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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?

Cheers.

H

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

Quote:

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!

Cheers

H

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

Peggie,


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


Cheers


H.

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

hfoster,
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

Peggie,

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.

Thanks!

dphillips 07-30-2017 03:08 PM

sbu22,
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 Removalhttps://www.trawlerforum.com/forums/d...RBhh2/1u5rQAA7


www.odorfreemachines.com/boat-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)
Phillps:

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 anywhere...no 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 critical....it 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...

meridian 07-30-2017 08:04 PM

I had a shower sump with a false bottom. The pump was mounted with screws that went through. After cutting it open two gallons of 30 year old shower water ran out.

HopCar 07-30-2017 08:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SoWhat (Post 578259)
Peggie sounds like she has dealt with odors before. I'd start with her protocol.

Peggie literally wrote the book on it! https://www.amazon.com/New-Get-Rid-B.../dp/1892399784

A friend had a freezer full of bait go bad. I went to help him clean it up. I threw up ten feet from the boat. The smell permeated the insulation. He ended up throwing out the freezer.

cappy208 07-31-2017 06:18 PM

Stubborn Boat Odor-HELP!
 
Fresh water (as opposed to salt water) has its own smell and issue with growing stuff in bilges. Although salt water can smell bad too.

Where does your shower and sink drain go? You also describe shower/sink drain issues. If a drain line is cracked and allowing a 'fresh' supply it can cause this also try pouring a splash of bleach in shower drain. Then sink drain to see if it changes anything. Try one at a time. To eliminate sources.

dphillips 07-31-2017 08:21 PM

Thanks to everyone for all of the suggestions. Thanks to you, we have some new things to try.

Legend 07-31-2017 08:51 PM

Stubborn Boat Odor-HELP!
 
We had a Sabreline 36 with similar smells. Drove us crazy. We had coffee beans in bowls in every place possible. Before we sold it, for other reasons, our next step was to rent an ionizer. You may want to check on that. Works at the molecular level.

Lou_tribal 07-31-2017 09:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cappy208 (Post 578578)
Fresh water (as opposed to salt water) has its own smell and issue with growing stuff in bilges. Although salt water can smell bad too.

Where does your shower and sink drain go? You also describe shower/sink drain issues. If a drain line is cracked and allowing a 'fresh' supply it can cause this also try pouring a splash of bleach in shower drain. Then sink drain to see if it changes anything. Try one at a time. To eliminate sources.

I was about to post the same question about your shower drain.
where does it go? as you do not mention it I suspect it can be a source. from my own experience if you do not clean the bilge that receives the shower waste regularly it gets a bad odour (normal after all it it a sewage!).

L.

johnma 07-31-2017 09:29 PM

We had a similar issue when we bought our boat in 2007 (2003 Mainship 390). Went crazy cleaning the bilge and everywhere else to no avail. Checked all hoses from the head and they were fine. But we definitely had a sewage odor. I found that the previous owner had installed a filter in the vent line from the holding tank. I removed the filter, pumped and flushed the holding tank and the odor went away. The filter was stopping fresh air from entering the tank.
John

ranger42c 08-01-2017 10:05 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by johnma (Post 578617)
I found that the previous owner had installed a filter in the vent line from the holding tank. I removed the filter, pumped and flushed the holding tank and the odor went away. The filter was stopping fresh air from entering the tank.


Sometimes this might not have been completely about the fact a filter was there; instead could have been that it was an OLD filter.

Our vent filter was a factory installation. Needs changing every so often (ours last about 3x-4x longer than the filter maker would have one believe). The symptom in that case, though, is mostly outside the boat. You flush, and your neighbors drop dead.

:)

-Chris

bayview 08-01-2017 12:20 PM

one boat I owned had a smell I finally traced to a spot in the bilge that was hidden from all angles. This low spot only showed up when I Used a camera to view what I Couldn't see from all openings. Eventually I cut out a new opening sucked it dry with a shop vac and covered the hole with a metal piece since it was under carpet.
Seems the hull lowest point was well hidden.

Traced the leak to a well hidden rudder packing.

cappy208 08-01-2017 01:10 PM

Bay view brings up a good point. Not ALL leaks flow all the way down into the 'pumpable' bilge. Often an odd shape above, between or under a longitudinal or between limber holes will accumulate liquid. If you have a leak above such a crevice it may hold liquid (of any source) until it overflows to the bilge. People use dye markers to test for hose, drain and cockpit scupper integrity. Amazon. There're pretty cheap to use one in this case. Just don't do it in a confined harbor with a -0- discharge policy!!!

Comodave 08-01-2017 02:57 PM

On a previous boat it had a hollow keel that has 30+year old water in it. Cut it open and cleaned it out several times and no more smell. It was a horrible almost rotten onion smell.

David Kimmel 08-01-2017 03:53 PM

Quote:

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, never knew vinegar kills mold without apply to surface.

ABfish 08-01-2017 05:51 PM

You might want to check your refrigerator. Most have a drip pan under the doors, which catches liquid from the defrost cycle. It also catches liquid drainage from the freezer in an extended power outage.

If the meltwater is from meat or seafood, the odors can be eye-watering. (I experienced this after a hurricane-induced power outage, where the house was unoccupied for three days.)

Capstan 08-02-2017 08:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by FF (Post 578277)
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 Removalhttps://www.trawlerforum.com/forums/d...RBhh2/1u5rQAA7


www.odorfreemachines.com/boat-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 ...

A word of caution using Ozoners. If contemplating using read up on proper use. When I was contemplating using for the Bad Monkey the
Island engineer said if ran too long they can have a detrimental effect on different types of hosing.
I didn't use and found our smell was from build up under the false bilge.
The above Ozone machine may help and sounds like designed with boats in mind but I would much rather find the cause of the problem first!

bayview 08-02-2017 10:38 AM

Vinegar, ozone etc are a waste to time until you find and eliminate the cause.

HopCar 08-02-2017 01:05 PM

I tried an ozone generator on my boat to prevent mildew. It did that but I had to ventilate the cabin before I could go in and I think it damaged the foam behind the head liner. Ozone will also damage hoses if they are exposed to it long term.

HeadMistress 08-02-2017 02:10 PM

Ozone in any concentration strong enough to do any good is not only a health hazard, it's also HIGHLY corrosive and destructive to rubber, neoprene and flexible PVC-in other words, every seal, valve and hose on a boat.

According to the EPA, "Available scientific evidence shows that, at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards, ozone is generally ineffective in controlling indoor air pollution. The concentration of ozone would have to greatly exceed health standards to be effective in removing most indoor air contaminants. In the process of reacting with chemicals indoors, ozone can produce other chemicals that can be irritating and corrosive."

As for how well the portable ozone generators work when it comes to getting rid of odors… yes, people who've bought them rave do about how well they work. And, yes, the manufacturers do assure you that the ozone concentration is well below that which can present any health hazard (but they don't tell you that's because it's required to be) But if that's true, they can't deliver enough ozone to destroy the sources of any odors. If they did deliver enough ozone to destroy the sources of odors, it should only be necessary to run one occasionally. But among all the people you know who've bought ozone generators, have you ever met anyone who has one who's ever been able to turn if off without having odors return?

That should be enough to tell you that ozone generators are only very expensive air fresheners, because they don't deliver enough ozone to be anything else. Save your money and get rid of the SOURCES of your odors. Eliminating the source is the only thing that really works.

Steve91T 08-02-2017 04:26 PM

OP, I'm glad you posted this. We have a couple of things going on with out new to us 1996 31' Mainship. When we bought the boat, no bad smells. The first time we topped off the fuel tanks, the starbord tank's fuel sender leaked. Obviously dangerous. I changed the gasket and the leak stopped, but the damage was done, there is a faint smell of gas only when the AC is on. We have cleaned and fabreezed the filters with no luck.

On top of that, the last time we left the boat, apparently I turned off the breaker to the fridge. The once frozen chicken in a 90 degree fridge 4 days later was disgusting. The fridge still has that smell even though we have cleaned everything.

Apparently odors are really tough to get rid of in boats.

HeadMistress 08-02-2017 05:54 PM

Apparently odors are really tough to get rid of in boats.

Not really if you know what works and--most importantly--how to use it. And since you, along with several others are fairly new around here, I prob'ly need to say again that I'm not in any way associated with any product or equipment manufacturer, nor do I receive any compensation whatever for recommending any product or manufacturer. My opinions are my own and my recommendations are based on my own experience and that of boat owners over several decades. And I've included most of it in my books (see link in my signature).

Now that we have that out of the way.....

There's a product called PureAyre PureAyre that will get rid of every trace of the residual odor in your fridge(fwiw, the same thing happened a couple of times on my own boat) ...it even eliminates diesel and smoke odors...and it's rated for use around food, so it's safe to use in your fridge. Amazon has it...so do pet stores...Walmart may have it. If you only have to treat the filters and the fridge, you prob'ly only need the spray bottle size, although it can't hurt to have a gallon hand 'cuz you'll never know when you'll need it again. It's the best thing I've ever found to get rid of any residual odor. The "household" version is the least expensive and works just fine on boats.

Assuming that you've already thoroughly cleaned every surface, nook and cranny in it, take everything out of it and spray PureAyre onto every surface, nook and cranny in the freezer and door too...don't just aim it at the inside of the fridge, carefully coat every milimeter of it with a fine mist that coats everything..Then prop the door open so air can circulate and let it dry overnight. Wipe it all down with a clean damp rag and stick your nose in...if you can smell anything, you missed a spot.

I don't know whether your HVAC filters can be saved or not...but you have nothing to lose by spraying those with PureAyre too. Again, cover every square milimeter from both sides, then put 'em outside in the fresh air to dry. If that doesn't work, you'll have to replace the filters.

Peggie
"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't completely understand it yourself." --Albert Einstein


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