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Season preparation and boat care – The boat hull and deck

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This is how you get your yacht ready for a successful season on board!

After a long winter on land or in the water, the hull needs loving attention to shine again in its most beautiful splendor.

Wooden or steel ships have to be sanded and repainted every few years – depending on the quality and type of paintwork – and repainted, all boats should be thoroughly polished at least once a year. This is especially true for GRP yachts, because a good polish (or a wax) forms a hard and scratch-resistant layer that also protects the original gelcoat from the effects of UV solar radiation.

With the right treatment, weathered or dull GRP surfaces can also be polished up again, in the literal sense of the word. In specialist shops there are a large number of special products, for example from Starbrite or 3M, for the two things that are crucial for care of GRP boats: cleaning and polishing. Smaller boats can still be polished by hand with a soft cloth and circular movements, but you don’t have to. Because even with a dinghy, it is basically worth purchasing an inexpensive polishing machine, with which the work is not only much easier, but for this very reason will probably also produce a better result.
And of course it is worth keeping every ship in good condition – polishing it regularly once a year and cleaning it more often if necessary – because that not only makes the ship more beautiful, it also makes work easier. It is amazing how many years, if not to say decades, a gelcoat can keep its hard, firm shine if it is only cared for regularly.

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Fine-tuning the hull

Like New

If, on the other hand, the ship has been neglected for a number of years and the surfaces are dull, porous and dirty, you don’t necessarily have to repaint. A particularly thorough cleaning with very fine wet sandpaper of 1500 or 2000 grit in connection with soapy, lukewarm water (mixed with detergent) often helps here too. This removes coarse dirt that has settled in the porous surface.

Then you should polish the hull with a boat, car or metal polish, finally you could also apply a hard wax. The rough, porous surface of the gelcoat becomes smooth again because a very thin layer (in the hundredths of a millimeter range) is removed. It almost looks like new again. A pleasant side effect: because the surface is now smooth again, it does not get dirty as quickly or is at least much easier to clean.

The water pass

The water pass, which is exposed alternately in the water and in the air and always to the dirt floating in the water, should be well sanded and painted with a special water pass paint that is actually offered by all major paint manufacturers. Mask off neatly with a specially made adhesive tape and peel it off again immediately after the paint has been applied to the water pass. If you leave the tape on the fuselage overnight or even for a few days, removing it can be quite tedious!

Lots of work on deck

Other tasks await on deck. Unfortunately, due to air pollution and footprints, it is often very dirty, and unfortunately it is much more difficult to clean than the smooth surfaces of the fuselage sides. It is not only the non-slip profile that is a hindrance here, but also the many fittings that you always have to “clean” around by hand.
Be careful with hairline cracks
You should also pay attention to hairline cracks in the gelcoat, which usually emanate more or less star-shaped from a point of particular mechanical stress. This can be a spot on the deck that has been punctually damaged by impact or pressure, or, which is much more common, around fittings such as the feet of the stanchions, on the fastenings of the pulpit or pushpit or sometimes around winches. Everywhere where the area on the deck is particularly stressed and maybe even, over the years, has become somewhat flexible and now gives way. At first, this may be a purely cosmetic problem that one or the other yacht owner likes to overlook.

But if the cracks get stronger, moisture can penetrate the sandwich laminate of the deck. This, in turn, has unpleasant long-term consequences: Most GRP decks have a balsa wood core and it decays over time if it gets permanently wet there. The deck becomes soft overall, something gives way or creaks when you walk on it, and it keeps tearing. Then there is only one solution left, namely a complete deck renovation by removing the outer GRP layer, draining the core and replacing it where necessary and then building a new laminate over it. That is time-consuming, exhausting and expensive.

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Renovation of old teak decks

Such a deck renovation is unfortunately often necessary when we are dealing with a very old teak deck that is still screwed and where the teak is so worn that the plugs have fallen off the screw heads and the joints between the strips are no longer tight . This does not necessarily mean that moisture has penetrated the sandwich deck below, but the danger does exist. So it’s better to renovate the teak deck while it is still possible and as long as the sandwich deck underneath has not been damaged.

Acting quickly prevents

Similarly, it is much better to tackle the hairline cracks right away, before they can develop into a bigger problem. This is comparatively easy, by using a sharp chisel to expand the fine cracks into slightly larger V-shaped grooves and then, when they are dry, fill them with fresh gelcoat. The only problem with this is that you won’t always match the color of the surrounding original gelcoat. Depending on how many cracks in the deck were processed in this way, the deck can then be repainted entirely or in places. Or, if it concerns the areas at the railing feet, for example, then reattach the railing supports with a small VA plate, which not only ensures more stability of the railing, but which would also cover the repair underneath.

Special care for scratched windows and hatches

All of this sounds like a lot of work and it is sometimes better to be carried out by a specialist. So if you only have to polish your boat and treat it underwater, you can count yourself lucky. For scratched windows and hatches, on the other hand, there is the special cleaning agent Vuplex, which can even be used for the PVC windows in sprayhoods and “cake stands”. It cleans and seals in one go.

Many users also use it to clean GRP surfaces on board, but afterwards the surface is not only clean, but also extremely slippery: Decks or other accessible surfaces should therefore never be cleaned with this agent!

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