Wrap It Up
IS PAINT PASSé? IN SOME CASES, MAYBE. VINYL WRAPPING IS FASTER AND CHEAPER, AND CAN MAKE A MEAN-LOOKING LOGO. BY MIKE SMITH
applied with a brush. (I used to think this made me a Luddite, but recently I’ve been corrected: I’m actually a Neo-Luddite. Google it.) Maybe I’m all wet too, as wet as foul-weather gear in hurricane season. Fiberglass boats are really fiberglassreinforced plastic; they’re skinned with gelcoat, another plastic; and linear polyurethane paint is, yep, plastic. So, with all this hardcore plasticity going on, what’s the difference if the boat’s also covered with stretchy, colorful vinyl? And even “plastic” itself is such a vague term, isn’t it? What’s my problem? Maybe I need to get out more.
Plastic Pluses and Minuses
The big advantage of vinyl-wrapping a hull is lower cost compared to linear polyurethane, most of the savings coming in fewer labor hours. According to the Wild Group, leaders in wrapping megayachts—the 223-foot steel motoryacht Aviva is one of their best-known projects, wrapped in 2,600 feet of gunmetal-grey vinyl—wrapping costs about two-thirds as much as a top-quality LP job, thanks to reduced labor time. Both procedures demand a perfectly prepared surface—even minor scratches and dings will show up through both the thin skin of vinyl and a coat of LP—but once the yacht is ready for topcoating, the vinyl rolls on in one shot. No primer before the color (except with bare metal hulls), no gloss topcoat after. Roll it on, squeegee out the air, and you’re done. OK, it’s a little more complicated than that, and requires skilled wrappers for a first-class job, but you get the idea.
Cost isn’t the only advantage. To many yacht owners, time is money, and they’d rather be enjoying their boats than have them laid up in the yard for months getting shiny new topsides sprayed on. Wrapping gets the boat back in service quicker, and the owner having fun sooner. For yachts in the charter biz, shorter refits are even more important. Should the topsides come out on the short end of a bad docking or a rambunctious launch driver, vinyl is easier to repair than LP, too, and vinyl advocates claim the material is more UV-resistant than paint.
Advocates also say vinyl wrap is easier on the environment than LP, because no chemicals or solvents are used on-site during an application, and therefore no fumes are emitted; drying paint releases vapors, some of them toxic. However, environmentalists consider PVC manufacturing one of the
Wild vinyl graphics like this are often cheaper than paint.