Cleaning?! Yawn! Who wants to clean while they’re sailing off into the sunset, snorkeling incredible reefs or falling asleep to the soft waves lapping on the hull? Well…after you neglect a routine cleaning system on your boat you’ll soon want to jump ship. Watching the sun go down with a waft of mold permeating your nostrils, snorkeling with disintegrating snorkel gear and having a bug infestation isn’t a nice visualization, is it?! Don’t make the boat cleaning mistakes I made. Read on…
Previous to developing a concrete system for cleaning, and routine cleaning habits, I used the clean-it-when-it’s-dirty method. My original system worked okay but it wasn’t great. On several occasions, I’d notice a huge patch of mold on a headliner (ceiling) knowing that it must have been growing for quite some time and I just hadn’t noticed it.
On other occasions, things would get so dirty or moldy that they went beyond the point of return.
Furthermore, it wasn’t uncommon to start cleaning one area and then notice that the areas attaching the one thing you’re cleaning need cleaning too. Before you know it, you’re spending three days cleaning all the walls when your intention was to simply spend a 1/2 hour cleaning one wall.
And the crazy thing is that it’s only me that seems to notice what needs to be cleaned! My husband and daughter overlook dirt, mold, spills, dust, and grime to no avail.
In the past it was me that discovered the cleaning jobs and it was me that cleaned them. A huge portion of my time was eaten up with cleaning the darn boat. I set sail to live a life of freedom, family bonding, and a more simple life – not to become a 24/7 maid!
Over the years, a variety of issues built up regarding the boat cleaning mistakes.
This past year I’ve implemented a few changes to the cleaning regime of Britican. In other words, as the chief Maid, I decided to tell the boat inhabitants that ‘I quit.’ My husband and daughter worked their special magic on me and asked me if I’d consider going part-time if they’d help out.
After reflection and thinking that it’s crazy to throw the baby out with the bathwater, I negotiated a new role. I decided to become the Cheif Cleaning Planner and find a system for the family, and any guests, to partake in the boat cleaning tasks.
It took me months to find a system that works well.
Some cleaning tasks need to be done daily, and others need to be done weekly, every two weeks, or once a month. Through various trials, I discovered that the fridge needs to be defrosted and cleaned every two weeks (before becoming super inefficient due to the freezer’s ice-on-the-outside build up).
I also noticed that it takes mildew a month before it shows up again. Many boat owners don’t even know they have mildew – it’s a very soft white or yellow looking dust that attaches itself to surfaces. One day you have a clean wall and the next it has mildew.
My latest system isn’t perfect but it’s far superior from my wing-it approach.
And each month I look back and jig things around to make the system better. I discovered that washing the bilge out with fresh water every week was too much so I changed that once a month. And as time goes by I rejig things when necessary.
So – how does my cleaning system work?
I have a daily laminated task list that has all our names on it for different tasks so every day is different for us. On Monday, our daughter, Sienna will vacuum the whole boat (including the Heads) and clean the forward Head (a simple wipe down works fine).
Simon has lunch duty and cleanup in addition to cleaning the cockpit. And I’ll have dinner and cleanup duty in addition to one of the daily cleaning calendar jobs (more on that to come). The next day, we all switch.
And when we have guests, their names get added to the roster and our life becomes slightly easier.
We might even find time to tackle one of our many boat jobs!
The daily cleaning calendar is a full months list of things that need to be cleaned on a weekly, bi-monthly or monthly basis. To give you some examples of what you’ll find on the calendar they include, galley walls/ceiling/floor, wash crew covers and saloon decorative pillow covers, clean indoor windows/hatches/portholes, heads deep clean, defrost & clean freezer, topdeck stainless steel polish, etc. Most of the jobs that are listed in my Checklist For Sailors guide are on the calendar.
A ‘Deep Clean’ is my term for cleaning the walls, ceiling, floor and emptying cupboards, lifting up beds, cleaning everything from top to bottom. For the galley I don’t have one big deep clean as it would take too long – I break the galley down into cleaning out all the cupboards one day and cleaning the walls/ceiling/floors another.
Deep cleans are usually scheduled once a month and it’s a perfect interval.
By the time you clean it’s still in good shape so it doesn’t take long and nothing is full of mold.
As a side benefit, especially when doing deep cleans, you’ll find leaks or issues earlier than you might otherwise. You also get to know the boat quite intimately. If something doesn’t look quite right you’ll spot it. On a few occasions, I’ve located very small discoloration in the wood and after an investigation found a new leak.
Above I mentioned routine habits too. We now have a habit to clean all our snorkeling/dive gear with fresh water immediately after use. We let it dry out and put it away within an hour. Otherwise, the gear will get moldy, stinks to high heaven or, if left in the sun, falls apart. Another habit we have is to always cover our main sail after we’re done sailing – even if we’re exhausted. The sun in the Caribbean breaks down everything and if you take a break from protecting your valuables you’ll pay the price.
It’s rather ironic that a systems way of thinking finds it’s way into the sailing lifestyle.
From the outside people think that sailors do things by the seat-of-their-pants simply going where the wind takes them. There’s certainly a degree of having to go with the flow but there’s also a necessity for good habits and routines to enable that go-with-the-flow lifestyle to actually flow. As with everything, it’s a matter of balance.
Would you like to join us on Britican to see our cleaning system?
It would be a great training ground for you and your boat. I assure you that you’ll save years of pain and misery on the cleaning front by taking our methods and modifying them to your own needs. And it’s not just the cleaning that we’ve systematized! We also have systems for all our boat maintenance and servicing jobs, pre-passage/post-passage jobs, provisioning and more. To join us for a week-long sail where you can truly experience the liveaboard life with real liveaboards, find out more about here – Britican Experience.
And if you’re not ready to experience liveaboard life yet but you’re making plans to buy your own boat and sail off into the sunset, consider becoming Britican Member. Every month our members get access to Simon and I (via phone or emails) so we can help you overcome each obstacle, reduce your unknowns and help you get to where you’re going faster, easier and without spending all your money! Become a Britican Member today.
Britican Club Members & Patron Patrons – get my weekly task chart and a monthly calendar to customize and laminate for your own use here!
Save time (trying to figure out a schedule that works), reduce costs (things won’t go beyond the point of return), and make the whole cleaning part of the sailing lifestyle a quick and easy routine for the occupants to follow. Get your Members Only task template and calendar here.