Trawler Forum

Trawler Forum (
-   General Discussion (
-   -   Stubborn Boat Odor-HELP! (

dphillips 07-30-2017 11:47 AM

Stubborn Boat Odor-HELP!
My wife and I purchased a 2003 Mainship Pilot 30 in May of this year. We planned on taking weekend trips, but my wife refuses to do that until we eliminate the odor. The odor is a sharp, very unpleasant smell. It's primarily in the cabin, mostly as you first enter in the area of the stairs. It is not in the head. The head smells relatively good. When we are underway, it comes wafting out of the cabin and hits us in the face.

Here are the steps we have already taken in hopes of eliminating the odor:

We cleaned the entire cabin. We used vinegar on the walls, ceiling, cushions. We used teak oil to restore the wood. Every inch of the cabin has been cleaned at least once with multiple products.

The cushions have absorbed some of the smell, but you have to put your nose right up to it to notice it. We have tried Pure Ayre spray on these, as well. We ordered more to give them another shot.

All of the bilge areas were originally wet and stinky, but they have been scrubbed clean multiple times. We used Simple Green, Odor Ban and Tide.

We also discovered water under the cabin floor. That has been removed and that area has also been washed multiple times. We purchased a brush with fiberglass extensions to accomplish this.

We tried the wet rag on the sanitation lines test and didn't pick up any smell.

The refrigerator is located right next to the entrance to the cabin. Is it possible that is the source of our problem? We shut it off today as a test.

We also discovered that the water in our fresh water tank stunk like sulphur. We flushed it out with bleach. That problem seems to be resolved.

We have also try to air the boat out as much as possible when we're there on weekends.

We have a solar exhaust fan that runs 24/7.

We are looking for any help/suggestions. We want to enjoy our boat and this odor is getting in the way.

Thanks in advance.

Rossland 07-30-2017 11:54 AM

Overcharged batteries?

dphillips 07-30-2017 12:44 PM

Thanks for your input, Rossland. The batteries don't seem to smell and don't seem to be boiling over. But I will try unplugging the tender.

hfoster 07-30-2017 12:50 PM

You said "The odor is a sharp, very unpleasant smell."

Can you tells us what it smells like or close to it? Does is smell like a dead animal or something like that? You also said there was water under the floor do you know where it came from?



Pgitug 07-30-2017 12:57 PM

As a course of normal operation we always have a plastic tupperware pan of white vinegar in each bilge space. It kills mold and eats odors. After you take care of the source you may want to do this on your boat especially since you found sitting water in your bilges. [emoji41]

hfoster 07-30-2017 01:05 PM


Originally Posted by Pgitug (Post 578237)
As a course of normal operation we always have a plastic tupperware pan of white vinegar in each bilge space. It kills mold and eats odors. After you take care of the source you may want to do this on your boat especially since you found sitting water in your bilges. [emoji41]

Great tip Tug!



Lepke 07-30-2017 01:21 PM

I have a wood boat. To keep the bilges dry, kill the boat smell, and avoid mold, I have each separate bilge area power vented. Air is pulled into the bilge from the ceiling of the lower deck cabins, down between the ribs, keeping everything dry. Blowers are bilge blowers with a speed reducer. They run 24/7. Boat smells like a house.

HeadMistress 07-30-2017 01:32 PM

We tried the wet rag on the sanitation lines test and didn't pick up any smell.

Did you check every section of hose using a clean rag for every section of hose that you've wet in HOT water, ring it out and wrap it around the lines till the rags cool, then smell every one? If you didn't, you need to retest...'cuz the odor you describe sure fits the description of permeated single wall flex PVC. Markings on the hose will tell you what they are.

Permeated hoses that have been replaced can leave residual odors in the enclosed areas through which they pass. PureAyre is the only thing I've found that can eliminate it.

Odors are always strongest at their source, so when you first come aboard BEFORE airing out the boat, start opening hatches and lockers and sticking your nose into 'em.

PureAyre for cushions and carpets: just spraying the surface won't work. Cushions: remove the covers and have them cleaned. Spray enough PureAye into the foam from both sides to penetrate to the middle, then put them out in the sun to dry. Carpet: Again, just spritzing the carpet won't accomplish anything...spray enough to penetrate to the backing or all the way through any pad. Turn on a fan for 24 hours.

If we eliminate all the obvious sources, the only thing left is trapped water somewhere under the sole or a "false bilge." Finding it may require drilling some holes if there are places that have no hatch access...but you'll never get rid of the odor till you do find it and eliminate it.

As for your fresh water system, the plumbing is often the real source of foul water...recommissioning the system according to directions I've posted here several times (they're also in my book, btw) is what's needed if you want to keep the water "good" longer than a few weeks. It should be done every year as part of spring recommissioning.

hfoster 07-30-2017 01:56 PM


Great post you summed it up I would say. Thank you for sharing your wisdom !



sbu22 07-30-2017 02:04 PM

Water under the cabin floor? The bilge?

Can you be more descriptive of the odor? Sharp chemical (ammonia, battery acid), organic decay (urine, meat or veg decay), "mildew"?

SoWhat 07-30-2017 02:07 PM

Peggie sounds like she has dealt with odors before. I'd start with her protocol.

You might have some very stagnant water in some recess of the bilge. Get a borescope (Amazon) with an extension and start looking around. Pump out holding tank. Fill it with water, bleach, downey, krud Kutter, pump out again. Then change all hoses. Repeat prior step as needed.

dphillips 07-30-2017 02:49 PM

Does not smell like a dead animal. The smell is sharp. We think it's rotting sea water.

I don't know where the water came from. It was there when I bought the boat, but since i dried it out, it has not reappeared.

dphillips 07-30-2017 03:07 PM


The first thing we did after buying the boat was buy your book. Very helpful!
When we posted, we were hoping to hear from you, so thank you for your quick reply.

The odor is strongest in the cabin just as you enter it down the stairs. The bathroom is to the right as you're going down the stairs. It has no odor. The only sanitation hose in the cabin area is in the bathroom and it exits into the engine compartment. We tried the wet rag test, but were only able to reach about 10% of the hoses' surface area. Since we can't reach more of the hoses, do you recommend us changing them. Have you seen cases before where even though the hoses are not in the cabin, the odor is prevalent there?

Two weeks ago, we aired the boat out so the smell wasn't quite so strong. We took a cruise and as soon as we stopped, the smell came wafting out of the cabin. Does that spark any ideas for you?

We really appreciate you time and input as well as the others who offered suggestions.


dphillips 07-30-2017 03:08 PM

We believe it's organic decay.

FF 07-30-2017 03:20 PM

Plan B is an ozone generator.

It will remove cigar stench and most everything else including mold..

Marine ones are made , or you can borrow one from a friendly used car salesman who uses a unit far larger than the boat units. .

Odor Removal from Boats - Ozone Machine for Odor Removal

Boat odor removal with the OdorFree is easy and our ozone generator will keep boats smelling fresh and clean for years to come. Moisture inside marine ...

bayview 07-30-2017 04:12 PM

probably a hidden bilge space that you haven't found yet. You need to be thorough in looking for hidden spaces,

Some refeers have drip pans under for condensation. Have you checked the shower and AC sump?

Donsan 07-30-2017 04:23 PM

Don't believe I saw any mention of the anchor locker. Was that cleaned? Is it accessible from the cabin?

hfoster 07-30-2017 04:27 PM

1 Attachment(s)

Does your vessel have this kind of setup for the sleeping birth with the vent?

If so, have you trace the vent? The reason why I ask is, You said after airing the vessel out then after running the vessel the smell came back. The smell could be coming from somewhere else in the vessel and could be coming through the vent. Just a thought.

Trawler Sandpiper 07-30-2017 06:05 PM

Small amounts of coolant in the bilge can be the cause of a "sulfide like " smell

bigthaw 07-30-2017 07:10 PM

my 40 yr old sailboat stank when I bought it...
after inspecting ALL areas, no sitting water foul liquid anywhere...
spray wipe clean with mold mildew killer , spray wipe clean with comet with bleach spray, or any good quality cleaner...
so no mold or dirt remains...
then PAINT all storage and out of sight surfaces, bilge etc. with Lowes best exterior mold and mildew proof paint, with some added drops of mildew proof drops , can be added to paint.. painting is insures no smells...
lastly sprayed febreeze liberally on foam with cushion covers off...and washed all covers...
The boat has NO smells ... 2 years later... painting is key...

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:07 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Search Engine Optimization by vBSEO 3.6.0
Copyright 2006 - 2012