Each year, as the fall boat shows—and the deals that come with them—appear on the horizon, we pore over the numerous products we’ve reviewed in the previous 12 months to select the cream of the crop for our Editor’s Choice awards. We hope the list will help readers better navigate any boat-show or end-of-season shopping. This year, we picked from the Best Choice products evaluated in the September 2010 through August 2011 issues. The 2011 GOTY roster includes an electric outboard, some stout bullet blocks, electric marine toilets, bilge pumps, chafe gear, and marine maintenance products like bottom paint.
Practical Sailor tested a field of 10 tubs of paste waxes for ease of application, gloss, texture, finish, and price. Most of the products did a fairly good job of producing initial shine. The two waxes with the most glossy fiberglass test patch were not the easiest to apply nor were they the least expensive. The boat wax test included marine paste waxes and car waxes-some with carnauba-from Meguiars, Turtle Wax, 3M, Collinite, Kit, Mothers, Nu-Finish, and Star brite. You need only dip a toe into this topic to realize that there are almost as many recipes for a glossy hull as there are sailors whod rather do anything than wax their hull. As long as marketeers keep alive our hopes for a glossy finish that will last forever, there will be people who will plunk down hard-earned money for the latest and greatest gelcoat elixir. We generally define gloss as being the surface ability to reflect light. Gloss, along with ease of application and the ability to repel dirt and water, are the features that Practical Sailor focused on for this report (see "How We Tested," page 32).
Testers applied dozens of exterior wood finishes (22 one-part varnishes, six two-part varnishes, 18 synthetics and satins/varnish alternatives, and eight teak oils and sealers) to small panels of bare solid teak and set them out to face the rigors of South Florida's weather. Two years later, our search continues for the ideal wood finish-relatively easy to apply, easy to maintain, lasts multiple seasons, and is affordable. Given that most wood coatings are rarely expected to last longer than two years in the marine environment-particularly in super-sunny locales-its no surprise that weve seen more significant changes in the coatings in the last six months than we had in previous checkups. With the exception of a few two-part products, the test coatings had lost their sparkle at the two-year mark, ratings slipped across the board, and weve come to accept that perhaps theres no Holy Grail of exterior wood finishes.
In addition to our annual paint-panel tests, Practical Sailor has a host of ongoing head-to-head field tests of the top-performing antifouling paints. Our test-boat fleet allows us to evaluate paints in real-world conditions on boats that run the gamut in terms of usage, storage, and cruising grounds. For the head-to-head tests, each boat’s hull below the waterline is divided into four equal sections (two per side). One paint is applied to the port bow and starboard aft section, while another is painted onto the starboard bow and port after section, giving both paints equal exposure. Paints are applied following maker’s instructions, and an extra coat is applied at the waterline.
Practical Sailor applied dozens of liquid boat waxes to fiberglass test panels in 2009 to determine which was easiest to apply and was the best for long-term protection of a fiberglass boat. The panels were set out to suffer in the Florida weather for six months, when testers checked in on them to see which waxes still had a gloss and which could still bead water. Topping the marine wax test field in their respective categories were products from Star brite, Cajun Shine All, Collinite, 3M, Nu Finish, Yacht Brite, and West Marine Pure Oceans,. Testers’ top picks for a shiny hull that lasts and is protected from UV damage were the 3M Scotchgard Marine Liquid Wax and Star brite’s Premium Marine Polish.
As with cleaners (see One Bucket Cleaning Kit, May 2017) its easy to be over-specific with solvents. Pretty soon, we end up with a zillion cans in the paint locker. While we would probably pay extra for the magic vendor-specific blend for a topside paint job, wed not be so selective for every single small varnish, fiberglass, or similar job that comes up. For these everyday jobs, a few generics can do the trick.