When you live on your houseboat full-time, it’s easy to forget autumn rituals that other boaters can’t ignore. You might winterize the boat to stay in your berth or head south with the sun, but otherwise life goes on. Unlike houseboaters who lay up for the winter, you don’t have to empty the refrigerator and rid the boat of anything that might spoil, attract rodents, freeze or self-destruct while the boat is in storage.
It’s the life-goes-on pleasures of houseboat living that lull us into forgetting that closets need cleaning, freezers need defrosting, pantry supplies need to be rotated and other deep-cleaning rituals should be observed. Dirt is the enemy of your health and of your houseboat’s financial value. Fall is a traditional housecleaning time, so let’s take advantage of the cooler weather and get started.
Here are some special angles for liveaboards to consider.
• It’s always wise to review maintenance instructions that come with everything from appliances to floor coverings. We just learned that it’s okay to vacuum our new carpet with a beater brush or to steam clean it, but not to use a steam cleaner that has a beater brush.
• Take small bites, not the entire galley or bedroom or bath. Groene’s Law states that every housecleaning project takes twice as long as planned. Once you get down to the bare shelves, walls, bilge or flooring you may find a frayed wire, a spot of wood rot, mildew, paint that flaked or bubbled, frames that sag, plumbing that corroded. This is the time to make repairs and you may have to recruit outside workers to do them.
• This is also the time to install new, behind-the-scenes items such as new hooks in the back of the closet, a filter in the water line to the icemaker, or new wiring for alarms.
• The standard rule about closet cleaning is to make three or four piles: keep, discard, give away and, perhaps, decide later. We use inexpensive laundry baskets. They stack when not in use and are easy to carry when filled. Because house- boats move, any rough spots in clothes closets can create little snags as garments sway. After you empty a closet, lightly go over the walls, rods and wood hangers with old panty hose to catch any rough spots. Usually a light sanding solves the problem.
• Rotate mattresses and replace or launder mattress covers.
• Empty the pantry and add new organizers where possible. Then put fresher cans and packages in back; older supplies where you can use them up faster.
Most modern, spray-on drug treatments are said to be safer after they dry. Read labels. In any case, spray empty closets, cabinets and both inside and outside drawers. Then let them dry completely before refilling them.
• Schedule trips to the dry cleaner for drapes and bed spreads. Do you have area rugs that must be sent out? Make dates for such onboard services as carpet and upholstery cleaning, duct cleaning, buffing. Allow extra time. Services such as stain proofing, waxing or wet-cleaning take longer. Too, the nearest dry cleaner may have to send your exotic bedspread fabric or lined drapes to an outside specialist.
• Is it worth cleaning? In the harsh world of sun and water, fabrics break down quicker. It may be more cost-effective to replace older awnings, outdoor carpeting, cockpit covers and other weathered fabrics than to go through a costly cleaning process that weakens them even further.
• Indoor fabrics, by contrast, usually benefit by more frequent cleaning. Soil, especially sand, is abrasive and a major reason for premature wear in carpeting and upholstery.
• Although we are talking here about “house” cleaning and not the engine room or hull, don’t forget umbilicals. When hoses and cords look grotty they degrade the overall view of your floating home.
About the Authors
“Living Aboard” is a recurring column that focuses on living on your houseboat. Gordon and Janet Groene lived full-time on the go for ten years and they hold the NMMA Directors Award for boating journalism. Their books include Living Aboard and Creating Comfort Afloat. Janet posts new galley recipes weekly at www.BoatCook.blogspot.com.