A boot stripe gives a high-side hull a more streamlined appearance and (with multihue stripes) adds a vibrant dose of color to any boat. It can also make it easier to clean the scum line off a boat that is stored in the water. While traditional boot stripes parallel the hull’s waterline for the entire length, many of today’s stripes sweep upward as they approach the bow, accentuating the prow. This also eliminates the complexity of running the stripe over the ridge and valley of a chine — a job best left to professionals.
Using adhesive-backed vinyl striping (which we do here) makes this job arguably easier than painting it on, but in either case, the initial step is to have the boat hauled or put on a trailer before work begins. Also, avoid windy conditions, which can make it difficult to deal with the sticky tape. Choose a day when the temperatures are in the low 70s. In cold temps, the vinyl lacks sufficient elasticity; hot temps make it stretch too much.
Skill Level: 2.5/5
Time to Complete: 3 to 4 hours
Tools and Supplies
*Roll(s) of boot-stripe tape ($19.99 per 50-foot roll, westmarine.com)
*Vinyl application squeegee ($6.69, staples.com)
*Acetone or MEK for cleaning hull surface
*Rubber gloves (to wear when cleaning the hull surface)
*Razor cutter or X-Acto knife
Marine adhesive-vinyl striping comes in a range of widths and colors, even tri-color stripes that go on all at once. Most come in 50-foot rolls. The wider the vinyl, the tougher it becomes to sweep the stripe upward toward the bow. Most DIYers find it difficult to do this with anything wider than an inch. You can create wider, multicolor schemes by applying one stripe after the other of various widths, each one an inch or less.
Many stripes run just above the waterline from the edge of the transom to about two-thirds of the way to the bow and then angle gradually upward to parallel the chine and complete the run to the bow. The best bet: Apply a faux stripe with masking tape in the same width as your vinyl. When satisfied, bracket this tape with two more runs of tape. Then peel off the middle tape, leaving the perfect line for applying the final striping.
Use either acetone or MEK (methyl ethyl ketone) and a clean rag to thoroughly dissolve and wipe away any wax, scum, grease or other contaminants from the area on which the boot stripe will be applied. Wear protective gloves and change out the rag every few feet to make sure you’re actually cleaning, instead of smearing. A pristine surface is critical for ensuring strong adhesion of the vinyl boot stripe.
Peel away the adhesive backing 4 or 5 feet at a time and work forward from the edge of the transom. Use fairly long lengths of vinyl, stretch it slightly, and lightly tap in place every foot or so as you follow the masking tape outline. Use a razor to trim the forward end of boot stripe parallel to the stem and the aft end parallel to the edge of the transom. When done, peel away the masking-tape guidelines.
Use a flexible plastic squeegee to press down on the stripe and ensure that the vinyl adheres well to the hull. Work the stripe along its entire length. Squeegee the stripe from its lateral center outward to squeeze out as many air pockets as possible. Once you’re done, there will still be a few air “blisters” you can’t squeegee away. Use a needle to poke a minute hole in the bubble and then squeegee out the air.
Quick Tip: An extra set of hands and eyes helps with this kind of project. Ask a buddy to hold the roll of tape so it doesn’t fall on the ground as you work to apply 4 or 5 feet at a time. He can also eyeball the stripe to tell you if it’s straight or not.