Swabbing the decks underway!

Swabbing the decks cruising Mexico

Swabbing the decks is one way to pass the time!

March 16, 2013 – Long passages under power can be a bit boring, so one way we sometimes spice it up is to swab the decks! This is especially helpful if we’ve been in a dirty port for a while (Manzanillo is notorious for the soot from the power plant), or if we’ve had a particularly gnarly passage with lots of salt spray on deck.

After much trial and error with everything from garden sprayers to “Absorber” towels, we’ve figured out a system for cleaning the boat at sea. Mark gets the watermaker going, and I get busy with a soft bristle brush and bucket of soapy water (boat soap or Turtle-Wax car washing soap). Starting at the highest point on the boat, I swab my way down to the gunwales, and then from forward to aft, ending up in the cockpit.

While I’m swabbing away, Mark fills 5-gallon bottles of water and hands them up through the companionway hatch so I can rinse as I go. We use old plastic drinking water bottles, the kind with handles that are easy to carry. He rotates 3 bottles, and can get one filled in about the time that I use one up, going through about 20 bottles in the process. One of the great things about using watermaker water for washing the boat is that it doesn’t spot. So there’s no need to wipe anything down afterwards!

This is a great workout — we always end up quite sore afterwards — and it’s good for practicing your balance too, because the boat heaves and rolls in the swell (of course we only do this when it’s calm!). The reward for this hour or two of hard labor is having a sparkling clean boat when we get where we’re going.  But one thing we learned the hard way: if we’re cleaning the cabin too, we shake out the rugs before swabbing the decks!!  (And, of course, in a dry climate like Mexico, washing the boat is bound to induce rain… our latest cleaning brought a torrential downpour with 24 hours!!)

If you’re thinking about going cruising, and haven’t outfitted your boat with a watermaker yet, consider getting a very large capacity watermaker (ours is an Echotec 900-BML-2 which we’ve found produces 60 gallons an hour).

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Other blog posts that give a glimpse of what it’s like to live on a sailboat:

More funny stories from our Mexico cruise + Tips for planning your own sailing cruise

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