Caring for Your Boat in Florida
By Kelly Dean
Boating is very popular in Florida for obvious reasons. Not only do we have about 1500 miles of coastline along thousands of miles of open ocean, but the interior of the state is covered with rivers, freshwater lakes and reservoirs. Of course, the best way to experience this expanse of water is on a boat, whether enjoying fishing, diving or other water sports.
Unfortunately, tropical weather is unforgiving, so boats take a lot of care, much more than up north. It rains about two hours a day in summertime and there are only so many hours to dry out each day (although, it’s much dryer in winter). The sun beats down relentlessly the entire year. Ultraviolet light is an enemy to boat finishes; water and sandy air creates grime and sediment on the sides and areas where it can pool for a while. So I’m going to make some bold, blunt, and perhaps hasty opinions about what must be ready for and what you must do to care for a boat, whether it’s a short fishing boat or a good-sized yacht.
Most all of these tips are a good idea regardless of where you live. But Florida is sunny most of the time and 92 humid degrees virtually every day from June through September.
- Cover your boat and trailer completely from the sun if possible: boat covers, dock covers, carports, garages, boat storage facilities and the like
- Always rinse boat with a hose after use and wipe it down
- Flush motor with fresh water from a hose attachment after use, especially if in salt water
- Most boats in Florida are glossy white on the surfaces exposed to the sun for a reason: it reflects UV more than darker colors do, so nearly all boats are white at least on the decks, hatches and gunwales; it’s cooler on the feet too
- You will need to wax your boat more frequently than you did up north, about every one or two months depending upon use and canvas time
- You will need a power polisher to speed up the job
- Boat gel coat and automobile clear coats are not the same thing; treat them differently and buy the right products
- Heavy oxidation requires some level of compounding, whether light or aggressive
- Most boats on lifts or floating in dock slips do not have tie-on boat covers and are left open for water evaporation, but these boats must be rinsed, checked and waxed frequently; they do frequently have awning type covers over them (and should)
- It’s impossible or difficult to tie on a boat cover when it’s in the water or on a lift, respectively
- If you park your boat on a trailer out of the water, a cover is recommended; bugs, critters and birds will invade as well, also …
- A tie-on boat cover is ALWAYS needed if your boat is any other color than white on its exposed areas; the sun can and will affect the gelcoat faster and it shows more readily; alternatively, or additionally, park your boat under a carport or in a garage
- Areas exposed to rain or water in the boat’s interior generally do not have carpeting in Florida; bass boats are an exception but these require special care after a rainy fishing trip so they can dry quickly and completely or they will hold water when it’s under a canvas boat cover – think mildew, rings and so on.
- Allow interior to dry before covering for long periods of time; covering for rain is OK, but uncover to dry
- Vinyl will mildew and will require rinsing and monitoring frequently; many take their seat covers out of the boat when not in use
- A high-pressure power sprayer and water sucking shop vacuum are good investments in Florida for a number of jobs, including boat care
- An auto-on bilge pump is also recommended along with a quality battery charger; it will turn on and pump water out of the boat, even when you sleep; the charger will make sure the battery stays charged
- Know that removing the bilge plug is difficult when on a lift, but it’s better if you do than relying on an auto bilge pump
- Outboard motor servicing is best on a trailer
- Your boat is only level and draining when slowly raised and leveled by a boat lift or on a totally level incline; otherwise, it’s pooling water somewhere in the bilge or deck area
- Boat trailers are also susceptible to oxidation and mildew; plus, tires can dry-rot on wet ground and when exposed to the sun as well, consider canvas tire and fender covers
So in a perfect world, if you own a boat it should be under some kind of sun protection, whether on a lift or on a trailer. It should be carefully drained to make sure it stays dry inside to avoid mildew and rot. It should be on a concrete pad and covered with a canvas-like cover. It should be washed and waxed frequently.
That’s a lot of care and something to consider if you’re considering owning a boat.