Unkempt Company -May 22, 2003
Eileen bravely endures a trim under a palm tree on the beach at Isla Blanquilla, Venezuela
I know you by your sandals and your hair in need of a trim
Personal grooming isn't at the top of our list of priorities on board "Little Gidding". Don't get us wrong. We don't smell too bad. Our clothing might be faded, but usually it's clean. Eileen applies lipstick on occasion and David often remembers to shave at least every other day. That's not bad by cruisers' standards. But it's not quite up to scratch by the workaday standards we left behind when we cast off the docklines nine years ago.
As the lyrics in Eileen's song Friends suggest, most cruisers find there are more important things to life than designer clothes, pedicures, and hundred dollar coiffures. There are exceptions, of course. We remember meeting a couple in St. John in the US Virgin Islands at a potluck "dinghy drift". In her perfectly manicured hands she was clutching a little lap dog that had a more elaborate hairdo than any of the humans in attendance. Her husband wore a shirt that had one of those little logos on it that doubles its price. He spent most of the evening complaining bitterly about their thousand dollar a month satellite phone bill. They had recently arrived with the Caribbean 1500 cruising rally and had been out cruising for all of ten weeks. We don't think they lasted much beyond that.
For those of us who get over the initial hurdle of reducing our wardrobe to fit into a single hanging locker, keeping up with cruiser fashion is pretty simple. When one T shirt wears out, we put it in the rag bag for the next time we wax the hull, and buy a new one wherever we happen to be. They sell T shirts everywhere. As for haircuts, we can delay an encounter with the shears by wearing a hat during the day and dimming the lights at night. Some male cruisers give up on haircuts altogether and sport pony tails instead. They tend to be the ones who missed out on the hirsute excesses of the Woodstock generation because they had jobs as firemen or advertising executives at the time.
We don't ever get to the pony tail stage. We find it's more trouble having very long hair on a boat in the tropics than the hassle of having it cut. Long hair is hot, hard to wash (especially if you're conserving water), and tends to get caught in the V belt when you're leaning over the engine to bleed the fuel lines. So, when the hats and dim lighting begin to lose their effectiveness, we pick up a comb and pair of scissors and head for shore.
Some people are amazed that we let each other near our respective heads while brandishing a sharp implement. We admit that we were initially a bit reluctant to cut each other's hair, but none of our haircuts over the years has been a total disaster, the blood loss has been minimal, and we both still have a complete set of ears. We learned how to cut hair from a friend who had formerly worked as a hair stylist. Before we quit our jobs and ran away on our boat, she gave us a few lessons. The first time, she did all of the cutting and we observed. The next time, she coached and we did most of the cutting. The third time we were more or less on our own. At that last encounter, Eileen was reduced to tears by the outcome and threatened to book in sick at work for a couple of weeks. By that time we were just about ready to leave anyway, so it really didn't matter if her former work colleagues thought she was aspiring to join a punk rock band. David's hair styling technique improved after that inauspicious beginning. His cruising dreams and marriage depended on it.
After you know the hair cutting basics, all you really need to give your spouse a trim is a good pair of scissors (don't spare the expense - go to a professional supplier) and a shady spot on a beach. Once we held a hair cutting session in the cockpit of the boat and spent the next month clearing hair out of the cockpit drains and every other imaginable orifice on the boat. If the shore location you've picked for your itinerant hair salon is fairly public, be prepared to respond to passers-by who invariably jest, "Can I make an appointment?" It may sound amusing the first time, but wears thin by the seventeenth repetition.
We last cut each other's hair a couple of months ago, before we left the boat in a yard in Virginia and drove up to Ottawa. We wanted to look respectable at Eileen's parents' 50th wedding anniversary party (see our May 8th entry). It seemed to work - at least no one barred the door at the golf club where the event took place. Now we're starting to look a little shaggy again. Not to worry. We'll be heading back to the boat soon and we have our hats close at hand.