How to make gelcoat shine in the Caribbean?

How to make gelcoat shine in the Caribbean?
Answer: Chalk is the Enemy!

All cans of polish or rubbing compound come with instructions and I would be the last to recommend ignoring those instructions. NOTE: These instructions are often written for more temperate climes compared to our sun drenched and salty conditions in the Caribbean. 

A recent effort at improving the gelcoat of my 1989 model sailboat reminded me to first establish the amount of chalking of the gelcoat. This is the easiest thing in the world because you simply need to rub your finger over a part of the gelcoat. If you find, as I did that the top layer consisted of chalk then forget using bottles of anything and start with wet dry sandpaper. If it is as bad as mine was then start with 500 grit and finish with 1000 grit. 

We are talking about hand sanding. If you avoid sanding by hand and use a machine the buffing pad will load up with lots of the non-shining mix of chalk and polish and you will have to wash the buffing pad more often than necessary. 

When the chalk test and potential sanding is complete, you can go back to using bottles being either the multi bottle system (rubbing compound and then polish) or a one step restorer and polish. 

If you use the bottles with heavy chalking then your result will be a frustrating and dull surface where the bottled products have combined with a great deal of chalk and there is no shine to be had no matter how optimistic the instructions on the bottles were. 

Don’t be intimidated by the idea that using sandpaper when ultimately you are looking for a shine is counter productive ……you must get rid of the chalk!

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Robbie_Ferron
Sir Robbie Ferron founded the Sint Maarten Heineken Regatta and served as Caribbean Sailing Association President for nine years.