Bottom Cleaning: VC Performance Epoxy is the hardest and most durable paint we use. Still, you can mess it up! The most important thing is to keep it clean. Every time you haul, go over the bottom with a hose and a soft sponge, cloth, or one of the soft brushes made for topsides. Don’t ever use a scrubber pad or an abrasive cleaner. In most cases you can use dish soap for cleaning. But after a road trip you may find little bits of tar or diesel soot on the bottom that can’t be cleaned with soap. A bug and tar remover available at an auto parts store will take this off with a soft rag.
Bottom Polishing: Don’t do it! Don’t put any type of wax or polish on your bottom. It will not make your boat any faster, and it may prevent us from being able to do a proper “scuff and shoot” sometime down the road. Epoxy sticks to many things, but not wax or Teflon.
Bottom Cleaning: We see divers using abrasive cleaning pads or even sandpaper on a perfectly finished WLS bottom that is wet sailed. Hint: Don’t hire those guys. Whether you clean your boat’s bottom yourself or hire a diver to do it, make sure that the only thing that touches the bottom is a soft rag or a sponge. Do not use anything more abrasive than the 600 grit that Waterline Systems used to polish the bottom. More frequent light cleaning is preferable than letting things get out of control and giving in to the temptation to use something more abrasive.
The hard antifouling paints we use need to be immersed in water to keep their effectiveness. When they’re exposed to air, the very top layer oxidizes and “locks in” the biocide. By wet sanding right before spring launching, you remove the oxidized layer and expose fresh biocide. Because we apply the paint nice and thick, most of our clients get 3-5 seasons before needing to respray.
There’s a lot more to wet sanding than you may think. If you are going to wet sand your own bottom here are some tips to keep you from ruining your investment.
- Sanding Block. You need an 8-inch rubber sanding block. These are available at your local auto body supply store. They take 1/3 of a sheet of sandpaper, lengthwise.
- Squeegee. An auto windshield squeegee with a sponge on one side and the squeegee on the other is just the ticket (the kind of squeegee you see at your local gas pump).
- Big Bucket. You need a bucket big enough to fit the squeegee in (about 5 gallons).
- Dish Soap. We add dish soap to our sanding water. This both acts as a lubricant and keeps the water film on the surface longer.
- Sandpaper. Cheap sandpaper is actually really expensive because it doesn’t last as long as the better quality stuff. Buy your sandpaper by the sleeve and expect to use lots more than you think.
Fill your bucket with CLEAN water (we use only Perrier) and add a good-sized squirt of soap. Dunk your squeegee and wet down the hull using the sponge side. Then hold your sanding block in both hands and wet sand in a fore and aft direction using full strokes. The objective is to remove a tiny, uniform layer of paint. If you whale on one spot, you are just making a hollow! Use the blade side of your squeegee to wipe the water and floating dust away. This will help you determine where you have been and what you still need to hit.
Change your sandpaper frequently. We see amateurs with 4 or 5 scraps of paper lying under the boat at the end of a sanding session. At our shop there is a blizzard of paper. If you accidentally drop your block, don’t just pick it up and start sanding again! Take the paper off and rinse it well. A tiny piece of gravel will make mincemeat of your bottom.
Stay an inch or two away from any edges: stem, transom corner, the centerline ridge, and the keel trailing edge. It is far too easy to apply too much pressure on the edges and burn through the paint. If you burn through you need to touch up with more paint, and that is a big hassle. So delicately hand sand all your edges and follow with a couple quick/light passes with the block.