If you're a first-time boat owner, perhaps you
aren't aware of just how important it is to thoroughly
wash the salt water off after every use. Judging by
the number of boats we board that are covered with
salt, a lot of boat owners aren't. For example, we
were just on a 9 month old boat with a half tower
and hardtop, that was little used, but loaded with
salt. The aluminum pipe frame and other hardware on
the boat was already badly corroded. Unfortunately,
that is irreversible damage.
you don't take spray over the bow, your boat will
still get covered with the salt that swirls back into
the cockpit via the station wagon effect. The dang
stuff just gets all over everything, and if you don't
get it off, you'll pay the price of new turning to
old in a big hurry.
never watched a professional captain or crew washing
down a large yacht, you'll see that they all follow
the same basic procedure that I'll explain in a moment.
Oh, I know that this might seem like a no-brainer,
but believe me how good a job you do can make a huge
difference on how good your boat looks a couple years
let me tell you about a few more bad things that salt
can do to your boat. For example, did you know that
salt can permanently stain window glass if you leave
it on long enough? Yep, it can.
has several negative effects on anything it comes
in contact with. First, you already know that it is
corrosive to metals. What you're less likely aware
of is that it is also corrosive to boat finishes of
all kinds, including gel coat. That's why the finish
on your hull sides, which don't get much sun, also
deteriorates as though it were getting the full dose
of ultra violet. But when salt dries into crystals,
it's also abrasive, just like sand.
salt is hydroscopic. That means that salt is capable
of condensing water out of the atmosphere when humidity
is high. That's why they put salt on dusty roads to
keep the dust down. The salt will also mix with dew
at night to become salt water once again.
down, it's best to follow this simple plan.
I've actually timed how long it takes to do a good
job on a 45 foot Sea Ray Express: 30 minutes.
you should first spray the entire boat with a fine
spray to get everything wet. The reason is that it
takes a minute or two for dry salt crystals to dissolve
completely. This should include virtually all hardware
like a pipe frame top, T-top or tower. Not only do
you rinse the outside, but also the inside and under
side of the top. If you don't, the aluminum is going
to look ugly real soon. Be sure to spray around all
that piping that holds the soft top up, if that's
what you have. If it's a sail boat, try to hit as
high up on the mast and rigging as possible.
you wet everything, give it a few minutes for salt
crystals to dissolve. Then come back and hose it down
thoroughly. For the final rinse, start from the top
down, doing the hull sides last. On a flying
bridge boat, start with the bridge first. This will
help prevent water streaking at those points where
water runs down from the superstructure, finally rinsing
the hull sides last.
have an outboard boat, don't forget to do the engines,
including the undersides of the mount brackets. I
do this after tilting the motors up. As for seat cushions,
I recommend that you stand them on their sides or
edges, zipper side down, and lightly rinse those down.
And by the way, this is also the best way to store
them so that they don't hold water and start to rot.
Stand them up on edge and leave them that way in a
protected place. Do this and they'll probably last
twice as long.
down cockpit decks, it's a good idea not to use a
high pressure nozzle. Why? because that high pressure
will work water under your hatches and end up in the
engine compartment where steel parts will rust. It's
best use a fine spray, rather than a blasting stream,
around all windows and hatches. I pay special attention
to get all salt off of things like winches, radar
scanners and other such expensive components.
going to suggest that you chamois down the whole boat,
though some people do. But you should at least do
the windows to avoid permanent water spotting. I would
always chamois down the helm area and most all plastics
and bright metal.
Just in case you're not aware of this, never use strong
detergents, and most especially abrasive, chlorinated
cleansers on your boat for general cleaning. First
because the chlorine is corrosive and will permanently
stain and discolor virtually anything that is anodized
aluminum, like rub rails, windshields and trim. If
you have a small area of imbedded dirt, try to use
a stiff brush first. If that doesn't do it, you can
use a non-chlorinated cleanser, or better yet a specially
formulated boat cleaner. ALWAYS be sure to fully rinse
away all residue, including the places where it runs
over the side or out the scuppers.
As a general boat cleaning brush, I'd first recommend
one of those imitation lamb's wool jobs as these are
least abrasive on bright finishes. For tougher areas
like non-skid, select a natural, not plastic, medium
stiffness bristle brush. Avoid very stiff bristles
as these will scratch. Use the lamb's wool on any
surface that you'd wax; use the bristle brush only
on the non-skid surfaces.
If you have sliding windows in your boat, the tracks
and aluminum window frames will last a lot longer
if you rinse and clean them out occasionally. You'll
be amazed when you see how much dirt and salt these
tracks can accumulate. I actually take the hose with
nozzle inside and squirt the accumulated debris and
salts out until the track is clean. Usually twice
per year will do the trick during a short season,
4 times annually for a 12 month season.
While you're at it, use that pressure hose to clean
out all those little drain holes in the deck hatch
gutters. If those drains clog up with debris, as they
often do, the gutters will overflow and put water
into places it shouldn't be. Like maybe on your engines
or generator? Also check for these drains around window
frames and anchor or rope locker compartments, too.
Anywhere they exist, they need cleaning occasionally.
Personally, I hate the feeling of salt all over everything.
It gets on your hands and in your clothes and keeps
everything damp and sticky. That is why I'm a big
fan of high pressure washdown systems and those nifty
little HydraKoil hoses that store away so neatly.
On one day or longer cruises I'll hose down the cockpit
area any time we stop, whether it's for trolling,
swimming or a quick dive to catch dinner.
solution to bulky garden hoses.
sure whether I'm just being obsessive about it, or
if it just feels good to cool down with all that freshwater
splash getting all over me during a hot afternoon
when the temperature is 92 and there is no wind. After
all, what could be easier than to just stand there
with a hose in your hand? Probably I do it because
it kills two birds with one stone, but in any case,
I'd noticed over the years that corroding hardware
has never been much of a problem on boats I had. It
won't be on yours either if you take a few minutes
longer to do it right.