The Ever-Settling Waterline
This page was last updated on 7 October 2002.

The Triton was originally constructed with molded-in scribe lines to delineate the top and bottom borders of the boottop, and, therefore, the general designed waterline.  As most of us know, the Triton tends to not only float somewhat lower than the design may have called for, but also squat in the stern, typically burying the boottop at least partially into the water, especially at the stern.  This leads to excess fouling on the boottop, paint failure, and, perhaps worst of all, it looks terrible.

You can sort of see the old boot and waterline in this photo from the day we towed her home.Knowing about this problem in advance, I decided to raise the waterline when I painted the hull during the restoration project.  I had little or no experience with where Glissando actually floated--she was in the water for less than 24 hours during her tow from Chebeague Island, where we bought the boat, to Falmouth, ME where we hauled out--and with not much gear on board, the mast unstepped and lying on deck, and water entering the boat through a rotted stuffing box hose, it was impossible to know where she floated.  Not to mention that that was hardly on our minds at the time. Other photos of the original waterline can be found on the following pages of this site, among others; clicking these links will open a new window.

The waterline and boot at the stern, taken in 2002.Higher is better, in my book, so when I painted I raised the level of the antifouling paint to the top boottop scribe mark--about 2-3" higher than where she was originally painted--and then struck a new boottop above this level.  With the boat in the relatively lightly-loaded trim of our first season, in 2001, the new waterline level was great, and definitely was the right move.  The boat still tended to squat and the waterline at the stern was lapping at the bottom of the new boottop--in other words, the entire boot would have been submerged had we left the line as originally designed.  I struck the new boottop by eye within the confines of my building shed and was generally pleased with the results, although the section beneath the counter wasn't quite perfect--though it took a trained and critical eye to notice.

We did little cruising the first year the boat was in the water after the project, and there was not a huge amount of gear on board--most of the lockers were empty, for all intents and purposes.  I knew that the boat would settle further into the water if we loaded her up for cruising.  How much, was the question?

stb1-58020.JPG (134120 bytes)When the boat went in the water in spring 2002, for her second season, she was already more heavily loaded than at any point during the first season.  I had added three anchors, extra anchor chain, books, additional tools, spare parts, and other gear while the boat was still at home in the backyard, and immediately after she floated off the truck I could see that she was floating much lower than the year before.  Once the mast was stepped and I had rigged things up, she floated level, fore and aft, but the waterline was now just at the bottom of the boottop on the port side, and there was a slight list to starboard, most likely caused by hardcover books stored in the new bookshelves on that side.  (Later, I shifted stores and removed this 1-2 list.)

The fully loaded waterline--just to the top of the boot, amidships.Throughout the first couple months of the season, I loaded more and more cruising gear and stores in preparation for our 2-month summer cruise.  Most of this gear is either permanent, or could be expected to be on board for just about any cruise.  Inexorably, the boat settled even deeper.  By the time we departed on the cruise, with full tanks, jerry jugs of fuel and water, food, ice, stores, and all the other cruising gear, Glissando was floating about 3" deeper than before--the boottop was entirely submerged amidships.  Obviously, the waterline would have to be painted higher in the future.

During the cruise, I observed the waterline continually, to try and figure out where it should be repainted.  It was at this time that I really began to notice that the boottop was sagged--that is, lower in the middle and higher at each end.  With essentially full stores and no one on board, the boat floated so that the top of the boot was just at the water's edge amidships, but the antifouling line was just visible at both the bow and stern.  So, in addition to needing to raise the waterline, I also determined that the scribe marks as molded into the hull were not an accurate representation and were not planar.  While the boottop should have a slight spring in it (slight, not excessive...if your eye can see it it's too much), to my eye the true waterline--or the level to which the antifouling paint is painted--should be flat and straight to parallel the surface of the water.  Ideally, on this size boat, there should be 1-2" of antifouling showing above the fully loaded waterline all around.  This reduces proximity fouling of the boottop and also looks much better.  Additionally, no boottop paint, enamel, or liner polyurethane paint is intended to constant submersion, and doing so will cause the paint to fail.  The Awlgrip on Glissando's boot began to form small bubbles during the cruise from the constant submersion.  Obviously, any boottop should be high enough above the waterline to prevent this.  During the cruise, I took lots of photos of the boat, some for only the purpose of recording the waterline at various times and intervals, for future reference when restriking the line later.

The loaded waterline from the stern.     Loaded waterline...it's a bit down by the bow because Heidi is in the vee berth.     Loaded waterline     Loaded waterline, again.     

Cruise 8-16-19 069.jpg (123387 bytes)     Cruise 8-22-26 019.jpg (143007 bytes)     Cruise 8-22-26 037.jpg (140108 bytes)      

By studying these photos, as well as the images burned into my memory,  I have begun to determine the location of the new waterline.  I will error on the side of caution and go even higher than might be necessary, because as heavily loaded as the boat was this time, it's likely (even probable) that she will be heavier in the future, especially if we do any really long-term cruising.  I can't imagine why we would ever sail the boat in as lightly loaded a condition as she was the first season, when we had hardly anything on board, so the risk of having a ridiculously high waterline as a result is nil, as far as I'm concerned.

Yes, I'm picky about this.  The sunken waterline bugged me through the whole cruise.  The boot and waterline are one of the first things my eye is drawn to on any boat, and I tend to be highly critical of what I see.  It makes or breaks the look of a boat, I think.  It may be an indefinable quality for some, but I'd bet that in a random test, given two boats that are identical in every single way--except that one has a perfectly struck waterline and the other doesn't--a random test subject person would be more inclined to pick the boat with the proper waterline as the more  attractive of the two.  

Am I obsessed?  (Don't answer that...I already know the answer!)

When the boat came out of the water on October 2, 2002, I could for the first time get a close look at the Awlgrip boottop, which, during the season, I had noticed becoming bubbled slightly from overexposure to the water.  There were a number of small bubbles, mostly concentrated amidships on both sides but also beneath the counter and, to a lesser extent, on the bow areas.  There were also several larger bubbles, up to about 3/16" diameter.  As the boat dried out a bit, the bubbles tended to shrink, but did not go away.  There was no paint failure, but certainly the Awlgrip wasn't impressed that it had been submerged for much of the summer.  Raising the waterline should eliminate this problem.  The photos below show the condition of the boottop and the bubbles shortly after the boat was deposited in my backyard for the winter, before I had scrubbed the bottom and hull to remove growth and dirt.

boot1-100202.JPG (177073 bytes)     boot2-100202.JPG (175579 bytes)     boot3-100202.JPG (167945 bytes)

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Glissando, Pearson  Triton #381

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