Since 1998, our boat, sv Winterlude, has had a dark dark green awlgrip hull, courtesy of the prior owner who had the boat painted. Over 15 years later, it’s still the same dark dark shiny green.
When we were boat shopping, we saw a white Passport 37 in Annapolis. Both of us proclaimed it the most boring boat we’d seen, and we’d seen a lot of boats at that point. When our broker tried to convince us to go look at the dark hulled Passport 37, we almost didn’t go. But the minute we saw it, even from a distance, both of us fell head over heels in love.
Over the past 15 years and 15,000 miles of cruising, we’ve heard all the naysayers, but here’s our experience:
Fact and Fiction: Dark color hulls are hot in the tropics. Our experience is that the insulation in the boat has more to do with the temperature in the tropics. Yes, our dark green is hot, but the inside the boat is mostly comfortable. A test between our dark hulled boat and a friend’s white boat on an uncomfortably hot day revealed that their boat was just as uncomfortable if not more so.
Fiction: Dark colors get “chalky” and fade. Fact: Any color boat can get “chalky” if not maintained. In our opinion, a white chalky hull is just as ugly as a dark chalky hull. The difference is it’s not as drastic a difference when viewed from across an anchorage. A bit of polish and elbow grease once or twice a year will keep the chalk away. In many cases, a white hulled boat is gelcoat from the manufacturer and a dark hulled boat is painted, although dark gelcoat is becoming more prevalent these days. Red seems to be the worst color to fade and become chalky and blues and dark greens less so. But that could be because the owners didn’t do the required maintenance. So POLISH the hull — awlgrip says no wax, but when we were out of the country and couldn’t get the recommended awlgrip polish, we used wax and have had no ill effects.
Fiction: Dark hulled boats look dull after the first year. Not ours. Since we didn’t have the awlgrip done ourselves, we have no personal experience, just know that our hull has retained it’s shiny for 15 years. A friend that paints boats told us that the key is including the clear awlgrip topcoat. He showed us examples of two boats he had painted, one where the owner went to the expense of adding the clear topcoat and one that didn’t despite the recommendation. Sure enough, one was severely faded and the other bright & shiny several years after the painting. We saw another boat with a beautiful navy hull – the sides were shiny and bright, but the stern was dull and chalky – strange. Talking to the owner, apparently the stern was painted years after the sides because he wanted to change the boat’s name. He didn’t opt for the clear topcoat, thinking the paint was shiny and beautiful. A few years later, he regretted the decision.
We’ve known many boats over the years that opted for other brands of paint and while this is not a commercial for awlgrip, less expensive brands seemed to dull and fade quicker. The application is also important – awlgrip is difficult to apply correctly, which is why it’s so darn expensive to get it re-painted. But if not applied correctly, the finish will not last, resulting in less than gorgeous dark hulled boats. So many variables! We are watching a new brand called AlexSeal which may be somewhat more cost effective, but we want to see how it holds up over a few years on other boats before considering it for Winterlude.
Fact: Dark color hulls are more difficult to see after dark. However all boats can be difficult to see – especially if the anchor light is at the top of the mast where it blends in with the stars. Fishermen and other boats flying through an anchorage aren’t necessarily looking up and if they do look up, often anchor lights blend in with a starry night. Our anchor light is at the stern on the arch and we keep a solar light on the bow so both ends of the boat are illuminated. We also have a dusk to dawn solar light in the cockpit that has enhanced visibility – these days, the bow is lit, the stern has the bright anchor light and the cockpit is lit as well, all night long. The extra couple bucks for the bow light and $15 bucks for the solar cockpit light is a small price to pay to have the dark hull that makes my heart sing!
Fiction: Dark hulled boats scratch more easily. Wrong. All boats get scratched. Some dark hulled boats show scratches more than others. Alot depends on the paint – our experience is that properly applied awlgrip is a hard surface, resistant to scratches. That being said, we have lots of scratches – but each contains a special memory. From wooden cayucos full of mola ladies in the San Blas, fishermen in pangas everywhere, every scratch on our hull has an associated memory – most of them pleasant. I will say, I’m glad the awlgrip was already in place when we bought the boat because the first few scratches after spending the money necessary to paint the boat would have broken my heart, temporarily.
Anyone with other experiences with dark hulled boats … or AlexSeal paints? 🙂 Please leave a comment and share! Cheers! Jan