Jan 27, 2018

4 Things I HATE About Living on a Boat

There are a lot of reasons I love living on a boat, and I often focus on the pros of the lifestyle. But like everything in life, there are pros and cons. Here are the ones that irk me the most:

1. It's always, ALWAYS damp 
My cloths are damp when I put them on, my bedsheets feel damp when I get into bed, the cushions at the table feel cold and damp, the floor is sticky. I hate the bed the most. The good news it that by the time it warms up it no longer feels damp.

To combat the dampness, we keep refillable damp-rid canisters in every cabin. We also keep hatches cracked almost all the time to promote airflow and reduce condensation. Also 100% cotton sheets helps. Aside from that, there isn't much else we can do except install and air conditioning unit (which we can't run at anchor).
DampRid canisters help reduce moisture and mildew.

2. Smells
Boats are stinky. Perticularly in the bathroom. Part of this is due to the flexible hose used in marine plumbing. Eventually sewage the hose permeates the hose and it starts to smell. I've gone through great efforts to reduce the smell, including replacing all old hose, some of it with schedule 40 PVC which won't permeate. The concern with PVC is that is doesn't flex and will crack. To get around this I made all connections using flexible hose.

Unfortunately, we still have stinky heads. This is a common boat problem and boat forums are full of suggestions and solutions. Whenever I tour someone elses boat, I always sniff the bathroom and thing "oh, your head smells too!"

Aside from stinky bathrooms, there are wonderful odors the waft up from the bilge from time to time, and the general smell of mildrew coming from storage lockers. Hate it.
Replacing flexible hose with Schedule 40 PVC

3. Mildew
Related to #1, we're constantly fighting off mildrew. With constant 100% humidity, mildew happens. Fortunately we don't have it not too bad. I've seen other cruisers carting gallons of bleach to their boat for wiping down surfaces.

Mildew is worse further north during the spring and summer when tempurates swing dramatically. Cold nights result in condensation. Water literally drips from the ceiling and down the walls.

I've found turning on a heater and opening a hatch seems to dry a cabin out pretty good. My theory is that the warm moist air rises up and out of the hatch, and is replaced by cold dry air from outside. Not sure if that's really what happens, and I don't have a hygrometer to know for sure, but it seems to work.

Once mildew forms, it's often easy to remove. A damp paper towel or rag does the trick on smooth surface. I often use a spray cleaner with bleach to kill whatever is on the surface. If it's a rough or porous surface then soft scrub with bleach does the trick. It's has a hand soap consistancy and I can wipe it on vertical or upside down surfaces and let it work.

Soft scrub also does wonders to remove stains from fiberblass. When our boat got blasted with overspay in a boatyard, softscrub worked easier and faster than 3M rubbing compound. Boating Magazine tested 9 different boat soaps and included soft scrub. Guess which product was the most effective at removing stains? I have to give creidt to Bill on Kalani for giving me the tip on Soft Scrub. While it is awesome at removing stains, it's abrasive, so I use it as a last resort.

4. Lack of hot water
Our hot water comes from a 5-gallon electric hot water heater, or from a heat exchanger on the engine. We have hot water when we are at the dock or under way. Otherwise we can run our Honda 2000i generator at high speed for 30-minutes to get hot water.

Generally, we heat up water for showers. We sometimes heat up hot water in a tea kettle for doing dishes. Or we just wash the dishes in cold water.

I've recently learned of these on-demand propane water heaters, and I'm considering installing one. However, the RV propane water heaters are really not designed for use on a boat. I know people who swear by them, but I don't think it's worth the risk. I've seen a fiberglass boat catch on fire, and it was terrifyingly fast. For my family, if I install a propane water heater, it will be a top of the line marine grade unit like the ShowerMate M-550.

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