Bad Odors on Boats-RiteAire Marine Has the Solution

What’s That Smell?

The Science Behind Mold Odors on Boats – and How to Prevent Them

Photo by Benzoix on

“My boat stinks!”

That’s the first thing a boat owner from the Gulf Coast said to us when she stopped by our booth at the 2022 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. She was interested in learning how the RiteAire Marine™ Whole-Boat Dehumidification system could cure her boat of its unfortunate smell.

Dank, musty odors in boat interiors are a common problem, especially in humid areas like Florida and along the Gulf Coast. “Boat funk” is what one service manager we’ve worked with calls it. There are a number of causes for bad odors on boats, but one of the most common – and difficult to eradicate – is mold. 

Mold growing on board a boat releases microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs) into the air. MVOCs can have strong, unpleasant aromas, and, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “…they can be the source of the ‘moldy odor’ or musty smell frequently associated with mold growth.”

Mold gradually destroys whatever it grows on. While this can be beneficial in nature, where mold breaks down dead organic matter like fallen trees, it can ruin a boat’s furniture, soft goods, wallcoverings and overhead panels. Mold also can cause health problems. It produces allergens, irritants and mycotoxins, which are potentially toxic to humans. Sensitive individuals frequently have allergic reactions to mold with symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes and/or a skin rash. Mold also can cause people to have asthma attacks.

While they are not as well researched, MVOCs also can have adverse health effects. The EPA says, “…exposure to mVOCs has been linked to symptoms such as headaches, nasal irritation, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.”

Mold reproduces in the form of spores that are so tiny they are invisible to the human eye.  Mold spores float through the air and are commonly found in indoor as well as outdoor areas, although they only start to grow when they land on surfaces that are damp or wet. According to the EPA’s A Brief Guide to Moisture and Your Home, “There are many types of mold, and none of them will grow without water or moisture.”

Mold can be remediated or cleaned up, but it’s impossible to eliminate all the mold spores from the air. If damp surfaces remain in a boat’s interior, after the remediation takes place, mold is likely to start growing on them again.

The EPA states:

Humidity is a major cause of moisture in boat interiors, in the form of condensation and dampness. Often, humidity-induced moisture occurs in hidden places like inside overhead panels. The best way to prevent mold growth and the odors it emits inside boats is to reduce humidity on board.

The EPA says, “If possible, keep indoor humidity below 60 percent (ideally between 30 and 50

percent) relative humidity.” This is the humidity Healthy Zone that the RiteAire Marine™ Whole-Boat Dehumidification System maintains in yacht interiors. Simply set it at 45RH and the RiteAire Marine system automatically keeps the boat free of mold and its odors.

In fact, RiteAire Marine not only eliminates mold odors in boats, but by reducing humidity on board, the system also can help to reduce other bad smells in boats such as those caused by diesel exhaust and marine sanitation systems. “Humidity traps odor, causing it to travel farther and linger longer,” states Dr. Laura Haupert, Ph.D., OMI Industries chief scientific officer.

With RiteAire Marine, every time you walk into a boat’s cabin, it will smell fresh and clean.

Thermal Protection Control_Original

The RiteAire Marine™ Dehumidification System’s
Thermal Protection Control

Adds Peace of Mind When Your Boat Is Out of the Water

The RiteAire Marine Mobile Workshop between two yachts out of the water at Viking South

There comes a time in the life cycle of just about any boat when it needs to be hauled for service. The project might be a fresh coat of bottom paint, a new propeller, or a more extensive repair, but chances are the vessel will spend some time “on the hard” – often without a cooling tower to keep its water-cooled air-conditioning system running. And, if this takes place during the hotter months of the year, especially in Florida or on the Gulf of Mexico, temperatures inside the boat are going to climb.

The RiteAire Marine Dehumidification System is designed to operate in conjunction with a boat’s air-conditioning system in a temperature range of between 55 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, switching on and off automatically to lower the humidity in the vessel’s interior to a healthy 45 to 50 RH (Relative Humidity). If the temperature rises above 90 degrees, however, it can cause the RiteAire system to operate continuously and potentially to overheat, putting a strain on the system that ultimately might cause it to fail.

In 2019, commercial boat-builder Metal Shark Boats in Jeanerette, Louisiana, approached RiteAire Marine about installing a RiteAire Marine Dehumidification System aboard the 38’ Defiant Fire Rescue Boat model it was constructing for the Fire Department of Orange Beach, Alabama. The only problem we foresaw with this project is that when not in use, the Fire Rescue boat would be stored daily on a lift out of the water and without air conditioning. Instead of turning the job down, however, RiteAire Marine Co-Owners Ted Reese and Hector Escardo saw it as an opportunity to improve their patented system.

“We determined the solution was to add a controller to the RiteAire system that would prevent it from overheating in the first place,” Hector said.

Ted drew on his engineering background to research the market for a Thermal Protection Control that would be compatible with the RiteAire system. The unit he selected incorporates both a thermal sensor and computer. When the unit senses the temperature has reached 90 degrees, the computer automatically switches off the RiteAire Marine Dehumidification System. Then, when it senses the boat’s interior has cooled down to 85 degrees, it switches the system back on.

The Thermal Protection Control also shuts the RiteAire Marine Dehumidification System off if the temperature inside the boat drops below 55 degrees, which is too cold for the system to operate efficiently. “That provides an added value for boats located in the north,” Ted said.

He continued, “Once we added the Thermal Protection Control to the RiteAire system for the Metal Shark boat, we realized all boats could use it, especially when they are hauled for service.” As a result, starting in 2020, the Thermal Protection Control became standard equipment on all RiteAire Marine Dehumidification Systems.

While the new control has been operating as designed ever since, Ted recently put it through a lengthy trial in his own boat, the Viking 61 Cadence, in a service yard on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

 “My boat was out of the water for painting for seven months with only shore power connected, but no air conditioning,” he said. “I monitored both the temperature and humidity on board the entire time it was on the hard and witnessed the Thermal Protection Control at work firsthand. When the temperature rose above 90 degrees inside Cadence, MarCELL humidity/temperature monitor I set up on board showed that the relative humidity level also rose, indicating that the RiteAire system had been shut off. Then, when the temperature went back down to 85 degrees, the humidity level in the boat dropped back down to 50 RH. I witnessed firsthand just how reliable this system is multiple times.”

With the Thermal Protection Control installed as standard equipment, yacht owners never have to worry about their RiteAire Marine Dehumidification System being forced to work outside its normal operating parameters.

Rite Aire Marine™ Hits the Big-Game Tournament Circuit in the New Viking 80 Convertible Factory Demo Boat

Rite Aire Marine™ Hits the Big-Game Tournament Circuit in the New Viking 80 Convertible Factory Demo Boat

If you see the brand-new Viking 80 C factory demo boat competing on the tournament circuit this summer, you will know its interior is fresh, dry and sweet-smelling even if it’s an extremely humid day outside. That’s because it has a custom RiteAire Marine Dehumidification System installed on board.

Over the years, a number of Viking 80 owners have requested RiteAire Marine for their boats, so installing it in the big new Viking Yachts Demo Boat was an easy project. One RiteAire Dehumidifier unit is mounted in the bilge in the chiller bay, and the other is on the flybridge, under the brow. The yacht’s own air circulation system, combined with RiteAire Marine’s proprietary ductwork, distributes dry air throughout the yacht’s interior.

RiteAire Marine Co-Owner Hector Escardo, known as “The Tuna Tube Guy,” also installed his popular Escardo Marine Tuna Tubes on the Viking 80 to help its angling team keep their baits alive and catch more fish.

The Viking 80 Demo Boat has a busy summer schedule. It will fish five tournaments in Bermuda, including the Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Tournament, then return to the U.S. for the White Marlin Open, the Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament and the MidAtlantic Tournament.

Tight lines to the Viking Yachts team!

The Viking 80 Demo Boat

Installing the RiteAire Marine Marine™ Dehumidification System on One-of-a-Kind 78′ F&S Sportfishing Yacht Big Ben

Installing the RiteAire Marine Marine™ Dehumidification System on One-of-a-Kind 78′ F&S Sportfishing Yacht Big Ben

Over the years, the RiteAire Marine Whole-Boat Dehumidification System has been installed in more than 17 different brands of yachts and commercial vessels ranging up to 130 feet. Word of mouth by owners and captains of these boats has spread that the RiteAire Marine system is a proven solution for lowering humidity and preventing its many negative effects in yacht interiors, including mold growth; bad odors; soggy headliners; damp towels, sheets and carpets, and some even health issues.

Colin Page, the new captain of the cold-molded-wood 78-foot F&S sportfisher Big Ben, had heard good reports about the RiteAire Marine from his fellow sportfishing captains and realized it could have an additional benefit for his boat.

“Wood boats are more susceptible to moisture damage than fiberglass boats,” Capt. Colin said. As a result, Big Ben was scheduled to receive a RiteAire Marine Dehumidification System this May.

The one-of-a-kind, fully custom sportfisher was delivered in 2017 by F&S Boatworks as Special Situation. Flagship of the F&S fleet, it is the first, and so far, the only 78-footer to launch from the Delaware boat builder’s yard. Late last year, the yacht was sold to a new owner who has since renamed it Big Ben.

Big Ben in the water at Willis Marine

RiteAire Marine Co-Founder Hector Escardo and his assistant, Mike, installed the RiteAire Marine system onboard Big Ben at the new Willis Marine boatyard in Stuart, Florida, where the yacht was undergoing refit work prior to joining the big-game tournament fishing circuit.

Big Ben is a jewel box of a boat, filled with beautiful, book-matched teak woodwork. Curves are an F&S hallmark and there are very few right angles to be found anywhere in the yacht’s interior. Since this was RiteAire Marine’s first F&S, it presented a new challenge for Hector to determine where to locate the two RiteAire units and the system’s proprietary ductwork on board. After thoroughly examining the boat’s layout and probing into its hidden spaces, he had his answer: Behind the pantry.

“The F&S is a very fast, light boat. All the wood panels are lightweight and honeycombed, which made the installation easier for us. The part of the project that took the longest was working out a custom design for the RiteAire system on board, since this is a unique model we had never seen before,” Hector said.


New hatch in the pantry with RiteAire Marine unit and ductwork tucked behind it

The F&S 78 has a large pantry behind the bulkhead on the main deck, which is split in two by the companionway. After presenting the plan to Capt. Colin and getting his approval, Hector created a new hatch in the back of the starboard-side pantry and installed one RiteAire unit in the machinery space behind it. The second RiteAire Marine unit is tucked behind the wall of the port-side pantry. Testament to Hector’s cabinetry skills is the fact that he created new access doors, and vents for the RiteAire system that seamlessly match Big Ben’s existing woodwork.


New vent Hector created for the RiteAire Marine system on Big Ben

Removing excess humidity from a boat with cold-molded wood construction is a significant benefit. In the cold-molded production process, the wood is coated to protect it from moisture. By reducing the humidity to a normal range of 40 to 50 percent will further reduce the likelihood of future moisture issues with the wood,” said RiteAire Marine Co-Owner Ted Reese.