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Old 22-12-2013, 21:24   #1
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Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

I am looking at buying a very nice, extremely well-priced boat which had a longterm issue with a LOT of water standing in the bilge, lack of ventilation and light, and a resulting mold problem. The boat smells, there is visible mold and significant wood damage (not sure if this was due to water risen out of the bilge or something else, the bilge pumps were not always operational). My question is, if all the damaged wood is removed and all the mold sprayed/treated with some of the many remedies that have already been discussed on this forum, can the smell be completely eliminated? All the cushions had just been reupholstered, new foam and coverings, and now they smell like everything else in the boat.

Can this possibly end well? My primary concern is that we are going to live on the boat, and longterm exposure to excess mold is not a good thing, not to mention everything we own will smell like that if I can't eradicate the mold and the smell. There are always going to be areas I can't access to treat the mold. Would you buy this boat? Thank you for all suggestions.
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Old 22-12-2013, 21:49   #2
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Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

Yes, the smell will go and eventually you should simply end up with that lovely diesel smell that most yachts have :-D That is after the smell of bleach and vinegar have also left!

The trick will preventing it in the future and ensuring the boat is always kept well aired. As a live-aboarder it will get aired more often than most boats regardless.
Having said all that, mold would be at the bottom of my list to reject a boat.
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Old 22-12-2013, 22:50   #3
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Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

Your first step would be to remove any rotted wood and other moldy items that you are willing to dispose of. Any remaining accesible mold should be scrubbed off surfaces with 10% bleach in soapy water. After this you need to thoroughly dry the interior and keep it dry. Mold cannot grow and produce odours without a minimum amount of moisture in, or on, the material. If mold remains in inaccesible areas it will not produce odours if dry but may do this if it gets wet. If you can take the covers off the cushions it should be posible to wash out the odour. If you could put the foam out in bright, hot, weather that might clean them up. Any remaining odour may not be noticeable to you after a while.
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Old 22-12-2013, 23:04   #4
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pirate Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

If you want/need inspiration I posted a thread 'Something to watch'..... watch how a young German lady dealt with serious mold n crap on a boat she bought in Panama...
Puts a lot of us guys to shame..
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Old 23-12-2013, 11:53   #5
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Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

Treat the cause, not the...
Is this a sailboat? Before you do anything, find the source of the water ingress and determine what needs to be done and the cost of fixing it. Also, just water in the bilge would not cause wood to deteriorate, unless the wood was immersed. This could be a sign of a major problem the boat had, so try to find what it was and how it was corrected - if it did get corrected.
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Old 23-12-2013, 11:59   #6
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Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

I bet that the amount of money you would "save" in buying such a boat will be way more than made up for in the repair costs and time! In the end will be way more that "just" the wood and cushions, it will be the electrical also in the end.

But if you want to go down this road treating the mold isn't a big deal. There are always whole boat treatments like ozone and chlorine-dioxide.
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Old 23-12-2013, 12:07   #7
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Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

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Originally Posted by SVTatia View Post
Treat the cause, not the...
Is this a sailboat? Before you do anything, find the source of the water ingress and determine what needs to be done and the cost of fixing it. Also, just water in the bilge would not cause wood to deteriorate, unless the wood was immersed. This could be a sign of a major problem the boat had, so try to find what it was and how it was corrected - if it did get corrected.
Yes, sailboat. The owner has passed away, and specific accounts of the boat's history are sketchy, but it has been cruised to Hawaii twice from SoCal and could have taken on water during those trips. The source of the water ingress, or one of the sources at least, is a perpetually leaking stuffing box (30-40 drops per minute when sitting in the slip, engine off) and a bilge pump float lever set way too high, so there have been several inches of water sitting in the bilge, the length of the boat, at all times for at least the past several months. On our first visit to the boat, the bilge pump wasn't turned on, so the water was even higher--very close to floating the floorboards. I suspect it got quite high at some time, enough to soak the floorboards and bottom edges of the surrounding cabinetry in the salon (which are now delaminated).

So yes, the cause is easily correctable, but the consequences could be lasting.
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Old 23-12-2013, 12:10   #8
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Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

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Originally Posted by sailorboy1 View Post
I bet that the amount of money you would "save" in buying such a boat will be way more than make up for in the repair costs and time! It in the end will be way more that "just" the wood and cushions, it will be the electrical also in the end.

But if you want to go down this road treating the mold isn't a big deal. There are always whole boat treatments like ozone and chlorine-dioxide.
Thank you, that was a thought I had too about the electrical. If there is corrosion requiring a lot of re-wiring, that's not a road I really want to go down.
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Old 23-12-2013, 12:13   #9
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Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

Yes, you would be nuts. No, the story probably won't end well.

You'll never get all the mold out of all the nooks and impossible areas to reach. Ozone treatment is a possible temporary remedy, but my past experience using a commercial ozone machine wasn't very positive. Ozone will kill what's there and leave the boat reaking of ozone (which isn't a particularly pleasant smell); but when moisture is reintroduced, the mold and odor will return. Ozone will also detroy all the rubber components on the boat.
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Old 23-12-2013, 12:15   #10
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Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

I ran into the same thing, and was able to clean out the boat. Two huge oil soaked fiber "sausages" in the bilge were part of the problem. I just kept soap in the bilge, and pumped it into a bucket every so often.

Remove the wood in complete pieces to use for patterns for the new wood. It helps to build a little cupola or house to fit in place of the fore hatch. Build it removable and with loads of ventilation openings. Screen and 1/2 " against rats, and secure against theft.

There are so many cheap or free boats on Craig's list, I would put my time into shopping, and money into buying a usable boat.

I once restored a 24 foot sloop,and if my time is worth $1 an hour, it is a $25,000boat. Never Again ! ! !
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Old 23-12-2013, 13:12   #11
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Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

Having resurrected a half dozen or so dock derelicts, I can tell you a couple of things:
1) It will take more time and won't be as much fun as you initially think.
2) If the boat is in good shape otherwise, and the price is right (i.e. a bargain) then cleaning it up can certainly be worthwhile.

A couple of comments on the mold remediation: Mold needs three things to live -- air, moisture, and a food source. In addition to removing moldy material and treating surfaces that can't be removed, I would recommend using a commercial dehumidifier (which you can rent) to thoroughly dry the boat out. Then keep it aired out well and the smell should dissipate. If it doesn't, use an ozone machine, but be sure to air the boat out well afterward, since the ozone machine destroys the oxygen in the air.

I've always found that a well-stocked cooler helps in these situations.
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Old 23-12-2013, 13:18   #12
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Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

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I've always found that a well-stocked cooler helps in these situations.
Sadly, the cooler on the boat is not working either, which may be the greatest drawback of all.
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Old 23-12-2013, 13:20   #13
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Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

If the mold has been there longer than 36 hours, don't even bother buying this boat. You will NEVER ever get rid of the mold. Besides, you really do NOT want to be inhaling mold spores; when infected, no way to get them out of your lungs. A moldy place is only good for the wrecking ball. Save your money!

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Old 23-12-2013, 13:32   #14
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Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

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Originally Posted by boatman61 View Post
If you want/need inspiration I posted a thread 'Something to watch'..... watch how a young German lady dealt with serious mold n crap on a boat she bought in Panama...
Puts a lot of us guys to shame..
Linky
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Old 23-12-2013, 13:34   #15
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Re: Buying a moldy/smelly boat--nuts?

if it is truly a great boat, mold would not stop me at all. we bought what I think is a truly great boat (csy 37) at a bargain price for the same reason - the po had died two years before and it sat mostly closed up in a marina. but the price was too good to pass up.

we spent two months cleaning it out and cleaning it up, but in the end we've had a great liveaboard/cruising boat for the past ten years. no regrets.
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