Owning a boat brings a lot of fun, sailing around in the sunshine and exploring the seven seas, or the local lakes at least. It also brings a lot of maintenance. Keeping a boat looking fresh is no mean feat, so we’ve compiled our list of 8 top tips anyone can do to enjoy a ship-shape boat all year round. 

#1. Pay Your Boat Regular Attention

When it comes to keeping your boat looking in beautiful condition, one of the oldest and easiest tricks in the book is to pay your boat regular attention. We’re not talking weekly repaints and oil changes, but keeping on top of basic cleaning pays dividends.

If you leave your boat to get caked in salt and dirt, cleaning is a much harder task when you do get around to it. You’ll also see a reduction in speed with a dirty hull, so that’s another reason to give your boat a little TLC! Of course, any guests will appreciate stepping on board a clean boat too, so the reasons keep mounting up to do little and often.

#2. Wash and Wax

Aiming to wash and wax your boat twice a year goes a long way to keeping it looking as good as new all year round. 

You need to keep the gel coat on the fibreglass in good condition to stop it from turning chalky. When the exterior becomes chalky and dull, it’s much easier for dirt and salt particles to get trapped in surface grooves. This is a big no-no for keeping a slick ship, so you’ll need to clean it more regularly anyway.

Topsides applied with a fresh coat of sleek and shiny wax not only look appealing, but they’re also far more effective at repelling water and dirt. It leads to less time spent on maintenance and more time spent taking to the water to enjoy a gentle summer breeze on your face. 

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#3. Clean the Canvas

Canvas is used for many elements on a boat, so a fresh tarp is pivotal for keeping your vessel looking fresh. With sail covers, sunshades and sprayhoods often made with canvas and exposed to splashings of salt water, it’s hard to keep them clean and dry. Damp canvas is a haven for mould, mildew and green algae, which can make a fresh sheet look old and worn in no time. 

Rinsing canvas areas with freshwater is a simple way to aid the drying process and keep mould and mildew at bay. Of course, many boat owners will experience mould at some point, so what should you do?

Treat any spots with an effective mould remover, rinse the fabric and retreat it for water resistance before ensuring it’s dried. Following these steps will help to keep future mould issues at bay.

#4. Invest in a Bilge Pump

As the bilge sits underwater, you don’t necessarily see it, but investing in a bilge pump is very worthwhile. Water finds its way into the bilge for all sorts of reasons, such as cleaning the rest of the boat or the bilge itself. When this happens, a pump removes the water and helps to keep the area clean and dry. 

If water is left to sit in the bilge, it’s tricky to spot fuel and fluid leaks, which could block your pump. It’s also a guaranteed way for belt dust and diesel to escape the engine compartment, making it harder to keep the rest of your boat looking ship shape and tidy.

Using a bilge pump is a simple way to keep on top of engine maintenance as well as keeping your boat looking and feeling fresher in general. 

#5. Hull Painting

Hull painting is a real labour of love. With many modern boats only painted below the awkward water line, it’s not something you want to do often. Using the correct kit and taking the time to get it right now will pay off in the long run. Cutting corners at this stage leads to problems down the line, especially when choosing boat paint and primer

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You need quality paint that will adhere to the hull to ensure longevity and easier maintenance. You also want one that will protect against exposure to the elements, including the sun’s UV rays, to keep your boat turning heads for all the right reasons. 

When you’ve found a durable paint and gathered your tools, start by removing old paint layers and prime the surface. It’s hard work, especially if you use different grits of sandpaper to secure a perfectly smooth base, but so worth it. You can transform even the oldest boat with a bit of TLC and a fresh lick of paint. 

Finish off by applying your chosen paint with a roller, a brush and a partner. It works best if one person applies paint with the roller while the other uses the brush to make vertical strokes. It achieves the closest finish to a professionally-sprayed boat this way, but for a fraction of the cost. 

Allow each layer to dry completely between applications to ensure even coverage and finish off with polish for a glossy look. This extra touch also makes it much easier to remove any future staining, so it’s best not to skip it.

#6. All Hands on Deck

Seeing as the deck is where you spend most of your time, this is one area you really want to pay attention to. For a quick refresh on a fibreglass or painted deck, grab a deck brush with stiff bristles and give the surface a good scrub. If you’re dealing with heavier soiling, a pressure washer is a quick way to achieve effective results.

For softer teak decks, you need to apply a gentler approach. This grain naturally develops a beautiful silver colour over time, and cleaning with salt water encourages the process. Use a bucket to apply the salt water for gentle cleaning with a sponge, and allow it to dry naturally in the sun for best results. 

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Stay away from using stiff bristles on teak timber, as this can erode a hefty chunk of the surface. You can lose around 1mm per year if you’re not careful. When many decks only start at 10mm thickness, you can see how quickly it could lead to disaster. Stick to soft brushes and sponges to help extend the lifespan of your teak decking.

#7. Refresh Your Rope

If you regularly sail in salt water, you’ve probably noticed your rope becoming brittle and unwieldy. Well, freshwater and basic dish soap work wonders for refreshing your rope. Simply soak it in a large container (a wheelie bin works well) filled with warm water and washing up liquid. Pay particular attention to any areas of staining by scrubbing with a sponge.

While it’s easy to overlook cleaning your lines, this is a sure-fire way to sharpen up the appearance of any boat with minimal effort and cost. There’s nothing better than soft and supple rope gleaming in the sunlight. 

#8. Eye-up the Interior

What good is it having a sleek exterior if the interior of your boat looks more than a little shabby? Having a quick spruce up before taking your boat out or inviting guests onboard is an inexpensive way to make an impact.

Soft furnishings are a particular area to focus on, as it doesn’t take much for them to become riddled with mould and damp patches. Despite your best ventilation efforts, the constant exposure to water spray and humidity means they’re a hotspot for mould to grow.

When this happens, you can take the covers off cushions and run them through a washing machine before treating with a damp-proof spray. Et voila. They look as good as new, soft and inviting, ready for your next boat picnic. Pop some dehumidifying kits in discrete locations to help keep them fresh for longer.

Last Boat Not Least

Looking after a boat doesn’t have to be an expensive and time-consuming task. If you’d rather do it yourself than send it off to a professional, these top tips will go a long way towards keeping your craft looking fresh all year round. The main thing to take away is to do little and often. Regular cleaning and developing post-sailing routines will ensure your boat doesn’t fall into disrepair.