Bilge of Doom: The Downside of Warmer Weather   Leave a comment

When I really think about it, there is really only one thing about boat life that gets to me: the smell. Boat smell has never bothered me. The damp, salty air musty boat odor evokes my childhood aboard Unbroken Wings. Bilge smell, however, is very different and there is nothing pleasantly sentimental about it.

Lee and I noticed early on that Pirat’s bilge was rather stinky. When we pulled up the floorboards there was a bit of grungy liquid and a distinctive fragrance similar to that of raw sewage (We’re pretty sure there isn’t actually any human waste in there but you never know!). Lee has made some attempts to clean the bilge. He has at least sponged out the water that the pump misses from time to time. Every once in a while we got a whiff of bilgy boat smell in the main cabin and anything stored in lockers has taken on the same scent. No matter how much body splash I spray on or smelly lotion I wear, my clothes still smell like boat.

Just imagine what it’s like now that things are warming up. There’s nothing like a nice, toasty bilge to bring out the pungent fragrance. On a warm day, I get a powerful whiff that almost knocks me over every time I open the locker under the galley sink or even bend down to pick something up off the floor. Lee was sponging out the bilge a couple of weeks ago when our carbon monoxide detector started beeping and telling us to “move to fresh air”. We headed for the cockpit.

Closing up the boat for almost a week while we were in Maine was disastrous. The smell was unbearable. Something had to be done. After consulting a few resources on the subject, I stocked up on bleach, Comet, dish washing soap, sponges, and scrubbers. Armed with this artillery, I tackled the bilge under in the aft cabin. It was a manageable size to experiment with and was among the dirtiest.

It's a dirty job, but my yoga flexibility helps!

I started by soaking up the stagnant water and removing some of the scum (who knows what it is. I sure don’t want to know). Then I sprinkled Comet all over the place, scrubbed that down with a damp sponge, and went a little crazy with the dish soap as a grad finale. I managed to get all the suds out and everything looked cleaner but didn’t smell any better. That was disappointing. I guess I’ll have to clean the whole bilge to make a noticeable impact.

Posted April 9, 2010 by Rachel in Getting started, Pictures

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