Friday, February 27, 2009

Polish, Polish, Polish..........

Gel coat, paint, and stainless steel; pretty much sums up everything else on US 111. She may have a pretty wood cabin and teak decks, but the rest of her is a pretty standard fiberglass folkboat.
Her hull is white gel coat, with a dark blue waterline. Gel coat is a pretty forgiving material to work with, and quite easy to maintain; as long as you are willing to put in the elbow grease from time to time. I will warn you all now though, that a nordic folkboat is one of the most time consuming boats to rub out and polish if you have previously let it get away from you. Another note, the process that I am describing below is not for a painted hull.

I start by wiping the entire hull down with acetone. This will remove any built up wax residue. Then I apply 3-4 coats of the 3M Heavy Duty Rubbing Compound. (I have used just about every product on the market today, and the 3M line is hands down the best out there) Buffing each coat with an electric polishing machine. Please remember that there is a grit in the rubbing compound, and that you are actually sanding the gel coat. If you come to a spot with minor scratches, an extra coat or two will not hurt it. Most blemish's can be removed this way. (Another side note: Gel coat will burn and discolor if you are too aggressive with the polisher. The bottom edge of each strake is notorious for this)

The hull is looking pretty good at this point, but don't fall into the trap that a lot of people do. Finish it. Once I have completed rubbing the hull out, it is time to start polishing. I start by wiping the entire hull down again with acetone, or hot to warm water. This will remove any left behind compound; then dry completely. It is very important to have a dry surface, or the polishing compound will not be as effective. Using the 3M Finesse It polishing compound, I apply 3-4 coats and buff to a high sheen. This will leave the hull with a nice "Wet" look. Wipe any haze left behind with a soft dry cloth, and you are done. Sounds easy enough, but US 111 took me approximately 15 hours to complete.

This is the point that you can apply any Fancy speed secrets that you may have. Anything from carnuba wax, to the super slick Teflon waxes available in your local marine stores. I'll leave that decision to you. I am completely happy with the way that she polished out, and the added work now, leaves less in the future. As long as I stay off the docks, watch things floating by in the water, not hit anyone, and hose the hull down after each day of racing, I will only need to apply 1-2 coats of the polishing compound each season to keep her looking sharp.

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