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Toyboat 07-17-2006 10:51 PM

Does your boat stink?
I'm looking at purchasing a 1968 yacht with two heads and a small galley. It's been used as a live-aboard by a bachelor for the past two years... and it smells. I'm hoping once he's out and I've cleaned it up, it won't have any odor, but I've read some threads mentioning "boat smell" and it's got me nervous.

Is a clean-smelling live-aboard possible?

camaraderie 07-17-2006 11:11 PM

In my experience, once a boat is thoroughly cleaned and rid of mildew (use bleach!), any remaining odors are generally from the bilge or the heads. We've had good results in the bilge with enzyme based bilge cleaners that eat oil & sludge. The head often requires replacement of old hoses which can become permeable to odors. Not a fun job but can improve life aboard dramatically!

sailingdog 07-18-2006 06:44 AM

It also depends on the shower sump design. If the shower sump drains into the bilge, then you can have some very nasty smells originating from the bilge, as all the dead skin cells, soap scum and hair can gather in the bilge and decay... makes great food for various molds/mildews/bacteria.

I would thoroughly clean and treat both the bilge and the head/holding tank system. Also, check to see if the head hoses are permeated—letting odor pass through soaking a cotton towel in hot water and wrapping it around the hose, and then when the rag has cooled, taking it off and sniffing it. If it smells, then the hoses need replacement.

capn_dave 07-18-2006 09:18 AM

Try KO
It is for holding tanks and an enzyme that likes shi... poop etc. Spray it rather on your hoses and in the bilge. You have to put it in a spray bottle to do it. KO stands for kills odors. I think it is made by Raratan. and available at most marine stores.
It worked for me

Fair Winds

Cap'n Dave

Surfesq 07-18-2006 10:05 AM

Of course everyone is speculating. What does it smell like?
But as long as we are guessing....You might start by looking for body parts in all of the closets.

Ronbye 07-18-2006 10:17 AM

I had a bad smell in my boat, and if it has a lot of wood inside up against the wall, check the wood and see if it has mould etc. on the back side if at all possible. I ended up over a a number of years replacing the wood panelling that was next to the hull, as well as some vinyl covering with foam backing that had rotten. Now there is no bad smell in the boat. Nigel Calder recommends putting some vinegar in the heads and flushing it through once a month. This helps in minimizing the calcium buildup and it kills the odours as well.:D

sailingdog 07-18-2006 11:52 AM

Of course if it is just generally stench..and not specific to mold, mildew, bilge water or the head.... you can go down to your local coffee shop and get about 10 lbs. of used coffee grounds. Put them in large open containers and leave them out in the boat for a few days. They'll neutralize and absorb most odors... Works great for cars, basements, and boats. Just make sure the containers are large enough and stable enough that they don't tip over.....

Toyboat 07-18-2006 01:09 PM

Thanks for all the great suggestions.

SoOkay 07-18-2006 02:55 PM


If your heads use seawater, they will cause smell issues fast as all the bacteria normally living in the water is now well fed and happy in your holding tank. If you can switch to fresh water it will make a noticeable difference. However the addition of some "holding tank" deodorizer is still suggested.


Surfesq 07-18-2006 03:36 PM

Alright...I will be serious for a minute. Here is a little holding tank trick that I read in a book somewhere that really works.
When you pump out...fill the tank back up with fresh water and then pump it out again. Then put one cup of clorox brand bleach into the holding tank. That will make a huge difference is eliminating odors. I have found that the ordinary tank treatment stuff just does not work.

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