When it comes to preparing your boat for the warm-season launch, many people have the marina do all the mechanical preparation. But the family or the owners do the rest, which includes washing, waxing and polishing.

If you have kids, this is a good time to get them involved with the boat, maintenance program because they can learn about a well maintained boat can mean more time on the lake.  But they are also not as careful as you might want them to be so here is a bit of advice.

My kids are out of the house but when they were teenagers, having them help with the maintenance and service was a great way for them to learn what it is like to own a vehicle (car, boat, plane, etc.).  Personally I think is good that they learn ownership is more than just putting in a tank of gas.  Using the boat is a reward for helping to maintain it.  But I also know that my kids are never as careful as I want them to be, so I take a few extra precautions.

I always start the project and make sure to remind them of a few things that I am sure they forgot over the winter (although they say they know it!). Little things like washing the dirt and grime off the boat first with fresh water.  Any loose dust, dirt or buildup that is on the boat needs to be removed with water before the brushes and sponges make contact with any surface. If the grit is not removed it will be ground in and scratch the surface making things worse.  

It helps to rinse the boat with a “spot free” rinse if possible.  Sometimes a simple dishwasher, “ph free” water spot remover can be added to the rinse water. 

It is also important to have the correct equipment.  Good quality brushes, sponges, clothes, hoses and sprayers can keep the finish from being marred and scratched. Many of the cleaning products are available at your local marina or auto parts store. You can even buy many of the products at big box stores like Wal-Mart or Bass Pro Shops.  There are also a number of companies that specialize in marine cleaning equipment and compounds.  Starbrite has a number of different products to remove the grime and dirt and protect the gelcoat finish on today’s boats.  Make sure you get products that are environmentally safe or friendly. You won’t want the marina police to fine you for polluting the water while cleaning the boat.

Another company, Shurhold Industries, has been manufacturing premium care and cleaning tools for 30 years.  Their products are designed for the automotive and marine industry. I have one of their “Ultimate Maintenance Kits”, which includes a brush, mop and the extendable handle to use with them.

Most people will have their own tools for cleaning, but if you are new and need to supply your tool wall, here are a few guidelines. 

  1. A hose long enough to reach the farthest point of the vessel.  
  2. A good, plastic spray nozzle, which will keep damage to a minimum if, it's dropped.  
  3. A bucket with plastic feet that is large enough to dip the brush, but not too large to make it difficult to carry around the boat.  
  4. A soft brush with a large surface area and dense bristle pattern will remove most new dirt and stains.  Brushes with feathered ends; angled bristles and wrap around safety bumpers work best.  
  5. A lightweight, telescoping aluminum handle that uses a snap locking system instead of a twist.  This keeps the brush from coming off during use.  
  6. Assorted mops and towels.  Imitation chamois, also known as PVA, works great because it's soft, absorbent and durable.  Squeegees, with their soft blades and plastic housings, are ideal for removing excess water from both the windows and the hull.  

It is important, especially if you are having your kid’s help, to use products that will not scratch or mar the surface. A couple of the best things I have invested in were the plastic spray nozzle and a hose with plastic fittings.  Metal fittings and nozzles always seem to get dropped, scratching the gelcoat, which then takes more time for me to remove the scratch! 

Most mechanics will tell you that the right tools make the job easier. It’s the same with cleaning.  Good tools and products make the project go faster and get the boat in the water sooner.  Who doesn’t want that?