Painting, paint and varnish

Painting your boat is important for at least two reasons:

  1. Protection.
  2. A painted boat looks good.


Right, now that the hard philosophy is over, we can continue to the discussion. Firstly the second point, regarding aesthetics. As our friend put it:”A sailboat can be of any color, as long as it is white.” And our boat is white. That ends the first discussion.

Okay, there is one thing more. High gloss paints, unless black, will bring out every little surface texture. So if you are highly sensitive to fiberglass showing under the paint, then apply more epoxy fillet and sand until satisfied. Ideal-smooth geometry is the key to an ideal cover. We chose to accept the rough look, fiberglass texture showing all over the place, because we were utterly tired of sanding. At given hull speed, there is nothing practical about a super fine finish.. arguably.


Second comes the chemical protection. Namely the WestSystem epoxy we used is not in long term UV resistant (are any “pure” epoxies?) and thus needs something to cover its nudity. Secondly, paint can protect against osmosis, or so called blisters (West System is real scientific about them here). Of course there are other aspects of paints, but I dare say that these are the main ones. What you need depends on what you have.

For a weekend cruiser that goes in and out of water, that has a fiberglass coated bottom, perhaps all you need to bother with is the color and wear. Once you get to longer trips, longer stays in docks, then you need antifouling.

By the Internet, the best boat topcoats (outside) are two part polyurethane paints. Most of them apply for above deck and below deck, need a two part primer and need at least two coats (average coverage under 10 m^2/L). Below deck paints are usually antifouls.

On Fafnir we decided not to antifoul the boat, because it is cheaper and we are hoping it to be a weekend or week sailer (all 600 kg of it), not standing in water for all too long.

There are also one component polyurethane paints. John Welsford has said that some of his “test pieces” have survived the nicest with single component polyurethane coats. Other forums say that you can forget about single component paints, they suck. So, again, it is open to discussion. Wikipedia can help, if you know what you are reading.

What we used


We decided, as was recommended, to paint with a two component paint, because all our

Our two component primer.

Our two component primer, the gray you see above.

references said that we ought to forget about single part paints. You need to repaint them every year. That is the saying around here. So we got the cheapest we found, which also turns out to be highly recommended, Wilckens Yachtline Epoxyd Primer and Wilckens DD Hartlack.

Both are two part paints (epoxy primer and polyutherane topcoat), costing around 15-20 EUR per 0,75 L (both parts included) and cover around 8-10 m^2 per litre (as do most other un-diluted paints). Wilckens is arguably the largest marine paints producer in Germany, a land of quality, as we know. It is 2-3 times cheaper than other paints. The price difference arguably comes from the fact that since Wilckens produces paint in large quantities, the smaller hobby-patches can be cheaper. Other well known alternatives are International (the most expensive) and Hempel. At least over here in Europe.

We applied two coats of primer and two coats of paint. Packaging said that protection against osmosis is guaranteed starting from 3 layers (recommended 3-5 layers of primer). But our trusted friend said that that is only needed when dealing with a non epoxy surface, eg. polyester or wood. Well, we trusted him and applied two coats (We simply ran out of paint after that. He said that we could have done with one coat of primer. True, we have at least 3-5 coats of epoxy underneath the paint). We went by the book with the topcoat, 1-2 coats for optimal coverage (2 on ours).

Inside the cabin

To be painted…

What more can you buy?

Of course depends on how much money you have. You can buy anti-slip paints for the deck, apply anti-osmosis primers to the paint, add antifoul and the topcoat.

A thing we really did concider is the anti-slip paint. We haven’t been to water yet. Lets see if we slip or not.

So – that concludes the discussion on choosing paints. As is always good, ask around your local boat community and go by what they trust and have good experience with. In our case, luckily, it turned out to be the cheapest of the “best” paints, polyurethane. John Welsford has said that the NZ fishermen he knows paint their wooden boats with simple oil-enamel paints and then apply antifoul to them. Cheaper yet.

Applying the paint

One of the signs on our epoxy canisters. the fact that it does not smell does not mean that it does not kill. Basically – be safe and wear all the protection you can. You’ll live longer.

Our West System epoxy gives off only the slightest fume, which does not seem all too toxic. I mean, it does not feel like sniffing gasoline (we’ve all done that in one point of our lives, right), but rather like you open the fridge and it gives off the slightest scents of the various foods it has in it. Curiously enough, two component paint smells like nothing else. It is VERY intense. I suspect it has to do with the kind of “solvent” used in the paint. The paint needs to be touch dry fast (or something in the lines of that, eg. to dry faster) and thus it has some fast evaporating components in it.

So we got ourselves actual chemical filters for our breathing masks. The filters cost about 15 EUR per pair. Our old filters were good for dust only. We did the painting indoors, this added to the need of the masks.

We applied the first coat of paint with masks on and did not really feel like much. But then a guy from two floors above came telling that close the darn door, the whole house stinks, then we got a whiff of the paint and understood the great recreational potential in it. I mean, painting without the filters would have ended in a trip back to the fetus, and that is not in hallucinations, but by the number of braincells.

Other than that – applying paint with a good expensive (drops less hair) roll and brush gets

Get ready to cash out.

the best results. First apply a coat with the roll and then smooth it out with a brush. Rolls, unless mastered at Yoda level, leave stripes at stroke starts, stroke ends and stroke sides. A brush smooths these out and helps the paint to flow more evenly. Applying only with brush (unless at Yoda level) will waste you many times more paint and leave a more uneven coverage.

And I mean, really, expensive rolls and brushes will save your nerves. Cheap ones will not cover so good, but what is worse – will most likely leave hairs or pieces of “roll” into your paint job. And that is plain annoying.

For mixing smaller portions (not whole cans of two part paint), we recommend, by experience, large syringes. 50 ml syringes cost 0,50 EUR around here, sold at the local pharmaceutic. It is especially good if your syringe has a cover cap on it. Cut a hole on top. This means that you’ll have two nozzles for both components. First take whichever component with clean syringe end, then take the second with the cap on it.

2 Responses to Painting, paint and varnish

  1. Kristjan says:

    Kas te panite siis Wilckensi peale midagi karestavat või teate mida võiks kasutada?

    • Uku Uku says:

      Tere, Kristjan!

      Viimistluse topoloogia on selline (kihid seest välja, alates vineeri välispinnast):
      1) Epopahtel
      1.1) Lihvimine
      2) Klaasriie+vedel epo
      2.1) Lihvimine
      3) Epopahtel
      3.1) Lihvimine
      4) Wilckensi hall kurnt, 2-3 kihti
      5) Wilckensi värv – 2-3 kihti

      Ja kõik! Ehk sain küsimusest valesti aru. Võib-olla küsisid, et kas panime välistekile midagi karestavat, et jalg ei libiseks? Kui nii, siis veel ei ole pannud. Näis, järgmine nädal paneme vette, siis selgub. Igasugu karestavaid teipe müüakse, näiteks. Neid saab dekoratiivselt kasutada.


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