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 Windsong Dockbox: Bottoms Up!

Windsong DockboxIf you keep your boat in the water it has to be bottom painted in order to prevent barnacle growth. Winter is a great time to renew the bottom job on your boat as the cooler weather makes for less sweaty work and of course we donít use our boats as often during the colder months.

How often should you repaint your boat?

While this will vary according to how often you use the boat and the type of paint you apply, here is a basic guide line. Sailboats with a good bottom job typically only need to be repainted every 4-5 years. Power and pontoon boats on the other hand, have to be repainted more often, typically every other year, as planning hulls wear paint a lot faster than displacement hulls.

What paint should you use?

There are two main types of anti-fouling paint, hard and ablative. Ablative paints are made to wear away through friction as the boat moved through the water; the outer surface keeps on wearing away exposing new antifouling material. Hard paints do not wear away and are better suited for faster boats, as they have a smoother finish and wonít wear away at high speeds.

Hard paints however, need a higher copper content to be as effective and if the boat is left out of the water the paint oxidizes on the outer surface and becomes ineffective. Boats with hard bottom paint do need to be left in the water and scrubbed with a brush once a month during summer and every other month during winter.

Bottom paint can vary from less than $100/gallon to over $300/gallon. The higher the cuprous oxide (copper content) of the paint the more effective it is and correspondingly the more expensive it is. Some paints have up to 70% copper content.

Pontoon boats and aluminum boats

When bottom painting a pontoon boat you cannot use regular anti-fouling paint because the copper causes a chemical reaction with the aluminum and it could severely damage your pontoons with corrosion, pitting and eventually holes.

Aluminum anti-fouling paint has no copper content, using biocides instead. Most common brands are Trilux 33, Alumacoat and Mission Bay. Expect to pay over $200 a gallon.

Do you need a primer?

If the boat has been painted before and is not worn down to bare gelcoat or aluminum, there is no need for a primer. You can just go ahead and paint over the old paint after a good sanding.

However, if the boat has never been painted before or is worn down to bare surface you will need a primer. Best primers are a two part epoxy; this is called a barrier coat. An example of a two part epoxy primer is InterProtect 2000E which sells for a less than $100 and is safe on pontoons as well as fiberglass bottoms.

Prepping the bottom

Any existing barnacles must be removed before applying paint. Start with a pressure wash to remove algae and follow it up with an acid wash to loosen barnacles which can then be scraped off with either a scraper or a wire wheel on an angle grinder.

Now comes the sanding. In order for the paint to stick, the bottom needs to be roughed up with 60-80 grit sand paper. Wash off the sanding dust and then wipe the bottom of the boat with acetone. Using blue painterís tape, mark off the boat 2-4 inches above the water line.

On a bare bottom apply at least two coats of primer using a small roller and a brush for the corners. Depending on the primer you choose you might need to sand again before applying the anti-fouling paint. An epoxy primer like InterProtect 2000E does not need to be sanded because it is self etching.

Once dry, immediately apply the bottom paint (some primers need the bottom paint applied the same day, check the label for instructions). A minimum of two coats of anti-fouling paint with a third coat along the waterline. Some anti-fouling paints require the boat to be returned to the water immediately, so be sure to read the manufacturerís instructions.

How much primer and paint to buy?

18-20 foot boats you will need about a gallon. Add a quart per each additional 5 feet. Or check the label on the can too see how many square feet the can will cover and use this formula: Length x Beam x 0.75 = Approximate Surface Area sq ft.

Tips and tricks

Adding a bottle of Cayenne pepper (red pepper) per gallon substantially increases the effectiveness of the bottom paint.

Use a paint mixer bit on your electric drill to thoroughly mix the pain as the copper tends to sink to the bottom.

Turn the can upside down the day before you paint, this will help free the thicker paint at the bottom.

An easy way to sand the boat is using a drywall hand sander.

Jack the boat up on one side a few inches off the bunks, place jack stands under the boat and then remove the wheel from that side of the trailer allowing you to lower the trailer several more inches with the hub on the ground so you can get a brush or roller in. Do one side of the boat at a time and then repeat the process moving the jack stands to the other side of the boat.

Donít forget, email your questions to

Happy Boating!

Note: Bruce & Wendy Longman are USCG Licensed Captains who live in Gulf Harbors and own Windsong Charters. Visit their site at

Posted On Monday, February 25, 2013

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