Products and Tips We Love
  • Neatsfoot Oil - Great for anything leather. We use it on our fender holders and on the chafing gear on our mooring lines.

    Captain Max added this bit of advice: "From my days as a Navy diver Neatsfoot is great, but remind everyone to use it only on one side of the leather. If you apply to both sides it traps moisture and rots the leather from the inside out!!"

  • MagicEraser - This will clean just about anything. We've used it on our fenders, as well as, in the heads and galley.

  • OxiClean - Yes, the stuff made for the laundry. Use the powdered version to clean your topsides - it works great!

    Captain Steve Putnam has another use for OxiClean: We also use it to soak our power cords when they begin to get sticky and dirty. Soak for one hour, wipe with a 3M scrub pad and rinse. Clean as a whistle with no residue.

  • 303 High Tech Fabric Guard - We use this on all of the canvas on the boat - bimini, dinghy cover, etc. It repels water and even makes it easier to clean the seagull droppings.

  • Forever Green Bags - A bag that will keep fruits and vegetables fresh days longer? This was one of those products that just seemed "too good to be true." We found a box of them for about $3 at a discount store and decided to give them a try. It's amazing - they really work!

  • Gojo Natural Orange Pumice Hand Cleaner - We use this product to clean our inflatable dinghy. It's great! Simply rub it on and rinse it off and the dinghy looks practically new! It's important to get the "Orange" version as the others don't seem to do as good a job.

  • Raytek Mini Temp Non-Contact Thermometer Gun - This laser sighting device is the perfect thing for monitoring temperatures in the engine room. While under way, we do an engine room check every hour. As part of that check this device is used to measure the temperature of the engines. It has alerted us early to developing problems when we have seen the temperature begin to climb. It's also fun to measure the dog's temperature by pointing it at the nose.

  • StarBrite Marine Polish with PTEF - We've tried several different products to polish and protect the stainless. This product is easy to use, takes off most of the discoloration, makes the stainless brilliantly bright, and leaves a protective coating that makes the water bead up. Two coats will greatly extend the time between applications. We've found allowing the polish to dry for 10-15 minutes seems to increase the water protection.

  • NevrDull - This is a metal cleaner that works great removing tough discoloration from stainless and other metals. We follow it up with a polish to give a protective layer.

  • Sweepa - The Sweepa is an amazing tool for removing dog hair from pretty much anything. It looks kind of like a rubber hair brush. We use it to clean hair off cushions, bedding, steps, and even to spot clean the carpets. There's also a sharp edger that lets you remove hair from hard to reach crevices.

  • Rolling Cart - Most of you are familiar with these. They're the handcarts with two wheels and a telescoping handle that fold up flat for storage. We purchased one from West Marine when we first got our current boat and used it constantly, mostly for hauling groceries. It was about $30. This past year we found ones at Ocean State Big Lots in Belfast, Maine for $10 and decided to buy a second one. We should have bought all they had. If you don't have one get one today.

  • IslandTime PC Long Range WiFi - We've used several solutions for accessing long range WiFi on the boat. This one is our favorite. It works well, is reasonably priced, and is provided through fellow cruiser, Bob Stewart. Read more in our Feb. 2010 newsletter.

  • Deskunking Recipe - Mix 1 quart of white vinegar, 1/4 cup of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Apply to the area and leave on for 5-10 minutes, then rinse. Repeat as necessary.

  • Soggy Doggy Doormat - These are rugs made of a microfiber chenille and were designed to keep the rain and mud from paws off of your floors and carpets. Having unsuccessfully tried different mats and piles of towels at the cockpit and pilothouse doors, we decided to try a couple on our canine crew. They work really well, even on non-canine paws and have kept our rugs cleaner. They are extremely soft also making them a favorite place to curl up for a nap - the dogs, not us.

  • Nature's Miracle - We have to credit Bob and Stephanie on September Song with this one. They are the other insane couple who live with two Labrador Retrievers on a DeFever trawler. This is a liquid cleaner that quickly removes all sorts of stains from carpets, rugs, bedding, etc. They loaned us some when Dyna was having a digestive upset and it worked. Just spray it on, wait about 5 minutes and blot it up. It's a miracle. You can find it in pet stores and online.

  • Hose Shutoff Valves - We place a shutoff valve at the male end of every hose. This allows us to quickly turn water on and off for each section of hose. It saves trips to the dock when we are setting up or breaking down our water connection. We use two filters and like to run fresh water through each section before connecting to the boat. It also allows you to easily adjust loose fittings or replace a filter.

  • New Trent USB Power Backup - They make external batteries that will power your iPhone, iPad, Android, even your laptop. All of their products are great. We have one that easily powers our iPhone all night long allowing us to keep our anchor alarm with us in the stateroom. The unit charges quickly when we are underway, running the generator, or plugged in.

Captains send us their favorite products and tips and we wanted to pass them along. If you have a favorite product or tip, let us know so we can tell the rest of the cruising world.

  • Captain Steve - "A product we love for cleaning stainless, removing black marks at scupper drains and diesel soot from the transom is Gel-Glos. It is made for cleaning and protecting formica. Buy it at Lowes, Home Depot etc. About $4 for a pint which will last a season. Apply like wax, rub on, buff off with a clean rag. Works great and is inexpensive."

    We tried Gel-Gloss on our stern which was black from the diesel smoke after traveling from Maine to Charleston, SC. It was easy to find at a local hardware store, inexpensive, simple to use, and the stern looked great. We have traveled to the Keys and back to the Chesapeake and the stern still looks good. There are now three cans onboard aCappella.

    We've discovered another great use for this versatile product. Drain the water from your head, dry thoroughly, and wax the inside with Gel-Gloss. It prevents stains and makes cleaning a snap.

  • Captain Gordon - "To clean the leather, make a point of using saddle soap (available at any Equestrian supply, good shoe repair shop or high end sporting goods store.) It contains essential oils that keep the leather from drying out from the water contact while foaming away the ground in dirt and grime. One can will last a lifetime."

  • Captain John - "Bags On Board for collecting those 'doggie treasures.' We were introduced to these while on our trip this summer. They are really great, no more home depot bags, etc. And you can get refills rather cheaply through ebay!"

  • Captain Denny - "I have a 1994 Bayliner, marina kept, that was starting to fade. I have cleaned and waxed each year since new, but have not been able to get the deep shine. I started using Woody Wax Ultra Gloss Fiberglass Restoring Compound a year ago and my boat now looks showroom new. Great stuff. Finish it off with their Carnauba Creme Wax and the shine will last all season. "

  • Captain Rudy - "Use Barkeepers Friend to clean topsides, does a great job on fenders, non-abrasive and inexpensive. You can get it at the supermarket. "

  • Captain TomN - "Use fabric softener to soften nylon dock lines that get stiff from salt water."

  • Captain ereiss - "A product I love is Poop-Off, available in pet supply stores to remove, guess what, bird droppings from your sailcover, bimini, dodger, etc. Stuff works like a charm."

  • Captain Paddy - "WD-40 has many uses we probably don't think of. For example, use it to drive moisture from lifejacket turnbuckles and lubricates a stuck zipper on wetsuits. The WD-40 website lists over 2,000 uses."

  • Captain TamiF27 - "I have found that Concrobium mold control spray works better than bleach to clean and prevent mildew in my trailerable sailboat. It's not foul to use like bleach is, either. Concrobium can be found in Lowe's, but it's not in the cleaning products aisle. Rather it's way back near the roofing products. I have heard, though, that a homemade version is merely a baking soda and water mix spray but I've not tried that. I also live in brown water, and I've always used an oxalic acid bleach, Star Brite makes 'Hull Cleaner' but you can mix your own with oxalic acid powder."

  • Captain Gilbert sent several tips - Keeping Fenders Clean in Locks: "When locking thru and the locks have a lot of slime on the walls (what locks don't?), I use a kitchen size trash bag over the fenders, secured with the ties that comes with them. After locking, remove the bag by turning it inside out, and discard it. Saves scuzzy fenders which roll and dirty the hull."

    Securing Fido: "We have a small dog aboard, and he gets very curious and wants to be right in the way when docking and getting underway. I got a small snap and some 1/8" line and made a short leash. We secure this to a handle in the wheelhouse, out of the way, and hook him up when needed. Also saves getting him stepped on."

    Anchor Protection: "Anchors, particularly Danforths, have steel (or aluminum) stocks which can gouge the hull (or people) . I got some plastic covers for protruding screws which fit over the ends of the stocks, and glued them on with 5200. Now, they do not gouge or injure. Cost? About $0.25/each. Note: they come in sizes, so measure the stock diameter before going to the hardware store."

    Cheap Cellphone Extender: "I cruise to an anchorage in a spring in the Ocala National forest, where the Gov't does not allow towers, and the cell reception at anchor is 0 bars. I have a Wilson trucker cell antenna, and have fashoned an adaptor from its CB threads to marine. The antenna requires an adaptor between it and the cell, however, the apdaptors are available for most phones. Without going rocket science in terminology, the built-in antenna in a cell is not efficient. It may be 2 to 6 times less than a reference dipole, used in communications as a standard. The Wilson has gain and the signals are 2 to 4 times the reference dipole. So its output is anywhere from 4 to 24 times the phone itself. Moreover, the antenna is 5' over my hardtop, or 15' above water, without the signal robbing capibilities of being inside the boat. At this anchorage, the phone goes from no bars to 3-4 bars. The antenna and adaptor was about $50, and is very easy to use/install."

  • Captain Boots - "Boat Yoga. It's not an official yoga practice but because of our age and all the bending and stretching we have to do, it definitely is my philosophy. It helps to limber us up and the positions of the back become second nature so that muscles aren't hurt." Karen has been a yoga practitioner for over 15 years and strongly believes in the importance of stretching on the boat. Thank you Captain Boots for suggesting this tip!

  • Captain Wallace Gouk - "Cheap LED lights for your boat. I converted all my 30 year old interior fixtures to very bright LED's for $10 each by modifying  lights from IKEA. Link to my How To with photos."

  • Captain Stanley Thal - "During winter up north when the boat is sealed and locked up is a great time to de-funk your boat of mildew and mold spores as well as any odors. Buy or rent a commercial grade ozone generator. Read the warnings carefully. Put the generator in the forward cabin, then the aft then the flybridge and sundeck if you have one. Make sure the outside is sealed and saturate each area with ozone. Open the cabinet and appliances as well as engine and bilge compartments, anchor locker, and under seat storage. Do each area for a full two weeks. Air conditioning and heating duct are particularly tough areas to sterilized so run just the fan mode to kill all the mold that may have lodged inside. The hydrogen peroxide that is formed by these generators will miraculously clean any mildew that already has a foothold on your valences, upholstery, or pillows."

  • Captain Darrell - "Use bar soap for a quick lube. I use it on the window and screen runners, cabin door locks, drawer runners, etc. Cheap. Easy." This is one we also use with the addition that you can also use an old candle.

  • Captain Kathy - "My husband is salt sensitive and coastal water generally has too much salt in it for him. At home we use an RO filter, but that is not practical on our boat, so we resigned ourselves to lugging bottled water. About 4 weeks ago we discovered the Zero Water filter system. It is an Ion Exchange membrane, much the same size as a Brita, but it will take water down to 0 ppm. We have used it daily for about 4 weeks and are still on the original filter. It makes tank water taste good and takes out the salt that can be very bad for those with high blood pressure. Here is a link to the product. We bought the 10 cup pitcher."

  • The Captain of Sum Escape offers two cleaning hints: - "A cleaning product you can get at the dollar stores, called Totally Awesome, works well on seats, hull stains, etc. Cheap and easy. Use diluted though and don't let it dry on things. To get water spots off hulls, etc. before polishing or waxing just use 50% water and 50% vinegar. Wet hull first, use your hull cleaning brush to apply, let is sit for a few minutes and hose off. It is acidic so don't let it dry on the surface. And it removes wax so it is an end of season or pre-season cleaning step."

We've gotten several suggestions for removing that pesky ICW mustache. What's your favorite?

  • Captain Ralph - "Just reading your blog and see you are in the brown water now. I get the same mustache from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay or the rivers feeding it. After trying many products, we have found that Mary Kate's ON-OFF product works the best. Absolutely NO EFFORT to get that brown stain off. I put a SMALL amount in a bucket and use a wet sponge. Wipe the hull down....wait a few minutes (less than 5 usually) and spray it off with the hose. The brown completely disappears. One tip - if your boat has grooves in the hull to make it look like lapstrake, you have to run the corner of the sponge along the groove to be sure to get the cleaner product into the groove. If you don't, the flat surface will clean up but the groove will still have brown in it."

  • Captain Intentional Drifter offers a Green solution to the ICW stain - "A couple of years ago, we were docked next to a big motor yacht in Oriental and I was complaining about the stain. The yacht's skipper told me she knew how to fix that and went and grabbed a spray bottle. She started squirting some on my hull (the bottle was not labeled) and said, 'just wait 10 minutes and see what happens, but be sure to rinse with plain water.' I waited 10 or 15 minutes and came back to find that the mustache was gone. I rinsed it, as she said, and was mystified. A couple hours later, I saw her and she says, 'Pretty good, eh?' What was it? Lemon juice. Full strength. The stuff you get at the grocery store for $5 for a big bottle. Makes sense, it is, after all, strong citric acid. But nothing that would be a problem for marine life. Does well on light rust stains, too. Just make a poultice with a paper towel soaked in lemon juice and let it sit. Cheap, effective and friendly for the fish."

  • Captain Howell - "The brown water stain on the bow is easily removed with the product Kaboom. Just spray on and watch the brown disappear. Not sure about the environmental friendliness of it though."

  • Mary and George Kay on Summer Slopes - "We have a product that removes the beard from our boat in a jiffy. Rustaid Outside, a gallon container from Home Depot is under $10.00. A gallon will last for 2 years or more. Put some in a spray container that you attach to your hose. Spray the area you want clean and in seconds it disappears, no rags, brushes or elbow grease needed!"

Something that is becoming increasingly popular at boating rendezvous is a Show-n-Tell session. They go by various names but each one is a time when boaters bring their favorite tips, products, gadgets, anything that has made their time onboard better or easier. Following are a few that we really liked. Some of the groups are publishing the ideas in their newsletter, so we'll be adding the things we forgot to this list in the future.

  • Incontinence pads - No, this is not a joke about the average age of boating liveaboards. These highly absorbent pads are great for any messy job - changing the oil, greasing parts, mixing paint or epoxies, you name it. They're easy to find and generally less expensive than those engine diapers.

  • Angled Hand Broom - A soft bristle version quickly cleans the dust out of the louvers many of us have on our doors and cabinets. Spray a little furniture polish on the ends and it really grabs the dust. I found mine at the local hardware store.

  • Form-A-Funnel - Designed for changing oil in hard to reach places, it is a flexible coated rubber material that you can form into most any funnel shape you need. You can even make it bend around a curve or seal around an opening.

  • Ziploc Vacuum Pump - There was the feeling of being the last to know on this one. When someone brought out their Ziploc Vacuum Pump at the MTOA rendezvous half the room joined in about how much they loved theirs. The starter kit, which has the hand-pump and 3 one quart bags, is less than $4. You can buy boxes of one quart and one gallon bags. It's basically a special Ziploc bag with a valve at the top. Put in meat, veggies, whatever, place the pump over the valve and suck out the air. It's fast, works well, takes up virtually no space, and uses no electricity. You can sometimes find it at your regular grocery store. Walmart has them and you can get them online at Amazon.

  • Vinegar and soap for fruit flies - Fruit flies were plaguing all the boats and we were overrun. We were told to put apple cider vinegar into a small bowl with a drop of dish soap. We tried it and it works. The fruit flies are attracted to the "fruit" in the apple cider and when they land the dish soap grabs them. It was amazing what we collected.

  • Water Jet Power Washer - This was actually a tip we got from a rendezvous in 2010. It's one of those As Seen On TV items and it really works. It has a standard hose fitting which you can attach to your wash-down and gives a powerful stream of water for cleaning the anchor. We found ours at a hardware store for less than $20.

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