Blacking A Narrow Boat – What’s All That About?
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Tue Jan 7, 2014 at 1:38pm

Why Do We Black The Hull?

The Basics – The hull is blacked to protect the bottom section of the boat, so specifically the area of the boat that is in the water and just above the water line. The “blacking” process protects the hull from rust, pitting, rubbing (through locks, other boats, banks etc) and generally extends the life of the hull.

Part and parcel of owning a narrow boat means that you need to carry out certain maintenance jobs and blacking is among one of those jobs.  Some maintenance work you will be able to do yourself, however blacking your narrow boat can be quite time consuming and something that you may not want to do yourself after reading this blog.

The boat will need to be out of the water for the blacking process to take place and there are three different ways that are actually used to get the boat out of the water. 

  • Dry dock, where the boat is floated into a chamber and then the water is removed.
  • Craning the boat out but this can be expensive. 
  • Slipway trailer, which is where the boat is put onto a trailer and a tractor pulls the boat out the water. This is the most cost effective and popular choice.

Types Of Coatings

There are two types of coatings that can be used to black the hull, Bituminous and Two Pack Epoxy. Epoxy paint is more expensive but it will last 5 – 6 years once applied and a Bitumen finished coating will last around 2 – 3 years.

If your boat is already coated with Bitumen you are unable to put Two Pack Epoxy over the top, you will need to get the hull “shot blasted” which means stripping everything back to the bare steel. This is a very expensive process and needs to be carried out by a specialised company.

A quick and easy way to check which coating is on the hull is to soak a cloth in white spirit and rub the paint, if the residue is transferred to the cloth it is more than likely to be Bitumen. Whoever undertakes the blacking process will check this for you before they quote and start the process.

The blacking process needs to be carried out on a dry day as the paint will not dry if applied in the wet and also will not stick if the temperature is too cold. Other than that the job can be done at any time.

Three Day Process Explained

Day One;
The Boat is pulled out of the water and pressure washed to remove the old blacking and debris like weeds, mud, and rust. This prepares the hull for the new application. You can also ask for a “scrubbler service” which is a machine used to pay extra attention to the water line area of the hull. Most companies will charge extra for this, so if required be prepared to pay the additional cost.

The boat is taken out of the water and the hull is pressure washed

Day Two
; The hull is now ready for painting and this has to be done manually with a small roller, the reason behind this slow manual process is the paint goes hard very quickly so it has to be applied in small sections.
The hull is ready for blacking

Day Three
; Repeat day two! The second coat gets applied and if required you can ask for an additional coat around the waterline (this may incur an additional cost). The boat is then left to dry before it is returned to the water.

The blacking is applied

Watch our You Tube videos for more information:

I think after you have watched the videos you will agree that blacking a narrow boat is not a DIY job.