Great Maintenance Products: 2006


Does a trip to the marine store for a cleaner or polish leave your head spinning courtesy of the miles and miles of products available? There are so many to choose from, its hard to know what works the best, lasts longest, requires the least effort to use, and wont break the bank.

To help you navigate the maintenance aisles and to save you from unnecessary swabbing, PS editors have painstakingly tested product after product to find the best of whats out there. Weve come up with a short list of products the must haves of the do I have tos that were proven effective during this years maintenance tests. Consider this your maintenance checklist. Cut it out, and take it to your local marine store, or mail it to Santa as your 2006 wish list.

Star brite Rust Stain Remover. Stanchions, bow rollers, cleats, pad eyes: What do these things often have in common? Rust. The best way to remove it? Muriatic acid. However, we don’t recommend using it unless you want to risk damaging your gelcoat while youre at it. In our rust stain remover test (May 2006), Star brites Rust Stain Remover ($12.50/oz., cleaned our test stains nearly as well as the muriatic acid without hurting the gelcoat and it beat out the other eight test products for Best Choice honors. We also recommend FSRs Fiberglass Stain Remover and Power One Ship N Shore.

Nautical Ease Black Streak Remover. The black streaks were talking about here arent those left by a rubrail-gelcoat collision. These are much more tenacious and require more elbow grease to get gone. They can be found below scuppers, windows, and stanchions; they pop up when pollutants in rainwater bond to the boats surface. We tested 11 products that claim to vanish the streaks (May 2006). After a few rounds of testing, Nautical Eases remover ($7.59/oz., came out on top, leaving the once-stained gelcoat streak-free and shiny. Its also marketed as a non-skid cleaner and costs less than the other test products. We also recommend the Heller Glanz, West Marine, Spray Nine, and Aurora black streak cleaners.

Star brites Super Orange Bilge Cleaner. PS tested 15 emulsifying bilge cleaners (March 2006). In one part of the test, the cleaners faced a witchs brew of motor oil, gasoline, and water. The second phase required the cleaners to dissolve a bead of axle grease. The top cleaner was Star brites Super Orange ($11/32 oz.,, a thick liquid that dissolved the grease in just more than a week. If you prefer enviro-friendly products, check out Clean Water Solutions Microbial Powder.

The Miracle Cloth
. We tested 16 metal cleaners running the gamut of consistency from liquids and sprays to pastes and wadding on a battered section of a test boats bow-rail (June 2006). The most effective cleaners were the Flitz Metal Polish and The Miracle Cloth. Testers pre-ferred The Miracle Cloth ($7,, however, because it is less expensive, fast, and reus-able, and it is not messy. And it is easily stowed without adding to the hoard of chemicals onboard. Testers also recommend Turtle Wax Chrome Polish and Rust Remover (the Bud-get Buy pick) and Noxon 7 Metal Polish. Most of the cleaners tested also claim to protect the metal from further rust or corrosion, but don’t expect any miracles. Our long-term testing indicates regularly polishing the stainless is required to keep the stains at bay.

Woody Wax by Tower Plus 2000. Non-skid wax: Its not the oxymoron one would expect it to be. There are products out there that can get that hard-to-clean, hard-to-keep clean non-skid shiny without making it break-your-neck slippery. Woody Wax ($29/16 oz., easily outshined the two other test products (October 2006). Its easy to apply, left a nice shine, protected the deck from stains, and scored an Excellent for Grippiness. But it is expensive. If its too pricey for you, check out Star brites Non-skid Deck Cleaner.


Great Maintenance Products: 2006

3M Sandblaster Sanding Pad. In recent years, regular old sandpaper has taken a backseat to more modern alternatives for many hand-abrading projects. Newer woven pads and pads with synthetic sandpaper are hardy, don’t shed grit, and withstand being stored aboard better than plain sandpaper. The pads come in many shapes, sizes, and grits, so we tapped a small group of these and tested them on varnished luan and teak-and-holly veneer (July 2006). Of the eight products tested, the 3M Sandblaster pads (180, 100, and 60 grit; series 20916, 20917, and 20918) were the standouts. The 60-grit was the all-around favorite, and the 180-grit wet/dry sandpaper was a close second on the varnish. The thin sponges ($1-$5/pad, local hardware store) have synthetic paper on the flip side. They can be loaded up and rinsed many times without losing effectiveness.


Great Maintenance Products: 2006

Bottom Paint: Pettit Hydrocoat and Interlux Fiberglass Bottomkote Aqua. After one year in the drink, the 52 anti-fouling paints being tested were pulled for review (October 2006). With those results, testers tapped Pettits Hydrocoat ($95/gal., as our top pick for an ablative/copolymer paint and Interluxs Bottomkote Aqua ($70/gal., as the best hard paint. Testers also recommend ablatives Flexdel Aquagard, Interluxs Micron 66 and Micron Optima, Pettits West Marine CPP, and Monterey by Sea-Hawk. Recommended hard paints are Epoxycop and VC Offshore by Interlux and Pettits Vivid and West Marine Bottomshield.Franmar Soy Strip. There are many boat projects that can be clumped in the miserable duty category, but at the top of that list is stripping anti-fouling paint off the hull inch by inch, layer by toxic layer. In a quest to find a product that makes this torture less painful, we tested nine paint strippers (November 2006). The perennial favorite, Peel Away, took a backseat this year to a soybean-based product that claims to be a natural solution for removing anti-fouling paints, urethanes, and enamels. In our test, the Franmar Soy Strip ($74/gal., worked best and fastest, removing 90 percent of a test area in 30 minutes and 95 percent after six hours. It was easy to apply with a brush or sprayer, and it doesn’t have that bore-a-hole-through-your-septum odor of other products.




KOP-COAT (Pettit)





Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. Darrell is booking speaking engagements in Colorado, Idaho, California, the Pacific Northwest, and British Colombia this summer. You can reach him by email at