Narrow Boat Cleaning
Some interesting history for you sea dogs. In the old days in
England rubbish talk among sailors was referred to as bilge.
Legend has it that some unknown sailor was sent to inspect the
deepest, darkest, part of the ship where water and residue
collect. After a brief time in this black hole, the sailor was
convinced that this area was also rubbish. From that day on, the
area where water collects in a boat has been referred to as the
The most important reasons to keep your bilge clean are to
prevent growth of bacteria eliminate foul odors prevent rust and
corrosion of equipment that lies in the bilge.
You can get bilge cleaner in most marine hardware stores,
however, it can be expensive. Common household liquid detergent,
as used to wash your clothes, is less expensive and does as good
a job. Containing no phosphorus, being biodegradable, cutting
grease and dirt and having a clean smell make it a good choice.
However, if you are going to be using a large amount of
cleanser, or if you will be discharging the cleanser into the
water, choose a Natural Cleaning Product Alternatives.
Some boats take in more water than others. It is normal for some
water to be in the bilge since it can leak in at the stuffing
boxes and rudder post's. However, if you find an unusual amount
of water make sure that you don't have a leaking through-hull
fitting or pipe. If your boat usually has some water in the
bilge just add the liquid detergent to the bilge and let the
rocking of the boat do the cleaning for you.
Most grease and dirt can be removed with the detergent and
perhaps a little elbow grease. However, steam cleaning can be an
alternative. Steam cleaning is a harsh method that can cause
paint to peel, especially on a wooden boat. As they say on the
stunt shows, don't try this at home. Seek out a professional and
check their references.
Limber holes are found in the ribs or partitions in the bilge
which allow water to pass through them and flow to the lowest
bilge points usually where the bilge pump is located. This
allows the water to be pumped out either automatically or
You should keep these holes clear of residue to prevent blocking
the water flow. Most boats will have a light chain running
through the limber holes which allows you to pull it back and
forth to dislodge any foreign matter.
Most newer model boats have drip pans installed under the
engines to prevent oil from dripping directly into the bilge.
Whether you have drip pans or not it is a good idea to put
absorbent pads under the engines. They not only absorb the oil
that could drip but provide a quick way to find leaks. Each time
you do an engine check, which should be each time prior to
starting, check the pad to see if any new oil spots have
appeared. If so, try to track down the source immediately.
You should inspect the bilge and its surroundings with a
flashlight at least once a month. Look for the following:
Lift up the float switch on your electric bilge pump to make
sure it turns on the pump automatically. If you find unusual
amounts of water, be sure to track down the source. Check all
through-hull openings and fittings. Make sure that all fittings
below the waterline have double hose clamps. Check the seacock's
to make sure that you can turn them off. You could sink your
boat if a hose comes loose from a seacock and you can't stop the
flow of water because the valve is corroded. Look for corrosion
and rust. Check for unusual growth or mildew. Check all pipes,
hoses and clamps. Check limber holes.
Remember that it is illegal to pump oily discharge overboard. If
you find oil in your bilge water turn off the bilge pump and
find an alternative way of disposing of the oily water. Don't
think just because there is only a little bit of oil it is okay.
The test for illegal pollution is simply a "visible sheen" on