It’s spring commissioning time for the boat, so let’s take a look at the “house” part of houseboating too. Here are some spring cleaning chores to put on your checklist.
This is a good time to flush the hot water tank and any other tanks that require regular removal of animal, mineral or vegetable crud. The degree of buildup depends on the quality of your incoming water (hardness, sand in suspension) and on the design of your tanks, sensors, watermaker as well as how sewage is handled.
Small tubes such as a hot water dispenser and coffee maker can get clogged by mineral deposits. Do you have other tiny tubes such as condensation drains under portholes or air conditioner drains? Over the winter they may have clogged with growths or insects.
Has the grill been forgotten all winter under its cover? It may be due for serious scraping, de-rusting and sanitizing. Propane jets may be plugged by spiders.
Fans & Pans
Dust builds up on fans and blowers, including those you never see such as an exhaust fan. This can lead to overheating or even a fire.
Filters are found in dozens of places throughout the houseboat: in the HVAC system, vacuum cleaners, microwave oven, hot tub, refrigerator water line, etc. Experts recommend a thorough dryer vent cleaning once a year because lint can build up and catch fire. A DIY vent cleaner kit costs about $35. Bringing in a professional vent cleaner costs around $35 to $50.
Scrub away growths from the pan under the refrigerator and the shower sump, and then apply mildew spray to retard new growths. Also be sure to clean the refrigerator coils.
Can you flip the mattress? Turning distributes wear and regular airing is also important, especially if the mattress sits on a solid plywood base.
Rotate pantry supplies with summer meals in mind. You’ll probably be having fewer soups and hot meals and more salads, juices and cold drinks. If discards are still in date, take them to a food bank.
Have you taken in boarders over the winter? Small creatures from mice to wasps build nests that range from unsightly to downright dangerous. Spider webs in a propane line can keep a stove, water heater or furnace from working. A wasp nest under a handhold can be filled with stingers. And a mouse nest can clog a limber hole, causing water to back up.
Send out throw rugs that are too big for laundering to be cleaned. Specialists can clean, deodorize, renew stain-proofers and mend bindings.
Many of the new galley and bath counter-top materials require annual re-sealing. Do interior floors need to be de-waxed, then re-waxed? Is it time to clean carpeting, then re-treat with stain-proofer?
Window and door screens collect dust and may also be rusting or oxidizing, reducing air exchange when you let those spring breezes in.
Unholy Holding Tanks
Even with regular maintenance, holding tanks need a thorough cleaning now and again, if only to make sure sensors read right. The grey water tank’s woes are probably caused by soap scum and fats, which aren’t nudged by regular flushing. The black water tank may clog with solids. Each soil requires its own solution and so do tanks, depending on the type of material they’re made from, the fittings, and what cleanout access has been provided. See your owner’s manual.
About The Author
Janet Groene is a professional journalist and a member of Boating Writers International. She and her late husband, Gordon Groene, lived full-time on the go for ten years. “Living Aboard” is a recurring column that focuses on living on your houseboat. Janet’s newest book, The Survival Food Handbook (International Marine Books), is a guide to provisioning and cooking with common supermarket ingredients to carry in your pantry. Janet posts new galley recipes weekly at www.BoatCook.blogspot.com.