Keeping your boat clean is important, partly for pride reasons, and partly to keep the thing, well, ship shape (for lack of a better word.)
Whether it’s scraping the barnacles from your dingy or shampooing the carpets on board your superyacht, valet and detailing work shouldn’t be overlooked as part of the upkeep of your boat if you want to get the best out of your experience on the water.
There are both local companies and national franchises who offer detailing services, with prices ranging from between $8 – $40 per foot.
In general you can expect to pay less per foot on a smaller vessel than you would on a larger one, because what you’re really paying for is the time of the person doing the job, which will for example, be much greater on a 50’ yacht than a 20’ RIB.
What to Look For in a Good Detailing/Valeting Company
Once you’ve got a set of prices quoted, you’ll want to dig a little deeper to make sure you’re actually going to get a good quality service, and not just the cheapest one.
Horror stories fill internet forums with regard to inept teenagers cutting back gel coats and leaving windows more smeared than before they started.
Whilst it’s no doubt true there are a few charlatans out there, you might actually find some teenagers and students offer the best deal going, but you’ll still want to get at least one recommendation by word of mouth before you choose who to hire. There’s saving money, and then there’s being deservedly burnt when someone charging peanuts does a number on your boat!
Larger, more reputable companies and franchises are a safer bet, and in exchange for the greater expense you can be sure they’ll come equipped with the full breadth of skills and tools required to do a first class job.
Whoever you choose, always make sure they have commercial liability insurance should any damage occur to your boat (or them) whilst they work. Don’t just automatically assume that a larger organisation will have it by default. You never know what sort of back office issues they might be having, so ask to see documented proof.
I would also judge carefully based on how stringent the company are about getting the details of exactly what you want done from you. A true professional concerns themselves with meeting customer expectations right down to the letter, so if the detailer seems a bit blaze about the whole thing, it might be a red flag.
It’s also worth noting that there are short courses (usually a few days long) run across the country that teach the skills required to succeed in this industry, so if you can get someone with real ‘credentials’, this proves not only that they’ve received some expert tuition on the subject, but that they were serious enough about the job that they paid to learn how to do it, both financially and with their time.
Typical Boat Detailing or ‘Guardienage’ Tasks and How Valuable They Are
Besides the expertise of the company you choose, the cost of the service will ultimately be dictated by what work you choose to have done.
By far the easiest and least skilled job that a detailer can charge for is a simple exterior wash. This is certainly the sort of task you can sub out to students looking for pocket money, and indeed many boatyards hire students throughout the boating season to keep all the boats in their
yard clean. As a user of the yard you could well have this included in the price of renting a birth.
Again not an especially skilled job, but nonetheless one that takes a lot of care and attention, when you’ve got upholstery to clean and expensive wooden furniture to polish it’s worth paying that bit extra for someone who knows what they’re doing.
Wax Cutting and Rewaxing
Restoring dull gel coat is a much more skilled job than simply washing and polishing, as a risk of actually damaging the laminate exists if the person doing the job doesn’t know what they’re doing. Definitely not a job to offer to someone without any experience.
Boat Bottom Cleaning
Perhaps the most important element of boat cleaning from a vessel performance point of view involves keeping the hull below the waterline as clean as possible.
Notwithstanding the presence of antifoul paint, hulls are prone to playing host to a whole range of marine based gunk and barnacles, all of which can reduce performance considerably. So it’s in your best interests to do something about it.
Being able to clean underneath the waterline whilst the boat in on the water requires that the person doing the cleaning be a competent diver. Consequently this type of work is more skilled, but none the less you should still check for liability insurance, divers certification and assurance of a full break down of the scope of work.
Besides cleaning services, most divers will also check the level of decay on zinc anodes, and will also look for any evidence of delamination, galvanic corrosion and the state of the paintwork.
Cost wise you can expect to spend a similar amount as you would above the waterline ($3 – $25) per foot.