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January 22, 2008

Small World at Sea

Resource conservation and tactical tradeoffs were a sub-theme of our sailing week on the Sea of Cortez. Unlike the Caribbean and other places we’ve rented boats, there are no restaurants or stores to stop at where we were cruising. Knowing this and thinking through the implications are two different things!

A day into our trip we noticed that we’d used a quarter of our fresh water. Whoops! And nobody had even showered yet. We hypothesized that profligate rinsing of dishes and pots was the culprit. We’re used to having dinner on shore and easy breakfasts and lunches aboard. Good luck is that friend Marc turns out to be a great chef. Bad luck is that, even though Marc used the grill for the main course every night, there were still pots, pans, and dishes to be washed.

There was also a zip lock bag problem. We hadn’t brought enough of them onboard somehow so they needed to be rinsed to be reused for leftovers. But rinsing takes water. Tough decision; don’t save what isn’t worth saving. Better yet, save the rinse water to use as presoak for the pots from the next meal.

I’ve read from different sources that both Chinese and British captains could tell when women had been smuggled aboard by the sudden alarming increase in fresh water usage. Apparently, although men’s hair can be washed in salt water, women’s hair can’t. Four of our crew of seven are women – less chauvinistically, four of our crew have significantly longer hair than the other three.

I tried to set a good example by using the slightly warm water spurting out the side after it cooled the engine to wash my hair while paddling around in the surprisingly cold water but couldn’t convince anyone, male or female, that this was a good idea. Finally, after explaining that this water didn’t actually touch any greasy engine parts, I got permission to use it for dishes presoak so long as I leaned over and gathered it in a pot. (warning: on some boats this water is really hot; be careful.)

The harbors were remarkably empty. In the one crowded harbor (by Sea of Cortez standards), we didn’t use sea water because we knew none of the boats were equipped with holding tanks; heads flush into the sea. Yuk!

Back to ocean-bathing, two hints: 1) jump in the water and get wet, then climb onto the swim platform and soap up, then jump back in to rinse; soaping up while swimming doesn’t work well; 2) dish soap (environmentally friendly, of course) suds much better than bar soap in salt water.

OK. Women do get to shower; boat shower which means you don’t leave the water running. But what about running the water so that the tap turns warm before using the water. Lots of waste; I had visions of running dry. Someone’s smart suggestion: save that pre-hot water for drinking or cooking or dishes. Problem solved.

The boat was supposed to be equipped with garbage bags. It was – one! That was good for about two days. Fortunately Mary has a habit of saving the little plastic bags groceries come in. We bought lots of groceries before we left so we had lots of little bags. Now, at the end of the cruise, I’m about to haul the tied but leaky and smelly things out of the spare anchor locker and throw them away. Good thing we never had to use the spare anchor in a hurry; we would’ve drowned in garbage.

You know what? It was all part of the fun.

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