Wash and Wax
Boating season is starting up again, and that means it's time to clean the boat.
Over the years, I've done this numerous ways, from a full compound-and-polish to the old-fashioned carnauba-plus-a-whole-lotta-elbow-grease. I finally settled on a few tips and tricks which get great results without tons of money or work. I thought I'd pass them on to everyone here.
First, let's talk about power washing. High pressure spray wash sounds like a great idea. It's fast and will blow the dirt and spider droppings right off the boat. Unfortunately, it will also abrade an old gelcoat and accelerate its oxidation. It's also really, really bad for canvas. I've only ever power-washed my boat once, right after I bought it, and I have regretted it ever since.
A much better way to wash is with a regular old hose and spray nozzle, combined with a long handled auto washing brush. This is much gentler on your gelcoat and other aging boat surfaces. It requires a little more physical work, but actually not a LOT more. I find using the brush instead of the power washer only takes an hour or two longer to get the boat clean, with a lot less wear and tear on the boat itself (maybe slightly more on me personally).
The thing I've really struggled with over the years has been what to put on the boat AFTER its clean in order to get it shiny and keep it that way. Boat waxes make for a nice finish, but it doesn't typically last that long. After a couple of months, you need to wax again. And the apply-then-rub-off process is labor intensive.
I used to rebuild old muscle cars (a hobby even more expensive than boating), and was wondering what would happen if I used some of my car show detailing standbys on the boat. In particular, one product line I've always loved is the Meguiars Ultimate line of waxes and polishes. A couple years ago, I started using Meguiars Ultimate Quick Wax on my boat and it was an immediate and long-lasting success.
UQW is a spray-and-wipe product, so it cuts your labor in half (no more applying-drying-rubbing). Spray, then wipe. That's it. The UQW formula uses some kind of hydrophobic chemistry that has been lasting for 6 months to a year between applications instead of a couple of months. And because it repels water so well, it speeds up spray-down cleanings in between. If I think it needs a touch up or I have to wipe a bird dropping, I also have a bottle of Ultimate Quick Detailer.
I find that one large spray bottle of UQW is enough for one application over the the whole topsides of my 3200 SCR. Another takes care of the hull sides and cockpit.
As for keeping the birds off during the warmer months, I've tried lots of different things. Only one has worked with any reliability: metallic fringe pennants (like the ones you see over used car lots...they have bird problems too). I've got two 60-foot strings I keep tied up on the safety rails and over the top. Birds really hate them and mostly stay away. And they make the boat look festive in its slip. Nothing else worked for me - not the fake owls or holographic bird tape or screamers or anything. But the fringe pennants work.
Share your boat cleaning and shine tips!