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Spring Clean

With the right products, the only thing you'll see on your Sea Ray is your reflection
by Tim Lowery • Photos by Mike Calabro

Ah, pre-season cleaning. Sure, you probably don't meet it with the same anticipatory glee as you do for cruising around the lake, taking a dip with your family or hosting a late night soirée with friends. But then again, there's something to be said for scrubbing, buffing and polishing your boat before launching each year.

"It can be a lot of work, but I don't look at it as work," said Garry Blumenfeld, proud owner of a 38 Sundancer and longtime subscriber to the do-it-yourself method of upkeep - well, sort of. "I do it myself," he said and then smirked, "or with people who owe me a favor."

Like most Midwesterners, Garry is well aware of the damage a dormant winter can cause a boat. Winterized in Michigan City, Ind., his boat endures a gamut of harmful elements: icy weather, salt exposure, high winds and bird droppings to name a few. After many years of toiling with various soaps, hoses and polishes, he's learned one thing: The right products go a long way.

To prep Garry for the big seasonal scrub, the friendly folks at B&E Marine in Michigan City, located a stone's throw from Lake Michigan, show him how to make this otherwise cringe-inducing process as painless and enjoyable as possible. Since his boat is outside during the winter, the first item to be tidied is the canvas. Paul Swedenberg, B&E's director of operations, points out that virtually every surface that needs cleaning "canvas, fiberglass, vinyl and rubber" can use Yacht Brite's cleaning spray, Serious Marine Cleaner. For areas needing a sterner scrub, like the deck and the hull, Paul recommends Brite Wash, a soap concentrate that won't strip away polish while it eliminates dirt.

But what type of brush should you use? Do you run the risk of scratching your fiberglass if you use the wrong kind? "Yes, you do," Paul said. "Use the softest bristles for something you don't want scratched. For smooth, shiny surfaces, always use something less abrasive." Paul walked Garry over to Shurhold's display, which boasts a myriad of brushes, mops and squeegees. But lest you get too overwhelmed by the selection, he advises to select a trifecta of brushes: a soft head for your boat's most sensitive surfaces (isinglass, plexiglass or gelcoat), a medium one for slightly tougher surfaces (the canvas) and a stiff one for surfaces that can take rough bristles (non-skid and below the waterline).

That's all well and good, but won't this manual scrubbing inevitably land you in a chiropractor's office? Actually, with the right tools, it can be quite comfortable. For instance, Shurhold's nifty Telescoping Handle, an extendable handle that locks at four different lengths up to six feet and attaches to different brush heads, is easy to store and use. And if you're worried about having to bend over backwards to reach spots like the waterline, the handle also comes with a curved extension, allowing you to stand upright at all times. When you're finished scrubbing and spraying, attach a mop head to your handle, give the deck a quick once-over and you're set.

Now that the boat's clean as a whistle, it's high time to break out the polish. Whether you're expecting guests for cocktails at sunset or taking your daughter waterskiing for the hundredth time, your boat should always glimmer like it did when you first bought it. "My boat's here. I'm a customer," explained Tim Jahnz, from Yacht Brite.

For fiberglass surfaces, Tim said a coat of Yacht Brite's Pro Polish goes a long way; it acts not only as a polish, but as a UV protector and sealant, as well. At the beginning of the season (or any time the fiberglass looks particularly dirty or scratched), Buff Magic, a deoxidizer and scratch-remover, should also be applied. After trying a handful of brands over the years, Garry admitted, "I really think Yacht Brite is the best."

During the season, a thorough wash, polish and buffing should be done every two weeks or so, said Paul. But to give your boat a "fresh from the showroom floor" look between washes, a spray of Serious Shine does wonders in a matter of seconds. And like every Yacht Brite product, Tim said, "it doesn't use anything with an acid base."

Once summer hits, Garry tries to take his Sundancer out with his son, who lives in Chicago, as often as possible. It's obviously a struggle to juggle their schedules; and traffic from Chicago to Michigan City's shores can sometimes be grimy itself. But with B&E Marine's help, they've been able to spend some quality time together. "We host rendezvous that go for usually three days," Garry said. "We've gone to Milwaukee and Traverse City." Now that Garry knows the tricks to an easy clean, he can prep for their next voyage without breaking too much of a sweat.

Be sure to read, understand and follow the recommended care and cleaning procedures detailed in your engine and boat manuals. We strongly advise you get advice from a certified dealer technician prior to using any products on your own boat.

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