Care, Storage & Maintenance of Your Whitehall Boat 2017-08-24T15:12:56+00:00

Care, Storage & Maintenance of Your Whitehall Boat

Here are some tips to help minimize wear and tear on your Classic Whitehall Spirit. We believe that spending only a few hours a year of maintenance on your boat will keep it clean and pristine. Here are a few tips to start with:

  1. Leave an old towel in the boat. Use the towel, dampened with fresh water preferably, to wipe off saltwater splashes from teak surfaces. Wiping the saltwater off will keep the oil finish free from the prismatic effect of UV sunlight and prevent lighter colored blotches from forming

  3. Keep sand and grit off seats and floorboards to reduce abrasion and the need for oil touch ups

  5. Use fenders and proper tie-up lines to prevent rubbing and scratches when tied to other boats or to docks

  7. If you want the gel coat hull finish to keep its pristine “as new” appearance, start maintaining it right away (see section below). Don’t wait until it’s several years old with the surface all chalky and the color bleached out.

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Boat Storage

How you store your boat is an important factor, either during the boating season or when it’s stored for the winter.

Damage from the sun’s rays causes the most damage to a boat’s finish. This is why all boats are shipped shrink wrapped, while an optional, longer lasting, custom fitted Sunbrella canvas cover is also available. Sunbrella canvas covers, available in a large selection of colors, will last for up to 10 years or more.

If left uncovered in hot summer sun, the boat will require oiling every three weeks to keep it in prime shape. However, once you get into the routine of keeping the cover on when the boat is not in use, a light oiling once or twice over the season is all that is required. Some owners enjoy oiling their boats so much, that their teak shines with a fine-furniture like finish. Others simply let their teak go completely natural which gives it an almost white look.

If your boat is stored in a humid or damp environment, steps to prevent the growth of mildew on the wood surfaces need to be taken. Check for the telltale signs of mildew, small gray-black spots forming on the teak. Airing the boat out and ensuring that seats and inside surfaces are thoroughly dry before covering the boat for storage will help considerably. Products such as Dry-Z-Air work well at extracting moisture from the air under the cover.

Many owners store their boats by hanging them from the rafters of their garage or cottage boat shed. Run a short 3/8″ line through the stern eyes and another through the bow eye and tie them into loops. The loops can be fastened to a block and tackle system, which can be used to hoist the boat up into the rafters.
Dock davits are a handy solution for dry storage and ready access to your boat. These can be purchased from us, or you can have someone make them for you locally.

Dock davits are a handy solution for dry storage and ready access to your boat. These can be purchased from us, or you can have someone make them for you locally.


Maintaining the Gel Coat Finish

Your boat’s hull is constructed of hand laid fiberglass that is coated on the outside and the inside with a hard resin called gel coat. Gel coat is much tougher than any paint type coating, but sharp surfaces such as barnacles or steel bolt heads can cause scratches.

Avoiding this type of damage is always best. If you must land on a harsh surface, try to avoid excessively bouncing the hull against rocks and barnacles. The hull can take serious abuse. It will just look worn. A product such as our Boat Slider Trax can eliminate most of this type of damage and is very useful on camping expeditions where landings and departures are made on a variety of beaches.

Most hulls are damaged slowly, over time by the gradual effects of ultra violet sunlight breaking down the surface molecules if the gel coat is left unprotected. A good coat of wax every few months will prevent this degradation. Waxing the hull also makes it easier to clean grime and keeps it slick and slippery.

There are dozens if not hundreds of wax brands available but the brand used is not as important as building up fresh protection. Brands with UV resistance are recommended. Full hull maintenance involves washing the boat inside and out with a biodegradable cleaning agent, water and a soft brush. If the hull is already quite clean, simply wiping it down with a damp cloth will suffice. Let the boat dry and then apply a coat of wax as per the instructions provided on the container.

Leaving the boat in either fresh or saltwater for extended periods is not recommended unless the hull is sealed and bottom painted. The gel coat finish will eventually become stained and, in saltwater, barnacles will attach themselves and grow furiously. When the barnacles are scraped off, the glue they have secreted to attach themselves with is so tough that the gel coat is likely to be damaged. The boats are light enough that they can either be stored clear of the water on a davit system or simply hauled out onto the dock or beach. The vast majority of owners keep their boats stored on a boat trailer.

Repairing small nicks and dings in gel coat

If the gel coat finish gets damaged to the point where a piece is chipped out, the following steps can be taken to remedy this problem quickly and easily:

  1. Obtain a small quantity of white gel coat resin and hardener, disposable latex gloves, a sharp knife, some Scotch tape, some toothpicks and a small piece of cardboard or the bottom of a paper cup for a mixing pallet.

  3. Using the sharp instrument, remove any gel coat flakes and expose the entire void in preparation for filling it.

  5. Using a toothpick, thoroughly mix a tiny amount of gel coat with hardener (two drops of hardener per sugar cube size amount of gel coat), using your mixing palette.

  7. Using a toothpick as an applicator, carefully fill the void. You want to just fill the void, not overfill it.

  9. Apply a strip of clear Scotch tape across the filled surface area, stretching and carefully flattening the tape over the void. If the void has been filled with the correct amount of gel coat it will flatten flush with the surface of the hull. Allow up to one hour for the gel coat to harden.

  11. Peel back the tape and examine your work. Hopefully, the void is now nearly invisible and as strong as the rest of the hull. Overfilled areas can be sanded with 900 grit wet and dry sandpaper to bring the surface level. Care must be taken not to sand too deep. Under-filled areas can be brought to level by repeating steps two through five. Once you are satisfied with the appearance, wax and buff the area using your favorite boat wax.

Maintaining an Oiled Teak Finish

The benefit of an oiled teak finish goes beyond the way it enhances the wood’s beauty.

It’s also in the ease and simplicity of application. An added advantage is that if the wood is accidentally scratched or marked the spot can be carefully sanded out, then re-oiled and blended into the surrounding wood. Teak is the most forgiving of woods. It has a natural oil that prevents decay and enables easy refinishing of neglected or damaged surfaces.

The wood’s surface should be clean and smooth before oiling. If necessary, wash the teak’s surface with soapy water and a soft brush to remove any stubborn spots. Otherwise, simply wiping down with a damp cloth will suffice. Allow the surface to dry thoroughly before oiling.

Before getting started on oiling it is important to know that if you spill or drip any oil onto the gel coated surfaces while you work, the spill needs to be wiped off with a clean rag immediately. Once hardened, these spots become sticky, darken and are very difficult to remove.

Important! Oil soaked rags must be carefully disposed of because, given the right circumstances, they can combust and potentially cause a fire. Follow the directions on the can for handling and disposal of oil soaked rags.

When re-oiling your boat it is best to apply the oil in moderate temperatures and never in direct sunlight. The oil can be applied using a cloth, brush, roller or what we prefer, a foam applicator. Apply it liberally and let it penetrate for 10 to 15 minutes watching for spots that dry early and adding fresh oil to them. Then simply wipe the surface completely dry with clean rags. Generally speaking, one coat is enough but if a second coat seems necessary follow the drying time instructions on the can.

For a really fine, furniture-like finish, leave the wood for 24 hours then, working on small sections at a time with 400 grit sandpaper, burnish-sand the wood. Wipe the burnished areas clean and apply a final coat of oil and allow it to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Then wipe hard and follow by polishing with a soft, dry cloth.

The length of time an oil finish stands up usually depends on the number of hours of direct sunlight exposure. As mentioned, keeping the boat covered whenever possible increases the longevity of the oil finish considerably. Another factor is the number of coats of oil on the teak. If sunlight cannot be avoided, re-apply the oil whenever the wood looks parched.

There’s something special about the deeper, warmer glow and the smell of a freshly oiled, wood finish. So if you feel like oiling your boat just for the pleasure of it, go ahead.

Beyond basic maintenance – refinishing seriously neglected or scratched teak surfaces

If you’re faced with refinishing neglected or scratched teak, first clean the surface and allow it to dry. The best means to get rid of scratches or mildew staining, is by sanding the wood using a medium grit (150) sandpaper followed by a quick once over with a finer grit (180-220) sandpaper. When sanding always run the cutting surface along the grain of the wood, never across it. You can tell which way the grain is running by observing the wood’s pattern of texture lines. If you sand across these lines rather than with them, scratches will appear which will take considerable time to sand out. Wipe the surface with a clean, slightly dampened cloth or vacuum it, to remove excess dust. Unlike varnish, oil is not seriously affected by small amounts of dust on surfaces during application.

Seriously neglected boats with teak that is gray or heavily mildewed can be brought back to brightness using one of several available brands of teak cleaner systems which utilize chemicals to clean, bleach and restore the surface. Follow the instructions provided with the product and then re-oil, applying two to three coats.