Latitude 38: March, 2015

Latitude 38, “the west’s leading sailing and marine magazine” published one of our blog posts in the March, 2015 print issue.  It’s available online here:

Benevento — Pacific Seacraft 40
The Massaro Family
The Laundry Problem
(San Francisco)

While on our two-year cruise from San Francisco to Europe, I often think of Crickett, my friend back home. Unlike most of my friends who have concerns about my personal safety, Crickett was more concerned about something more mundane. “What are you going to do about laundry?!” she asked.

Turns out, Crickett was onto 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 2013, I have used 22 different laundromats — and can visualize every one 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 quality I’ve come to appreciate is the capacity of different washing machines. 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 of sets of these puppies and I have gained a day of my life back.

We generally get our laundry done at marinas, which usually have machines you can pay to use. 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.

It’s pretty inexpensive to get laundry done in the United States. Usually 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 most people in Europe hang their laundry out to dry!

I love nothing better than to have all of our clothes cleaned, dried and put away. I have dreams about my Bosch washer and dryer back home. I get annoyed at that first dirty sock that goes into 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’ve gone 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 transited 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 has to deal with 15-foot tides. This meant we would have had to tie our dinghy up to a floating dock, transfer it over to a wobbly plastic boat, pull ourselves 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 stop, 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 transited the Canal and got into a marina. Once we were at the marina, the locals laughed at me because it took me 11 trips back and forth to get all our 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, as you’d do the same thing. Ironically, as I write this I’m sitting in the marina laundromat in Badalona, Spain. 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 it know how much you appreciate it.

— jennifer 01/25/2015