Keeping Your Boat Ship Shape

The birds are beginning to make their way south for the winter and that means extra scrubbing and rinsing for all us boat owners.

It’s a very good idea to rinse your boat often during this time because the toxic ingredients in those bird droppings can put an ugly stain on your gelcoat and canvas. Of course, we highly recommend regular cleaning in all four seasons; but it’s especially important during ‘bird season’.

Rinsing your boat regularly with freshwater will reduce the amount of time needed to wash and wax your boat. After a voyage we suggest first spraying the entire boat with a fine spray. This includes the cockpit area and the underside of the bimini. For sailboats you should spray as high up the mast and rigging as possible. It will take a few minutes for the dry salt crystals to begin to dissolve. Once you have given them time to dissolve go back over the entire boat with a high pressure rinse.

When it’s time for a good scrubbing, using a high-quality marine soap is better for the boat’s surfaces. Some household cleaners can have a high alkaline level and may cut short the life of your wax job. They can also scratch the gelcoat if not removed promptly.

Try to BE GREEN. Many cleaning products contain chemicals that aren’t good for marine life. Phosphates for example are very unfriendly to aquatic life. Pay attention to the ingredients and try to stay clear of high chlorine, ammonia, potassium hydroxide, and solvents. It is best to use a soft bristle deck brush for cleaning cushions and canvas and never use a brush of any kind on dodger windows. For bright finishes, imitation lamb’s wool brushes are the least abrasive. For tough areas, try to avoid stiff bristles and opt instead for a natural bristle brush if possible. And if you want to avoid water spots, we suggest drying the boat thoroughly.

To restore the shine to gelcoat, some people like to use an oxidation remover. If you decide to give this a try, you should start with a less aggressive rubbing compound. If your boat simply has a moderately dull look, use a fine rubbing compound. If your gelcoat is severely oxidized, you should seek professional help.

For a good wax job you may want to hire a professional as it can be back breaking work. If you opt to do it yourself start the waxing process with a properly prepared surface by using a good fiberglass cleaner. Boat wax can contain powerful acid cleaners so protect yourself with gloves and avoid breathing the fumes for extended periods of time. Try to keep the wax away from metal surfaces as it can cause corrosion. Before beginning the job, be prepared with LOTS of soft clean rags. To save time and conserve your energy, we highly recommend an electric buffer.

A good cleaning kit should contain marine cleaner, sponges, squeegee, wax, lots of soft rags, compound (for deep scratches), good selection of brushes, boat pole with scrub brush attachment, and hose with good pressure water.

At Whiteaker Yacht Sales we believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For the best overall maintenance of your boat, preventative care is the way to go. Always rinse your boat after each voyage, give her regular scrubbings, keep her waxed, and keep all exterior teak touched up. If you’re trying to sell your boat, the outward appearance is especially important because it is often considered to be an indication of how well you have maintained her other components. And remember that all important “first impression” goes a long way in attracting a buyer to your boat. Happy cleaning!

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