Piper Boat Owners' Club

A club open to anyone who owns a Piper-built boat



From time to time in the life of every steel boat there comes a time when it requires repainting. There are basically two ways of tackling this. The first is to do it oneself, either bit by bit, or to hire a wet dock and do the whole job all at once. The second way to proceed is to get a professional boat painter to do the job for you. The latter is a lot easier, but also a great deal more expensive.


Having decided to do the job, many decisions have to be made. The easiest decision is the choosing of the colours and for the lady’s often the most important one. One can choose paint from the International range, Blakes’s paint, Rylands or the, ubiquitous Masons – which tends to fade quickly as it is a coach paint and really requires baking to completely cure. There are many good polyurethane paints on the market – either single pack, which air cures, or twin pack, which has a catalyst to speed up the rate of cure, but once mixed together, requires speedy use and is probably better left to the professionals.


Returning to the colour scheme – usually green and red for a narrowboat, but our colours are blue and mercedes red with grey cabin roof and decks. When choosing a colour, it is wise if the choice of paint is to be polyurethane to pick a colour from the standard lists of BS4800, RAL or BS381C. Armed with the details and colour number, it is, in theory, possible to have an exact match replicated, should the need arise. The source of these paints is usually from a supplier of car refinishing products and if they are good, they will check with the old pot of paint should it be still available. These suppliers are preferable to the Inland Waterways Chandlers, who tend to have limited knowledge and often limited supplies. They are certainly unable to replicate colours unless they are stock items. Certain boat painters also market paint – very expensive and no better than specialist commercial paint.


Armed with some idea of colours, if it is to be a professional job, then the most difficult task is to choose a Boat Painter. Costs vary from approximately £2,500.00 upwards to £10,000.00. The cost is usually calculated on the length of the boat and includes the cabin sides and both front and stern decks. This cost will not include the refurbishment of the cabin roof – that will be extra – somewhere in the order of £1,000.00 for a 50’0” boat. There will also be the cost of hiring a wet/dry dock and if the hull requires reblacking, this will also add to the cost. Work on the principal that everything is extra!


Further decisions are required, if the paint is in a very poor state, then should the windows be taken out and the cabin grit blasted. Obviously, if there is any doubt, windows should be removed and the rust appropriately treated. If, however, the paint is in reasonable order, then a good sand is probably all that is required. Be guided by your expert, but do not be brow beaten and see that they actually do all that has been agreed.


Elmley was repainted in October 2005 by Andy Russell of Poynton. Basically, he did a good job, gives a five year guarantee and is quick and on time. The boat went into Furness Vale Dry Dock and had the paintwork done in a dry and warm environment – this is important – damp at any stage in the painting process will cause the enamel (gloss) to bloom. This means that it is impossible to obtain a really good shine on the finish. At the same time, the hull was comasticed and the gas locker blacked. It is a good idea to black the water tank, if this is required, as it is possible to get it dry with no condensation when the boat is out of the water.


This article is written with the professional painter being the person who does the job. It is important to take their advice.

In subsequent articles I propose to go into details of the actual processes involved, materials used and how it is possible to reduce the risk of rust occurring or recurring.  This will also cover the painting of wood, plastic – used in hatches and doors and aluminium – used as the cratch plank.

Dugald Campbell

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