I live for boating season. This is no secret; everyone knows it. I count down the days from haul-out in November to Launch Day in April. Or if I’m really lucky, in March. But, boat ownership does not come without its fair share of work and the one task I think I hate more than any other is the annual ritual called Paint the Bottom.
No, it’s not like that. Stop watching so much television.
Painting the bottom isn’t really difficult. It isn’t overly taxing and doesn’t take a tremendous amount of thought. It’s simply the act of rolling paint onto the bottom of the boat, but I hate doing it. I hate buying the paint because it seems like I’m paying a silly amount of money for something that I’ll just have to do again next year. And I hate all of the exercises in caution involved because bottom paint DOES NOT come off of concrete. This is especially important to know when it’s not your own concrete.
I would rather crawl across the top of my big-block Chevy’s and squeeze into the little outboard space between the engines and fuel tanks to change those eight impossible to reach spark plugs. I would rather lay under the dash and drill a hole with the fiberglass dust raining down on me. I would rather do almost anything else, except for head repairs. I will gladly pay someone to paint the bottom of my boat if I can find a willing victim. I mean, ah, volunteer.
Bottom paint is a necessity and cannot be avoided unless you haul your boat out of the water between every trip. Even then, you can see some staining along the waterline if the boat sits too long at the ramp’s dock while you wait your turn on a busy day. For a boat that stays in a slip all season, skipping over the yearly task of painting will just mean you have to throw on a mask and snorkel and scrub off all of the growth at some point during the summer. And that is never much fun, especially since we all tend to wait until the boat won’t get up on plane any longer or our fuel consumption has increased by two-thirds due to the jungle hanging from the underside of the hull.
There is another reason bottom paint is important. Yes, we can scrape off the growth and if necessary, but the stuff that stays behind can be impossible to get off when they powerwash the bottom at the end of the year. That means you either paint over the growth and decrease your cruising efficiency the following season, or you find yourself scraping or sanding the dried stuff off in the spring before you paint again anyway.
Do not skip the bottom paint ritual. You don’t have to sand it off every year; you can paint over the existing layer instead. You may want to consider removing the built-up paint at some point during the vessel’s life, but it’s a “pay me now or pay me later” situation. Sand the bottom every year before painting and deal with the work and mess, or do one big paint removal job somewhere during the life of the boat.
My Sea Ray 390 is 34 years old and, as far as I know, the paint has never been removed. That means I’m about to add one more to the 34 layers of bottom paint. I have only lost two miles per hour off of the original, advertised cruising speed, and see no real change in fuel consumption. The reduction in speed could easily be attributed to the age of the boat so I don’t think I can blame that on the paint. Is that worth sanding, priming, and painting 400 square feet of fiberglass every year? Not as far as I’m concerned.
But, it certainly is worth a $120 gallon of cuprous oxide and a few hours of work.
Time to get going, only three weeks left to Launch Day!