Wrapping up the season? This DIY boat detailing guide is here to help you maintain a clean boat that will be less susceptible to damage during winter storage and ready to go the next time you are. Here’s a checklist outlining how to care for a fiberglass boat off season.
First things first: Do a thorough exterior wash that includes the hull, deck and cabin or center console structure. Don’t forget about gutter tracks along windows, the hardtop, underneath gunwales, inside lockers or the tackle station and the helm/dash.
Once everything is dry, compound and wax the fiberglass surfaces to cut through any residue and make the gelcoat surfaces shine like new.
Clean all canvas shades, windows and enclosures, then scrub the seats and apply vinyl conditioner. Lubricate all zippers so they don’t freeze up and polish the stainless steel to remove handprints on grabrails, locker pulls, tank fills and more. Condition the rub rail with a restorer.
Never use a hose when cleaning electronics like engine gages or your multifunction display (MFD). Only use spray bottles with products specifically designed for MFDs and consult your owner's manual for recommended care instructions.
Vacuum and/or hose off fixed carpeting. Don’t use a pressure washer that can cause damage. Biodegradable boat soap or a mild detergent and water is fine. Adding some vinegar to the water can help cut salt buildup, too.
Water spots act like glue for future dirt. Furthermore, you never want to cover a boat that’s still wet, since mold and mildew thrive in dark, damp places (more on that shortly). Be sure to dry and wipe down the whole boat from bow to stern. (Do this each time you finish the day and when detailing at the end of the season.) You can use a non-acidic, all-purpose marine cleaner and degreaser for tough spots and then wipe down with soft cloth.
First, you don’t want to put a dirty cover over a clean boat! Brush any visible dirt off the cover before washing, rinsing and drying it. Use support poles underneath the cover to keep rain/snow from building up or pooling. As mentioned above, make sure your boat is completely dry before covering it.
There’s more to do below deck on larger Boston Whalers with a cabin. Scrub all fixtures in the head and galley, making sure to empty food lockers, wipe down the refrigerator and prop it open to air it out. Clean or remove bedding and prop up mattresses to keep mildew and odors from forming. You may want to add a chemical moisture absorber for enclosed spaces or an electric dehumidifier if your batteries will be topped up regularly, or you can run an external electrical cord as long as you can inspect it regularly for safety.
Don’t forget the radar arch and the power cord which gets sticky with dirt. In some cases, you may want to also clean the bilge and remember the trailer should be washed, rinsed and stored in good working order so it’s ready to launch next time.
A thorough cleaning and detailing will take anywhere from a few hours to a full day depending on the size and condition of your Boston Whaler. Most tasks are simple and require little specific skill-- just lots of elbow grease. By tackling the job yourself, you’ll know it was done right and you might even have a little fun in the DIY boat detailing process.