St. Lucia, Beautiful St. Lucia
Thugs Aren’t Pirates

Raising the Waterline–A Lesson Learned

P5300002As we sailed south from Maine EW would look at the growth on our waterline with a critical eye and a dark exclamation, and more than once he dropped over the side with brush and snorkel to clean the grass off of La Luna’s hull. '”We need to raise the waterline,” was a phrase heard for months. What he really meant was “You need to raise the waterline.”


I had learned the proper technique of painting the boot stripe, white reveal and bottom paint during our last haul out in Maine. I wouldn’t say I’m adept at it, but I know what should be done – and even wrote about it. Just after we hauled out in Rodney Bay, we had dinner aboard S/V Sanctuary and EW said he had lost sleep the previous night trying to figure out how to raise the waterline the way he wanted to. “No problem,” I said. I think I can figure it out.


EW wanted to raise the waterline two and a half inches for only the stern and half way forward. He wanted to keep the old waterline at the bow. Still, I thought, “How hard could this be?" and the next morning I dove in with tape, write-on/wipe-off markers and a measuring tape -- and a bucket. I had neglected to get paper and pen off the boat and we had a broken bucket under the keel, so I used that for the math. Let’s see. If I have 20 feet to angle from 2.5 inches to 0, that’s 1.25 inches at 10 feet and .75 inches at 5 feet and 2 inches at 15 feet.

Makes sense, but drawing or taping a straight line on a boat is, shall we say challenging. Ever game, I tried it for the better part of a day, with the boat yard crew – particularly Elvis – asking a few questions about my intentions. The next morning I again tackled the job grew very, very frustrated, and stomped (if one can stomp up a 15 foot ladder) up to the cabin and the laptop. I Googled “How to raise the waterline sailboat” and learned these steps.

  1. Take a roll of 2” blue tape and tape it along the top edge of the bottom paint.
  2. Take a roll of 1” Fine Line Tape and tape it along the top edge of the blue tape.
  3. Remove the blue tape. Voila! New waterline.
  4. Paint the bottom.

Well d’uh. There is no math involved in this process.

I stomped back down the ladder and walked up to EW and said, “If I raise the waterline two inches all around the boat, can you live with that?” He readily agreed, probably because my tone of voice may have implied that if he couldn’t live with it, we were going to have issues.

Since we have the red boot stripe with a one inch stripe of white between that and the bottom paint, I had to raise two lines, two inches each. I channeled the guys from Great Island Boatyard in Maine, Tom and Kevin, who had given me good (though unsolicited) advice about painting the stripes and the bottom during the last haul-out. So my method is as follows:

For peak efficiency, you need:

  • two rolls of 2” blue tape (I only had one roll of 2” blue tape so had to go around the boat once, applying that to the top of the bottom paint.)
  • 2 rolls of 1” Fine Line Tape
  • 1 light weight step ladder (provided by IGY Marina, thank you very much)

Kevin had told me that you could work with two rolls of tape at once, so I figured that if two is good, four is better, and three worked just fine.

  1. Lightly sand, the current white reveal and boot stripe, and two inches above that. (I eyeballed this as EW said he’d polish out any scratches that were above the new stripe.
  2. Remove the dust with mineral spirits on a rag.
  3. Apply the blue tape to the top of the waterline for the length of your reach (safely) Raising the waterline tape 2 6-19-2011 9-36-16 AM
  4. Apply the Fine Line tape along the top edge of the blue
  5. Apply the second roll of blue tape along the top edge of the boot stripe
  6. Apply the fine line tape along the top edge of that line of blue tape.
  7. Tom had told me to make sure I run my fingernail along the edge of the Fine Line tape to make sure there was good contact. I like my short (but feminine) nails so I used a putty knife (carefully). that worked.
  8. Remove all of the blue tape. Voila! The new waterline is marked for the bottom and the red boot stripe is isolated in it’s new location – 2 inches Rasising the waterline stern before paint 6-19-2011 2-43-59 PMabove where the boot stripe used to be.
  9. Paint the bottom. (This was EW’s job and he did it well. More about that later.)
  10. Paint the red boot stripe, which I was able to do Raising the waterline painting stripe 3 6-19-2011 2-43-11 PMwhile EW painted the bottom. I had to put two coats of red on the boot stripe since it was a new stripe. (Yes, Tom and Kevin, I did sand between coats.) And yes, even though we were in a warmer climate, I still had to wait at least eight hours between coats and never did get up early enough (or work late into cocktail hour) to get two coats on in one day.
  11. After the second coat had been applied to the boot stripe and allowed to set up, I removed all of the Fine Line tape. The paint lines were clearly visible, so I once again circled the boat with two rolls of Fine Line, isolating the white reveal. raising the waterline taping white 6-22-2011 11-27-55 AM
  12. I painted that line twice, sanding between coats because I was painting white over the old red boot stripe. raising the waterline painting white stripe 6-22-2011 1-30-40 PM
  13. Remove the tape. Ta-Da!

igy haul out EW painting stern 6-24-2011 11-19-21 AMEach blue and red block of words indicates another circuit with the step ladder around our 47 foot boat – 13 times – and that doesn’t count the day I tried to raise the waterline 2.5 inches – partially. I got some isometric exercise that week.


Raising the Waterline pizza 2 6-22-2011 1-42-55 PMThroughout the week of the haul-out one or the other of us would have to walk to the shops for various parts or supplies. EW had been gone for a couple of hours one afternoon while I finished painting the boot stripe. I glanced up when he walked back into view, and saw that he was carrying a number of parcels. I turned back to the task at hand and then whipped my head back to look at EW. “Is that pizza?” “Yep, and it looks like a good one, too. The security guard gave me directions to this Italian place up the road.” “You are my hero.”

Just like back home, we had pizza and beer as a reward for a job well done.

As we were sitting on deck, I looked at the boat next to us. They were having a major job done and had sanded the whole hull, so no bottom line or stripes showed. “I can’t imagine how they make the lines on that boat,” I said. There’s nothing to go by. How can the possibly get a straight line?”

“Oh,” said EW, “they get a laser level thing and draw the line on. That’s what we should have done if we stuck with raising it 2.5 inches only part way around the boat.” 

Now he tells me. 

Once the keel was repaired, EW finished the bottom paint and we re-launched La Luna. As you can imagine, there were many comments about the two-toned bottom. Here’s how that came about.

igy haul out lifted and done 6-24-2011 12-06-50 PMWhen we purchased La Luna, her bottom was that ubiquitous blue color you see on a lot of boats. I didn’t like it – particularly as her topsides are white, red, and gold. EW finally consented to paint the bottom red and we both loved it.

He purchased the bottom paint at West Marine in Puerto Rico and they didn’t have the paint he’s used in the past, Interlux Micron Extra with Biolux. Nor did they have any red bottom paint.  He decided to purchase West Marine’s PCA Gold Anti-Fouling Paint, about which we’ve heard good reports from others who sail these waters. Given the options of black and green, I sucked it up and agreed to a black bottom and he expected to get more black bottom paint when we hauled out. EW had a brainstorm in Rodney Bay, since we had to get more paint, why not get red paint and paint the top of the bottom red? That sounded good to me. EW purchased Interlux Micron 66 which is a slightly different red color than what we’digy haul out EW painting stern 6-24-2011 11-19-21 AM used in the past.  It isn’t our preferred color of red, but it works. EW was brilliant in that he painted the entire rudder red as a two-toned rudder would have look ridiculous. It looks fine. I’m happy. And if I’m happy, EW’s happy. Plus, he gets to conduct his own experiment – which paint will work better in these waters. We’ll let you know.



NOTE: Neither Interlux nor West Marine were apprised of this post and neither gave us a discount for publishing this. At some point, this site will accept advertising, but does not at the this time, July, 2011.


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