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Old 08-02-2000
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Painting a Boat Dark Blue

We recently I purchased a 1975 Wauquiez Centurion 32 in need of a paint job. We want to paint it navy blue, but we're wondering whether I can use the roll and tip method and have it look like the shiny new hull my wife is expecting. The boat is in Ft. Lauderdale and the projected painting date is the end of August. Do you think I'll have any problems painting the hull such a dark color?

Thanks,
Tom Kretschmer

Don Casey responds:

Tom,

Your concerns about painting a dark color are valid. Pigments alter the flow characteristics of linear polyurethane. And regardless of the color, heat and humidity reduce the open time—which also reduces the paint's ability to level out. So painting a dark color in Florida in August is about as hard as it gets. Hard, but not out of reach.

Your first step is to paint something other than your boat—a dinghy or maybe a boatyard derelict. This is important because it gives you a feel for the paint and hands-on experience of how important speed is—especially in August. When you actually paint your hull, if it takes you more than 20 minutes to get the paint rolled on and tipped out on one side, you are moving too slow, and you will pay for your "caution" with a less than perfect finish. In August this is a two-person job, one rolling, one tipping, and both working as quickly as possible.

The second special requirement for your situation is to plan to paint early in the day, before the temperature starts to climb. And with a dark color it is essential not to have sun on the paint. Typically that is easy on one side of the boat, harder on the other, but if you roll dark blue in direct sunlight, it will set before the stroke marks level out.

As for shine, the paint is going to be shiny no matter what you do. The only issue is whether the stroke marks show, and here the only requirement, aside from speed in application, is getting the thinner ratio perfect—always a trial-and-error proposition because the characteristics of the paint vary with weather conditions.

There is no reason why you cannot get excellent results if you paint only in the shade in the cool part of the day, and you practice with the paint first. The practice sessions will tell you for sure.

I want to offer one final bit of unsolicited advice. No matter how beautiful it looks—and it does look terrific—navy blue, or any dark color, can make the interior of your boat uninhabitable in South Florida. Unless you are planning to use your boat in a more temperate climate, I strongly urge you to spend some time inside a dark-hulled boat before you paint yours dark.

Whatever you decide, pay attention to what the paint tells you and make the necessary adjustments, and you should get a finish that will nicely reflect your wife's smile.

Don Casey

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