David Pugh and Ben Meakins explain how to prime and paint your boat's hull and topsides, as they turn a £500 eBay wreck into a smart family cruiser

Hantu Biru was a a Snapdragon 23 that was rescued from a farm in Dorset and restored as the PBO Project Boat. Over three years the PBO team transformed her into a beautiful family cruiser. The meticulous refit appeared in the Project Boat Handbook, written by David Pugh and Ben Meakins, and is now available on Kindle.

Meet Hantu Biru in 2011 – a rather sorry-looking 23ft Snapdragon

The team started from the hull upwards, and though not every job was filmed (there was a LOT to do) they did put together some excellent videos on repairing, priming and painting the hull and topsides. So, if you’re in the middle of a project, or just need to spruce up your tired gelcoat, read on for some great tips from David and Ben.

Hull-to-deck join repair

The first stage of Hantu Biru’s reconstruction gets underway as her hull-deck join is put together with new timber and plenty of goo! When the PBO team bought Hantu Biru (Blue Ghost in Malay) much of the join was still sound, but unfortunately it was compromised at the chainplates and a few other points where holes existed in the deck moulding. In these areas, water had entered, become trapped and rotted the timber.

They had two options: to try removing the rotted sections or strip out all the timber and replace it. Though the former option was tempting, they decided complete replacement was the best option.

Painting with epoxy primer

After months and months of filling, fairing and sanding, the visible transformation of Hantu Biru begins. The next job is to seal the faded and damaged gelcoat with epoxy primer…

… if only it was this quick in real life!

Painting the topcoat

Now it’s time to sand the undercoat with a worn 240-grit disc on a random-orbit sander, followed by a polish with 400-grit wet-and-dry used by hand.

Be warned – it’s not as easy as painting your living room, but it’s nothing to be scared of either. The team get their fair share of runs and slumps in the undercoat but are able to sand them out. On large areas the best method is for one person to roll the paint on with a gloss paint roller, and the other to follow with a brush for tipping off.

Here’s the process start to finish. Simple!

Shiny, shiny boat… and Ben

And in case you missed just how shiny the hull is, take another look. We found this video in the outtakes and had a giggle when we spotted an accidental cameo from Ben at the end!

Hantu Biru sails again

At last! Hantu Biru sees water again (and not just rainwater).

“It was with a strange mix of elation and trepidation that we watched Hantu Biru edge her way down the slipway,” said Ben and David in the Project Boat Handbook, “The trepidation lessened once we could see that she floated – but it didn’t disappear entirely until we went sailing.”

And sail she does. With her centreplate down, she makes great progress, beating against a strong spring tide into a light breeze. Look at her go!

And, finally, here she is in October 2014 with her new, larger spinnaker.


  • Repairing and fairing
  • Priming and painting
  • Exterior finishing
  • Keel and rudder restoration
  • Making a new tiller
  • Painting the bilges and interior
  • Refitting the interior
  • Heads, pumps and plumbing
  • Rigging and re-stepping the mast
  • Fitting deck gear
  • Fitting a furler
  • Measuring for new sails
  • Converting to slab reefing
  • Upgrading electronics
  • Fitting new electrics
  • Wiring the mast
  • Replacing the engine


The Project Boat handbook costs £9.99 and is available for Android devices on Amazon Kindle


UK iOS device users can download the book via the PBO app here
US iOS device users can download the book via the PBO app here
ROW iOS users can download the book via the PBO app here