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Gel Coat, Marine Paint, or Varnish for '63 Constellation

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Gel Coat, Marine Paint, or Varnish for '63 Constellation

Post by andrew.kornuta » Wed Sep 09, 2020 11:34 am

Hello all,

I have stripped my 1963 46' Constellation down to bare wood from the deck, down. The next step is saturating all of the wood with Smith's CPES. I'm undecided on what to do after that for the upper and bottom hull.

The boat is going into a natural pond on my own property where it will be mostly stationary but pulling it out of the water will be a hassle so I want something that lasts a long time. I'm fairly certain that I'll use Durabak Polyurethane for the bottom hull. Any thoughts on this?

For the upper hull, I'm more indecisive. Should I use gel coat, marine paint, or keep natural wood for the upper hull? I don't believe '63s came w/ natural wood for the upper hull (with the exception of the stern planking) although it looks nice on older models. I suspect it will be a maintenance nightmare. Any advantage or disadvantage of marine paint vs. gel coat that anyone can speak to? Probably my biggest concern with the idea of varnishing the upper hull would be that the screw holes are all plugged with something like 5200 as opposed to wood plugs and that will probably look strange... perhaps a stain will help to hide that? I definitely don't want to pop all that out and replace with wood plugs.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. I've included a survey just for fun :)
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Bilge Rat
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Re: Gel Coat, Marine Paint, or Varnish for '63 Constellation

Post by Bilge Rat » Thu Sep 10, 2020 6:24 am

Just my opinion but I think bright finish on the hull sides will be a big challenge to get it right. Every screw that has been plugged with a compound will show through and I don't think the factory used mahogany bungs to plug the holes on the big cruisers either. You also have different non-matched mahogany planks that would require extensive bleaching of the darker ones, or over-staining the lighter ones to try and blend the stain color throughout the hull sides. There's a reason that Chris Craft used non-matched side planks; they intended that paint would be applied rather than stain and varnish. I have seen cruisers that were stained and varnished and with a of of work, they can be stunning. Also, if you have already applied the CPES, its too late to stain. The stain goes on first and the then CPES then varnish.

A marine paint designed for wood boats would be the best on hull sides. Interlux, Pettit and Kirby are quality brands. Kirby has been used by some cruiser owners on this site and they have reported excellent results.
1966 Lyman Cruisette 25 foot "Serenity Now!"
1953 Chris Craft Sportsman 22 foot "Summerwind"

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Re: Gel Coat, Marine Paint, or Varnish for '63 Constellation

Post by jfrprops » Thu Sep 10, 2020 9:59 am

Just my opinions: I would not varnish those hull sides...for all the right-0n reasons mentioned in the previous response. I want to offer a recommendation that to many will sound strange if not stupid but is definitely worth talking about. Rustoleum...oil based, comes only in quarts, Lowe's. Their white (and Red that I recently saw) is excellent and more than half the price of the marine stuff...I know guys that use it with confidence and it is long lasting and the finish is equal to the high dollar stuff when rolled and tipped. I have recently seen a multicoat wet sanded glass boat job where this was the topside and sides paint and the result was stunning. Just saying.....
Tell us more about how that big boat will be on a pond???? John in Va.
1980 Fairchild Scout 30
19?? custom Argentine Runabout 16'
1954 Whirlwind deluxe dual ckpt 16'
1921 Old Town Charles River 17' (founding Captain, James River Batteau Festival)

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Re: Gel Coat, Marine Paint, or Varnish for '63 Constellation

Post by andrew.kornuta » Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:10 am

Thanks for the advice, folks!

Interestingly, the bungs on the stern planking are mahogany and those planks are color matched (something I didn't even think of before) since that was the one part of this boat that would have been varnished.

I'm going w/ Marine Paint as advised. I'll go back to what I think was original; red bottom, black stripe, bright white sides, and a black stripe along the porthole line. I have the original "curly arrow" trim and that will go on top of the porthole line black stripe.

Related: For a slightly entertaining video of this boat being moved into it's future home, the pond we're making for it, check this out: ... -the-pond/

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