Unless you cruise exclusively in a freshwater lake, certain precautions are necessary to protect your boat from saltwater. While saltwater damage is a pet peeve of many boaters, if you’re a new boat owner, utilizing these 6 tips will preserve your boat and your sanity.
How to Protect Your Boat from Saltwater
- Clean your boat!
After every boat trip, thoroughly wash your vessel with soap and fresh water to prevent saltwater build-up in the metal and wooden parts, fishing rod holders, cleats, and anchors. Now is the time to purchase wash mitts, boat brushes, and environmentally friendly soap to support regular cleanings.
Dry your vessel off with a microfiber cloth and reposition the boat cover to protect against the elements. With regular cleanings, you’ll avoid a gradual build-up of saltwater that corrodes the boat’s exterior and internal systems.
- Flush the engine
After each wash-down, the boat engine should be flushed to remove salt from the cooling system. Because most modern boats include a built-in flush connection, you may be able to flush the engine without starting the motor – just consult the owner’s manual! Boat owners can also use flush muffs, which circulate fresh water through the motor to flush out saltwater, or a flushing bag or bucket, which fits around the boat’s gearcase and pumps freshwater via a garden hose. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure that all freshwater is drained from the motor; otherwise, you may face both freshwater and saltwater damage.
Grease is a boater’s best friend. Applying grease to your boat’s moving parts prevents saltwater corrosion and rust, in addition to improving your boat’s overall performance. When it comes to grease, more is better: experts recommend a liberal application of grease to all moving boat parts, especially the bow rollers, linkages, and other areas that make regular direct contact with saltwater.
How to Prevent Saltwater Corrosion
- Wax your boat.
Particularly for new boats, wax is one of the best preventative measures against saltwater corrosion. Marine finishings offer a protective layer on new vessels and prevent saltwater from eating away at the new paint; they also help maintain the brilliant gloss of a new boat. Before waxing your boat, ensure that the wax formula is safe for gelcoat, paint, fiberglass, and/or aluminum, depending on your boat model.
- Apply salt-friendly paint to older boats.
If your boat is in desperate need of a paint job, select a paint that is both beautiful and salt-friendly. Marine-grade saltwater paints have a stronger bond that prevents saltwater from making contact with the hull. This is also an excellent time to fix scratches in your boat’s old paint layer: saltwater can infiltrate through tiny scratches on the boat and cause rust, presenting much bigger issues in the long-term.
- Properly store and inspect your boat.
If you store your boat in the marina during the off-season, keep your outboard tilted up to minimize contact with saltwater. Regardless of which boat storage option you choose, we advise regular visual inspections of your boat: despite your valiant efforts, remember that corrosion is inevitable for saltwater vessels. Monitor any scratches, corroded parts, or rust on your boat: the more proactively you respond to the beginnings of saltwater damage, the more time – and, again, sanity – you’ll save in the long run.
While the costs of boating in saltwater may seem daunting, the rewards of saltwater fishing, sports, and the allure of the open ocean are unbeatable. By applying these 6 tips and caring for your boat with an eagle eye, your saltwater vessel can function optimally on the saltiest waters.