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Living Aboard: Laundry Day

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Boat laundry

The laundry bucket, water can, and dirty clothes

Do I ever get bored?  I’m just sitting on my boat in the industrial-looking port of Marsh Harbour, counting pennies and hoping the sportfishing boats are watching where they’re going as they skim within yards of me going excessively fast.  I’m not sure who would win between their prop and my 3/8″ anchor chain, but I’m guessing we’d probably both lose.  I feel sorry for the sailors anchored with rope (which stays closer to the surface) and have to legitimately worry about getting their line sliced.  My chain is fairly heavy so I’m safe.

I’d also like you to believe me when I say that no, I don’t get bored, but I’m writing about doing laundry and sharing pictures of my underwear, so that isn’t helping my argument.  Just wanted to give you a better feel of the day-to-day around here and the menial chores I still have to do in paradise while living on a sailboat.

So after waking up with the sun, making coffee, and reading a few dozen pages out of A Pirate Looks at Fifty, I had a craving for cinnamon-pecan pancakes and promptly indulged myself.  After cleaning up my mess I had a few engine chores to do (nothing new there).  Today it was replacing the ignition switch that cracked the other day when I turned the key to OFF, and replacing old copper washers in some of my fuel lines to ensure no more leaks.

This brought me all the way up to 10am.  I was wearing only shorts this whole time, one of my favorite perks of my new “job”.  But I still had quite the pile of laundry underneath the head of my berth.  Small sailboat living!

Laundry bucket

Clothes soaking in the laundry bucket

Clean clothes seem to last forever when you don’t really wear a lot of them except for infrequent runs into town for groceries and beer.  2-3 weeks seems to be the magic interval for laundry.

Fresh water is treated like a rare metal, and I try to use as little as I can during the laundry process.  Some people wash in salt water and rinse in fresh, but I’m not ready to subject my clothes to that yet.  Maybe once they get a few more holes worn into them.

I use free & clear natural detergent, both to help out the fishes and also my skin since I know I probably won’t get rid of all the soap.  I’ll fill up a bucket with less than a gallon of water, add some detergent, and throw in a few items of clothing to soak for a few minutes.  Then I’ll agitate by hand for a few minutes more before throwing the clothes into the “to rinse” pile.

After about two bucket loads, the water starts to get filthy so I’ll change it out with new water and soap, then complete another two bucket loads.  I’ll fill the bucket with the same amount of water for the rinse, and again change the water halfway through.

In all, today I used about three gallons for all the laundry, which will get me through another 2-3 weeks.  The water came out of a five-gallon jerry can, and I poured the rest into my boat’s water tank so that I can fill up the can next time I go ashore.

After rinsing, I wring out the clothes by wrapping them around my lifeline stanchions and twisting as much as I can – this seems to be more efficient than doing it all by hand, though I’m probably stretching them out a bit more.  Haven’t noticed yet.

My lifelines are uncoated steel (you can read why I chose not to get plastic coating in this post) and one drawback to this is that I can’t use them for hanging clothes, because they’ll leave some rust stains on the clothes.  Instead, I string cotton laundry line around my rigging and secure the clothes to this with clothespins.

Laundry drying

Hanging up laundry to dry on cotton clothesline strung between my rigging

While my clothes were hanging to dry and gave the boat even more of a “gypsy” look, I took the dinghy for a run into town.  I stopped by Pop’s Place, a takeout joint run by none other than “Pop”, to talk about seeing his dogs tomorrow.  Pop runs a local dog shelter, and his only source of money for operations costs is through donations.  I met Pop at one of the waterfront bars while he was out collecting donations.  The story intrigued me, so tomorrow I’m going out to look at the shelter, take some pictures of cute helpless puppies, and guilt all of you into sending a few bucks his way to help buy dog food.  It’s a legitimate enterprise and both the local and cruising communities give continual assistance.

My next stop was the post office.  Mom’s Christmas cookies finally arrived, along with the rest of my mail, after a leisurely three-week transit.  The post office demanded a $24 ransom (duty fees) and I wouldn’t be surprised if the cookies were thinned out a little between when they got to customs and finally got to me.  Now that I have my mail I’d love to continue south, except I’m waiting for one more package.  It’s a surprise and I’ll share with you once I receive and install it (curious now?)


After getting back to the mothership I read for a little while longer, and by 4pm the clothes were finally dry.  Laundry day complete.  Just in time for a cocktail before heading to see some of my new sailing friends at a local bar’s End Of The World party, sponsored by superstitious people who believe in Mayan prophecies.  At least I won’t have to pay my bar tab if the prophecy plays out.


Monday 21st of January 2013

I read A Pirate Looks at Fifty about 8 years ago. I loved it. Hope you did as well. I want a flying boat!

John Peltier

Tuesday 22nd of January 2013

Of course...kinda reaffirmed every tough decision I've made in the past year.


Tuesday 15th of January 2013

Lol...loved it! What a life :)


Sunday 23rd of December 2012

Your journals are on point with the beat of your life. Glad you are well on your discovery voyage.


Friday 21st of December 2012

Hello John,

I am not sure if you use it or not but a toilet plunger works great as an agitator for doing laundry in a bucket. There are also little spin buckets that will spin the soap out ofyour cloths. Just a thought but it seems you already have things under control. Cheers

John Peltier

Sunday 23rd of December 2012

Hi Curtis - yes, I tried a plunger the first time but figured it's not doing much more than what I can do with my hands. My new goal here is to reduce clutter on the boat - it adds up quick in 27 feet!

Mom & Dad

Thursday 20th of December 2012

Hi John, Glad to hear the cookies finally arrived - hopefully they're not stale. It's getting ready to snow here; we'll probably get 2 - 3 feet in the next few days...definitely a white Christmas. Wish we were sitting on the boat with you, waking up to laughing gulls, having coffee, and not worrying about anything but when to do our laundry! As Cass said, we'll hoist a few cocktails to you on Christmas. Talk to you soon. Love, Mom & Dad