A Bunch of Maintenance Ideas

Joe Coons

This month, we have a potpourri of ideas from various sources that may prove helpful to you from time to time . . .

Let's start out with care and cleaning of your boat's exterior. The 3M Corporation has put out a circular called "Marine Boat Reconditioning and Maintenance Products" which is available at many chandleries, including at least LFS here in Bellingham. It's a good guide! Although it features only 3M products, it at least gives you recommendations that you should be able to count upon.

And while we're talking about exterior boat care, a hint from someone I met on the docks: Use an automobile soap with wax in it for scrubbing your boat. I got a big jug of Turtle Wax Car Wash at a Hawley's at a low price, and it should be enough for a lot of washes, while putting some wax back on my boat each time I wash it off with the soap!

When was the last time you spent an hour or two on winch/windlass maintenance? I think we all take these marvelous devices for granted, and we shouldn't. Next time you have a little time, get out the instructions for your units and disassemble, clean and grease and reassemble them. Time well spent, because as you know a new one costs a bundle! (My old anchor windlass really looks good after the thorough wire brushing, sanding, priming, and epoxy paint I gave it in the spring, and the new clutch disk, cost $6, made it work much more easily.)

For folks with trailerable boats, don't forget your trailer, especially the wheel bearings, brakes, spring shackles, etc. A little grease and WD-40 will extend the corrosion-free life of this essential transporter of your boat. What could be worse than having a wheel come off?

Speaking of painting (as of winches), have you tried any of the new epoxy paints? I have several times, but only the last time did I follow the instructions regarding priming exactly, and that made the difference! If my experience is an example, you must follow the manufacturer's pointers to the letter, but the result is a glistening, tough coating. My work was on a number of aluminum and steel components, and I really was surprised how expensive the "system" of cleaner, primer, and paint were. On the other hand, the results were spectacular and well worth it!

Here's a tip for "whipping" the ends of your lines to avoid fraying or unravelling: Don't! Instead of tape or twine, use a 3/4" length of heat-shrink tubing, then shrink it over the line end. It makes a very tight, neat, long-lasting binder, only costs a few cents per line end, and you can shrink it with a hot hair dryer if no heat gun is available.

For several years I've tried to keep my finished teak rails looking good, and finally a year ago I had a canvas shop make rail covers for my boat. The covers weren't expensive, and now my rails only need a coat or two of varnish every six months or so, no stripping necessary since there's no checking or peeling. (I only use the covers when the boat is at the dock for more than a couple of days, and leave them off entirely when cruising.)

Want to clean your inflatable up? There are several inflatable boat cleaners on the market that do pretty well, but I discovered that the really tough stains come off quickly with a little acetone, followed by the cleaner. I hope I'm not destroying the finish!

Creosote from piling on your rub rail or fender? Ordinary paint thinner (turpentine) will take it off in short order. Since the word "marine" isn't on the label, it's cheaper than "boat" fender cleaners.

Speaking of fenders, try cleaning them with auto white sidewall tire cleaner. Cheap, effective. (Acetone good for tough marks on these, too.)

And finally, a 98-cent luxury item. Get a package of hose washers at a hardware or garden store and keep it on your boat to stop leaky, drippy hoses from getting you soaked. Where do all the washers go?

Happy boating!

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Last modified : Thursday, March 11, 2004