Boat Bottom Blues


While spring usually heralds the start of boating season for most of us, for others it means facing up to long-postponed projects. This will be especially true if your launch has been postponed due to the spread of Covid-19. During these trying times, some of us who still have free access to our boats have a chance to take on some bigger projects we’ve postponed. If you own an older boat, that project probably might be removing the years of antifouling paint that have built up on the bottom.

In this blog post you’ll find links to a number of useful articles to help guide you through this process.

When one of our contributors recently bought an Endeavour 42, he faced a common scenario. First, he wanted to make sure the bottom paint wasn’t hiding any blisters, the notorious pox that afflicts gelcoat on older boats. Second, he wanted a waterproof, epoxy barrier coat to keep moisture out of the hull laminate. Third, he wanted to raise the waterline slightly to prevent slime from growing on the topside when he was loaded down for cruising.

There are several possible ways to approach this project and we’ve documented them all in Practical Sailor. Some of the articles are fairly recent, others go back more than a decade, but they remain as valuable today as they were when they were first published. Although there have been some small leaps forward in the technology used to remove bottom paint, gelcoat, and outer laminate (if needed), there have been no truly revolutionary changes. Probably the most notable change over the past ten years or so is the wider selection professional companies that specialize in this sort of work. This increase in competition has helped to contain the cost.

Whether you want to hire a professional or do the work yourself, here are some articles that can help set you down the right path.

Hull Blisters: Know Thy Enemy

Estimating the Costs of DIY Paint Removal

Advice on Sodablasting Your Hull

Practical Sailors Favorite Antifouling Paint Removers

Tips on Removing an Old Epoxy Barrier Coat

Favorite Bottom Paints by Region

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


  1. As a lifelong boater and cruising sailor, I’m the owner of a Little Harbor 38. Any sailor who knows Little Harbor sailboats also knows these fine sailboats require considerable maintenance athe o , I’m an avid reader of Practical Sailor. I read PS cover to cover. Your articles are insightful and have helped me become a better DIY boat fgtful

  2. As a lifelong boater and cruising sailor, I’m the owner of a Little Harbor 38. Any sailor who knows Little Harbor sailboats also knows these fine examples of a Ted Hood sailboat, require considerable annual maintenance. I’m an avid reader of Practical Sailor. Your articles are insightful and have helped me become more knowledgeable about sailboat systems, maintenance and an overall better boat owner. Peter Lassen


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