintenance schedule when you do pull it out. Quite often, you’re sort of not expecting that, you’re coming out at the marina here and you’re sort of looking at it going, “Oh, I might get some opinions about what’s going on here.” From our point of view, we’re happy to come down and meet any client and give them some advice in regards to that. The situation is basically you’re getting de-lamination on your hull and that could be caused through water egressing from inside or outside your hull.

In other words, you can have osmosis internally which is penetrating out. The situation there is we would recommend that it is sand blasted. If it’s a situation where the boat is completely riddled with osmosis then you’re going to need to look seriously at having the boat planed. Basically that’s taking two to four mil off the hull and getting rid of all that osmosis. Any further osmosis after it’s been planned would have to be ground out and then we’d re-glass and re-laminate the hull.

Very expensive process so important thing is when you are looking at buying a boat, that that’s one of the things that you seriously look at. The process once we’ve pulled it out, we’ve sand blasted it, we give the hull a sand and we put coats of epoxy on there, two to three coats of epoxy and we’ll also put a barrier coat and then followed by two coats of anti-foul. Once again, that’s all done by specifications and by Micron, so you’re getting the right amount of paint on the boat.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So you’re putting quite a few layers back on there.

David Hanton: Definitely, when you’ve gone back to your gel coat, you’re getting a few layers on there because you’re going to get another 10 to 15 years out of that process.

Propspeed is a great solution for keep growth off props

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, I found that’s very substantial, but it just almost restarts the life of your hull. I had some quite serious stuff ground out that was bigger than an orange in terms of the width and quite a few mil deep.

David Hanton: That’s not uncommon in probably your age boat at the end of the day. People need to understand that it’s not going to last forever and maintenance is very important so it’s really important to get your boat out, sort of 15 to 18 months if you’ve got that type of anti-foul.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, and at the time, the advice I was given was spending whatever it was, five or $6,000. It wasn’t all that, because I had to lift the mast out. So part of the cost of the sand blast was taking the mast out so you could go into the shed. So maybe it’s only $4,000 for the sand blast but you could end up with tens of thousands of dollars of damage to your hull if you just leave it to the grade, wouldn’t you say? When that osmosis gets really serious, you can end up with a serious situation and insurance doesn’t cover that does it? It just is poor maintenance.

David Hanton: No, we’ve had people try and give insurance for osmosis but no, you're right. And as I said, that’s something that you’re spot on your maintenance, regular pull outs generally and if you keep an eye on it and if you have got osmosis and you keep it under control then that doesn’t become an expensive issue at the end of the day.

You can pull out, you might have 15, 20 osmosis's, get them done, get them sorted because the problem is when the boat comes out, you may see some osmosis but there’s a lot of them that won’t come out at that pull out that are still there. So they might not rear their ugly head until the following haul out.

One of the many stages of layering the new epoxy, primer and anti-foul onto the fresh hull

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Yeah, right.

David Hanton: So we can’t see them all at the end of the day. Osmosis is mostly noticed when the hull has just been water blasted by the marina, the hull’s wet and you’ll see that slight blister just pop out.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: There’s bubbles sticking out there.

David Hanton: Once you give it a little pop, you’ll smell a nice vinegar smell and you’ll know that you’ve got some osmosis. There are some blisters that come up on boats that are basically just bolt blisters so not so much to worry about there but it’s the ones that smell like vinegar that are the ones that you’ve got an issue with.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So for the lay person, what actually causes osmosis and what’s the best thing you can do to prevent it as opposed to have to having to go and repair it?

David Hanton: Prevention is basically maintenance just ensuring that you’ve got no water egressing into any parts of your hull. So if you’ve hit a sand bank or you’ve hit something ensuring that there’s no de-lamination that has occurred because water will egress into that de-lamination and then sneak through the hull and start to have that osmosis area.

Also internally, if you’ve got water lying in your boat anywhere, that’s going to seep through, especially even rain water that comes in, that will leak into the hull as well so really important to keep water out.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So you can start osmosis form the inside out as well?

David Hanton: For sure yep. Or de-lam inside the boat and it will sneak through and start to pop out the others side. So that goes both ways.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: So if you’ve got a part of your hull where the paint’s worn away, the water can start to penetrate there?

David Hanton: Correct.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: And then it gets in between the outside layer or the inside layer and starts to work its way like a cancer that’s through your hull.

David Hanton: Just like house rot or anything else, you know? In steel boats and basically that osmosis is basically rust and then aluminium obviously doesn’t rust but it pits and corrodes quite badly. But out of that, I’ve mentioned before that three boats, the aluminium, fibre glass and your steel probably and the fibre glass is the least maintenance. If you are looking to buy a boat, probably buy fibreglass.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: I was going to ask you about that because if you’re considering alloy, wood, steel or fibre glass, so fibre glass would be your pick?

David Hanton: Definitely fibreglass, if you want to keep the maintenance low. I mean steel boats have been around for a long time, they’re use commercially and so forth but they generally have a good maintenance program and unless you’re prepared to go down that road of keeping it well maintained, I wouldn’t buy a steel boat. Timber boat’s very much the same, beautiful boats, been around for a long time of course but you do get wood rot and can be very expensive whereas the fibre glass is pretty much easier, it can ground out, re-glassed and…

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Looks just like new, right? You can fix any part of a fibreglass boat; you wouldn’t even know that damage was there to start with.

David Hanton: And aluminium, steel I mean, if there’s bad areas they can be cut out and replaced too, but certainly a lot more expensive than fibreglass. 

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, and what are some of the ugly things that happen that you’ve seen it happen to hulls from lack of maintenance? What are some of the really ugly things you’ve seen?

David Hanton: Yeah, we’ve seen some growth on some of the boats that come out, that people have neglected with the weeds and the barnacles and the fish and the oysters that are being lift on them. Yeah it’s just a disaster at the end of the day. I think osmosis is definitely the worst one. You just see, you pull a boat out and it’s been cleaned up water blast and it’s riddled and you just go, “Well this is a nightmare for the owner, he’s probably not even aware of it or he’s just bought the boat and hasn’t checked it out.” From the point of you boys in the sail, your keels are probably an issue with rust on the keels obviously, and your rudder stocks basically, build up of salt and around those.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay.

Kym Fleet: What is important with boating these days is the technology has changed that you get with fibre glass boats, a product that is being used on production style boats, what you serve your own. Back in the 70’s and 60’s when fibreglass was first became to being. The product wasn’t wonderful and the process wasn’t wonderful either. I’ve had quite a bit of experience in manufacturing the fibre glass boats in my time. It’s about the process that’s carried out on the products that are being used in the start and these days, certainly anything from the late 90’s through 2000’s into where we are today.

The processes have become much better and also the product has become much better. So osmosis in later model boats is a little unusual, certainly more unusual than what it would have been in a boat and it was produced in the 70’s and 80s, that’s just principally because of the process controls. That can include the humidity on the day, the amount of weather on the day, how dry it is that all has a factor. The person physically doing the job and the materials that they’re using. 

Fortunately, these days most production boats like Sea Rays and Maritimo’s, Riviera’s, Beneteau’s, Jeanneau’s, any of those sort of things, the process that are in place and the product is not much better. So it seems to be something that’s slowly but surely going out, you’ll always get it in old boats, fortunately the new boats are much better.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Right. So on that advice then, if you’re buying a boat that’s pre 2000, you want to establish who the manufacturer was because it was a home job or some small time by a producer but you want to do your checks and balances in terms of surveys and pulling the boat out of the water before you write a check out.

Kym Fleet: The best money you’re ever going to spend on your buying a new boat or a second hand boat is to have a marine surveyor inspect the boat out of the water, that usually incorporates a wet blast or a water blast underneath the boat, a lot of those seven - 800 boats we’ve pulled out last year, percentage of those are just out for a physical check.

The amount of boat change that changes hands, particularly here on the Gold Cost, it’s a big boating community so there’s lots of boat trials going on. So that’s the best money you can ever spend is get yourself a marine surveyor to take a look at the bottom of the boat after it’s been blasted and get a mechanic in to check the mechanicals because they are two much important and most expensive things you’re going to find.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Okay, great, that’s good advice. So just to David, along the lines of we talk about hulls and stuff but what are some of the other warning signs you need to look out for around rudders and keels that are taken for granted? I mean sometimes some of these boats just have keels snap off and boats tip upside down, they sink. So clearly something leads to that occurring. Are there warning signs that you can see in the keel or the rudder, when you pull the boat out of the water?

David Hanton: Once again, depending what your keel’s made of, if it is a steel obviously rust is the major issue there and once again, that’s just water egress, getting under areas that are not protected or coated properly. With your rudders, there’s obviously leaks that could penetrate through the big washers or the bearings that you have basically. Is that the right word? Washers and bearings?

That you’ll get through there, which causes loosening up of your rudder. So a lot of these things are basically are sorted on your haul out, ensuring that you’ve done your checks and balances once, once the boat’s out. Obviously hitting sand banks and that sort of thing doesn’t help rudders and it’s important that you pull your boat out once you’ve noticed you’ve done that because you don’t know what sort of damage is occurring down there.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Most of us racing sailors seem to focus on hitting it with our keels. So we should be okay.

David Hanton: Yeah, keels are fairly solid aren’t they? But once again, if you’ve noticed you have done it, just be mindful when you haul out next time, make sure that you check it.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: In case you’ve fractured bolts or opened up gap between the keel and the hull.

David Hanton: And just adding to Kym about, with that surveyor sort of scenario, definitely if you are looking to pull the boat out, just ensure that even if you can get it to stay out overnight because when the boat dries out and it’s a good opportunity to check for cracks and get a moisture check on the hull. A lot of boats will have moisture in their hull regardless of their age, it’s just a fact of boating.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Fact of sitting in the water 24/7. Okay. Lastly David, what tips can you give in terms of maximising the life and the integrity of your hull and your cabin top, and what sort of maintenance cycle is optimum?

David Hanton: Depending on your boating and how often you’re boating, but maintenance side of it, do anti-fouls vary? There’s some, the start off anti-foul will last you 12 months if you get immediate mid-range anti-foul you can get 15 months and there are some anti-fouls that will be four years. 

Be careful of the ones that do say four years because it’s basically a situation where that boat needs to be under constant voyage and if you’re not, it doesn’t meet the warranty side of it. So very important. We’re about to launch a product called Sea Hawk, which is going to give a 12 month warranty on the anti-foul and it’s not just a product replacement warranty, it’s actually a full warranty where they’ll pay for your haul out, your marina fees, and the replacement of the anti-foul.

It’s a top line product and it’s about to be launched shortly and we’re looking forward to do that. That’s an important fact, topside, ensuring that you’re giving your hull and good wax every six months really important. Keeping all those environmental issues away such as moisture and rain, checking all your fittings ensuring that they’re all tied and there’s no water. Rain water is probably is just as bad as sea water at the end of the day if it’s getting in somewhere then you’re going to cause problems.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: Great, and any other thoughts or any other advice before we wrap up?

David Hanton: Nothing at the moment, no. Not that I can think of but yeah, we’re here to help. We work with the marina and we’re looking forward to the next few years in developments here in the precinct and especially if we’re looking to get the clearance and working with all the other marinas around the area to build a good boating community really.

Ocean Sailing Podcast: That’s great. Well, I personally now use Gold Coast City Marina and Bradford Marine to take care of all my hull maintenance and hull integrity and go fast needs. I thought, it’s great to share the technical knowledge that these guys have from their experience and what we’ll do is we’ll gather a whole bunch of photos from David and Kym of the facility here and of some of the various stages of degradation and painting and upgrading and optimising hulls and I’ll share those in the show notes online. 

So where we’ll publish the show notes for this episode, check those out, they’ll be there as well and they’ll give you a really good guide as to the best and worst of what you can see and also some details of the facility here as well. So thanks guys for joining me this week, thanks for putting aside and hour of your time. I know you’ve got busy businesses to run. I really appreciate you sharing all your knowledge and technical tips.

Kym Fleet: No problem.

David Hanton: Thanks David.

Interviewer: David Hows