Science Project - Join the Spore Corps

17 July 2009 By Ofer Shelter
Photo courtesy of Rhino Hyde

Fighting mold on yachts is a constant battle. Mold comes up practicality anywhere damp and enclosed; I have found the situation can turn especially ugly if it occurs in the venting or AC system. The humidity in the vents and the fact that it is an enclosed space helps the mold to grow – and after it starts it spreads rapidly.

Mold is not only unpleasant to the eye, but it can also cause allergic reactions by spreading its spores throughout the yacht. In order to stay ahead of it, I follow this checklist:

1. AC units:

  • Check the filters weekly. Make it a habit to open the vents and clean the filters of dust and try to detect any sign of mold. It's easier to treat a small outbreak at first sight than to wait for it to explode to a huge problem. On one of the yachts I worked on, the entire AC system was filled with mold. We had to strip the insolating foam from the vents and redo it all.
    Don’t be afraid to strip the mold-infected insolating foam in order to stop it from spreading. Then check the vents themselves – if mold is already in the system, it will be first seen around the vents.
    After mold has been detected, clean with bleach and dry.
  • For general upkeep, fellow deckies recommend a product called Kanberra Gel. It contains Tea Tree Oil, which has anti-fungal properties, and will help you fight mold and spread a fresh scent around the yacht. Just place it in the AC vent and keep checking to see when you need to place a new gel pack.

    2. Deck lockers:
  • Keep your lockers dry. When finished with deck-cleaning materials or with the water-sport toys, hang them out to dry and then store them.
  • Keep everything in the locker off the floor by using Dri-Deck. That way, if there is any water inside, it will flow through the locker and without touching the gear directly. Dri-Deck also allows air movement underneath the gear.
  • Some lockers might always contain wet gear on board, or have high humidity. In that case, cleaning the locker frequently is a must in order to keep it mold-free.

    Thebest advice for any deckie is to open up all lockers on deck next time you have a bright, sunny day. The warmth will dry the dampness inside and the fresh air doesn't hurt either.
  • In the case of compartments that can’t be opened up regularly, you can keep them mold-free by using dehumidifiers and vents. There are many types of dehumidifiers in the market, but the simplest one that is very easy to maintain is the GoldenRod. For small compartments, it does the job and it’s safe. Just place the rod in the compartment, connect it and make sure it is not in direct contact with any of the storage contents. If the rod can be secured to the bulkhead or to the top of the compartment, be sure to keep it separated from any gear. The bigger the compartment, the bigger the dehumidifier gets. Small vents also can keep the air moving inside a compartment, but this requires installation and electrical work, you mayneed a hand from the engineer.

    3. On deck:
  • You might find mold growing inside the teak decks in areas where water accumulates. The teak deck is not always flat and if water stands on it, there is an invitation for mold to grow. After it gets in the teak, it is very difficult – close to impossible, actually – to get it out. I would start by making sure that decks stay dry and don’t let water stand still on them.
  • Detect the areas where water accumulates and when dry, sand the teak so the surface is flat or just enough so the water runs to the closest drain. Normally mold is the result of an uneven sanding job on the teak.

Mold is bacteria thrives off dirt, damp areas and warmth. Keep your compartments vented, areas clean and dry, dry, dry. Find the problem and nip it in the bud as soon as it starts – don’t wait until it is visible to all on board.

Do you have a mold-fighting tip? Join the spore corps by posting it below.