Proper cosmetic and mechanical maintenance will protect the resale value and enhance enjoyment of a boat.

Caring for a Boat

Cosmetic Maintenance in the Pacific Northwest
(By Jeff Paxton)

Maintaining the cosmetic appeal of a boat or yacht is an important aspect pleasure and resale value for many boat owners. It is essential to have a plan in place to effectively preserve a boats fit and finish. In order to create a successful plan you first need to know what you are up against. Sun, wind, rain, moisture, and industrial fallout are all working against your clean, shiny boat. These environmental conditions are present everywhere in varying degrees. For example protecting your boat from the fading effects of the sun is top priority in places like Florida, which are close to the equator and get more intense UV rays. On the other hand, here in the Pacific Northwest sun is still a factor, but gray, cloudy, rainy days also have a big impact on how boats need to be cared for. Here are some key symptoms of Pacific Northwest conditions, how to remedy them, and how to prevent them:

Algae, Moss and Mildew Growth

If you have ever walked through the temperate rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula you have seen algae and moss growth in dramatic fashion. Because of our moderate climate, multitude of gray days, and prolific moisture we have the perfect environment for algae mold and mildew to grow. These culprits are just floating around in the air looking for a dirty wet spot to call home. All three of these can usually be found on most boats. Moss in the window frames, algae on the canvas and mildew in some dark hole in a wet bilge. Because they need dirty, wet areas they tend to proliferate where it is dark and cool. For Pacific Northwest boaters this means the North side of the boat on the exterior, and dark lockers and underneath cushions on the interior. Scrubbing with a bleach solution is the best way to eliminate these problems. To prevent them from coming back or starting in the first place, make sure the problem areas are as clean and dry as possible. For the interior this means cleaning up spills and dirt, opening hatches, propping up cushions, running low wattage fans, anything to keeps air moving. On the exterior, washing on a regular basis especially through the winter is very important. Also turning your boat around in its slip every once in a while will serve to dry out the North side and reduce algae and mold growth.

Grayness and Black Streaks

Grayness and black streaks are common to most boats moored outside in the Pacific Northwest. Generally they are caused by pollutants in the air landing on and running off with the rain or creating a film on the boats finish. Boats that are moored in industrial areas or near busy roads are going to experience much more of this. On a shiny, waxed finish these black streaks can be simple and easy to remove with a regular washing. If the gel coat or paint on a boat is not smooth and protected then the grayness and black streaks will be more difficult to remove. In this case you may have to go to an aggressive black streak remover cleaner or use a buffing compound. If you do have a shiny waxed boat with black streaks that don’t come off with regular washing, a good quality liquid wax like Meguiars Flagship will do the job of removing the streaks and protecting the surface.

South Side and Horizontal Surface Sun Exposure

Because of our geographic location and orientation to the sun the south side of a boat receives much more exposure to degrading UV rays than the north side, especially during the winter. This means if a boat is moored in the same location and the same direction all year the south side will continually be exposed to much more sun than the north. Similarly, the horizontal surfaces receive much more exposure than vertical surfaces and need more attention. Think of lying on the beach. If the sun is on your left side all day you would either want to put more sunscreen on this side or rotate your body to avoid getting a sun burn. If the sun was overhead you would be much more likely to get burned on your back or chest than your sides. Applying this principal to a boat shows us that it is important to wax this portion of the boat more often or rotate the boat on a fairly regular basis to even out the amount of exposure. Depending on the quality of wax used it is important to wax the topside portion of a boat that sits un-covered year round at least every six months. It is also a good idea to wax the horizontal portions like the top of a pilothouse, cap rails, radar arch etc. even more often, especially during the summer.

Mechanical Maintenance

Boat maintenance can be classified as either cosmetic or mechanical. Boaters understandably take a lot of pride in the cosmetics, but should not overlook the comprehensive upkeep of the engine and major systems. A dirty boat won’t leave you stranded, but a neglected engine may well do so.

With the advent of computerized fuel injection for both gasoline and diesel engines, do-it-yourself maintenance has been reduced to replacing minor parts and filters, as well as the regular inspection and exchange of fluids. Boaters with gasoline engines may replace spark plugs and wires, but the traditional “ignition timing” or “carburetor adjustments” tasks done in generations past have disappeared. Computer modules control fuel deliver and spark timing.

Every manufacturer publishes requirements for periodic maintenance. In most cases, those requirements should be considered a minimum commitment to the health and longevity of a marine engine. Ever boater should consult his or her owner’s manual, and establish a periodic routine. The routine outlined in the following chart is recommended by a major diesel engine manufacturer, but might not specifically satisfy the warranty requirements for other makers. Consider this chart a good example, but not necessarily applicable to every marine diesel.