RERUN – The Saltwater Cleaning Ritual, It’s Worth Every Second Minute, Hour. .

Out for her 2 month cleaning.

THIS STORY WAS PUBLISHED IN AUGUST 2017 – We decided it was worth a Rerun, We live in an area that is brackish water, which is a light salt fresh water blend. We are mid way up the Chesapeake Bay. Now, many might gasp in horror about using our Woody Boats in this sort of water. Well, they have been using wood boats in our water since the beginning. In fact Captain John Smith loved boating in our area. Also most of the watermen in the area still use wood work boats. So how do we keep our Woody Boats clean and fresh. Well, it aint easy, and it takes time, ritual time. Here are the steps we take. So if you live near Salt water and have been scared to dive in, its doable.

Gotta keep that Katzs Finish perfect, and Graves plating sparkling

  1. This may seem obvious, but we hose the boat down after each run. I have a hose set up right at the boat house. The entire boat, glass and all is soaked, then wiped down with a chamois.

    Flush her out

  2. Every two days we flush the engine. We take a 5 gallon bucket and a short hose. MIX IN SOME SALT AWAY or SALT KILL PRODUCT!   Put fresh water in the 5 gallon bucket and hook up the water pump to the short hose and suck out the water through the engine. DO NOT HOOK UP THE HOSE TO THE WATER PUMP. it will blow the pump.

    The bucket.

    A special flush valve between the pickup and pump

  3. Wipe down the interior
  4. Make sure all the chrome is clean. no residue. Its also a good idea to carfully  wax the chrome.

    I even try and keep the chrome clean while out on the water

  5.  Wash the brite work with a mixture of Water and vinegar, and clean again.

    I keep this on board. With a clean rag.

  6. I keep the boat on a boat lift in a boat house, so I raise the boat and pull the plug and drain. I soak down the bilge area so the water in there is fresh..
  7. The engine is cleaned, brass cleaned and polished. Paint tough up as necessary, no exposed metal.

    I use a cheap throw away brush and very small detail brushes

    VanNess has cans of paint, pre war and post war. I brush it on to control it and tough up. EVERYTHING IS PAINTED! Hoses and clamps

  8. I have a kill switch so no power runs through the system while away.
  9. All the flags and poles are cleaned and stored.

    Don’t forget the gauges. That chrome pits quick!

  10. Then I cover the boat in a canvas cover that lets the boat breath.

    Her custom canvas goes with her!

This is every week. About once every two months, sometimes sooner depending on use, the boat is pulled and cleaned and detailed.

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Screws pulled and cleaned, touching up the bottom paint, and brite work. Buffing scratches and generally detailed like a show car. The trailer is also soaked and cleaned. But to be honest, I should get a an aluminum trailer or galvanized. I just like the painted look. I am sure I am missing some stuff, and if you also are on salt water would love any tips. I have the weekly ritual down to about an hour or two depending on what  is left in my energy tank on Sundays.


32 replies
    • Greg Lewandowski
      Greg Lewandowski says:

      As Mark said, a quick wet wipe down to get the water spots off is all we need in Michigan. I do use your bypass valve system out of the bucket for winterizing and running on the trailer for initial Spring start. You need to get away from that salt water. I can give you the name of a good real estate agent in Michigan!

  1. Darthtrader
    Darthtrader says:

    Granted, Michigan is beautiful for three months during the summer, however, the winter brings gray skies and “hardwater”, which is really tough to enjoy unless you own an icebreaker. I’ll take the sunshine and freshwater lakes of Florida. The nice part is, you don’t have to shovel sunshine.

    • Greg Lewandowski
      Greg Lewandowski says:

      We usually get five to six months of good boating weather in southern Michigan, but the winters can be brutal. That’s when we break out the skis, tip ups and snow blowers!

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Have you ever considered fresh water cooling? If it isn’t a show boat, you can protect the block and intake manifold and only have to worry about your raw water pump, heat exchanger and exhaust log. You will still want to flush those parts, but the $$$ exposed is much less.

    I would be very worried about the aluminum head on Stinky with dissimilar metals in the mix. Galvanic corrosion can eat away aluminum pretty quickly.

  3. Cameron
    Cameron says:

    Salt water preserves wood, its fresh water that causes dry rot. I keep the bilge free of fresh water by adding sea water to ensure the concentration remains high. My boats have to handle sea water semi permanently. I take them out every 6 months and redo the antifouling and add a coat of varnish. Oh, for a boathouse!
    Your vinegar/water mixture has just been added to my weekly ritual and I will try waxing my chrome. I believe Vaseline works well. It’s the brass that is so difficult to keep bright. Bronze gets a wipe with linseed oil.

  4. Jim K.
    Jim K. says:

    I live on the Gulf coast and have been using a product that helps with salt removal and corrosion protection when flushing the engine. Does anyone else use similar products?

  5. Nehmer Kid
    Nehmer Kid says:

    Ice boating in the winter in Michigan is a treat and if you never have tried it don’t throw stones, its like race car driving, sailing, wooden boating, and flying a glider. Don’t get me wrong I love the sun and the heat… but we need to make the most out of where we live. I believe we all live in special places, each one has its own special attributes. Its all about choices.

  6. Ronald
    Ronald says:

    Wow, after all that work I would be boating way less or using a pontoon or that whaler and saving my woodies for a real special occasion.

  7. Dan T
    Dan T says:

    Great tips, but I wouldn’t wash the bilge with fresh water. Like Cameron says fresh water promotes wood rot, salt water preserves. Best wash down for a wood boat is with sea water.

  8. greg wallace
    greg wallace says:

    We use “salt away” when in salty areas on boat, trailer, as an engine flush, fishing gear, etc. Also use on our vehicles during salty winters. Likely equivalent products.

      • charley quimby
        charley quimby says:

        The tubes on my trailer rails are open at both ends, so I just flush through, front to back. Brakes are rinsed through an access hole in the drums. I also keep in mind that my potable water here at home used to rinse and flush contains chlorine (of the chloride family). Matt does about as much as one can do to keep the effects of brackish water to a minimum. Fatigue, darkness, foul weather; it does not matter… Rinsing/flushing/clean-up is always done before I put the Miss APBA into layup… CQ

  9. C Stang
    C Stang says:

    Saltwater eclipse, what could be better. Cleaning is just part of life to enjoy the benefits of no borders!

  10. Wudzgud
    Wudzgud says:

    Vinegar is clear, water is clear. Matt, Why is your vinegar water bottle yellow? Do you use a different kind of vinegar. I have tried it the 50/50 with clear vinegar and it does work. Just wasn’t sure if I was using the correct vinegar.

  11. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    I am a true primitive. I flush em…..wash em…but mostly I have simple, cheap, head turners, but not varnish queens….whirlwinds and the like…….I just run em. If I had a woody cruiser still, I would be letting the salt water IN….if enough didn’t leak in!

    John in Va.

  12. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    I run all my boats in the salt – always have, always will. I use Salt Away when I get back to the (freshwater) dock or home on the trailer, freshwater rinse and wipe-down, etc. . None of the boats are perfect, but they all get used and enjoyed on a regular basis – which to me, is the point of ownership. That, and the fact that I relax when working on them. Some great tips from Matt on the process of clean-up and preservation though, and no one can say he doesn’t use and enjoy his boats! 🙂

  13. DougP in the PNW
    DougP in the PNW says:

    I was lucky enough to be able to use my boat in salt water, put it back on the trailer, take it to the lake, back the trailer in and start and flush the engine while the trailer was flushed. A painted trailer will rust out much quicker than a galvanized

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      No, he does the pontoon work under a privacy tent to make sure no spy photos appear on social media.

  14. Ken
    Ken says:

    The So Cal ACBS Chapter meets in San Diego every Oct and we all use Salt Away. We also never put our trailers in the salt – we use the lifts at the San Diego Yacht Club (see pix). Some pucker factor when their hangin’ in the air!

  15. Robert R
    Robert R says:

    My boat hose as pictured:
    Carolina Carports and I made roll up shade blocker which blocks out the sun by 85% and lets the air pass through. I have a stock car cover so it can breath and placed in a strip of fine vent material over the slightly opened hatch. (all was pinned and sown).
    My boat is kept in brackish water (Swimming River) which leads into the Navesink River in NJ.
    I use Salt Away every time the boat is used, mixed with 5 gal of fresh water in a bucket feeding through an intake outlet.

  16. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U.P.)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U.P.) says:

    I have boated in the salt in the past. It is a pain flushing and cleaning everything when you are done for the day or week. Granted Michigan’s boating season is much shorter. All I can say is Boat harder and more often. I agree with Mark Edmonson.

  17. kevin F
    kevin F says:

    In the “old days”, the woodies were rinsed with salt water instead of fresh. The fresh can lead to rot, the salt stops it. My U22 has been in salt since 1992. The wood bottom is in amazing shape for its age and miles, not perfect, but pretty good. The only rot I have had on the boat is above the water line from rain etc.

    I used to be anal retentive on the chrome too, like Matt. but over the years the chrome was not perfect anymore, so, I have been known to get off the boat after a long day and just tie it up and go home.

  18. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Oh yeah…always washed down my cruiser with salt water… preserves wood and ruins metal…so all life is a compromise …..

    John in Va.

  19. Rob Attfield
    Rob Attfield says:

    OMG! I knew salt water had its issues but I had no idea that this much work hard to be undertaken every time a woody was removed from a salty environment. I agree that that salt water can help to preserve wood, however. After all, the Spanish Armada used to get about 30,000 miles to the galleon.

  20. Ron Y.
    Ron Y. says:

    ComOcean has been in salt water since new. I pretty much do all the things Matt mentioned. Fresh water closed cooling is mandatory for a year round salt water boat., but I also have a rinse process plumbed in for the manifold risers and exhaust.. Marine Power 5.7 twins are all antifreeze internally otherwise.
    We haul every 2 years for ablative bottom paint, have a diver clean the bottom every 6 weeks, and cover with full canvas all week, and go boating Year Round,. Salt Away is great stuff.

  21. Steve
    Steve says:

    This is a learning experience for us woody boaters in Northern Wisconsin. Usually we put the salt licks ( large blocks is salt) out for the deer . But it may be more appropriate to throw them into the bilge of the wood boat over winter storage . Thus preserving the wood .

  22. Mr Suomela
    Mr Suomela says:

    I think this is a bit overkill. Here in Finland we’ve always had the wooden boats in the sea from May to October without pulling them.

    The seawater will protect the wood from rotting and the extra swelling and drying will do more harm than good.

    Just make sure to pull the boat early enough to let it dry completely before the frost sets in!

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