Trippin' Turpins


16 April 2016
Leaving your boat locked up in the tropics?

I’m not an expert; but having closed up and left our boat in the tropics... twice... once with grim consequences, and once with excellent results, I feel I can impart a small bit of wisdom to those, who like me have, or are, battling mould, cockroaches, spiders, and ants.

My weapons!
My weapons!

We left Thorfinn, our beloved home, in Langkawi up a river at a place called Hole in the Wall, for six weeks while we backpacked through Cambodia and Vietnam. When we arrived back we were confronted with a boat brimming with mould.  We also had tiny spiders onboard which must have floated across on the breeze from the mangroves; and a few cockroaches that obviously snuck aboard before we left. We cleaned up the mould the best we could and took the boat around to Telaga Marina to get everything washed.

Thorfinn anchored at 'Hole in the wall'.
Thorfinn anchored at 'Hole in the wall'

Every towel, sheet and most of our clothes had to be washed. I washed the interior walls with vinegar to remove the mould and sprayed the boat with some surface spray* to get rid of the spiders. Frustratingly, the little spiders took a long time to exterminate. At Telaga we also had ants on the deck but manage to kill them, with surface spray, before they got below deck and cause havoc.

Not long after our woeful return, we took Thorfinn up onto the hard in Satun, Thailand, to anti-foul and paint her hull and her interior before we left her again for seven weeks. This time I was not taking any chances.

Thorfinn's freshly painted hull.
Thorfinn's freshly painted hull

I studied up all the information I could find. I asked fellow sailors and even put the question out there on Facebook. How do you prevent mould? Clove oil was the unequivocal winner of the battle against mould. Moth balls and moisture absorbers** also got a mention.

Moisture absorbers
Moisture absorbers

So when preparing to leave Thorfinn this time, I began preparations at Satun before we put everything back onto the boat.

I had been trying to obtain some clove oil*** for months now with no luck. Fortunately I met Jacqui from SV TinTin. Jacqui had several bottles of clove oil and was happy to part with some… THANK YOU JACQUI! Jacqui had just returned  to her boat after leaving it in Phuket for 18 months to discover no mould at all… yes she had used the clove oil.

At Satun with fellow sailors. Jacqui my savour in the middle!
At Satun with fellow sailors. Jacqui my savour in the middle with piglet (the pup)!

So before I put anything back onto Thorfinn I sprayed the item all over with a mixture of clove oil diluted^ with water and hung it all in the sun to dry. I did this with our towels, sheets, clothes, shoes, pillows, cushions and also our new re-upholstered interior cushions.

Clove oil
Clove oil

The day before we left I sprayed the walls and ceilings inside Thorfinn and inside the bathroom locker etc. I put some moisture absorbers in with the clothes and manchester. The day I was leaving, we covered the vents with fly mesh, and I put mothballs**** in each locker and some in the bilge, one behind the oven etc.


Just before we close up the boat I sprayed surface spray along the edges of the floor and around all of the hatches and vents. I also sprayed the circumference of each mooring line at the top where it was attached to Thorfinn to deter ants, cockroaches etc.

Surface spray
Surface spray

Ok… I can here you thinking OVERKILL! I agree, but I really didn’t want to come back to a mess of mould and pests. Just remember, our beloved Thorfinn was looking as good as new and it would have destroyed us to come back and find her in a mess. We had only had her back in the water for a few days and we loathed to leave her.

So how did my “overkill” work? We arrived back to Thorfinn after seven weeks and found her mould and pest free, albeit she smelt like mothballs. The smell hasn’t taken too long to disappear now that she is opened up again and sailing in the ocean air!

My verdict - give clove oil, surface spray, mothballs and moisture absorbers a go!


*surface spray -  pest control spray that creates a barrier for crawling insects. i.e. Morton, Raid etc. Can be bought in supermarkets and hardware stores. SAFETY - Cover your mouth and nose when spraying it in such a small space as a boat. Believe me... I learnt the hard way!

*** moisture absorbers - Can buy from supermarkets. Easy to find in S E Asia

***clove oil - can be bought in health stores and pharmacies (in Australia. I haven't found it in S E Asia but they have to have it somewhere... surely?) Justine Porter (WWSA) has advised me she found clove oil in the Philippines by asking for toothache reliever. So maybe a pharmacy etc.

****mothballs - Can buy in supermarkets. Easy to find in S E Asia.

^ I use ten drops of clove oil with 500ml of water... it probably didn't need to be as strong as this but I wasn't taking any chances. The link below has a lot of information about using clove oil.


About clove oil -
Vessel Name: Thorfinn
Vessel Make/Model: Adams 45
Hailing Port: Adelaide, South Australia
Crew: Dwayne & Kelly Turpin
About: After seven years of planning we sold the house and moved aboard Thorfinn in October 2013. Our journey started in May 2014 in Australia and, if all goes well, it will continue for many years with many seas to sail and places to visit.
Extra: Intrepid sailors, perpetual travellers, enthusiastic fisher people and lovers of food. Visit our other blogs at Like our Facebook page - Trippin' Turpins - A Sailing Adventure.
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Our journey beginning from Outer Harbor, South Australia
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Created 4 May 2014