Painting bulwarks

Any thoughts on using 2-part polyurethanes vs. 1-part polyurethanes. I realize that 2-parts are longer lasting but are also less flexible when applied to wood. The techy at Interlux said it was better to go with a 1-part yet their documentation suggested that 2-part was fine unless you are applying it to lapstrake construction. I thought that 1-parts will be easier to touch up.

 I used Sterling 2-part linear polyurethane on the outboard sides and tops of my bulwarks.  Used Z-Spar enamel on the inboard sides.  Thinking that most of the kicks, dings, and scrapes would occur on the inboard side and enamel is much easier to touch-up.  It has worked well and I have been able to touch-up minor (and one big scrape) in the polyurethane following the brushing/thinning instructions and it looks just fine.  Only downside to Sterling 2-part is the activator hardens up after opening and it is very pricey.  The base lasts forever (5 years so far).  I'm experimenting with storing the activator in small, glass jars filled to the brim to limit air contact.


If you are interested, Detco (Sterling in Costa Mesa California) makes a two part paint that perfectly matches the ivory color of the hull. Ya, it is expensive but, like Tom says, it will last at least 5 years and then it does not go bad but only loses it gloss…I have my hard dodger painted with it as well as my bulwarks and would use nothing else… Howeve, Tom certainly mentioned the drawbacks.

If you contact Detco, ask for Angie or Doug and ask for the BCC Ivory. If he insists on making more than one quart, I could use another quart as a standby. Oh, I also painted my anchors with it and they are the same after much use. Must use a primer on whatever you paint…

For more information contact me direct

Roger Olson

If you want to try my enamel approach on the inboard side, Z-Spar Hatteras Off White p/n14000 is very close to the gel color of my deck edges and coach sides.

Roger and Tom,

Thanks for responding. Roger, I already purchased the Interlux 2-part polyurethane paint. It matches pretty close to the ivory. I’ve painted with this brand on a couple of boats and the beauty and longevity has been demonstrated. My main concern was coating flexibility since wood needs to flex and 1-parts are supposedly better. However, teak and mahagoney are very stable woods and so is the construction of the BCC bulwarks. Added to this is the longterm evidence of BCC owners that the 2-parts have held up well. My only other conern now is my weather time-frame up here in Minnesota.

By the way. Intelux painting guides state that their 2-part paints will be fine for wood with the exception of lapstrake hull construction. However, their tech support only recommends 1-part paint for wood. Certainly a contradiction.

I’ve been following this thread with interest because after three years of use along the coast from Maine to the Bahamas, Itchen’s bulwarks are high on our list of maintenance tasks. They were previously professionally done in Interlux Brightside on top of whatever remained of the original varnish. and looked spectacularly smooth and glossy, flawless. However after a year or so the topcoat began to peel wherever there was any joint which might flex a little bit and admit moisture. Around the scuppers and the where the bulwark meets the covering board and stanchions were the first to go, followed by the joint around the plug in the bolt hole on top of the stanchions. It won’t be news to anyone here that to do it right starts with good – very good – preparation. All the fittings and lifeline supports have to come off first and the critical factor is preparing a surface that the paint will bond to without peeling or crazing later-on. In our case the problem is at the interface between the paint and the original varnish. The Brightside is still in great shape but it peels off wherever there is a flaw in the preparation. Flexibility does not seem to be an issue because one can take a nice big flake of peeled off paint and just about bend it doble without it breaking. The bond is the problem

As for what paint is best and how to prepare the surface before priming and painting, I have nothing to add to the discussion other than knowing that the primer MUST be compatible with whatever is left of the original surface and the paint obviously has to be compatible with the primer. For the past two years we have just been peeling or scraping away patches of Brightside when they crack or begin to lift, then sanding the substrate and applying some Interlux Brightside primer. Theory is that sooner or later we will have to take off all the hardware and do it right from scratch but in the meantime getting loose areas removed and primed will prevent water from holding underneath the loose paint and making things worse.

Any other suggestions re preparation, primer and best paint? This is a big job that one doesn’t want to have to redo in a couple of years!

Perhaps I’m missing something about the original finishes on BCC bulwarks, but why not strip all of the previous paint/varnish from the wood? Well stripped and lightly sanded, the wood should take to the priming/painting very well.

This is a ridiculous amount of tedious work, but as far as I know, the only way to ensure proper adhesion of any dissimilar coating.

Aaron N.

Leaving the original varnish prevents the paint from filling in all the wood grain therefore allowing to return to varnish at a later date. You are not commited.


Yes indeed, it is an exhaustive,labor intensive job to get the bulwarks down to bare wood through final painting. It’s a labor of love as these bulwarks are a part of the distinctive beauty of these boats.

My bulwarks were in horrible shape. I don’t know what type of paint they used but it was badly checked, lifting, and peeling. I spent 60+ hours just stripping, scraping and sanding. I also spent another 20+ hours re-caulking with 3M-5200 (Mahogany color) because a few seams where open and the old caulk was deteriorating. Hence my concern about coating “flexibility”. I can’t determine if the original bulwarks were varnished wood or painted so I don’t know if the paint was a 2-part.

I spent another 20+ hours preparing the bare wood using a 2-part CPES (Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer) from Smith & Co. as a base sealer. Although this sealer is an epoxy based sealer it is extremely thin, low viscosity sealer that penetrates deeply into the wood unlike the thicker epoxies such as West System. It remains flexible and allows the wood to breath. Practical Sailor magazine articles were very impressed with this sealer and Wooden Boat magazine articles were equally positive. I found out that CPES is the standard sealer used by most antique wooden boat restorers prior to paint or varnish coatings. It’s also used extensively by builders who restore old wooden homes and historical buildings. It’s excellent at retarding any existing surface rot. I also use this sealer on all the hatches and wood trim prior to varnishing.

My interest in a 1-part paint such as Interlux Brightside is not only its flexibility but it’s ability to be maintained. I don’t mind spending 25 hours a season touching up the paint and varnish once a year. It’s a small price to pay for beauty and longevity. I don’t want to do this from scratch again if at all possible.

As a side note, hopefully, I have only one more season of work left to do to finish my total restoration. It’s taken me 7 years of evenings, weekends, vacations, and a layoff from my IT profession. I’ll basically have a brand new boat. Besides the up-coming painting, I’ve re-did the whole interior using the ivory fiberglass panels from SML and fabricated most all of the teak trim using Roger Olsens Nereus as my guide. Removed all thru-hulls, water, fuel tanks and replaced with new. Removed all portlights and had them polished and installed new gaskets. Rebuilt the whole galley area, chart table, and starboard settee to current SML design.
YES! I also had the blistering below the waterline so I sanded it down to the bare fiberglass and used the epoxy and antiblister Interlux 2000 coatings process. This took me about 240+ hours. The blistering was only cosmetic though. Believe me, this is a stoutly built boat compared to the other 2 boats I previously restored. Some day I’ll get some of the pictures I’ve taken through the years of this restoration and get them posted on our site. This is the last boat I want to do. I’m ready to go out and sail.

If anyone wants to discuss in more detail just give me a ring.

Lanny Luhmann
Minneapolis, MN
Hull # 35

Good Afternoon all,

Lanny, sounds like you gave a dream and nightmare all in one! Boat maintenance for me is a love hate relationship. While I thoroughly enjoy restoring different things, there’s that constant tug of just wanting to go out and play the endgame, ie, go sailing! I had the pleasure of applying the Interlux 2000E to a 30’ boat, topside down, all five coats, and dealing with 20+ full pocket blisters. Amazing amount of work.

Anyway, I’d really love to see the pictures you’ve taken throughout your expedition. I look forward to the day you are able to post them!

Best to all,
Aaron N.

We used Brightsides in '99 as we replaced the bulwark after hurricane damage (Danny in '98). We used plantation teak we bought in Trinidad.

First we sealed it with a thinned WEST epoxy. Then two coats of Brightside primer followed by three topcoats white. Never had to touch it again until '05 when it started looking dull but without a single failure anywhere (except a few spots where I whacked it with a piece of gear). I lightly sanded it and put one topcoat on again.

We liked Brightside so much we rolled and tipped the hull in '04 and it too still looks great.

The thing I have against the 2-part paints is how hard they are to strip if it becomes necessary. However we will soon have to paint the decks and I’m thinking I might go with Awl-Grip urathane for wear resistance.

Has anyone ever painted their deck?

Hi Stan,

Yes, I’ve repainted my decks - completed the project summer 2005. I used Interlux Interthane Plus (2 part LPU). So far so good. I redid topsides as well while I was at at; the previous LPU was applied in 1996 and just needed spot priming to bring it into condition suitable for overcoating. I got sufficiently comfortable with the properties of the paint that after a while I was able to roll it on without tipping. Finding the magic thinning sweet spot is key. 2 part paints are amazingly durable, but you have to be willing to play chemist.

My bulwarks (previously painted) are due for a refresher this winter. They are already a patchwork of primer. I have not difinitively decided what system I am going to use. I’m tempted to use a one part poly given all the nooks and cranies and the time it takes to paint them. This is a slow brislebrush (only) job. Two part pot life and the need for constant thinning can be tiring for a slow job like this.