As fiberglass boats age, replacing nonskid on decks becomes necessary for safety and good looks. Products designed for this purpose take several forms: composite mats glued to the deck (Treadmaster, SeaDek), specialty paints offering a nonslip surface (KiwiGrip, Evercoat), paints incorporating pre-mixed granules (Tuff Coat), and additives to deck paints either by mixing before application, or broadcasting onto wet paint after the paint has been applied (Awlgrip, Pettit, Interlux). Such products may also be applicable for certain new construction projects.
Having refurbished several decks over the years that had either worn-down molded nonskid or damage, and having tested a wide variety of products for ease of application and skid resistance, I can say that it’s not easy to achieve a professional-looking job. One definitely ought to practice on a piece of plywood before jumping into a big project on an actual boat deck. If using additives, spraying most often will deliver a more uniform distribution of granules than rolling and brushing, where the granules can load up if one is not careful. Overworking an area, while tempting, often yields disappointing results. Common additives employed over the years include clean sand, polymeric spheres, crushed walnut shells, and rubber particles.
Recently, Dave Exley, a small-boat builder in Florida, called to recommend a relatively new product called SoftSand, which is actually a rubber-type product. The key, says SoftSand’s Van Macomb, is that most modern deck paints are flexible coatings, allowing rigid or hard particles to “work” and loosen. Rubber-type particles are also minutely flexible, moving with the paint, as it were, and thereby ensuring a longer effective life span. Another advantage is that rubber is less abrasive on bare skin than some of the harder products.
SoftSand rubber particles can be either pre-mixed with the paint or broadcast manually onto wet paint. Macomb recommends using a saltshaker. SoftSand is available in four textures: coarse, medium, fine, and ultra-fine, with medium being the most popular. Surveyor John Lowe told us he has used the product on his personal 1979 Fortier 26, saying it has held up well and “does not hold dirt or blood and is easy on the feet.”
SoftSand Industries, 5061 Bridlepath Dr., Macungie, PA 18062 USA, tel. 484–225–3710, website www.softsandrubber.com.