Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spring Boat Service - Exterior

Getting the boat ready for the season is a lot like getting the boat ready to sell.   You want it to look good and operate without any problems. That means you need to do a little preparation before you take it out on the lake for the first time. The last thing an owner wants to do is experience and engine failure or even worse, a fire on the first boating weekend of the season!

To make sure the first flotation is good for the family, let’s talk about a little spring season preparation.  Breaking the springtime maintenance into about five different steps makes it seem easier. There is no way we can go over all the details necessary but I’ll try and give you a pretty quick rundown.  

Each boat is going to be different, along with each boat owner and what they feel comfortable undertaking. 

Exterior hull.
Do a general cleaning of hull, deck and topsides using a mild detergent or vinegar and water.  At the same time check to make sure all the drains and scuppers are clear of debris and flow freely. 

This is also a good time to put on the coat of a good quality carnauba paste wax.  Okay, if you don’t want to use a paste wax, use a good quality liquid wax.  Whatever kind of wax you decide to use, it is important to get a good coat on the gel coat to protect the finish. Gel coat will oxidizing and develop a chalk like coating.  Gel coat also breaks down over time due to the UV rays. Waxing the surface helps to prevent UV damage. If there are any small spider cracks, wax will help to seal the cracks to moisture.  Plus the boat looks better and has to go faster, because the surface is so slick.

This is also the time to look into repairing any chips or cracks in the gel coat surface.  Small nicks and scratches can often times be polished out with a cordless power buffer or even a cloth and polishing compound.  If you don’t have any polishing compound you can always do a temporary polishing with a tube of original Crest tooth paste.  The fine abrasive in the tooth paste will help smooth out the scratches and imperfections.  

If the scratch is deep enough that it needs touch up, buy a gel coat touch up kit or simpler yet, use finger nail polish to hide the scratch.  Finger nail polish is not a permanent solution but it is an easy way to cover a scratch and the color choices are almost unlimited. 

If you have any big nicks or blisters that need to be filled you can use gel coat to do the job. One thing you will have to do is carve or grind the edges of the nicked area back to remove any loose gel coat and bevel the edges so the filler can bond to the underlying fiberglass.  The edges can be beveled with a razor knife or even a Dremel cordless tool.  If fiberglass repair is not your specialty, take the boat to a shop and have them touch up the nicks.  One thing you don’t want is holes, blisters or chips allowing water get under the gel coat. 

If you have an aluminum boat you look for dents, dings and signs of loose rivets (black soot around the rivet).  Dents just slow the boat down (not much if they are small) and loose rivets need to be re-set to make sure they do not leak. 

If you leave your boat in the water for the season, make sure your barrier paint and anti fouling paint are in good condition.  This is the time to do any touch ups.

Of course, this is also the time that you will look over all the fitting.  Check cleats, stanchions, brackets to make sure they are tight and do not have sharp edges or corrosion. Any damage to the fittings can catch clothes, skin and damage ropes. 

Most new boats have reduced the amount of wood and carpet used on the exterior of the boat, but if you have wood or carpet look for chips and tears.  Wood should be sanded or smoothed to prevent splinters and catching of skin and clothes.  A good wood sealer or teak oil should be applied to the wood to help protect the surface from the elements.  Depending on your location you may need to add a coating to the wood again later in the year.

Carpet should be kept vacuumed with a good wet and dry vacuum. Clean, dry carpet lasts longer and has less opportunity to build up mold and mildew. 

Each boat is different so the list can get quite long.  That’s why it is best to start on the outside of the boat and just start working your way around it.  By going slow and taking your time inspecting everything you will have a better chance of catching even the smallest of details.   And don’t for get to look at items like rub rails, swim platforms, boarding ladders, sacrificial zincs and even running lights.

While you are inspecting the exterior of the boat make sure you look for soft areas of the deck. Many boats use a core material between two layers of fiberglass. This core gives the boat strength without the weight required if it was all glass construction. But the core is often made from a porous material such as balsa wood or foam. The core can become damaged by moisture that seeps in through holes, cracks or seams. Once the core is saturated it gains weight and losses its strength and integrity.  If you have ever walked on a deck that felt spongy…that’s probably from a damaged core. Soft or damaged cores are usually not an easy or cheap fix.  Making sure the fittings, stanchions, blocks or any other items mounted to the deck are sealed and tightened appropriately.

If you happen to be the owner of a sail boat you will also have the additional inspections of the standing and running rigging.  Make sure you look for corrosion, bends or wear spots.  The sail track should be cleaned and lubricated with a dry lube.  Don’t forget to check the spreaders and boots so that they do not have damage that can ruin your sails. 


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