I’ve been putting off this post a long time, hoping that once we reached some warmer weather that it (the cold) would be less traumatic and I’d sugar coat it. I don’t like to be a complainer so I tend to censor my writing and not be as brutally honest as I’d be telling this story to a friend in person. Therefore, in honor of a true representation of what life is like on a boat, I’ve decided to share my thoughts uncensored.
The cold: The weather in France, and so far down through Portugal in late October is similar to the weather at home in Wisconsin, albeit a little warmer and without snow. We first arrived in Les Sables (N 46.503523, W 1.791862) in late September and for about a week, it was still quite pleasant – low 70s during the day with strong sunshine. Windy, because we’re on the coast, but pretty nice overall. The first weekend in October, everything started to shift. We had just moved onto the boat fully a few days prior and all of a sudden we had highs in the 50s and rain! Although it recovered slightly, the weather started to trend that way overall, becoming colder every day. Keeping warm in a boat is not only challenging, but also expensive. When we first arrived, we didn’t think our boat even had heat. In fact, we had been shopping around for electronic blankets before leaving the States (we decided against them however due to the power draw). We figured we’d only be cooler temps a week or so before heading south so we’d get extra regular blankets and sleep in layers for that short period of time if needed. If you haven’t heard about our delays, you can find that info here. Sitting in the water, the hull of the boat (where the beds are) stays cooler than the upper saloon area. In fact, it’s probably 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler at any given time. This is fine when it’s warm – most people, ourselves included, sleep better when it’s a bit cooler. But it gets downright cold in the fall. So you’re waiting for me to answer the obvious question: why don’t we just turn on that fancy we heat we discovered? It’s not that simple – on a boat, nothing ever is. The heat can only be turned on when we’re using our generator. Our generator uses one liter of diesel fuel per hour. So running the generator all night would cost us at least $1.25 per liter * 8 hours = $10.00 every single night in addition to the hours on the generator. Since we were only planning to stay a week, we decided to tough it out sans heat at night. So or solution has been to turn on the heat in the cabins for about 30 minutes or so to get the chill out of the air in the evenings before bed. And sometimes for about half an hour in the morning in the saloon. Typically, in the last couple weeks, when we wake up it’s been around 58 degrees Fahrenheit in the cabins… brrrr… Thankfully, as we’ve headed south, the boat is warmed more quickly in the mornings by the sun. But getting out of bed in 58 degrees is definitely not motivating or inspiring. Personally, I’d rather hide under the covers until we get to the beach weather! This brings me to watches. These are outside, unprotected from most of the wind and rain (luckily we haven’t had much rain unless we were in a marina). We have what is considered foul weather gear for this – ordered from West Marine in the States and shipped over in our pallet. However, most of mine didn’t arrive from West Marine before we had to leave the country, so we had to find gear in France. I’ve been promising a provisioning in France post for a while, but I’m still so frustrated by what we went through I haven’t had the inspiration or fortitude to sit down and actually relive it while I write it! Since I can’t compare what I got from France to what I ordered and never received from West Marine, I can’t blame France or the brand of offshore jacket I purchased. I can say that it’s nowhere near warm enough for me and the sleeves have that little inner sleeve wrist thingy and it cuts of my circulation a bit. Not good for someone with Raynauds Phenomenon (click here for more info). The short version is that this is a blood pressure / circulation condition that causes my fingers and toes to go painfully numb and turn white whenever I am cold. So… just stay warm right? Again, it’s never that simple. I’m always cold. Often, a drop to 60 degrees is enough to make my extremities numb. Your next thought is probably something like “Don’t you live in Wisconsin where it’s cold all the time?” That’s true, and I have some of the best, warmest technology gear available to keep me warm! I have been slowly exploring winter sports like snowshoeing, skiing, and snowmobiling since I’m able to keep warm. And beer or cocktails always seem to help (though technically, they are counterproductive)!
The Cold Showers
Showering on a boat… probably one of my least favorite things so far. Boat showers are clearly made for tropical weather and to be used only sporadically. I’ve heard that once we hit the tropics, we are more likely to bathe in the sea water (in swimsuits of course) and then have a fresh water rinse on deck than take an actual indoor shower; I guess we shall see. I have long hair that needs conditioning so I anticipate still taking care of that as best I can indoors. Normally, I love showers – long hot showers are my way of waking up in the morning. At home, we never thought about how much water we were using, or if there was hot water. To get hot water on the boat, we have to run the engines or the generator and wait about 20 minutes. So you really have to plan ahead. Our bathroom is furthest away from the water so it takes a while for the water to warm up. Here’s the big challenge: the shower floor has a small trough for water to run through but floods very quickly – you can’t leave the water on for more than 30 seconds or so! There’s a button- activated drain pump in the shower that helps clear the water by it only runs about 15 seconds at a time so it just can’t keep up with the shower water flow. So showering goes something like this: turn on water to check temperature, turn on drain, turn off water, turn on drain again to catch up with water. Repeat until water runs hot (usually about three times). Get in, turn on water to wet hair, turn on drain, turn off water, lather hair, drain – drain (pray you didn’t flood the bathroom), turn on water to rinse halfway, turn off water, drain until caught up… you get the picture. A once glorious and pleasant shower is now stressful and cold. With all the on and off of water, naturally my fingers and toes are numb quite quickly. Yeah… I am not enjoying these showers at all.
While docked in Cascais, we decided to use the marina showers. Hey, we paid for it so we might as well use it! Amanda and I trek off to the ladies to use the facilities. Just imagine, after more than four weeks of using a boat shower, I have unlimited hot water and electricity to dry my hair completely!! Woohoo!! I was stoked for my very first marina shower! Since it’s nearly November and the weather has turned cold and rainy, there aren’t very many people passing through and staying in the marina, using its facilities. Thankfully we had the ladies shower to ourselves! I snapped a quick photo. Although it was very simple and modest, it was pretty clean (per Amanda who has used many marina showers). The water did turn off after about 30 seconds, but it was like being at the YMCA – it was unlimited and super hot! Yesss!! Unfortunately there were no hooks inside the shower stall so I had all my clothes draped over the door. I’d taken along a tek towel so it would dry quickly. It’s been quite a while since I used a public shower so naturally I forgot a few things in my backpack outside on the bench. So, towel on, run out to get things, run back. I decide to take advantage of this opportunity and shave my legs for the first time in… well… a while. Water on and off, goosebump riddled showers are not exactly conducive to shaving legs. So, I’m super happy, chatting away with Amanda across shower stalls, when the unthinkable happens – I drop my razor! Aaaaahhhhhh!!! Since traveling for work I became a bit of a germaphobe and this was the worst! I had only shaved one leg! Ugh, seriously?!? Amanda talks me off the ledge of insanity and convinces me that these showers are really clean, and a good scalding hot water rinse should be fine. Reluctantly, I rinse the razor and keep using it. It sill haunts me to this day… the rest of the experience was pretty painless. I managed to finish showering, comb out my wind-knotted hair, and gather my clothes. I head back into the shower stall to dress since Amanda is there drying her hair, and drape everything over the door again. All of a sudden, my underwear are on the effing floor!!!!! Noooooooooooo!!!!!! (That was literally out loud in the shower stall) There’s no effing way I am putting those on. Maybe not ever again. I suck it up and go commando (for the first time ever) back to the boat. It takes some convincing by Bob not to throw the underwear in the trash but instead into the laundry hamper. I don’t know what it is about bathroom floors but they absolutely terrify me – the germs – the horror! So anyways, my first marina shower was mostly a success! Unlimited hot water is my jam!
*I’ve had several marina showers since this first episode and am now basically an expert! Hahaha! 🙂