Fiberglass Gelcoat Restoration and Boat Graphics

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What a Dull Looking Finish . . . A 17 year old boat usually loses much of its original Gelcoat shine. This was the case with my boat, and no matter how much wax/polish I applied, the finish still looked pretty dull. The boat would not repel water and would easily become stained. To correct this problem (i.e. restore the shine), there are a number of ways you can go . . .

The lowest cost and least effort is the Co-Polymer Products (PoliGlow, VertGlas, etc.). This is the route I chose to go, and after checking some product reviews, purchased a restoring kit from the makers of "PoliGlow" . The kit includes everything needed to prep and restore the fiberglass surface of a 25 foot boat. I did a small area to test the product out. You can see in the image to the left the difference in reflection between a treated and an untreated area (red arrows mark the boundary).

I spent quite a bit of time cleaning and preparing the surface for re-finishing. The PoliGlow will lock in any stains, discolorations, etc. Therefore, it is important to get the boat really clean - a mild bleach/water solution works wonders. There were a couple of discolored areas that even bleach would not clean. I sanded these areas lightly with 600 grit sandpaper.

Once the boat was clean, it was time to apply the special oxidation removing agent supplied in the restoration kit. At this point, I realized that I needed to cover the boat, as it was quickly getting dirty from dust in the air and the trees in the yard. I used the mast as a supporting beam and draped a tarp over the boat. This gave protection from the trees and allowed adequate space to work.

Pictures of tarp set-up and work area.

Give It A Shine . . . The hull was in pretty good shape already; the really bad areas were topside (due to sun exposure over the years). I prepared to coat the topside surfaces, then coat the hull. I contemplated the non-skid areas, and finally decided to give them a single coat as a compromise between 'non-skid' and 'stain resistance'. The other areas of the deck, cockpit and cabin top received 4-5 coats. I took off the Pop-Top Assembly and the Cockpit Locker Hatches and coated them separately. This allowed me to treat the entire deck, cabin top, and hull without dealing with extraneous pieces. There were two application cloths provided in the kit (looked like Chamois); one for large areas and the other for small areas. I made a shallow tray out of the side of a milk carton, which allowed me to soak the application cloths and not drip any solution on the ground. I was concerned if there was enough solution to do the entire boat, but only used about 2/3 of the solution provided in the kit (1 Quart).

Picture of the "tools of the trade" and the final results.

As you can see by the reflection in the picture above, the results are quite astounding. I was very pleased with the results and the durability of the shine. People tell me that it looks like a new boat.

Now for a Name . . . Now that the PoliGlow had been applied to the hull, I could apply the graphic lettering in order to 'officially' give my boat a name. Giving a boat a name can be quite ceremonial; there are several boat naming ceremonies you can find on the web. Some are for the original naming and some are for re-naming. The previous owner of my boat did not give it a name. So as far as I know, this is the first name the boat has been given.

I thought about a name for the boat and asked the family for suggestions. Then, finally, a name came to me that epitomized the meaning of the boat (to me) - "Essentials" .

I ordered a set of graphic lettering from Boat/US - using my handy member discount, of course. The lettering came within a few days. After reading the instructions through several times, I was ready to apply the graphic lettering. I ordered lettering with a 'Drop Shadow' effect, so there was actually two sets of lettering - one for the Drop Shadow, and the other for the main lettering.

The two-step process of adhering the letters to the hull.

First the shadow effect (left), then the main lettering ( Right)

It helps to have the boat level while setting up the graphic lettering, as it is easier to get the lettering level with the water line. I used masking tape to denote the baseline and temporarily hold the backing material in place while the letters set-up/dried.

The Final Results

The final results of the graphic lettering, and the boat all dressed up and ready to go.

Poli-Glow: How Long Does it Last ? (you ask) . . .

I applied the Poli-Glow in 1999 and it has been on for 4 seasons at this point (2003). I have not polished the boat since then. It is looking like it could use a re-coat after four years - pretty good! Perhaps I will shine it back up for the 2004 season.

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