Iota Refit | January 2, 2008

I planned today to sand off all or most of the old nonskid.  I decided to start on the forward part of the coach roof, and collected my tools and materials.  All along, I'd anticipated that the gritty texture of the existing nonskid would make sanding a bit of a challenge, and I had appropriately coarse grits and tools ready to go if need be.

I immediately discovered, however, that sanding simply wasn't possible.  The old material was so coarse that it rapidly dulled even the coarsest sandpaper.  I'd not run into a material like this before:  it was like sanding granite, though I think I might have had better luck with that, frankly.

I knew I was in trouble when my traditional first sanding step for heavy duty removals--40 grit paper on grinder equipped with an 8" soft pad--failed to make even remotely hopeful progress.  Smaller tools were similarly futile, and I went as far as to try some heavy-duty 16 grit paper on an angle grinder just to see if I could at least break the surface.  Even this didn't work, which was just as well since I didn't relish using that over a widespread area.  What it did do is show me what I was faced with, which was equally illuminating.

Temporarily stumped, I relocated to the doghouse, where there was no nonskid, and sanded off the old paint covering the top.  This revealed a previous deck repair on the starboard side, with a large patch and a disturbingly large area of drilled and resin-filled holes (it looked like someone used pegboard to drill out the holes).  I had seen some of these holes printing through the old paint, but hadn't realized quite how widespread the repaired area was.  I used 40 grit paper to break the surface and remove the bulk of the paint, and then switched to 80 grit to bring the surface down to the original gelcoat.

With that done, I moved down to the staging and sanded off the paint on the port side of the cabin trunk.


While I ground, I considered how I was going to deal with the old nonskid.  I felt it really had to come off, since it would be impossible to prepare it satisfactorily for new paint, or even for epoxy and fiberglass repairs, all of which would be required as much of the decks required repair and recoring, and there were a few areas of failure (not widespread) and some cracking indicative of a less-than-sound overall condition.  Leaving it be and working around it was just not an alternative for a host of reasons.

Before lunch, I decided to try some heat.  At first, I tried using a paint scraper along with the heat gun, and made minute progress.  The carbide scraper blade was a bit dull, but over several tedious and tiring minutes, I managed to clear a space of a couple square inches.  Clearly, that pace was way too slow to be practicable, and that technique and tool didn't work acceptably.

At some point, my slow-turning brain realized that what I needed to do was not scrape the old nonskid off as much as peel it off.  Clearly, the heat worked to soften the surface, and once I tried a small, stiff putty knife instead of the scraper I began to make acceptable progress with the nonskid's removal.  Eventually, I found a rhythm that worked, so I was able to make acceptable progress in this manner.

Over the course of a full afternoon, I managed to scrape the old nonskid off the entire port side, revealing the original dark gray nonskid, several other layers of paint, and a host of poorly-executed repairs, most notably--and unfortunately--near the forwardmost stanchion base where I already knew the deck to be mushy.  Clearly, the drill-and-fill technique had failed miserably as a repair, and as a result it was likely that opening the area and properly repairing it would be a bit more involved than I had hoped.  Drill-and-fill is really something only for the smallest areas, and is a poor choice for larger and more widespread repairs.

But I'd get to the deck repairs in due course:  first, I had to finish scraping the old nonskid, and then sand the remainder of the decks.  That's next.




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