Mailport October 2017 Issue

Mailport: What about Bon Ami?

What about Bon Ami?

Thank you for the distillation of basic cleaning agents (see “The One Bucket Cleaning Kit,” May 2017). The presentation is clear and will be cost-saving. I’d like to add a plug for a small sponge and Bon Ami. Most gelcoat blemishes disappear with this basic combo. Other abrasive cleaners (e.g. Comet) mar the finish. In my experience Bon Ami is the most friendly to gelcoat. Just make sure you use boat soap to clean afterwards, or it leaves a residue.

Reader Mitch Gilbert's Pleaides enjoys a pleasant reach near Westbrook, CT.

I sail my fifth boat, Pleiades, out of Westbrook, CT. She is my first brand new boat, a 2013 Beneteau Oceanis 34. For a singlehanded cruiser like myself she is perfect. I had great fun upgrading and maintaining my previous 1984 Catalina 30, but now I spend more time sailing than working at the dock.

The only system that I’ve been disappointed with on Pleiades has been the Dometic Sailvac vacuum head. Despite much work by my marine plumber, including replacing the bowl (provided gratis by the company), it still cycles every 15-20 minutes suggesting a leak in the system. I now just turn on the vacuum pump as needed. Otherwise the Sailvac works well. As advertised it uses little water, which is good because it flushes with freshwater.

Mitch Gilbert


Westbrook, CT

We frequently get reader recommendations for mild abrasive cleaners like Bon Ami, Bar Keeper’s Friend and others, and we have used them in the past, but we would be careful about over-using any abrasive cleaner, especially on a new boat. The abrasives used in Bon Ami—limestone and feldspar—are much softer than those you’ll find in some similar household cleaners, but they can still haze gel coat. Their effectiveness depends partly on their ability to polish the surface as well as clean. On an older boat, like your previous Catalina 30, the microscopic scratches caused by these cleaners would be almost invisible, and the shine might even improve, because the Bon Ami is quite effective at removing the oxidation that dulls the surface. However, on your new boat, a Bon Ami overdose can mar the mirror new-boat finish. This might not be visible unless you look at the hull with a magnifying glass, or with bright artificial light. If you want that mirror finish of a new boat to last as long as possible, we’d recommend trying a completely non-abrasive liquid boat soap whenever possible, followed by a paste or liquid wax (Inside Practical Sailor blog post “Waxing and Polishing Your Boat,” links to the many wax tests that we have carried out). Bon Ami is safe to use on bronze and stainless hardware (or pots and pans), because its abrasives are not as hard as the surface they are cleaning.


Acorn dinghy
Wilson Fitt's modified Acorn dinghy arrives . . . eventually.
The Mighty Acorn

Regarding your interest in hard dinghies, (see Inside Practical Sailor blog “The Great Dinghy Debate”) our dinghy is a glued lapstrake plywood built to Iain Oughtred’s “Acorn” design. Plans are available through WoodenBoat Magazine. The design provides for 8 foot, 10 foot, and 12 foot versions but we shortened ours down to about 7’2”’ to fit on deck. This gives an already rotund little boat a distinct rub-a-dub look, but it is a great load carrier and relatively dry even in a chop. I remember rowing ashore in a stiff breeze in St. George’s, Bermuda, arriving nice and dry when those with inflatables and motors were dressed in full oilies because of water splashing over their bluff bows. But short and round also means slow, so they got ashore a lot faster than we did.

Wilson Fitt

Chester, Nova Scotia


Welding Blankets

With regards to your article “Top Fire Blankets for the Offshore Sailor,” (see PS June 2017), why not take a look at welding blankets that are often more heavily constructed than fire blankets? There are also carbonized fiber welding blankets that are rated for higher temperatures. Both seem like they might be more aggressively priced, and better suited for many fire-fighting applications.

Jonathan Schwartz

Islander 30

Via e-mail

Welding blankets are very similar to fiberglass fire blankets, but most can absorb liquid, which makes them dangerous during a grease fire. The liquid and fire will come right through the blanket. They are very good at their job—to protect surfaces from weld spatter—but this task is not the same as fighting fires. That said, if you’ve got one handy, use it! Also remember that temperature rating is not everything. In fact, first responders use wool fire blankets because they are better for wrapping a person, whether in a burning building, or after escaping.


Preserving Varnish

Regarding your Inside Practical Sailor blog post “Preserving Paints and Varnishes,” I have worked with all kinds of paints and varnish for many, many years, from my youth as a deckhand on the Great Lakes ore boats, a midlife stint painting houses, and for the last 26 years on yachts of the Pacific Northwest. For varnish, enamels, and any kind of mineral-spirits based paint, when you are finished with a can and plan to put it on the shelf for a spell, pour a thin layer of solvent on top and then seal the can. Try not to shake. It will be just like new for years to come.

Christopher Allen

Via email


‘Miracle’ Opener

Regarding “Equipping the Stainless Galley,” (PS March 2014): The Ekco Miracle Roll is the only can opener to consider. It is manual but easy, compact, and very clean cutting. It has a bottle cap lift, and is cheap. Ekco make a traditional version with handles that are very difficult to squeeze. The Miracle Roll sets the knife with a twist of the handle and the knife penetrates deeper than the squeeze version. Some folks can’t get the hang of starting it. You can usually find them in grocery stores. My land pair has been in use for 40 years.

Roger Demler

Sadie, Ronald Rich lobster yacht

Marion MA

Comments (0)

Be the first to comment on this post using the section below.

New to Practical Sailor?
Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In