Tanzer 16 -- Painting a small boat --

Painting a small sailboat--What I learned.  This page is meant to supplement the good instructions you will find at your marine paint store and share my personal experiences

First things first!  If you really want to paint your boat, you will need to answer some important questions.

Where are you going to paint it?  This project will take weeks--or longer--mine took seven months. (A lot of those seven months were spent adding a spinnaker chute.) You are going to need a place where you can work on the boat in relative comfort.  It needs to be covered.  It needs to be someplace you can control the heat and humidity.  Boat paint likes to be warmer than 65 degrees F.  It also doesn't like too much humidity.  For my Tanzer project, I used a garage that is sort of heated in the winter. I painted my C-Lark in the carport and outside during the spring and summer and that added many weeks to the project as I waited for days with just the right conditions.


When I painted the C-Lark, I had to wait until a day when there were high
clouds--no rain--and temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees.  It took weeks
for the right days to arrive.






















How are you going to lift the boat off the trailer and then turn it over?  If it weighs just 200 pounds or so, you and a couple of friends may be able to just pick it up and turn it over.  If it is heavier than 300 pounds you will need some mechanical assistance.  When I flipped the C-Lark, I rigged some ropes and used a sturdy Little Giant ladder and the side of the carport to flip it over by myself.  The Tanzer weighs in at a hefty 450 pounds so I built a gallows arrangement at the bow and aft end of the boat.  Then I used tackles to lift the boat.   I used the bow eye and a special swivel I made for the transom as lifting and pivot points.  You will see much more detail later.  Brian in Boca Raton use two engine hoists and that gave me the idea for the gallows.


Using four-part tackles on each end I could easily lift the boat.



















The C-Lark is a lot lighter than the Tanzer.




















What kind of paint are you going to use, and how will you apply it.  The Interlux paints sold by West Marine and other outlets work fine.  I am also told that Awlgrip is a great paint, but harder to apply.  I chose to spray Perfection on the C-Lark and I sprayed Brightside on the Tanzer.  It took some time and some learning to spray these paints.  I have seen folks who used the roll and tip method and got results as good or better than mine.  Spraying is faster, but you need equipment and practice.  I happened to have the equipment, and by the time the boat was done, I was getting proficient. Interlux does not recommend spaying of Brightside.

Do you have the patience and perseverance to take on this project?  Are you the kind of person who is driven to finish what you start? Painting a boat takes a long time.  There will be setbacks.  It will cost a lot of money.  You will make mistakes. You will get discouraged.  You will have to sand something down and start over.  Are you the kind of person who sticks to a task even when it gets difficult?  Do you have a history of completing long, tedious projects, or is your garage full of things that got started and never finished.  Used boats aren't worth a lot of money to begin with.  They are worth a lot less if they are half painted.  When you have finished painting your boat, it will probably look pretty nice.  It will also be worth less money at resale than the time and dollars you have invested.  That's okay.  It's a boat.  You bought it for the joy it brings you not the return on investment!

Can you afford it?  Good paint will probably cost you about $80 a quart.  You will also need a can of thinner--$30, and a can of reducer or other thinner, $30, and a can of hull cleaner, $30.  You will need at least a quart of primer, forty bucks or so.  You will need a gallon or more of lacquer thinner or acetone.  There will be countless brushes and rollers, and don't forget the sandpaper.  You are going to need masking tape, plastic drop clothes.  If you make a gallows that's fifty bucks for the lumber and another $50 for the lifting tackle.  While you are doing the painting, you will probably need to do some repairs.  Glass cloth, micro filler, resin, and two-art putty cost money too.  If you decide to spray, you will need a compressor set up for spraying (you will need to add some filters) and good quality HVLP gun  -- figure 60 bucks for a modest unit from Harbor Freight.  You should wear a respirator, even if you don't spray, and you will need a nice, big pile of sandpaper.  Of course you will also want to replace damaged and worn fittings on the boat.  Who wants to put a broken block back on a freshly painted deck?  You will also want to put on a new rubrail--another two or three hundred bucks. I agree with Brian Mrachek, it's best if you don't keep track of the cost--it will just make you feel bad, and your spouse might see the receipts laying around.

What do you get out of it.  First you will get a nice looking boat--that's enough!  And you will know your boat better than you did before you started--way better.  And, if you do decide to sell it, it will sell more quickly--no you will not be getting more money because it's painted, and no you will not be attracting any babes (or dudes) because your boat is painted.  However, if you get a scrape or ding from now on, it's much easier to fix paint than gelcoat.



It doesn't make the boat go faster, but new paint makes it just a little more fun.
















Let's get started.

Remove the hardware and fittings. 

BEFORE you take anything off your boat, get out your camera.  Take a lot of pictures of everything that is attached to the boat.  Take close ups and step back a bit so you can show the hardware in context.  Save these pictures as a printed copy and a backed-up file on your computer. 

As you remove the fittings take one fitting from each side of the boat.  Put them in a plastic sandwich bag.  Write the name of the fitting on the outside of the bag and put all the pieces (including the screws, nuts, bolts, washers, and backing plates) in the bag.  Now go to your printed photos.  Put a matching number on the bag and the photo.  This will save you countless hours months from now when you try to remember where and how things went.

Even with all this organization, I still had a few problems because I didn't
record how some things are assembled.



















Pay particular attention to the centerboard trunk and cap.  These things come apart much easier than they go back together.  Make notes or sketches as needed to help you with reassembly.  You will need to remove the centerboard.  Now is a great time to check and replace the pin if needed.

Once the centerboard trunk cap and thwart are off, your centerboard trunk may be fragile.  Take care not to damage the trunk.

The centerboard is freaky fragile while the cap and thwart are removed.  It is
just a few layers of glass cloth and resin.



















Now is a good time to repair all of the cockpit and deck areas that need attention.  There are a number of really good U-Tube videos that explain how to do this work.  No need to duplicate those instructions here.  Do not sand molded in non-skid; it will disappear.

Typically the interior of the boat is tabbed in after the hull is formed.  Then the deck is riveted and glued to the hull after the interior is installed. 

Generally it is easier to paint the hull before the deck, but you should do all of your repairs, and most of your prep on the deck and cockpit before you flip the boat.

Remove the rubrail.  Rubrails cost quite a bit of money--more than $300 for a Tanzer 16.  But you will want to replace it.  Who wants a shiny, new-looking boat with a beat up rubrail.  This is when you will really see how the deck was fastened to the hull.  You might want to go ahead and order the rubrail before you need it.  It takes a few weeks to arrive.  You will need a truck with a roof rack to bring it home. My new rails were in 12-foot sections; they were packaged in 20-foot long tubes.


















Repair the hull, deck, etc.  You will want to do your hull work after you flip the boat. I did most of the deck and cockpit repair before I flipped the boat, but I did some after it was upright again. It doesn't really matter, I just wanted all the messy work out of the way before I started painting; it didn't work out that way. There are many fine books and videos on fiberglass repair, but I got most of my information off the internet.  It helped that I have seen fiberglass boats being built, but it wasn't necessary.

There was a major crack in the bench seat, but it could be repaired from the
top.  This was the beginning of the patch.




















Flipping the boat.  I built a pair of gallows in my garage.  I used them to lift the boat off the trailer, to flip it over, and they became the framework for my over-spray reducing barrier.  From now on I will call it the spray booth--but really I was just trying to reduce the overspray with a modest arrangement of plastic sheeting.  See picture of boat hanging in air above.







Applying the paint.  I ended up spraying my boat with Interlux Brightside.  I have seen beautiful work did with roll and tip methods.  I just am more comfortable with spraying, and I have the equipment. Plan on two coats of primer and two (maybe three or four) of finish.  This is not car paint.  There is no rubbing the paint out like you would do on an automobile.  What you spray or tip is what you get.  The shine is in the few molecules of finish that float to the top.  I prefer to add some flattening agent to the last coat (I mix it one to one).  You get a shiny satiny finish that hides some of the little problems you might have missed.  Once the boat is back on the trailer, you will need to repaint the transom because of the swivel fitting that you re-attached to lift and turn the boat.

We laid some 2 x 6's on concrete blocks to paint the hull.


















Speaking of the trailer... When will you have another time that the trailer is completely empty of the boat for weeks or months?  Probably never.  Now would be good time to give the trailer a little love too.

Almost done now.  Put the boat on the trailer.  Add all the hardware.  Put on the rubrail. Some graphics would be nice!

New rubrail compared to old rubrail.



















The new side rollers and LED lights have been great.


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