Airing our Laundry

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While on this trip I often think of my friend back home, Crickett. Unlike most of my friends who had concerns about my personal safety and well-being on this adventure, Crickett was more concerned about something more mundane. “What are you going to do about laundry?!” she asked. Turns out, Crickett was on to something. While it’s not a life threatening issue (with the possible exception of socks from an 11-year-old boy that have been stewing in the laundry bag for several weeks), it’s definitely one of the important parts of cruising.

Since October of 2013 I have used 22 different laundromats.  (I can’t remember the day of the week, but I can visualize every laundromat I’ve been to.)  I’ve also done laundry at the houses of three different relatives and three times I’ve had laundry done for me.  Occasionally we have hand washed select pieces of laundry (in buckets or in the sink), but this takes a lot of water, which is precious.  We used this technique more in the tropics when it was easier to wash one day’s worth of clothes (a bathing suit) for use the following day.

One thing I’ve come to appreciate is the quality of quantity of machines I encounter. Give me a triple load front-loader that does a wash in 30 minutes combined with a triple load dryer and I’m a happy camper. Give me a couple sets of these puppies and I have gained a day back of my life. We generally get our laundry done at marinas (which usually have machines you can pay to use) and this involves getting the laundry bags off the boat, carrying the bags over to the laundry facility (I rate the slip we have at a marina by its proximity to the bathrooms and laundry), wait for all the laundry to be done, then haul it back to the boat. Occasionally we’ve had to haul laundry to shore in the dinghy in dry bags and haul it over to a nearby laundromat. Laundry is pretty cheap in the United States and you can get a regular load done for $2.50 at the most, and another $2.50 to dry the clothes. That same load will cost you $6.50 per wash and per dry in Europe (no wonder Europeans hang their laundry to dry!)

I love nothing better than all of our clothes cleaned, dried and put away. I have dreams of my Bosch washer and dryer back home. I get annoyed at that first dirty sock that goes in the laundry bag because I know it will need to be washed but I never know when my next encounter with a laundry machine will be (or how much it will cost.) Because our living space is small, we have no place to hide away the offending laundry bags. They sit on the floor in the forward berth, slowly growing.

The longest we went without doing laundry was about five weeks, from Puerto Madera, Mexico to Colon, Panama. We had an opportunity to do laundry in Panama City, Panama before we crossed through the canal. However, we were at an anchorage (there are no marinas for visitors), so we would have had to take our laundry in the dinghy. The dinghy dock had to deal with 15 foot tidal fluctuations. This means you had to tie your dinghy up to a floating dock, transfer it over to a wobbly plastic boat, pull yourself across from the dinghy dock to the steps ashore, and then get the bags up the steps. If the tide was low this meant that the bottom 15 feet of the steps would be wet, mossy and slippery. If we managed all of this, we’d have to hire a taxi to get us to the laundromat, or haul it on the public transportation to the nearest step, and lug it the rest of the way by foot. If we managed all of this, we’d have to hope that the wind wouldn’t be too high on the dinghy ride home otherwise the whole lot would get wet again. So, as you can imagine, we waited to do laundry until we crossed the canal and got into a marina. Once we were at the marina the locals were laughing at me as I made my 11 trips back and forth to get all the laundry done.

As a result of all of this, we (along with most cruisers) tend to wear our clothes more than once. Don’t judge, landlubbers. You’d do the same thing. Trust me. Ironically, as I write this blog post I’m sitting in the marina laundromat in Badalona Spain (photo included.) One thing I do know is that I won’t complain about doing laundry when we return home. The fact that I can throw in a load whenever I want without inserting coins or a token seems pretty luxurious to me at this point.

Most of the photos we post tend to be the more exotic and interesting moments of our travels. We tend to talk less of the more mundane tasks we have to do. But that laundry is always piling up. Crickett – you had some foresight. Go and give your laundry machine a gentle pat and let you know how much you appreciate it.

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