Maintaining paint in good order on a yacht is not automatically as easy as on other expensive items such as houses or prestige cars. For a start the yacht is subjected to a harsher environment, with little or no protection from both intense sun and salt, the crystals of which can magnify the destructive effect of ultra-violet radiation. Furthermore, while the driver of an expensive car can always aim to keep a few feet away from solid obstructions, the skipper of a yacht must manoeuvre to within a matter of inches each time the boat is moored. And once the boat is secured, the fenders will constantly rub against the paintwork.
One result of this is that yacht paints tend to be formulated to have harder finishes than coatings used for other applications. This in part at least helps to explain the relatively high cost of marine paint. Even then, with super yachts tending to run on a five-year schedule for major refits, there’s arguably little incentive for manufacturers to produce finishes that can be guaranteed to last significantly longer than this.
Nevertheless, if the finish has lost its lustre time spent polishing is almost universally well spent and in many cases will restore the finish to an almost as new standard. This will also highlight any small areas that would benefit from being touched in. When the job is complete it’s important to protect the finish with a marine grade wax – this will ensure that water beads off the surface, will prevent dirt from sticking in microscopic hollows, and will also offer protection from sunlight.
Unfortunately, a full paint job tends to be an expensive operation, especially if you’re keen to get the best possible results, as in most cases the boat must be put in a shed during the work. This applies equally to damp northwest European locations and to sunny Mediterranean shores. In the latter case, outside of high summer, there’s no guarantee of a long stretch of fine weather and in dry weather a layer of dust and grit that blows around in the wind covers the ground in most boatyards.
One option that’s worth considering, and can be significantly more economic, is a vinyl wrap. These have now been used for a decade or more in the marine world and are well proven, with the best types having a lifespan of several years, even in tropical locations. Prices generally compare very favourably with a professional paint job, often costing only a small fraction, and the work can often be completed in only two or three days.
Whatever the solution you opt for, don’t delay booking in the work as all yards get busy in the spring – now is the time of year to be sure you have plans in place to ensure your boat looks her best during the season.