05 August 2012

This...or This...or...This Is the Way We Wash the Clothes

At least we don't live in a trailer.
The day is not particularly important; it is the time of day that matters and time is critical to the management of The System. The System relies on visual clues. The System is time-dependent. It is, by name, "The Scivvy System." The Scivvy System was not designed; it occurred spontaneously. Its purpose: to alert the laundry that I am out of underwear.  Jane is the laundry. Jane provides clean clothes on a Just-in-time basis. The red pair of underwear in the hamper is the signal. Jane does the laundry when she sees the red pair. 

...and then we moved onto a boat.

The boat does have a washer/dryer, so in theory, The System ought to work. It doesn't. The /dryer is of the condensing variety.  I'm not sure what it is supposed to condense...water?  It's hard to imagine someone intentionally designing an apparatus the purpose of which is to reduce the amount of room in one's clothing taken up by water. That is neither the logical nor actual equivalent of "dry," but it's the best it can do, make things less wet, that is. So we use it for washing and use lines lashed strategically about the rigging for drying.

...and then our generator broke down.

We have to use the engine to generate enough power to run the washer.  It's not the best thing for the engine, so we do laundry less often.  A lot less often when the watermaker isn't working.  Then we wait until it rains, collect rainwater off our bimini (currently, half of a blue plastic tarp) into a bucket and a cooler. Jane washes a few items in the bucket, rinses them in the cooler and hangs them out to dry. I've often wondered what will happen when our bucket breaks.  Dinghy our clothes over to a rock and beat them on it, I suppose.

We'll need a new name for that system.

Jane and I were both pretty good about jettisoning unnecessary clothing before we left land life.  She had what I thought would be a superfluous collection of fleeces and sweaters, but she wears them still when we are underway and get hit by a squall or by a stiff breeze. I brought my collection of Tommy Bahama Hawaiian shirts for all the time we'd be spending in tiki bars around the world. These have proven to be enormously useful...as gifts. I gave away two just today.

Ile a Vache, Haiti, where we've been for the past couple of days, has several pick-up and delivery laundry services--some as young as 10 years old. We've not taken advantage of the local laundry operations in any the places we've visited before this, preferring our washer/clothesline//bucket/cooler setup. Probably, we wouldn't have this time either except that we hired a guy to wash the boat and needed clean rags for him to use. As it seemed rude to us to commandeer one of the local laundry rocks (our bucket still works; the engine with the more powerful alternator doesn't), we decided to pay him to clean the rags as well. (Note to anyone thinking of visiting Ile a Vache: the young men and boys do excellent work and not just with laundry.)

Jane, ever on the look out for quality-of-life-improving innovations, has run across a couple of products that have proven very useful. They have also made us more keenly aware of our responsibility as cruisers for good environmental stewardship (a topic she intends to take up in a future post). One of these items, plastic clothespins, have all the advantages that anything made of plastic has in a corrosive, marine environment, but also grip better than our wooden clothespins. On the downside, every so often one goes overboard--it's inevitable, adding another bit of plastic permanence to the oceans of the world.

Jane found also these hangers with clips, perfect for air drying certain previously-mentioned unmentionables. Ours attach easily to the underside of our tarp-ini and in 3 to 10 nautical miles, depending on the wind, our clothes are dry with an ocean fresh scent not sold in stores.

There are a few, not cherished but just expected aspects of our former life that I miss. The System is one of them. (Toast is another.) Going from just-in-time to "if-you're-lucky"  laundry delivery has taken some getting used to. On the other hand, neither Jane nor I kept a blog before this cause, really, when your life and your laundry are in the bag, what's there to talk about?

Click on the monkey's fist to read others bloggers on this topic.
The Monkey's Fist


  1. As usual with Ean's writing, this cracked me up! So true, the realities of cruising.

  2. We take our motto, "Sailing the world, so you don't have to" very seriously. Incidentally, we recently discovered that if we use the clothespins on our noses, we can dispense with doing laundry altogether. Bonus!

  3. Great (and entertaining) post! We've got a lot to prepare for when we "set sail" in 2013! We may just need to stock up on a few extra clothes pins for our noses! =)

  4. Then you'll definitely want to get the plastic ones. The wooden ones tend to chafe after awhile. Looking forward to reading about your adventures when you cast off.

  5. Ean, I laughed so hard at the Scivvy System. Mark says his goal is to always have more shirts than I have underwear because that's when I do laundry.

  6. That's when Jane does laundry now, too. I thought of buying more underwear so I'd have as many pair as she does, but I think as a cost saving alternative, I'm just going to throw out some of hers.