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Boat Bug Nightmare Part 2: Happy Ending with Prenuptial Honeymoon? April 28, 2018 09:00 1 Comment

 At this point, in spite of all the time and effort spent on my infestation problem my ISLAND GIRL® business was doing well and I was regularly in touch with a previous Marshallese girl friend , who I had visited in Ohio and I got on very well with her kids. I had later  joked in a text message about marrying her. Perhaps due to her mother, she showed interest and was to come out and stay with me on the boat to see if this would be a good idea.

I had spent the entire day cleaning the boat, and spraying everywhere with the oily J.T.Eaton® Bed Bug Killer. I later picked her up at Honolulu Airport. We went back to the boat and eventually lay together on the V-berth. Suddenly she shouted out: "SOMETHING JUST BIT MY ASS!"  I turned on the light and was horrified to see one big bed bug scuttling along at high speed and saw some of the baby bugs (the worst biters)  on the white sheet. We both leapt up, and after spraying some more, we slept on separate cabin berths. Luckily, she had a really good sense of humor about this, although I was mortified!

I realized two final lessons:  First, there is always somewhere for the bugs to hide, even inside the cushions that I had been repeatedly spraying.  I either had to replace the cushions (too expensive) or seal them in with a bug-proof mattress cover.

We did the latter as seen in the pic below:


Interestingly, after this was done, there were no more bites or visible bugs except where  you could actually see where the bugs had tried to nest under the cover but could not get out!  After about 4 years they must now all be dead.  Incidentally, these mattress covers are also waterproof and once saved my cushions from being ruined by rain, when I forgot to close the V-berth hatch. 

My second lesson was that the best spray for routine preventative  use should leave a residue that is still fatal to the bugs long after spraying. Enforcer®  is the best non-professional product that I have tried since it is  non-staining, can be used on any surface and has a residual killing effect on bugs and EGGS for up to 2 weeks. Luckily bed bugs cannot fly and with this product "IF THEY WALK, THEY DIE! "(my slogan).

I now PRO-ACTIVELY use this spray in my car, clothes and bedding (at home and on boat) .

I no longer live on my boat but use bug traps to monitor if live bugs ever return , as seen below. Still no traces of them in the  trap after 4 years.


In retrospect, this whole episode showed that I eventually did all the right things but made several mistakes. The first mistake was not to prevent the bug infestation pro-actively by assuming that bugs are ALWAY OUT THERE, ready to pounce!.  Secondly, I spent a lot of unnecessary time and money, when I could have had the boat tented professionally for about $750 that would also have eliminated any possibility of termite damage too!.


However, sealing off potential hiding places for the bugs and routine spaying with the ENFORCER® product is good "insurance" against new infestations.

Diatomaceous earth (DE):  As additional non-toxic bug-proofingI I used this in many enclosed spaces on the boat  In my clothes locker (see pic above)  I put a layer of  this under some rubber mesh,   I have mixed feelings as to efficacy. of DE. To save  money, I used the DE sold for swimming pool filters that is a bit different to the (expensive), stuff sold for killing bugs. During the "nightmare" period (Part 1 of this story,)  I did see a cockroach that had died covered by the DE, but I also one saw a large live bed bug burrowing though it! Whether it eventually died, I do not know. Apparently, the product designed for bug-killing is of a smaller particle size and is more amorphous See this article for more info on diatomaceous earth.

As for the girl - we did marry but she eventually turned out to be a worse problem than the bugs AND  a problem more difficult to eradicate! 

Boat-Bug Nightmare Part 1: Facing up to the Problem April 28, 2018 09:00

1. Know your Enemy:  

Like most people I was previously ignorant abut the life cycle of bed bugs and how they operate.  The large females lay eggs (up to 20 at a time) after a blood meal and the eggs hatch in about a week. The small "nymph" bugs start off like tiny pink maggots that can bite. They then transform into  small black "baby bugs" the size of a pin head. THESE are the worst since they are hard to see except on white bed linen and they HAVE  to feed by biting several times a day.
 It is almost as if bed bugs in their various life stages act like like organized and intelligent guerrilla infantry. They come out only in the dark when you are asleep and they can hide in the smallest of hiding places even the tiniest crack or gap will do.  
They hide out in "nests" that are eventually made evident by the dark-colored feces and the shed outer skins as they grow. Once you have seen one of these nests  you will know what to look for. They can also bite through normal bed sheets (leaving bloody spots) and usually hide out within a few feet of your sleeping place.  They can run fast and walk hundreds of feet. Something that I heard about (and saw with my own eyes) was the large bugs hiding on the ceiling ready to drop onto a victim.
Adult bed bugs can survive well over a year without a blood meal.
Bed bugs were once almost extinct after the 1940s with the advent of vacuum cleaners and DDT but they are now resurgent (even in expensive hotels) since DDT was banned, and because of public ignorance ("...only dirty homeless people have bed bugs"'). The bugs have also become resistant to  conventional insecticides, especially those  based on the safe and widely used pyrethrins (originally extracted from Chrysanthenum plants) which attack the insect nervous system. Their resistance to pyrethrins is attributed to metabolizing the pyrethrins more rapidly.  This is countered somewhat by other ingredients such as piperonyl butoxide (that blocks the metabolizing enzyme) and/or by using in combination with other classes of insecticide,   Physical methods such as steam cleaning (the bugs are sensitive to heat) are also useful as is the use of diatomaceous earth (DE). This  dehydrates the bugs  and may also clog the spiracles of insects, thus "suffocating" them. Getting rid of their hiding places  by reducing clutter and regular vacuuming is also important.
INFESTATIONS ARE EASY TO PREVENT, BUT HARD TO END! . As an alternative to being bitten, there are available bedbug traps (some very elegant with warmth and CO2 generation) but usually with only a chemical attractant on a glue pad. They are good for detection, rather than eradication. Incidentally, bed bug bites are typically three bites in a row ("breakfast, lunch and dinner"). You may not feel the bite, but there is profound itchiness and therefore scratch marks also. 
2. My Nightmare Begins 
I was blissfully ignorant of the above facts and had moved onto my boat in 2012 and used to work on my iMac computer, sitting at the dining table,  I also used my computer for watching movies, while I lay  on the side berth in the dark. Sometimes I took naps on the rear quarter birth but routinely slept all night in the front V-berth. I had noticed some odd little bite marks sometimes, but put it down to tiny "midge" mosquitos present at the marina or return of a previous skin condition due to mites. 
In February 2013, I was watching a movie in the dark, while lying on a white bath towel. I was a little drunk at the time and had fallen asleep. I was awoken because I thought that there was something crawling on my arm.  I grabbed  the area between my finger and thumb -  It was a bug!
I then got up and to my horror I saw a seething mass of black bugs crawling on the white towel. I was horrified and sprayed the towel with some regular roach spray, threw the towel out and lay down on another clean towel. Then I happened to look up at the wooden bulkhead and was horrified to see lots of little pink maggots coming down towards me like zombies in a horror movie!  I sprayed them and moved onto another side bunk and tried to sleep but could not. The next day, I sprayed under the cushions and into the locker below and was horrified to see what looked like THOUSANDS of bugs!
3. Dealing with the Problem:
I took a hot shower and moved off the boat, for about 6 weeks,  while I tried to tackle the problem.   I slept in a large panel van that I was converting into a storage and office facility.
The next day, I sprayed my minivan and saw lots of those pink larvae (bedbug nymphs) that I had killed. On the boat,  I opened up the inspection holes that I had made previously for a plumbing job and sprayed each cavity  with insecticide while also sprinkling with diatomaceous earth (DE)..  You can see at least 30 dead bugs in the example photograph below.
For About 6 weeks I would go into the darkened boat at night with a searchlight and spray any live bugs I could see using the oil-based J.T Eaton Bed Bug Killer This kills on contact (but no residual effect) and contains natural pyrethrins and piperyl butoxide. It is recommended for initial large scale "knock down" of the bugs. Pyrethrins are less toxic than most insecticides.
During the daytime I moved all loose objects,  including the cushions. out of the boat and into plastic bags that were fumigated with spray and kept outside. I could now see little nests on the the side seams on most all of the cushions I had slept on. The cushion backrests had a mesh layer  that was full on nests.  After killing the bugs, this mesh was removed and the plywood backs painted with white paint that was also used to seal the edge of the fabric where it was stapled to the wood, This eliminated another obvious hiding place.
I kept spraying on a daily basis even in the engine compartment, battery compartment, and marine sanitation area. The aim was to keep going past several life cycles of the bugs in order to eliminate the infestation. I used lots of diatomaceous earth that I bought from a hardware store.
Finally, I sealed off all gaps in the panelling where bugs could enter and exit. As  I used silicone sealant and (for larger gaps) polyurethane foam. Each clothes locker was lined with rubber mesh covering a layer of diatomaceous earth. 
At this point I had not seen live bugs or nests for a while and thought the job was complete. But see Part 2 for the sequel!
4. The psychological effects of bed-bug infestation: 
For a long time afterwards, you imagine something crawling on you. Every time you see little black specks you squash them to see if they are bugs filled with blood! You have friends who won't; let you come into their living space or (one guy) even shake your hand!. I WILL NEVER FORGET! that episode of my life.

Marine Toilet Installation with Odor-Proof Hoses March 18, 2018 17:16

This is how I installed a new marine toilet in my 1990 Gulf 32 Sailboat. The old stinky hoses made of thin-walled plastic were replaced by odor-proof hoses, using hard plastic for the tight bends. Details are given including how the pipes were routed and upgrades made to the plumbing. The holding tank was cleaned out during the procedure.

About Fiberglass Part 2: Gelcoat repairs February 19, 2018 02:26

Note: This article deals with repairs above the waterline (for water-induced blisters, see Part 3). It does NOT cover repair or replacement of non-skid deck, since this is a separate and more complex subject. This article was originally prepared for a forum I hosted on Sailboatowners.com.

Background: Gelcoat is much softer than polyurethane paint, but is present in thicker layers that allow more depth for sanding and compounding. It is much cheaper and easier to apply than polyurethane. However, gelcoat is less durable than polyurethane paint and more easily suffers from nicks, scratches, stress cracks and abrasion. It also oxidizes more rapidly.

Another, more rare problem is lack of adhesion of the gelcoat layer to the original fiberglass laminate. This is possibly due to delay is applying the original fiberglass laminates to the layer of gelcoat lining the mold. This can result in loss of dime-sized pieces of gelcoat. Another form of damage is wearing through of the gelcoat  layer by abrasion. This can also happen with excessive wet sanding and compounding. In an attempt to remove oxidation that is deep-seated.  It can also be caused by the boat rubbing against a piling during a storm. The final type of gelcoat damage is the formation of “alligator-skin” type cracks and/or “crazing” caused by severe and repeated sun exposure.

How are such damaged areas repaired? Similarities and differences in procedure are described below. We will start with a description of items needed before beginning the repairs.

Required Tools etc

For opening up nicks and scratches before repair you will need a scraper or sharp-edged screw driver. You will also need sandpaper, ranging from coarse (80 or 100 grit) to 220-600 grit “wet or dry” silicon-carbide paper. Small amounts of coarse and fine rubbing compound (I like Turtle Wax® brand) and a fine polish like those from Meguires®. Some wax for final touch up is also required (we like Collinite Fleetwax 885) or our own SIMPLY BRILLIANT Superwax™ and/or MIRROR HARD Superglaze™ resin coatings. A Dremel® high speed grinder is useful and also  an electric buffer for compounding and polishing.

Graduated polyethylene vessels are essential and some mixing sticks (coffee-stirring sticks can also be used for small batches of gelcoat.). Some Mylar sheet  or polyethylene (plastic bag material) are needed for placing over uncured repairs to aid shape and/or keep air from the surface while the resin is curing. Plastic squeegee applicators are required for spreading on filler or thickened gelcoat. If gelcoat is going to be sprayed on, use propellant-driven disposable spray guns. The one made by Preval® is most suitable for small repairs. Before spraying, the gelcoat will thinned and filtered to remove lumps and particles that might clog the spray-head.

Masking tape and/or ISLAND GIRL®s “Hawaiian Blue Masking Gel™ are needed to mask the surrounding areas. The masking gel can even be used to mask textured non-skid decks and vinyl upholstery where masking tape cannot. “Fine-line tape" from 3M will be required if the edge of a stripe is involved in the repair. Finally, a paper dust mask is recommended during sanding gelcoat and filler. A charcoal-filtered mask and safety glasses are necessary during gelcoat spraying.  You should wear thick-walled rubber kitchen gloves as well as old clothing or coveralls.


Polyester resin (clear, non-tinted) is the basis of all gelcoat repairs. When it is tinted with colored pigment or dye it is termed “gelcoat”. Regular polyester (laminating) resin is “air inhibited” so it sets with a sticky surface unless the surface is sealed from air. This can be accomplished by pressing plastic film over the repair or by spraying with polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) surface sealant. PVA is also a mold release agent so it can be used under the plastic film to make it easier to peel off the cured resin.  Cured PVA is removed by water, so you will also need a water hose or other source of tap water.

Wax/styrene “surfacing agent “ can be added to regular resin, converting it into “surfacing resin” which can also be purchased in ready-mixed form. We prefer using this type of resin because the wax rises to surface, sealing it so that no surface coating (plastic film and/or PVA) is required to prevent surface stickiness.  However, because wax is partially imbedded in the surface, it cannot be removed  by solvents, but wet sanding is required prior to painting, or making further gelcoat repairs..

Precaution: Set-up times must be sufficient (more than 10 minutes) for the wax to rise to the surface evenly. If more than one layer of catalyzed surfacing resin is applied, the surface of the underlying layer must  still tacky, otherwise sanding between layers is necessary.

For manual (rather than spray) application to deep scratches, or on vertical surfaces, the gelcoat has to be thickened so that it does not run or sag. This can be done by the addition of Cab-O-Sil® resin powder. This renders the resin mix to be “thixotropic” i.e. it behaves both like a liquid when stirred, but gelatinous after application. The thickening powder does not alter the effects of added color pigments. Most small “do-it your-self” gelcoat repair kits contain surfacing resin that is already thickened with Cab-O-Sil®.

For making up a more “Bondo®-like type of paste for filling deeper repairs, talc (a magnesium silicate) is the cheapest (and heaviest) filling agent for the resin. Plastic micro-balloons are lighter and make a paste that is more easily sanded after curing. Glass beads or other harder-to-sand fillers are not recommended for gelcoat repairs. You can also use Bondo® or other body fillers, available in kits, some of which are especially formulated for marine use.

The resin becomes “gelcoat” when it is colored by application of pigments (powders of solid color) or dyes (soluble in the resin. Dyes are seldom used except on surfboards and/or metalflake finishes.

Thinners for Spraying Gelcoat

When spraying gelcoat, you can use either regular resin or surfacing resin, no thickening with Cab-O-Sil® is allowed. Instead, the resin is diluted down with styrene and acetone (no more than 10% acetone). Too much acetone dulls the surface but styrene is much slower to flash off. Some people like to use a “slow” lacquer thinner with the styrene instead of acetone. Thinning between 15 and  50% may be necessary, depending upon spray gun, operator, ambient temperature etc. Some trial and error practice is required.

Dewaxing procedure, prior to application.

First scrub the area with a strong cleaner such as Ajax® or Superclean® . Then use a Xylene-based “grease and wax remove”, that will also remove all silicone residues. It is available at any Auto paint store. . For small jobs you can use “Goof Off”. Followed by acetone or lacquer thinner. DO NOT WIPE ON WITH SHOP RAGS because the silicones used in fabric softener may affect adhesion. Use only Cheap unprinted paper towel.


The polyester gelcoat or paste filler (if used) is induced to set hard by mixing with the proper amount of catalyst according to instructions.  For paste filler repairs (not gelcoat) a bondo-type catalyst can be used which has a dye to assist in thorough mixing.  For gelcoat, however, colorless catalyst is used, applied with a drop bottle. It is important to mix very thoroughly without adding excessive amounts of catalyst that may either interfere with proper pot life or hardness of the cured resin. Usually only the equivalent  of 1-4 Oz Catalyst per gallon is used depending upon temperature (less catalyst on a hot day). Finally, avoid temperatures below 50 degrees F (resin may not cure properly) or abuve 90 degrees (sets up too fast). Also avoid working in direct sunlight except for very small repairs since UV light accelerates hardening and solvent bubbles may ruin the finish.

Color Matching of Gelcoat is dealt with in detail HERE

It is generally easier to color match liquid gelcoat rather than thickened paste. When diluted with thinner for spraying there will be an apparent change in color, but the original gelcoat color match is still there. When Cab-O-Sil® is used to thicken previously color-matched gelcoat, the original color match is not affected. Color-matching with gelcoat paste can be also be done.

Repairs of Nicks and scratches

This type of gelcoat damage is caused by collision with a sharp object or collision with something heavy and sharp. Such damage is fairly easy to repair.

Step 1:

After dewaxing, the local area and light sanding (600 wet or dry) to expose fresh original gelcoat, the scratches or nicks are opened up by the edge of a scraper and rough sanded (80grit). The opened up area is wiped out with some acetone, to remove debris and then a little styrene to aid chemical bonding of the repair.

Step 2:

We advise use of a surfacing resin for making up the gelcoat repair mix. Color-matched gelcoat (i.e. polyester resin, plus pigment) is suitably thickened with Cab-O-Sil®, then catalyzed and applied with a plastic applicator to the area, filling the entire area  proud.  On clear (or tinted) gelcoat over metal-flake, no pigment or perhaps a little color-matched dye is used.

Step 3:

The repaired area is sanded smooth with 220 grit, then (stepwise) down to 600 wet or dry sandpaper. The area is further smoothed with rubbing compound, then polished and waxed.

Note: if the original scratch is so deep that it reaches down or into the underlying fiberglass laminate, some repairmen prefer to use an under-layer of polyester filler paste and apply the outer layer of gelcoat by spray, as described for repair of stress cracks (see below).

Stress cracks

The polyester resins of the gelcoat slowly become more brittle with age and are therefore more prone to stress cracks. They tend to form around metal fittings due to alternate heat expansion and contraction. They also form (as on my boat) in some areas where the boat hit the dock and the fiberglass hull flexed. Because the gelcoat in thick and has no fibers for reinforcement, it is less flexible and may form some cracks that go down to the underlying fiberglass laminate, with some lack of adhesion between the laminate and the gelcoat. If cracks are due to underlying and persistent structural weakness causing flexure, this weakness should be fixed before the gelcoat is repaired.  Stress cracks are  repaired in a different way than for nicks and scratches.

Minor Stress Cracks

It is important to prevent the cracks from spreading by preventing water from getting into the cracks. In cold climates.  The expansion produced by freezing water may  enlarge  the cracks and even start to lift the gelcoat layer from the underlying laminate.

One way to fix these minor cracks is to scrape out any dirt with a fine needle and then fill the cracks with (catalyzed) penetrating epoxy resin. This will seal the cracks and ensure that adherence of the gelcoat is ensured.

In milder climatic conditions, we have found that minor cracks can be filled by MIRROR HARD Superglaze™. Indeed we have testimonials from a customer who has used our 2-Step system to ameliorate surface crazing of the gelcoat surface, shown HERE.

More Serious Cracks

These need to be opened up and filled as described below:

Step 1

De-wax and then wet sand (220-400 grit) the area to expose true colo of the gelcoat, prior to use of our NEUTRAL CLEAR™ Cleanser-Conditioner often assists in brightening up porous gelcoat to its true color.

Step 2:

Grind out the area (using a Dremel® tool) until it is obvious that the area has been reached where there is solid bonding between gelcoat and underlying laminate.

Step 3.

Wipe out the area with acetone to remove debris, then with some styrene to increase chemical bonding of the repair.

Step 4:

Fill the area to just above the original (sanded) gelcoat surface  with catalysed paste filler. The final intention is to cover the area with sprayed-on color-matched gelcoat.

You can buy a ready prepared Bondo®-type body filler or (better) you can make your own using regular resin mixed with Cab-O-Sil® (to prevent runs) with talc or plastic micro-balloon filler. Pigments may be added to approximate color of gelcoat in an aid to hiding: the color of the filler underneath the outer sprayed gelcoat layers.

Step 5:

Sand the area to original color, using small amount of additional filler to fill in any low spots. The final step is to blend in the repair as much as possible, by sanding with 220 grit wet- sanding.


Then wipe of the repair area with acetone or lacquer thinner and mask off the surrounding area with masking tape and/or Hawaiian Blue Masking Gel™.  “Back taping”: (peeling back edge of the tape) can be used to provide a soft edge” to the sprayed gelcoat. Another way of making the repair less detectable is to mask to a “factory edge” where minor differences in gelcoat shade will not be noticed.  Be especaially careful to protect textured non-skid decking, upholstery and plastic windows where overspray damage can be serious (our Hawaiian Blue Masking Gel™ is ideal for this). IG Pink™ followed by water rinsing can remove uncured overspray or spills on delicate surfaces. DO NOT USE ACETONE OR LACQUER THINNER THAT WILL DAMAGE THE UNDERLYING SURFACE


Spray with color-matched, thinned gelcoat using the disposable sprayer. Remember pot life of catalyzed gelcoat is only about 15 min before it becomes a gel (rinse gun immediately) with acetone or lacquer thinner. Apply several coats. Unlike using paint (which would run), one coat of gelcoat can immediately follow the previous one. Even if runs do occur, they are easily sanded out at the end.

 Step 7A:

This “blending process can continue to essentially clear gelcoat if you are a perfectionist.

Although not absolutely necessary, if surfacing resin was used to make the gelcoat (it dries tack-free), final spray application of PVA will a ensure  shiny surface. If regular resin was used to make the galcoat,  spraying of a least 3 coats of PVA during final cure of the surface is absolutely necessary.

Step 8:

When the gelcoat has hardened sufficiently, remove the tape by pulling “backwards” on the tape and not straight up. Be especially careful if the tape was used at the edge of a stripe. Not less that 24 hours later, lightly wet sand with 600-800 grit, then compound, polish and wax the area to make it virtually undetectable.

Repairing Abrasion Damage

If abrasion damage is widespread, a complete paint job or (cheaper) re-gelcoating will be needed. However, localized abrasion caused by careless use of a buffer, or rubbing against a piling, can be repaired in a cost-effective way.  The damaged surface is de-waxed and sanded as appropriate. Filler is only necessary to bring up to level of the underlying laminate. If abrasion has damaged the laminate, then a laminating repair may have to be done first, using resin and fiberglass matting (beyond the scope of this article). Otherwise, follow the steps described above for repair of stress cracks.

Repairing gelcoat adhesion damage (loss of pieces of gelcoat)

The problem here is ascertaining the extent of the problem. Obviously, if more of the gelcoat is not properly bonded to the underlying laminate, the only real cure is to remove ALL of the gelcoat and resurface with new gelcoat or else polyurethane, over a catalyxed epoxy primer.

However, we will assume here that the problem is localized to those areas where gelcoat has fallen off in small pieces. Then the repair is done basically as described for serious stress cracks.

Repair or “alligatoring” and crazing

Short of removing all the gelcoat and repainting or re-gelcoating, the easiest way to fix such damage is to de-wax and sand down to a reasonable level of smoothness. Then, after masking, apply one or three coats of 2-part (catalyzed) epoxy primer paint with wet-sanding  (220 grit) between coats. Addition of a little “Fish-Eye Eliminator” (actually a silicone itself) to the paint is a good idea if you think that traces of wax-silicone may remain on the surface. The excellent bonding and flexibility characteristics of the primer will fill in the cracks. After wet-sanding, the final coat of primer to to suitable smoothness (400 grit) apply one to three coats of two-part polyurethane such as Interlux®  by brush, roller or spray with sanding between coats, unless the finish is already smooth (but still soft) when a final coat can be applied.

without all this work, we have at least one report of the ISLAND GIRL® System ameliorating the effects of gelcoat crazing

Materials for these repairs are available from West Marine, TAP Plastics and Fiberglass Hawaii. - You can look them on on the Internet!



About Fiberglass Part 1 - Background + gelcoat care and protection February 18, 2018 23:06

The story of Fiberglass

Fiberglass itself is very fine fibers of glass (Duh!).  Although almost certainly seen before by glassblowers, in 1932, a worker at the Owens company in Illinois tried to weld together glass blocks and when a jet of air hit the molten glass fibers  (looking like Candy floss) were formed. Later, in the commercial preparation of glass fibers, steam is used instead of air.

 In the 1930s Owens Illinois expanded and later combined with Corning to form Owens-Corning.  In 1936 fiberglas® (only one s) was trademarked and patented.  It was used (and still is) for insulation, but then the company began research on spinning the fibers into cloth and introduced a heat treatment to give the cloth more flexibility. In 1942 Owens-Corning partnered with the USAAF to develop plastic laminates.  The fiberglass cloth was impregnated with resins and in 1944 the first fiberglass-reinforced plastic boat hull was made, eventually followed by fishing rods, kitchens trays and finally pleasure boats. From 1953 fiberglass laminates were used to make most boats, RVs, some specialized cars, shower stalls, bathtubs, hot-tubs even swimming pools and park slides.

How are glass-reinforced fiberglass items made?

Fiberglass items are made in a female mold with a smooth inner surface covered with a silicone-based release agent. This stops the resins from sticking to the mold. In making a boat hull, layers of fiberglass mat and woven glass fiber are impregnated with catalyzed resin and laid up one at layer at a time.  Polyester resin is most commonly used but sometimes other resins may be used. These include  epoxy resin that is more expensive but tougher with better bonding properties and is much more water-resistant. Also used is polyvinyl ester resin that has properties between those of polyester and epoxy it is also water resistant for use under the water-line.  Kevlar or carbon fiber may be used for reinforcement. of the laminate, Kevlar (used in bulletproof vests) may be used to reinforce the bow of boats for more protection against collision damage.

Use of carbon fiber results in a great increase in strength to weight ratio. Carbon fiber is commonly used in making items that  have to be light but very strong, such as spars. Vacuum bagging is used in making spars to ensure that there are no air bubbles and to make a much denser laminate.

Often, glass fiber laminate is sandwiched each side of other materials. Plywood is used as the central core for extra strength. Sandwiches of balsa or plastic foam can be used for strength with lightness.

The outer finish is usually composed of resin containing color pigment. This is called gelcoat. It is sprayed into the mold before applying the layers of resin impregnated fiberglass. The gelcoat stripes on the boat are applied first and are usually very thin. The smooth inner surface of the mold is covered with a wax-silicone mold release agent, so that when the hull of the boat is removed from the mold it is already smooth and shiny, just like a new car but without the labor costs of preparation and spray painting. This also means that the outer surface of the gelcoat already has a protective layer of weathering protection.  

How does the outer gelcoat surface break down?

Aging of the gelcoat is primarily caused by oxidation, just like rust on an iron or steel surface.   As gelcoat oxidizes, the long-chain polyester polymer chains break into smaller and smaller pieces,  eventually yieldng chalky material.  There will also be some partially oxidized material that is softer than the original gelcoat and often of lighter color.  Also the pigment in the surface layer may fade in the sun. Although surface oxidation is fairly easy to remove with abrasives, some partially broken down and some good gelcoat will also be removed. 

In a way also analogous to rusting metal, this oxidation starts to eat down into the underlying gelcoat, to form “pores” or “micro-crevices” that increase porosity of the gelcoat. Since these pores are full of chalk the chalk absorbs stains such as diesel smoke and rust. Sometimes strong acid cleaners are used to remove these stains (by dissolving the chalk) but this makes the gelcoat even more porous.

Left without attention, gelcoat can eventually become so porous that it cannot take a shine, after the conventional methods of compounding, polishing and waxing.  Furthermore, on black or dark-colored gelcoat, the chalk in the pores also makes it impossible to restore full depth of the color even with wet sanding and much abrasive compounding that will make the gelcoat layer dangerously thin.  There will always be a grey “shadow” that can only be removed chemically (as described below).

Care of  gelcoat and protection against weathering.

Superficial oxidation is easily removed by conventional methods of compounding,  polishing  and then sealing the surface with wax.

This process also removes some of the good gelcoat but can only be done so many times , especially on the thin gelcoat gelcoat stripes, where  the edges are very susceptible to “burn through” by the buffing  process.

By contrast, ISLAND GIRL®'s Cleanser-Conditioners and ELIXIR™  selectively dissolve out the oxidation without affecting the gelcoat itself. This is because the small molecules of chalk and partial breakdown products are more soluble than the long chain polyester polymers of completely sound  gelcoat. This is not the same as with some non-selective solvents like acetone that will dissolve and removal oxidation AND of good gel coat.

Another drawback to the use of (even very fine) abrasive polishes is that, by producing microscopic scratches, the oxidation process is speeded by greatly increasing the surface area of raw gelcoat susceptible to oxidation. This happens because wax may seal against water but NOT the air needed for oxidation. That is why the ISLAND GIRL® System is perfect for use on  NEW boats.

Water-based acrylic coatings

An alternative to the use of wax is to clean the gelcoat and then seal it with a clear acrylic coating. Best results would be expected with solvent-based acrylic but thorough dewaxing and wet sanding would be required for good adhesion, and when the coating eventually goes grey and opaque, is would need to be sanded off.

Of course, there are also several water-based acrylic coatings, of which the main one remaining is Poliglow™ . They can give satisfactory and very durable results because they do seal off the pores and would therefore protect better than wax. However, it is essential to first remove all traces of wax before application, otherwise the finish will flake off. Similarly thay cannot sufficiently adhere to  new or painted surfaces (unless first wet-sanded). They really can only be used on older gelcoat that is porous, so that the pores actually provide the “key” for adhesion of the coating.   Such coatings eventuall become grey and have to be removed by an ammonia–based chemical stripper.  More important, by becoming grey in the pores of the gelcoat, they can only be properly removed by deep wet-sanding.

Another drawback to the use of water-based acrylic coatings is that they require about six coats (sometimes as many as 12) using a special applicatory to minimize “lap marks".  Being water-based these coatings can only be properly applied in warm dry conditions on a boat that is pulled out the water.


Unique Properties of the ISLAND GIRL® System for care and restoration of gelcoat

This product system can be applied to a boat in the water under less than ideal conditions from the dock or from a dinghy and can minimize the problem of stress cracks by sealing the cracks.

 ISLAND GIRL® Cleansers and ELIXIR™ are designed to dissolve out all the chalk in the pores as well as on the surface and soften partially broken-down gelcoat so that it is easily removed by mild abrasion by a scuff pad.  Oxidation in the pores is drawn up to the surface into paper towel soaked in the product.  

Then, in the case of our Cleansers and ELIXIR™, the product dries back leaving the pores soaked in anti-oxidant conditioner while restoring  depth of color by removing the greyish chalk.  ELIXIR™ also leaves a wax-resin coating on the surface. The fluorescing agents in our Cleanser-Conditioners and ELIXIR™ also “brighten” white and colored gelcoat. Therefore the UV is sunlight is “pacified” so that it no longer causes damage but actually improves the the durability and appearance  of the gelcoat surface. An outer coating of MIRROR HARD Superglaze™ can be used for extra weathering protection and astounding “better than new” shine.

GELCOAT COLOR-MATCHING February 17, 2018 18:12



About Colors:

As a guide to color mixing, you could use a sheet of paint chips from a hardware store for the nearest color to that of the area to be repaired. Then ask the store assistant to give you the tinting formula (if they will!). You can also buy a color wheel from an art shop. These range from about $5 for a simple one to as much as $20 with a detailed book and charts on color theory made by Grumbacher (www.Grumbacher.com).

 In synopsis, there are three primary colors: red, blue and yellow and these can be used to make secondary colors: e.g. green=(blue + yellow) ; orange=(red + yellow); purple = (red + blue) etc.

These secondary colors can then be mixed with each other and/or white or black to make tertiary colors. White and black pigments are used to control SHADE (darker, add black; lighter, add white). Obvious examples are brown=(orange + black), maroon= (red + black.)

 Obviously white and black can also be used as stand-alone colors.  An “arctic” or “snow”  white  is white with a slight tint of blue.  Off white or cream colors are white with a tint of yellow, orange or brown. Grey=(black + white). For “slate grey”) add a tint of blue.

You can buy ready-made darkened or mixed colors (brown, for instance). However, be aware that as the gelcoat is diluted , its apparent color may change since the relative contributions of the primary components may change (e.g. diluted brown may become pinkish because red is a stronger or more “intense” color. The actual color of the gelcoat remains unchanged.

For some popular boats, you can buy gelcoat premixed to the original factory color, but this may no longer be as original due to fading of the original pigments or even changes in materials used to make the gelcoat since an old boat was manufactured. Never-the-less, a factory colors can be a useful starting point that is easily modified by small additions of other colored pigments. You may look at www.tapplastixs.com) for examples of the color pigments and dyes that they sell.

 How to do the actual color matching

Color matching is best done in daylight, preferably not in direct sunlight. An area of gelcoat adjacent to that being repaired is dewaxed, lightly wet-sanded (600 grit), compounded and wiped with acetone or lacquer thinner to expose fresh, clean gelcoat.

Step 1:

Mix a reasonable amount of non-catalyzed gelcoat (enough for a total repair, (plus some spare, for future use). It is made up to the approximate shade of the color to be matched. It should be a little lighter for light-colored hull gelcoat and a little darker for dark-colored hull gelcoat.  As an initial guide on solid colors, no more that 6-8% pigment is added. For a Cream color, for instance, make up (or buy) white gelcoat,  

If color-matched gelcoat paste is being custom prepared for use, add Cab-O-Sil®, after color matching. This is not possible with small “Beginner Kits” available at West Marine. No catalyst is added at this stage.

Step 2: (example with light-colored Gelcoat:

Dab a little of the (non-catalyzed)  gelcoat on the area of the boat to be color-matched, using  a cleaned (with acetone) thick rubber glove-protected finger. The dabbed-on color should be too light. Then dab on a tiny spot of color pigment smearing it is such a way that a gradation in darkness of color intensity is produced. If you guessed correctly, at least one section of this gradation will approximate the underlying gelcoat color.

Step 3:

Transfer what you learned to the larger batch of gelcoat in the pot, adding new pigment, tiny bit at a time with plenty of stirring.

Repeat this process with the next tint that seems to be needed until the color is matched as close as possible. Then catalyst can b added and the repair done as described in Part 2.



NOTE: Use ISLAND GIRL Pink Cleansing Lotion™ for clean-up of non-catalyzed or incompletely cured gelcoat or other resins. It will not damage underlying good gelcoat as with acetone. 




 Working on this project  daily for almost 5  months our new, easily navigable website has almost 70 individual pages. It is very rich in detail and new content on instructions and testimonials. Also links to our videos are now found through directory page.

The slide shows on the front page and in the MIRROR HARD Superglaze™ details page is a new feature. You can just click to stop the slide progression and view a detailed picture. 

There are also results of a huge Carver 400 Motor Yacht that we did using new techniques and products.

Finally, there are links to social media where you can share the good news!

See this at www.IslandGIrlProducts.com


Thanks and Happy Christmas, Holidays and New Year to you all!

Anthony L. Willis Ph.D, President of Island Girl Products Inc,


SIMPLY SUPERIOR! Welcome to the world of Island Girl Products, developed and manufactured in Hawaii by Dr. Anthony L. Willis Ph.D. April 1, 2015 04:00

Almost 21 years ago, I solo sailed my Gulf 32 Sailboat to Hawaii from California,  after early retirement from my post as Chief Scientist at a Biotech Company. I was appalled by the waste of scientific talent there and thought: "If I ran a company it would be different" Over the last 20 years, I invented and perfected an interlocking "system" of unique products that are a well kept secret among boaters, expensive car owners, detailers and (more recently) the collectors of sneakers. My late wife (she died in 2007) and I completely financed and developed the product line, designed the packaging and made videos and the website. The products are still made personally by myself, although the world famous SEA GLOW™ now has to have the bulk ingredients mixed in  300 gallons batches by a large chemical plant on the mainland. Then, after shipment to Hawaii, I complete the product formulation in Honolulu.

Finally, through the internet, my products are becoming available to more and more people worldwide. This new move to Shopify.com  (may 1st 2015) should further help "spread the word" to a wider customer base.


Anthony L. WIllis  BSc, Ph.D