new boat gelcoat colour issue

The friendliest place on the web for anyone who enjoys boating.
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.


Veteran Member
Oct 7, 2007
I guess this comes under "general maintenance" since we are talking about gelcoat repair and hull painting (even though this boat is still in the hands of the builders). Sorry if you have seen this posted somewhere else, but I am trying to elicit opinions as quickly as possible.

Upfront, I know a lot of you are gonna be tempted to say: you <u>shouldnt</u> have chosen a blue hull, you <u>shouldnt</u> have ordered a new boat, and you <u>shouldnt</u> have ordered a new boat built in China. As Ive said before, I anticipated a testing time, it has been tough at moments, but we are pulling through nicely, and we are just days away from accepting what my surveyor and I consider to be an excellent little boat.

There is however one final outstanding (and significant) issue on which I would welcome your advice.

My hull has a blue Ashland gelcoat. When I saw the boat for the last time at the yard in China about 6 weeks ago, I saw no blemishes in the colouration of the gelcoat even in bright but slightly hazy conditions. Soon after she arrived in Hong Kong about 4 weeks ago, I saw her again - this time*on a clear blue sunny day. The sun was on the starboard side of the boat and, under those conditions, I could clearly see a patch of lighter coloured blue gelcoat about the size of a dinner plate (clearly visible in lesser lighting conditions as well). Bad news. As part of the builders final touch up works in Hong Kong (mainly a bit of teak and varnish work), the builder has undertaken to get some good people to repair that blemish with PU paint (still to be done).

I saw the boat again yesterday, this time with a mid-morning sun hammering down on the port side and, to my huge disappointment, there were 4 or 5 other areas of slight (much less obvious) discolouration, some bigger, some smaller, but all (but one) were invisible from a distance of more than 6-8.

If this boat had cost a lot more and was painted in a specialised climate controlled facility, then for sure one would expect the gelcoat job to be perfect. Instead, I chose a much more affordable boat (knowing of dangers of building in China), and I just dont have a sense of what degree of perfection in the gelcoat I should be expecting. Nor am I clear on what is the best course of action that I should be pushing for.

So here are some questions:
1)***** is some degree of minor discolouration (invisible beyond say 6-8) acceptable?
2)***** If there are only a few patches needing repair, is localized repair using Dupont PU paint an acceptable way to deal with it?
3)***** Do you agree that we only need to consider repainting the whole hull (with Dupont PU) if we have more than say 5 or 6 patches to fix? (bear in mind this is a 34 hull)
4)***** If I have the choice to try save the current gelcoat (which otherwise looks beautiful) or to paint the whole hull with Dupont PU paint, what would you suggest, and would I be disappointed with the PU paint finish (compared to the gelcoat finish)? In what way does PU paint not look as great as gelcoat?

I want to highlight that this boat is mostly great, and I am happy with the builders, and that the gelcoat generally looks fantastic from a little distance. Other than just one (maybe two) spots, you can really only see the colour blemishes close-up and when the sun is shining directly on it.

Would be grateful for you swift comments, as I will want to reach a decision with the builders by Wednesday so that works can be completed whilst I am away on vacation and so that we can finally take delivery in early January.

Many many thanks! Mark
I'm not expert on gelcoat or paint, but I have noticed in the nine years we've been involved with boats large enough to be in a marina that colored hulls can be problematic in tems of gelcoat vs. paint vs weather. While I'm sure the gelcoat formulations have improved a lot, we have seen boats from the early 90s or late 80s with colored hulls (usually red or green) on which the gelcoat has faded a LOT, to where the boat is not shiny red, but very, very dull red. But that's on a boat that has sat in the weather for a number of years.

I have seen a brand new Grand Banks 52 which for some reason had a portion of the hull re-gelcoated during manufacture. Don't know why, but a few weeks after delivery during the owners' first cruise, this big grayish-creamish "blotch" appeared on the hull near the bow. Needless to say, the owners were very upset. Calls to Grand Banks got them the assurance "not to worry, the patch will gradually turn the same color as the rest of the hull." Sure enough, it did. Took several months but you look at the boat today and you cannot tell where the blemish was.

Of course, a GB hull is white.

I know that a number of high-dollar yacht builders today don't even bother with gelcoat anymore. They lay up the hull and once it's out of the mold prep the surface for painting. The end results are every bit as shiny and good looking as gelcoat and the paint finish is easier to repair should somebody whack their jetski into the side of the boat. Gelcoat is the first thing that's applied to the inside of the hull mold and if it's done correctly and if the mold was constructed and finished correctly the end result should be damn near perfect. I have seen gelcoat-finish hulls on things like Victory Tugs (green in these cases) that were flawless, or least appeared so-- I didn't go over every inch of the hull to check.

Every recommendation we have gotten from boatyards, shipwrights, and charter fleet operators with regards to someday re-doing our boat's exterior is to paint it. Don't bother trying to put new gelcoat on--- it's way more difficult and exacting a process which means expensive, and paint is easier to repair should the hull get scratched, scraped, or damaged.

I don't know the circumstances of your specific contract or agreement with the company building your boat, but if you paid for a flawless blue hull (or as flawless as boatbuilding processes are capable of) and that's what the manufacturer said they'd build for you, then that had better be what the manufacturer delivers. If they didn't , it's their responsibility to fix the problem. And it sounds like they have not delivered on their promise.

If you are willing to accept a painted-hull boat instead of a gelcoat surface--- which is NOT meant to imply that a painted hull is less desireable--- then I would strongly suggest you insist that the yard paint the ENTIRE hull, not just the bad sections of gelcoat. Paint and gelcoat are going to weather at different rates, so even if they are able to match the paint to the gelcoat exactly, it's just a matter of time before the painted sections will start looking different from the unpainted sections.

As I said, I'm not a paint or gelcoat expert, but if you elect to have them paint the whole hull make sure they properly prep the hull for this. I believe there are waxes or oils that end up on the surface as a result of the hull molding process and gelcoat itself may need to be prepped in a certain way to accept paint, or primer and paint. In other words, if they're going to fix the gel coat problem by painting the whole hull make sure they don't screw the painting up, too. Prep is everything, and if they don't do it properly--- or at all-- you could end up with a worse looking problem than you have now. And they should use the best paint available for this job. I don't know what the best paint is for painting hulls. I believe Imron is one of them, which is also a popular paint for aircraft, but there are other good paints as well.

-- Edited by Marin at 21:49, 2007-12-15
For the most part, I'm with Marin on this one. I've had both blue gel coat and blue paint. My present boat is painted blue with Cook epoxy paint and was done in the Selene yard, Jet Tern marine. The boat is three years old (I'ts a 2005 model but was made in Oct. 2004) and looks absolutely great! Paint, for the most part, is thicker than gel-coat and believe it or not, holds up better. Weather, UV and all. A lot of people confuse gel coat with paint and vise versa. As Marin stated, gel coat is applied to the mold before any glass goes on and is quite thin. UV attacks it much faster than PU paint and <u>it can be waxed</u>. A good PU paint, such as Awlgrip, <u>should never be waxed</u>. A polymer coating, such as Awlcare, is used for maintenance purposes. There are several great PU paints for boats, Interlux, Awlgrip, etc. I would suggest contacting one of the big boat manufactures and ask them what they use. I'll bet the answer is PU paint in 100% of the boats made. Why? PU is a better barrier than gel coat and besides, their boats are too big to even consider gel coat.

Conclusion? Have them paint the entire hull. And as Marin stated, the quality of the job is in the prep.

The photo below is my boat during a survey in Nov. 2006. It hasn't changed since and as I've said, was painted in 2004.


  • hull 11:15:2006.jpg
    hull 11:15:2006.jpg
    93.9 KB · Views: 152
Thanks Marin and Walt. All noted. Problem is, if I do influence them to re-paint the whole hull, then it's gonna be Dupont PU paint. On that I would have no choice (so strike Awlgrip, Interlux, Cook, etc), and so am very keen to hear what experience anyone has with Dupont.

Btw, Walt, if I took a bow photo of my boat, the apparent quality of the gelcoat*would look just as good as in*your photo... at 8' distance, you would not be able to see the blemishes I am talking about. So, again, I ask the question: is that acceptable? I suspect still not.


  • mch_2537.jpg
    92.1 KB · Views: 140
The question is, considering it's a brand new boat that you've paid a fair amount of money for, is the finish quality acceptable to YOU. If you buy a new Ferrari and it gets a door ding at the dealership that you really can't see from eight feet away, is that acceptable to you?

A blemished finish wouldn't be acceptable to me if it was the fault of the manufacturer, no matter how "barely visible" it might be. I paid for a perfect finish, and that's what I expect. Even if the blemish is invisible from eight feet away, I know it's there. Plus, as mentioned before, gelcoat can react in unexpected ways over time. UV light, heat, humidity, etc. could cause a barely visible blemish to become real visible a month or a year down the line. The risk of this is much higher, I would think, with a dark hull like yours as opposed to a white hull.

There is a very new boat for sale on our dock with a dark blue hull like yours. When it first showed up, the hull finish was shiny and uniform. Lately I've noticed a lighter, dull blush forming in the dark blue gelcoat around the transom door. I have no idea why this is happening, but it is. The transom faces the direction most of our weather comes from as well as the sun.

In my opinion if a manufacturer does not deliver on their promise, there are two options--- they fix it properly and to my satisfaction or I don't accept the product.

When we finish painting the airliners we manufacture the customers inspect the paint. Every customer is different. Some are not so picky, they do a walk around, if it looks good, they accept it. We have other customers who spend five hours inspecting the paint and noting every single blemish, no matter how tiny. We even had one customer from an airline in Europe inspect the paint on their new 777s with a magnifying glass in places. If a customer finds a blemish, we fix it. No questions, no negotiations, we fix it. The fix can range from hand touch-up with an artist's brush to stripping part or all of the plane and doing it again. The latter is pretty rare but it has happened. The former happens all the time. And if a problem is discovered during the painting process, like paint that doesn't cure properly or a color that doesn't turn out to be what it's supposed to be or whatever, we don't wait to see what the customer has to say, we strip the plane back and start over.

A boat does not cost as much as a jetliner, but in my opinion the responsibility of the manufacturer to deliver what they promise is no different.

Now one option--- if you feel you can live with the blemishes--- is to make the yard discount the price of the boat accordingly. That way if the blemishes do worsen with time you will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that you didn't pay full price for a substandard gelcoat job.

PS-- Imron is Dupont's automotive/aviation polyurethane paint.* Don't know if that's what your yard's proposing to use, but it's considered a top quality paint in the aviation industry (for general aviation planes and bizjets).

-- Edited by Marin at 03:56, 2007-12-16
Paint it before you sell it.

Paint sells the boat , get an Imron or All Grip job done then.

IF you're going to actually cruise the boat , just worry the gel coat stays attached to protect the GRP under.

The docks , dinks and bum boats will make a "perfect finish " imperfect soon enough.

I think I know how I am gonna try steer this, and it's pretty close to what Marin suggested towards the end of his last post.... I will likely press for a discount equal to the cost the HK yard is quoting for a full Dupont PU re-paint. That way I take delivery of the boat as she will be next week (after the two most obvious blemishes are touched-up), and I decide in a year's time if she needs a full paint job or not (probably yes). If so, I can then choose for myself whether I want Dupont, Awlgrip or some other system.

Fred thinks very practically. I can live with that recommendation to the extent that blemishes are virtually unnoticable, but I suspect I'll be the type that insists on re-painting when things start looking a bit patchy - hopefully not too often.... usual budgetary constraints apply!

Thanks guys. Walt, I thought you were supposed to be out of communications range for a few days?!

I like your approach on asking for a discount, equaling the yard's quote for an entire paint job.

As I re-read the postings to this thread, there is good advice throughout. Fred's is really practical and carries considerable weight. Marin's is on the money, as you should get exactly what you pay for and nothing less. Mine, knowing you like I do, is aimed at achieving that "perfection and quality" that you constantly strive for. You will <u>"not be satisfied with a blemished paint job." </u>The discount route, however, will satisfy that requirement and allow you some time to find the other "blemishes" which only show after you accept the boat.

Good luck! (We are heading for the mountains next Sunday.)

FF makes a good point about living with hull blemishes and then painting the boat prior to selling it. Our 34-year old GB had a relatively hard life in California judging by all the dings and touch-ups in the exterior gelcoat, to say nothing of what the sun and weather did to it all those years. We'd love to have the boat painted, but at $20,000 (the average quote from the yards we've talked to) it ain't gonna happen, at least not for a long, long time.

A friend's boss had a 60-something foot cruiser that while at its dock got backed into by a small freighter in the Seattle Ship Canal. The impact crushed the bow and spread the hull enough to pop most of the transverse bulkheads loose. The insurance company declared the boat a total loss, but the owner, who loved the boat, had it completely repaired at Delta Marine. If you know anything about Delta, this is a company that does first-class work on their new yachts and on repairs. Delta put a simply spectacular paint job on the boat, and I saw it a year or so later.

I was talking to the owner and said how much we'd love to have the same kind of paint job done on our old boat. He laughed and said there are two ways of thinking about this. One is to have the boat repainted like his, and then spend the rest of your days worrying about scratching it and having other people ding it, and so on. Or, he said, you can leave your boat the way it is and just use it and have a good time and not worry about it. He highly recommended the latter.

But...... our boat is 34 years old and has had at least five or six owners. Your boat is brand new. I think the approach you're considering--- having the purchase price adjusted for the faulty gelcoat work--- is a sensible one. If, as FF suggests, you use the boat a fair amount, it's almost certain things will happen to mar the finish in one way or the other. You can always have the boat painted at a later date if things start looking pretty bad, or if it's time to sell the boat.* And it may be that the overall depreciation of the boat will bring the eventual selling price down to the point where a prospective buyer won't care about some minor blemishing of the hull anyway in the same way that we "accepted" the dings and scrapes and blotches on the hull of our boat because the selling price reflected this condition.

The important thing, in my opinion, is that you don't simply accept the boat as-is under the rationalization that "it's good enough, I can live with it." You deserve what you pay for, whether that means the yard fixes the problem properly or the purchase price is adjusted downwards to compensate you for the manufacturer's mistake.

A boat, new or used, is a big investment, and nobody should start out their experience with a new (to them) boat on a sour note. You need to feel good about your decision so that you will thoroughly enjoy the boat.

-- Edited by Marin at 14:29, 2007-12-16

I'm still thinking about your hull and the possibility of accepting it as "good enough."

There have been suggestions that if you get a discount, leave the hull as it is until it's time to sell the boat. When I buy a new car, I don't get seat covers to protect the upholstery as why save the new upholstery for the next guy? Why paint the boat for the next guy? You entered into an agreement for a new boat!

I can honestly say that if it were me, they would prep and repaint the entire hull or the deal is off. (Of course there is the matter of recouping the monies you have already laid out.)


Try and imagine you and your family doing this with a blemish free hull....


  • seahorse.jpg
    30.2 KB · Views: 171
If it was our boat, we'd do as Mark described and demand that the yard correct the problem. Assuming a proper re-gelcoating is out of the question--- and I'd be VERY skeptical of it being done right as it's harder to do out of the mold than in it--- then a proper quality paint job would be acceptable (actually preferable to my way of thinking).

Reducing the purchase price to compensate you for the manufacturer's mistake would be our second choice, but they'd have to reduce it by the amount it would take to paint the hull properly, not just knock off a couple thousand dollars or whatever.

What does your warranty say? For how long is the manufacturer responsible for the quality of the boat? Is there anything in the warranty or contract that specifies what the manufacturer has agreed to deliver to you?

One other thing I just thought of--- you asked initially if the fact that your boat cost less than other brands of similar boats meant that your expectations for the quality of the gelcoat finish should be lower. I assume you are familiar with Bayliner. In addition to their larger cruisers that are now marketed under the Meridian name, the company produces an extensive line of runabouts and sportfishermen. One of the things Bayliner should be credited for is figuring out how to build reasonably good boats for very affordable prices. Their entry level line used be called the Capri, and I've seen no end of them on boat trailers heading for the local lakes or Puget Sound boat launches. I believe the boat-motor-trailer packages were in the $8,000 range. I've never inspected a Capri close-up, but their gelcoat finishes appeared excellent, at least when the boats were new. Same thing with the popular, and reasonably priced Trophy sportfishermen. Excellent finish. In fact, better looking than some of the Grady-Whites I've seen, a similar-size boat that costs (I assume) several times more than a Bayliner Trophy. I'm talking appearance here--- I have no idea of the comparative quality of the gelcoat finishes.

Since the gelcoat application process is pretty standard using known components mixed to established formulas I would think that the overall purchase price of a boat would not have much bearing on the quality of the gelcoat finish. It's either done right, or it's not.

-- Edited by Marin at 22:02, 2007-12-16
With a Chinese yard , I'm not sure there IS a warentee that could be legally inforced.

This is the "Wild West" in terms of liuability.

IF you have withheld* completion cash , you might get a fix.

Gel coat as noted is only for use inside a mold ,. it can be pached in small areas , but thats it.

A complete paint job with a good 2 part paint is regularly done with a good crew and simple brushing .

If you try this Pro Boat Builder gas a great article in their free archives of a world class* brush technique in use by a Dutch builder.

A few years ago one of the early Great Harbor 37's arrived at Waterford Harbor Marina in Kemah, TX with a really ugly dark colored hull.* The boat was repainted shortly after.* I'm not sure who paid for that but it sure looked a lot better.* It seems to me that a good paint job lasts and looks better than gel coat if your boat is anything other than white.* Just my 2 cents......

P.S.* I once overheard one old f*rt on the dock refer to the GH as..."The one that's 37 feet long, 37 feet wide and 37 feet tall!"
Thanks everyone. Good news (in my view)... the builders and I have an agreement on gelcoat discolouration which I am satisfied with because it allows me the flexibility to repaint the hull in the future, when and how I like. Of course, if I choose a premium paint system (say Awlgrip), then of course the price differential will be for me to bear. And so that I'm not chugging around with a blotchy hull in the meantime, they have completed a really good job of patching up the blemishes with PU paint. I had a damned good look, and can barely find any evidence that there is or ever was a problem! OK, I accept that the blemishes and patches might show up again after the sun has worked on the hull for several months, but (following the arrangement I now have with the builders) I won't need to hesitate to repaint the whole hull if and when I deem that to be necessary.

Whilst none of this was ideal, I am happy with the way it has ultimately been handled. And I've gotta say, other than 3 spots where the shipyard in China had to affect repairs to construction-related gelcoat damage, any other blemishes I saw were really... well... practically non-existent.

With that, I'm off in a few hours for a two-week Christmas vacation, and I do my final (?) inspection and sea trials in the second week of January. That's probably when I will next get to log in, so, in the meantime, I wish you all season's greetings and all good things for the new year! My new year's resolution is to stop building this boat and to start sailing in her!

Thanks again for all your advice.

Top Bottom