boat cleaning

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A clean boat is a happy boat.

Prior preparation and planning prevent poor performance out on the water. With the impending return of our temporary visitors and the start of boat show season, I thought some information about preventive maintenance was fitting. Just like cars, our boats need regular maintenance to run efficiently and safely.

Whether your boat has been sitting in layup all summer or you’ve just purchased a new one, a detailed maintenance plan is an integral part to maintaining a boat that will provide safe, reliable service and a lifetime of memories.

Boat maintenance goes far beyond a quick visual inspection of your boat each time you use it. Fortunately, many maintenance-related tasks can be accomplished by most boat owners and do not require the skills of a certified marine mechanic.

Don’t get me wrong: There will be repairs and certain maintenance requirements that will require the expertise of a professional. In this two-part column, I’ll cover some of the basics that are achievable by most folks. I’ll include many items often overlooked such as cleaning and storing tips and maintenance requirements both before and after use. There’s always more to learn, but these tips will provide a good foundation to care for your boat.

First, let’s talk about storing your boat. Depending on your situation, you may be able keep your boat at home, either on a boat lift or in your driveway (check with local county ordinances if applicable). Outdoor home storage is popular and is the most cost effective.

If you can afford it, or if you don’t have a storage area at home, paid outdoor storage is a popular option. No matter where your boat is kept, make sure you remove any food items, bait and other tantalizing treats that can attract mice and rats, which will bring on a whole new set of problems.

Outdoor storage requires a proper cover to protect your boat from the elements. The best way to keep your boat outdoors in the off season is to hire a professional to shrink-wrap it. Proper shrink-wrapping ensures your boat remains covered yet ventilated at the same time. You can also cover your boat yourself by fitting a tarp over a wooden or PVC frame, or by purchasing a custom cover made for your boat.

When storing your boat at a local facility (even if you think it’s secure) make sure you remove any pilferable items if possible. Items such as GPS, fish finders, radios, propellers, fishing gear and portable small engines can be tempting to those unscrupulous visitors that come and go.


For items can’t be removed (such as a large outboard engine), use an engraver to put identifiable information on them. It won’t make them theft-proof, but it does act as a deterrent to thieves and may help prevent an insurance claim or disappointing moment as you retrieve your boat for use, only to find items missing.

Our next subject is keeping your boat clean. This does not require any major skillsets, but it’s critical to the longevity of your boat.

Most boats today are made of fiberglass. A fiberglass hull has a gelcoat finish that protects the fiberglass from the effects of the salt, sun and other weather elements. Keeping your boat clean is a constant battle and requires more than a quick rinse of the hull after each use.

It also requires that you be mindful of the environment. Especially if you are cleaning the boat on your boat lift or in the water, please use environmentally safe products and avoid toxic chemicals.

Maintaining your boat in good condition will require a little elbow grease and a quality marine-grade wax or ceramic finish. If waxing is your plan, application every six months will help keep your investment in great shape. Any canvas items onboard will also require your attention. Rinse them with fresh water and keep the zippers lubricated with paraffin, beeswax or petroleum jelly.

Let’s not forget about the upholstery. Regular rinsing with fresh water and washing with a mild soap and water solution will help prevent mold and mildew from prematurely deteriorating them. If possible, store your seats in a weatherproof location or cover them to prevent exposure from the elements. Using a quality treatment of some sort to protect the upholstery is also not a bad idea.

Once you’re done cleaning your boat, it’s time to think about maintenance, so that’s what we’ll cover next time.

Capt. Jack R. Sanzalone is a 30-year submarine veteran and licensed USCG Master Captain with 38 years of experience. He is the owner of Boat Tutors and teaches both basic and advanced boating education. You can contact Capt. Jack at Jack@BoatTutors.com or by visiting his website, BoatTutors.com.

Capt. Jack R. Sanzalone is a 30-year submarine veteran and licensed USCG Master Captain with 38 years of experience. He is the owner of Boat Tutors and teaches both basic and advanced boating education. You can contact Capt. Jack at Jack@BoatTutors.com or by visiting his website, BoatTutors.com.

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