EEPING GELCOAT PROPERLY MAINTAINED isn’t
just a matter of vanity, it’s also a matter of protecting your
boat’s fiberglass. Now that we have that out of the way,
let’s get real — you do want to dazzle your slip neighbors
with the mirror-like hull sides on Mom’s Mink, don’t you?
You’re far more likely to be able to raise a good shine come
spring if you remove the season’s stains now and protect the
fiberglass from the ravages of winter with a couple of good
coats of wax. Luckily, keeping your boat in tip-top shape is a
lot easier than it was in the old days when wooden vessels
called for scraping, sanding, and painting for hours on end.
But don’t get too smug. There’s still a lot of work in your
future, so let’s get started.
STEP 1: REMOVE OXIDATION
For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you’re starting with gelcoat that’s slightly oxidized. If it’s extremely oxidized, you may need
to call in a pro. If your gelcoat doesn’t show any signs of oxidation
(yellowing and/or a chalky, dull appearance), skip to Step 2. Oxidation
occurs naturally, as exposure to sun and weather break down the gelcoat’s surface and turn it chalky and pitted. If your boat is more than a
couple of years old and hasn’t been meticulously maintained, chances
are there’s some level of oxidation. The more there is, the tougher this
step will be.
You need to hit every inch of the fiberglass with a good oxidation
remover. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to use the least abrasive oxidation
remover possible, so you don’t grind away lots of gelcoat. How will you
pick which one is right? Test a few different products on a small section
of the gelcoat to find the least abrasive product that still gets the job
done. If you try to deoxidize the entire boat by hand, you’ll blow out
your elbows; an orbital buffer is a must-have tool for this task.
Fit the buffer with a terry cloth bonnet, and pour a big “X” onto
it with the oxidation remover. Then hold the buffer gently against the
hull side with even pressure, and hit the power button.
WARNING: If you hit the power button before the buffer is sitting flat
against the hull, it’ll spray oxidation remover in every direction.
Once the buffer is running, sweep it back and forth across the hull,
going over the same area three or four times and being sure not to leave
Seal out the oncoming
winter with rubbing,
buffing, waxing, and
polishing, but don’t
forget the elbow grease K