First, let me note that a number of you commented on the column I wrote last month about full-service boatyards: I guess a few nerves were struck! One call I got was from one of the Lindhouts over at Marine Services Northwest. "We are trying to meet all of the goals you've noted", they said. That's great! Actually, the column really wasn't referring to the lmited repair facilities like MS-NW . . . although they do a lot, they don't normally do fiberglass or long-term haulout work on larger boats.
Thanks again for the feedback, folks!
The booklet's title is Marine Conditioning, Maintenance and Refinish Manual for the Committed Boater, published by 3M. This is a great little booklet, (though it's primarily a pretty effective pitch for 3M products). What I like about it is its detailed instructions for working on various fiberglass gelcoat finish concerns. It's covers the serious as well as routine surface maintenance, and is offered free at chandlers such as LFS.
One thing the booklet reminds us, I'm sorry to say, is that no matter how good the product, using it right is essential to make all the polishing worthwhile. There just don't seem to be any short cuts to having a gleaming boat!
My own boat usually looks pretty good, and there really aren't any secrets to my technique. I polish and wax everything from the gunwhales up every Spring just before opening day. Then I do the surfaces again that are facing South when the boat is in its slip, because the sun is what creates havoc with the shine. I only do the hull itself every two years or so, because my boat has enough flare to shadow the hull much of the day, especially considering my neighbors cast a shadow on it when the sun is low. I think that I get away without using any "compound" because I don't let the surface get much "chalkiness". I am convinced that if I let it go (I have once or twice), that's when I have to have a pro buff out the hull.
Some years I've done the polishing myself, other years I've hired the job out. When I've had others do it, I get pros, outfits like Roger Schjelderup's Top to Bottom Detailing or Charlie Millsap's Charlie's Fiberglass Repair. (Remember Jack Black's column last year? You get what you pay for!) Talk to your boating buddies with the most glistening boats for their recommendations!
Keeping the boat looking good after it's polished takes a little self-discipline. I always wash the boat down within a day or two of any cruise (if not immediately), then wipe all the stainless with some cheap terry towels bought in bundles (I buy a bundle of 9 every year) at Costco for around six bucks. If the boat is dirty, I use a few ounces of "Turtle Wax Car Washing Soap" I've picked up at Hawley's. This has a wax in it, so when I'm done the finish still has some shine.
Good implements and supplies make boat cleaning easier: (1) A five gallon plastic pail such as the kind industrial soaps and restaurant supplies come in (you can usually buy these for a buck --- I got one at the Teriyaki Bar in downtown Bellingham); (2) a good boat brush is essential. The bristles should be long and soft, so it doesn't scratch your boat's gelcoat and it can reach into corners. The good chandlers carry these; (3) a big, soft sponge for vertical surfaces and around and in horns, etc.; (4) a first-class squeegee, as long as your smallest window allows (and wipe the squeegee with one of those terry towels after each swipe); (5) a good deck mop. I like the kind with the artificial chamois tufting that they sell at the boat and home shows, since it can't scratch the deck; (6) a mild cleanser (I use Bon Ami) for getting spots off the decks; and finally (7) a can of "Zud" or "Bartender's Friend" such as sold at grocery stores in the cleanser section for removing rust. (These products are wonderful!)
Okay, readers! Opening day is coming: get to work!
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