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Pick a Blue

We didn’t take long to decide on the colour for the boat. Red fades, White will look grubby when we the boat has spent some time sliding through trees (sorry, Hunky Dory). Green and Yellow aren’t our style and Black and Grey are just not nautical, so it’s Blue.

Pale blue? Well, no. Mention of duck egg or sky doesn’t appeal. So dark Blue. We’re making good progress. The wonderful Caroline at Ortomarine let us borrow her British Standard colour swatch (I understand BS) and her RAL swatch. (I learn from Google that 'RAL' is the abbreviation of 'Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung'. Much the wiser now).

Scanning the fan, we’re looking for colour a bit darker than this or a bit bluer than that. Not so purple as this and not so green as that.

Suddenly things are getting complicated. Is Oxford really a dark blue? I know it’s darker than Cambridge, but it’s still very, middle blue in some light.

The Boss comes up with a plan. Let’s go to the marina and look at boats “in the flesh”. Moments later and we’re pounding the boards being unbelievably picky about someone’s pride and joy.

So what did we learn? One key thing is that the side of a boat looks a lot lighter than the same colour on a small swatch. To look as dark as we were hunting for, the starting point would have to be very dark, and to avoid the small sample effect, we picked all the dark blues from the swatches and bought cans of paint to make our own super-sized swatches.

The second thing we learned, is that there is a gap in the dark blues in the RAL range between the quite dark, but slightly turquoise, Steel Blue and the very dark (you can guess by the name) Black Blue. In the BS range there is a similar gap between their blues and a Royal Blue which is slightly reddish in some lights.

I sprayed up some odd bits of board, and even tried pinstriping the Steel Blue, but didn’t like the effect. Here are just some of the assorted blues, with Steel Blue striped, then Black Blue and Royal Blue on the right.

The RAL colour Night Blue must have been taken just after sunset. Or somewhere with terrible light pollution. The BS colour Midnight Blue is not much darker. Perhaps just before sunrise.

We Googled again. Pick a different starting point and see where it takes us. Don’t worry about colour, start from painting a narrowboat. Google “Narrowboat Paint” and up comes Symphony Paint, and their Midnight Blue. To be clear, this is their Midnight, which is a lot later than BS Midnight. Perhaps they were in the countryside and not in the town. Here's the colour:

Conclusion? Be careful what you Google for!

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Ian Dedic
Ian Dedic
Jul 05, 2022

Hi Dave

I've just been through exactly the same process as you did -- finding the right blue and other colours to go with it -- so I lashed out on a full-size RAL colour chart where you can fold out each individual colour to see how they go together.

I ended up with 5022 Night Blue, with silver grey for panels, cream for coachlines, and signal red for rails...



P.S. One reason for choosing this was it's a close match to the colour of the semi-flexible solar panels on the roof, so these will kind of disappear...

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