We all love a tidy boat, but boater beware: You can go too far.

The guy seemed normal enough at the time. (We’ll call him “Dave”.) Dave was in his early 50s with a wife and kids, and a career in the financial industry. It was the spring of 2015 and I was backing my convertible By Design into my slip for another season on the Great Lakes. His boat, a beautiful modern yacht, was tied up in the slip behind me, his bow a mere 15 feet from my cockpit. As I tied up and plugged in, he was on his bow with a hose, washing the fiberglass deck down. Good to have a neighbor who keeps his boat clean, I thought to myself.

Later that day I returned to the marina, and from 100 yards down the dock I spotted Dave on his hands and knees. Upon closer inspection I found him wielding a toothbrush. I assumed he was maintaining his personal hygiene until I realized he was scrubbing the -gleaming white nonskid pattern on his foredeck with his Oral-B. Way to go, Dave! I thought to myself. I like this guy.


The weather was great the following weekend, with sailors, fisher-men and families milling about our happy harbor. Cocktail hour approached with one eyebrow raised, and I found myself hosting a half-dozen friends and neighbors in the cockpit. “Hey Dave!” I said, waving from across the dock. “Come aboard for a drink if you’d like.”

“Naah, thanks anyway. I’ve got some cleaning to do,” he said, waving a wet towel my way in retort and pointing to the polished stainless steel anchor chain wrapped around his shiny windlass. Dave sure likes to keep his boat clean, I thought to myself.

Summers (and winters) scatter like splinters as Jimmy Buffett likes to sing, and before we knew it July 4th was upon us. We found ourselves back in the cockpit with friends who were busy spilling guacamole and fish dip on the sole, and we had a front row seat for the fireworks. And there was Dave, standing watch on deck, hose in hand. See, if the wind is just right we might get an ash or two on the boat during the evening’s festivities, but at 10 p.m. on the Fourth of July most of us figure it’s something we can hose off along with the fish dip.

Dave has another outlook on life, however. He stands at attention, hoping to hit any embers with a powerful stream of water mid-air before they even touch his perfectly tooth-brushed deck. Dave watches the fireworks not for enjoyment or the annual celebration of our independence and way of life but to search the night sky for incoming bogies. Sit down Dave, I thought to myself.

The next morning I hosed two little ashes off the front of my flybridge and waved to Dave. “Hey bud, whatcha doin’?” I asked. Dave looked my way but didn’t answer, so I threw a leg over the coaming and sauntered across the dock.

Dave was wiping the water out of each individual Phillips head screw in his rub rail with a windshield wiper blade. The fresh water! What is boating all about? I thought to myself.

I like a clean boat as much as the next guy (except Dave). I truly enjoy washing my boat down on a Saturday morning and every time we tie up from an outing. It’s a therapeutic ritual which can be enjoyed each weekend. And I’d much rather have Dave as a dock neighbor than some slob who goes a month without washing the gull poo off of his windows, or a crew who treats our dock like a personal fish-cleaning station. If everyone neglected their boats, the dock would be a miserable place to socialize between weekend outings and cruises.

But Dave has reminded me in his own special way that I own my boat, it doesn’t own me. We don’t need professional crew, so we figure we’ll just keep things ship shape on our own while reserving plenty of time for the fun stuff. The grooves in the Phillips head screws can fend for themselves. 

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.