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Boating: Bottom Paint Problems

By Staff | Feb 20, 2013

“Do anything, anything badly and it will haunt you until you make it right!” A very intelligent man spoke these words to me many years ago, but they remain true today. Shoddy work on boats is no exception even when done unintentionally. How many times have you remarked, “What were they thinking, or why would they do that?”

I believe Marine-Tex was invented just for people who followed the Rube Goldberg rule of fixing everything. Marine-Tex is a great product when used properly but the inexperienced boat mechanic or do-it-yourself boater often uses it to cover up a ‘faux pas.’ There is even a slang expression used by that group, “marine-tex-it!”

An imperfect example of this mentality is bottom painting a new boat. After a person spends $300,000 for a new boat, one would think they would spare no expense to make the add-ons right. Yet they’ll shop prices like they were a government agency and take the lowest bid from the least qualified. Unlike some mistakes, poorly prepared bottoms will let the customer know almost immediately.

“The preparation is key,” Randy Phares of the old Compass Rose Marina told me once. “Skip a step and the paint will come off!” He should know because they painted a lot of new bottoms for dealers in the area.

Mold Release Wax is the culprit in this case. Understanding what it does makes combating it easier. When a boat is laid up, they use a reverse mold that is heavily waxed to help the cured hull separate from the mold. Sometimes the transfer of wax is just a little and sometimes it is a lot. Never the less, the boat bottom has to be prepped like it has a ‘lot’ of mold release wax on it!

Since I make bottom paint, I run into a lot of sad stories from boaters who have paint peeling off their bottoms, boat that is! They want to sue someone for not telling them about this wax or to sue the yard that didn’t prep the bottom properly or sue the weatherman who made the boat so cold that the paint fell off.

At a recent New York boat show, I met a boater who had entire paint job fell off during the winter. The cold weather shrunk his boat and the paint came off in sheets. What a great way to avoid build-up. Every year, a brand new bottom! I explained the right way to prep his boat, and he thanked me the following year when his paint stayed on. But there are a thousand boats out there that have residual wax still on the hull, and every year a little more falls off.

The dirty end of the stick in all of this is the person who re-paints the poorly prepared bottom. They do the best job they know how, but then the paint continues to fall off. If they were educated to the presence of residual mold release wax, they could fix it easily. The boater wants his bottom completely covered in bottom paint and the re-painter wants to protect their good reputation.

The boat manufacturer should use water-based mold release wax so just washing the boat with soap would remove it. Putting a coloring agent into the wax only below the waterline would help the boater or his agent see it and remove it. That would add a $100 to the cost of the boat, but it would save a lot of trouble. Manufacturers really don’t care because it isn’t part of the warranty. Sea Ray boats personnel paint their bottoms at the factory and do it right. They don’t use Super Shipbottom, so they aren’t perfect.

Then there is the all out ‘scoundrel’ of this tale of woe, skip-sand or sand-less primer. Its purpose is to keep the bottom un-sanded. Some manufactures mistakenly think that sanding causes blisters. They insist the bottom painter uses the inherently flawed primer but, if the bottom isn’t properly de-waxed first, the primer falls off too! The real hero in this story is lacquer thinner because it is the best wax remover, and it’s cheap.

My advice to new boaters is to watch the videos on www.supershipbottom.com and learn how to prep the new bottom. If you’re not doing the work yourself, pay a little extra and save a lot of hassle later. Don’t allow a shade tree mechanic to send you down the “channel of grief,” get it done right the first time. And, by the way, use a good paint! You know which one!

P.S. The preparations for the “Dead End Canal Yacht Club” Day have been moving forward, but the members and readers haven’t been to forthcoming about their location preferences. Please send your ideas to me ASAP.

Send questions and comments to boatguiEd@aol.com or this publication.