Cleaning the Bilge

Here is a project that is not for the meek.  I decided to undertake cleaning of the bilge this past weekend.

The last two boats that we have owned have both had wet bilges.  That is not really a good thing.  First of all the continual moisture in the bilge fosters growth and smells.  That infamous “boat smell” that those of us that own boats know and do NOT love.  It is also bad for the keel bolts, as it rusts them.  All this in mind, I decided that it was time to dry the bilge and divert whatever was making it wet to begin with.  At lease divert most of what ended up there.  There will always be some water that accumulates in any bilge, but it needs to be a minimal amount and it needs to be able to dry before it builds up and starts to smell.

First order of the day was to dry out the ice box.  The ice box drains into the bilge on our boat, and so that needed to be stopped.  After that I snooped around and found no other areas that were leaking or draining there.  The shower drains directly into the bilge (bad idea), but no one would be showering until I was finished with drying things out.

I started the drying by taking a few towels and dropping them into the bilge to soak up the water, and then squeezing them out into a pail.  I did this over and over until I had soaked up several gallons of water that was standing.  I then turn on a small fan and let it blow into the bilge area until it was relatively dry.  Here are some pictures:


As you can see, rust is on the keel bolts.  It’s not really all that thick, so I can use a wire brush to take care of that.  There was a fair amount of sludge that I wiped out, too.  It really didn’t smell that bad, just musty.  I did apply bilge coat to the sides to start the process, and things immediately started to smell less musty.

When I go back to the marina for round two, I’ll make sure that all of the sludge is cleaned up and the surfaces are clean and dry, and then apply bilge coat to everything.

After all is painted, and this includes the insides of the cabinets and hanging lockers because they also empty their moisture into the bilge and are open so that the smells make their way in, things should smell less musty.  The smell has migrated into the seat cushions, so they will either have to be replaced or cleaned, and all of the towels and clothing that we leave there will have to be cleaned.

I’ll report back the process, but at the least of it all, I am becoming intimately acquainted with all aspects of our boat and will have no trouble taking care of whatever happens to her.