Keep your boat alive during Level 5
  |  First Published: June 2007

With the recent water restrictions placed on anglers in Southern Queensland, many boat owners are dismayed at not being allowed to wash their boats in the usual manner.

Saltwater can be harsh at the best of times and leaving your boat unwashed will result in irreparable damage to your pride and joy. Painted aluminium boats cop the worst corrosion but unpainted aluminium, fibreglass and even poly-propylene boats will feel the effects of prolonged exposure to salt.

Luckily there are options available that will allow your boat to be washed after every trip out whilst Level 5 restrictions are in place.

Many anglers take their boats and even their cars to one of the many designated washing facilities, which are currently doing a thriving business. Whilst these are better than not washing your boat at all, the water has had an odour at many of the ones I have visited. Naturally this odour then transfers to your boat, especially if you have carpet. Although the dirt is filtered out of the recycled water at these facilities, the salt usually isn’t and therefore you can actually be putting salty water (although somewhat diluted) back onto your boat.

Under Level 5 restrictions you are not allowed to use potable (drinkable) tap water to wash the majority of your craft. You are only permitted to use a hose with trigger nozzle to wash your brakes, as this is a safety consideration. You may connect the garden hose to the motor to flush it for the period recommended by the manufacturer but must be holding the hose at all times while doing this. The same applies whether using a direct connection to the motor or using earmuffs to flush it.


To wash the entirety of my boat I have worked out a system that works very well and allows me to use my Karcher high-pressure water blaster. After thinking about this system for a while, I contacted the local council to have the method approved. Although they found no problem with it, I was transferred up the line five times to the media advisers, supervisors etc until I was put in contact with David Margan from the Queensland Water Commision. I explained my method in detail and he gave it the thumbs up.

Basically the system is as follows. Many high-pressure water blasters will not suck water but instead rely on the water being forced into it by the usual pressure that comes out of the hose. As we can’t use a garden hose anymore, I needed to get enough water pressure to feed my Karcher. I purchased a large 72L bin (about $15 from Bunnings) and cut a hole on the side near the bottom corner that was just large enough to screw on a nipple fitting for a snap-on hose attachment. You may need a large rubber washer or some silicone to stop it leaking if the bin is fairly thin in the walls.

I then made up a piece of garden hose around 6ft long (depends on height of the boat’s bow from the ground) and put a snap-on hose attachment on each end, just like a shortened version of a normal hose. One end of the hose is snapped onto the nipple on the large bin and the other end is snapped onto my Karcher inlet. When the bin is placed on the bow of the boat it gravity feeds the Karcher with enough pressure to allow it to work. If you have a quality high-pressure water blaster then you may not need the elevation to make it work.

Water blasters can be purchased for as little as $100, which is a cheap investment to protect your valuable boat. Getting one fine for not obeying water restriction regulations will cost you almost twice this.


So where does the water come from? Well, as you can’t use potable water straight from the tap you have to go to the next option – grey water. This is basically water that has already been used for another application such as bathing and washing clothes.

This water can be collected in several ways, however it is not recommended to store grey water for long as it can build up an odour over time. Storing a small amount overnight will not pose a problem, just don’t go pumping it into a tank or other enclosed container.

As I live in an older-style, two-story house that has the PVC piping visible and accessible under the house, I just used a hacksaw to cut the pipe and fitted a hose to it, which is how I have watered my lawn for the past six months anyway. To collect grey water, just put the hose attached to your drain-pipe into buckets or another large plastic bin while someone is in the shower. Don’t forget to tell them not to pee in the shower.

Putting an old stocking or some form of filter over the end of the pipe will take any larger pieces of soap, lint and hair out of the grey water. In a few minutes the bin or buckets will be full. If you can’t get to your plumbing then you can take a few empty buckets into the shower, which collect the water that runs off you as you bathe.

I am fastidious with my boat and rarely need more than 50L of grey water (five standard buckets) to wash it with my Karcher. If you have a four-stroke motor, then you can also put a few buckets under the motor leg to collect the water that runs out of it as you flush the motor. I flush my motor for around two minutes and generally get at least 30L by doing this.

If you have a two-stroke, don’t do this, as the water will have oil in it and you don’t want to be spraying this over your boat. You can also use your tank water if you have some but you would probably be best to save this and use grey water for this application.

By the way, some anglers have the idea that you can use potable water to wash your painted boat as the Level 5 restrictions state that you can spot clean anything on a painted surface that is likely to damage the finish of the paint. I am assured by David Margan that this does not apply to boats, and you will be fined if caught, so don’t take the risk.

Now that you have your bin up on the bow of the boat and a hose connecting it to your water blaster, just fill the bin up with buckets of grey water and then spray it onto the boat with the high-pressure water blaster. These things are powerful so don’t hold the nozzle too close to the boat or you may lift the paint or do other damage. I leave the rods and reels in the rod racks while doing this and give them a spray also.

Your neighbours may give you funny looks so make up a sign that says ‘Grey water in use for washing boat’ to save any hassles. If the water inspectors do turn up then there are no worries so long as you are only using grey water or tank water and not potable water.

The water blaster is also better than the garden hose for lifting dried blood and other bits off the boat and it probably does a better job than the garden hose at removing the salt. You can still soap down your boat as per normal and then wash this off with the grey water if you like.

Now that you have a legal option for washing your boat, you can keep it alive during Level 5.

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