A Clean Boat Is a Happy Boat

Keep the Boat Clean and Keep Your Job

| |Scott Kerrigan|

The best captains I worked for always kept a clean boat. Of course, they were great fishermen as well, but they really exhibited the complete package when it came to boat care and guest relations. As I moved up to the bridge, I understood that keeping the boat right was key to keeping a job.

Today, given the size and cost of the boats that we get the privilege to run and care for, it’s almost sinful to keep an untidy, unorganized, messy boat. We view keeping the boat clean and maintained as asset management.


For us, taking care of the boat comes first; our guests and owners come second; and, lastly, we work hard to catch fish. If the boat is clean inside and out, and things are put away and everything is orderly, it puts our guests at ease, and they are content and relaxed on board. You can then take care of their needs, feed them a good lunch, have their favorite drinks on hand, and engage them in the fishing operation. You can rest assured that whether you catch one or 20, your guests are comfortable and will have a great time.

But it all starts with a clean boat. Obviously, the largest investment in a clean boat is the effort required to keep it that way. Things that are scheduled and repeated on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis become routine and make the task of keeping the boat clean easy. If you stay on top of it and do not get behind, all of the jobs are minimal. It’s when you let things go over time that they snowball out of control and become large issues.



To start, you need the right tools for the job. We use clean carwash hand mitts to soap the boat. We also keep several different brushes on hand that we use for specific areas of the boat. We use an ultrasoft brush for hard-to-reach surfaces that may be scratch-prone, and we use a stiffer-bristle brush for nonskid surfaces. To clean teak, we use 3M flat Doodlebugs with soft pads.

We’ve always used TD Mop chamois mops and hand chamois, since they are the best at soaking up water and leaving a nonstreaked finish. The mop heads have wide bands, and the material is super friendly to painted or gel-coated surfaces.

We also use a yacht-grade hose from Tricoflex Yachting, which does not leave marks when it’s dragged across the boat’s surfaces. It’s a nonkinking, nonmarking hose that we get from National Marine Supply in Fort Lauderdale. A regular garden hose with a rubber coating will start to delaminate over time and could leave marks and scratches. We never use metal nozzles; instead we use a high-quality plastic nozzle made by Gilmour that doesn’t scratch or mark the boat.


You can find a lot of great boat-washing products out there; just be sure to read the labels and choose one that’s compatible with your gel-coated or painted finish.

Normally, we do not soap the entire boat every day we fish, since we don’t want to remove the protective wax we work so hard to put on. We will, however, soap the entire cockpit every day we fish, and then rinse and thoroughly dry the rest of the boat with a chamois. Depending on the fishing conditions, we may fish three or four days before soaping the whole boat.

Most soaps will not only remove salt and dirt with repeated use; they’ll also remove your wax. Boat Wash in a Bottle by Star Brite is a biodegradable, nonphosphate, low-suds soap that will not remove wax and is safe for painted and gel-coated surfaces. Star Brite also has a pine-scented wash called Power Pine Boat Wash that works great on fish boxes and coolers, since it helps to remove any odors.


After a long transit, or a day of fishing that leaves a bit of diesel residue on the transom and in the cockpit, we use sudsy ammonia to clean away the residue. The black film and dried salt comes off easily with a soap-and-sudsy-ammonia combo. We pour the sudsy ammonia in a bucket and use a dedicated (transom only) soft hand mitt and soft brush to scrub it all off. Dedicated tools keep you from spreading the oily dirt to the rest of the boat. The sudsy ammonia is also ideal for varnished bulkheads, since it won’t attack the varnish like detergents will.


With the fine-finished surfaces found in most interiors, it’s important to test any cleaner you use. Test it on a small, hidden place to make sure you won’t be damaging something you’re trying to maintain.

We use Glass Plus on all the finished-wood surfaces. It’s easy on the surface, and it readily removes fingerprints and dust. Before, during and after a trip, we wipe down all the wood surfaces. This helps to remove not only dust, but also any salty-air deposits that may enter the boat when the door is open. We also vacuum the carpet regularly and wipe the wood floors with Glass Plus as well.

To protect stone and wood countertops, I cut clear Eisenglass or Strataglass covers to place over them. If someone sets a sweating drink, a tool or whatever on the countertop, it’s on the plastic cover, not on the surface. These clear covers have minimized heartburn over the years and kept us from needing to refinish the countertops.

| |You don’t have to get fancy with your cleaning products. Just make sure they won’t damage your surfaces. Also, use different mitts for each task to avoid spreading grease or dirt. (Dave Ferrell)|

We clean our AC vents and filters weekly. Obviously, they need attention more frequently when we’re using the boat more often, and we vacuum the vents and filters and then wipe the louvers clean to remove the dust inside and out. If this task is not done, the buildup of dust and dirt becomes harder to remove over time and injects bad smells into the system.

We clean our heads every morning and, once again, when we come home from fishing. I’ve had mates laugh at me and try to slack off after I’ve told them about this rule — those who ignored it didn’t last long on my deck.

For the squeamish, we keep a box of disposable rubber gloves for head-cleaning duty. We use Clorox Clean-Up and spray the entire head area, lifting the lid and seat and wiping everything down with paper towels. The floor in our head is made of wood, so we clean it with Glass Plus.

We wax the showers to keep the hardware and walls protected and easier to keep clean. We tell everyone to squeegee the walls of the shower after each use to reduce moisture-borne mold and mildew, as well as keep the glass free from spotting and soap scum. The sink and fixtures are wiped off and kept clean to prevent corrosion.

Once again, caring for the boat is about asset management and taking pride in your job and your ride. The complete crew is not only on top of their game come tournament time — they work hard every day to keep the owner’s property valuable, and in doing so, raise the bar on their own value to the operation.


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