A new type of ultra-tough ceramic coating claims to protect your boat against everything from salt and sunlight to bird poo and red wine. Hugo Andreae puts Ceramic Pro to the test...
Some people actively enjoy polishing their boat day in, day out. I’m not one of them. Life is too short and I’d rather spend the time using my boat rather than cleaning it. The fact that it sits on a swing mooring all summer without access to a fresh water hose doesn’t help either, so other than a quick slosh down with a bucket of seawater at both ends of the day, that’s as good as it gets.
To be fair, my poor little Karnic 2250 has coped remarkably well with my shameful regime of neglect. It’s over 14 years old now but thanks to a vinyl wrap in 2014 and reupholstered cockpit seating in 2016 it could pass for a boat half its age. It’s only when you look closer that it’s true years start to show.
The white gelcoat on the foredeck and cockpit coaming has lost its shine and now has a slightly porous matt finish that feels almost chalky to the touch. The stainless steel guardrails are scratched and lightly pitted with brown rust stains around the stanchion bases.
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And all along the waterline, especially on the twin bathing platforms, constant immersion in the sea has left a brown scum line that no amount of Y10 gel seems to remove. Even the Suzuki DF200’s engine casing has lost its sparkle, although the internals seem as robust and reliable as ever.
So when Chris Dell from Ceramic Pro UK offered to show off the company’s range of ceramic-based nano coatings that claim to protect every inch of the boat’s exterior for up to three years and drastically reduce cleaning times, I didn’t have far to look to find a suitable demo boat.
Hard as nails
Unlike conventional polishes that rely on some form of wax or sealant to create a temporary gloss that gradually washes or fades away over time, Ceramic Pro claims to use a nanoceramic coating that bonds with the substrate at a molecular level to form a permanent clear coating that can only be removed by abrasion.
According to its sales literature no detergent or compound can break it down through chemical processes alone. It goes on to say that once this clear ceramic coating has cured, it becomes so tough that it can withstand scuffs and scratches that would damage softer gelcoat. Even regular gloss paint has a hardness rating of 4H whereas Ceramic Pro has a 9H rating.
It’s also super-hydrophobic causing water to bead and run off. In fact, it leaves such a smooth surface that weed and barnacles will struggle to get a grip on it, leading to claims that it can be used as a form of antifouling on bare gelcoat and may even reduce fuel consumption in the process. Last but not least it contains silicone and titanium dioxide to block UV damage and leave a lasting gloss.
As well as protecting gelcoat, Ceramic Pro Marine can be used on paint, stainless steel, rubber and plastic, while other specialist Ceramic Pro products cater for fabrics, glass, RIB tubes and even teak decks (to prevent them staining or going grey). So much for the theory but how does it work in practice on a tired-looking 14-year-old boat?
All in the prep
I was rather surprised to see an entire convoy of Ceramic Pro vehicles turn up at my boatyard at 08:00 one June morning, especially when no fewer than five people spilled out of them. I was even more surprised to find that they were still working on my boat at 20:00 that evening.
This is no mere cut and polish job, it’s a full on top-to-bottom detailing service that leaves no cushion or locker lid unturned. I thought it was a joke when one of them pulled out a toothbrush to start scrubbing around the stanchion bases – not a bit of it, cleaning Ceramic Pro-style is a serious business that requires a different tool and product for every crack and crevice.
Even areas of the boat that never get seen, such as the underside of the pulpit and bathing platforms, were meticulously scrubbed, cleaned and treated with Oxacylic acid to remove rust and algae stains, while fittings such as the cover poppers were removed to enable easier access for the rotary polisher.
With a product as permanent as Ceramic Pro there is no point applying it until the surface is completely clean or you’ll simply lock in the dirt that’s already there. Although my boat’s gelcoat looked superficially clean, it was covered in tiny micropores where dirt could settle.
Every single surface had to be rinsed and washed to remove this dirt, then polished back with cutting compound before a final degrease and wipe down to remove any residual chemicals. Only then could it be treated with Nano Primer to fill in the micro-pores and Ceramic Pro Marine to seal it, the hardest of the various finishing treatments available.
On my boat at least 80% of the time was spent preparing the various different surfaces and substances, whereas on a newer or better maintained boat this phase would be a much quicker process.
There are two options for applying the final coat; both involve gently wiping on an even layer of Ceramic Pro Marine with a soft sponge or the slightly thinner Ceramic Pro Brava but then you can either leave it to cure like a clear lacquer or buff most of it off for an even smoother, glossier finish.
The extra thickness of the former provides longer-lasting protection but on close inspection leaves very slight streak marks in the surface, the latter provides the ultimate flawless finish, although if you really want to go to town you can keep applying and buffing off more layers to build up its thickness.
Given my lackadaisical approach to cleaning I opted for the former but even with this marginally less perfect finish, it left my boat looking like a different beast. It really could have been a brand new boat. They also coated my cockpit seat cushions with Ceramic Pro Care + fabric treatment and demonstrated its effectiveness by pouring a bottle of Coke over it! A quick wipe and it looked as good as new.
Having lived with it over the course of the summer season I can now confirm that it has not only stood the initial test of time (three months and counting) but it has made my minimalistic cleaning routine even easier. Now when I throw a bucket of seawater over it it runs straight off the windscreen and foredeck without leaving countless salt stains behind.
I can even confirm that around the waterline where a layer of slime and barnacles had started to grow I could wipe them off with just a gentle rub of my thumb, although it has left some staining. I still question whether it will prove as effective as conventional biocide antifouling or a slipperier silicone-based fouling release system, but Ceramic Pro is carrying out further trials on a new Cobra RIB and static Aquadock to see how well it performs as an antifouling.
The cost of the treatment varies significantly according to the amount of preparation and the number of different surfaces to be coated. To treat a brand new 8m RIB including the entire hull, tubes, decks and seats would cost in the region of £2,800 to £3,500 plus VAT, while treating just the hull and decks of a secondhand Fairline Targa 34 in good condition would be around £3,500 plus VAT.
Ceramic Pro’s argument is that it will immediately add more than that to the value of the boat and will ensure it stays in better condition for years to come as well as reduce the time spent on cleaning it.
I will continue to report on how it performs on my boat over the next three years with regular updates in ‘Our Boats’ but for the moment I am just as impressed with the Ceramic Pro team’s astonishingly detailed cleaning service as I am with its products. If the treatment lives up to the same high standards and delivers on its claims, it could prove a boon for perfectionists and lazy boat owners alike.
First published in the November 2020 issue of Motor Boat & Yachting.