4 boat things mold loves to eat
We used to live on the boat in Houston, Texas, where we had to fit an air conditioner on the boat to make it habitable. The straw that broke that particular back (the "a/c is for sissies" back) was the fact that we had a dog who lived with us, and we worked jobs that had us gone from the boat for 12 hours a day. I’m not saying we’d have suffered through it in silence were it not for Toby, mind you, but having him made it imperative. The air conditioner was the window kind. The cheap window kind. The cheap window kind that sat in the companionway, challenging people and dogs alike with the sort of obstacle that makes you plan your exit and entrance the way you plan a drive to avoid any left hand turns. Jeremy built a nifty box with hoses and a way to drop it into the forepeak, making our lives way better.
But AC we had to have.
The night we decided to take the kids and sail to the Bahamas for a year? That night’s conversation started with the topic of air conditioners. Might as well put one on the boat for real, we reasoned, since we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Obviously the latter part of the conversation shelved that particular idea, at least for the meantime. When Johnny Clarke called us to say he’d just pulled a “permanent” unit off of a boat they had in the yard and did we want it, we took about a second and a half to say yes. Free is our favorite price for things. What was wrong with it? There was a thermostat malfunction. All Jeremy had to do was adjust it, and voila. Cool air flowing. It doesn't adjust - it's either on or off - but hey. We'll take it, especially for the price.
The thing is, as temperatures go, neither Houston nor the Chesapeake is too deadly, at least not most of the time. Yes, there are the occasional days that get over 100, but most of the time, it’s a 90 degree summer. This is hot, I will agree.
The humidity, though? That’s nuts. The air is so thick some days it feels like a blanket when you step outside, and even when the night air cools to a pleasant 75 temperature, the 60% humidity makes sleeping really tough. And no, there’s not often a breeze to temper the heavy.
Mold loves humidity. Loves loves loves loves it. Loves it with a passion that puts any royal wedding to shame. What does that mold do to your stuff? (and why are we so diligent about keeping it at arm’s length?)
1. Books. Mold attacks books, happily, melding the chapters together into a seamless, solid hunk of paper. You might be able to separate the pages but drying them out is an exercise in futility. Yes, I have a kindle. I still love my real live books.
2. Shoes. Though my husband calls me Imelda (why I do not know – I own literally 5 pairs of shoes: flip flops, cowboy boots, Danskos, 1 pair of semi-nice sandals, and workout shoes), we don’t take many shoes with us cruising. The ones we did take, particularly any leather ones, turn green and fuzzy in their secluded environment. You don’t think we keep shoes we wear once or twice a year in an easy-to-get-to space, do you?
3. Electronics. Mold loves to find small nooks and crannies to nestle in, and the charging cords for electronics seem to be an especial favorite. Soon enough, there’s crud built up on the contacts and the device won’t charge well. Leave it long enough, and this can even cause a fire.
4. Clothing. Cottons are especially susceptible to being attacked, resulting in easily-torn fabric and stains that will just not come out.
So what’s a cost-conscious cruiser to do? There’s no way we’re taking AC on the boat when we’re cruising; we love living on the hook (no electricity to run it!) and will not sacrifice the space for the built-in unit we’re depending on now. How do we protect our favorite stuff from the ravages of mold?
Books: store them in plain sight, on a well-ventilated bookshelf, and use them frequently. If you’re carrying some for nostalgic purposes, make sure to move them around on the shelf, wiping them down with a mild vinegar and water solution and letting them dry fully before putting them back. Vinegar kills mold; bleach does not.
Shoes: Leather is not a great choice. Must have leather shoes? Store them super well sealed (a vacuum sealed bag is a good idea) and wipe them with vinegar before you tuck them away.
Electronics: Sealed bags, careful oiling and wiping, and vigilance. Pretty much the watch word of all care, right?
Clothing: Don’t take a lot, dry it fully in between washings, and be prepared to replace as needed. The rag bag will never be empty, I promise you.
Mold is a real problem on a boat, or it can be unless you protect against it. Don't think that just because you've got breeze flowing through the main salon you're covered.
Note: My good friend Carolyn Shearlock, who lives on her boat in the Florida Keys, wrote to me after this blog came out to tell me she swears by a product called Concrobium. I have not yet tried it, but YET is the operative word. What's your favorite remedy for mold?
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