Thursday, February 15, 2007

Everything is Wet

Originally uploaded by PearlSailing.
This morning I woke up to rivulets of water dripping down the cabin walls. It was like someone had taken a 70’s slasher movie and washed all the color out, leaving nothing but the dripping blood and horrified screams. The screams were mine as the hatch above our bed showered me with frigid drops of condensation while my husband climbed out to head for the head.

I hate living on a boat in the Pacific Northwest in the winter. It’s like living inside a used gym sock stored at the bottom of a cooler left in the garage through the cold season. Water condenses on every surface, drips down the walls and pools in the low spots. No amount of heater output can solve the problem and, in fact, I think sometimes it makes it worse, quickening the pace at which the steam rises to the cold ceiling to reinforce the downward flow of water.

My daughters delight in the boat in these conditions. They liken it to a living science experiment demonstrating the water cycle. Granted, the whole thing is manky and cold, but it is kinda fun. You can practically see the clouds form inside the boat. Add a fan, a little static electricity, and I think they anticipate lightning and thunder to break out in the salon at any moment.

We combat the cold and the wet with candles, kerosene lanterns, and heat. Anyone with even a moderate amount of scientific understanding will immediately understand the blatant stupidity of this strategy. For one thing, a principle byproduct of candles is H2O. Last time I checked, that’s water. We heat the boat and ourselves by cooking… pasta, baked goods, vegetables. These activities introduce clouds of warm, fragrant steam into the cabins, destined to join our bad breath in slimy layers on every window and external surface.

A secondary line of defense is the blue cloth. Blue cloths are an interesting by-product of the insanity of the American legal system combined with the absurdity of the American health care system. In every operating room in every hospital in in America are stacks and stacks of cloths – most of them blue – used during each surgical procedure. In most states, the number of cloths that must be present for each procedure is determined by law. Those cloths not actually used during the procedure are carefully counted and then thrown away.

Yes, millions of unused blue cloths are thrown away every day. You can’t wash them and use them again. It’s against the law. So nurses and doctors all over the country “steal” these unused cloths on the sly and take them home to their families where they do service as napkins, oil cloths, and diapers.

On our boat, we use them to dry our home. Basically, one weekend on the boat requires a minimum of one hundred blue cloths, or we’ll drown in our own spit. You put them under the hatches to prevent water dripping off the metal frames from soaking books, paperwork, and sheets. You use them to wipe off windows so you can see where you are going and to wipe off the seats in the cockpit. Blue cloths are good for soaking up skanky bilge water and rubbing mud off the anchor chain. In short, if you don’t have a steady source of blue cloths, find one.

My husband also professes great confidence in Dry-Z-Air. Like little shrines to the God of Dryness, he places containers full of these white balls of chemical goodness in every nook and cranny. I can’t say as I am equally impressed. The white balls turn to sticky goo and an inoffensive but frighteningly thick, clear liquid which I’m afraid to touch. The stuff costs a fortune, but he swears by it.

I prefer good old cedar chips. You can purchase cedar shavings in megaton bags from any decent pet store. Like any quality, natural, recyclable product, it serves multiple purposes simultaneously. Placed in bowls around the boat, cedar bedding soaks water out of the air while filling the interior with a lovely smell of shaved wood. You can either throw the damp shavings overboard (unless you are in a marina) or toss them into a barbecue. Get the kind designed for small animals with no chemical additives, and you have an environmentally sound and cheap method to reduce the humidity on the boat.

However, for all these lovely ideas, the only real solution to cold, wet, Pacific Northwest boating is summer. Or heading south as fast as the wind and waves will carry you.

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