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Old 02-04-2010, 06:50 PM   #1
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What about that smell?

We have been looking a many different trawler type boats, in fact we looked at a 1988 Trojan Fly Bridge with the same interior smell.* As soon as you enter the salon you get a very acrid smell.* We have only visited one boat of the mid 80's vintage that did not have any nasty smell and I noted it to our broker.*

Have you guys noted this smell?* It is like no other smell and I am thinking it is a combination of the toilets and deisel fuel and maybe just a not*so clean boat.* None of the boats we have been looking at are exactly real clean but what in the heck am I smelling and what do you do to eliminate this smell?*

We like this one 1980 Albin boat but I am worried that we won't be able to clean the boat enough to negate the smell.* I am thinking that maybe replacing the toilets and the drain lines to the holding tank would do the trick and just keeping some clorox in the bowl would help.* Are the older boats (80's) all stinkers?* Has anyone else noted this smell*and what did you do to freshen things up?
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Old 02-04-2010, 08:22 PM   #2
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RE: What about that smell?

We have had batteries that sulfated and put off a terrible smell also. One was about two weeks ago, it was the generator battery (it is not hooked to the charger). We made a trip to Biloxi for a survey and ran the generator a good bit. I did not figure it out for two days until we got back to the slip. The generator started great everytime too. The battery was so hot that it darkened the cable ends. I may have a bad regulator on my generator alternator- I will check when I install the new battery.
The time prior I attributed it to the charger not regulating as it should. It is an older charger and after I replaced those two batteries under warranty I no longer leave the charger on if we are not aboard.
I suggest you pull the cover on the battery boxes of the vessels you are looking at and feel the temperature of the batteries. I'm pretty sure most brokers will have the charger on to allow you to use the 12 volt lights. If the batteries are old they may be dry and the smell could be the charger pushing voltage into them.
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Old 02-04-2010, 08:31 PM   #3
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What about that smell?

Are you sure this is an 80's era boat?* I remember the 70's smelled pretty bad, but the 80's seemed almost fragrant.

-- Edited by Delfin on Thursday 4th of February 2010 09:31:40 PM
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Old 02-04-2010, 09:18 PM   #4
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What about that smell?

Sloboat gave you a good summary of the potential issues with head and holding tank plumbing. Other contributors could be water standing in the bilges in the engine room or other spaces, mildew or mold in upholstery, headliners, and soundproofing materials, "stuff" in the galley sink plumbing or traps, and so on.

The problem with plumbing is that just about any kind of hose, even the "odor free" hose, can permeate if sewage stands in it for any length of time. This is the reason behind Sloboat's recommendation for the use of PVC with flexible hose connections.

One way to find out if hose permeation is the culprit, or one of the culprits, is to moisten a rag, or even a paper towel, rub it on a section of hose and then smell the rag. If the hose has permeated it will be very obvious.

There are odor treatments like PureAyre and Fabreze and others that purport to eliminate odors and I guess some of them work quite well. However all they do is mask the symptoms, they don't cure the problem.

A temporary but very effective fix for a permeated hose is to wrap it thoroughly in Saran Wrap. According to Peggie Hall, the guru of marine sanitation, this will very effectively block the odor coming from a permeated hose. However the proper long-term fix is to replace or re-run the plumbing to eliminate the permeation problem altogether.

Besides the problem of hose permeation you've got a lot of smelly stuff trapped in a relatively small space with a boat. Varnish, paint, adhesives, diesel fuel, lube oil, grease, coolant, battery gasses, old wood, old upholstery, teak oil, you name it. And if you're in a warm climate, the odor issue is made even more apparent.

-- Edited by Marin on Thursday 4th of February 2010 10:19:28 PM
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Old 02-04-2010, 09:24 PM   #5
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RE: What about that smell?

Thanks for the comments. My broker said the same about the hoses needing to be changed. I also think that any toilet that is 15 to 20 some years old should be removed and replaced, wether in the house or the boat. Depending on the boat we get I probably would consider everything to be R & R. Changing to a fresh water flush would be a good thing too. I will keep that in mind. I am sure the sea water brings some smells of its own.

The battery smell....I don't know.... but I can see that to be a problem if they are getting over charged. Since we are smelling the smell in almost every boat we go through I think it has to be something common to that vintage boat. Most likely the sewage, dirty bildges, fuel and oils.
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Old 02-05-2010, 12:41 AM   #6
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RE: What about that smell?

Quote:
reefdrifter wrote:

*also think that any toilet that is 15 to 20 some years old should be removed and replaced, wether in the house or the boat.
Depends on the toilet, I think.* Our 37-year old boat still has it's original toilets, a pair of heavy, bronze-based Groco EBs.* Rebuild kits are still available for these toilets and they work today as well as the day they were installed, which in our experience is very well indeed.* We've updated them with the stainless steel pump shaft kit which eliminates a potential problem with the shaft keys, and as long as I can get a rebuild kit for the seals and diaphram every few years (we use the boat year round so the toilets get a lot of use) I see no reason why they won't go another 37 years.

*
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Old 02-05-2010, 03:46 AM   #7
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RE: What about that smell?

It might be a toilet , buy my guess is ROTTEN WOOD.

It has a "special" aroma that is found on loads of "plastic" boats.

To remove the stench , you must remove , or at least kill the rot.

Vinegar for surface washing and git rot epoxy for non structural soft spots.
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Old 02-05-2010, 08:40 AM   #8
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RE: What about that smell?

*My wife has a sensitive sense of smell and gets migraines sour boat has to be 100% sent free to the point that I can not use any stink pretty/hair spray/air freshener.* I agree the toilet and lines are probable the prime cause.* We switch to fresh water and flush the lines weekly with Clorox spray.* You can buy/install an in line deodorant/cleaner to the toilet which also helps.*
*
Many boats that are left un heated are damp which develops have mildew/mold which is another source of smell.* We are constantly fighting mold and mildew, but since we installed the Webasto boiler heating which keep the boat warm/dry, install some fans to circulate the air, installed lighting in the engine room/bilge and make all the canvas clear plastic, we do not have near the mildew/mold problem. However, we still have to air out the boat once per month and Clorox spray some areas. *


*
The smell can be eliminated but you have to work at it which takes money and time.* but have that is what a boat is for to spend your time and money on?
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Old 02-05-2010, 09:49 AM   #9
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RE: What about that smell?

Eliminating a smell on a boat is a job that involves many aspects. The toilet and the lines are often the source but after a while the smell is absorbed in many things: upholstery, cushions, etc. Eliminating the source is not enough to solve the problem. On my previous boat I cleaned the bilge and repainted it, changed the toilet hoses, changed the upholstery, the isolation around the engine, etc. It did a huge difference but sometimes when I would leave the boat closed for a few weeks, you could still smell it in the background.
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Old 02-06-2010, 04:12 AM   #10
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RE: What about that smell?

A marine ozone generator will get rid of most of the smell in a week.

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Old 02-06-2010, 06:49 AM   #11
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RE: What about that smell?

During our boat hunting in 2006 I ran from boats that had any odor whether ER or otherwise. In all cases odor was pointing at a problem indicative of others to come. As P/F notes, interior dampness is an issue - worse in SE than PNW but in both cases it points to lack of owner attentiveness. A surveyor friend of mine was watching a new build at GB's factory in China. An odor on the new boat was traced to the latrine use of the "keel void" by a few of the cleaing crew. Not found until engines in place - ughhh!
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Old 02-06-2010, 07:14 AM   #12
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RE: What about that smell?

Many thanks for all of your replies. The boat in my avatar is the one we chose that has no permiated odors anywhere. In fact, it is "fragrant". We will change out the toilets and hoses anyway just as part of our own refurbishing process.
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Old 02-06-2010, 12:45 PM   #13
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RE: What about that smell?

A couple of other things to watch out for:

Holding tank cleanout gasket "warpage". Basically, causes the holding tank to "outgas" into the bilge.* We discovered this little gem when refitting our sanitation system.* It's quite uncommon, but bears looking into.

Standing water in the shower sump, if your boat is so equipped.* Most sumps have a float switch that allows an inch or so of water to remain in the sump until it's triggered by an influx of water.* If the boat hasn't been used in awhile, the standing water can go stagnant, thus causing an odor.* The fix is to splash some Simple Green into the sump prior to leaving the boat.
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Old 02-06-2010, 02:17 PM   #14
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RE: What about that smell?

Congrats on your purchase RD, have you gotten her home yet?
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Old 02-07-2010, 03:44 PM   #15
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RE: What about that smell?

This morning getting ready for church*I was putting on*a long sleeve top and notice it smelled mildewy.***I put the top in the drier for about 15 minutes.* When we got home put the rest of the sweaters/tops in the dry, wiped down with Clorox and left the closet door open to dry out.* Anyway its a constant problem and has to be taken care of with the first whiff.****
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Old 02-07-2010, 04:48 PM   #16
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RE: What about that smell?

Quote:
reefdrifter wrote:The boat in my avatar is the one we chose...
So.... what is she?
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Old 02-07-2010, 08:42 PM   #17
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RE: What about that smell?

Looks to me to be a 34 Marine Trader
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Old 02-08-2010, 06:43 AM   #18
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RE: What about that smell?

If you haven't seen the light of the new airhead type composting toilets, which we are using and really work well, there is a way to extend the life of your crappy hoses.

When you do the crap hose replacement, include a valve and small water pump that you can operate after every flush, that will place clean water into the crap hose. Locate this between the head and the holding tank as close to the head as possible. This will extend the lifetime of your future smelly hose. NEVER allow crappy water to lie inside your plumbing.

And a note about clorox. It has been my experience that clorox mixed with urine can put off a smoke that is very stinky and possibly dangerous. Us some sort of commercially developed deoderant if you must, but avoid home-brews.

Give some thot to composting, the new small units separate the urine from the rest of the ..., and the only electric part is a very small DC computer fan. I was a skeptic, that dumping this vent right out on deck would be a BAD thing, but it has a very minor pleasant peat smell.

I have used a friends boat that has one and it is always great. We are installing in our Willard 30 Vega Horizon. No pump out, no holding tank, no pump to change in the early morning, no fresh or salt water, no stinky lines.
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Old 02-08-2010, 08:33 AM   #19
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RE: What about that smell?

The urine is flush down the toilet first then Clorox Spray is used to clean and disinfect the toilet so it is water down.* A couple of times per week I flush the lines.* 11+ years no smell from the toilet and/or lines.* However, we get pump put weekly.* If you want an odorless boat you have to work at it.* Been using Clorox spray since we bought the boat 15 years ago.


*
We have also had a MicroPhor sanitation treatment that like a septic tank that you just use as the natural bugs decompose the stuff.* As the stuff makes it way down, gravity fed it decays and goes through a Chlorine canister before it goes over the side that we can use once out of the marina. ***We can not use the Clorox when switch over to the MicroPhor.* But once a week I flush clear the hoses


*
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Old 02-09-2010, 08:39 AM   #20
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RE: What about that smell?

Yes, it is a 1983 34 ft. Marine Trader. Very clean and with very little odors about the decks. I have been thinking of changing out all the waste lines to the holding tank and pump-out and the two toilets to electric fresh water flush. I will have to see how it goes after we take possession at the end of this month. She is going to be surveyed this Thursday.
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