2016 10-09

How to Care for Your Boat’s Surfaces

During the boating season, caring for your boat is an ever-continuing process.  Nature doesn’t seem to care about the fresh wash you just gave your boat.  Acid rains will come and leave stains on your boat, birds will fly over dropping smelly gifts behind, marine wildlife will even make it’s way in your boat making large messes for you to clean up.  Despite all of this, there are some things you can do to leave your boat looking like the newest one on the dock.

When washing your boat it would seem like a logical choice to use soap and water, however, be cautious why the soaps you use as some that are not intended for marine use can actually cause negative effects to the waters around you.  Some soaps produce large quantities of algae as they feed off of the phosphates that are found in commercial solutions.  The algae then pull all the oxygen out of the water harming much of the other wildlife left in the water.  If you are looking to use a commercial grade soap to clean your boat, make sure to find one that is specifically intended for marine use, one that doesn’t use microbeads which can be mistaken for fish eggs.  Your local boat sales shop should be able to provide you a high quality soap that will not only leave your boat spotless, but will also be eco-friendly for the marine wildlife.  If for any reason they do not carry such a product, then you can definitely find the right product online.

As for surfaces, fiberglass is one of the easiest to clean surfaces found on a boat.  Luckily, it is also one of the most common surfaces as well.  Much like the material your car is made out of, the same level of care is needed on your boat.  A good paint job, regular washes after some heavy use and a good wax job in steady intervals and your coat should last you a long time.  Since your boat is constantly submerged into water, you will need to refinish the coat of paint on the top of the boat roughly every 5 years or so.  if you don’t, your paint will become very dull and brittle, it will look as if you can flake the paint off which is a very undesirable sight.  The bottom of the boat will definitely need refinishing much more often.  Especially if your boat is located in salt water you may need to do a complete paint job every 12-24 months.

Wooden boats are some of the nicest boats on the water and are also a very common material used for very obvious reasons, it’s very buoyant and durable.  Wooden boats, however, are higher maintenance, but if treated the right way, they can last a very very long time.  They key to keeping a wooden boat last a very long time is to keep the wood’s porous surface very tightly sealed to prevent water from causing it’s harmful damage.  If water is allowed to enter the pours, it can permanently damage the structure of the wood by raising the grain.  Be sure to replace oils and stains regularly to help keep water from entering the wood.  The sun’s harmful and damaging UV rays can also be a very destructive element to wood.  Be sure to keep your boat covered when possible and out of the sun’s direct sunlight when possible.

Carpet and upholstery are also commonly found on a boat.  Though they tend to be of a more durable grade, they are still a fabric and they tend to absorb moisture, salt and sand which cause breakdown very quickly.  Sand rubbing together can act like a knife tearing through fabric at a very quick speed.  Since it tends to be an area full of moisture, the carpeting, upholstery and pillows tend to collect moisture leading to mold.  When possible, leave them in contact with direct sunlight to allow them to dry off as quickly as possible.  When you need to, use an upholstery cleaning service to dry clean your carpeting, upholstery and pillows.  You’ll want to make sure to use them especially before you store your boat for the winter.

Boats are an extremely fun and romantic way to spend a day or weekend together with your family or significant other.  It may seem like taking care of a boat is not worth it, but its really about understanding what the maintenance cycle is like and then making a plan around it.  When something needs to get done, just figure out a way to quickly make sure it gets checked off your list then get back to enjoying your boat.  Cheers!

2016 10-05

Getting Yellowish Stains Out of Your Hull – An Effective Method!

Over the course of the summer boating season, you’ll likely notice a yellowish gel stain accumulating in the hull of your boat.  This will be very normal and can even be a little more aggressive depending on the PH balance of the water you have your boat in.  This stain looks very ugly and can require some very strong elbow grease to take it off.  When you are talking about a boats entire hull, even the inside of the boat, it will quickly become a project you cannot do on your own.

I’d like to share a method that has worked very well for me in cleaning the hull of my boat.  There is a well known commercial boat cleaning product called Starbright and has a base chemical of Hydrochloric Acid (HCL).  This product does work well but there is something that I think works even better and has a base of Muriatic Acid.  It is a relatively easy process but you definitely want to be careful since you are working with concentrated acids.

Before you even gather the materials you need for this project, I would recommend applying a bleaching agent to the hull of your boat, which should help in removing some of the yellow grime that has accumulated.  After applying the bleach, let it dry off and rinse off the entire boat with water.  Let the boat air dry then get ready to watch the magic happen.

CAUTION: YOU WILL BE WORKING WITH VERY CONCENTRATED ACIDS AND PROTECTIVE EYEWEAR AND GLOVES ARE STRONGLY ENCOURAGED

First things first, please make sure you wear proper protective eyewear and gloves.  Even one drop of Muriatic acid can cause severe irritation and damage to the eyes and skin.  Also, be sure to do this in a very well ventilated open space as the fumes are strong.  Once you have the proper protective gear, muriatic acid can be purchased at a local Home Depot or Lowes hardware store.  You will also need a spraying container similar to those found in the gardening section that apply weed killer.  Once you have all of the material gathered up, place 1 part muriatic acid into the container and 4 parts water.  I usually begin with 2 cups of acid and 8 cups of water, if I need to apply more then I simply add more of the same solution to the container.  Make sure to not fill the sprayer to the brim as you want to leave some air to create pressure for the pump.

Once you have the proper mixture in place, begin spraying the boat in sections.  You should see immediate effects take place in just seconds.  The yellowish/brownish gel stain should start dissolving away and the hull of the boat should look as if you just got a brand new paint job.  Slowly spray the perimeter of the boat making sure to go from top to bottom of the hull.  Once you have the entire boat complete you can re-apply another coat if needed.  If not, simply rinse the boat off and let air dry.  You’ll be amazed at the quality finish and you didn’t have to apply any elbow grease to get the stain off of the hull.  Enjoy and share with others who could use the tip!

2016 10-03

Tips for Storing your Boat in the Winter

So as the weather starts to cool and the sun continues to go down at an earlier time, I figured it would be a suitable moment to discuss a few tips to store your boat.  You might have a few more weeks of sailing left, but not much longer than that.  Here are a few things you want to be on the lookout for when you put your sails to bed for the winter:

 

First thing you do before you prepare to store the boat is to take it out for one last cruise.  Make sure to keep detailed notes of any odd noises you hear, any physical damage you see or flat out anything that seems off.  This is your time to inspect the boat while it’s in its element and this is the time to address them as these defects could become exacerbated over the long winter season.

 

The edges of the sails need to be inspected for signs of heavy wearing and cracking, you should also be sensitive to rotting threads as they could be expensive down the road.  Depending on where the wearing and cracking is located, you can get away with patching it back up and using again for another season or so, but if the cracking and wear is too great then you will be better off just replacing the sail.  If you find yourself spending time thinking about whether you should replace it or not, then it’s always safe to replace it.  It can be dangerous to have it break on you mid-sail.

 

Perform a thorough inspection of your boat.  This means inside and out, top to bottom.  If there are signs that parts of the boat have seen their last wave then either take the cautious route and replace it, at very least, if you think you might be able to squeeze a little more life out of it, then try to reinforce it in some way.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

To prevent any kind of engine trouble when spring comes around next season, make sure to top off any engine fluids, including your gas tank and adding in a gas stabilizer to avoid any kind of condensation that could occur over the few months your boat is left idle.  It is also a good idea to flush your coolant system with plenty of water and add in antifreeze at the end.  You should even let the motor run for several minutes to make sure the new mixture makes it’s way to every part of the engine.

 

No one ever said that taking care of a boat was easy work, but if you do this religiously before every winter, you will minimize any downtime during the months you want to use your boat most.  All it takes is a morning of cleaning, checking and prepping and your boat will remain in pristine condition.  Trust me, its better to put in the work upfront than to pay for it on the back end.

2016 09-28

The Pre-Sail

To get ready for my first ever solo-sail, I did quite a bit of research and investigating to prepare for this daunting task.  I mean, i know that sailing will require a lot of time on and off the water.  The hobby requires a certain level of commitment if you want to get any joy and satisfaction out of it, and i know that it also takes a lot of money for storage and upkeep.  My fear was that all of the habitual maintenance would eventually make this fun endeavor feel more like a chore than a joyful past time.  What i’m really hoping to do is enjoy beautiful and memorable sunsets and sunrises on the water.  I like the idea of becoming one with my environment and “overcoming” the challenges that nature can throw at me.  I’m not looking to sail the Atlantic right away, but a few channels, rivers and bigger lakes are a solid place to start.

Since i didn’t grow up sailing, nor am I an experienced sailer, I decided the prudent choice would be to take sailing classes.  I enrolled in a local sailing course and learned about the basics.  They went over all the fundamentals (boring stuff) starting with boat safety, like knowing the laws, signaling and proper gear.  Then they progressively advance to learning to steer the sail boat with a tiller and rudder.  They go over the things that seem obvious and intuitive but also over those that aren’t.  We also had to learn the parts of the sail boat and what they do, how they affect the boat and how to assess the situation if you find yourself in a dangerous predicament.  Catching a good gust of wind is tricker than it sounds.  “Tacking and jibbing aren’t something you learn from a youtube video”, the instructor kept repeating.  You’ll only learn by getting out there and making (smaller) mistakes.  Taking the course was somewhat easy but I knew that putting it into practice was going to be a surmountable obstacle.  Wish me luck!

Class was done and it was time to put pen to paper (metaphorically and not like I did when I took the exam). I decided I wanted to look for a good beginners boat that was easy to steer, one that was responsive and had a tight turning radius.  I wanted something that wouldn’t sink if I took my eyes off what I was doing for a split second.  I also knew that boat maintenance is a requirement so i was looking for something that didn’t look completely beat up and would need lower maintenance from me.  I had to be real with myself – i’m not a very handy person and I really don’t know how to repair boats, but i’m not completely opposed to learning.  My budget wasn’t big by any means but I realized that I could devote $5k for a used beginner boat.  I researched online, ready forums and posts and made several calls inquiring about which boat to get.  I decided to go with the Catalina 22.  I was sold, now I just had to find “the one”.  The one I was on the hunt for had to have a fixed fin keel for control and maneuvering and had to handle very well in close quarters.  The Catalina 22 also has plenty of head room for two people on board.

I have to admit, I was pretty overwhelmed with the search process.  The good thing is that there were several of these models to choose from but they were each in different physical conditions.  Like buying a used car, you have to decide which one you think is going to give you the least problems and headaches (because from what I understand, they all will).  I decided to go with one that had only one owner who was older in age, but I could obviously tell that he took care of it.  He even agreed to include his seat cushions and covers to sweeten the deal a bit.  I ended up paying on the higher end of my budget but i’m ok with that because i’m convinced it was the right decision.

When I took the boat home, I immediately stored it along the side of the house, covered her up and couldn’t wait to take her out to the water.  Getting to sail her was definitely going to be the next adventure (or disaster).