Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Boat Chores

Next step:
Holystone the decks
Today is what the Navy, back in the days of actual sailing ships, called a “make-and-mend” day--a day off so sailors could mend their uniforms, which I assume got pretty ragged running up the rigging.  For us, it’s a day in port (we’re still in St. Ignace, Michigan,) to do boat chores. 

Besides the obvious stuff (laundry, groceries, post office, mop the floors, clean the heads) I painted the seating area in the bow (which we didn’t have time to do before we left), while Bill touched up the dings on Dragonfly's hull and installed a multi-outlet strip behind the kitchen counter--so we can recharge all our electronics simultaneously, instead of one at a time.

Other weekly boat chores include: topping off the freshwater tanks (see photos on next page) and getting the waste tanks pumped out (not as horrible as it sounds).  Since we carry our water with us, we’re mindful of how we use it.  We really DON’T let the water run when we brush our teeth!  Meanwhile I have read and memorized the instructions for "how to wash dishes with hardly any water," from the amusingly titled Good Boatkeeping.  

I thought about using this photo
as a "What IS It" . .  .
WHAT is this man doing?
Before we left on our trip, many of my women friends wanted to know, “HOW will you get groceries?”  I confidently recited what I’d read in books about "doing the Great Loop": “When you stop in little towns, there will be stores within walking distance.”  But honestly, I wondered too!

What we’ve found is, the grocery situation varies.   Sometimes the marina where we dock has a small store with the essentials: milk, bread, a few canned goods.  Sometimes there's a store within walking distance. (And what I mean by "walking distance" can vary!)   Obviously when we anchor out there are NO stores of any kind nearby. 

We got a kick out of “Bill’s No Frills” in Campbellford, Ontario, about one block from the town dock.  From the black-and-white generic exterior to the warehouse-style shelves that stacked up to the ceiling, to the grocery carts you had to rent and the shopping bags you had to pay for, the place screamed “economy.”  (Yet milk was 3.59 for half a gallon. Well, milk was expensive everywhere in Canada.)

Answer:  He's filling our water tanks
(Note hose goes into tank, bottom right)
Grocery products in Canada have dual-language labels (English AND French) and there are many brands and products you don’t see in the U.S.  I had fun trying new things, like a packet of “Montreal Smoked Meat” (Analysis: indistinguishable from corned beef.) Now that we’re in Michigan, I can’t, alas, convince the Captain we should try the local specialty, smoked fish sausages.

Here in St. Ignace there’s a small but extremely nice little grocery store about six blocks away: mounds of flowers in hot primary colors planted along the front window, shelves stocked hyper neatly, a la Target; small gourmet foods section with fancy cheeses.  Sounds like any grocery store in your neighborhood, huh? . . . but in the two months we have been on the road, this is definitely the fanciest, best stocked place we have encountered.   I probably overdid it loading up my backpack—it felt like much more than a half-mile walk home.

And if you don’t feel like schlepping a big backpack?  Some stores (in towns that get a lot of traffic from boats) advertise "shuttle service"—you come, load up your cart, they drive you back to the marina.  We hear some marinas have "loaner" cars--haven't stayed at such aone yet, though the owner at Honey Harbor, in Georgian Bay, offered to loan us his personal car!  When we stayed at Spider Bay Marina in Little Current, one of the dock hands heard us discussing groceries and volunteered to drive us, saying it was much too far to walk. (I think he was having a slow day . . . it wasn't all that far; but I have to admit there was a big hill and it was a hot day and we were grateful for the ride).

Another good "guy" chore:
Checking the charts and planning the route
Guy readers, I know you don’t care about shopping but you may like to know that even the smallest town generally has some kind of a hardware store within walking distance to the marina.  (The Cap’n is currently off on merely his third trip of the day to Ace Hardware.) 

Girlfriends also wanted to know about laundry.  We packed only dark colors, which keeps things simple.  Some (but not all) marinas have a laundromat on site—could be six washers, or just one.  Sometimes there’s a laundromat in town, walking distance (roughly defined).  And sometimes, if we haven’t scored a laundromat in a while, we scoop up a bucket of lake water.  (Makes me wish for an item I saw in the De Tour Historical Museum:  "A thoroughly modern innovation, the "portable" washboard.  Fits in your travel case!  Perfect for your lingerie!" said the stenciled copy on the wooden frame).   
Don't let your lovely boat be afflicted by the tragedy of drying laundry!

We have a clothesline in the stern cabin, or sometimes we spread items out in the screened-in bow seating area. But why not hang the laundry outdoors, you ask?  Under that nice canopy on the stern deck?

Ahem.  Well, as I've mentioned, everything we know about boating customs and culture we learned from books, and as you know, Chapman’s Boating Etiquette is my bible

Chapman says (and I quote, emphasis added), “Lifelines seem to be made to string up clothing, but it is a terrible thing to do to a boat’s appearance on an otherwise lovely day.” 

Not even a garment so small and unobtrusive as your wet socks should be draped in the sun on deck, Chapman warns, because “Some skippers of the old school . . . make a practice of throwing overboard every article of clothing left unattended, to teach the uninitiated to keep their possessions to themselves.”

Now, lest you think Chapman is a tight-lipped perfectionist who should loosen up and enjoy himself already, he’s actually a practical guy with a sense of humor.  He notes, “Clothes have a way of drying slowly all day, and then, just as they dry, flying away and landing in the water.”  Bummer!  And all too true.

But most of all, Chapman wants you out there boating--not doing chores.  He concludes his chapter on "Ship's Laundry" (yes, there's a chapter titled "Ship's Laundry") with this final recommendation, which any woman sailor who cares about the sharp appearance of her boat AND is tired of sitting around a laundromat waiting for the spin cycle to conclude would heartily endorse: 

“Send everything to the laundry right from the yacht club; it comes back the same day, all dry and neatly folded, and the boat’s appearance has not suffered a bit.”

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget to issue 5 yards of purser's duck to every man aboard so that he can sew himself warm-weather slops!