You say you’re sick and tired of laying out big bucks for boat maintenance and you want a better boat without spending one red cent more? Believe it or not, that’s not an impossible task. Yes, everything with the word “marine” stamped on the package costs triple what we think it should and even simple things like boat soap and scrub brushes can put a serious dent in the bait fund. So we completely understand the urge to look for cost-free ways to improve your boat – and we’re here to help.
Check out these five FREE! FREE! FREE! FREE! FREE! things you can do right now.
- Smooth as a Baby’s Bottom – Your boat is your baby, but is its bottom smooth as silk? Not likely, if it’s been bottom painted. Why should you care? A rough bottom can cost you one or even two mph at cruising speeds. The solution is wet-sanding. We’re going to have to assume you already have some sandpaper laying around in the garage; you’ll want a rough grit and fine grit. Ideally, use 100- to 120-grit paper at first, and then follow up with 400-grit. The real trick here, however, is to only use it fore and aft. Even the 400-grit paper leaves behind tiny micro-groves, and your goal is to make sure all those groves run from bow to stern. Look for noticeable bumps and paint clods as you go, and spend some extra time making sure they’re smoothed out.
- Get A Head of the Game – If you have a head aboard your boat, it’s a fair bet that it smells a bit funky now and again. You walk into the cabin, open the door, and whew… You could buy some air freshener or flush the lines out with bleach, but both tasks would mean buying something and neither would fix the problem, anyway. The free solution? Inspect all the vent lines, and eliminate sags and bends. Anaerobic bacteria is the stuff that makes your head smell so bad (assuming your cousin Bubba hasn’t visited it recently) and the vent lines are what allows air in and out of the hoses to prevent bacterial growth. In many cases, vent lines are cut a bit too long at the factory (to make sure no hose is ever cut too short and has to be thrown away). The problem is, curves and sags in a vent line reduce its effectiveness. Simply chopping off a bit at the end and making the hose as straight as possible often has a noticeable effect.
- It’s a Snap – Zippers and snaps on boats tend to get problematic much faster than they do on land (just like everything else). And having a canvass curtain you can barely zip up, or a console cover you have to struggle to snap down is a major PITA. But there’s a simple and cost-free solution, just as long as you have a regular wax candle laying around the house. Candle wax makes a good lubricant for snaps (spin the pointy-end in the female side) and zippers (open them up, rub the candle gently along the teeth, then open and close the zipper a couple of times).
- Rope a Dope – With time and UV radiation, mooring lines get stiff and unwieldy. In some cases, you may barely be able to work the loop around a cleat. They also start to look old and dingy. There’s a simple and easy solution to both problems, however, and it’ll cost you exactly bupkis. Start by pulling all those old lines, and dropping them into a five-gallon bucket. Then fill the bucket with warm water, and add two cups of regular fabric softener you stole from the laundry room. Let the lines percolate for several hours, then pull them out of the bucket and hang them in a shaded area where they’ll slowly air-dry. When you put ‘em back on the boat, those lines will be much more pliable and they’ll look better, too.
- There’s an App for That – Okay, so this doesn’t affect your boat itself, but it certainly can make boating on it better: download Marine Ways onto your cell phone or tablet. This app includes free NOAA charts; has a basic navigational dashboard including location, heading, and speed; can be overlaid with wind, wave, and (rudimentary) SST data; and even has basic charting abilities like waypoint and route plotting. Is it as comprehensive and useful as a full-blown navigational app like Navionics?
No way. Are there other cell phone apps for boaters that have a lot more utility, and are far more helpful? Absolutely. But this one’s 100-percent FREE! FREE! FREE! FREE! FREE!