Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 01:35PM - Comments: (7)
It's easy enough to choose the most effective paint from our bottom paint reports, but that paint might not always be the best for your circumstances or location. For this reason, Practical Sailor always recommends a variety of paints, each suited for a specific preference or situation that a sailor might face.
Unless you’re prepared for more prep work than a light sanding, the first step in selecting a bottom paint is finding one that’s compatible with what’s on your hull now. All of the manufacturers will provide guidance on this, either over the phone or on the company website. If you’re voyaging internationally, Interlux (under the brand International Paints) offers the widest distribution for recreational sailors, simplifying finding a match.
Generally, you can repaint a hard paint with either a hard or soft paint, while a soft ablative paint will need more sanding or a “tie-coat” primer when being coated with a hard paint. Bare fiberglass or metal will require a primer, and aluminum components like saildrives need a special copper-free paint that won’t induce potentially disastrous galvanic corrosion.
Before plunking down nearly $100 or more a gallon, consider where your priorities lie.
Simple application: With no unpleasant solvents, water-based paints are easy and safe to apply.
The environment: Driven by new and pending legislation regulating copper, this is a fast-growing field. In recent tests, the copper-free blends from Epaint have proven the most effective. This is good news for owners of aluminum boats, which are incompatible with most copper-laced paints.
No paint buildup: Over time, ablative paints wear away; hard paints generally form thick layer cakes.
Quick recoating: Hard paints can take a second coat sooner than ablatives, although some of the newer co-polymer ablatives can be recoated after four hours or less. Thin-film Teflon paints for racing boats can dry in a matter of minutes.
Haulout schedules: Some paints (typically hard paints) lose their effectiveness if not launched within a certain time frame, or if the boat is hauled out and then relaunched without painting. Some paints you need to lightly sand or scuff to reactivate before relaunching.
Trailerability: Some ablative paints are designed to resist abrasion from trailering. Most hard paints will trailer well, but if they are out of the water too long, they will have to be re-activated with a light sand or scrub with a 3M pad.
Color: Pettit Vivid, Interlux Trilux, and Blue Water Kolor offer broad palette choices. Typically, the low-copper paints (Epaint being an exception) offer more color choices. If potency is what you're after, some makers suggest black, although our panel studies are inconclusive regarding this. Some brands (such as Pettit) put a little more copper in some of their red paints.
Want to be a part of our bottom paint testing program? Fill out this quick survey so we can share your experience with other sailors. Looking for detailed reports on various bottom paints? Use our online search engine to review archive reports. One of the most helpful for US sailors is our 2014 report breaking down favorites by region.