Boat designers have it easy. They sit at their drawing boards and draw beautiful looking boot stripes, at least most of them do. If you look at the boot stripe on most boats, it curves up in the bow and stern, giving a pleasing overall look. It’s easy to draw a sweet, fair boot stripe on a two dimensional piece of paper but wickedly tricky to transfer it to a three dimensional hull.
Boat builders spend an inordinate amount of time getting the look just right, especially considering that most of them are molded into the fiberglass gel coat. But what happens when it’s time to paint the boat? Do you mask off the rest of the hull and paint it, then mask off the boot stripe and paint it? If you mask off and paint from the bottom of the boot strip to the toe rail, you lose track of where the boot stripe was. Then you have to sit there with your fine-line masking tape trying to get the stripe looking as good as the original.
The problem is the width of the stripe varies almost constantly over the length of the stripe. It might be eight inches wide at the bow, fifteen inches wide at the stern and only three inches wide amidships. This is due to the fact that the hull curves inward, making a wider stripe necessary at the areas of most curve, as well as the fact the stripe often sweeps upward at the bow and stern.
In the days of wooden yachts, keeping the stripe was no problem. Old Bill, the yard painter, would take a knife and score the hull where the bottom and top of the boot stripe went. Then it was a simple matter for him to paint between the lines and achieve a fair boot stripe every time.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to try and score a line into the gel coat on MY boat. I didn’t fancy all the complicated masking by eye either. Daydream was almost ready to paint and I needed a simple strategy to preserve the location of that pesky boot stripe.
I had neglected this key step when I repainted one of my other project boats. I clearly remember my frustration in trying to get just the waterline to be a straight line, viewed from the side. I taped and re-taped, while standing back from the boat to see if I had any dips or bulges in the taped line. I did have, repeatedly. I finally got it to where it looked fairly decent and just gave up. I was determined not to have that happen with Daydream.
I have seen some people level the boat and then mark a waterline and boot stripe top using a standard construction laser level. These shine a level laser line on the hull so you can place tick marks for placing the masking tape. This works fine for the waterline. However, one problem with this method is that the top of the boot stripe ends up flat, horizontal if you will. That loses all the beauty of a line swept up fore and aft.
Others have measured down from the toe rail and recorded the distance to the top of the boot stripe. The problem with this method is that it is much easier, given the distance, to get the tape measure skewed to one side or the other, reducing the accuracy of the dimension.
We had already decided to barrier coat the bottom of the boat, from the bottom of the boot stripe on down. From the bottom of the boot stripe, the waterline, on up, we are going to use high-build epoxy primer. It made sense, then, to base the boot stripe dimensions on the bottom of the boot stripe/waterline.
I placed a strip of masking tape from the bow to the stern, a fraction of an inch below the bottom of the boot stripe. I then marked off one foot intervals, starting at the centerline of the bow all the way to the centerline of the stern.
After numbering each location, I started measuring from the bottom of the boot stripe to the top of each marked location. It was much easier to get an accurate dimension over the relatively flat height of the boot stripe. The resulting table of locations and dimensions will allow me to recreate the top line of the boot stripe with a fair degree of accuracy.
Now where is that fine-line masking tape?
Masking tape applied to the hull and marked off at one foot intervals.