In Pursuit of Reflection

It took more than a week of work and my arms were ready to fall off, but the results are astounding.

Del Viento, haul out

This picture sort of captures the shine of the polished gelcoat. In fact, this picture captures everything, taken the evening before we launched.Michael Robertson

Standing ashore and looking back at her, I’m always pleased to note that Del Viento is a fine looking boat. But approaching her in a dinghy over the past couple years, the nearer we got, the rougher she looked. It became increasingly clear that she sorely lacked cosmetic attention.

Her hull and topsides were rough and chalk-like. Everything soaked into her porous surfaces and left a stain. Her 36-year-old gelcoat looked like 36-year-old gelcoat. The turquoise ornament and boot stripes were worn, chipped, and faded. Our pending haul-out represented an opportunity to remedy this.

Back in my 20s, when I lived aboard the first Del Viento, my liveaboard neighbors took sandpaper to the hull of their Passport 47. It was the first time I’d heard about very fine grit sandpaper and wet sanding. I was shocked to see this method bring a high shine to Mimosa’s gelcoat.

Me, standing on an 8-inch block of wood to
_ reach the boot stripe I'm painting._

So twenty years later, I bought a lot of sandpaper, sheets and sheets of the 400-, 600-, and 1500-grit stuff suitable for wet sanding. For days in the Guaymas boat yard I stood on scaffolding and ran my 1/3-sheet electric sander over the hull with water everywhere (don’t do this at home, I nearly destroyed the cheap corded sander, went through nearly half-a-can of WD-40 to keep it going). White gelcoat residue ran down my arms and covered my hat. In the 110-degree heat, it felt good.

Slowly, a smooth, shiny finish emerged. At this point I taped and painted the ornament stripe and boot stripe a dark, dark blue. Then I used my buffer to first apply a liquid polish and finally a paste wax. It took more than a week of work and my arms were ready to fall off, but the results are astounding. Del Viento could almost slip undetected into a gaggle of new boats at the Annapolis Sailboat Show--sort of. I've yet to do the same to the gelcoat surfaces of our cabin top.

Next up is the story about the final major yard project. This one didn’t take the most time, but it was the most curious of the projects by far…


In our twenties, we traded our boat for a house and our freedom for careers. In our thirties, we slumbered through the American dream. In our forties, we woke and traded our house for a boat and our careers for freedom. And here we are. Follow along at

Caught in the moment--Frances reacts to something she ate at a Guaymas taco stand.