Slick and Clean… For the spring? Ok, maybe the fall. I wanted to write a post about the proper cleaning and care of your Pocock hull earlier this year. (As in, during the pre-season.) Sorry about that. Better late than never.
Seems to be a lot of stuff in the water these days that really likes to stain boats. And it really detracts from the shiny white of your brand new boat. Whether it’s high mineral content in Oklahoma City, algae in Seattle and California, or who-knows-what in Boston, the boats get stained. It’s not just Pocock boats, FYI. All light colored boats are getting dirty; it’s just not as noticeable on colored paint. Wipe a yellow boat with a white rag and some cleaner and see what is on the rag – gunk.
It’s funny that these boats are literally in the water for less than 10% of their lives, yet can get so discolored. We’ve done a lot of research on paint and keeping boats white, and have found that most of the discoloration is caused by algae or similar water organisms. You’d assume that the only way to remove this stain is with some good old elbow grease and a can of rubbing compound. Not so.
We discovered (and recommend) a nifty product that is really quite easy to use, and it’s quick – Captain John’s Boat Brite. Most likely, you won’t be able to find it locally and will have to order it online. (You can purchase it from us, we keep it in stock.) It is simply sprayed onto the boat, and allowed to set for a second. You’ll see the stain literally disappear. Then wipe it off, rinse with lots of water, and you’re done with the cleaning step. Honestly, one person can do a whole 8 in 30 minutes. Note, we highly discourage the use of any product with oxycillic acid in it. Common trade names are FSR or Starbrite. You use this stuff one too many times, or leave it on a bit too long prior to rinsing, and it won’t take long for your boat’s finish to deteriorate.
The key point that most don’t realize is that after ANY cleaning, you must wax your cleaned surface to keep it clean. Otherwise, it will just get stained again – but this time twice as quickly. That’s because what really happens when you clean the boat (regardless of what material you use – compound, dish soap, or algae remover) is that little pores in the paint open up. They then fill in with the dirty stuff, staining your boat. (By the way, these little pores exist in all paint, not just ours.) Applying wax post-cleaning fills in the holes and keeps the gunk out. You’ve heard wax is slow? More on that later. Nonetheless, if you clean, you must wax.
For the wax step, we like a 3M product called Scotchguard Marine Liquid Wax. This stuff is pretty loose, and easily squeezed out of the bottle onto an applicator rag. Rub plenty of it onto the clean boat, and let it dry for 20 minutes or so. The only step that takes any effort at all in the whole process is the removal of the wax after it’s dried, but it’s nothing like the removal of a hard caranauba wax. All in all, this step goes pretty quickly as well.
Now, for those concerned about wax versus no-wax racing surfaces, the bottom line is that a clean boat is the optimal hull surface for flat-out speed. A grease-removing detergent like dish soap or Simple Green works best. The little pores open up, and are clean and contain no wax, oil, or impurities. These little pores can now be filled with water, and water-on-water is the slipperiest. (The practice of wet-sanding takes this theory another step by sanding grooves down the length of the boat, theoretically so more water can “stick” to the side of the boat. Don’t get me started on this one. Just consider this: there’s a reason why the Empacher boatmen at the Olympics are obsessively buffing and shining all of their hulls.)
A clean, wax free boat is the fastest option, but we’re splitting hairs here. A quick story to illustrate the point: A famous local hydroplane designer came by the shop recently to talk to us about making some parts for an Unlimited. We got to talking about fast surfaces, and I mentioned to him that conventional wisdom says wax on the hull is considered slow. He told me about a test he did with his boat on a fully surveyed and certified racecourse. He took his boat out for multiple passes, half with a waxed hull, the other with a stripped hull. The average difference between waxed and un-waxed was 3/100ths of a second. He was also going 130mph. This means that at our rowing speeds, the difference is negligible.
So while waxing the boat doesn’t do much to change the speed of the boat, it does wonders to keep it clean. A recommended cleaning cycle would be something like this: row all fall and winter in your boats, and clean and wax when the boat shows discoloration – once, maybe two times. Get into your spring racing season, and again clean and wax as needed. When championship week rolls around and you want every bit of boat speed you can find, clean the heck out of your boats and race. Then get back to the boathouse and do your final year-end cleaning and waxing. A pattern similar to this will keep your boats shiny as new.
Let me know if you have any questions – John Tytus
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