Skip to main content

Finish Line

Do your homework and share your expectations and your boat’s paint job will turn out the way you want.

Arawak primed

Arawak just showed up at our doorstep one day,” says Todd Brice, owner of Yacht Service Ltd. in Amityville, New York. “And she presented a number of challenges for us in the sense that we never saw the boat before. We had a couple of pictures of her, that was pretty much it.” Brice and his yard have made a name for themselves among boaters in the New York and New Jersey area for, among other things, high-quality paint and wood finishes using Interlux and Awlgrip products.

“So when she got here,” Brice says. “That’s really when we had to come up with a rather quick assessment of what to do and have it done in a short time frame since the boat and her owners have their own schedule to attend to.”

Brice, of course, is referring to Arawak, the 1996 Grand Banks 42 Motor Yacht project boat that is the centerpiece of the MyBoatWorks project (catch up with the whole story at With a repower completed in St. Thomas, and additional, extensive mechanical and electronic work at American Custom Yachts in Stuart, Florida, Arawak made her way to Long Island and the Yacht Service Ltd. yard, guided up the East Coast by Capt. Tommy McCoy. McCoy’s schedule dictated that Arawak make her first public appearance at the Ft. Lauderdale boat show in early November. 

And while Arawak’s new 220-horsepower Yanmar diesels fairly gleamed in the engine room, along with a brand-new Northern Lights genset, and an updated helm with Simrad electronics, she was far from show-ready. As any boater knows, when you focus on a mechanical project, the cosmetics need to wait. But there comes a time when the look needs to catch up, and for Arawak that time is now, so she can show as a cohesive package. That’s where Brice and his crew come in.

“She’s a relatively straightforward boat,” he says. “She just had a lot of scratches and dings, gouge marks from scrapers from teak finishing, and run-ins with the anchor chain, and stuff like that—stuff that had to get repaired or patched up and faired in. That took the better part of the week with three to four guys working on it continuously.” 


The design of this Grand Banks also was a factor in the labor requirement. “All the splash rails and the rubrails are in coves [grooves in the topsides, known as planking lines],” Brice says. “There are coves in the topsides that make her look like a planked boat, and all that is hand-sanding so there’s no getting away from manual labor.” The Yacht Service Ltd. team sanded the entire hull by hand three times where on other projects of this size pneumatic sanders would have been employed.

“We’ve been making forms so if we have to do some filling on a gouge or crack or something like that we have to make something to sand it,” Brice says. “Our fingers don’t really do a good job. It’s usually a straight edge—like a longboard-type thing but we have to make it by hand to fit the curves so we’re not screwing things up. That was nothing insurmountable; nothing that we hadn’t dealt with before. But I’d say this is kind of on the larger side of the scale with this amount of curves.”

So how does a boater go about finding a yard that takes this kind of care in its paintwork and even pays attention to the clients’ schedules?

“What you want to do is talk to the different yards in your area,” says Matt Anzardo, global product manager for yacht paint for Akzo Nobel, parent company to Interlux and Awlgrip. “Which yard is going to be the most competent and have the best skill level for taking on a task like yours? Most boats don’t need a major overhaul. Most times they just need a heavy primer and a finish primer, and then some topcoat to make it look pretty on the topsides. Of course other boats need a full restoration, say, if you’re cutting up the deck or doing some new core material or what have you. You want to talk to the yard to figure out which one has the best capability for what you’re trying to do.” Boaters should be able to get a read on the quality of the work and the pride of the yard’s crew just by walking around a little. But don’t necessarily trust just your gut.

“Also ask about the last couple of jobs that they did as well,” Anzardo says. “And use that as a reference point. From there you’re going to take away what needs to be done.” Anzardo is sharing a recipe that’ll help you find a yard that will strive to meet your expectations for how the finished job will be.

15 steps of painting Arawak

“No two boats are the same,” Brice says. “Really even boats that come out of the factory and you do new paint finish on it, every one is different, every one is custom. There are challenges with every one.”

If you really talk to a yard and have its paint manager explain the process you may find the yard that is going to do the job you expect. “Make sure they dewax and prep the surface properly,” Anzardo says. “Sanding does not remove wax, it just heats it up and grinds it down deeper. So before you do anything, prep is the key. If a job’s not done right, what will happen is some of that wax will come up to the surface and give you some cratering or fish eyes.”

Brice agrees. “I’ve seen plenty of people that mask off hardware and paint, and then move onto the next boat,” he says. “But when you take off the lightswitch cover in your room when you’re painting, and paint underneath it and then put the lightswitch cover plate back on, it makes for a better job. When you do it on the boat, you don’t see a lip. It’s a lot easier time doing surface preparation because you’re not switching tools to work around that hardware.”

The more in-depth you go with your prep work, the better the result is going to be. So cleats and bowrails that can come off and be rebedded after painting are obvious steps in the right direction. So are other surface imperfections such as dings, chips, spider cracks.

“It might seem like a lot of work,” Brice says. “But if you don’t fix it up front and then you go and put on a dark, glossy color, you can see everything.”

The bottom line: Know what you want, and ask for it specifically: “Make sure what it is that you want is what you’re going to get from the person that’s doing the application,” Brice says. “I’ve found that a lot of people use the term ‘Awlgrip’ like ‘Xerox’—it’s become a generalized term.” So if you want Awlgrip or a specific product used on your boat, Brice advises you to hunt up the company at a boat show and ask for the names of yards that use the products in your area.

Yacht Service Ltd. , 631-264-2267;


Return to MyBoatWorks homepage ▶