The live-aboard’s greatest enemy

On Saturday I was in the middle of a sweaty uncomfortable boat chore and needed a break. I made myself a coffee and sat down with the laptop to check emails and catch up on the few blogs I follow. I laughed out loud when I read artofhookie, for it appeared that Alan, aboard Sookie, far away in the Pacific Northwest, was doing exactly the same as me! No matter if you live on your boat in the rainy northwest coast of North America or the arid northern Mediterranean coast of Spain, damp is your enemy.

Contorted into a tight corner to attack the mildew!

Contorted into a tight corner to attack the mildew!

Two years ago, when we sailed in Ireland in the wettest summer on record, we fought an ongoing battle with mould. Freshly laundered clothes turned stinky and mouldy within days of being put away. Since first moving aboard, we have kept t-shirts, shirts and other ‘foldables’ in damp-proof zip bags, with condensation attracting cedar balls inside. That system seems to work. But we can’t fit all of our clothes in those bags. So we hang dresses, trousers, jumpers and cardigans in our hanging lockers. It was those, along with our shoes, that suffered most in Ireland that summer. Since then I’ve become better at dealing with the mould issues, but there are still occasional surprises when one of us pulls out a piece of clothing that hasn’t been worn for a while, as Julian did this week with a pair of jeans.

It goes without saying that we live in a salty environment, and saltiness attracts moisture. Carina’s nooks and crannies turn black and mildewed, and it is a constant battle to keep them clean. Our ceilings and upper parts of the walls in our bedrooms and heads are covered in cream-coloured vinyl,  which takes on a black hue as the weeks go by. Our hanging lockers are painted fibreglass, and they too take on the swirls and blotches of mildew.

We take steps to avoid damp and the build up of condensation by regularly opening and airing lockers and, on these autumn evenings, closing the hatches before night falls so the evening dew stays out.

In late June I thoroughly cleaned the forecabin (Lily and Katie’s bedroom), so I was surprised when I tackled it again on Saturday to discover how mouldy it had become. After all, with the exception of Ilha de Culatra, the air has felt dry all summer, and Carina’s seating and bedding hasn’t felt damp, as it has done in previous years. The nine days we spent in Culatra were damp, damp, damp and, despite the excessive heat, clothing hung out to dry never fully dried. Once we left Culatra the boat dried out pretty quickly, but the mould continued to grow.

Carina gets mouldy despite these blue skies every day.

Carina gets mouldy despite these deep blue skies every day at her winter home.

So, on Saturday morning I tackled the girl’s bedroom. Rubber gloves, old toothbrush, warm sudsy water, disinfectant, and wet and dry cloths. It was a hot day and in the cramped confines of the fore cabin I was soon sweating profusely (or ‘glowing’…isn’t that what we ‘ladies’ do?). Everything had to be moved out of the cabin or over to one side, then scrub scrub scrub with the toothbrush. When the port side was dry, I replaced everything, and then started on starboard. I hate most household chores, but this was particularly draining.

Still, I got it done. The cabin looks clean and I’m happy the girls are sleeping in a mould-free bedroom again. A few days ago, Julian de-moulded the saloon and galley. That just leaves the aft cabin, quarter berth, both heads and all the hanging lockers. Roll on next Saturday when I can get the rubber gloves and toothbrush out again!

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