I'm sure the problem is a common one, but I've never seen it mentioned in any of my old sailing books. The Pardeys must have been too resourceful, the Hiscocks too discreet, Macgregor too virtuous to suffer from it. Neither is the problem specifically chronicled in the adventures of Horatio Hornblower or Jack Aubry, although mention is made of the horrific smell to be found below decks, which must be attributable -- at least in part -- to this sailing scourge.
It might also explain why British sailors chose to work barefoot, even when keeping winter watch in the uncomfortable regions off Ushant.
The problem I refer to is Stinky Boat Shoe Syndrome, or SBSS for short.
|Logo of the SBSS Society|
This summer I switched to a kind of sneaker boat shoe. They were decidedly more comfortable, but the day after a particularly wet sail I noticed -- or I should say, Helena noticed -- an odd smell emanating from the closet.
The odor wasn't too bad at first... just a faint eau du foote... but it grew. Grew to the point where it practically took physical form. Think Pigpen without a head. Emphasis on the pig.
I ignored it at first. Rather successfully, in fact. But I knew it was only a matter of time before the crisis came to a head...
"It's me or those shoes!" said Helena one morning after a particularly bad night. That's when I knew I had to find a solution.
No problem. I'm quite handy with this sort of thing, now, I thought.
My first guess was a mild bleach solution. I filled a large bucket with warm water, added two tablespoons of bleach, weighed down the shoes with a pig of lead to keep them underwater for the night. (I bought a 5 lb pig of lead to make a lead for a lead line, but never got around to it. But the pig sure is handy for lots of things!) Then I put them outside in the sun for a day to dry.
At first, this seemed to do the trick, but as soon as I warmed them up by putting my feet into them, Pigpen came back with a vengeance. I didn't dare increase the bleach concentration for fear of destroying the fabric. Another approach was needed.
I tried several other remedies much recommended on the Internet: popping them in the freezer (no difference after thawing), popping them in the microwave (what the what? a really efficient way to spread the smell through the whole house), plus several commercial products like Oxyclean and liberal spraying of Fabreze or Chanel No. 5.
Actually, the Chanel covered the smell, but got me strange looks down at the yacht club.
Finally, after a summer of experimentation, I am able to announce the UnlikelyBoatBuilder's solution to the stinky boat shoe. Guaranteed to work.
First, rinse shoes immediately after sailing with liberal amounts of fresh water. I just hosed them off on the dock for several minutes. Be sure to remove the liners if so equipped.
Rinsing will keep the smell at bay for a long time if you do it every time without fail. However, if you are like me, eventually you will forget. Then SBSS will begin to breed in your shoes and you will need to take the following, more drastic, steps:
1. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water
2. Soak in a strong vinegar solution. I used half a bottle of cheap distilled vinegar to a bucket of water. You don't want the imported, fruity vinegar here...
3. Rinse, then dry in sun
4. Sprinkle liberally with baking soda, inside and out. Leave in shoes until you need them again, then knock or brush off.
As my friend John likes to say: "There is nothing particularly difficult about sailing, but there are an enormous number of simple skills to be mastered."
You know, suddenly the purpose of those odd-looking poop decks is perfectly clear:
Keeps the Captain's boat shoes dry.
Next Episode: Hot Tugs