Which Bottom Paint for a Watertender?


I have a West Marine Watertender 9.4 with a polyethylene hull (versus polypropylene for the Walker Bays) and am wondering if there is an anti-fouling paint that is suitable. Looking through the product info for both, the manufacturers both claim that the plastics are slippery enough to not need paint, however, the plastic wrap (unknown material) on the wooden pilings on my own docks in Florida have marine growth on them, so I suspect the same will happen with my Watertender (currently stored on the dock). There are conflicting reports/opinions on various forums as to if there is a paint that would actually stick to the hull, as well as potentially damage the plastic.

Don Keskula

Punta Gorda, Fl.

Com-Pac Sunday Cat

Most cruising sailors use their dinghy enough or pull it out of the water frequently enough that barnacles and slime aren’t a major problem. A -hour scrub every couple weeks in the tropics kept our editors hard dinghy clean. But if you are staying in one place for a long time, bottom paint can save you the hassle of having to beach the boat.

Heres what Interlux paints tech staff suggested. According to them, this is basically the same protocol for a polyethylene hull like the Walker Bay.

The system to apply the antifouling to the polyethylene hull of the West Marine Watertender would be the same system that is used on a polypropylene hull.

1. Clean the hull with Fiberglass Surface Prep YMA601 it is a water-based dewaxer and surface cleaner. It is applied by a 3/8 nap roller and then scrubbed with a brown or maroon 3M Scotchbrite Pad.

2. Sand the surface with 80 grit sand paper; make sure you change paper as needed to ensure a consistent sanding pattern.

3. After the sanding residue has been removed,

4. Apply two coats of Fiberglass Bottomkote Aqua antifouling.

The reason that you want to use the Fiberglass Bottomkote Aqua is because it is a water-based antifouling paint and will be the most compatible for the hull material.

It is also worth noting that Bottomkote Aqua is a hard bottom paint, so it won’t easily rub off on you when it is on your deck. Most other water-based paints are softer, ablative paints.

Previously, owners of Walker Bay PVC hulls were advised to use Interlux VC-17, preceded by a solvent wash and a no-sand primer. We presume this advice also still holds.

The experts from Pettit advised a slightly different approach. After scuffing with sandpaper and then wiping with a solvent, the blue oxidizing portion of a propane torch flame is quickly passed over the hull-as if spray painting. This is followed by 6999 Sandless Primer, or 6980 Rustlok Primer, then bottom paint. The priming and painting must occur within two hours of flame treating. Any oil-based antifouling can be used, according to Pettit.

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. I have a Walker Bay skiff that stays in the sea water In Maine from May through October, and the first year it accumulated every kind of growth and had “ hanging gardens”, so I sanded the bottom, and painted it with Rustolium brand copper infused bottom paint. ( Amazon ) , It Sticks!! One quart got me 3 annual coats, not a single bit of growth All season


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