Tips & Tricks For New Boat Owners

Captain's Choice Marine Survey I have clients who have just bought their first cruiser and don't have a clue about to how to keep it in good condition, what kind of cleaners to use and other important issues that a lot of seasoned boaters take for granted. This article is for people which have just bought their first boat or are new to boating. There is a list of things you should have for cleaning, maintenance and just for convenience or making a dirty job easier.

My wife and I lived in the British Virgin Islands for 3 seasons onboard a 43'-50' Catamaran for a well known chartering company in Tortola that demanded the vessel be in top shape all the times as well as a private owner who demanded that same. Living on a Cat is in some ways a dream if you love the water and boating in general, but living on board also makes you very space conscious and aware of the proper ways to avoid making a mess and keeping the boat clean. You must also keep in mind that you have to store all your equipment as well as cleaning and maintenance supplies on board, and have to stuff supplies in almost every nook and cranny.

. Here is a list of essential equipment and cleaning supplies you should consider for your new boat. There are boaters who have different favorites but these are some we have found important and cost effective:
  1. A good quality detail wash brush with a four foot handle that has soft bristles, are usually green in colour that will make deck and boat washing easier and won't scratch the gel. If you get a stiff brush, all it will do is scratch and leave marks on the gel coat which is a pain to bring back to a nice shine. When you feel the brush it should feel like you could use it to wash your body in the shower. Detail car care shops carry them for about $45.00 or so.

  2. An excellent cleaner to use for most purposes like washing the boat, decks or teak wood work is Sunlight dish soap. You can buy it at the grocery store, it is easy on surfaces, easy to rinse off, doesn't streak badly and won't hurt fabric or wood work. In the Caribbean, live-aboards use Sunlight to bath in and can actually have a shower, wash their hair and shorts all the same time if they are doing long crossing from island to island using only 1 gallon of fresh water. Most don't have a water maker and at $.35 a gallon, water is expensive to supply your tank. Sunlight is one of the only brands that works in both salt and fresh water.

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  3. An excellent soap for doing engine compartments or areas that have oil residue is liquid "Tide" that you would buy at the grocery store. A good way to clean out oil residue is to first, find the bilge pimp thru hull fitting and empty as much water from the bilge as possible. Now mix up a batch of Tide with water in a mixture of approximately 4:1 in a spray bottle. Spray down the entire engine compartment and let is sit for about ½ hour. A chemist client of mine told me the best thing to do when using cleaning chemicals is to wait for the chemical do its job. Don't spray it on and wash it right off. Let it sit for a while then scrub down the very dirty areas with a small brush to loosen it up and then if you have a pressure washer, wash down the area, BUT before you do that, hang a pail under the pump thru hull fitting to catch the waste water. This is very important and I don't have to tell you why. If you don't have a pressure washer handy, just use your shore water hose to wash everything down. If you want to keep some water in the bilge for further cleaning, put a small piece of wood or something heavy to place over the float switch to prevent the water from being pumped overboard. Cleaning an engine compartment isn't the nicest jobs in the world but you may only have to do it once a year or less if your maintenance schedule is sufficient.

  4. Anther good product to use on stains in the gel coat of decks or cabin tops is Soft Scrub with bleach that can be bought at the grocery store. Its great for heavier staining that just won't rub out just using soap and water. You have to be careful using it as there is an abrasive compound in the product. My favorite place to use it is on side decks where there is a non skid pattern which makes cleaning tricky. You can use elbow grease here because you don't want you non skid to be shiny and smooth anyway.

  5. This brings me to one of my pet peeves: repair techs who polish the side decks to a high gloss, knowing it is going to make them very slippery. May I suggest that those concerned with safety while underway to actually lightly sand the non skid areas with a #280 wet sand paper to take the shine off for better footing, especially when wet. It's easy to do and makes slippery decks a thing of the past. And no it won't hurt the decks if they're not shiny.

  6. Another one of my favorite cleaning products for fenders and vinyl or plastic parts is "All Off." You can purchase this from most marina stores but please read the instructions. If used properly, by wetting the piece, spraying and waiting for the chemicals to work, it seems the best for getting stubborn markings off fenders.

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  7. Here are a few things to consider as they will help you with maintenance and holding your boats value. First is a fly weight bow cover if you are in a covered slip. You got a covered slip for protection of your huge investment, but the sun may be beating down on your bow area which will oxidize your finish. Most of the sun's damage is done to the bow deck areas. If you're in an open slip consider a deck cover made of Sunbrella type materials, again for needed protection.

  8. Another piece of equipment should be standard on all vessels is a round 12"-14" red mooring ball. No, it's not for your anchor rode, it's for helping in tight docking conditions, especially on windy days. With a 6' piece of dock line tied to the end, your docking partner or wife can use this to protect the hull sides by walking down the decks holding the ball in such a position so the dock rubs against the ball and not your expensive toy. It rolls with the movement of the boat as you get into position to dock or walls. Try it! I know once you get used to it, it will save you all kinds of anxiety and hull repair costs. 
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