Boat Wraps?

My pal bought a yacht and then engaged in a cover-up.

Steve Haefele illustration
“In my mind’s eye, I pictured Bill’s new $2 million ride in fluorescent camo green with a breaching largemouth bass slathered amidships.” Steve Haefele

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What do you think?” my pal Bill asked. He’d been bugging me for months about my opinion on tasteful topside colors. Before me was an image of his new 60-foot fishboat. “It’s white. White is not a color,” I pointed out.

“Scroll down and be amazed, Coyle,” he insisted.

There was the same image of Bill’s white boat imagineered with a green hull. “White is simply my creative palette,” he explained.

It didn’t add up. While Bill had opened his wallet for a new ride, he’s thrifty. “You’re gonna smother factory-fresh gelcoat with a pricey paint job?” I asked.

“Of course not,” he announced. “I’m gonna wrap her.”

“You mean for shipping?” I asked lamely.

“High-tech vinyl,” he said. “Get with it, Coyle. It’s the latest in yacht finishing.”

In my mind’s eye, I pictured Bill’s new $2 million ride in fluorescent camo green with a breaching largemouth bass slathered amidships. Bill assured me there would be no bass graphics, just a tasteful forest green he’d taken a fancy to.

I tried to understand. “So, you’re covering a shiny new gelcoat finish with a cheap vinyl slipcover, like a worn-out recliner?”

“Coyle, they wrap Mercedes with this stuff,” Bill barked.

“You mean like delivery trucks?”

“No, like a quarter-million-dollar sports car, my friend.”

“But,” I continued, “a matte vinyl finish on a yacht? I prefer the boat in the high-gloss white.”

Read More from Jay Coyle: Tell Tales

I then wondered to myself how it is we seem to be regressing as a species. Thousands of years ago, a primitive relation figured out how to whittle a boat from a tree. How long could it have taken this budding boatbuilder to noodle that his creation would look better if he scraped the bark from the log? Welded steel replaced the rivet-pocked topsides of ships in the 1930s, and fiberglass replaced plank-on-frame in production boatbuilding in the 1950s. We’d come far—to vinyl siding?

While early gelcoat finishes could be a bit rough, by the late 1980s, chemistry, techniques and tooling had improved, and high-quality results could last decades with modest attention. With annual buffing and a coat of wax, I kept my 1989 37-foot Bertram looking like new for 22 years.

I admit: I once spun the color wheel and changed her boot stripe and feature stripes from black to blue and then back again. It was an expensive lesson.

Perhaps, Bill was on to something. Such a change of heart in vinyl would have been far less costly.

Wrapping larger yachts may be the newest new thing but, like vinyl itself, I doubt it will last. Bill doesn’t care; in fact, it seems that he’s prepared to try on colors like pairs of shoes until he finds a good fit.

“What do you really think about green, Coyle? I’m thinking it’s too earthy,” he said.

I proposed sticking with the new white gelcoat, but Bill insisted on something more fitting for an offshore fishing machine. Maybe indigo blue with a greyhounding marlin.

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