DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL
Struggling to keep his topsides showroom- fresh, Harry Metcalfe brings his car detailer in to solve the issue
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.
TIME TO 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.
GENTLY DOES IT
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