This is the longest I’ve been anchored in one spot – three weeks! And I managed to choose a bay with all sorts of creatures in the water. And with having a small sailboat, it’s easier to just keep the dinghy in the water overnight, tied up and locked to the mothership with a steel cable. I don’t have many easy means of getting it out of the water (though this is now rectified and the subject of another post).

Well, since all those little creatures can’t really attach themselves to the big boat thanks to the antifouling paint, they all moved over to the dinghy. This is what the bottom looked like after three weeks in the water – and after already scraping a good amount of stuff off the week prior while it was in the water. Hell, crabs the size of silver dollars were floating away with each scrape!


And this was after scrubbing a bunch of stuff off the bottom of the dinghy while it was still in the water.

This kind of growth really slows down the dinghy.  Which means an increase in fuel burn – not ideal for cheapskates like me.

This’ll be the last night I leave it in the water overnight. Both to prohibit growth and to deter theft, as I’ll soon be moving along to other bays with higher crime rates.

So it’s time to give the dinghy bottom a good cleaning!

The essential tools

  • plastic paint scraper
  • medium-bristle nylon brush
  • Scotchbrite pad
  • bucket

I brought some white vinegar along too, because vinegar is the sailor’s cleaning equivalent of duct tape, but I didn’t end up using it.

cleaning tools

The essential tools for dinghy bottom cleaning. Scotchbrite pad, nylon brush, paint scraper, and Kalik beer bucket from Bahamas. I suppose any other bucket will also do.

I went to a nearby beach amongst the mangroves. I took off the outboard and flipped the dinghy over. The crabs ran off before I could take a picture for proof. Just take my word for it.

This is easier to do on a sunny day and very close to the water – the sun will help dry everything and make removal easier, and you’ll be constantly filling the bucket for rinsing.

If you have a soft-floored dinghy like mine, this might take a little while longer and you’ll need to be more careful than those people you’re envious of with the fiberglass floors. But cleaning the dinghy bottom is still a lot easier than I thought it’d be.

First step for cleaning the dinghy bottom is getting rid of all the big stuff with the paint scraper. Hit it from all directions, over and over again. Rinse off the clumps you’ve loosened and hit it with the scraper again.

You’ll get to a point where you find the scraper won’t loosen anything else – don’t worry, we’ll get to that. Just be careful you don’t puncture the dinghy with the pointy end.

first step

After scraping with the paint scraper.

The second step is to use the nylon brush. Go over and over what remains, in a circular pattern, taking breaks to rinse off what you’ve loosened with a bucket of water.

Just keep at it – it’ll take some elbow grease but you’ll be able to get most of the growth off of the dinghy bottom this way. Don’t forget all the seams and corners.

second step

After scrubbing with the nylon brush.

You should finally be left with just small patches of slight discoloration and a few fibers of algae. This’ll come off with the Scotchbrite pad and some slight pressure. Again, rinse with the bucket every few minutes.

final step

After cleaning and rinsing!

And voila! Clean enough to eat off of. And I did. There was this one small crab still hanging out, so I…

No, kidding, that’s gross.

Cleaning this soft-floored dinghy bottom took me about an hour.

And yes, right after this I did see a noticeable speed increase…good for fuel consumption!

What horror stories do you have?

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