October 1, 2013

Making fiberglass gleam

IT WAS WITH no small degree of astonishment that I recently learned how I should have been making my fiberglass gleam during all these long years of boat ownership. It was thanks to a four-page article in the latest issue of America’s largest-circulation boating magazine, BoatU.S. magazine, that I learned how I was supposed to have done it.

I read that article through from beginning to end with a growing sense of shame and disillusionment.  I ended up confessing to the cat, who could sense my distress:  “I am guilty, guilty as charged.  I have never ever made my fiberglass gleam like this. I am a failure, an impostor, and unworthy of boat ownership.”

Let me boil down those four pages for you, so that you won’t repeat my failure.  Making your fiberglass gleam is apparently not just a matter of vanity but a matter of protecting your boat. To do this you should follow these steps:

1.  Remove oxidation from the topsides with a power orbital buffer and oxidation remover.

2.  Remove the oxidation remover.

3.  If the oxidation was severe, remove remaining oxidation with orbital buffer and oxidation remover.

4.  Remove oxidation remover.

5.  Eliminate any stains remaining. Use rubbing compound and a rag. Rub by hand.

6.  Remove rubbing compound.

7.  Polish hull with buffer and a dedicated polish.

8.  Remove polish.

9.  Polish hull again.

10. Remove polish again.

11. Seal the shine in with a thorough coating of paste wax over the whole hull, by hand. Let it dry.

12. Remove paste wax.

13. Apply another coat of paste wax by hand. Let it dry.

14. Remove paste wax.

15. The coup de grace — apply a coat of carnauba wax by hand.

16. Clean off the carnauba wax with a buffer and a microfiber bonnet.

Now, I don’t know how long all this is supposed to take you, but presumably you can get it all done in just one winter because the article then adds that in spring “you should be able to get away with a quick polish and then sealing in the shine.”  And if you can actually bring yourself to use the boat after all this spiffing up, during the sailing season you can renew the shine by giving the gelcoat another carnauba wax job every other week.

Well, let us pause for breath here. As I told the cat, I have never wax polished the hull of any boat I have owned. When fiberglass hulls were invented, the inherent promise was that they would never need any maintenance.  We would be freed from the annual task of rubbing down the topsides and slapping on another coat of paint.  They would simply shine forever, reflecting the rays of the sun and spreading joy and happiness wherever they went.

It wasn’t true, of course.  They got scuffed and battered just like wooden topsides before them, and after a few years we noticed that the gelcoat developed a sort of powder on its surface, and when we complained to the builders they laughed and told us how naive we were.  “One word governs all of boating,” they pointed out. “Entropy. Go look it up.”

I decided then and there that my topsides would have to take their chances in life and I cleverly decided that white was the only color for a hull because oxidized white hulls look better than oxidized hulls of any other color, especially red or blue.

I also learned in later years that when a boat got so badly oxidized that it looked like a moose shedding fur, you could slap on a coat or two of twin-pack polyurethane paint and it would look bright and shiny and brand new for at least seven years to come, and with about a quarter of the effort you’d need to make your fiberglass gleam by applying wax paste and repeating the whole process until Armageddon set you free.

I’m sure the BoatU.S. people think that anybody with my attitude is unfit to own a fiberglass hull, but I don’t really care.  My cat thinks I’m plenty smart, if a little over-emotional.

Today’s Thought
I’m tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep. . . . What do you want — an adorable pancreas?
— Jean Kerr, The Snake Has All the Lines

“Officer, is this the crash victim?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Is he badly injured?”
“Well, so-so, sir. Two of the wounds are fatal but the other one’s not so bad.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you! That article had me pretty wound up. As a relatively new boat owner (of a very old sailboat) I had begun to panic at the thought that I had to go buy a buffer and start waxing the hell out of my boat rather than spending my time doing something useful - like inspecting the bottom of various microbrew bottles...