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Maintenance Tips for Ski and Wake Boats

Maintenance Tips for Ski and Wake Boats

The Gold Coast and other South East Queensland regions have so many amazing coastal waterways, which are fast becoming a breeding ground for world-class waterskiers and wakeboarders. I have been very lucky to ski along these sheltered saltwater bays, just off the ocean with calm rivers and creeks. The Broadwater and Moreton Bay waterways are similar saltwater environments I have skied on during my younger years.

I grew up in Port Hacking in Sydney’s south and Myuna Bay in Newcastle, which have produced many of Australia’s best tournament skiers, with names like Karins Nowlan, Tim Bradstreet, our first World Trick Champion Bruce Cockburn, among others.

With convenient access to our own mecca of protected waters here on the Gold Coast, it saddens me to hear so many boat owners that insist on driving to freshwater dams and rivers hours away, as they are too afraid of what might happen to their boats if they launch them into saltwater.

Below are some tips to care for your water ski and wake boat so you can enjoy all the saltwater estuaries around South East Queensland, which are ideal for watersport lovers. Although, this information is centred towards inboard ski boats, as these are the owners who are usually most concerned with saltwater usage, much of these ideas can be applied to other inboard boats and outboard engine usage.


Prior to launching 

The following are maintenance steps for either a new boat, or recently purchased second-hand boat, which are easy to carry out on your vessel before launching in salt water.

1 – Grease the engine mounts.

Although engine mounts are heavy duty and strong, these are susceptible to corrosion as they are at the lowest part of the engine, and highly likely to be in contact with saltwater or moisture. However, although the corrosion is unlikely to cause any real operational problems, the rust that forms is unsightly. Most of the mounts are made of cast iron, which easily corrodes. It is a good idea to spread marine grease over and around all the engine mounts. The best way is to apply using your hands. While you are at it, grease the steering and shaft equipment, and any other part of the engine you believe will benefit from a coat of grease.

2 – Wash the bilge area with a salt-impeding product.

During normal use of your boat in saltwater, there may be water that will enter the bilge and make contact with the lower engine. An easy way to wash this area is to pour a preventive salt-impeding product into the bilge area with the bungs in, and then adding freshwater.

If your boat is on a trailer, you can tow the boat around the block or to the service station, so that the mixture slushes around inside. If you are out on the water, you can do this before you launch, as well as during and after your day out on the water. The use of products that remove all traces of salt will minimise corrosive effects of salt on your boat by keeping your bilge and engine saltwater-free. Some of my recommended brands are Mac’s, Salt-x and Salt-away.


3 – Use a salt-preventer as a flushing additive.

You can rig up an attachment to run the salt-preventer solutions through your engine to prevent salt build-up and corrosion. You may choose to flush the engine with one of these products prior to putting the boat in saltwater for the first time. I recommend you use the product during flushing every 50 hours or so. However, if you are an infrequent boat user or you are really concerned about salt building up that cause corrosion, then flush with the product every time you use your boat in saltwater. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for these products.


4 – Prevent engine corrosion with a lanolin-based product.

The entire engine can be sprayed with a lanolin-based product for corrosion prevention. It can be very effective to do so, while paying particular attention to the alternator that draws in salty air. The lanolin product can be used all over the boat parts susceptible to corrosion. Always test the lanolin products on rubber before applying, as some have been known to cause deterioration.

With frequently used saltwater boats, the trailer can also be painted with a thicker layer of lanolin product. Note that this may cause the trailer to pick up dirt and grime while being towed, but it certainly prevents corrosion. Once you arrive home, an easy rinse with a degreaser will return your trailer to a good clean appearance.


On-going boat maintenance

Freshwater engine flushing

If you are using your boat in saltwater, it is vital to flush your engine with freshwater after every use, even if you do have a heat exchanger/internal cooling system. As mentioned earlier, I suggest running the salt-preventer through the engine during flushing at least every 50 hours. Make sure you give your engine additional revolutions beyond idle, around 2,000 is recommended. Your home’s water supply may not give the water pressure required by the engine for flushing, so keep your eye on the gauge. Here is a good tip: When you are finished flushing, it is advised to turn the water off first, and then turn the engine off.

Importance of cleaning and washing down

Do not think that spraying your boat with freshwater is enough to remove all salt. The best way to remove the salt is to wash your boat as you would a car: fill up a bucket of car or boat wash, and wipe using a big sponge before rinsing off. From time-to-time (or after every use, if you prefer), you can use the salt-preventer product when undertaking the final rinse. This is very effective at preventing salt build-up.

Washing the engine bay thoroughly

The “marinised” engine in your boat is usually spray-proof at a minimum, so do not fear washing down your engine bay area. However, try to avoid drenching the electric components.) Be sure you spray right up under the sump – the underside of your engine. During your internal wash down, include the shaft and steering equipment, and all the way to the rear, where saltwater may have been splashed around during use.

Have an occasional freshwater ski

The best and most exciting way to clean your boat after frequent use in saltwater, is to simply take it to a freshwater location, and use the boat for skiing under full load. This will give you an opportunity to wash the trailer thoroughly by submerging it during the launch, and to clean the engine and the hull with freshwater while you play. It is also a fun change to explore some new inland skiing locations!

It will ultimately be up to you, the owner of the boat, to design your preventive and after-use cleaning routine. Every boat is different, so take some time to look and think about what areas might be susceptible to corrosion and treat these accordingly. Seek advice from your boat dealer and other experienced boat owners. But most importantly, do not let the fear of using your boat in saltwater prevent you from enjoying the variety of waterways that South East Queensland has to offer!


By Joel Wing

Edited by Andy Kancachian