To say we’ve been experiencing a lot of rain lately here in Grenada would be an understatement. This past week we have, to varying degrees, been sprinkled, drizzled, showered, pelted, barraged, bucketed, deluged and inundated. We have repeatedly sponged, mopped and toweled our sopping wet cockpit in the quest to create a dry—or at least a damp—place to sit. We have optimistically opened portholes and hatches to get some air circulation below, only to dash madly to screw them all closed again as another cloudburst hit. In between, we have had a few hours of sun but far more of gray overcast. Good thing we got most of our boat chores done during our first two weeks here when the sun was abundant. This is not the kind of weather in which you can disassemble and repair an anchor windlass or apply three coats of varnish.
But it is weather in which you can do laundry, especially a cache of white stinky socks. The only catch is that you must submit to getting laundered by the rain yourself.
Step 1: Collect rain water. Some sailboats have specially designed rain catchers in the form of a tarp that hangs from the rigging above the cockpit or deck. A plug in the center of the tarp allows you to release the collected rainwater into storage jugs. On Corroboree, the water collects naturally on our bimini. Push up on the center of the bimini from below and the water cascades into our handy blue bucket.
Step 2: Pour some of the rain water into a second bucket. This is now half of your “washing machine.” For the stinky socks a small bucket will suffice. To wash a t-shirt or pair of shorts, I’d need to use the blue bucket or call into service one of our other plastic bins. Either way, we can do laundry only in small batches.
Step 3: Add detergent and activate the other half of your “washing machine,” namely, the laundress. Today, hoping to re-whiten as well as refresh the stinky socks, I eschewed detergent in favor of an intense encounter with bleach. I’m not sure why we even need laundry detergent at all. Are we simply conditioned to believe it’s essential to our health and well-being? On occasions when I’ve taken advantage of a quick shower aboard Corroboree to rinse out a dirty garment, plain water seems to do the trick. At any rate, the laundress got to work and soaked and scrubbed each sock.
Step 4: After each batch of socks, empty the “washing machine” and fill with fresh water for the rinse cycle. Since you’re doing all this in the midst of a downpour, no need to worry about running out of water. You can rinse as many times as necessary simply by collecting more rain from the bimini.
Step 5: Put the laundry through the “wringer”—that would be the laundress again—and convey the clean clothes to the “dryer”—aka any convenient piece of line. Today the formerly stinky but still not as white as I’d hoped socks had to share space with the grot towels. “Grot towels,” a vital and highly valued category of equipment on Corroboree, are used to mop up water and other messes, and today they put in heroic service. I am pleased to say we have seen many “dryers” in use in the islands, strung along porches and between homes and adorned with colorful clothes. If we in the developed countries are serious about reducing our environmental footprint, we would do well to resurrect the humble backyard clothesline.
Step 6: Dry off the laundress. Fix her a cup of hot tea accompanied with cookies. But do not take her picture. She looks like a half-drowned bilge rat.