Dealing with

Returning to the yacht after a very wet season in Townsville, First Contact had grown a mould problem.  How do you deal with it?

Most boats in the tropics will have to deal with mould at one time or another - particularly if you leave the boat unattended during the tropical wet season. 2019 was a wet year in Townsville.

For eleven straight days in late January and early February 2019 a monsoonal low settled over Townsville where it stubbornly stayed put. Fed by the warm moist air from the Coral Sea, the system dumped more than a meter and a half of rain across 11 days, with sustained and concentrated heavy daily totals of more than 300mm across five consecutive days. To put this in perspective, Townsville has had a year’s worth of rain in one week.

The Ross River Dam at one stage was 200% over capacity and on the evening of Friday 1 February the flood gates fully opened. The release sent 1,900 cubic metres of water per second intoTownsville's suburbs, destroying homes and businesses.  As flash floods washed through streets the water swept away cars, equipment and livestock.

Through all of this calamity First Contact sat in her pen at the Townsville Yacht Club in the Ross Creek. Whilst it was raining, it was also hot. Warm, drenched humid air got into everything.  My boat, which has seen several wet seasons here, for the first time started to grow mould on every surface - woodwork, fabrics, headliner.  Everywhere.

I returned to Townsville in early March armed with a bottle of clove oil.  I'd been forewarned of the problem.  Of course there are industrial strength cleaners you can get from the supermarket, but all of them will either leave the boat smelling like a hospital ward or damage the soft furnishings in the saloon. And anyway, many commercial products will not actually kill the spores, so your mould problem is likely to return. As always, nature has an answer.

You Need

    1/4 teaspoon clove oil
    1L fresh water
    A spray bottle

Mix the clove oil in the fresh water and put it in the spray bottle. Shake well. Don't be tempted to put more than a 1/4 of a teaspoon of clove oil into a litre of water. This amount is strong enough to kill the spores and leave your boat smelling fresh and clean without damaging surfaces and soft fabrics.

Spray it around the boat and on all affected surfaces. For fabrics, test a small section first. Spray some clove oil mixture onto a cloth and wipe over affected upholstery.

Give all affected surfaces a gentle wipe. Most of the mould will come off fairly easily at this point (well it did for me) but 2-3 days later go over the boat again with a clean damp cloth to get any remaining mould.

For heavy areas, repeat this process until all the mould is gone.

Don't neglect inside lockers and cupboards. Mould loves to live there, ready to re-inhabit your boat given the right conditions.

Within a hour or so, First Contact was smelling fresh as a daisy and clean and comfortable once again. I was very fortunate mould was my only issue, and I think of all the residents of Townsville who faced a massive clean up, and still some months later, are still not able to return to their homes.