The sun is harsh on lots of things around boats: dinghies, kayaks, SUPs, jerry cans, lights and even just the fiberglass of the boat itself. Things don’t just fade; they degrade, often to the point of breaking. We do our best to protect things!
Admittedly, the best protection is canvas/Sunbrella covers, but we can’t keep everything covered 100% of the time. I mean, I want to use this stuff!
303 Aerospace Protectant is what you need. The product tagline says it all: “SPF 40 for your stuff!” Yep, sunscreen for pretty much anything made of fiberglass, plastic, rubber, hypalon, PVC, vinyl, or leather. It’s not for fabric or suede and it’s somewhat slippery, so don’t use it on non-skid areas! It won’t hurt metal, but it won’t really do anything for it either.
For kayaks and paddleboards, it also helps keep water scum from adhering to them. Unfortunately, I haven’t had similar luck with it repelling barnacles or soft growth on dinghies.
Application is simple. Start by cleaning the item (most things clean up pretty well with a green scrubby-sponge and water; sometimes a little baking soda can help — we try to stay away from harsh chemicals), rinsing with fresh water and drying. If something is basically clean already but has been in salt water, just wipe it off with a damp rag to get any salt off.
Spray the 303 Aerospace Protectant on (for some materials, you need to let it sit for 3 – 5 minutes), then wipe completely dry with soft cloth. That’s it! Re-apply once a month.
One quick warning: 303 Aerospace Protectant doesn’t take the place of keeping things covered or in the shade. Just like sunscreen for your body, it decreases the damage that the sun does — but can’t totally eliminate it.
Possible uses on a boat:
- Paddleboards, boogie boards, etc.
- Outboard cover
- Jerry cans (even if covered, be sure to get the areas at the bottom of the cans and around the handles where sunlight can peek under — see photo below)
- Cockpit/helm instruments and covers
- Generator and/or hookah plastic housings
- Plastic exhaust fans and dorades
- MOB poles/LifeSling covers/life raft cover
- Fenders, even if you use covers — get the area at the top that’s not covered
I’ve heard of people using it on their boat itself but haven’t done it ourselves. Seems like it’d be a big job every month, but to keep the fiberglass from going chalky might be worth it.
Re-applying the 303 is part of our once-a-month chores, and I find it takes me a couple of hours to do everything and I’m not working at warp speed. Usually, cleaning the various items is the biggest part of the job and often I discover minor problems that need to be fixed before they become major problems. So it’s a good thing to do not just for the UV protection, but because it makes you really look at a bunch of your gear.
Sometimes you can find 303 Aerospace Protectant at big box retailers (think Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart), auto parts stores and hardware stores. I haven’t found it consistently anywhere locally, but can find it lots of places online. I get it from Amazon as they have the best price every time I’ve checked (if you price compare, be sure to check shipping as it can be substantial some places).
I bought a 16-ounce spray bottle one time and now buy the cheaper-per-ounce one gallon jugs to refill it (I find the 16 ounce bottles much easier to use than the 32-ounce ones — my hand doesn’t get nearly as tired — but the 32-ounce bottle is a much better deal). The wipes are handy for areas where you don’t want to get overspray, but they dry out quickly in hot weather. A friend of ours swears by them; we tend “make our own” wipes by spraying the 303 onto a paper towel and then wiping the item. All the following links are to Amazon:
- 16 ounce trigger spray bottle of 303 Aerospace Protectant
- Gallon refill bottle of 303 Aerospace Protectant (equal to 8 16-ounce bottles or 4 32-ounce bottles)
- 32 ounce trigger spray bottle of 303 Aerospace Protectant
- 303 Aerospace Protectant wipes
NOTE: The company is in the middle of changing the label design from primarily dark blue to primarily white. The product is the same in both. I’ve linked to the new packages where available as the other ones are being phased out and I hate broken links!