Cleaning cockpit gelcoat

Sailboats have it rough. In this part of the country they’re in the water 365 days a year. They ride and fall with the tidal changes. Rock in the waves. Heel in the wind. Bake in the sun. Are rained upon. Become moistened by fog laden with atmospheric pollutants. They’re doused with saltwater on a regular basis. And more. A sailing vessel is not a “garage queen.” One can expect to spend a fair amount of time keeping the elements at bay, washing away salt water, cleaning fiberglass and other materials, refurbishing teak, polishing metals, etc. Regular housekeeping is essential to ensuring a vessel that is long-lasting, aesthetically pleasing, and also safe.

Earlier today, I polished and waxed the gelcoat over the fiberglass components in the cockpit of Skiron. I accomplish this task every six months or so. It’s necessary as the old wax deteriorates, salt encrustations form, teak oil leaches from adjacent wood and stains the gelcoat, dirt that can’t seemingly be removed with mild soap and water accumulates, and I suppose the pH of the atmosphere of a saltwater environment leads to stubborn difficult to remove oxidation stains.

After washing with soap and water and allowing surfaces to dry I tape the adjacent teak surfaces so as to avoid spillage of polish on the wooden surfaces. Next, I apply a medium polishing compound from West Marine with a microfiber applicator. The polish is applied in a manner similar to how one would wax an automobile. Once it dries I use a clean microfiber cloth to “polish” removing all of the dried compound. Stubborn stains are retreated in this manner and a fair bit of scrubbing is oft employed when necessary. Next, I “wax” using a wax compound from West Marine. The was is applied and removed in the same manner as was the polishing compound.

In my experience, this process removes 95% of the discolorations and other blemishes on the gelcoat. The results really are worth the effort. I get the sense that the surfaces are easier to keep clean for a while after each thorough waxing.

Stains and blemishes on gelcoat
A clean surface after polishing and waxing as described.
Plenty of gelcoat in the cockpit. Most surfaces are vertical and some are difficult to approach from an ergonomic perspective.

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