Bottom Cleaning

You don’t want the bottom of your boat to look like this.  Trust me.  It’s slow, the engine overheats, and your depthsounder won’t give accurate readings.How to recognize that the bottom of your boat is fouled with growth, and how best to clean it yourself. Learn from my mistakes!

But if you’re cruising in out-of-the-way places, there may not be a diver to clean it for you.  Or you may prefer to spend your money on other things.  For whatever reason, someday you may have to clean the bottom yourself.

I wrote this article for Cruising World, which published it as “Scrubbing Up, In the Water” in Septemer 2006.  While it’s not directly related to the galley and hence a little off-topic for The Boat Galley, I’m hoping you’ll still find it useful.  Don’t make the same mistakes we did!

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29 Comments
  • Charlotte on Facebook
    Posted at 30 November 2011 Reply

    Excellent article. Thanks.

  • Cherielynne on Facebook
    Posted at 30 November 2011 Reply

    Thanks for sharing!

  • on Facebook
    Posted at 30 November 2011 Reply

    Paul — Good idea, you could probably also take a file to the corners.

  • on Facebook
    Posted at 30 November 2011 Reply

    Great article! Thanks!

  • Allan Cobb on Facebook
    Posted at 14 October 2012 Reply

    I’ve found these to be great from cleaning the prop and shaft. I find them with plastic handles for around $5 and they are good for one or two uses. It is handing having two tools in one. http://www.amazon.com/Hobart-770102-Scraper-Handled-Carbon/dp/B002ACOXUY/?tag=theboagal0a-20

  • Andrea Dollins on Facebook
    Posted at 14 October 2012 Reply

    I’m fortunate that my husband loves doing the bottom cleaning, we’ve never used a diver. He also swears by the kind of combo scraper brushes that Allan Cobb recommends in his post, we usually get ours at Harbor Freight.

  • Michael Matthews on Facebook
    Posted at 23 June 2013 Reply

    Off topic? I would say that what goes on in the galley has everything to do with bottom cleaning!

  • Linsay Patterson
    Posted at 28 February 2015 Reply

    I use a soft(ish) inside broom head attached to a 20mm conduit with a pool noodle (with hole through the centre) slipped over the conduit & a zip tie wrapped about 3 times around the conduit as a stopper so the pool noodle stays down towards the broom head. In storage it’s best to have the conduit permanently bent into a curve – this will get you further under the hull, following the curve of the hull. From the dock, or dinghy, work the broom down & up on the hull. The pool noodle pushes the broom head up towards the hull so the only force is to push it down into the water & allow it to float back up. You also “Balance” the rig to get it all “moving” along the hull. The closer to the water you get, the further under the boat you can get. I’ve done the rudder & keel (30′ er) but it gets much harder to direct it the further down the head gets. At the least, you should get almost to the keel done, the main bulk of it, and then finish off with scuba or hookah!

  • Mike O'Quin
    Posted at 28 February 2015 Reply

    18″ but twice the number of hulls.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 28 February 2015 Reply

      Yep, but I’ll take twice at 18″ over once at 6′ any day. And two hulls makes it VERY easy to say “enough for today”

  • Jan Bogart
    Posted at 25 September 2016 Reply

    We just got one, using with a tank.

  • Debi Zedaker
    Posted at 25 September 2016 Reply

    Made one ourselves for 250.00. It’s great.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 25 September 2016 Reply

      Debi Zedaker Can you tell me the specifics? Or did you follow plans off the internet? Anything I’ve read on making your own just hasn’t been specific enough to put it together and know I’ll be breathing good air!

    • Debi Zedaker
      Posted at 25 September 2016 Reply

      Followed some plans on the Internet. What specifics do you need.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 26 September 2016 Reply

      I’d want exact air pump to buy, exact fittings, etc. Do you have a link to the plans you followed?

  • Kathy Orr
    Posted at 25 September 2016 Reply

    Enjoyed the article, Carolyn. We have found that a long handled plastic kitchen spatula works well for scraping barnacles. It allows us to go a little deeper free diving that we could otherwise. I’m interested in the hookah rig. Can you explain a bit more about that, and the AirLine? We’ve talked about getting one.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 25 September 2016 Reply

      Here’s more info on the Airline. A hookah or tanks makes cleaning the bottom so much easier. Most of our hull is only 18″ under water, but I still spend far more time going up and down when free diving than actually cleaning. Here and in the Bahamas, we don’t have many barnacles but we have a lot of soft moss that’s actually harder to get off. https://www.airlinebyjsink.com/

  • Bart Trish Masker
    Posted at 25 September 2016 Reply

    We are looking, too. Gator Gill looks promising. It is 12 volt, use with battery, and can charge the battery with a solar panel!

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 25 September 2016 Reply

      I wrote them and they don’t recommend using off the boat batteries, they say it should be a dedicated battery.

    • Bart Trish Masker
      Posted at 25 September 2016 Reply

      The Boat Galley Thank you. Will be following your choice!?

    • The Jedi Fisherman
      Posted at 25 September 2016 Reply

      absolutely correct

  • The Jedi Fisherman
    Posted at 25 September 2016 Reply

    Anything about is so important

  • Christine Dumaine Springfield
    Posted at 26 September 2016 Reply

    Do you need to borrow our brownie system?

    • Christine Dumaine Springfield
      Posted at 26 September 2016 Reply

      You can borrow it but we are definitely not selling it. We use it way too much! Gas powered and a bit loud but has an accumulator and works great.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 26 September 2016 Reply

      No, I’m looking to buy one. Thanks for the offer, though! And if you hear of one for sale . . .

    • Christine Dumaine Springfield
      Posted at 26 September 2016 Reply

      The Boat Galley I will share!

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 27 September 2016 Reply

      Many thanks!

      • sailbadthesinner
        Posted at 26 September 2016 Reply

        Ablative paint? Swimming through clouds of antifouling seems dangerous to health. Any thoughts?

        • Carolyn Shearlock
          Posted at 27 September 2016 Reply

          A couple of things — even hard paint is leeching out its chemicals and you’re exposed to them as you clean the bottom of your boat. Second, wearing a Lycra dive suit helps a lot to keep the crud off you, which is more the growth that you’re scraping than paint. And third, you shouldn’t be scrubbing and scraping hard enough to have “clouds of antifouling” around you. I try very hard NOT to scrape the paint off!

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