Authors Posts by Stephanie McMillan

Stephanie McMillan


Vinyl Boat Wraps

Vinyl Boat Wraps

Protect your boat’s hull in a variety of colors and designs with the use of creative vinyl boat wraps.

When a boat hull is created in a mold, gelcoat is the outer product that goes in first followed by the fiberglass layers. When out of the mold, it’s the gelcoat that provides a boat with its smooth, glossy finish (and color, if added) and seals the fiberglass layers beneath it from moisture and hydrolysis as well as from ultraviolet (UV) degradation. Although gelcoat is a strong material, over time it will oxidize and become porous unless continuously maintained and protected.

Protect it

A good wax has a UV protectant within its formula that acts as a sunscreen to protect the gelcoat, and if the boat is cleaned after use and kept under a cover on a hoist or in a boathouse, gelcoat can last a long time. But as boats bake in the sun and sit in the water and are subject to wear and tear like rafting up, bumping into the dock or a long day out fishing, gelcoat can easily fade, stain and lose its luster.

To extend the life of gelcoat and still provide that high-gloss shine, a protective coating such as paint is applied, but there’s another alternative that has proven its worth over the last few years—vinyl boat wrap.

Wrap it Up

Able to protect gelcoat and paint, vinyl wrap offers a versatile solution that has a number of benefits. Technology in a protective film has improved dramatically over the last 10 years and is now used in different applications from windows to electronics to an airplane and boat hulls. Cast film used for wraps is typically 3.5-mil thick and is made of thermoplastics, aluminum, and paint—a tough layer that inherently has UV and scratch protection.

Vinyl Boat Wraps“The material comes with a protective clear coating that protects it against abrasions, scratching and fading of the material,” says Wade Davis, owner, and president of Image Graphics 2000. “It usually will last up to five to seven years depending on the exposure it gets from the sun. There are alternatives on the protective laminate that can be used that are thicker and more abrasion resistant.”

Although gelcoat can last much longer, when it’s damaged, repairs can be costly and time-consuming, whereas a boat wrap can be repaired relatively quickly with just a small area cut out and patch applied to make it look as good as new.

“I’ve developed a technique of putting a patch in that is hard to distinguish to the unknowing eye,” says Burl Cole, owner of,,, and and a master installer for more than 15 years. “It’s hard to repair paint with matching color and it takes a highly-trained eye [to match] with fading.” Cole keeps the vinyl remnants from each wrap for repairs because it comes from a certain lot number.

“Some of the disadvantages are that it is not a hard shell surface like paint or gel coat,” says Davis. “You have to be a bit more careful around docks, other boats or toys.” Both Davis and Cole advise that fenders have cloth covers because the vinyl-on-vinyl friction will chafe the wrap.

Why Wrap?

Updating the boat’s hull happens for a number of reasons; change of the color scheme is the most prominent.

“Sometimes, people get a smoking deal on a boat but they don’t like the color, so this is a heck of a way to go ahead and change it to what they like,” says Cole. “They can choose some funky color or do an aquatic or marine theme and personalize it. And then, whenever they sell it, they pull it off and it’s back to the OEM (original equipment manufacturer).”

Another determining factor for using a vinyl wrap is cost. With the number of options in color and custom-designed graphics, the owner needs to compare similar style choices to determine whether paint or vinyl wrap is the less expensive choice. In most cases, vinyl wrap comes in about a third of the cost of a custom airbrush or gelcoat repaint, depending on the size of the boat. On top of that, “A digital wrap for production and installation is a three-day process: one day to print, one day to cure and laminate the material with the clear overlam and one day to install,” says Davis. “The color match or to change colors is a one-day process.”

“Preparation is key to this whole business, just like anything else—getting everything together before you start,” says Cole. “If there are scratches or divots, we’ll put in a Bondo filler or epoxy to smooth it out and feather it so you can’t tell anything was there after the wrap is put on.” Vinyl is formulated to stick on enamel paints, like Awlgrip, and adheres to gelcoat really well.

For the longest time

“It is not necessary to paint or re-gelcoat the sides of a boat for the application of the wrap film as long as the surface is in good shape,” adds Davis. “If there is oxidation present, depending on the severity, it should be removed by either wet sanding or buffing so the wrap film adheres to a clean slick surface. Also, if there are any coatings present like Teflon waxes or ceramic, that would have to be removed as well.”

Vinyl Boat WrapsThe 3M brand of vinyl has improved to the point where they now offer a one-year warranty (above the waterline). Cole notes that 3M can grip and bond as soon as pressure is applied and the boat is ready to launch right after application. Vinyl wrap also maintains the boats resale value by protecting the paint or gelcoat and is easily removed when it’s time to sell the boat. On the maintenance side, “One of the [nice] things about vinyl is that you don’t have to wax this stuff,” says Cole. “You just wash it and then rinse it off or just dry it off with a chamois, and that’s it!”

Be Assured

Vinyl wraps have made their way onto boat hulls from 10 to 200-plus feet, and there are a number of companies around the world that provide the service. Before you commit, be comfortable with the company’s previous work, how secure they apply the wrap (do they use an adhesive primer in areas where water pressure is typically high, such as the bow?) and if a warranty is included. Wraps are a versatile choice that protect and maintain the value of your boat’s hull.

By Steve Davis, Southern Boating September 2018

World Food Championships

world food championships

World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Alabama

Some 1,500 professional and home cooks compete for big money and national attention November 7-11 at the 7th Annual World Food Championships at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama.

It’s a spectator sport now—you watch them cook at various events and then you taste their results at the World Food Championships.

The main event and sideshows are just a short walk from The Wharf Marina on the ICW, which is handy for Great Loopers and other mariners on the move. In fact, one event, called The Yacht Club, is held at the marina. Diners with special tickets move about the marina and board several yachts where they watch and chat up award-winning chefs. Then they devour their delicious masterworks right there on the boat.

Another side event is called BBQ Beach. Pitmasters and celebrity chefs demonstrate skills with smokers and ceramic grills. At The Steak Out, they compete to make the best steak and share steak searing secrets. At The Tasting Pavilion, food brands let you sample their goodies. If you have the Walmart app on your smartphone, they’ll let you in free. At World Food Games, you can even play with your food, sort of, with team competitions like Egg Tossing and Corn Shucking. Kids love this one. It’s all first-come, first-served, so order your tickets in advance at

Is this post making you hungry? Good. Because we have all the recipes you need.

Five Big Sharks in The Bahamas

sharks in the bahamas

You may hear that The Bahamas is the shark capital of the world, and if you think it’s a marketing gimmick, then think again.

Sharks in The Bahamas are well protected. It’s the only country in the world to declare the entire marine habitat a shark sanctuary.

There are 40 species of sharks within the 243,000 square miles of the country’s territorial waters. The country was a global leader in 1993 when it banned the harmful practice of long-line fishing, and it continues to be recognized internationally for its trendsetting conservation efforts. The result is a healthy shark population unrivaled anywhere else in the world. For boaters and divers, it has all the ingredients for unique and spectacular underwater encounters.

There are five big sharks in The Bahamas that stand out for how they congregate in such large numbers in Bahamian waters. Similar to the African safari scene, The Bahamas has a shark safari circuit with its own “Big Five” list. On the African continent, the Big Five were originally classified based on how dangerous and difficult they were to hunt on foot: the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. Today, they represent safari royalty, for they are the most sought-after wild animals to spot on the African safari circuit. Personal preference is the ultimate determinant of safari satisfaction, but it is still a treat to spot the Big Five.

Sharks in The Bahamas

In The Bahamas, it’s no different. The Big Five sharks in The Bahamas consist of five apex predators that congregate in unique habitats across the archipelago. For encounters with these majestic underwater creatures, you’ll need to visit specific islands: Bimini for hammerheads, Cat Island for oceanic whitetips, West End Grand Bahama for tiger sharks, Nassau for Caribbean reef sharks, and Nassau or Andros for silky sharks. Anyone who has the chance to interact with the Big Five on a shark safari in The Bahamas is in for a stunning and exhilarating underwater experience. If you conquer these experiences, you’ll most likely encounter the honorary members—lemon and bull sharks.

Caribbean Reef Sharks

Caribbean reef sharks are the entry level species when it comes to the Big Five. You can find them on shallow coral reefs, around underwater wrecks and during shark feedings with shark wranglers. Nassau shark dives primarily focus on these predators, the staple of the dive circuit. Runway Wall, also known as the “Shark Arena,” is one of the most popular locations for divers to meet these shy sharks for the first time.

Oceanic White Tips

Cat Island has the largest aggregation of oceanic whitetip sharks in the world. These vulnerable sharks have seen their global populations decimated over the years as a result of long-line fishing. In the protected waters of The Bahamas, they thrive. The Cat Island dive is a three-dimensional experience. Unlike stationary shark dives that take place on the sand bottom, divers drift in some of the deepest waters in the ocean on this shark encounter. The sharks are baited, but not fed. The bait crate is suspended in about 30 feet of water. The actual ocean floor might be over 3,000 feet below. Sharks are attracted to the scent of the bait.


The endangered great hammerhead shark is the largest of all hammerhead species. From December to April, the warm waters of Bimini draw these big-headed, oddly shaped predators all the way from the cold waters of California to their winter home in the Bimini islands. They congregate around half a mile off the coast on the leeward side. By human standards, the water is cold and wetsuits are necessary.  Some divers spend up to 90 minutes on the bottom since the shallow dive takes place between 15-25 feet. Feedings can attract the notorious bull shark, which is a bonus to the Big Five.

Tiger Sharks

West End, Grand Bahama, is the most northern point in the entire Bahama chain of islands. 27 miles off offshore, in 30 feet of water, there is a sandy bottom floor known as Tiger Beach. This is one of the most spectacular shark dives in The Bahamas, and the main attraction is enormous tigers, some 16 feet in length. Unlike other dive sites where you might only see a handful of sharks, Tiger Beach is packed with them. As underwater shark photographer Andy Murch says, “They’re big; they are not shy.” Lemon sharks, which are a bonus to the Big Five, make regular showings at Tiger Beach. This is the best year-round spot to see them. The close encounter with these predators makes for amazing underwater photography.

Silky Sharks

This deepwater species has also suffered major population declines internationally due to long-line fishing. It’s possible to spot silky sharks around Andros Island year-round, but the best place to see them is the Lost Blue Hole in Nassau. In June, hundreds of these sharks gather not more than 9-10 miles offshore for a breeding ritual that looks like a choreographed dance in an underwater rotunda. Dive inside the blue hole, and watch the show around 170 feet down.

By Noelle Nichols, Southern Boating November 2018

38th Annual Key West World Championship

Key West World Championship

The Truman Waterfront in Key West, Florida, becomes race central November 4-11 as super boats from around the world gather for the 38th Annual Key West World Championship.

There is little that compares to the excitement of watching boats race at speeds more than 180 mph at the Annual Key West World Championship. From high-performance outboards to the unlimited super boats, racing teams prepare all year for this final event of the season. The rectangular race course will set up on the Truman Waterfront in Key West for great spectator viewing, and all of the boats will be on display for an up-close look at these impressive machines.

Local boaters can also become a part of the action by volunteering to work as an “Official Watercraft.” Interested boaters can assist and carry emergency medical personnel or sweep the course of recreational boaters that may inadvertently enter the race area.

Founded by John Carbonell in 1989, Super Boat International races take place all around the country. With more than 37 years experience as a powerboat events promoter, in addition to 10 years experience racing powerboats, Carbonell uses his hands-on knowledge to attract some of the most competitive racing teams in the world.

Super Boat

Super Boat International is the premier national and international sanctioning body for offshore powerboat racing around the world. The series has attracted many celebrity racers over the years, including Don Johnson, Kurt Russell, Chuck Norris, Caitlyn Jenner, and Jason Priestley. With an estimated million race fans attending Super Boat International races yearly and a significant increase in membership and attendance over the past three years, Super Boat International is poised for future success.

The rectangular racecourses average five miles in length, and the aptly named offshore boats power through the waves at speeds up to 180 mph. The action-packed races have attracted a large fan base, and superboats have even been highlighted in big-screen productions such as the 2006 hit, “Miami Vice,” starring Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell and on NBC Sports television.

Download the Patrol Boat form to volunteer and check out the schedule at

The Legendary Captain Jerry Lewless

Jerry Lewless on his boat
The man, the myth, the legend. Captain Jerry Lewless.

With more than seven decades of experience, Capt. Jerry Lewless is the ideal Exumas ambassador.

Jerry Lewless is arguably the longest-running boat captain in the world. As a reference point, consider he first captained a boat at age 14, or as he tells it, “I was so young I still had milk around my mouth.” His first fishing client didn’t take the teenager seriously until the young captain extended his hand and said, “If you don’t catch fish, you don’t have to pay.”

Spend a day aboard Lewless’ pristine catamaran and expect to be wowed by his treasure trove of sailing stories, celebrity friendships and insider revelations about his beloved Bahamas. If there are six degrees separating Kevin Bacon from the rest of the world, after a Capt. Jerry catamaran tour, most passengers believe Lewless is connected to anyone who lived, breathed and sailed near The Bahamas. During his tours, Lewless points out the private islands of country western music stars, movie directors, magicians, and business tycoons.

Starry Eyed

Captain Jerry LewlessBut while Lewless holds most stories regarding the rich and famous close to his tanned chest, others are spun matter-of-factly. According to Lewless, Howard Hughes asked him to take Ava Gardner waterskiing. When Johnny Depp needed a place to stay during the filming of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series, Lewless housed the star in one of his villas. When David Copperfield wanted to explore the cays for a private island he’d call home, Capt. Jerry showed him around. In the early 60s, Lewless discovered an underwater cave system while snorkeling at a point just west of the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. When a film crew arrived on Great Exuma to shoot scenes for the 1965 James Bond movie Thunderball, they used the cave as the setting for Sean Connery’s underwater fight scene.

Sixth Sense

Capt. Jerry’s current clientele pay a pretty penny for a guided tour along his native and scenic cays. That’s because Lewless has a highly touted reputation as not only one of the most well-informed captains in The Bahamas, but he’s also someone with an uncanny instinct for dodging inclement weather. When a Minnesota couple inquired about a dark cloud that was keeping pace to the east, Lewless said, “Don’t you worry about that. Let Captain Jerry take care of the weather.” Roughly 30 minutes later, his catamaran was sailing under perfect, cloudless skies.

No matter the weather, perfection is a splendid word for describing Lewless’ turquoise playground. A handful of the richest people in the world fall so in love with the beauty and privacy offered by the Exuma Cays—they don’t just buy a home, they purchase an entire island. Capt. Jerry has personally guided these deep-pocketed individuals around the waters he calls home.

Roker Point Estates is one of the Exuma Islands’ newest residential developments. A Roker Point developer met Lewless 30 years ago in Nassau and never forgot his level of boating expertise. A majority of Roker Point clientele choose this 58-acre oceanfront community because they enjoy or envision a yachting lifestyle.

Cat Life

There’s no better guide to show curious newcomers Exuma’s gorgeous islands than Lewless on Roker Point’s 36-foot Twin Vee powercat, which the development let him handpick. “I’ve been sailing Twin Vee catamarans for years. In fact, I quality test several of their lines. For as much time as I spend on the water, I want the smoothest sailing boat there is,” Lewless says. He escorts Roker Point clients on four or six-hour tours of Exuma’s spectacular chain of cays. If clients are undecided on this ultra-turquoise setting before going on a boat tour, Capt. Jerry wins them over with his colorful narratives of sailing, pirate and fish stories.

Smooth sailing on a Capt. Jerry tour means experiencing the Exuma Cays at the most memorable level. This could mean watching a green turtle respond to Lewless’ voice on Little Farmer’s Cay, witnessing an island dome home that Lewless claims receives regular visits from aliens at midnight, or stopping for lunch at the legendary Staniel Cay Yacht Club. He is a homespun celebrity there, so when the waitress at the Club stops by Lewless’ table, she merely nods and asks, “The usual?”

On the way back to the Roker Point Marina, Lewless asks his Minnesota guests if they’d like to see the Question Mark Sandbar. Even though the Roker Point catamaran is in the middle of the Atlantic, the Minnesotans jump off the boat into three feet of water. The couple experiences a photo opportunity for the ages as they step out on this half-mile long, pure-white sandbar surrounded by gin-clear, turquoise water. Capt. Jerry can only beam at their joy as they return to the boat.

The Legend

As Lewless docks his trusty catamaran back at Roker Point Estates, he encourages his new friends to return to Exuma soon. After an amazing day at sea, Lewless’ guests realize that at this moment, it’s hard to say no to Roker Point Estates’ secret weapon.;

Words and photos by Tim Cotroneo, Southern Boating October 2018


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