Updated: Apr 19
I have previously experienced living aboard but there are some substantial differences between the current adventure and the previous one. Most importantly the first one was in the Mediterranean, spring to autumn, so it was warm to hot, and secondly, nearly as important, we mainly stayed in pretty snazzy marinas, maybe except for the Greek one, so we had access to bathrooms. It can therefore be pictured quiet vividly that despite the previous boat being smaller and not equipped nearly so well, living aboard presented a dissimilar experience, with the possibilities of jumping into warm sea, having shower on the deck if needed without the necessity of heating the water and going out for food in restaurants, which is not available now due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with only some places catering for take away meals. The list could go on but now is what matters so I would like to share the day to day workings of living on a boat.
Heat is a luxury. There are a few options of heating, but we don’t have it on all the time while not sailing, so it is necessary to wrap up and have a hot drink to feel warm. In addition, I sometimes wrap in a blanket. Staying in a marina would offer the benefit of plugging into the mains and just switching on the electric fan heater, but again thanks to the virus panic, marinas are closed, so we are either anchored or tied to a mooring buoy and can forget about the mains. The satisfaction of turning on the gas heater with a REAL flame and enjoying evenings with a glass of wine and dinner is very special and such a treat at the end of the day. It is the first of May when I am writing this piece, and so far we have had a few evenings without turning the heating on and the temperature was comfortable, maybe requiring some duvet to enjoy some couch potato time 😉, and we also had some glorious days of sunbathing in the nip in the shelter of the cockpit, so I accept that the British summer is here!
Before I launch into the water element stuff, I feel I need to pre-empt any arguments against our state of cleanliness, by explaining that although fresh water is a precious resource, we keep up with the needs of maintaining a good standard. Again, coronavirus comes on the scene, and cuts off access to marinas where normally we would be able to top up water tanks. Having that out of the way, let me explain how fresh water gets filled into our tanks – we bring it in 25-liter jerry cans. Depending where we find a freshwater tap, sometimes we must carry the cans a distance if there are no taps available on shore where we pull up in the dinghy, and those cans full of water are heavy! I tried to carry one of them on my head and felt like it was altering the shape of my skull and crushing my spine from C1 all the way to coccyx. This experience makes my heart go out to the guys who do it every day. By the time those jerry cans are emptied into the freshwater tanks, I think twice how about much water I want to use.
Getting water from a field tap at Newtown
As you can imagine now, a shower is a luxury too! No, we don’t go around stinking, but a full on shower is not an everyday occurrence. Let’s start with the hair. I have long hair and when living in a house with unobstructed access to water I had no idea how much water I needed to wash my hair, as this would happen in a shower, less often in a bath, and I indulged in standing under the hot water stream to the heart’s content. Now, I heat less than one liter of water in a pot, add cold water to make it a comfortable temperature and using a cup pour it on my hair over the bathroom sink, or if it is warm enough, sitting on the back steps of the boat. The hot and the cold water adds up to about 3 liters at best and is used to wash the rest with a body cloth. It does the job perfectly, I promise. Oh, and when I am done washing myself, I use the water to wash the floor in the galley. Water conservation at its best! Normal everyday wash is limited, and we just use cold water. It gives me goose pimples even as I write about it, especially when combined with the temperature of the surroundings, but I just get on with and tell myself that it is good for the complexion! 😉
Now onto a real shower with hot water – it can be done, and it does happen on the boat. Water gets heated when running the engine or the generator. Due to very prudent water usage calculations it was established that it takes us between eight to ten liters of water to have a nice hot shower with, of course, hair washed as well. How? Simple – turn on the shower to get the body wet, turn it off, soap everything and turn on the shower to rinse, enjoy the fresh feeling!
Moving onto some tricky business of shaving legs and so on. Ladies, have you ever tried shaving your legs when it is cold? If so, you know the goose bumps that make the experience quite unpleasant and then the lingering feeling of the entire skin like-grazed on concrete surface. Yes, that’s the reality. I consciously try to make the goose bumps disappear and I tell myself it is all good and that it is warm enough and soon the legs will be perfectly smooth. No, it doesn’t work, but stops me from frantically pulling the blades on the surface of the skin at the risk of cutting myself, which is possible even with the five-blade shaver.
Mark is an old salty sea dog (no offence to dogs) and doesn’t shave, however he trims his beard, otherwise kissing would really resemble having a very close encounter with a hairy animal. I am proud to announce that I have earned the barber’s badge and trimmed his beard nicely, which brings me to the conclusion that life in general teaches us not to take things for granted. It is because until just a couple of months ago we had unobstructed access to all sorts of conveniences, water, marinas, heat, barbers, restaurants, and all sorts of services while now people give each other a wide berth at the best of times, social gatherings are prohibited, and all of a sudden working from home is not a privilege but a must.
Mark after he demanded that I trim the bush ;)
The most challenging part of the cleanliness department is laundry. The challenge results of course from lack of access to marinas which usually offer access to self-launderettes. As everything else, this can be overcome too. Since the beginning of the sea adventure we made one trip to a launderette in Poole. We packed everything which required washing into backpacks and a big shoulder bag, took it ashore by dinghy and while pushing the idea that the launderette may be closed to the backs of the heads, carried everything for 35 minutes to an absolute delight when we saw someone ahead pushing the doors into the launderette. It was open! Everyone likes fresh bedclothes, nice smelling towels and clean clothes, but when living in a house, it is taken for granted, as most people have a washing machine and a dryer or some drying facilities. For me it was a celebration! The thirty-five minute walk each way with the bags wasn’t a chore, it was an achievement, I felt positively blissful purely because I could wash my clothes!
Now all clean, smelling of roses and violets, smoothly shaven, wearing clean clothes, galley floor clean, we can sit down and relax with the gas heater on while watching a movie on the laptop. We have three laptops on board and lots of other electronic equipment which gets charged thanks to green energy generated by the wind turbine and solar panel. The batteries can also get charged when the engine or the generator is running but most of the time we rely on the sun and wind. Most of the electronic equipment runs on 12 volts, but some need 220V and they get charged through an inverter plugged into the 12V socket.
Having all the above in mind, plus things I didn’t care to mention, like the fact that there is nothing sacred while living on a boat, as this deserves a whole chapter, I wouldn’t change it for the world! I love the sense of achievement with completing every task, every mission to get water, or grocery shopping, or getting fuel for the engines. I love how special it felt when we had shower in men’s room in a closed marina (ladies were locked up). I really enjoy when the boat is anchored or moored in a place with no other vessel around, as such privilege cannot be taken for granted either as normally places that we visit and in which we enjoy the undisturbed peace, quiet and nature would be buzzing with life on boats. Due to covid-19 situation we enjoyed Chichester Harbor and Newtown nearly exclusively to ourselves.
I leave you all with nice thoughts that fill hearts with gratitude for the fact that you can open the tap and have fresh water, wash your clothes in a washing machine, have a hot shower every day, but just like us, you can’t go to the barber shop!