A vessel is deteriorating from the moment it is built.

- Willits D. Ansel


Boat Maintenance

If you have an aversion to labor and don't like fixing things, you have no business owning a boat.

Yanmar 1GM Cutaway Photographs


Cleaning Tips
-For fiberglass and other shiny plastics, use nonabrasive cleaners (e.g. Bon-Ami but NOT Ajax), brushes with soft synthetic bristles, and plastic or nylon scrubbers.

-Wash plastic port lights with fresh water, not salt water, to avoid scratching.

-Wash down fiberglass decks with fresh water to remove salt. Pay special attention to birghtwork.

-Wash wooden decks with salt water. The salt will remain in the seams, cracks, and crevices to help prevent rot.

-Kill mildew with a 3:1 solution of water and liquid bleach (e.g. Clorox). Wait five minutes, rinse, wash with detergent, then rinse again.

-Bleach can cause yellowing of some flexible caulking compounds.

-Prevent mildew by ventilating and letting in the sunshine--and don't put away anything that is wet or damp.

-Protect books and charts from mildew by wiping them down time to time with undiluted Lysol.

-Clean the bilge with a pint of non-sudsing heavy-duty cleaning detergent and enough fresh water to allow the solution to reach most corners. Allow the solution to slosh around for a week while the boat is underway, or rolling in an open anchorage. Sail a good distance offshore and pump the bilge. In a harbor, pump the bilge into a holding tank.

-Remove spilled oil from the bilge by pouring in water, allowing the oil to float to the top, and then absorbing the oil with disposable diapers or absorbent rags.

-Clean stainless steel fittings and rigging wire with detergent or window cleaner, ammonia, or vinegar applied with a nonabrasive scrubbing pad. Be sure the detergent doesn't contain chlorine. Rinse with fresh water.

-Keep chlorine away from stainless steel fittings and hardware.

-Keep chlorine and vinegar away from Dacron sails.

-Most cleaners won't make suds in salt water. Joy and Wisk dishwashing detergent will make suds in salt water.

-A solution of baking soda and water will clean, freshen, and remove odors in the galley and head. Lysol will kill germs.

-Clean badly tarnished brass work by rubbing down with half a lemon dipped in salt (cut side down) or a cloth soaked in Worcestershire sauce, rinse, then shine with proprietary brass polish.

-Clean badly tarnished bronze by rubbing down with a solution of salt and vinegar, rinse, then polish.

-Clean chrome with a soft cloth dampened with WD-40.

-Clean varnished interior joiner work with a 4:1 solution of vinegar and fresh water, rinse with fresh water, and shine with lemon-oil furniture polish.

-Clean glass with a light solution of vinegar and water or a solution of ammonia and water.

2. Freeing Frozen Shackle Pins

Tap with a hammer around the hole where the pin screws in

OR soak around the threads with penetrating oil

OR heat the shackle with a torch until it is red hot

3. Preventing Shackle Pins from Freezing Up

Before screwing the pin home, coat the threads with grease

OR Vaseline

OR lanolin

OR pine tar

4. Homemade Multipurpose Grease for General Maintenance

3 pounds (or 3 parts) tallow

1 pound (or 1 part) soft soap

1 pound (or 1 part) Vaseline

Heat all together, stir thoroughly, turn off heat, and continue stirring until the mixture begins to set up.

5. Modern Marine Sealants
Polyurethane--very slow cure; extremely good adhesion; nearly permanent bond; resists oils and fuels; subject to weakening from ultraviolet rays.

Polysulfide--slow cure; good adhesion with most materials; can be sanded and painted; resists oils, fuels, and ultraviolet rays; poor gasket for separating dissimilar metals; can melt some plastics; use above and below the waterline; good longevity.

Silicone--rapid cure; modest adhesion, very flexible; resists oils; fuels, and chemicals; high temperature tolerance; compatible with plastics; good gasket for separating dissimilar metals; requires ultraviolet inhibitors.

Flexible epoxy--moderately slow cure; nearly permanent bond; cures underwater; expensive.

Conventional putty and bedding compounds--slow cure; poor adhesion; can harden over time; relatively easy to remove.

6. Cleaning Up Uncured Marine Sealants

Polyurethane--rubbing alcohol

Polysulfide--mineral spirits


Flexible epoxy--acetone or lacquer thinner

Conventional putty and bedding compounds--mineral spirits

7. Painting and Varnishing

The finest, most expensive paint or varnish, applied with the finest, most expensive brush in the western world will not last if the underlying surface is not ready for it.

The Three Bs of Painting

Brush it on.

Brush it in.

Brush it out.

8. Light-reflecting Power of Paint Colors
Flat white 85-89%

Bone white 69-70%

Canary yellow 68-72%

Light ivory 70%

Aluminum 70%

Cream 65-69%

Light green 66%

Ivory 61-63%

Peach 58-59%

Sky blue 58%

Light orchid 57%

Buff 47%

Pea green 40%

Tan 34%

Peacock blue 34%

Steel gray 30%

Brown 9%

9. Four Principle Elements of a Good Varnish Job

1. Good weather on varnishing day.

2. Good, clean, well-broken-in brushes designed for varnishing.

3. Good varnish application technique--flow it on; not too much varnish, not to little; don't overbrush.

4. Even buildup of coats--no fewer than five--with light sanding between coats.

10. Conditions for Painting and Varnishing

50 to 80 degrees F for painting.

60 to 80 degree F for varnishing.

Calm and clear.

Do not paint or varnish when the weather is damp or foggy.

Avoid varnishing under direct sunlight on hot days.

Surfaces should be free of moisture, dust, oil, grease, and rust.

Allow sufficient time for the surface to at least skin over before sunset.

11. Bottom Paint Coverage

Boat Length X Boat Width X .085 = Square Footage

Compare the required need based on the calculated square footage to the available coverage estimated by the paint manufacturer on the paint can and purchase the appropriate amount.


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