Even though I just joined these forums
I thought I'd pass on my secrets for keeping my hull
looking like new without the use of "miracle coatings" other than regular "real carnuba" waxes.
You'll need a few items first. A good Buffer not one of the cheapies. I use a Makita model 9227C with a thumb dial for speed control and the difference between it and my old Craftsman is like night and day! Second you will need two or three grades of the 3M wool superbuff pads. A heavy (left side of pic) for compounding, a medium (middle pad) for the polishing stage and a fine (the yellow looking pad) for the glazing stage. I sometimes use a 3M professional grade foam pad for the polish/glaze stage as well. It's very important to match the aggressiveness of the pad to the phase of the buffing. Very important!!
Contrary to popular belief there is no such thing as a one step solution for wet sanding/buffing/compounding, polishing and waxing a fiberglass hull
. The saying "you get what you pay for" is true and a $10.00 bottle of "one step" cleaner wax does not cut it if you want your boat looking Bristol condition like it jsut rolled out of the Hinckley barn. Unless you're pinched by time and are satisfied with a half baked job, and most boat owners will be, you can stop reading here.....
To do it right you must first remove all the oxidation either by wet sanding
, starting with 400 or 600 grit and working up to 1200 or 1500. Wet sanding
should always be done by hand unless you're a seasoned body shop professional. If the oxidation is minimal a good heavy duty rubbing compound, such as 3M heavy duty, and a compounding grade wool pad as seen in the picture above can be the starting point. After the compounding phase is complete you move to a lighter weight wool pad and a true polish, not a compound or a wax but a polish like 3M's Finesse It. The polising phase is perhaps the most important because it gives that deep wet look to the hull even before you wax it. Skipping the polishing phase & using a compound only will leave very small, barely visible, scratches in the gel coat that will absorb more UV light, due to more exposed surface area, and thus oxidize the hull more rapidly. This is why you must polish the hull as the second phase or third phase depending on your level of oxidation. So phase 1 is wet sand (if needed), phase 2 compound, phase three polish.
Contrary to popular beleif you should not be dependant on the wax for the shine of your hull. The wax is a protectant only and a final sealer. Unfortunately most people actually skip the polishing step thinking compounding is polishing. It's NOT! Once my hull is polished I do a fourth phase called glazing step & then two coats about three days apart of Colinite Fleet Wax. Wax takes a while to fully harden and this is why I do it two days apart. Most often one coat will sufice but for a really long lasting finish two coats is best ( I do three at the waterline).
The glazing step would be considered over kill by many but this is the step where you literally make the hull surface like glass by using products like Meguiars #9 Swirl Remover or #7 Show Car Glaze. I find Meguiars "professional line" in the tan bottles far better than their marine
line in the blue bottles. Just because something says marine
it may just be an over priced cheap
automotive product in a marine bottle. If you were to rate products on a scale of grit wet sanding would be a 10 or most aggressive, compounding with a heavy duty compound would be a 7, Finesse It a 4.5-5, #9 or Show Car Glaze a 2-3 & wax a Zero. So you can see why you can't just jump from Finesse It to a wax or compound to a wax. It still has a lot of grit in it and will leave swirl marks to absorb UV rays.
Don't be fooled by the "easy application liquid waxes" I've yet to find one that lasts and I've tried them all! Trust me I did this for a living when I was younger and no one wants to wax a mega yacht every three months! I used to detail "shiny boats" (mega yachts) and found Colinite to be the longest lasting and hardest of the Carnuba's. One way to test if your wax will pass the test of time is to watch your waterline. If it becomes yellow the wax is dead & gone! With Colinite I can get 8 full months without any yellowing at the waterline. No other wax has even come close except for a product called Tre-Wax.
When buffing/waxing a boat, out of the water
, a good trick is to cover the bottom paint
with at least 2" blue tape so you don't "buff and wax the paint". It's important to tape neatly so you get wax as close to the bottom paint
as you can without actually getting it on the paint
. I usually do a 3/4 inch width tape followed by a 2 inch width giving me plenty of tape to save my buffing pads. Fouling of your aplication pad with bottom paint
is the end of that pad until you can wash it in a commercial washing
machine! Don't do it! To keep "sling", what happens when you use a rotary buffer, and it throws white dots of compound up onto your deck
, off the decks, I bring old card board boxes to the boat yard. Lay them on the deck
directly above the area you're working protruding about 12" over the edge of the deck and the cardboard will catch any "sling" on the way up.
Buffing & waxing a boat the right way takes time and is a committment. I plan on about 22 hours each spring and I'm only doing a three step polish/glaze/wax at this point (glaze is an ultrafine polish like Meguire's #9 or Show Car Glaze). Once you get caught up it's only a two or three step but the first season may take 40+ hours if your hull is heavily oxidized. I know most sailors will never spend the time but it pays off big time.
After selling five boats the longest time on the market was three weeks! The last boat I sold was a Catalina 36
. It sold in three weeks at the highest price
for its vintage on Yachtworld!
OK Some more tips.
Tips for keeping it clean:
1) With two coats of a paste Carnuba on the hull I only wash the boat with IMAR boat wash. This stuff is great and it's safe for washing
windows. The reason I use it is because it's the only product I've found that cleans but does not break down the wax. I'm still beading after 7 months. Do NOT use a soap with a built in wax or one that's a heavy detergent. You can order IMAR products from Defender or directly from the IMAR web site although Defender is cheaper. Using this and a very soft car wash brush on a stick works well and does not ruin your wax.
Tips for "yellow" looking hulls:
2) Before waxing/buffing: If your hull is old and dirty buy a cheap
rain suit, duck tape, rubber gloves and some ON/OFF (basically acid). Duck tape around your wrists so you don't get acid on you while reaching over head
to wash the boat. Wait until a nice rainy day and wash the entire hull with ON/OFF. Buy a roll of plastic and rip it with a razor knife into 12 inch wide lengths. Tape this to the water
line with 3M green tape (seems to work) at the top but let it hang on the bottom as a drip edge skirt. You do this so the ON/OFF does not eat the copper bottom paint and can drip on the ground vs. the bottom. Wash and rinse quickly a small area at a time and do this perferably before you before you bottom paint just in case. On/Off is basically FSR without the gel. However you can wash much faster with ON/OFF than you can with FSR. The ON/OFF will bring back the white of the hull by removing the metals or tannins (that rusty orange discoloration you get) that attach to the gel coat from the ocean. Maine
has lots of metals in the water and ON/OFF is an acid that will eat it. You'll be amazed at the difference in the color of your hull. This is a good palce to start before waxing if your boat is older than a few years. Be carefull not to get On/Off or FSR on aluminum
rub rails, cleats
etc. because it will pit them. You could also use FSR but it will take a full day to do it right vs. 1/2 hour for the skirt set up and 1/2 hour washing..
Tips for applying the wax:
3) Do I apply the wax by hand? Yes! DO NOT appy or remove the wax phase with the buffer! I use the 4 inch round MegGuire's foam applicators you can buy at an auto parts
store and a spray/mist bottle of water, like you use for ironing. The spray bottle is the secret trick for applying a true carnuba wax. Simply mist the hull and liberlally apply the wax. Wait for it to dry and buff by hand with a Micro Fiber rag. Do not use terry cloth! Once you use a Micro Fiber detailing cloth for waxing you'll wonder how you ever survived without one! The spray of water some how helps it attach and buff out to a harder, shinier easier to wipe off finish. It's sort of like when you get your shoes polished and the guy hits them with a mist bottle and then buffs the shine up. I don't think this trick works with the polymer/carnuba blends like the 3M paste but it's like gold with the Colinite carnuba as well as Tre-Wax. Another trick is not to wax a large area! Do a three foot wide swath from toe rail to waterline marking where your are waxing at the toe rail with a piece of blue tape. Also leave a little residue on the leading edge so you'll know exactly where to start. You'll wipe this leading edge when finished with the next swath leaving another leading edge to go off of.
I have tried using my buffer to remove the wax but I the friction heat is bad for it and it does not shine as well or l;ast as long. Buffing it off by hand gives it a harder shell because it's cooler and does not re-melt the curing wax. Have plenty of fresh Micro Fiber rags for the wipe off! On my 31 footer I use only four Micro's where it used to take about a dozen terry cloth rags. I buy my Micro Fiber rags at Sam's Club or Wal*Mart. Try and find the best quality Micro*Fiber you can it WILL make a difference. Sometimes the quality of the Sam's Club Micro's is poor so I go to Wally World. You want the ones that sell individually or three to a pack not the 12 to a pack rags as the quality is bad on the big multi packs! I think you get 3 for between 6 to 8 dollars.Most all auto parts
stores also sell Micro Fiber detailing rags!
Tips for decks:
4) I buff the smooth and the non skid. I use Colinite there as well and it does not seem to make my decks slipery like a teflon or polymer wax does. You could also tape off the non skid and buff the white only letting the non skid flatten out. I did this on one boat and it looked great!
I hope this info helps and is usefull to some. If you do it be prepared to commit the time and increase the value of your boat as well!!!! Trust me it pays back. I've never sold any boat I've owned for less than I paid for it including the fact that I pay a 10% commission...
The picture does not do it justice but look at the reflection in the gelcoat
and the detail in the reflection. Less distortion in the reflection shows a very good polish/glaze with virtually no swirl marks...