By Capt. Bill Pike
In a fairly recent Boatyard article (Secrets of a Boat-Cleaning Girl, September 2013), Mike Smith mentioned a technology called TANCS (Thermo Accelerated Nano Crystal Sanitation) and went on to suggest that using it might very well produce a cleaner, fresher-smelling boat interior, without resorting to bleach or other harsh chemicals. First I'd ever heard of the technology, actually. And, being a conservative guy, at least when it comes to new and improved seafaring products, I was chary of the whole deal yet interested. My trawler Betty Jane, is, after all, quite old, and her original upholstery, I theorized, although still going strong, might explain what my wife sometimes fondly (and sometimes not so fondly) refers to as the Betty Jane smell. So ever hot in the heels to dig into a rough- and-ready science project, I dialed up the folks at Advanced Vapor Technologies (mentioned in Smith's piece) and got them to send me a demo steam-cleaning unit the Ladybug 2200S TANCS they said would remove dirt as well as kill bacteria, mold, mildew, germs, and dust mites. The first pass at a cushion with the super-hot steam was disappointing. The material underneath remained damp and splotchy afterwards, as if literally years of dirt had arisen from the interior to declare itself openly. With fear and loathing, I called up the Ladybug folks and asked them what to do. Keep going, said sales guy Richard Ayer, you won't hurt anything by keeping on. So I continued, changing dirty towel after dirty towel (towels wrapped and fastened around the cleaning head actually absorb and remove dirt), with a drying period of, say, four hours or so between applications. The result after a dozen or so passes, depending upon the level of grunginess? Betty's ancient upholstery (even the much-used seat cushion at the lower helm station) now looks not quite new, but better.