In the world of protecting your vessel’s finish, choosing the best protective boat surface application for your vessel will certainly vary. Few will hit all the stress points, including durability, longevity, ease of prep work, ease of application and price point. As salty Floridians, we also must combat the most intense UV rays, saltwater corrosion and humidity that immediately start attacking at the surface.
There is simply no better place to test the durability of a marine coating product than Florida or the Bahamas, which is probably why leaders in the marine ceramic coating space use the Sunshine State as the premier field testing arena.
Ceramic coatings have been helping protect vehicles in the automotive market for well over a decade and, within the last few years, these coatings are making powerful strides into the marine market. Apart from a showroom shine, one of the major appeals of a ceramic-coated boat to any angler is that it significantly shaves the cleaning time once you hit the dock — and the coating also provides excellent protection while spending time at the sandbar on Sundays. Many outboard engine owners have even gone as far as to also coat their outboards because it can provide years of protection against Florida’s temperamental weather.
As with any viable coating process, it all begins with the level of prep work involved. If you expect that a simple rinse, dry and apply method is all that’s needed to get a showroom shine, then you’re sorely missing the boat. Before applying the precious protection that properly applied quality ceramics can provide, all the oxidation on the current finish must be completely cleaned and removed down to a bare fiberglass surface. Dawn dish soap is an inexpensive and effective option that can be used to prep the surface for the tedious work that lies ahead. To achieve a platinum-level or boat-show finish, expect not only to employ generous amounts of elbow grease, but also to follow the best practices of prepping the surface. After all, if the surface has any imperfections showing, these will also show in the finished product.
Busting out a polisher or rotary buffer loaded with a heavy-cut wool pad for initial removal of material is a crucial first step. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to use masking tape and section off any rub rail prior to hitting it with the compound, especially if it’s constructed of co-polymer or plastic-based material as this will prevent those tiny unwanted dings the side of a polisher can leave. If you want to step up your finish game to the next level, then it’s best to follow up with a white “fine or finishing” wool pad to smooth the surface and get rid of those little imperfections and scratches. Follow that up with a foam pad at 1000 fine grit.
After applying the compound with a rotary polisher, be sure to double down with more Dawn soap to remove any oils or greasy residue from any fillers in the material. This step is vital to starting the ceramic application process correctly as the perfectly prepped area needs to be left blank.
At this stage, after the boat’s surface is cleaned extensively, go ahead and apply your choice of ceramic coating with a microfiber cloth. There are several techniques when considering the application process. The most readily available and user-friendly to recreational boaters is the spray-and-coat method. Leaders in the space, such as Sea Shield’s Crew Ceramic, Gtechniq Marine’s Fast Coat, Presta Marine’s Hydro Protek Ceramic Spray or Glide Coat’s Marine Ceramic Coating, can provide recreational anglers and boaters excellent protection for up to 12+ months with a little DIY mentality. When selecting a workspace for your boat’s facelift, make sure it’s a well-ventilated area.
Keep in mind that even the best boat waxes available typically provide about 2-3 months of protection in Florida’s unique marine environment and humidity. If you demand a more extensive yacht finish with longer protection, then commercial services are also available from any seasoned and professional boat detailer at your local shipyard or marina. Expect to pay a premium for these services as the finish work of this caliber requires a multilevel commitment. Loads of manual hours and experienced polishing techniques go into providing a yachtlike finish when it comes to any quality marine coating. It’s also important to note that the products used daily by marine detailing professionals are often much higher quality and more expensive, yet typically provide maximum protection lasting two to three times longer than the DIY products.
Whichever direction you go, coating your boat with a ceramic coating will help keep your decks clean, your vessel looking stellar and make cleaning up a breeze after a long day of yellowfin fishing. The only decision you’re left with is determining how long you want the protection to last.