How Do You Maintain a Gel Coat On Your Boat?

A boat is an investment, and proper maintenance helps ensure your boat’s lifespan. It also shows pride in ownership. While keeping up the way the boat’s finish looks may seem unnecessary to some, it is more appealing to the eye, keeps it seaworthy longer, and should you ever decide to sell, it will also add to the final value of your boat.

Whether you detail and maintain your boat yourself or hire a professional mechanic and boat detailer is up to you.

At Corleone Marinas, we have years of experience caring for and maintaining a wide variety of boats. Today, we’ll explain some of the benefits of gel coating your boat’s hull and how you can maintain it.

What Is A Gel Coat?

A gel coat is a coating that is sprayed on the highly polished mould in the first stage of the fibreglass process. Newer boats will have a mirror-like surface that is very smooth. When the gel coat becomes porous, it stains more easily, becomes harder to clean, and looks worse too. The good news is that almost all gel coats can be restored if they have not entirely worn off.

How To Best Maintain The Gel Coat And Minimise Staining

Keeping your boat glossy requires the right tools and products and some good old-fashioned elbow grease. At the end of the day, the way your boat looks and feels makes a difference. Maintaining the gel coat not only makes it look better but protects the surface of your boat for more extended-lasting protection against the elements and unavoidable contaminants.

Step #1: Washing Your Boat Correctly

The absolute first thing that makes a difference is washing your boat correctly. Use a mild soap and avoid harsh degreasers such as dish soap, as these contain chemicals that can strip your boat’s finish. A pH-balanced soap or boat soap will help preserve the wax and also cleans. DO NOT use bleach.

Rinse your boat entirely with fresh water and wipe it down with a microfiber, cotton or water-absorbing towel to remove any corrosive mineral deposits. It may feel like an unnecessarily tedious thing to do; however, it significantly impacts maintaining the finish.

Many times this will remove stains if they are water-soluble. Heavier oxidation will require a rubbing compound product and more elbow grease.

Step #2: Best Way To Remove Staining

There are two main types of staining: organic and mineral stains. The type of stain you are dealing with will determine which stain remover is best.

Organic stains are things like spilled food and drinks, bird droppings, and plant matter. Rust stains that often occur around stanchion bases, exhaust ports, and chainplate covers are examples of mineral stains.

Other common stains are waterline stains and black streaking caused by minerals in the dirt as it flows down the hull while running out of scuppers.

If it is a mineral stain, washing it with water will unfortunately be a waste of time. To remove mineral stains, there are products made specifically for it that will work best. These formulated products contain acid that will dissolve the stain or a chelating agent that will bond to the stain, holding it suspended until it is rinsed. Both are either a wipe-on or spray-on application and require minimal scrubbing because they rely on a chemical reaction.

There are a wide variety of gel coat stain removers available for removing stains, and each one is made for a specific type. The objective is to remove the stain without damaging the gel coat itself. Avoid strong solvents like MEK or acetone, abrasives that are a heavy rubbing compound, and sandpaper.

Step #3: Polishing Your Boat

Products that restore valuable oils to your boat’s gel coat finish can be applied and buffed by hand or with a dual-action polisher. Ensure you read the directions on the product you choose, as you must wipe some of them away before they dry.

Step #4: Use A Good Quality Wax 

When you notice your gel coat has a chalky or drab appearance, it is time to restore the shine. Using a good quality marine wax three to four times a year to seal and protect your boast is the best way to keep gel coat staining to a minimum.

The wax creates a barrier between the finish and particles that can cause staining. Waxing can be done either with a dual-action polisher or by hand. Make sure to avoid doing it in the heat of the day or direct sun, as it can result in leaving swirl marks or incomplete coverage as the wax quickly dries.

In between waxing, you can use a boat soap such as Meguiar’s Marine Flagship or Star Brite’s Sea Safe Wash & Wax to help maintain the wax protection you worked so hard on applying.

General Boat Aesthetic Maintenance

These tips will also help improve the look of your boat:

  • Remember to treat your rub rails
  • Polish the chrome, stainless steel, and brightwork with metal polish
  • Store your boat out of the sun to avoid UV light as it degrades the wax and finishes faster

We Offer Professional Service And Support For All Your Boating Needs

Corleone Marina at the Balmain Marina has one of the last remaining slipways in Sydney Harbour. Our marina services include the best antifouling and hull and boat maintenance and repairs. We also offer Do-It-Yourself slip way usage on the weekends. We know you just want to get out and enjoy your boat, so let us help with those routine sailing maintenance issues so you can focus on enjoying your vessel.

Contact us today to find out more about our excellent marina services in four stunning Sydney locations. We’ll take good care of you and your boat so you can relax and enjoy sailing worry-free.

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