Brighten Up Your Topsides
A cost-conscious cruising couple parlays D.I.Y. savings in labor and a favorable exchange rate into a colorful makeover.
Prepping the Topsides
By Day 10, we were ready to start on the topside paint. We chose the one-part Brightside system from International Paint, which is marketed in the United States as Interlux. The company recommend a primer, then a Pre-kote (which you mix with 5 percent of the topcoat, to make a better transition to the final color), then the topcoat. We followed the manufacturer’s directions. We painted for another week (and this was the prep work), perfecting our technique and enjoying the learning curve (most of the time) as we applied three layers of primer and two of Pre-kote. Sometime during that week, we overheard Doug, the yard owner, refer to us as some of the “fussiest” painters he’d ever seen, and we wondered whether that meant we were just plain cranky. We chose to believe that he was complimenting our dedication. One thing’s for sure: There’s a real joy in putting on the paint yourself and getting to watch the layers add up to the final coat. And you get better at it with each day. Even on that first afternoon, we noted an exact moment when we figured out what we were doing as we rolled and tipped our way for the first time down the starboard side, changing it from white gelcoat to gray primer. You could see that moment in the brushstrokes, when the paint started going on more smoothly: Yes, it had a lot to do with remembering to start the brush in the dry area, then pull it into the wet paint, not the other way around.
And so it was that for six days, Bernie and I followed a fairly exact routine to prepare the boat for the topcoat: Wake up, brush teeth, drink coffee, feed kids, sand with 220-grit paper, shower (because the paint dust goes everywhere), find painting clothes from yesterday (they grew stiffer and more colorful each day), wash dust off topsides with soap and water, wipe down with turpentine, check tape and reapply where needed, roll and tip paint, drink beer and watch paint dry, field commentary from passing peanut gallery. Occasionally, we stopped for 10 minutes while a cloud let loose on us, and sometimes we had to remember to be parents.
The Final Touches
Whether it was because of the quality of the paint we were using or because we’d found our stride—I mean, let’s face it: If you don’t know what you’re doing after two weeks of this, you’re never gonna get the job done!—applying the topcoat was the easiest task. The first layer went on shiny and smooth. No turning back now: Momo was yellow. Yard strollers who stopped by confirmed this with their astute observations: “Wow, that’s very yellow!” You had to really study their faces to see if they were smiling approvingly or shielding their eyes from the glare. But we didn’t have time to care: We were on a roll, so to speak, moving fore to aft and keeping the wet edge flowing. Two days of rolling and tipping the yellow topcoat, then two days of green sheer stripe, and we were done. After we spent a few more days performing bottom-paint and other minor out-of-water tasks, Momo was finally ready to splash.
There were glitches, sure—like when the green paint on our sheer stripe bled under the tape and we had to spend an evening scraping off the drying drips with a combination of turpentine and diminishing thumbnails. There were days of tension, too. I worry, for example, about the quantity of trauma that we might have inflicted upon that mild-mannered British couple working on their boat next to us on the day that we struggled with the new vinyl letters on Momo’s transom. “Momo” wasn’t the only colorful four-letter word that went flying about that morning.
But taping and sticker issues are minor. Our wallets are happy because the 2008 U.S. dollar/New Zealand dollar exchange rate worked to our benefit. (See below) Our children are happy now that they’re back swinging on the halyards once more—not being able to swing is, for them, the greatest sacrifice about life on the hard. And Momo’s future is—what else?—bright.
Michelle Elvy, a liveaboard since 2002, is sailing and writing her way around the Pacific on Momo (http://svmomo.blogspot.com). One of Elvy’s stories was a 2010 Pushcart nominee for short fiction.
Five Tips for Rolling and Tipping
There’s no question that there are many schools of thought regarding correct and proper and better painting technique, brushes, rollers, and the uses of Flood’s Penetrol. My husband, Bernie, and I are by no means experts, but here’s what worked for us.
1 Thin the paint for easy flow to keep the wet edge wet for smooth application. Thick paint makes a bumpy ridge between the beginning edge of brushstrokes and the trailing edge. On the other hand, don’t thin too much: The paint will run and drip, and it won’t cover.
2 Use a quality roller that won’t leave fibers in the paint, and invest in one good brush that won’t shed bristles or leave excessive brushstrokes. Mohair rollers are excellent; foam disintegrates. A badger brush is best, but one with quality polyester/nylon bristles does the job just fine.
3 Roll on paint from top to bottom. Start rolling at the top, but when you get to the bottom half of the topsides, reverse things and start rolling from the bottom up. This way, you avoid pushing paint down with the roller and causing it to drip. In our case, this would’ve been into an already painted bootstripe.
4 Tip paint from side to side, starting in the dry area and pulling the new paint into the wet paint, thinning and smoothing as you go. Longer brushstrokes are better.
5 Apply Flood’s Penetrol to paint (but only if you’re using a standard one-part paint; Penetrol doesn’t work with two-part paint polyurethanes or latex). It allows the paint to stick and flow smoother, virtually eliminating
Painting Supplies and Costs for Momo’s New Zealand Makeover
Item Amount Cost*
International** Brightside polyurethane 2 liters $55
International Yacht primer 4 liters $340
International Pre-kote 1 liter $23
Pettit Vivid, red 4 liters $360
Resene Supergloss enamel paint, 1 liter $31
Altex No. 5 ablative anti-fouling paint 18 liters $231
Altex Epoxy No. 1 and No. 3 paint 1 liter of each $38
CRC marine vinylester filler 1 can $14
International thinner 3 liters $45
Penetrol by Flood 1 liter $13
Turpentine 2 liters $6
Rollers, brushes, paint trays NA $49
3M Delicate green masking tape 4 rolls $18
Latex gloves 1 box $18
Rags 1 bag $6
Total cost for the project $1,247
* In estimated U.S. dollars
** Marketed in the United States as Interlux