50 Boating Tips & Tricks
With almost two centuries worth of combined boating experience and a workaday world spent in boatyards and boat factories and aboard boats, the Boating Tech Team has a storehouse of tips rivaling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in size and as deep as Deepak Chopra. These 50 gems could represent a slim 20 minutes of your time spent perusing, in return for untold hours of happy boating.
1. Morning dew is distilled water: Wipe off your boat with it and it will be spot-free.
2. For a mirror like shine, remove last season’s wax with a de-waxing solvent before applying wax this spring.
3. Want a green alternative to bleach? White vinegar kills mold. Apply with a spray bottle.
4. Need to clean a RIB or shore-power cord? Citrus pumice-style hand cleaners work well.
5. Have a scratched windshield, clear-vinyl curtains or sunglasses? A fine polish like 3M Finesse-It works well (so do counter-top polishes).
6. For safety, always move an orbital polisher in the direction of its rotation, usually clockwise (or left to right). The machine may jump if the pad strikes an obstruction when used opposite its rotation.
7. Oven-cleaner spray will remove paint and adhesive residue from gelcoat without damaging it.
8. Make a splash guard from cardboard when using a drill-operated paint mixer.
9. Scraping paint or caulking? Use a file to round the corners of a putty knife “scraper” so it won’t gouge; you can sharpen its edge too!
10. Punching holes at “N-S-E-W” around a paint can’s rim allows paint to drain back into the can and ensures a better seal for the lid.
11. You can make a drill-operated paint mixer by installing long screws through the end of a stick and then whittling the other end down till it fits the drill’s chuck.
12. Invert a can of anti-fouling paint the night before painting to help get the solids in solution prior to mixing.
13. For a crisp waterline, “burnish” masking tape by rubbing its edges down with a dowel or paintbrush handle.
14. To fix a clogged aerosol paint can nozzle, remove it and soak in mineral spirits for an hour. Then install on a can of lubricant and spray to finish the cleaning.
15. To prevent clogging of aerosol anti-fouling nozzles, shake the can per the directions and, when done spraying, invert the can and spray until the stream is clear.
16. A safety pin makes a good tool for removing a bad hydraulic steering seal — which is usually a “quad ring.”
17. There’s lots of talk about pantyhose and duct tape serving as a spare emergency belt: Why not just carry the spare belt?
18. Primer bulb doesn’t get hard no matter how much you squeeze it? Replace it, and buy a spare, plus clamps, to carry aboard.
19. A section of rigid hose or PVC tubing, cut to length, can protect outboard and sterndrive prop shaft splines from damage during storage and transport.
20. Free play in hydraulic steering can often be eliminated by simply adding fluid to the helm pump.
21. Check engine belts for proper tension; also look for cracking and glazing, which are harbingers of failure.
22. Exhaust systems carry a lot of water; check all fasteners, supports and plumbing to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, as well as sinking.
23. T-clamps are more expensive but clamp hoses evenly; worm-gear hose clamps can distort.
24. If you find fishing line wrapped around the outboard or stern drive’s prop shaft, have the unit pressure-tested to ensure the oil seals haven’t been compromised.
25. Use this handy reference for pre-mixing oil and gas at a 50:1 ratio.
1 gallon 2.5 ounces
6 gallons 16 ounces(1 pint)
10 gallons 26 ounces
26. Liquid dish soap applied to carpeted trailer bunks will help the boat slide off more easily at a shallow ramp.
27. Tow tip: Wipe your boat down with liquid soap before a long haul to make bugs and grit easy to remove once you arrive.
28. Filling your water tank? Run the water long enough before filling to eject the water that was left in the hose. Bacteria and mold love to fester in hot hoses.
29. It’s better to keep your stern drive tilted down at the dock. It doesn’t clear the water anyway, and doing so better protects the bellows from barnacles and deterioration.
30. Monitor your boat through a few tide cycles after first launching to make sure you’ve correctly adjusted the dock lines.
31. “Mouse” anchor shackle pins with stainless-steel or Monel seizing wire or with a tie-wrap as shown.
32. To prevent your dinghy from banging the platform and keeping you awake all night, tie a bucket on its painter halfway between boat and dinghy. That way, it will lie to the bucket, not to the boat.
33. Three ways to break the seal of polyurethane adhesives like 3M 5200: Heat the fastener with a soldering iron; use wire fishing line the way a chef cuts cheese; use oscillating tools like the Fein Multimaster.
34. It’s stainless steel, not stain-free steel. Crevice corrosion attacks stainless where you can’t see it. Fittings bleeding rust should be pulled and checked and maybe replaced and resealed.
35. “Mysterious” leaks are often the result of failed deck plate and hatch O-rings. Order new parts from the plate’s manufacturer.
36. Check the chain, thread and O-ring on fuel fill caps to help protect the fuel tank from water intrusion.
37. Locking pliers, clamped tight to a protruding fastener and with their jaws abutting the nut, allow you to gently wiggle the stud until it breaks off clean and burr-free.
38. Masking tape will help prevent chipping when drilling holes in fiberglass.
39. Leftover caulk? Sticking the cartridge tip into petroleum jelly provides a better seal than a nail.
40. A 50/50 mix of acetone and automatic transmission fluid is a great solvent to free corroded fasteners. Careful, it’s volatile!
41. Make rigging wires, hoses and cables easier by dousing a rag with silicone spray and running the cables through the doused rag before pulling them through the boat.
42. Rigging redux: Coating cables with baby powder makes them easier to pull through the boat.
43. Top off batteries with distilled water, available at a drugstore. Want a free source? Drain your dehumidifier.
44. A wet towel, folded and doubled, can be placed under a cooler to keep it from sliding around.
45. Is glare at the helm impairing your visibility? Place a dark towel or shirt under the windshield.
46. Sacrificial anodes that are more than half wasted away need to be replaced.
47. Create a loop at wiring connections with a tie-wrap to prevent inadvertent pulls on the wire from disabling the equipment.
48. Check the operation of a fume detector by holding an unlit butane lighter under the sensor and depressing the lighter’s valve.
49. A squirt of spray lube can return an electric horn to blaring service. The diaphragms get coated with salt and don’t vibrate. Soak them good.
50. A great skipper always uses his excellent judgment so as not to be forced to show off his amazing skill.