Painting the Hull and Deck
After a season of sailing Orion, one of my main winter tasks was to give her a new coat of paint on the deck and hull. My wife and I both liked the original light-green color applied at O'Day's Fall River factory back in 1970, so I wanted to preserve that as much as possible. After looking around at different paint colors offered by many different manufacturers (including Pettit, Epifanes, Interlux, even Kirby), I couldn't find the color I was looking for. Therefore, I went with a recommendation made by fellow Mariner sailor Chris Fretz: Tom Fabula's Signature Finish paint. It's a two-part paint, very durable, easy to apply, and expensive as hell. Other products would have been a lot cheaper and just as effective, but it was that custom color that really appealed to me. So, Signature Finish paint it was.
For the various parts of the boat, I decided to use:
• Signature Finish in a custom light-green color for the hull (1 quart).
• Pettit white boot-top # 8147 for the boot-top (1 pint).
• Pettit Easypoxy Undercoater # 6149 for priming the deck (1 quart).
• Pettit Easypoxy Semi-Gloss White # 3106 for the deck topcoat (2 quarts).
• Pettit Trinidad SR Antifouling Paint # 1877 in black for the bottom (3 quarts).
That's a lot of paint!
The first thing I did was tackle the bottom, and it's just an awful job - no way of getting around it. Once the boat was on jackstands, I got in a Tyvek suit (with a hood), put on goggles, a good respirator, latex gloves, laid down on a Car Creeper, and grabbed my random-orbital Bosch sander. Using 80-grit sandpaper, I worked from front to back down one side, then back to front down the other side. This was over the period of a couple days - I just couldn't do it all at once. I didn't want to strip everything off, but I did want to get rid of the loose stuff and create a good surface for a new coat. By the end of those days, my arms and shoulders were screaming at me. By the way, I put up plastic sheeting and attached a vacuum to my sander to cut down on dust, because that paint dust goes everywhere. It still got all over the place, but I was glad I used the protection to keep the junk off the surrounding areas.
After taping off the bootstripe with blue painter's tape, I saw that the paint I received desperately needed to be shaken, so I took the 2 quarts of Trinidad SR # 1877 and brought them to a local paint store. They ended up having to shake it twice for it to become the correct consistency, but once it was ready, it was time to put on the Tyvek suit and all the accessories. Using a medium-nap foam roller, I just rolled it on. No big mystery here. It dries very quickly - you can actually watch it dry. A couple days later I applied a second coat without sanding, after which I removed the tape and was quite satisfied.
Tom Fabula couldn't be a nicer guy. After choosing the color I wanted from a Benjamin Moore color sample card, I called him up and told him what I was looking for. He mixed the paint and sent it to me complete with catalyst, flow fluid, and even some rollers, tack cloths and mixing cups. The instructions can be found on this page for how to mix the paint, so I won't go into detail here. Although I followed the instructions exactly, the first coat that went on was thin - too thin. It was runny and hardly contained any color. So, once that dried, I used a little less flow fluid, and it starting coming out great. Roll on about a two-foot section, then dry-roll the excess paint off with another roller. Continue on to another two-foot section. Roll on, roll off. Understand, Grasshopper? When the dry roller became too wet, I used that as the main roller and used another dry roller. I ended up going through about six rollers per coat. That's 18 rollers, ladies and gentlemen, and I used them all.
The paint he supplied was enough for 3 coats, but only just. Also, the end result was a little bit more "orange-peely" than I would have liked, but instructions that come with the paint tell how it's possible to buff it until it looks better. If I were to do anything different, I think I would have used just a little bit less flow fluid and tried rolling and tipping. I might have gotten a smoother finish, but I'm very happy with the way it came out. I love that color!
This was no big deal, so there's not much to say. Probably the hardest thing was taping it off - I kept having to adjust and re-adjust the tape so the line was relatively straight. After that, I simply used a 2" foam paintbrush to work my way around the boat. The paint was pretty thin, so I put on three coats.
Can you tell I like Pettit paint? After removing all the deck hardware and hatches, I sanded the entire deck - cockpit and all - with 220 grit sandpaper before applying the undercoating primer. Boy, it's tough to get in all those corners and around the curves, especially where the cockpit hatches are. It takes forever, and so does painting. It's just something I had to deal with. I sanded in between coats, of course (one coat primer, two topcoats), and used the roll/tip method, which worked well. I found, though, when painting the foredeck and forward cabin top, that Easypoxy dries quickly, and it's hard to maintain a wet edge. Again, I had to remind myself that this was a boat and not a piece of furniture, so I dealt with the small lumps of paint where two edges came together that were not both wet. There's no rocket science to painting, it just sucked up a lot of hours.
When all was said and done, I was very, very happy with the way it came out. Except for painting the bottom every year, I didn't have to paint again until seven years later after I beefed up the transom around the motor mount. It's great paint!