Our summer plans include leaving the sailboat in the Berry Islands, Bahamas, at Great Harbour Cay Marina. I thought I would share how I prepared S/V Mahi for our absence during the tropical hurricane season. When you leave your boat for an extended time, there are many issues to consider. Here is our main list:
Humidity/Mold– Number one concern for us is the high humidity, coupled with heat. This results in many mold issues for the unprepared boater who leaves their boat for an extended period of time. I knew that I did not want to come back to a moldy, smelly boat.
I cleaned the boat thoroughly, and wiped down every surface with a combination of Vinegar & Water with a very small amount of Dawn. I created a dilution about 50/50 Vinegar to Water, then added in just a small squirt of Dawn. This mixture does a great job of cleaning in addition to the preventing mold. It makes the boat smell as you expect- like vinegar. Be sure you especially wipe down the ceiling and walls, also inside cupboards with this solution.
Tea Tree Mixture to prevent mold- I happen to be sensitive to Tea Tree Oil, so we do not use it on our sailboat. Thus said, many boaters use it, though be careful to not overuse. I once was on a boat where there was so much tea tree product, that my eyes burned and I needed to leave. Tea Tree Oil is said to help with mold.
Air Circulation- Next step is to open up all your cupboards, and hanging lockers, and place your salon cushions up on end. This will allow air circulation to limit moisture in these areas. I also wiped down these areas with my vinegar/water solution.
We also left on all our boat fans to circulate the air inside during our absence. These are the Calframo fans (shown in the photo) we installed during our refit in Ft. Lauderdale. Fans are a must on a cruising sailboat and you use them every day.
Dehumidifier/AC– We asked the marina to run our A/C units (we have two on Mahi) every other week so help dehumidify the boat. Some boat friends of ours use small dehumidifier units to do the same. Take care, though. I read that one boat used too many dehumidifier units and it dried out all the interior wood. In other words, you can go overboard with dehumidifiers.
Other Boater’s Help– For Mahi, a wonderful boating couple in the next slip offered to kindly keep another set of eyes on our sailboat. They are opening up the Mahi to check on her regularly and air her out. Last note is that everything looks great; no sign of mold or mildew! We are very thankful to Jay and Karen on M/Y Largo.
Avoiding Pests– We did not wish to come back to our boat and discover a pest problem onboard. The main pests you worry most about are roaches, ants and rats. To minimize pest problems, we emptied out any open food, and vacumn packed dry goods. The fridge and freezer were emptied and cleaned. Same for the kitchen cupboards shown in the photo above, and anywhere you store food on the boat.
The biggest problem in the tropics seem to be with cockroaches, so I researched how to avoid these nasty critters. The best tip came from the WindTraveler blog, the use of Dupont’s Advion Syringe tubes found HERE on Amazon. I applied it all over the boat, in every nook and cranny, taking care to use it where Ethan would not be exposed. Since using this product, have not seen any cockroaches on our boat. I tell you, this stuff really works!
I also place bay leaves around the boat, since it is a natural pest deterrent. Some people use Boric acid, but I have had such good luck with the Advion product.
In Ft. Lauderdale, we had an ant issue in the cockpit drains that were coming from the dock by crawling up the dock lines. The solution for this was Terro Ant Spray on the lines and in the drains. This product is found at Home Depot and most stores. Terro also makes a small gel bait for the ants to ingest and take back to kill their nests.
Luckily, we haven’t had a rat or mouse onboard. Still, you have to be prepared, so we have a number of traps for just in case. The best bait to catch them is peanut butter.
Hurricane/Tropical Storm Prep– When you leave your boat for any time, you need to remove the canvas and any loose items to store below. We added extra lashings on the dinghy, which is turned upside down and stored on the foredeck.
For boats that have hurricane coverage, you need to file a Named Storm plan with your insurance company, which spells out what you or your agent will do in case one happens. This could be a blog post on its own, so I will leave it at that.
The above list covers the main things we considered when leaving our Taswell 43 in the tropics. We learned most of this by talking to other boaters, or researching on the internet.
Home Again!! Once the boat was prepared, we flew home after being gone for 9 months! Ethan and I flew home to California, while Joe took a different plane to Ft. Lauderdale to get our truck out of storage and drive it home. Joe loves his truck, so rather than sell it, he decided to drive it across the country.
It felt weird being home again. So much space after living on the 43 foot sailboat. This summer, we plan to catch up on dental and doctor visits, and plan our next boat projects. I plan to make Mahi a flopper-stopper to help dampen any roll at anchor. More about this at my next post.
Great tips! Glad you haven’t got any mice. I caught one in a trap in my kitchen the other day. It had the cutest wee ears sticking out of the trap. I felt a bit sad!
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They are cute- but not so much when they chew through wires. Do you use tea tree oil on your boat?
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Not so far. I might give it a go though.
Great blog Carla. As you know, I use the vinegar, water and tea tree oil mixture on our boat. I also keep the containers of the tea tree gel around the boat. It has worked well for us. I am going to look into your roach product. We haven’t really had an issue with them but, it is always something to worry about. I plan on bombing the boat first, when we return in November. Looking forward to seeing you guys again on our travels.
The cockroach gel really works! Knock on wood that we never get the critters. I do have some tea tree oil on board, but the smell of it really is distasteful to me. I use lots of bay leaves and fabric softener sheets around the boat, too.
Looking forward to seeing you and Bruce again, Shani!