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How Do You Handle Laundry?

By The Ithaka - Published May 05, 2006 - Viewed 1296 times

How Do You Handle Laundry?

Maria M., from Austin, Texas, emailed us that she and her husband are quitting their jobs and heading this way next year on their Hunter 42, Milano. Maria asks, "How do you handle the laundry chores in the Western Caribbean? Are there laundromats?"

From Bernadette: Laundry will never be more a part of the rhythm of your daily life than it is when you go cruising. No matter what your level of laundry activity was at home, cruising laundry is another animal altogether You'll encounter the smelliest bag of grease-stained, sweaty, dank clothing that you can imagine, and you'll shudder to think you ever had any of it on your back. Meanwhile, around you, everyone is dealing with laundry: most cruisers you meet are lugging it around and stringing it up on lifelines, shrouds and rigging.

On land, laundry it hangs on clotheslines in front of everyone's village homes; in Guatemala, this often means yards and yards of their beautifully hand-woven fabrics - quite a pretty sight! You see local women on the Rio doing laundry morning, noon and night along the side of river; they hike up their skirts, wade into the water up to their thighs, and scrub the clothes with a bar of soap against the rocks. Indeed, down here, when an Indian woman asks a man if she can do his laundry, it means a serious commitment. (When I ask Douglas if I can do his laundry, it means eau de honey is beginning to permeate de boat.)

In the Third World, most towns don't have laundromats - hence the 500 million white cotton diapers you see hanging out on clotheslines in every little town you hoof through. So you bring your laundry to someone who usually has a hand-written sign in her window, she does it for you using her products, and you pick it all up a few hours later or the next day. It's usually pretty reasonable. In the Rio, each marina has laundry facilities.

When we're at anchor, however, I do basic laundry by hand in a bucket. (Soak for awhile in freshwater and detergent, then scrub, rinse, hang on the lifelines, and use the leftover water to wash the cockpit cushions.) I kind of enjoy the whole process, as it makes my hands feel super clean for about 42 seconds. By the way, here's a tip: Make a few extra fitted sheets for your bed. When you're hot and sweaty, you really need to change the sheets and pillowcases every week, and when you're anchored off deserted islands for a month or more at a time, trying to conserve your fresh water, you can't afford to wash sheets that often; they take too much water. Now we have four pretty sets for our V-berth, and can leave the washing of sheets until we get back to shore.





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