What are the water streaks on your boat (sometimes referred to as black streaks) and why do they keep happening? Where do they come from, how can we remove them, and once they're removed, how can we keep them from coming back? Keep reading for tips and tricks to learn how to keep your boat looking it's best year round in the Seattle area with Deckhand Detailing.
If you take a close look at the before and after photos above, you'll notice a cluster of vertical stains on the white gelcoat of this older Sea Ray. Not to worry, these are actually very common and there are a variety of ways to treat and prevent water/black streaks from forming. So, what is the best way to keep this from happening to your boat? The most guaranteed, (but not the best) option to prevent the formation of water streaks is... (drumroll, please) covered moorage. The reason for this is, as you may have guessed, rain.
Boats that are kept in uncovered moorage have the privilege of regular, free boat washes from nature, in the form of precipitation. Now, you might think this means covered moorage will help keep your boat clean. That is unfortunately, not the case either, and I'll explain more on why this is, shortly. You might also think, who has the time or the money for covered moorage? Especially in the Seattle area, some marinas offering covered slips have, not only astronomical prices, but years long waiting lists. So, if covered moorage is not an option for you, guess what. You're not alone.
The vast majority of boats are, in fact, kept uncovered and exposed to, not only rain and UV damage, but also environmental particulate (aka dirty air). Don't worry, covered boats are exposed to the same dirty air too (especially in the city and in close proximity to roadways) and they have the added bonus of bird and spider droppings as their regular gifts from nature. So, rain-- probably not such a bad thing. The good thing is, we can manage all the impacts of the environment on your boat, which unfortunately can't live in a showroom.
So, where do black streaks come from? Simply put, these streaks come from dirty boats being rained on and then drying. And yes, your boat gets dirty just sitting there, even if you don't use it. More dirty air settles particulate on the surface of the boat, then it rains again carrying the dirt in streaks down housing and hull, and the boat dries. So on and so forth, again and again, over and over, and until we intervene, the water/black streaks will continue to 'get worse'. When to intervene, is a great question.
Ideally you'd of had the time to keep up with the boat, but maybe it got away from you, and that's ok. Maybe it got away for six months, maybe six years. How bad could it be? Well, enter Deckhand Detailing, or, just you-- reading this like a pro and getting down to the business of DIYing it. In assessing how bad the black streaks are, you'll want to consider several factors, such as when was the last time you washed the boat, also when was the last time the boat was waxed, and how nice would you like the boat kept. If water/black streaks don't bother you, then que syrah! But, you probably wouldn't be here reading this if that was the case. So, what to do?
A huge contributing factor in the formation of water/black streaks (and their management) is having an hard to reach or unreachable 'top' to your boat. Short of acquiring some of those new jet packs I hear have been coming out in France, or organizing a special date with a crane operator, there are some roofs and bimini tops we just don't have access to (on some larger yachts), and we blame this on poor boat design. As layers and layers of particulate and dirt settle on the 'roof' hard/soft top, more and more dirt has the opportunity to be carried down the vertical surfaces of your vessel with the rain. The longer this continues, the more 'set in' the water/black streak staining will become. So, first things first. In order to decide how bad it is, you're going to need to wash the whole boat top to bottom. This will answer the first, age old detailing question--"Will it wash out?"
We'll skip the suspense. The answer is no. The stains won't wash out. So now what? Well, if you have time, energy, or money, and your goal is to not only remove the water streaks, but keep them from coming back, then have your boat waxed (we suggest boats be waxed at least annually, and if your boat is kept uncovered, potentially every six to nine months). Once your boat has been waxed, we recommend washing your boat at least once a month. If your boat is close to a major roadway or 'in the city' you'll want to consider having it washed more often, whether it is covered or uncovered. Keeping a layer of wax on your boat acts as a protectant for your gel coat. It helps to minimize oxidation and UV damage and keeps the pores of your gel coat closed, giving the finish a glossy look. It also makes keeping the boat clean much easier, and even when it gets dirty after a wax, it will all wash out easily, exposing a glossy gel coat below.
If you don't have the time money or energy for a wax, not to worry. There are good options and some stop gap measures that can be taken as well. Companies such as 3M and StarBrite make some good spray and wipe products labeled as 'black/water streak remover'. A word of caution when using these products, they often contain caustic chemicals and should only be used with proper PPE and cannot be rinsed into our waterways (they must be used as a spot treatment and wiped off completely with either a microfiber cloth or cotton rag). A secondary word of caution, when your boat does not have proper wax on it, and the gel coat is fully exposed and oxidizing, this is when black water streaks appear strongest and are most difficult to remove, and using a black streak remover will clean the streaks away BUT it cleans everything away and leaves your boat's gelcoat even more exposed to the next round of particulate settling/raining/drying , creating streaks that will only become more and more set in over time as the gelcoat gets worse and worse. Things getting worse sounds bad. Luckily there is a wonderful product out there bridging the gap between washing, waxing, and using black streak remover and its called 'Cleaner Wax' (good makers include Meguiar's and 3M).
Similar to black streak remover, cleaner wax will clean away not only black water streaks, but also scruffs, some small scratches and stains of all shapes sizes and colors on your boat. The best part about cleaner wax is that it will bring up a gloss and leave an all important layer of protection between your gelcoat and the wide world outside. Particulate, spider, mildew and bird staining is a distant memory when you bring cleaner wax into your boat life. Cleaner wax is made to use as a spot treatment (wipe on/wipe off) and the only thing you'll want to be aware of, is ending up with a bunch of areas/spots on the boat that look nice, clean and glossy, when the rest of the boat has a chalky thirsty, oxidizing, open-pored gel coat framing each beautiful cleaner-waxed 'spot'. Having a full boat wax will even out what I like to call the 'patchy' look. You can think of black streak remover as more of a chemical peel for your boat's skin, cleaner wax acts as a moisturizing, anti-aging face mask. Bonus pro tip: cleaner wax can also be used on your stainless and stamoid enclosures.
Keep your eyes peeled for more fresh blogs on how to care for your boat and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on boat detailing, coming soon!
Deckhand Detailing, established in 1990, offers affordable and high quality boat cleaning and detailing services including boat washing, boat buffing and waxing, interior and exterior cleaning and more. We're experienced, friendly and easy to work with because we love what we do!