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Drop a Clean Boat in the Water

10 products to restore luster and arouse envy

When winter abandons Chesapeake Country, it leaves many a boat looking like an old haunted mansion. Now, boaters are full-swing in chores they would have done in March — if they could have.
    My Catalina 34 is my home, so I’ve learned how to avoid that haunted look. This back-to-the-water season, I’m sharing my shopping list of 10 cleaning products to help you bring a glow back to your boat and make your neighbors jealous.
    1. Dull gelcoats can be brought back to life if you don’t just rush in with wax or polish. You must get rid of the topmost layer of the gelcoat beforehand. To do this, you will need an oxidation remover. 3M Marine Fiberglass Restorer and Wax is an excellent product for a two-in-one. It will both remove the oxidized layer and seal the fresh layers with wax. Apply another wax over it to fully protect the gelcoat.
    2. Once you have a nice shiny, waxed layer of gelcoat, keep it clean. I’ve tried many boat washes, finding a few that I like and many I hate. My favorite is Boat Zoap. It is gentle enough to use often yet strong enough to clean off the most stubborn bird poop.
    3. Speaking of bird poop, a simple solution is Bird Be Gone. It is sold as a spool of metal ribbon, silver on one side and red on the other. I cut two-foot lengths and attach one end to plastic key clips with staples and tape. Six to eight of these clipped around and above the deck of your boat should scare off those pesky pooping birds and keep your decks clean.
    4. I love to see wood on boats. It seems to make the boat look more authentic. But when the wood cracks and peels, the boat looks like it belongs in a junkyard. The key is preparation. Strip down and sand the wood parts that need it, then clean the wood. Don’t just add varnish over dirty wood. Dirt can bury itself deep into the wood fibers. Use Star Bright Teak Cleaner, and you’ll be surprised how much brighter your woodwork will be.
    5. Now that your teak is naked and clean, you can coat it without fear of future peeling. I prefer Sikkens Cetol Finish. Once you have prepared the area, apply three to four layers of Sikkens. Do not sand between coats because sanding removes some of the protectants. Next year, wash down the wood with a gentle cleanser against the grain and freshen it up with another coat of Sikkens. You can continue adding a fresh layer as long as your finish does not yellow. Then it’s time to break out the sandpaper and start over again.
    6. 3M painting tape is great for protecting surrounding surfaces. Do not leave it on for more than a couple of days, or it will become difficult to remove.
    7. For the interior wood, Murphy’s Oil Soap will clean away all the grime that makes the wood look dark and dull.
    8. Old English polish will brighten up the wood and protect it from accidental spills and the sea air.
    9. The most important product is also the cheapest: fresh water. Each time you take your boat out, make time to wash down everything with fresh water. Rinse off your wenches, outboards, pulleys and even your sheets. If you take an extra 15 minutes to simply rinse with fresh water, you will save time and money each and every season.
    10. For wash-down, I use a brush that hooks directly to my hose. The water flows down the long handle and out holes cut out of the head. As you scrub, the water washes all the dirt and salt away. This is a time-saving and easy way to wash down your boat.