All colored hulls are not created equally, this due to the fact that all mold release and gel coats are not created equally. The materials the boat is built with affect the longevity of the finish on the hull, deck and parts pulled from a mold. When you review colored hulls today you would assume that they are durable and capable of standing up to the environment better than ever before, but they are not. These colors look great when the boats are new, two years after purchase and put thru the riggers of the boating environment, however they start to look faded and beat up. So boaters hire detailers or try to buff the hulls themselves and 90% of the time make the problem worse but building up layers of products over a ruined gel coat finish. The gel coat may look better for a very short time as the heat from the buffer has drivin moisture back into the gel coat surface. Only to reappear in a short time. Here are three good examples of making the fade and discoloration problem worse.
1- Detailers or boater owners will use compounds to bring the color and shine back not realizing that they must reseal the buffed surface so they are leaving exposed gel coat open to the elements. This creates a situation were the gel surface can not only return to the condition it was before you started, but will usually get worse than before and harder to buff at a later date.
2- Boaters owners or detailers just start to place wax over the already contaminated gel, the discoloration and cruddy finish is back within a few weeks. The worst of the colored gel hulls that I have seen is Rinker. With or without a great deal of care the color fades and clouds up horribly. So what are the ways we can keep the colors looking as nice as possible and why do these colors fail?
3- The boat owner will purchase a petrol based wipe on product to bring the shine back, but once the petrol based product has dried out you can be left with marks from the brush or rag that need to be sanded out to be removed. these products destroy the gel coat surface and prolonged use will cause the gel coat to blister.
BLUE HULLS. Blue color requires the most of energy to reflect the color we see ( blue), blue is the color that seems to chalk off first, blue also shows moisture build up (cloudiness) in the gelcoat the most. Sea Ray blue is actually a purple base color which seems to make a difference in the life of the finish. True blue colors are more likely to die a death of dullness. Any of the colors can get what appears to be white streaks down the hull from the rub rail this is the white from the deck breaking down and running down the hull when it rains or during a wash, to reduce this keep the deck up with the hull or pressure wash the deck regularly to remove this material. Blue like black picks up the scratches caused by fenders getting warm in the summer and collecting dust and dirt from the air and the dock. This creates those fender rash areas you see on the hull sides (purchasing fender covers will not make a difference). these areas will usually come back with the right polishing material and correct amount of heat.
Every boat also has a hot side and a cool side, because we generally always moore our boats the same way all the time. This will create a side that will be more faded than the other. The hot side is the one exposed to the most sunlight and will take longer to buff out and look right. The hot side of the hull will be the side prone to seeing print thru or the pattern of the fiberglass material that is layed under the gel coat. This print thru will become more visible once the gel finish has been returned to a glossy shine.
Never use a compound that intentionally removes material to work properly, this will lead to other issues and eventually you will have burn thru marks where the gel coat layer has been thinned out to the point were you can see through it. With blues, reds and greens the gelcoat is quite often semi translucent which meens that the color can be affected by another color under the top gel coat. This is the case were the hull is a split color design. These split color designs are the most effected by a course compound that removes material. It also makes for a more difficult repair in the case of damage as the amount of tint in the gel coat repair material is generaly a heavier mixture and will create a patch which will not match. You must know how to complete a translucent repair for the patch not to stand out.
RED, and GREEN COLORED HULLS. Follow the exact set of rules as blue the only difference is the time it takes to fade away. A lot of the same match problems will occur while repairing damage. Red however seems to be easier to buff back in most cases.
BLACK HULLS. If you have to pick a color, black would be the choice it is the most durable over time and is the easiest to repair. However black does come with its own series of issues. Black is the most succeptable to showing fender rash and scaring from the docks, this color will also show these marks even worse when your wax hangs up in these areas. All that being said walk the docks and take a look at a three or four year old black boat and a three or four year old blue boat, this will tell the tail. Do not but any boat with a colored deck, there is a hundred and one reasons for this, just do not buy one. There is a reason why the manufacturers now are pumping out the black hulls like crazy, they stand up the best in the environment. I remember a time when the manufacturers could afford to do real world UV tests by placing boats in the desert and watching them break down, They could have made whole hulls blue or red at anytime but real world testing had them abandon the idea, but in recent years additives to gel to inhibit UV were thought to have been at a point where it was feasible. They were wrong, I am really not sure if this is still in the budget to do real world testing in advance, but if it were I don't think as many blue, red or green boats would not have made it to market. They would have been black or white.
PEWTER HULLS The pewter color seems to be very close to black in performance however the pewter color is much more difficult to match at repair time. And it is not as popular as the other colors.
So what are our options to keep these colors looking good and still cost effective to repair?
The first thing almost every one says is paint the colored part of the boat, and this does work if you can afford the price tag that this brigs with it. Once you have painted the boat that's it if it gets damaged you need to bring it back and paint it again (remembering that you can only paint above the water line and not below it). I used to be an opponent of paint for the longest time however this has changed. As soon as the manufacturers started to color the whole hull and deck areas this train of thought had to change.
Some colored hulls such as Rinkers are horrible real crap. Any money spent polishing or trying to restore a dull and clouded Rinker hull is money thrown away, it will not last at all, as a matter of fact in some cases there is next to nothing you can do. If you own a Rinker paint it or sell it right after you have it polished period!
Painting will out last any gel coat finish as long as it is done right with the right products.
If painting is not in your budget which I understand than here are the ways to fix that nasty looking color gel coat. This section is for the boaters who want the very best program to keep the finish as close to factory as possible. If you have a Brunswick boat you are in luck the colors will come back fairly well with the right three step program. This takes a lot of patience if you are not prepared to spend a couple of days hire someone who has the skill. If you do it yourself and half ass it you have thrown your money away. Bringing back a gel finish is not all about some fancy waxes and materials is about understanding how to heat the surface enough to remove old wax and mold release, drawing any moisture out of the gel coat and closing the gel surface to a deep shine, and last being able to heat the wax into the gel coat to recreate the nice mold release finish from the factory. After this it is determining the amount of time before you need to maintain the surface on an on going bases. The environment you are in determines this schedule, amount of sun , heat and water (is it fresh, salt or does it have high mineral content). Once you have a program you must stick to it if you want to keep the colors looking like new.
You cannot wash your boat with any kind of detergent that will strip the wax away (dish soap is a no ,no) and you cannot wash the boat right after a buff and wax.
For the guys who just like a clean decent looking boat generally buff the color and wax it every year and you will be ok it will not stay perfect but the boat will keep that clean maintained look not perfection but very nice.
Like any other maintenance job you take on, the technique and materials make all the difference to the end result. Remember that I told you that understanding the material and how to heat it makes the difference. This is that trick that people wonder about when they see the pros do this job, whether they know it or not this is the secret they have stumbled upon. I cannot write the instructions for this secret but I can show you on video. If you wish to see the materials and techniques required to do this work the right way simply put your email address in the comment box and I will send you a video that is easy to follow and understand you will save time and money and have the colored hull back that you remember. I have been involved in product development and procedures to make gel coat look like new for many years, anyone can do this you just need to see the steps being done to understand how the materials and heat work together. The materials for a 30 foot boat cost under $ 200.00 Canadian to purchase and you will have some left over. I do not sell materials, however I can tell you were to get them.