If you know us well, you know that subtlety and muted shades are not our jam. We like bold, funky patterns and loud colors. We want our immediate surroundings to be bright and cheerful. We love Ziggy B, but the boat came from the factory in the most boring colors, and it was almost in its original condition when we bought her. We had a mostly white exterior and a completely neutral-tone interior. During our first season we decided all that had to change. Ziggy B was ours now and she would reflect our predilections.
It is customary in England, where narrowboats like Ziggy B are common, to have a fancy or whimsical custom design with the boat name painted on the forward part of the boat sides. We loved the idea of having colorful art, but we wanted something beyond just a flourish on a small part of the boat. We wanted to fill our blank canvas with color.
We started kicking around the idea of decorating the boat interior in a 1960s-style, groovy, colorful vibe. We loved the theme, and looked at how we could paint the name on the outside in a similar style. The design was taking shape in our minds – funky colors and patterns sprinkled on the long, white sides of Ziggy B.
It was not until we had returned to ¡Pura Vida! for the winter, that the wow! moment happened. We saw pictures of a sailboat that had used a vinyl wrap instead of paint to redo the hull. We immediately contacted local car wrap companies in Panama to find out if this was feasible. We knew we wanted to do the project ourselves, but had no idea what it entailed. Bringing a 25-ton barge to a car wrapping shop was not possible, so the job would have to be done dockside.
The first company we contacted in Panama was quite encouraging. They told us that they could print a wrap for us that we could take to France and install ourselves. “It’s easy”, they said.
We had the concept, now we needed a pattern. We spent several days kicking around ideas and deciding what appealed to us. We were now looking at a full length wrap instead of just a new background color with fun designs sprinkled on top. The sky was the limit. We wanted something that looked good from a distance as well as up close.
Of all places, we found a pattern we both immediately loved on Etsy. An artist created flowery, groovy patterns and printed them on curtains, cushions, fabric, and more, by the yard. We contacted the artist and asked if we could purchase the rights to use her pattern for Ziggy B. We were clear that we would only use it for wrapping the boat and any boat related items, nothing commercial. She loved the idea and we agreed on a price. She sent us a graphics file that we could forward to our wrap printers.
Kimberly started working on the boat name design. The trick was to use colors and fonts that complimented the background pattern, stayed true to the motif, yet were easy to see from a distance. Within a few hours, she had it done.
We sent everything to the wrap printer and agreed to a delivery date two weeks before our return trip to France. Well, the date came and the wraps were not ready. No problem, we had two weeks to spare, so we gave the printer another week. The night before the deadline, the printer called us to tell us that they had printed our wraps in the wrong colors because of a computer error and would have to start over. No problem, we had a week before our flight. We ended up getting our wraps delivered the day before our flight, while we were frantically doing last-minute chores in the boatyard to prepare ¡Pura Vida! for our absence. We didn’t have time to check the wraps, only to peek inside the packages to make sure it was our pattern. We packaged everything up for the flight and we left Panama the following day.
Once we were settled on Ziggy B and she was recommissioned from winter layup, we finally rolled out the wraps and were shocked to find out that each side was short by ten feet. The sides of Ziggy B that we wanted to cover are 50 feet long, but the vinyls were only 40 feet. We could not just stop 10 feet short on one end without looking bizarre, so we started contemplating options. The printer in Panama offered to print the missing parts, but we did not trust he could do it before we wanted to leave the marina, and shipping to France would be cost prohibitive. Vinyl wrap companies in France told us they were able to print the missing lengths, and deliver them, but only at exorbitant cost. Feeling defeated, we considered putting off the whole project until the following year.
Over many glasses of wine (French wine makes every problem easier to bare), we kicked around ideas. Could we somehow salvage the vinyl that we had and make it work? Several days went by and we were discouraged and ready to move on. After many iterations of sketching, erasing, and crumpling drawings into the recycling bin (real and digital), we landed on an idea. We could place the wrap in the center of Ziggy B, leaving a 5-foot area blank in front and back. Then, we could paint the blank areas a fun color, and use leftover vinyl from the window cutouts to make shapes… lava lamp shapes!
Voila! The concept was complete. Ziggy B’s groovy pattern would “bubble out” front and back to fill in the void of missing vinyl.
Now, all we had to do was install it. The printers told us this would be easy, and provided most of the necessary equipment, so what could possibly go wrong? We learned almost immediately after starting the application that the printer’s perspective came from installing wraps on cars, in a climate-controlled environment, with no sun heating up the surface and no wind blowing forty feet of wrap around like a ribbon. He probably also did his work on a floor that did not bounce up and down like our floating dock did and on cars that remained still for the whole process. Easy it was not! It took us three hours to apply the first ten feet of vinyl. We almost gave up.
Fast forward past a week of frustration, patching, lots of cussing, sore backs, and aching hands. It was done. Not perfect, but beautiful. As the days passed, the imperfections of our amateur wrap application faded in our minds as we realized we were the only ones seeing them. The casual observer only saw the wacky pattern and bright name.
Another big project was painting the roof. We had settled on a medium-toned color that would not create glare while driving and not absorb too much heat. While at the store getting color samples, we walked by a huge display of Astroturf. Jokingly, I said “why don’t we just put a fake lawn on our roof?” Initially, it seemed like a silly idea, but then we started seeing pictures online of some barges with partial green space on their top decks. The more we thought about it, the more we liked it. The final piece of the exterior design puzzle was in place. Ziggy B would have a grass roof.
Other boaters at the marina gave us immediate positive feedback on the transformation, but once we started moving on the canals, we were surprised at the effusive love we got from everyone as we passed by. We expected people to like our colorful boat, but not to literally pull their cars over or come out of their houses to take our picture. We’ve never seen so many thumbs-ups! We simply adore Ziggy B 2.0, and the happiness on people’s faces as we go by reinforces our fun design choice.
“Elle me fait sourire!” (She puts a smile on my face!) a woman told us from the canal bank. We must admit, she puts a smile on our faces too, but not as much as the contagious smiles from others do.