Friday, April 18, 2008

Doing More With Less - Bathing

The boat teaches many lessons in conservation. This is the third in a series of posts about how we boaters do more with considerably less. The tips are valid for land based life as well, though, so hopefully folks can use some of these ideas.

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Gratuitous Daffodil Shot
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
I'm an American, not some Eurobabe sexpot with long dark hair in all the right places and a godz given right to avoid soap. We Americans fear the smell of sweat. We are terrified of oily skin, lanky hair, and well stewed underarm odor. Our poop don't stink, our breaths are treated with a myriad of pastes, gums, and curiously strong candies, and we have a pathological* need to wash our hands with antibacterial soaps.

Well, I used to be a squeaky clean American. That was then. This is now. Now, I stink.

So do my children.

We don't want to talk about my husband.

You can blame it on the lack of water and soap. That's a good place to start, actually. It provides at least the beginnings of a reason, if not a fine excuse for poor hygiene. But the truth, as is so frequently the case, fails to reflect well on reality. And the reality is that I'm lazy.

With my family and my boat, there are so very many battles I can wage. We can argue about learning stuff, fixing holes in the boat, putting things away, and whether or not Nora Roberts is appropriate reading material for a 9 year old. We have been known to come to blows over where to put stinky shoes and whether or not to wear even wear them. There are screaming fits about mud and sand, dead animals, and the endlessly overflowing boxes of hardware sitting in the cockpit.

So when you get right down to it, I'm too exhausted – too mentally beaten to maternal pulp – to force my husband and children to clean their bodies on a regular basis. As long as the really intimate parts cannot be distinguished from the background smells of diesel, BeanPod candles, and last night's dinner, I figure I'm ahead.

Yet, there is a reason why boaters tend to be a scruffier lot than landlubbers. The reason is quarters. I mentioned this months ago in The Quarter Quandary, but in case you did not understand my profound frustration at the time, let me repeat myself. It costs money to get clean. It costs a lot of money.

In the Northwest, you arrive at a marina with a shower only to find that your $40/night docking fee does not include hot running water unless you dump in two quarters every two minutes. You also learn quickly that the first round... sometimes even the second round... comes out of the tap at approximately the temperature of an orange flavored beverage dropped from a soda machine. Just as the tiniest hint of warmth enters the stream of water, the damn thing shuts off.

This is your cue to soap up. Frantically. Presumably to reduce the growth of mold, fungus, and homeless people, the showers are extraordinarily well ventilated. Read, the shower stalls are wide open at the base, inevitably there are windows at about head level which haven't closed since World War II, and some clever state maintenance project manager has installed an industrial strength fan which automatically turns on with the lights. Every erg of warmth on your skin disappears instantly, leaving you to create soap foam on a ridge line of goose bumps. Male anatomy disappears in protest of the conditions, and little girls start screaming when you attempt to detoxify their hair with shampoo (which admittedly has roughly the texture and temperature of a slushy).

Back On the Water
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Once soaped at great cost to ear drums and health, you add quarters to the machine. However, you can hear the marina or state park supervisor's wicked laugh as the water blasts out at the original, slightly frozen gradient. You are starting over, people. The only way to keep the warmth coming is to keep feeding the damn thing quarters until you've taken out a second mortgage on your boat. Worse, your children are now slippery as eels and pissed off to boot. They are agile, evil little animals with viciously piercing voices and malevolent looks. It requires a towel snapping cattle prod, a firm grasp of advanced middle school vocabulary, and arms of steel to get them under the glacial stream before the two minutes are up.

And for what? Odds are that they'll be covered in sand, shore mud, and indescribable organic smutz within an hour.

So I am taking a stand in defense of the environment here and foregoing bathing for the next five months until we get to Mexico. It's just not worth it.

* True statement. You need to stop washing with that sh*. All you're doing is ensuring the breeding of super bacterial bugs that nothing can kill.


Anonymous said...

Crew of the Don Quixote
We are following your adventure from the east coast and congratulate you on reaching your "cast off" day. We hope to shove off ourselves in the fall of '09. Fair winds and following seas!

Kirk & Donna Benefiel
s/v Ainulindalë
Severna Park, MD

Cap'n Franko said...

This is why, when I use the word "cruising," I'm thinking "*tropical* cruising." It's sooooooooo much nicer in warm climates! Soap up and rinse in the clear, clean saltwater off the swim platform, then a final freshwater rinse with the cockpit/stern shower. Ahhhhhh!

Mexico will be different!

Jody said...

LOL! This is too, too funny. You must submit it to Cruising World. I insist.

We have yet to bath on a boat. Our stints out have been short enough that the smell of everyone on board has been tolerable....except the the clothes they were when fishing. Those vile things are not allowed into the cabin.

You know what I am going to have to get over? Sand in my bed. I feel that I am going to have to embrace it after every attempt to keep it out has failed, including the futile attempt to ban the kids from the aft cabin.

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,
Just curiously... do you have a watermaker? Why don't you shower in the boat?
We're selling, selling, selling... hope to be gone in 6 months! See you in Mexico!

Toast said...

@anon DrC and the girls have all the parts and plan to build one this summer. But even when you have a water maker, you're just turning diesel into water. Ultimately, that's not a particularly good trade off, IMHO, for us, the environment, or the boat. We'll use it, no doubt about that, but even when we essentially have unlimited water, we're going to limit it strictly.