PS Advisor April 1, 2001 Issue

PS Advisor 04/01/01

Non-Skid Decks
There seems to be lots of information available about painting topsides and bottoms, but I am unable to find anything about painting non-skid decks. Our 1982 Pearson Flyer has a very elegant, basket-weave pattern of non-skid all over the exterior deck. Although most of it is in excellent condition, there are areas that could use sprucing up, especially around the stanchion bases where there are many stress cracks.

Do you know of any product that will cover and protect the surface without filling in the texture to the point of losing its non-skidding effect? I am aware that two-part polyurethanes are much more durable than one-part paints so they would certainly be to my advantage in terms of durability, but Iím not sure if the high gloss would be appropriate. Please tell me what you think.

Michael Jessop
Via e-mail

As a first step, read The Fiberglass Boat Repair Manual by Allan Vaitses (International Marine/McGraw-Hill), which addresses your problem in detail. One of the first things heíll tell you is that stress cracks are trying to tell you something, i.e. the laminate is flexing and that there is no point fixing the cracks without stiffening the laminate first.

In any case, if your principal intent is to ďfixĒ gelcoat crazing, the cracks must be opened up and filled with resin mixed with a suitable filler powder. Then you can paint. If the old molded-in gelcoat nonskid pattern is still good and not worn smooth, you can simply paint with two-part polyurethane paint, using an additive (sold by paint companies) to knock off the gloss (doesnít hurt longevity but dulls the surface and may make it less slippery).

If, on the other hand, your nonskid has worn, then you must do one of two things: repaint the decks with a granular additive or cover the decks with a pad such as Treadmaster. We have written about both methods at various times over the years. Basically, you can either buy non-skid paints with the granules already added or you can paint the deck first and then sprinkle granules onto the wet surface. The difficulty in applying paint pre-mixed with granules is in maintaining uniform disbursement because they tend to load up on the brush or roller. Sprinkling on evenly after painting also requires some skill in getting uniform distribution of the granules. If you choose either of those methods, youíd be well-advised to PRACTICE first. Serviceable results can be had by an amateur but itís doubtful the deck will look like a new boat.

Gluing down pads cut to fill designated non-skid areas will probably look more professional, but change the look of the boat. Some European boats come with products such Treadmaster straight from the factory, so while a bit unusual here, itís certainly an acceptable practice.

Lastly, you can re-gelcoat, using surrounding non-skid as a pattern, but that is another matter.

Compass Fluid
What is compass oil, the clear liquid used to dampen compasses? I am specifically interested in that used by Ritchie and the old Tillermaster autopilots. Does anyone know how full the compass on the Tillermaster should be? I have four, none of them full.

David Kallgren
Via e-mail

The fluid in any compass is there just to dampen the movement of the card and, in effect, to lighten the card to make it move more easily. Ritchie a few years ago used a mixture of alcohol and water. More recently, theyíve used highly purified odorless mineral spirits. Do not use mineral oil. Too stiff. If you want to do your own Ritchie maintenance, draw off a bit of fluid, put it in a small container and add a few drops of water. If the water mixes with the old fluid, itís the alcohol mix. If it does not mix, itís the newer mineral spirits. Better yet, let them do the overhaul. Send it to Ritchie, 235 Oak St. Pembroke, MA 02359; 781/826-5131. Ritchie also has about 160 repair stations scattered around the country.

As for the compasses in your Tillermasters, they use mineral oil. For years, Moonlight Marine (776 W. 17th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627; 949/645-0130) offered service on these autopilots but we have recently heard that they are no longer doing so.

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