Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fun With Toxic Chemicals: Deck Paint Edition

When we prioritized projects prior to Peponi's launch last fall, cosmetic concerns got pushed way down the list. We had to get the hull buttoned up, the power train finalized, and the rig put together first. And because we launched in the fall, that meant that repairing and repainting the deck ended up having to wait almost 8 months for the somewhat reliable sunshine to return to the Northwest.

We've had an incredible stretch of late spring and summer weather here this year, and that let me get to the deck project. It also has the Admiral in a good mood. She's a Southern California girl, and anything less than constant sunshine is a cause for complaint.

Like everything else on the boat, the deck had not been cared for well. Or at all. The gelcoat was dull and scratched. The non-skid wasn't very "non" anymore. The beige had faded to an ugly brown shade that had permanent stains on it (as well as some actual stain, dripped from the previous owner's attempt to reseal the teak on deck).

In short, it was a mess. Here are some shots of the day we boat the boat, many moons ago. Granted, the winter light makes anything gloomy, but we have to have some sort of baseline, right?

You can click on any of the photos on this page to see a large detailed image.

An overall look at the deck as we found it 3 years ago.

Side deck detail
Side deck detail

Foredeck detail
We made a first pass at the on deck teak while the boat was hauled out at at The Boat Yard, but this was mostly an attempt to just feel good about ourselves. It will need to be redone soon, as our cursory job didn't really end up look all that good. But for now, it was the deck that needed to be done to make Peponi look like she had actually been refit.

One thing I quickly learned while attempting this project is that everyone who has ever painted anything has a lot of opinions about paint selection, application, brand, prep, and cleanup. The downside of doing this job while the boat was in the water (aside from having to paint the side decks from on the boat itself rather than from a ladder) is that everyone who walked down the pier found the time to stop and offer his opinion. And even before I started, I was told what paint to buy, where to buy it, what to thin it with, what roller or brush to use. Even at Fisheries Supply, after I had selected the paint, the cashier took the time to ask me what I was using it for and then proceeded to give me a look that said, "That's not the paint I would have chosen."

So here's the deal: I chose to use a one-part paint. Interlux Brightside, to be exact. In White and Bristol Beige. Why not two-part epoxy paint, you ask? Because it's a pain in the ass. That's why. And because in a "test spot" I was able to get really good results with the one-part Interlux.

I started with the white areas of the deck with the logic that the darker color would cover any runs or mistakes in taping. Most of the white deck is smooth gelcoat, and to get the paint to run out smooth (no brush marks) it needed to be thinned down. Interlux makes a brushing liquid called 333 that I used at about half of the maximum ratio, a bit more as the day heated up.

Also, I know it is an unforgivable sin, but I left the deck hardware on the boat. I just taped everything off really well. Removing and rebedding the stanchions and other hardware will have to wait. I can only tackle so many frustrating projects at once.

I learned a long time ago with home painting projects that prep is everything. A good masking job, a clean surface, and the proper tools makes any project much easier. That said, I hate prep. Because I was applying multiple coats, I ended up taping, un-taping, and re-taping the boat several times to keep the adhesive from setting or the tape from lifting up in the rain or dew. It takes over an hour to mask off the deck, in case you are calculating your own work time. Buy expensive tape and apply it carefully, in pieces as long as you can manage.

The deck has a few big spaces to cover, the most obvious of which is the front of the cabin. This is what everyone sees, so naturally it is the area that was the hardest to get right. The paint either sagged on me or it didn't run out and left brush marks. I ended up painting, sanding, painting, sanding, and then painting it. Finally I have a serviceable job there. The other spot that ends up being looked at a lot is the mast step, and it needed a few tries, too. The rest of the white paint turned out pretty nicely. After two coats:

Two coats of Interlux Brightside. Waiting for non-skid.
It took a couple of weeks to find the time and weather to get all the way around the boat three times with the white paint. For the non-skid areas I laid down one coat of untextured paint and then one to two coats of paint with Interlux non-skid additive mixed in. Then a thin coat of untextured to seal it up. More about the non-skid in when I get to the beige areas. The final result was a nice grippy surface that didn't look too bad.
Non-skid section detail.

The beige, non-skid areas of the deck got a similar treatment. After some careful taping I applied a thinned coat of paint with a small mohair roller (spend money on roller covers and brushes; the cheap ones give you cheap results). This went down really well and was one of those jobs that gives you more or less instant gratification as you see the results, much like waxing a dull, chalky hull). By the time I worked around the boat once, it was dry enough to start again with a round of textured paint.

A note on the texture situation. If you paint the existing non-skid with a smooth paint, hoping that the existing non-skid pattern will be enough to provide traction, you will be disappointed. It's slippery as hell.

I added texture using the recommended Interlux product and following their ratios pretty closely. Here is what I learned there:

You have to trust the manufacturer. It doesn't seem like it is putting down any non-skid and the tendency is to add extra grit to the mixture as you go. Don't. Be patient, apply the well-mixed paint, and let it dry. You'll be surprised at the results. If it isn't enough after one coat, simply add another following the same ratios.

Also, go with the pre-mix method. You can, theoretically, paint a section and then broadcast the non-skid on the top with a salt shaker or flour sifter. Two problems here. One, the shit gets everywhere if there is even a hint of a whisper of a ghost of a wind. Two, it is so fine that there is no way to see the results as you go. Mix the paint, wait 10 minutes, stir like crazy, only pour what you need for a small section into the roller tray, stir like crazy, repeat. Don't let the grit settle to the bottom of the paint (it is so small and light that it won't happen as fast as you think, but still, the bottom of the roller tray has more grit in it than you expect.)

The most important thing I learned was to trust it. You can see it well, but there is a fair amount of non-skid being laid down.
Foredeck taped and ready for non-skid.
I did the foredeck as its own project to ease moving around the boat. Then I came back two days later and did the side decks and cockpit.

Port side deck taped and painted.

Starboard side deck taped and painted.

Port side deck detail. Taped and painted.
Port side deck detail final.

Waiting for paint to dry.
In the end the decks look clean and crisp (though not "factory" new.) From a few feet away the one-part paint and the contrast between the beige and the white make Peponi look as good as any boat on the dock. No doubt there is still touch up to be done, and the cockpit still isn't done (it has the most complicated corners and is the hardest to paint while at the dock), but I am pretty happy to have this much done, anyway.

I hope to get a good stretch of weather while on the mooring up at The Boat Yard over the week of July 4th to get the teak redone so that it sets off the new paint even more.

Now back to sailing.


  1. Thanks for your detailed write-up - it gives me courage to tackle the same for my CD25.

  2. This is just what I needed to read for my assault on Baggy Wrinkles later this summer. She's got staining on her blue textured surfaces too. Did you use any aggressive/successful cleaner for the staining first?

  3. Thanks everyone. William, I cleaned the deck the best I could with soap and water, dried it, and then did an acetone wash on the surface right before painting. The stains that wouldn't come up just got painted over. I figured if I couldn't scrub them off, they must me pretty secure on deck and so therefore wouldn't cause any problems with the paint.


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