Day 10: Nowhere Near Godliness

[This was originally published to our subscribers during our passage from San Diego to the Marquesas.]

Dear crew,

I smell.

It’s not for a general disinterest in hygiene that I haven’t bathed yet, despite it being my tenth day at sea. I have a few solid excuses for hitting the double digits without a bath, and these excuses will explain a bit about my life out here.

First, my sun shower burst and spilled two full baths worth of freshwater in the cockpit a few days ago. It was an old sun shower, discoloring, and prone to imparting a chemical scent to the water within. The delaminating edges finally did it in by parting at one corner. I could have purchased a new one before departure, but I am frugal in silly ways sometimes and deemed it nonessential, and anyway, I had a sentimental attachment to it because it was a hand-me-down gift two years ago from a member of my sailing “family.”

Fresh water is precious out here for any sailboat, but for us, it is particularly so. Windfola’s tankage only holds a sum of 36 gallons of water. I carry an additional 20 gallons in sturdy bottles, and always run the water pressure system before departure so that the hot water tank (two gallons) is full and the hoses are also full with another gallon. Doing the math, at a consumption rate of one gallon per day, that is only enough for 59 days at sea, assuming no or very little rainfall catchment.

You can bathe in saltwater, but must use saltwater-friendly soap or it doesn’t really lather. I don’t have any saltwater soap (an oversight in my provisioning). My environmentally-friendly vegan shampoo for dry hair doesn’t perform well in saltwater. Also, while some may disagree, I find a freshwater rinse essential afterward, so for me bathing always consumes some freshwater.

I have another excuse for not bathing yet: the sea state. For the last few days we have been in increasingly strong winds and a stirred up swell pattern. Sailing downwind, the boat tends to be “flatter”—which really means it is not flat at all, but rolling more from side-to-side! (When sailing upwind, the boat “heels” consistently in one direction, so you have a relatively steady slant to your life.) Sailing downwind in these three-meter seas with a relatively short period between waves has meant significant rolling back and forth. I nearly always have to be hanging on to prevent being flung from one side of the boat to the other. When bathing at sea, I use a large bowl with rubber pegs on the bottom that doesn’t slide, but in these conditions, it probably would, and even if it didn’t, water would be sloshing out of the bowl uncontrollably. Scooping water out with a cup while holding on to the boat already takes two hands, so I don’t have a spare for stabilizing the bowl.

Finally, the truth is that I am a fair weather sailor… in that I generally sail only to places with fair weather. 😀 🌴 My mini-protest to the cold weather gods is that I refuse to bathe at sea until both the air and the water are warm enough to bathe in the cockpit without catching a chill. I’m an ocean-going, solo sailor and I want to hang in the buff on my boat wherever I darn well please! And I want to bathe outside with a view and easy access to infinite buckets of saltwater rather than in the nausea-inducing gym locker that is my bathroom.

So, I smell because it was too cold to bathe outside the first four days, then my sun shower burst so I thought I’d hold out a little more to conserve water, and then the swell got big, and I didn’t want to be soapy slick and wasting water in a rolling, slippery boat cockpit.

But today the swell is behaving according to forecast and calming down, and the sun is out and warm here. So I’m off to bathe now, for which I think my bunkmate with the sensitive nose will be thankful.

wishing you fair weather and plenty of fresh water,

elana, Zia & SV Windfola 💕🌈