Let’s start with explaining the hull of your boat. The boat hull refers to the exterior of your boat from your rubrail down. Nearly all boats are equipped with a rubrail, it’s basically your boat’s centerline that sort of resembles the belt on a person. It is generally black or white and sometimes equipped with a shiny stainless steel insert. Now, back to your hull. Step number one, wash your boat after every use. Now this doesn’t have to be a full on intense detail but it should resemble something like this; rinse, scrub with a soft bristled boat brush or foam pad mixed with a boat soap followed by a final rinse. Stay away from Dawn dish detergents and similar dish soaps as they have chemicals designed to break down grease which actually break down your boat’s wax layer which your boat hull needs. For the best results, it is recommended to wash your boat as soon as it is pulled out of the water. IN fact, the faster the better as it will remove salt and grime with ease versus after it has dried on your hull in the sun for a few hours.
A common question we get is, “What about salt water, should I use salt away or a similar product?” While some may argue that these products are a necessity, I would argue from years of experience that they are not if you are properly washing your boat down consistently as prescribed above. While those products cannot hurt, they are costly and they add one more step that is irrelevant if you are maintaining your boat’s hull properly. However, your boat trailer is another matter. If you have a tandem axle trailer or larger that is equipped with brakes then these products can help preserve your boat trailer’s calipers, brakes, and rotors which are subject to corrosion.
Step number two, keep your boat waxed every 6 months. Before you begin this process you need to ensure that your boat’s hull surface is clean and free of any dirt or debris. Then your boat hull is ready for either a compound, wax or both. It may be hard to discern which products to purchase for this endeavor as the market is flooded with a host of them that can still prove daunting even for the seasoned boat owner. You basically have two options here, you can pony up and do the work yourself and to say it is a chore is an understatement. Nonetheless, it is definitely doable but it is physically demanding so be prepared to put in some significant elbow grease. The other preferred option is to pay a professional to do it, you can thank me later. For those that wish to go this route, let’s discuss your options and then after we will get into the ambitious DIY’ers.
Mobile boat detailers offer a host of options to restore and maintain your boat’s hull. As a general tip, the more you use them as in every 6 months then the cheaper the detailing bill gets further down the road because there is less labor they have to put into your boat as boat detailers charge more for oxidized hulls and less for well maintained boat hulls. Mobile boat detailers are knowledgeable with the products needed and can look at your boat’s hull and immediately tell what is the best option, eliminating the possibility of you wasting time and money on products that probably shouldn’t have been used in the first place. Be prepared to spend approximately $50 dollars for one 24-32 ounce bottle of compound/wax. To better illustrate the complexity of these products let’s just examine the polishing pads needed for your buffer. There are cutting pads, foam pads, finishing pads, wool pads, color code system for foam pads, etc., all of which have a purpose and are designed to be used at a certain time in the buffing process. We won’t even get into the compounds, polishes and waxes. To add, mobile boat detailers also generally have the best equipment to provide the best appearance. Most orbital buffers/polishers used by professionals range between $300-$1500. On top of this, there is a technique used by professionals who are skilled at handling the orbital polishers so that your boat’s hull surface is left looking like glass compared to the average joe who when manning an orbital can cause costly damage to the hull surface by burning through the gelcoat or paint surface. A significant incentive to use mobile boat detailers is the convenience of their service. They come to your boat’s location whether it is in a marina, in a driveway on a trailer, in a drystack, or on the water and perform their service leaving the boat owner to simply just pay the bill.
Now, to the gluttons for punishment who want to tackle the job themselves, let’s discuss what it takes. We will operate under the assumption that you have already purchased a high speed orbital with a wool pad which is the silver bullet for pads. First, you need to discern what “cut” your boat requires, if any. This is something that needs to be seen in person but I will try my best to give a basic guideline to go by. A compound is the liquid material we will use to provide that “cut” to your boat’s hull. Compounds range from heavy to light. A boat requiring a Heavy cut has visible oxidation where your boat’s gelcoat has a cloudy surface giving it a “chalklike” appearance. If your boat has some oxidation where it is partially cloudy but still has some decent gloss within it, you can go for a Medium cut compound. Lastly, if your boat’s shine is still there but it has a dull finish then I would suggest a Light cut. If your boat still has its shine but you can splash some water on it and do not see the water “beading” up then you may just need a coat of boat wax applied. Please keep in mind that you have to do the “cut” first, then come back with a second pass after and apply the wax to your boat’s hull. In fact, depending on the color of your hull, especially pertaining to darker colored hulls, when you apply the heavy compound it will leave scratch marks from the compound so you will have to work your way down to remove those scratches. Many companies such as 3M have created a line of products that have a compound and wax mixture so instead of having to go multiple passes around your boat, you may be able to get away with just one pass. However, this is unlikely if you have a darker colored hull as they reflect the smallest imperfections more so than lighter colored boat hulls.
Lastly, please keep in mind that some hulls may be so oxidized that wet sanding is prescribed. This is a boat hull restoration technique that should only be applied by a professional as the negative consequences that may result could prove more costly to the boat owner. As the saying goes, you can shear a sheep many times but skin it only once. The same is true for your gelcoat. When you wetsand a boat hull, you are basically taking a layer of gelcoat off of the boat. You can only do that so many times so picking the right grit sandpaper for the application is key to accomplishing the task and preserving the integrity of your boat’s gelcoat base.
In the end, your boat is an investment and it needs to be treated as such. If you neglect your investment it will reflect in your resale value when the time comes. Contact us today for immediate service!