When you’ve been with your partner for so long that there’s little prospect of them leaving you for someone better, Valentine's Day takes on a fresh dimension. No longer do you have to honour its bizarre Roman/Christian/Commercial roots with puerile tokens like flowers and chocolates. Instead, you can invest your money in marine items of profound and lasting value. And perversely, this approach to the year’s most romantic day is very enriching for your relationship, because by pampering your boat, you make yourself a better, happier, more fulfilled man (or woman of course). In essence, therefore, what you’re really giving your partner is an optimised version of yourself - and that makes a spot of February boat pampering the most selfless Valentine's gift you can bestow.
1. Give her a spruce
We all leave our boats to languish for long spells, but when the time comes to take her out, the last thing you want to do is clean her. Do yourself a favour and get a valet. Start with a full internal and external service and then sign up for a regular monthly clean, so she remains in perfect condition, even if you ignore her for a few weeks. It might seem like a big outlay but it’s much better than doing it yourself and, in the long run, it helps preserve the value of your investment. See Boat cleaning: how to care for your hull.
2. Update her threads
If you’re going to do DIY, it’s always best to attend to something big, visible and satisfying – and new upholstery is exactly that. You can of course get it done professionally by a specialist, but I’ve known people who’ve done the job themselves by attending a course and buying their own fabric. It can be a very rewarding project for a boating couple and even for the inexperienced amateur, the results can be radical - especially if your existing stuff (like mine) is mouldy, damaged or dated. (Of course if you're a sailing fan, new sails are always good.)
3. Light her up
It plainly makes sense to change your ageing lights for new, lower voltage models, but how about taking it further? Start with Audi-style ranks of cats-eye docking lights; add a set of adjustable coachroof search lights; throw in some deck lights; fit a few multicolour underwater lights; and finish with cupholders that light up in whatever tone of LED you fancy. You can even mount LED strips in your storage spaces or behind roof linings for a radiant superyacht-style glow. It’s easy to do and the results can be very striking.
4. Lavish her with trinkets
It really doesn’t take a huge amount of money or effort to make a modest or tired boat feel much higher end. For instance, if your grab handles, cupholders and nav lights are plastic, invest in some stainless steel models instead. Replace your flimsy plastic cockpit table with a timber one; fit a slick new leather steering wheel; and if you’re really keen, why not personalise your on board gear with the boat’s name or some other relevant insignia. From plates to cutlery, cushions and tables, it all makes her feel just that bit more special.
5. Give her a fresh start
Let’s face it. Most of us bought our boats secondhand and that means that the name is probably (i) of no relevance at all and (ii) embarrassing to transmit to marine professionals over VHF. So change it for something fresh and pertinent and have the new name professionally applied to your boat. Just make sure you do it with an appropriate renaming ceremony or maritime folklore dictates that you will die a horrible death at sea (seriously - see 10 top seafaring superstitions for sailors and boaters).
6. Take her home (or send her overseas)
One of the key reasons a boat begins to feel unloved is the fact that she’s so remote. But if she’s small enough to keep at home or you can find a yard nearby, then take advantage of that, because you’ll immediately be more enthused about lavishing the odd hour or two on tweaks, Spring Cleans and upgrades. On the other hand, you could always exile her to a sunny foreign marina that actually inspires you to visit once in a while. There are plenty of Med-boating Brits who swear by it and it’s usually just as affordable as domestic boating. See Buying a boat in the Mediterranean, Boat transport: a guide and Boat fitting out: 15 best tips.
7. Upgrade her gadgets
It really doesn’t matter what kind of electronic device you choose to fit - a depth sounder, a chartplotter, a VHF radio, a RADAR, an AIS unit, a fish finder, an on board wifi system, a plain old stereo or a new-fangled combination of all eight, with an integrated control box and a touchscreen interface from a science fiction film. Whether modest or magnificent, it all represents a feel-good pimping.
8. Deck her out
The variety of deck coverings is very broad. You can use (among others) traditional teak, artificial timber laminates, natural cork, aluminium checker plate or even impact-mitigation decking to provide shock absorption when you’re standing up underway. Whatever you choose, it’s rarely a complex job and (if you shop around for the best deal) the rewards can be way out of proportion to the outlay.
9. Put her on a pedestal
A good Dry Stack facility is essentially an all-inclusive spa resort for your boat, involving a lifetime of jet washes, forklift launches and secure storage on elevated racks at the hands of professionals. It keeps your hull as clean, fast and efficient as it was when it was new and it significantly reduces depreciation on your investment. It can also bring about reduced insurance costs and it will always mean far less messing about when you want to take her out – which leads us nicely to our final item…
10. Take her out
The average UK powerboater puts 42 engine hours a year on his boat, which is significantly less than he spends washing up his dirty dishes. It’s just not right. If you’ve gone to the effort of buying a boat, you need to honour that commitment by taking her out. And if you already take her out a fair bit, then show her something new. Try fishing, wakeboarding, diving, cruising in company, going cross-channel, racing, beaching, overnighting or heading inland on one of Europe’s many and varied waterways.
If you require any further advice on how to maintain a happy, healthy and emotionally connected relationship with your boat (or your partner), don’t hesitate to get in touch with Alex Smith.
Check out our boat improvement features 10 ways to upgrade and improve your powerboat and How to upgrade and improve your yacht.