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Thread: Painting of bilge in wooden boats

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
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    Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, USA
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    Default Painting of bilge in wooden boats

    I have heard many times not to paint the bilge in a wooden boat and then I stumbled across a message board thread (trying to find it again to post the link) where several shipwrights went on and on about mixing red-lead into paint specifically for painting of the bilge. Isn't there some paints out there that can be used to help protect the bilge wood while not causing a moisture trap and rot?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    5,523

    Default Re: Painting of bilge in wooden boats

    I recently read of someone using cement soup. It does have anti fungal properties. Protect from what?

  3. #3
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    Dec 2003
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    Default Re: Painting of bilge in wooden boats

    I've owned three keelboats, 30+ years old. The first had been painted in the bilge with what appeared to be ordinary white paint. It peeled and flaked, I don't know if it was original. The second had no bilge paint and no decay in the planking. The third has red lead and no decay in the planking. I don't think you need to paint the bilges.

  4. #4
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    Aug 2013
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    Default Re: Painting of bilge in wooden boats

    Fresh or salt water? Fresh water is wood's enemy.

    I've read in many books and articles that salt water 'pickles' the wood and protects it from rot-causing organisms. Washing the decks with salt water kept them sound and tight, and was the first chore of the day in the old days.

    From such reflections as these, I was aroused by the order from the officer, "Forward there! rig the head-pump!" I found that no time was allowed for day-dreaming, but that we must "turn-to" at the first light. Having called up the "idlers," namely carpenter, cook, steward, etc., and rigged the pump, we commenced washing down the decks. This operation, which is performed every morning at sea, takes nearly two hours; and I had hardly strength enough to get through it. After we had finished, swabbed down, and coiled up the rigging, I sat down on the spars, waiting for seven bells, which was the sign for breakfast.
    Two Years Before The Mast, Richard Henry Dana (FREE GUTENBERG LINK)

    Hope the voyage is a long one.
    May there be many a summer morning when,
    with what pleasure, what joy,
    you come into harbors seen for the first time...

    Ithaka, by Cavafy
    (Keeley - Sherrard translation)

  5. #5
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    Jan 2010
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    Northern Europe
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    Default Re: Painting of bilge in wooden boats

    My old 1947 Koster had bilges painted with red lead, until it was banned, before i owned it. All the floors and keel members were rotten on the inside..........not sure that helps, not seen that kind of decay before myself, quite astonishing that the keel never came off.......

  6. #6
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    Aug 2006
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    Rockford, IL
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    Default Re: Painting of bilge in wooden boats

    A painting of us? How nice!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Olympia, WA, USA
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    Default Re: Painting of bilge in wooden boats

    Bucephalus was originally built (1986) with her bilges --planking, frames, floors-- painted in red lead. They are still in excellent condition.

    A couple years after she was built, with na´ve enthusiasm, I decided to paint the bilge just because since it's wood it ought to be painted regularly. By this time red lead had been acknowledged as less than ideal for the environment, but since I liked the color I used Beetle Cat Orange (my father has a Beetle Cat, so we had a can of that color on the shelf).

    Not my best decision. 80% of that orange paint peeled in the first two years, and the rest has been sloughing off ever since. I expect the bilge is still in good condition more despite that paint than because of it.

    After 32 years, my current policy is to invest my efforts less in bilge paint and more in ventilation and in keeping the bilge "brined." So far, so good. Full disclosure: she is a seasonal boat, with her ballast out and her bilges open to ventilation for six months of the year, and a hearty cleaning of bilges and ballast every spring.

    All of that said, there are specialty paints just for the bilge, probably formulated for good adhesion in long-term immersion. I think "BilgeKote" is one, and I seem to recall Epifanes has one as well. I don't plan on using them, but I'm sure others here must have experimented and hopefully will comment on them.

    Alex

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