Making the move from polishing your boat by hand to doing it mechanically may be intimidating. He starts a project by washing down the boat with a dish detergent like Dawn to remove any oil and scum.
So you’ve applied two coats of compound and you’re still not happy with how your boat looks? Hilton applies his polish with a 1-inch paintbrush in three horizontal strips in a 1- by 3-foot area.
A wool pad should be used for more oxidized surfaces, according to Hilton, and a foam pad works for less faded surfaces. Take your time, use the right equipment and material, and you’ll take the intimidation out of making your boat look great.
When three major electronics companies roll out new radar technologies in the space of a month, there’s something going on. It may not display this or other websites correctly.You should upgrade or use an alternative browser. You don’t want to mess up that shiny gelcoat, but the thought of spending another day manually massaging compound and polish until your arms almost fall off is pretty persuasive too.

There are a number of units from manufacturers such as 3M, Makita, and Shurhold, and the most popular models have common features.
For tips on the subject I talked to Steve Hilton, president of Sebago Custom Fiberglass (207-655-3425) in Casco, Maine.
Applying compound with a rag to the whole boat and then buffing it out is the wrong approach. Avoid banging your buffer against stainless steel hardware, he adds, because it will create a black mark on the buffer pad that will transfer to the gelcoat. For example, the Dual Action Polisher I have has six speed settings, ranging from 2,500 oscillations per minute (OPM) for waxing and buffing, 3,900 OPM for polishing and cleaning, and 6,500 OPM for removing paint defects and oxidation. The prevailing theme of our discussion was that spiffing up a boat is not a quick process even with a power buffer. Working by hand, use quality sandpaper like 3M’s Imperial 2000-grit product, keep it wet, and work in small areas to remove scratches. Instead, Hilton likes Presta Strata Ultra Cutting Crème, which is a compound and polish in one.
You do this by scraping the surface of the pad with a paint-stirring stick while the buffer is turned on.

If you want to start with a heavier grit, make sure you follow with progressively lighter ones until you get to 2000 and then follow up with compound. Even on a relatively small, 24-foot boat, Hilton will stop to clean his buffer pad at least six times. For my boat I chose Shurhold’s Dual Action Polisher, which oscillates in a variable orbit across two axes. This means that the buffer is touching the surface it’s polishing in a very random manner thereby avoiding the concentration of power in one spot and the burning and ugly swirl marks that result.
Additionally, the 6-inch head is a little smaller than on professional models so it’s easier for a non-pro to handle.
And it also saves money in the long run, I think, because it uses less compound and wax than manual methods.

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