Painting my Sailboat

Spring is coming—that means my sailboat will get the paint job she hasn’t had in years. I plan on painting her bottom (which she desperately needs) and topside. I’ve heard the best method of painting a boat is “tipping” which will give the boat a glassy look. Putting a couple coats of new paint on her will help improve her outwardly appearance, and the shine of the new paint should class her up.

Being the planner that I am, I came up with a few different color schemes using the existing paint layout of the boat. I added the boat’s name to the bow in efforts to give her more style, but stayed away from anything too wild. One of my limitations is the color of the existing Sunbrella on the boat, which by my guess is Canvas True Blue. It’s a limiting color. Navy blue goes with everything, as it’s closer to black. Canvas True Blue is a cold blue, and in some lights looks purple. Since it’s everywhere, I’m not going to replace it but work with it.

[nggallery id=6]


I’ve never painted a boat before, so I really am clueless as to how much paint I need and how long it will take (prepping, sanding, etc.); advice is welcome. Libby is 30′ LOA and has a 10′ beam, fiberglass. There’s one osmosis blister where the keel meets the hull, which will need to be fixed once she’s out of the water.

Do you sail Puget Sound?

A lot of boats need to be painted, and I’m loosely planning a painting expedition: it would be sweet if a number of boaters could gather for a few days of prepping, painting, and mingling. Boats need to dry between coats, so as one boat dries, we can work on another. It appears Port Townsend has better haul-out rates than Shilshole, but I’m open to take my girl somewhere else if it’s cheaper.

If you have advice on what time of year to paint, where to paint, know the best place to purchase paint, or have tips and tricks you’ve learned, please share! And if you want to paint your boat this spring/summer, let me know. I need help and could help you, too.


  1. s/v Eolian February 28, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Good luck Courtney – it’s a big job.

    On Eolian, we chose to use black bottom paint. It goes with everything (or perhaps it goes with nothing…), and the black paint has the highest active ingredient content.


  2. tomperanteau February 28, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    If we lived closer, we’d join in. Good luck!

  3. Pingback: Painting my Sailboat | Courtney Kirchoff

  4. Paul February 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    We painted Kingsley’s bottom last summer – went with black like Bob. She is a 32 ft boat (LOA) and I just made it with a gallon of paint. It was a lot of work and I had help with the sanding – nasty stuff. Good luck!

  5. Mike Oswald February 29, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Personally I really like your examples 5/8 and 7/8, the colors seem to add length to the vessel.
    Roll and tipping is an excellent way to apply paint especially if your using epoxy or polymer based; but you should have one person roll while the other tips with a good brush (us old wood boat nuts prefer natural boars hair brushes).
    As everything in life, preparation takes the majority of the time and effort but the results are worth the work. Use good quality masking tapes depending upon the edge you wish, sandpaper (220-440 for hull) and a couple of sanding blocks or long board. I believe Petit has a rather good “How To” PDF guide available online. Finally, consider waiting until the temperatures are at least into the 50’s before you paint the hull.
    You might check the Port of Everett for their prices. They have a new and very complete haul out area and the service is top notch.

    Your boat is very lucky to have you as a caretaker.

    Fair winds, et all.

  6. kent February 29, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    I also have a Bahama 30, down in Tacoma. Last summer I stripped the bottom to the gel coat and put a pettit barrier coat, and after that Pettit Trinidad SR. It has held up quite well. Remember if you are painting, especially the topsides, spent as much time prepping as you can. It is never enough! Consider just polishing the girl up. Also, you sure you have a true blister, or is it just between paint layers. When I bought my boat the surveyor thought there were a number of bigger blisters, they were all between layers of 30 years of bottom paint!

    1. Courtney March 2, 2012 at 11:54 am

      Thanks for your advice, fellow Islander-owner. I wish I could just polish her up, but it’s been so long since she’s been painted, the hull paint has rubbed off and the blue primer is showing! I’m afraid her previous owners didn’t take proper care of her. I see a lot of boats around here that are just used, not loved, and I’m determined not to be one of them. I love sailing, but I want my home to look its best.

      Regards the blister, I have no idea. I’m a total novice to all of this. Survey said there was an osmosis blister, one that wasn’t bad at all. The bottom looked fantastic when we hauled her out, and I was thrilled that one blister was all this old boat had. We shall see when the time comes.

  7. Scott March 1, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Having gone through this process for the first time just a few years ago, I’ll tell you what I found and what my experiences have been with it.

    For time of year, the warmer the better; dry times are longer in cool weather. This can add up fast if you want to do more than one coat.

    For our 33 footer, we can get one complete coat of the bottom out of a gallon. With only my wife and I working on her, and the weather cooperating, we can get it all done (sanding and painting) in a day. This is swell, because in Port Townsend, where we usually haul out, you don’t pay yard fees for the day you come out or the day you go in. So if you haul one day and go back in the next you only pay the cost of the haul (and all the other little ticky-tack fees that come along with it; but Boat Haven is pretty reasonable).

    We’ve gone with black Pettit Unepoxy the last two times, and it has held up quite well. We waited three years between, and when we pulled her to paint again, after spraying off the slime, we could have just about dropped her right back in… no serious growth attached. We used the lower copper content Unepoxy the first time, and mixed half and half the second time, but it hasn’t been long enough to tell if it made a difference yet. I’ve heard from everyone up here to go with a hard, rather than sloughing, paint, and that seems to be reflected in your comments here, too.

    The whole process is much less intimidating than it might seem and pretty straightforward as long as you have prepared for it.

  8. Jaye March 4, 2012 at 9:13 am

    For color, I like the brown – gives some contrast but doesn’t seem too harsh.

    We painted with Interlux Brightside – two coats of primer followed by two coats of paint. So far that paint job has lasted 7 years – we’re pretty happy with it. There was also a matching shade of nonskid paint that worked with that system. As others have said, preparation was everything. We also had a few blisters; we used West System – it was pretty easy to follow the directions and when we had the survey done afterwards, the surveyor was totally happy with the result.

  9. RavenTom March 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I tried to avoid painting my hull, but it had been gouged and patched so much that I decided to go ahead. I chose Petit Easypoxy for the “tip and roll” method. You want to do this on a pretty warm, dry, still day, but not a hot day, since the paint will dry too fast. It worked out great. If you have some experience with smoothing varnish with a good quality brush, you’ll be fine. The essence is that you roll on the paint, then tip it smooth with the brush, moving around the hull to keep the wet edge going until you complete it.
    Of course you sand carefully to rough up the gelcoat beforehand and remove all dust with a tack rag just as you would if varnishing (which I now do with Cetol, not varnish, now that Cetol has come decent colors which don’t look orange).
    Ok, now for the problem. A year later, there were the dings and scratches on the hull which seem to happen no matter how carefully I dock. So, I sanded them and painted them again with the same paint that was left over. Problem comes in the fact that any color will fade in the sun, so the new paint looked like blotches all over the hull–very ugly! I thought it was maybe just that the paint I had left over was bad, so bought a new can–same result. So, the lesson is, paint the topsides of the hull white, not a dark color unless you don’t mind having to repaint the whole hull to touch up a damaged spot.
    I’ve heard that the more expensive (awl-grip type) paints are tougher. Not sure about that or whether they fade just as much.
    Oh yea, and my boat is a 30 foot Rawson, 9ft beam, which took two quarts to do the topsides. On the bottom, I’ve gone to a water based copper paint from a place in Florida. It’s tough, lasted longer than the traditional paints, and can be used on the depth transducer because it’s water based.
    Just some things to think about.