Boats & Allergies


I am an allergy sufferer. It’s called Allergic Rhinitis to be specific. If you have known me over the last 15 years or so you may have noted my continual battle with a sniffly nose, congestion, coughing, nasally voice, dark circles under my eyes… These are all the symptoms and side effects of my allergies. These days many people suffer just as I do, it is surprisingly common. For me, my allergies are the bane of my existence. Dust, dust mites, mold, mildew, and animal dander.  It doesn’t matter the season, though Ragweed doesn’t do me any favors either. It all began in my mid-twenties, co-incidentally in the year or so after my Father’s passing. But also in the same time frame of which I began to spend a substantial amount of my days living aboard a boat. Is there a connection? It deeply pains me to think that the boats upon which I’ve lived, sailed, explored the world, garnered a passion and a career, and now my way of life, could be making me sick.

Over the years, the symptoms only progressed. I had healthy times and then not-so-healthy times. i t’s always in limbo. For those years while I was sailing and crewing Tall Ships, the wild salt air of the oceans was greatly beneficial but there was really no escape. I recall back to when I was sailing aboard Irene, and the Ali G movies had become popular among our crew. I was dubbed Aller G. For a time while we were docked in Puerto Rico, I used to pull my duvet on deck and sleep outdoors on the hatch. A vain attempt to ease my symptoms. When I relocated home to the Great Lakes, and to living in a house, it was somewhat easier to control my symptoms. It was easy to routinely dust, wash bedding and do all those such things to control my environment, and thereby limit my exposure to allergen triggers. Carpeting was and still is a challenge, in those carpeted homes my allergies were often at their worst. On land or at sea, I had periods when my allergies were under control, and I had times were they where anything but.

Some where along the line I lost my sense of smell. It’s now completely defunct, and unlikely to return. It’s spurred me to conjure a whole gamit of adaptations. Like for making toast… lol. 
For the past several years, I’ve controlled my symptoms with medications; inhalers, nasal sprays, antihistamines, and most recently, Immunotherapy. Also known as allergy shots, I’m injected on a varying basis, weekly to monthly, with a tailored serum in an effort to build a tolerance to my allergens. Truth be told, after two plus years, the allergy shots are helping. It’s rare that I have a flare up of symptoms, and my breathing, determined by a spirometery test, has vastly improved. 

Condensation is likely the largest contributor to the presence of mold and mildew aboard ship. Anywhere on a boat, particularly where air flow is compromised, it can grow. And grow out of control rather quickly. In my crewing days I had very little, to no control over mold and mildew, nor to washing my bedding/ sleeping bag. In the tropics, laundry was a challenge when water usage was already limited. Here and now is a different story. The summer months are grand, Monster is open, the breeze blows through, and I am generally healthy. Problems occur in the winter months when the boat is closed up, and shrinked up. Dust has no where to escape. Condensation is at its worst, resulting in more mold and mildew. If I happen to catch a cold, which is far too often with a 6 year old, I’m in trouble. Though with regular bilge checks, water removal, and continual vinegar attacks, any mold and mildew can be controlled.


Ultimately, a Neti pot is my savior. It’s as simple as rinsing my sinuses, an ancient Yogic ritual. While it sounds rather disgusting the results are epic. The ability to breathe deep and through my nose is not to be taken for granted. 
~~ This post ‘Boats & Allergies’ first appeared on ~~

One comment

  1. Poor you. I am allergic to grass, and summer time is a nightmare for me on land. Can relate to what you are going through. I havent seen that wash before. Will check it out.


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