I go boating on the Chesapeake Bay aboard my 40-foot sportfishing boat (shown above). I’d like to improve the exterior finish and just make it look cooler. Can I add one layer of carbon fiber to the boat’s topsides? —David Avedesian, Silver Spring, Maryland
It’s possible to do a carbon fiber wrap on the hull of your boat, but a better option could be a custom, high-resolution vinyl wrap printed with a carbon fiber pattern that replicates the intricate weave. Carbon fiber needs to be protected with a few layers of clear coat, which requires time, labor and expense and may not be as
durable as vinyl wrap.
There are many different types of vinyl wraps, from brightly colored designs to contemporary metallic shades, any of which can add a dramatic new look to your boat. If you want jumping fish or mermaids with flowing blonde hair to grace the hull side, you can have those, too. For a modern effect, consider having the hull done in your preferred color/design, and then put a faux teak wrap on the transom. Or, if you have a fiberglass windshield, you could opt for a black mask.
Routine care of a vinyl wrap is easy: Just clean it with soap and water. Repairing the wrap is straightforward and costs less than trying to match paint or gel coat that has faded over time; just remember to ask your installer to leave you with an extra piece of wrap. You’ll want to be careful approaching the dock, but you likely do that anyway. To prevent scrapes when entering the slip, use cloth covers over your fenders.
The price to install a vinyl wrap is usually based on the square footage to be covered. A ballpark price for a 40-foot hull like the one you are driving could run around $8,000, including materials, installation and design. You also must prepare to pay charges for a haul-out, relaunch and scaffolding rental fee, if needed.
Some savings can be realized if the hull is wrapped while the boat is on the hard for other maintenance. Proper preparation is required. The hull must be thoroughly cleaned, de-waxed and scratches or gouges in the substrate filled and faired so no imperfections appear under the wrap.
There’s an added benefit to a vinyl wrap: It protects the gel coat from fading, staining and aging. When it’s time to sell the boat, removing the wrap (which can last at least five years) will be like turning back the clock on the boat. A friend of mine had a vinyl wrap installed on his new 42-foot Boston Whaler. It’s the same color as the gel coat. He doesn’t keep his boats that long; the wrap will allow him to use the Whaler without frequent waxing and polishing.
Covering a boat hull with a vinyl wrap is a smart and cost-effective way to dress up your vessel. Installation is quick, too. In fact, chances are good you will spend much more time deciding on the design than waiting for the job to be finished.
This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue.