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Old 09-06-2019, 02:53   #1
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Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

I've come to a serious moment in my boating life.

I'm experiencing health problems directly related to boating.

I have a great catamaran that needs some work. I have become seriously allergic to epoxy. I'm looking at having a forum member fly out to complete the work, since it means hospital time for me going near epoxy. Haven't heard back from him though unfortunately. I'm also potentially looking at other places to perform the work. This is looking to be very expensive, in the vicinity of $200,000 to wrap it up. That's A LOT of money to me and is unearned income plus my life's savings. So it's expensive to me.

I have a 50' blue water monohull also. This boat is ready to go and I had planned to spend the whole summer cruising on her to make sure I still like boats enough. The summer was to help me get an idea of if I like boats enough still and to help me decide which boat to keep.

I'm on the monohull right now and I can't breathe. AGAIN. My eyes are watering and my lips are puffed out and my throat is sore. As it would appear, I'm also still very allergic to mold. The very small bit of mold all boats have is enough to wake me up at night gasping for air when the boat is closed up for rain or just mostly closed for the night.

I hadn't had a single issue with allergies or breathing since I attempted to work with epoxy on the catamaran about 6 months ago. I had been traveling by RV on land since then.

Now, back on a boat,. I'm having the same issues, though this time it's mold.

Mold and epoxy are basically everything boats are. There is a little bit of both on pretty much every boat in existence. And a little bit is enough to make me unable to breathe.

I had planned to go cruising all summer to enjoy it and help me get away and make some life decisions and specifically boat decisions. Was trying to decide which boat to keep, if any.

Should I keep on pursuing these things or is it time, after 30 years of boat ownership and much of that spent living aboard and cruising, to give up boats for good? Should I try to fix the cat (paying around $200,000), stay with the monohull that's ready to go, or sell both and retire from boating due to all these health issues that are directly related to boats and vanish completely on land?

I'm afraid I know the answer. But I'm too scared to contemplate giving up something I love so much.


PS:. Haters please go easy. After a lifetime of sailing, living aboard and cruising (and building a cat), this is very emotional and upsetting to have health issues push me out of something I love.

Am I missing anything here? Any options I haven't considered?

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Old 09-06-2019, 03:04   #2
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

This sounds sad, and potentially very serious!
Before I made any final decision, I'd invest in an air quality test (on/in the boat(s), to determine the exact certain cause of your allergic distress.

Mold is certainly a good candidate, but it can be dealt with.
Good luck, and please keep us informed.

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Old 09-06-2019, 03:26   #3
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

Thanks, Gord. After having mold allergies on a previous boat, the Catamaran was designed to be mold free. This means no wood, no rough surfaces, everything white and easily wiped off inside and continuous air flow.

This works great and I don't have any mold issues on the cat. Just issues when using epoxy. Otherwise allergy free on the cat.

On the mono, it's an older vintage. Typical hereshoff interior. Teak and melamine. Almost no visible mold but just enough to send out spores with the right temperature and humidity. I'm not retired so I have a lot of work to do all week long that I can do while traveling, but still a lot of work. Any thoughts as to mold abatement shortcuts aside from scrubbing with borax everywhere? Ozone generator shock treatment? Or am I basically stuck scrubbing every surface of a 50' boat?
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Old 09-06-2019, 03:27   #4
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

Have you seen an allergist to see if there is a treatment for the allergy?
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Old 09-06-2019, 03:58   #5
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

Oh my... no fun. no fun at all--

there's got to be a solution or a combination of solutions that will make it possible for you to keep sailing.

the 50' mono is ready to go, has less of the epoxy issue, requires less investment, would offer more sailing... i'm thinking it is the better option of the two.

-can you have your sleeping cabin entirely re-done and equipped as a place where you are free of mould? a place below that would always provide you a safe space?

specific temperatures and conditions: would taking the 50' boat to freezing temps kill the mould behind the teak? if not, would a new and/or metal boat be likely to develop less mould?

allergies: a friend of mine found a solution for her nose-related allergies without meds: she puts olive oil on her finger and apples it to the inside of her nose. it doesn't last long (20 min or so, depending) but stops her hayfever in its tracks! seems like something like vaseline or a kind of chap-stick would last longer.... of course, as a home remedy, you might want to ask the doc

hope folks here can help you. good luck

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Old 09-06-2019, 04:04   #6
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

This is a weird option, Chotu, but is there any way you can get rid of *both* boats and use that money to help fund a step down to a hypoallergenic, modest sailboat that doesn't need $200,000 worth of epoxy work?

(And no bleach on wood! There was a great article on mildew and mould in Good Old Boat a couple of months ago where the author explained why bleach is a bad tool for trying control mildew and/or mould on boats, but my understanding is not sophisticated enough to explain it.)

Sounds like you have an emotional connection to both boats, though, which will be hard to see your way clear of, but perhaps clearing the decks of both boats would allow you to keep sailing...?

Best wishes and take heart. Reflecting and considering this question will help you see a clear path. Of course you don't have to give up something you love so much!

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Old 09-06-2019, 04:06   #7
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

One thing you donít mention is your age. It plays an important part of our health, especially in boating, both physically and physiologically.
It sounds like you better get rid of one of the boats, which presumably will inject some capital and reduce the worry. Whatís your wife got to say about your conundrum?
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Old 09-06-2019, 04:09   #8
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

Originally Posted by mabowers View Post
Have you seen an allergist to see if there is a treatment for the allergy?
One also assumes you have had tests to identify exactly what it is you are allergic to. That goes along way to finding a suitable solution.

Modern production boats won't really any/much epoxy on them at all. Expoy is expensive. Polyester and vinylester are much cheaper and work well, and that tends to be what is used.
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Old 09-06-2019, 08:42   #9
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

In asking the question, I suspect you know the answer. So, what will you do now to replace what is lost? What will now fulfill the space. Best, Robert
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Old 09-06-2019, 08:46   #10
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

Sounds like it is time to take up flying. You would be surprised how many yachtsmen do that when it is time to move on. I did and and I am sure you will enjoy it.
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Old 09-06-2019, 08:48   #11
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

I've left sports and activities I've loved before. You are asking the right questions, but only you know the answers. Personally, after some soul searching and trial and error, I have been able to find something I liked to do.
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Old 09-06-2019, 08:55   #12
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

I have a couple thoughts. We did something similar and bought an rv. Turns out every time we went in there I got sick as you described. We finally realized the rv was degassing formaldehyde and it was killing me. Traded it in for an airstream as they claim to be ďgreen Ď and my issues stopped. It might be contributing but only you would know. There are many treatments to get you over the reaction I have used over the years . I will not list publicly as I donít feel like getting the backlash here😀but you can pm me if your interested in knowing what worked for me. Seems a shame to give up something you love when there are things that you can do to not be so sensitive.
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:00   #13
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

I knew a guy who bought a partially built trimaran a long time ago. He and his wife bought a mobile home and moved into it on his dad's ranch and started finishing the trip. He got sensitized to Shell Oil branded epoxy and they both got ill from formaldehyde paneling in the mobile home. From what I heard he was not sensitive to other brands of epoxy. Unfortunately he did not completely get the wood sealed before termites got into the hulls and by the time they figured out what ailed them the hulls were worthless. Some what I wrote here is heresy from another guy who worked on the boat but came to hate the owner eventually, so it could be skewed information.
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:05   #14
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

I don't have an allergy problem (yet) but there are clouds on the horizon of my boat ownership too... and the thought of giving up, being forced to give up, the "happy place" is very depressing. I suspect those not enamored with sailing, boating and the sea will not fully understand, but everyone has something they love to do that, if lost, would cause a pain that is hard to explain.
Your years of experience and experiences is invaluable to the new folks however and you may gain some consolation in involvement in teaching, or in other marine, sailing, boating, ocean related jobs, away from the epoxy and mold. But I agree to get a good going over with an allergist before giving up. And if you discover some new methods for masking epoxy and clearing a boat of mold, please don't hesitate to let us all know!
You might consider a nice open wood monohull boat too though, it worked for the Vikings! Or a nice big wood cat which the Polynesians proved was a good way to travel. I bet they didn't have too much trouble with mold or epoxy.
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:09   #15
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Re: Is It Time to Stop Sailing?

I also developed an allergy to epoxy, before I began full time cruising. I would develop rashes, even when fully suited up, just from the fumes in the vicinity. Very few production boats are made of or even have a percentage of epoxy. Many cruisers seem to think epoxy is the universal "fix" to any fiberglass issues. Perhaps it is a desire to purchase and carry less (resin & accelerates), instead of both epoxy and polyester resins. In any case, I never carried epoxy and never missed having it aboard.

Mold problems are best addressed by thorough medical testing.

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