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Taking Down Her Bottom Paint

Ernest Ashley

New Member
Thought I would start a little discussion about the hull below the water line. I am in the process of stripping the many layers of bottom paint acquired with our new-to-us 383. I have already learned my lesson that I should have had it soda-blasted but I had no opportunity to arrange that before our next season and the bottom paint was flaking off. I have essentially stripped the whole bottom using caustic stripper (the kind with a paper cover) and it did a great (but still expensive and god-awful) job of taking about 8-10 layers of paint off. The product I used was not supposed to take off any epoxy barrier coat. Well, it seemed to do that but one last layer appears to be an epoxy-based paint and is a SOB to get off. I would have left it on but again it flaked in spots and I noticed the underlying hard-as-nails epoxy layer had a glossy finish in some (well, quite a lot of) places. Figuring I am doing this once for all time, I am in the process of (slowly) sanding the last coat off to the dark epoxy layer and making sure it is milky not glossy. I noticed a few white dots that appear to have been repaired small gel coat blisters. My questions are: 1) What is the prevalence of gel coat blisters on 382/383/384s? 2) How does the hull appear with no barrier coat (I think my surface was "aftermarket" applied)? and 3) Any recommendations for bottom preparations (considering some areas are restricting certain anti-fouling products)? (I have considered Coppercoat;' cause I am a glutton for punishment). Thanks for this forum; always a big help.


Mark Pearson
Staff member
Hi Ernest! Welcome to the forum (if I haven't said that before).

I'm not an expert on our bottoms, but from my observations (we have had our 1983 384 for about 10 years):
1) I have not heard about major blisters on M38s which have effected other brands/models of boats. There are cases of minor blisters (like most older boats) but they are easily fixed.
2) I was talking with my boat yard when we were hauled out for a bottom sanding/painting last month. I've found the fellow to be quite knowledgable and after poking, peeling, prodding, he said he thought we didn't have a "barrier coat". I think the implication being it is just gel coat. I don't know if that was a factory option, or what.
3) He talked me into Pettit Premium HRT, and said they have been having good performance from it.

I hope this helps and that other more knowledgable Morganeers chime in.

Happy New Year!


Stephen Ruell
Blown Away is a great name!

I stripped ours with the caustic stripper too- maybe 10 coats of old paint. I thought it worked very well but involved quite a bit of DIY labor In our area in Maine it was much less expensive than soda blasting. Some of the blasting services are known to remove your gelcoat in a haphazard manner, and leave you with as much work in surface preparation as the caustic stripper.

In answer to your questions. We had a layer also that was hard to get off, about 2nd or 3rd layer of 10 or more, but I think it was an epoxy based bottom paint rather than a barrier coat. Maybe that is what you have found. In any case I don't think the barrier coats are anything special to sweat about. Put on another coat of epoxy barrier coat if you think you removed it.
1) It appears that blisters for the Morgan 38 are not a big issue. Our particular 382 hull #41 had no blisters at all after the caustic stripping showed the whole surface. This is a boat that has spent it's life in New England with winter haul outs. But I think from what I have gathered over the years on this board, there have been reported few Morgan 38 boats that have had blisters. There are some that seem to have had a lot, but they seem to have been the exception. My impression is that blisters are worse in the southern warm waters.
2) When we finished stripping the hull surface, it looked the same as the hull above the waterline- white glossy gelcoat fiberglass. Of course I didn't clean it to that level of removal and shine as the topsides, but that is what the underlying surface is.
3) As for what you should apply in the future- After stripping the bottom, I did only one coat of epoxy barrier coat, and then ablative water based bottom paint, two coats the first year and additional coats sporadically over the years since then ( six years). We have annual haul outs and can renew the bottom paint in the spring, but I don't put a new coat on every year if the old coating still looks good. Not so much from laziness as that I don't want to build up too much thickness and have to remove it again. What you use depends on where the boat spends the summer but in the Northeast I don't think you need to go too overboard on the expensive bottom paints. I would ask your neighboring boaters what they are using. Less is better than more.

Ernest Ashley

New Member
Thanks Mark and Steve (Stephen?):
Good to know that Morgans are generally not prone to gel coat blisters and I probably only have a couple of dozen white dots where believe repairs have been made. I too think the last coat above a barrier is an epoxy-based bottom paint. However, my hull below the waterline is dark blue-grey while the rudder with all the paint removed is white. Ah ha! must be poorly sanded barrier coat on the hull. Regarding new finish, our home port is Salem, MA, the mooring area of which is rather shallow and has, how shall we say, a "rich" environment on the bottom. On our last boat (first one with a cup holder and a keel), I put on two coats of barrier coat and cupric oxide bottom paint (Sea Hawk for both). Worked well. I mention potentially using Coppercoat for three reasons . 1) if done right it will last more than 10 seasons; that could save money and time in the long game. 2) Marinas that allow you to work on your boat, even just bottom painting, in their yard are getting awfully hard to find around here. 3) I am an environmental consultant and the equivalent of copper plating the bottom rather than oozing or ablating something toxic to the marine critters is a consideration; plus I understand some locales are limiting some types of toxic bottom paints. The big downsides are it is expensive ($145/kit with 10 kits needed for a 38' boat), and can be very tricky to apply. You need four coats applied in warmer than 50 degrees dry weather, applied one after another as they tack off.


Terence Thatcher
Ernest, I think Puget Sound is about to ban copper bottom paint. Not sure when the ban goes into effect. And not sure what they are going to do about all the freighters coming from overseas. Anyway, would thzt also ban Coppercoat? As a young man, I sailed on an English yacht built in the 30s; she was copper sheathed, but the copper no longer seemed to retard growth. Finally, I had my 382 epoxy barrier coated in 2013, 20 years after her first barrier coat. She was showing a few small surface blisters. They used either a Pettit or Interlux product. The yard put on several coats to build the coating up to the required thickness. The coats alternated colors, white then grey, so they could avoid missing any spots. Last coat was grey. The boat sat drying out under cover for several ,months after the original barrier coat and gelcoat were taken off before the new barrier was applied.

Ernest Ashley

New Member
My understanding is that Coppercoat would not be banned under restrictions on ablative bottom paint which leaches the cupric oxide form of copper to the surface water. Coppercoat is is elemental copper similar to copper sheathing and not intended to leach. What is banned and from where will be an interesting trend for cruising sailors to keep up with. I hear you that it may not keep off all the slime but my real concern is our local marinas from banning use from doing any work on our boat, including bottom paint. P.S. A good former employee of mine just moved to Seattle. Probably would make a good crew.


Terence Thatcher
I just learned that because alternatives to copper may cause as much trouble for the environment as copper, the ban does not start until 2026, while more studies are done.

Ernest Ashley

New Member
I shopped yesterday at Defender (the store to the mail order place) and noted the chemical composition of the alternatives to cupric oxide in bottom paint. The alternative are toxic organic compounds and there were many multi-syllable words that basically spelled methyl-ethyl-bad-stuff. I foresee what is allowable for bottom paint and potential exclusions to cruising boaters becoming an issue at some (many?) locations. And, I hope that science matters over perception.