By Joel Penkala

The duck boat more or less fell into my lap, and I will chalk up that to the old “sometimes is who you know….” adage. Or even in this case, who the guy I knew, knew. A good friend lives down the shore points, and is an avid duck hunter in the coastal marshes in New Jersey. Or at least as much as a full life, including wife, 3 kids and job will allow. A fellow Woodsbum in his own right, he was gifted an 18′ duck boat, outfitted as such with blind and accessories. Once the new boat found a place in his yard, his “old duck boat” needed to find a new home (a decree passed down from the fare lady of the house). The end result of these circumstances which were completely out of my control, was that a quite servicable boat ended up in my yard.

The boat was solid and nearly ready for use, save for a few minor issues. A drain plug was needed. The tires on the trailer needed replacement. And a new middle seat was in order. All minor projects, addressed one at a time. The main issue was that my friend had started the task of stripping the aluminum boat so that it could be painted and pushed into service on the duck marsh. He had done the major labor intensive task of sanding off the old paint, stickers, and years of grime. The photo below shows an inprogress photo of the boat, being primed with self-etching primer.

 I elected to go with a self-etching primer after a brief search online. Seems most paints have a tough time sticking well to aluminum, so the primer would provide a base coat to which some duck boat- appropriate colors would stick. The primer coat went on relatively easily. I sprayed outside on a sunny, relatively wind free day, and with a resperator. The etching primers are pretty nasty stuff that you would rather not inhale, or get on a car that happens to be downwind. 

I started with the exterior of the boat, working from bow to stern, then realized I should finish the interior before I couldn’t easily climb in and out because of the wet paint. Started again at the bow, and worked to the stern on the interior. I hopped out and finished the last of the inside, standing on the ground, then started to work around the rest of the outside. I planned for two coats of primer, and then a coat of duck boat paint, so I laid the primer on lightly to avoid drips.

The primer looked a bit thin in spots, but once it was dry, it seemed like there was good complete coverage despite the splotchy appearance. The above photo is the boat with the primer coat finished, and below after I started the process of applying the duck boat green. I found Rust-Olium Camouflage (http://www.rustoleum.com/product-catalog/consumer-brands/specialty/camouflage-spray/)  paints at the local big box store and I have to say, I was very pleased with their performance. 
The initial coat of “Army Green” went down with out a hitch, and evened out the splotchy appearance of the primer coat. Then it was on to the fun part; making stencils out of cardboard and putting on the final camo pattern. I normally draw out a pattern on the cardboard and then cut it out to make a “normal stencil”, but you can also go the other route. Take a leaf, bunch of grass, or tree branch and use it just like a negative version of the stencil. The result will be a realistic looking outline of whatever you have chosen to use. In the photots below you can see the progress of my stencil camo patterns. Its a good idea to think about what type of marsh you normally hunt, and the time of year. If you hunt flooded timber in Louisana, your pattern might be different that one you would choose for hunting tidal marshes in New Jersey. I opted for a green base, to be covered up with marsh grass to match the tussok filled marshes of North West NJ where I do most of my duck hunting. Not that any pattern wont suffice, but this is a custom paint job, so you might as well take advantage of that fact.
I chose dark browns and blacks for some of the “branches” and limbs that would be running across teh boat. Remember the idea is to break up the outline of the boat, so make sure that you run up over the edges. Ducks may not always be able to see inside the boat, but think about what your pattern would look like to ducks passing overhead as well as ones coming in from the horizon.
The boat sits unfinished until next season as cold weather set in before I could get the final patterns down. It is important to paint within the teperature bounds of the paint, or adhesion wont be good. Hopefully once the boat is finished up, I can add a few success photos form her maiden voyage duck hunting!