A new lease of life
Plenty of polish and slathers of elbow grease work wonders on a tired hull
The hull of my Jeanneau Cap Camarat 6.5 WA, Kipper, has a hard life. Living on a swing mooring with a tonneau cover for protection, the topsides are exposed to sun, wind, rain and spray during the season with no way of giving them a proper wash on a regular basis. Mix in the odd scrape from the viciously spiky pier where I often collect guests, and it’s safe to say the offer from 3M to send someone down to treat the hull with its new range of polish and wax couldn’t have come at a better time.
The new products are part of 3M’s Gelcoat Finishing System and include a boat wash, two compounds for medium or heavy oxidisation, a polish for less major degradation, and a wax. All of them have been designed specifically for gelcoat and claim to stay wetter for longer on the pad so you spend less time reapplying and more time elbow-greasing. Polishing a hull is a strenuous enough task at the best of times, so anything that makes it even a little bit easier sounds good to me.
Marc from 3M came down to the yard with a treasure chest of polishers, sanders, pads and bottles of product in the boot of his car. Given the level of the hull fade, despite the attempts at a wash/cut/ wax treatment of my own using products from the local chandlery, Marc opted to use the most potent heavy-cutting compound. It’s always interesting to see how professionals use the products, and the first useful tip was to apply the compound directly on to the machine polisher’s pad and use this, in the locked position, to spread the liquid around on the boat’s hull. It saves you having to switch tools too often and means you can spread a generous amount of compound without it spraying everywhere when the pad starts spinning. The boat’s hull was already perfectly clean from my polishing attempt so there was no need to use the boat wash on this occasion.
There is no pro tip to avoid the next bit though, which is getting stuck in and working the compound into the hull with the orbital polisher. It’s hard work, but the added lubrication of this compound does at least mean that you’re not stopping and starting too often and can get a good portion of the topside done without reloading the pad.
In another bid to save time, the medium compound and light polish include a wax in the formula that leaves a shiny sealed coating and saves a step in the process on hulls that aren’t badly faded. On Kipper, we needed the concentrated heavy compound to restore the badly faded coloured gelcoat, and a separate once-over with the wax to get the best finish possible on the old girl in the time we had.
We only spent the morning completing the work with a pair of polishers but the end result was remarkable. We could have done two rounds of compound polishing to boost the result but the improvement was so marked from our starting point that it wasn’t deemed necessary given the little scuffs and scrapes that will have to be treated by a gelcoat specialist at some point anyway.
True testament to the quality of the 3M products is the fact that the process was no different during my previous polishing attempt. I had washed, cut, polished and waxed but the result didn’t even come close, as you can see in the before and after pictures.
It’s not cheap – the 946ml bottle of heavy compound retails at £30 and we got through a fair bit of it – but Kipper now looks (almost) as good as when she emerged from the factory nearly 20 years ago, and I look forward to showing her off in what is hopefully going to be a great season. Jack Haines
Occasional scratches aside, Kipper’s topsides are restored to their former green glory
Jack gets to work applying the heavy compound to a section of Kipper’s topside, followed by a wax to seal in the shine
The unpolished side (left) is dull and chalky; the polished side (right) is rich and glossy