Well-Kept Boat

Yes, you can keep your boat looking young forever - just look at the proof from these boaters.

What boater doesn't like sunshine and water? Can there be too much of such good things? The final answer is yes, and especially so when it comes to keeping a boat in tiptop shape. Overexposure to sunshine fades hulls, and waterlogged storage compartments and upholstery harbor mildew and mold. Problem is, you can't avoid the elements — they're the boating environment. But, as we found out from three astute owners, the banes of boats can be prevented, and they have the investments to prove it.

Well-Kept Boat
Well-Kept BoatCy Cyr

Gary Yeomans: 1993 Ski Ray
Yeomans, of Orlando, Florida, lives his passion through his work as a sales executive for Parker Boats, the nations' oldest family-owned boat dealership.

A lifetime Floridian, Yeomans lives in a state where boating is year-round — as are fading and molding. This makes Yeomans' list of personally restored boats all the more impressive: A 1971 Bonita bowrider sold in 2004, a 1988 Sea Ray Sundancer traded in 1996 and the current 1993 Ski Ray recently restored to vintage condition.

Through the years, he's followed two basic guidelines for extending the life and maintaining the resale value of his boats. "The strong points are keeping the boat covered when moored, even when it's in a covered slip, and keeping the interior dry."

To the point, Yeomans uses additional tent poles to firm up and snug his mooring cover. "My cover came with one or two poles, and I'm using four and five poles to keep it watertight."

Before the cover goes on, the dry vac comes out. "Spend the extra money on a vacuum with extra horsepower, capable of pulling out all the water before you cover the boat," he suggests.

One breakthrough tip offered by Yeomans relates to avoiding the use of alcohol-based vinyl cleaners and polishers.

"The alcohol draws the oils from the vinyl and to the surface, which is what reacts to create the shine," he observes. "At the same time, the reaction makes the oils evaporate, causing the vinyl to dry and eventually crack."

Alternatively, Yeomans says to wash with liquid soap (not dishwashing soap), rinse, dry and spray on 303 Aerospace Protectant.

Yeomans has an almost medical analogy when it comes to water pumps, which he advocates changing annually.

"A water pump is like the lungs and heart of the engine," he relates. "If you wear it out, it affects the entire performance of the engine."

Well-Kept Boat
Well-Kept BoatCy Cyr

John Madgett: 1988 Cobalt
The 21-foot Cobalt cruising Minnesota's Whitefish Chain of Lakes looks brand new, but John Madgett bought it in 1988.

"I'm a believer in cleaning up a spill when it happens," asserts Madgett of his proactive approach. "I wash it down after every trip and keep it beneath a covered slip."

Each spring, Madgett has the boat taken from dry storage to a marine dealer for cleaning, detailing and servicing. He's a believer in allowing the trained experts to winterize and perform all the routine maintenance on his boat.

"I expect to use the boat, not spend all my time working in the engine, all the time-consuming duties it takes to keep it like new," he says. "The time that I do spend on the boat is after we come back to the dock, the simple cleaning and using a dry vac to keep it dry."

Easily said, and done.

Will Linnemeier: 1996 Hydrodyne Comp XP Elite
This former Cypress Gardens professional water-skier living in Milford, Indiana, purchased a new Hydrodyne ski boat for just over $15,000 in 1996. Linnemeier sold the boat last year ... for just over $15,000.

"To me, resale is everything," he said. "You don't have to be obsessive about boat care, just conscientious of keeping the boat cleaned up after using it."

A lifelong boater, Linnemeier instinctively recognizes one problem before it begins to grow. "The biggest killer for a boat is mold and mildew, which, after it starts growing, is tough to control," he says, adding that the unmistakable smell compounds the battle.

Linnemeier suggests keeping standing water out of the cockpit and hull with a wipe down and by cracking open dry-storage lids after an outing. Wet life jackets, ski gloves and other waterlogged gear is unloaded and allowed to air out somewhere else before the next trip.

A covered slip, boat lift and snuggly fitting mooring cover keep Linnemeier's boats dry and out of the elements. A rite of fall is taking the boat for winterizing, then to dry storage for the winter.

"Winterizing yourself is fine, although I see some boaters taking shortcuts that fall short of completing the job," he observes. "The technology in today's boats makes it simple and economical to have the dealership do the work."

Linnemeier spends minimal time and effort during boating season on polishing and waxing the hull. Each spring, he applies a liquid wax and repeats the ritual again in fall, prior to winterizing and dry storage.

But the key mantra among Linnemeier's family is "don't step on the seats."

"Seats aren't made to be stepped on," he says. "People look at me strangely when I say that, but stepping on seats puts a point load on the stitches. The seams eventually weaken, tear and split."

Torn seats can be a deal breaker at resale time. So can mildew, cracked vinyl and oxidized finishes. But in Linnemeier's case, the seats, vinyl and finish became deal maker.