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For best results read the instructions

Paint Boat Jake Kavanagh asks how many of us read the instructions on the tin.

The men at a well-known paint company had invested heavily in a long campaign of product awareness.

They advised anyone using antifouling to protect themselves from the toxic chemicals it contains by wearing a coverall, a mask, a pair of goggles and gloves.

Following the campaign, one of their reps was visiting a boatyard, where he was delighted to see a boater clothed exactly as they had recommended.

The delight, however, was short lived. As the rep watched, the boater stood back to admire his fresh coat of ‘kill-it-all’ antifouling, and then sat down beside the hull. Still wearing his poison-splattered gloves, he reached into his lunch box and pulled out a sandwich….

During the summer, most boats are afloat and happily being used, but several owners take advantage of lower craneage costs and ample hard standing to lift out and do some mid-season maintenance.

This is usually fast and cost effective, as the long days and warm temperatures allow several coats of varnish, epoxy, or antifouling to be applied in quick succession.

Thanks to powerful heaters and warm clothing, the season now extends well into the winter, with some boaters staying in all year round, so the mid-summer makeover makes a lot of sense.

Who needs instructions?

But do you read the instructions on the products you’re using? Many don’t, assuming they already know how it should be applied from experience.

I’ve been spending some time recently with the manufacturers of certain marine materials, and they all bemoan the fact that people, often in a rush, rarely bother to check the label.

When it all goes pear-shaped, they then ring up customer services, and give them an ear bashing about how rubbish the product is.

“We try and make the instructions as clear as possible,” one manufacturer said. “But we know for a fact they are often ignored…or customers just read the first line or two…or simply don’t believe them.”


Sometimes, though, there are errors that no one can allow for, and I was guilty of this myself. I applied epoxy to the deck of my boat, and as it was curing I went over the top of it with deck paint.

The idea was that the epoxy would harden, and ‘glue’ the sand-impregnated paint to the deck for an incredibly hard finish.

A good theory, and one regularly used with other materials, but what I hadn’t realised is that epoxy contains amines, which react badly with the alkyds in oil-based paints. The result is the paint will never, ever harden.

It’s not the sort of thing that would be on the label, so if you have any doubts at all about using a product in an unusual way, ring the guys at customer services.

They are the most patient, well- informed and helpful people you will ever talk to – so be nice to them! They could save you a lot of time and trouble.

Now, where did I put my scraper….

Jake Kavanagh, yachting journalist

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