On the Job

Guide to Handling Scratches on Deck

10 June 2021 By Capt. Mx
rail on yacht

Still pushing water, having enjoyed and excelled aboard square riggers, Whitbread Maxis, the world cup circuit when there were only 7 boats, America’s Cuppers, 12M, modern classics, real classics, salvage, racing, passage, refits, builds and more, for 38 years, 54 Atlantic crossings, 48 world championships, and a few stories more. I enjoy the serenity and clarity that a life between the blues offers, washed by wind and waves, where all that remains is the simple truth of all things, questions for all things technical, and acceptance of all things magic. 

It takes a daily chamois, and a bit more, to keep all the shiny bits on deck shiny. Here's how...

It is truly rather extraordinary how the shiny bits stay shiny on deck — stainless, in particular, but also the brass bits. I have seen decks of vessels 20, 50, 100, and more years old where these bits continue to reflect the sunshine and it’s fascinating that they do so day after day, year after year. It’s possibly one of the better investments on board.

It takes a daily chamois, of course, but just a bit more on a regular basis and even more than that on occasion when deep scratches occur in normal operation, which sometimes includes mistakes. Yachting is one of the few arenas where you can make a mistake and keep your job as you learn to make the repairs, so take advantage of this, and learn from your mistakes and from those who already know.

In the event of a deep scratch, consider if there is any distortion of the original shape. If so, it may never again reflect as it once did, although it can still be made shiny once again. As in all instances, it is the scratch’s depth that determines the process and particularly the materials. Whereas almost everything can be accomplished by hand and sweat, at times it behooves you to have the necessary equipment aboard so you can actually get it all done within a day if properly equipped and prepared.

To ensure a boat remains pretty and your time effective, make sure you have a dedicated polishing machine aboard prior to setting sail, and make sure you have the supplies to keep you active. I also suggest that you also have sanding and polishing discs for your four-and-a-half-inch grinder and your drill as they work wonders on stainless steel and brass if correctly applied. These also require supplies to make them and your efforts effective. You should have a selection of sandpaper in your lockers ranging from 60 grit on through to 800, 1,000, and 1,200 grit, wet and dry type, for a myriad other uses, but specifically to repair damage to your shiny bits. Polishing paste is typically the equivalent of 1,200 grit or more if applied with your polishing disc or your hands and clean, dry, cotton cloth.

Depending on the depth of the scratch, begin applying the wet/dry paper with your fingers, ever aware of the immediate effect, until the scratch is gone, replaced by a cloudy looking area that can then be polished away with the wheel, if accessible, or your hands.

Time and again, you will see that the systematic application and use of materials with intelligent intent ensures the results you want and it’s only effort and perseverance that gets you from being a newbie on board to a bosun on the rise. It’s the knowledge of application and care that make the difference — apply the same insight to your own self, and you too will become one of the shiny bits on deck.

This column originally ran in the November 2020 issue of Dockwalk.


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