(Note: This blog post appeared in Latitudes & Attitudes - The Seafaring Lifestyle magazine on page 46 of the April 2008 edition)
A clean, well-kept bilge says a lot about a boat's overall condition in my book. Clean bilges let you know that the ship's captain doesn't live by the philosophy of "Out of sight, out of mind". Sure, bilges inherently get dirty and wet quickly and easily. But if you start with a good foundation, they are easier to keep clean and much more hospitable during those claustrophobic moments when you have to cram yourself deep into the bowels of the vessel for maintenance and repair.
I began restoring our boat's bilge by first removing any debris and lost hardware that had fallen in over the years. Then I scrubbed mightily with a solution of Comet, bleach and warm water. Next, I used my shop-vac to suck up smaller particles and make certain the entire bilge was dry. Luckily, about 99% of the bilge is fairly accessible on a Helms 25.
When the bilge was cleaned out, I applied two coats of durable garage floor paint. I'm told International makes a great bilge paint product called "Danboline", but I'm on a tight budget for this project so I went with some leftover floor paint that I had used in my basement and garage. The paint went on surprisingly well for such a dingy, dirty application.
While most passengers and guests (let alone crew!) will probably not even notice how beautiful my bilge and storage areas have become, I'll stand with my chin just a bit higher knowing that even the out-of-sight areas of our Helms 25 received TLC!