CLEANING THE BILGE
Marc and Bobby Renaghan, #406
Living aboard, lots of things end up in the bilge (hair, food stuff, dirt)and it creates a sort of primordial soup in which bacteria thrive and thats what the oily black sludge is. I find that store bought bilge cleaner is quite effective because I believe that it contains an enzyme that helps digest the bacteria. Put it in and leave it for a day or so or go out sailing so that sloshes around some. Then get out your brush and hose and brosh down the bilge spray rinse and pump out (most all is biodegradable except engine oils and the like). Peroidic cleaning will help keep it at bay.
Tim Lackey,#381, Glissando
When I bought my boat, my bilge looked about like that--37 years of crap and disgustingness. I had great luck filling the bilge with a STRONG solution of Simple Green and water and letting it soak. With only minimal scrubbing after several days of soaking, the bilge came out as clean as the day it was built. This was in a shallow bilge east coast boat--I think I poured in a couple or three gallons of Simple Green and filled it with water from there. Later, I painted all the bilges out with Bilgekote paint, which has worked out very well and makes it easy to keep clean.
Of course, if you have the deep bilge you're probably going to need a lot more detergent to do this!
Ray Alsup, #256, Pegasus
When I purchased the bilge was my first priority and resulted in many hours of sometimes humorous and sometimes aggravating labor. I never knew such a small space would require such a major effort. I now understand why everyone speaks softly or mutters incoherently when discussing "cleaning their bilge."
I started by removing everything that was even close to the bilge except the portable ice chest that contained the beer. Water pipes, hose's, electric and manual pumps, wiring, check valves, batteries, etc. Next, I poured in a gallon of Simple Green then added a gallon of water. I allowed this micro brew to stand undisturbed for several hours while I worked elsewhere. Kind of like making your own beer; you bottle it, cap it, then go out and get a hamburger and let it age before conducting lengthily taste tests.
Before removing the Simple Green and water solution I scrubbed the bilge using an old Navy type stiff bristle brush. The solution laying 3 feet below me became very murky and about the consistency of cream. To remove the muck, I made a scooping container from a can no wider than the bottom of the bilge (about the size of a spam can) and attached it to a mop handle. This allowed me to reach to the aft most part of the bilge and pull the sweet smelling but bad looking muck toward me collecting solution and junk along the way.
What started as a chore however, soon became a game. My first treasure was a 9/16 inch open end wrench - Craftsman, excellent quality and still in good condition - good find. This was followed by another wrench of the same size and brand - Whoever was storing their tools in Pegasus's bilge knew quality. Next came 2 screw drivers (badly corroded and no longer usable - this was disappointing, I needed screw drivers more than 9/16" wrenches.
I continued to slowly drag my can along the bottom carefully pouring the contents into a large bucket while scanning the remains. I felt like an old gold minor searching for the prize nugget that would bring unlimited wealth and fame. However, in addition to the wrenches and screw drivers, my efforts produced nothing more than 2 one inch galvanized pipes, one 1/2 inch deep well socket - another Craftsman, a 1/4 inch dowel 12 inches long (could have been the fuel gauge I guess) and, of course my murky micro brew.
I repeated the above process, with less soaking each time, until the solution returned clean and I could clearly see the bottom of the bilge through a fresh water rinse. The bilge not only looked good, it smelled good. The remains, except for the wrenches and deep well socket, were hauled off to an appropriate dumping site. Since that time, I try to fill my bilge with Simple Green and water at least every 6 months and let it set until I return to the boat. It keeps everything smelling very sweat.