Nothing shows use like a boat. Whether you are returning from a weekend cruise to another island or sailing into a harbor on a world cruise, your boat will need some tender loving care. That said, with a few simple practices whenever we get to a harbor our stainless continues to shine and the cockpit remains white. Stainless is something that varies with the quality of the steel but whether it rusts quickly or not, it deserves a good polish. Polish not only makes it look good but protects the surface from the constant bombardment of salt. Flitz is a favorite among boaters for its lovely ‘bluish’ finish but I will have to go with Autosol simply because it is a cheap and cheerful option with great results, a simple example of german efficiency! Another beautiful product called ‘Star Clean‘ is more pricey but along with being used wet it takes no effort to remove ALL stainless flaws and leave the metal with one of the brightest sheen’s imaginable.
One of the greatest sufferers of UV and human contact is the old workhorse, gel coat. Almost our entire boat is coated in gelcoat and after several years the sun makes it porous and susceptible to stains of any kind. Fish blood, mud runoff from the anchor, and rust all leave their mark when left on for any length of time. This might seem to be a letdown but with a little bit of 3M boat polish most issues can be rectified instantly. Harsher polishes might be necessary but in general a restorer and wax does the trick. After weeks of sailing our transom tends to be the worse for ware as this is where the showers, cleaning, fishing, anything that has to be done ‘outside’ happens. A ten minute polish takes away all the stains to reveal the beautiful white sugar scoop that was always there.
A general soapy wash down is always a good idea with special detail to remove salt from higher up in the rigging. As salt is a sterilizer it is better to leave sails damp with salt than with fresh to avoid the growth of mold and mildew. Apart from that, all other mast fixtures, blocks, and winches can all do with a soap and rinse in fresh water to remove any salt crystals.
A general wash down also includes the scrubbing of any teak you might have on board. If you like your teak natural then you have little to worry about. Salt water helps to preserve the wood and after a soft scrub to remove any dirt your teak it good to go. Most of all scrub against the grain to avoid creating grooves and effectively scrapping away your wood. If a golden yellow or brown look is what you desire from your teak then a more thorough scrub will be needed. Acid can be used to draw out the dirt and pulp to leave a fresh wood finish. A two-part acid works best but should be used in moderation to avoid damaging the teak in the long term. When your teak is fresh whether by acid or sanding or simply a harsh scrubbing you can apply a sealant to maintain the fresh look and protect it from further penetration of salt and water. Semco is a great looking wax sealant that gives the wood it’s best natural look while also protecting from the sun and stains. Semco however, needs constant maintenance and if not reapplied as frequently as every month can trap moisture inside the teak and induce mold growth. Also remember that when the time comes for the sealant to be removed a complete sanding of the teak is the only way to properly re-expose fresh wood.
Boat maintenance is not hard but it does take a constant effort. With regular detailing of the exterior and a regular inspection of the hardware almost all potential problems will be prevented. Keep in mind that while fresh water is better for your boat, there is nothing wrong with splashing a few buckets of salt water over the deck and through the cockpit on a regular basis to help repel the constant buildup of dirt and grime.