Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dingy Dinghy Blues – Bar Keeper's Friend to the rescue!

Our beautiful Trinka dinghy

The stained hull. No boat cleaner made a dent. 
There once was a beautiful, shiny new dinghy. We sailed her and rowed her and motored her happily. Then, we towed her behind our bigger boat while on a week-long cruise. On the way back, we stowed her hull side up on deck for a longer passage. It was a beautiful sunny day. The next day, the shiny white dinghy had turned brown and yucky. We tried washing and scrubbing and all kinds of boat cleaners with no success. The poor little dinghy was now dingy and dull, and an embarrassment on the deck of our shiny big boat. We had the dingy dinghy blues.

We gave up trying to clean her and stowed her away in the garage for the next few seasons. But this year, we decided it wasn’t her fault and we should bring her out for some local fun. We took her out for a spin now and again. She did double duty as a ferry to our mooring. In fact she served us so well we decided to find a way to restore her to her true glory.

One side done - less than 15 minutes work. 
At the boat show, we walked from stall to stall telling of our plight. Yes, they’d heard of things like that happening, apparently when an algae attaches to the hull and exposure to UV light causes it to bond with the gel coat and discolour. One manufacturer’s representative showed us a series of products that was sure to work…it involved compounding at different abrasiveness levels, then sealing and waxing. The products come in 5 gallon drums, suitable for super yachts not a 10 foot dinghy, and they cost a fortune.  Home was a return plane trip away and, alas, they don’t supply the product where we live. We couldn’t exactly take it all in carryon luggage aboard RyanAir either.

As I was walking away dejected, he said to me, “You could try very fine sandpaper and see if that helps. If you don’t rub too much away and the gelcoat is a good one, you’ll do fine if you follow up with compounding and then seal it with marine wax.”  I decided that would be a last resort.

Bar Keepers Friend When I got home, I had a Eureka moment. Inside our kitchen cupboard was my miracle home product, Bar Keeper’s Friend. The name had originally hooked me on picking it up many years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. Developed in 1882 by an Indiana chemist who noticed his pot was very shiny after cooking rhubarb, he formulated an ingredient in rhubarb into a talcum powder and sold it to taverns around the town.  That’s how it became Bar Keeper’s Friend.

It cleans and removes stains from brass, stainless steel, copper, porcelain and ceramic –  all without scratching even though it is seemingly mildly abrasive. I read the label and sure enough it lists fibreglass among the materials it is recommended for. I marched outside with a wet scrunge sponge and my precious Bar Keeper’s Friend powder and wiped a bit in a widening circle. It started to lighten, I rubbed a bit and it got even cleaner. Then I stopped and watched as within minutes the discolouration melted away without further effort.  I had made a clean shiny spot that reflected in the sunlight.  This was the first ray of hope we’d seen in years. 

The other side 'fading' into cleanliness
Bolstered by my success, less than an hour of scrubbing and rinsing later, the dinghy was like new. Shiny, clean and happy, Be Calmed got put away in the shed for the winter. A coat of Meguiars Flagship marine wax will go on as soon as we get a chance.

The best thing is that Bar Keeper’s Friend is available throughout the US, Britain and Ireland and costs about £2.79 for 250g. I like the powder better than the liquid but both are invaluable to have around the house and aboard the boat. Try it on your brass bell. You won’t believe how easily it cleans it to a beautiful luster.

All done, clean and shiny, like new. 

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