Strug­gling to keep his top­sides show­room- fresh, Harry Met­calfe brings his car de­tailer in to solve the is­sue

Motorboat & Yachting - - Our Boats - Harry Met­calfe

How do you clean your car? Bucket and sponge maybe, or do you visit the lo­cal car wash or splash out on the ser­vices of a car valeter? The high­est level of OCD for car clean­ing ob­ses­sives is us­ing a spe­cial­ist car ‘de­tailer’ who can charge £500 or more per day and have ob­ses­sive stan­dards of clean­li­ness, as well as lots of spe­cial­ist equip­ment and po­tions to bring a su­per shiny gloss fin­ish to paint­work well past its prime.

But what has this got to do with boats, I hear you ask? Well, I was get­ting frus­trated at the in­creas­ingly matt fin­ish on Bateau9’s su­per­struc­ture, de­spite having paid sev­eral thou­sand eu­ros to have it pol­ished each year and my full-time captain (Ben Rossi) reg­u­larly wash­ing the boat af­ter use. To see what was go­ing wrong I de­cided to fly my car de­tailer (Richard Tip­per at Per­fec­tion) to An­tibes and see what he could do to bring back the shine.


Once he was on board and had spent time in­spect­ing Bateau9’s exterior fin­ish, he came to some fas­ci­nat­ing con­clu­sions. Firstly, while the su­per­struc­ture had lost its new-boat sheen, there was plenty of depth of pig­ment he could work with, mean­ing he could safely re­move the dam­aged sur­face layer us­ing cut­ting pastes and ma­chine pol­ish­ers to bring back a per­fect gloss fin­ish. The only is­sue was time, as to do this to the whole boat would take con­sid­er­ably longer than the two days I’d booked Richard for.

But it was Richard’s di­ag­no­sis as to why the sur­face had lost its sheen that was the most il­lu­mi­nat­ing, as he be­lieved much of the dam­age had been caused by the type of cleaner be­ing used and the dull gel­coat was due to the boat get­ting cleaned too of­ten! Look­ing at the small print, the deck cleaner Ben was us­ing had a ph value of six, mean­ing it was slightly acidic. Com­bine this with the hot con­di­tions the boat is of­ten washed down in, and the end ef­fect was that al­though the boat looked clean af­ter a deck wash, any pol­ishes or coat­ings ap­plied at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son were be­ing re­moved by the clean­ing agent. The gel coat was then get­ting dam­aged by reg­u­lar scrub­bing with an acidic cleaner. Richard’s plan of ac­tion now is to spend five days ma­chin­ing back the gel­coat un­til he has a gloss sur­face to work with, ap­ply a coat­ing and then wash the boat down with wa­ter or a ph neu­tral cleaner more reg­u­larly used by car valeters.


The les­son I take from Richard’s find­ings is that most deck clean­ers sold for clean­ing boats are way too ag­gres­sive for reg­u­lar use. They are gen­er­ally for­mu­lated to bring back tired GRP and teak deck­ing once or twice a year, not for reg­u­lar use in hot con­di­tions (which make the chem­i­cals in­side the for­mu­la­tions even more ag­gres­sive to the boat’s gel­coat). This also ex­plains why the hull on Bateau9 re­tains a lovely gloss fin­ish through­out the year when the su­per­struc­ture doesn’t, as it’s next to im­pos­si­ble for Ben to ag­gres­sively clean the hull when wash­ing down the boat with deck cleaner.

Moving for­ward, Richard will be go­ing back out to An­tibes later in the sea­son to fin­ish off the work he started on, this time us­ing very fine wet and dry sand­pa­per as well as the ma­chine pol­ish­ers used on his first visit. He will then ap­ply a pro­tec­tive ce­ramic coat­ing he uses on my cars, be­fore wash­ing the boat down if it’s par­tic­u­larly grubby. My hope then is, by this time next year, I’ll have a shiny boat again, achieved by clean­ing it less of­ten but by us­ing wa­ter and not ded­i­cated deck clean­ers, which is not the con­clu­sion I ex­pected to write in this lat­est re­port from the Mediter­ranean.

Richard of Per­fec­tion hard at work on Bateau9 Harry’s Lam­borgh­ini Es­pada gets the treat­ment

ABOVE : On the left the su­per­struc­ture’s dull chalky sur­face is clear to see, as is the bril­liant mir­ror shine on the right that was achieved af­ter two days of hard graft

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