Casting a farewell glance back at my boat as I walk down the dock after a day afloat is one of the special pleasures of boat ownership. That’s why I delight in making sure my boat looks great all the time. Good thing. My 12-year-old Regulator 23, Breakaway, sports flag-blue gelcoat. Dark colors like mine are the toughest to maintain.
Fortunately, having worked in boatyards for more than a decade, I have a good handle on the principles of boat detailing. Tips gleaned from the pros I worked with ensure me the pride in ownership I crave. Here are a few I’d like to share with you.
Remove the old wax before you do anything. Wipe the hull down with acetone or a dedicated product like Pettit’s D95 Dewaxer. Use several rags, and turn them frequently so you don’t reapply the wax you remove.
Use a machine. Save the “hand-rubbed” finish for woodwork. A polisher makes quicker work using less material and does a better job of removing compound and wax. And it’s in the removing that these products achieve the fine finish. I use a rotary polisher, which is quicker, spatters less and doesn’t “kick” when working around transom rings, rub rails, vent fittings and other obstructions. But if you’re inexperienced, I suggest a random orbit polisher, like Shurhold’s Dual Action model, which is more forgiving and doesn’t allow you to goof and create swirl marks.
White-glove treatment. I know I said use a machine, but there are many areas aboard that require you to apply compound and wax by hand. The areas between gauges and instruments, the narrow borders surrounding hatches and companionways, and beneath cleats and grab rails are some of these. Instead of using a rag, don a pair of clean cotton gloves and use your fingers like custom-conformable polishing pads. Works great.