Refinishing the Hard Dodger, Part 1

At the same time I was working on the plumbing, James and I have been fixing up our aftermarket hard dodger.  It’s a really nice feature on this boat, keeping the companionway out of the weather most of the time and allowing us to hunker down when we want to hide from the wind for a bit while sailing.  That was mostly on the way up to Baltimore last winter, between snow storms.  We were certainly in hiding mode then.

But that’s a bit off topic, eh?

The topic is this: the dodger had been painted with some sort of epoxy paint and then some other materials.  It was a mystery mix that was cracked and peeling all the way down to the fiberglass of which it is made.  I haven’t gotten in the habit of getting before pictures, so you just get the process here.  It’s pretty simple, really, if time- and energy-intensive.  I picked one area for close-ups so you can really see how it started and went along.
The first step was to scrape off all the old material.  Patience and persistence are key here, because every single bit of material that isn’t 100% adhered to its substrate will need to go.  I used a painter’s scraper with a long flat edge that is blunt on one end and pointed on the other.  I used the pointed end to pry large sheets away and the flat edge to make sure the remaining material wasn’t going to come up.  After scraping all the loose bits away, I sanded everything in order to soften the edges for fairing.

Dodger after scraping and sanding

The next step was fairing everything.  I made the fairing compound with regular West System epoxy (several batches) mixed with 407 low density filler.  It’s a blended micro-balloon based filler that has decent strength (not my main concern) and is easy to sand (yep, that’s why I picked it).  As you can see below, it cures to a reddish brown.  That’s nice because it’s easy to see where you’ve missed.

Fairing the Dodger

The wood trim is screwed and bunged, and I also filled the spots where the bungs didn’t suffice to make a fair surface.

I made one mistake on the filling – didn’t leave enough material in some places.  I was using a spreader and flattening it out pretty well.  That means that some places didn’t sand smooth – they still show concavities – but it’s not bad enough to go back and do it again.

Here’s the same spot after sanding.

Faired and Sanded

Then there’s the primer.  We use Interlux (partly because it’s easy to obtain, partly because we like their Bristol Beige and Sea Green) Brightsides one part polyurethane and the Pre-Kote that goes with it.  It already looks pretty good with just primer.


From here on, wet-sanding was the name of the game.  It leaves a really nice surface and keeps the dust down.  The dust isn’t just irritating to the eyes, nose, and throat of the sander; it is also difficult to clean off every part of the boat in order to keep it from settling back onto its previous home while the paint is wet.  Dusty wet paint is super-annoying, not to mention ugly.

Wet-sanded Primer

That might look strange, but the primer isn’t supposed to be a thick layer.  The instructions say to sand it to a thin translucency.

Next came paint!  We put an over-all coat of white on the dodger, though the porthole trim will be in green and beige.  The long trim piece where the cabin top meets the cabin sides is now green, its final and glorious color.

Painted - first coat

One touch-up coat on that and it’s done.  The dodger will get another coat of white, the porthole trim will be painted, and the handrails and solar panels will be replaced.  Keep an eye out for these remaining bits of the project!


One comment

  1. No Comments…….. This is huge people. O.K. think of this , put your living residence on some shitty ass stakes and then go inside…. Yeah. thats what I thought…. Congrats to the best team …I know. Aloha and best wishes

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