By Ric Burnley
As if the blazing sun, blue water and clear sky aren’t shiny enough, today’s sport fishing boats are so bright I gotta wear shades. Custom hull colors, metallic finishes, faux wood and silky smooth surfaces are bringing more bling to the water. There’s a lot of new eye candy; but what’s the latest in paint technology and how are these finishes achieved? We sat down with the pros for the low-down on finishes. Here is what we learned.
The Perfect Match
Walk down the dock at any major marlin tournament and you’ll notice that paint fashion has changed. We asked Tripp Nelson at Alexseal to explain the materials and science behind the new look.
“The biggest trend is custom colors,” Nelson starts. While Alexseal makes hundreds of shades of every color, they also offer custom looks. “We can create a color unique to that boat,” he explains. “We even let the owner name the color,” Nelson explains while describing that fighting lady yellow was named after the famous Fighting Lady boat. They make all colors of their standard Premium Topcoat 501 in a brushable or sprayable formula. “You can spray the hull and brush the engine room and have a perfect match.”
Alexseal exclusively offers factory-packaged colors where they mix the paint in a single location and spray out every batch to verify color accuracy. This allows the owner to get accessories painted to match and makes it easier to do repairs anywhere in the world. By producing all batches in their factory, Alexseal can ensure that samples of all colors are kept on file to allow for a better match every time.
Matt Anzardo at Awlgrip and Interlux has seen owners color match fabric swatches, boat hatches even team colors. “We offer the service of color matching so boaters or builders can maintain a consistent look and feel or go for something completely new,” Anzardo explains. They offer the colors across the three different product lines so the owner can choose the best color and finish to meet his needs.
At Alexseal, Nelson has noticed darker solid colors are becoming more popular. “Pastels and light colors are not as common today,” he says, “we see a lot of dark blue and dark grey.” The biggest increase has been metallic colors. “The boat industry follows the auto industry,” he explains, “and we’re seeing more metallic colors on boats.”
Metallic finishes require a base coat and clear coat. Nelson explains that they use aluminum and pearlescent pigmentation to give a deep brilliance. “A base coat and clear coat process allows for a more consistent metallic finish compared to older single coat applications,” Nelson explains.
Awlgrip offers a two-step base coat and clear coat metallic finish. “We even have a system to repair metallic finishes,” Anzardo says, “Metallic finishes give the boat an extra wow factor, and we see more sportfish owners are opting for.”
At Pettit Paints, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Don Zabransky is excited about new products and technologies that make top-coat painting easier and safer. “Now DIY jobs can have the professional-finish of two-part linear polyurethane film systems.” Their new EZ-Poxy Performance Enhancer is added to EZ-Poxy to improve gloss retention and scratch resistance. “You get the same great look and performance as a two-part system in an easy one-step process,” Zabransky explains.
Faux wood finishes are another recent trend. New techniques allow an artist to match the patterns and warmth of real wood. “Not only is it easier to maintain than real teak,” Tripp Nelson says, “It is less expensive than teak and better for the environment.” Builders are using the technique on transoms, toe-rails even the mezzanine. “Next time you see a teak toe rail, take a closer look,” Nelson jokes.
Luckily, white topside paint is still vogue. “White is easier to maintain and repair than colors,” explains Nelson at Alexseal. This makes it easy to patch dings in the topside. “Whites and light pastels also do not absorb heat from exposure to the sun. Therefore the boat stays cooler when a lighter color is used.”
Recently Alexseal developed a blending agent to make repairs easier. After making a repair and repainting, the painter has to buff out the edges to blend the new paint with the old. Blending agents reduce this step by melting the new paint into the old. “We know repairs are important so we want to make it as easy as possible,” Nelson says. They’ve even developed a quick-dry primer that allows the surface to be primed and painted in one day. Other advances are below the surface. “Improvements in solvents allow more solid content in the paint,” Nelson continues, “this makes it easier to apply the paint especially under less-than-ideal conditions.” It is also easier on the environment and the applicator with fewer emissions during the painting process.
Anzardo adds that Awlgrip has also developed products that make it possible to repair metallic finishes without losing the sparkly and swirly effect. “It’s tough to fix dings and scratches while still matching the metallic look,” he admits, “but these products allow owners to make repairs.”
Another improvement in the painting process is in the fairing stage. Today, builders are fairing the surface of the boat using trowlable epoxy fairing compounds. “They apply the compounds only where they need to be and not over the entire surface,” Nelson explains. That saves time and money. Another big savings is in weight. Alexseal’s new filler formulas weigh a lot less than other formulas. “It may not seem like much, but saving a pound per gallon adds up over the surface of the boat.”
The best news is that this technology and look is available for older boats, too. With proper preparation, most of the products can be painted directly over existing paint. Whatever the age of the vessel, it can look new and unique to the owner while being easier to maintain.
Anzardo at Awlgrip says that each boat is a unique project. “There is also an issue on how secure the old coating is,” he explains, “you do not want to build on something that is not in good shape.” Any defect in a deeper coat will telegraph into the new paint. Another consideration is that new paint can soften the old paint. “New coatings are such high gloss that the boat should be taken down to solid substrate.” New primers and fillers, however, may take a lot less time and effort.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” laughs Anzardo, “but generally it is time to repaint when the gelcoat is faded, beat up or chalky.” He suggests owners follow every step of the system when repainting. “Sometimes you can get away with primer and spraying paint,” he admits, “but other times the boat requires surfacing primers, fillers, finish primer and then paint.”
At Alexseal, Nelson provides additional insight into how they can match the boat’s existing color or paint a new color or finish. “Most of the time just paint on a primer then a single coat of solid color or even a two-stage metallic finish.” With a little effort, the boat can be brought back to life.
There are even big changes below the water line. Interlux is introducing new water-based paints that are easier to clean up and easy on the environment. “Water-based paints offer seasonal to multiple seasonal protection and they can be applied over existing antifouling paints, stainless steel and brass,” says Anzardo.
For multi-season protection for those tough fouling conditions, Interlux’s new Micron Optima line can be applied to most substrates and polishes to a smooth finish. A smooth face avoids build-up and improves efficiency. They even offer bottom paint in a variety of colors.
While barnacles, moss and other marine growth is nasty stuff, bottom paint used to be even nastier. Now companies are turning to alternative methods for protecting the boat. Pettit Paint has developed new paint formulas with lower volatile organic components (VOC) for a safer and easier application. “Our water-based paints contain less than 50 percent of the VOCs found in traditional paint, well below even strict environmental regulations,” explains Zabransky. Clean Core Technology contains less than half the VOCs of traditional bottom paint. “By 2020 we hope to convert over half the market to water-based paints.” While these new formulas are safer for the environment and the user, they are even more effective at preventing growth.
These new bottom paints are better looking, too. “Traditional biocide (the active ingredient in bottom paint) is a rust color making it harder to add pigments to the paint,”
Zabransky says. The new formula is white allowing Pettit to expand its color pattern. “We had one customer paint the pontoons on his boat to look like beer bottles,” Zabransky laughs.
New bottom paints also require new application processes. “The old adage was more is better,” says Zabransky. Old paint solutions have high VOCs that will flash off leaving less paint. New formulas have less solvent and should be applied in thinner coats. “Two thin coats are better than one thick coat,” Zabransky explains. He recommends a roller with 3/16-inch nap and applying paint under ideal humidity and temperature for the best results.
Now it is easier to take care of the paint job. Awlgrip and Alexseal offer special waxes and washes formulated for their paints to get the most out of the investment. This is news to the ears of crewmen around the world.
One of the toughest and most demanding jobs is maintaining brightwork. Pettit makes the job easier with their new EZ-Brightwork. “The new formula has the same great look as traditional varnish,” Zabransky admits, “but the waterbased formula has low VOCs and the applicator can apply two or three coats in one day without sanding between applications.” This makes it easier to keep teak, mahogany and other wood looking great.
The revolution in sportfishing paint formulation, application and technique is beautifying docks and marinas the world over. From bottom paints that are tougher on growth and easier on the environment, to the trends of faux teak and shimmering metallic finishes, the paint jobs of today are something to behold. “Like sitting around watching the paint dry,” has a whole new meaning.
Do you have any comments or questions for us? We’d love to hear from you.