Easy Rowing Boat Maintenance and How to do it

Just got off the water and feel like you want to collapse? Tough! It’s time to get cleaning that boat and perform some boat maintenance.

One of the most important things that must be drilled into every rower is how to clean your boat and how to perform basic boat maintenance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come off the water absolutely knackered only to have to spend the time to clean it. But it’s been drilled into me and there’s no escaping a coach’s wrath if you don’t get that club boat clean.

I’m going to go over some basic boat maintenance and also tell you the best way to get the boat off the water, into the slings, and onto the rack in less than 10 minutes. Grab a bucket, a sponge, and an old rag, and let’s get going.

Boat maintenance

One reason why I’m going over boat maintenance first is that you are going to identify an issue while you’re on the water and be able to correct it as soon as you get off. There’s no point in cleaning the boat, making an adjustment, and then going back out on the water to see if you’ve managed to fix the issue only to clean it again.


Let’s make some adjustments. First, we’re going to check the spacers around the oarlock to make sure that everything is in its correct place and to make sure that they fit in with your rowing style. Most boats have universal spacing under the oarlocks which means that most people will feel comfortable rowing in a boat without having to change anything, but when you get to an elite level, one spacer can mean the difference between being off-balance in the boat and a race win.

This is usually something you’ll only have to do once or twice to get that right balance, but it’s still highly important to do especially if you’re using a club boat that many people use.


Now it’s time to check over all of the nuts on the boat. You want to make sure that everything is tight enough that during a long session, nothing is going to come loose or come off in the water. Remember in one of my previous articles where I mentioned the essentials you should have with you all the time? This is where your rigger jigger is going to come in extremely handy.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone out on the water and have had something come loose. It’s so important that you’re checking over everything to make sure it’s all in working order. Keep that rigger jigger with you at all times!

Seat and wheels

Here’s where a small element of cleaning comes into play. Check your seat for any noticeable cracks if it’s of the wooden variety or any noticeable fraying if it’s carbon fibre. Your wheels are equally as important. Take your seat off the boat and clean it of any particulates that may have gotten in there from the water. Nobody rows on clear waters.

From salt build-up to river dirt, you’re always going to find something in the seat track or on the wheels that you’re going to need to clean. Check your seat wheels for any chips or dents and if there is something drastically wrong with one of the wheels, chuck it away and replace it with a new one. Check to see if any of the seat wheel bolts are loose.

Boat maintenance – Cleaning your boat

Is everything in order? Good! Time to get cleaning. If you follow the basic checklist that I’m going to put below then from the basic boat maintenance checks you very well may have already cleaned some parts of the boat but let’s go over them again just to be sure.

This video shows how rowing slings work

Main hull

First, set up your slings. Then take the boat out of the water and place it on the slings with the bottom of the boat parallel to the floor. Now we want to take off your riggers so you can get a proper clean all over the boat. Once the riggers are removed you can turn your boat so the seat is parallel to the floor and the bottom of the boat is facing towards the sky.

Grab a bucket and some warm soapy water and bring it over to the boat. You now want to take a sponge and clean all the muck off the side of the boat. Rowing in London, most of the rivers here are fairly dirty so after every session, there was a fairly large amount of grime on the boat.

Work up a good lather and make sure that you scrub every single inch of the hull. This will ensure that you are doing a proper job and you’re maintaining the integrity of the hull.

I wouldn’t be able to tell you the number of times that I have come off of the water and there has been a thick greasy layer of river gunk on my boat. Not only is it important to make sure the boat looks clean to keep up its appearance but it also helps the hydrodynamics of the boat in the water to make sure it cuts through nicely.

Grab your cloth and wipe the boat down dry making sure that you go over any parts you may have missed along the way.

Inside the boat

Not only is the outside of your boat going to be dirty after a session, but the inside of the boat will be susceptible to getting dirty too. Grab a cloth and soak up any water you may have splashed in there from the session. Then dip it in the soapy water and clean up any dirt you can see that may be left over.

Seat and seat track

As I mentioned before a very important part of your boat maintenance is checking over your seat wheels and seat track to make sure it’s clean of any dirt or grit. Take your seat off the track and with a wet but not soapy cloth run it down the track to get rid of the dirt. You’ll find that this will make the boat perform a lot better and will sound much nicer when you’re on the water.


Before you reattach your riggers to the boat give them a good scrubbing with soapy water and then wipe them down when you’re done. if your gates feel quite gritty against the pin be sure to take them off and give them a good clean with non-soapy water.

Boat maintenance checklist

Now you’ve got a good understanding of what you need to do to make sure the boat is clean, here’s a basic boat maintenance checklist to make sure that you do everything in the correct order and don’t miss anything out.

  1. Set up your slings
  2. Remove your boat from the water
  3. Then place your boat on the slings, bottom towards the floor
  4. Inspect the boat for any changes you may need to make to improve performance (spacers on the gate, check seat and wheels)
  5. Now remove the rigger
  6. Turn the boat upside down, the base of the boat facing the sky
  7. Clean the hull with plenty of soap and water and a sponge
  8. Dry down with a cloth and inspect for any parts you may have missed
  9. Turn the boat around again and clean the inside with a cloth.
  10. With the tip of a cloth dipped in water clean out any dirt that may be inside the boat
  11. Remove the seat and clean out any grit that may have got into the seat tracks with warm water (no soap)
  12. Re-attach the seat
  13. Clean the rigger and if there is any grit in the gates or on the pin clean it with warm water (again, no soap)
  14. Now reattach the rigger
  15. Finally, place your boat back on the boat rack and relax

How often should I clean and lubricate the oarlocks and tracks on my rowing boat to ensure smooth operation?

It is recommended to clean and lubricate the oarlocks and tracks of your rowing boat after each use. Use a mild detergent to clean the oarlocks and tracks, and then apply a silicone-based lubricant to ensure smooth operation.

What are the recommended methods for checking and repairing any damage to the hull of a rowing boat?

Inspect the hull of your rowing boat regularly for any signs of damage, such as cracks or punctures. Small repairs can be made using marine-grade epoxy, while more extensive damage may require professional fibreglass repair.

What type of regular maintenance should be performed on the oars to ensure their longevity and optimal performance?

Regular maintenance for rowing boat oars includes keeping them clean and dry after each use, inspecting for any signs of wear or damage, and storing them properly to prevent warping. Sand any rough spots and apply a coat of varnish as needed to maintain their performance.