There’s always enthusiastic anticipation for the start of boating season as the weather begins to warm. Still, there can be trepidation for some captains and crews as the daunting task of vessel spring cleaning doesn’t quite top the favorites list of things to do when the sun is shining.
If you went to town with a serious scrubbing and wash down last fall before pulling your boat, the task ahead shouldn’t be too involved. Another round of deck soap, a healthy scrub and some waxing if you please, and you’ll be ready to drop into the nearest safe harbor. On the other hand, a boat that was stored over the winter months with little more than a hose-down before being wrapped or covered is likely to require a thorough cleaning.
Generally speaking, it’s easier to do a major clean-up on terra firma than on the water, especially when it comes to scrubbing the outer hull below the water line. Choose a place to work where wash water run-off can be effectively controlled because even “soft’ cleansers or those advertised as environmentally friendly can harm marine life. Thus, In terms of deck and hull cleaners, it’s a good rule to think of less as being best.
From brand name solutions to internet concoctions, there’s no shortage of boat cleaning products available these days. Sea Tow Savings Club member Starbrite (http://www.starbrite.com), for example, has a full line of effective and earth friendly boat cleaning solutions. Whether you go store-bought or homemade, keep in mind that more water, less detergent and extra elbow grease is the safest route to take from an environmental perspective. If need be, you can always mix up a small amount of extra strong cleaner to be used on a limited basis with stubborn stains, dried on fish guts and dirt or grease that just won’t give.
Pretty much any cleaning session should start with a clearing of the deck. Remove any item that can’t be stowed away including gear totes, fishing tackle and the like. Sweep away leaves, dirt and other debris and then spray everything down with fresh water. You can now pour on some cleanser and start scrubbing with a stiff boat brush. Start at the bow and work toward the transom so that all residue will gather at the stern scuppers. As necessary, revisit small areas with a hand-held scrub brush to work on stubborn dirt, grime and stains. Be aware as you progress that some cleaners remove wax and a few have warnings that they will oxidize metals, so think before you slosh and scrub.
One area that is often a sticking point in the cleaning process is non-skid decking. The key to getting this clean is to use a stiff-bristle brush or boat broom and scrub in the direction that channels in the non-skid pattern are cut to flow. You want to be scrubbing down the length of the grooves instead of across them to ensure the brush bristles reach all the way down to the bottom.
If your non-skid needs a really deep clean, it’s a good idea to use a boating cleaner designed specifically for that task. This is especially so for set stains like wine, juice or old fish blood. Sea Tow Savings Club member West Marine’s Pure Oceans Non-Skid Deck Cleaner (www.westmarine.com) is a solid choice for this. Its eco-friendly formula foams out dirt and residue and is safe for use on fiberglass and paint. Soft Scrub with Bleach is another option.
As for cleaning the outer hull, brand name or home-made solutions all have their followers. Interestingly, however, toilet cleaners are the latest trend and they have produced some terrific results. The keys with these are leaving them for an appropriate amount of time so be sure to check the manufacturer’s directions. I actually tried using a limited amount of Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner on the outer hull of my Aqua Sport 190 CC last fall and it worked great. Another toilet cleaning product called The Works has also made some believers.
Of course, most vessels will need a little polishing to make their hardware shine. For that, try a bit of Flitz “Blue” polish and then buff with Flitz Microfiber, Flitz Original Büff Ball or a dry towel while the paste is still moist. Flitz (www.flitz.com), yet another entry in the Sea Tow Savings Club, discounts 25% off the purchase price of their products for club members.
No matter which products you decide to use when cleaning your vessel, be sure to read and follow all warning labels, and wear rubber gloves, shoes or boots to avoid skin irritation. Lastly, immediately rinse your craft with freshwater from one end to the other once the cleaning is completed to avoid any remaining detergent, bleach or caustic acids from stripping wax or damaging the gelcoat finish.