Last fall I was crossing the Great South Bay when conditions gave me time to philosophize about the care I do or do not give my boat hulls. As I went to throttle up my 13 ft. Whaler which we use to ferry to and from Oak Island, I found that I could not get on plane even if I stood up and leaned way forward. I had to throttle back and cross the bay at about 3 knots. I felt like I was going in reverse! It took me an hour and twenty minutes to reach Southard’s Marina. I knew, while slugging along, that my boat hull was “draggin me down” so to speak.
The fact is, I had ignored this boat as opposed to my cat boat and my 24’ Whaler Conquest which always receive preferential babying. When Mike at Southard’s pulled her out for winter dry docking, there was a foot of barnacles and other amazing growth forming a complete eco-system. It was a real job removing this mess. Unfortunately, things had caught up with me two summers ago with a brain operation and recovery so this hull was kind of ignored and I stretched the viability of the bottom paint way too long. When I checked my log it had been 3 seasons since I had pulled the boat so it had been in the water a mere 36 months without ever seeing dry land.
Being 71 years old now, most times I let the professionals do the bottom painting but for many years I did the task myself. I grew up in a time when boat yards would allow you to do it yourself. Later, when their insurance and the DEC made it problematic, I had the boats hauled up on my property for their winter lay ups and still painted the hulls myself. I actually enjoyed getting coated with bottom paint on a cool spring day. It was like a pre-season maritime party. Seagulls flying and crying above the cove behind my house added to the ceremony. In later years a seal would stop by as if to say goodbye as the warmer weather began to nudge him to move north. By the time the messy task was done the drop cloth had gone from blue vinyl to red oxide. There’d be hardening rollers and brushes scattered about and more than a mile of paint tape to trip over. Yep! It was real salty fun. But now the fun is done! If you paint your own hull I have nothing but admiration for you.
All this thinking about hulls, bottom paint and brushes sort of fired up my artistic imagination in some crazy ways. As a fine artist, I am very aware of the colors all around me. Whether I am in the Museum of Modern Art, at Ace Hardware picking wall colors or, most importantly, picking the palette for my next oil painting. Carrying that thought forward, I began to question the colors available for bottom painting. There is the basic red oxide, an aqua green, black, blue, white, and a non-colored clear. Until now I preferred black on the powerboats and red oxide on my cat boat. Then I thought about it way too much and my artistic inner self said, “Could they make bottom paint colors more boring? There’s a thousand colors and variations out there and this is the best they come up with? Give me a break! It’s 2018!”
Boat builders these days are using endless permeations of colors to attract buyers. I’ve been at recent boat shows where I’ve seen hulls in aqua blues, sea foam greens, pale yellows, bright reds, black and a myriad of other trendy colors I could choose from. The new thing in boat cushions last year was dark brown. Yep! Center consoles with dark brown leatherette seats, leaning posts, gunnel pads and covers. It crossed my mind more than once whether these boats were for chasing down bluefin at the Bacardi or herding cattle on the old Chisholm Trail.
As I continued mentally diving further into this ridiculous black hole of nonsense, I began imagining that if boats are going “technicolor” then perhaps it’s time to explode out the selection of bottom paint colors. Sure, most of it is hidden under the boat but when you rocket out of the hole-well-can you image a bright red flash of under hull or perhaps a rocket orange? How maritimely impressive! How nautically expressive!
But the bottom paint color explosion does not have to end there. Not at all. Like all art, hull painting can become extremely creative. Can you imagine a hull painted in the technique of Jackson Pollack’s abstract drip paintings or a cubist approach like Picasso, a soup can hull like Andy Warhol or, if you are more traditional, lay on your back like Michael Angelo did when he painted the Sistine Chapel and create your own techniques and masterpiece. How about a beautiful portrait of your kids on the bottom in the style of Mary Cassatt, or a primitive farm scene in the style of Grandma Moses. It’s about time you boaters express yourself and let the bottom paint fly!
I have included some illustrative ideas to give inspiration to all you artistically inclined bottom painters out there. I hope to see some really creative masterpieces on the water this year and watch what happens, next year when you go to purchase your bottom paints price won’t be the only question. You’ll be standing there with your fishing buddy or your boating soul mate spending hours picking the right hull color!
Won’t that be just great! By the way, you’ll know my Whaler Conquest by the way my hull will be creatively painted.
As I jump out of the hole the bottom will be a distinctive “classic” black ablative. Hey! Why would I want to compete with all you Leonardo DaVinci’s out there!
C.2018 by Mark C. Nuccio. All rights reserved
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