Monday, May 21, 2012

Getting clean

With all of the excitement of Canal transits and missing toilets and new antifouling paint and and and, I have failed to mention a very exciting development aboard Papillon.

We bought a washing machine!

I know!  I’m dancing in a circle, too!  Because what have I been complaining about since the Earth began cooling?  Yes, the very smelly state of our wardrobe.  Having to haul bags of said stinkage to shore, wash them in machines of dubious quality, dry them (if we´re lucky), and try to get everything back aboard in a still-clean-and-dry state.  It was a thorn in my side.

But laundry needs water.  And, funny enough, water is in short supply on a boat.  So, no washing machine.

Enter our days on the hard.

Cruisers love to sell things to other cruisers.  Life is a perpetual garage sale out here on the water.  Everywhere we go, we participate the local morning VHF net.  It lets people share information, contact each other – all of those regular things we all do every day.  And everywhere we have been, there is a category called, “Treasures of the Bilge.”  Sometimes people hawk their old Corningware for weeks on end.  Sometimes they offer up a 12 volt windlass (to raise the anchor), and it is gone within milliseconds.  We got rid of our surplus blueboard from the fridge project in this fashion.  It is a good system if you don´t abuse it.  By which I mean, if you can keep your spouse from going bananas.

The marina version of this is the bulletin board.  And boy, did Erik love walking by that bulletin board.  “Amy, I bought a new outboard!  It has a service manual and a full set of spares!”, “Amy!  Our neighbor has these great solar panels!” and one day, “Amy, there is an awesome watermaker posted!  We´ll sell our old one – it will be practically free!”

I opened my mouth to say, “Our watermaker is fine.  Low volume, but fine.  We don´t need a new one.”  But Erik continued: “It does 17 gallons per hour.  We could buy a washing machine.”

The words died in my throat.  A few weeks before, we had witnessed the laundry bliss of friends from Quebec, who had squeezed a cheapo machine into a locker.  For $150, they had clean sheets.  Clean.  SHEETS.  Whenever they wanted!  I coveted that flimsy plastic thing.

So instead I agreed.  And Erik bought the watermaker.  And we sold ours.  And we began the drama of getting new reverse osmosis membranes for the darn thing, a saga that is still continuing.  And in the meantime, Erik borrowed a car and went to pick up a washing machine.

And it was so pretty.  So little and pretty.  And light!  30 kg, compared to the 95 kg of our Miele.  We hoisted it on deck while we were still on the hard, and there it sat, wrapped in plastic, smugly promising me washing delights to come.

I cleared out the designated locker, and Erik measured it one last time.

Let me just build a shelf for this thing, and we´ll be all set.
We lowered it gently through the forward hatch.  And I was as careful as I could be except for my foot.  My right leg went through the hatch, and the back of my thigh came down hard on the hatch frame.  I sported a purple bruise about six inches per side for weeks.  Once Erik was done yelling at me for endangering the precious washing machine (and where is the love, I ask you?), we got it the rest of the way inside.

Only to discover that the locker opening was half a centimeter too narrow.

“No problem,” said Erik.  “I though that was likely the case.”  And he set about gently knocking out the inner teak trim from the doorway.

We squeaked that machine in by millimeters.



Got it!
I read the instruction manual, learning the joys of such interesting settings as “Fuzzy” and “Jean”.  And so, just as I have never had a job without a work visa for a foreign country, I have never had a washing machine with an English display.

Meh.  It can´t be too hard to figure out.
Once it was piped in, there was nothing to do but try it out.  By now, Papillon was back in the water, so we had somewhere for the waste water to go.  We decided to discharge into our main bilge to give that oily place a little freshening up.

We loaded the machine.  It began to fill.  And gently whirr.  And drain.  And fill again.  And drain again.  And fill again.

By now, Erik and I were looking at each other with some concern.  That was a lot of water.  The machine had seven water levels, and we had chosen number five.  Clearly a mistake.

And, sure enough, we ran the tank dry.  We scrambled to pause the machine, switch tanks, bleed the air out of the system and restart before the washer gave up.  And we made it, but barely.

We have had a couple of practice loads since then, but I won´t be all high and mighty about my clean clothes until the watermaker is fully operational.  And water level two appears to be the edge of my comfort zone.  I check the machine anxiously as it runs, and keep an ear out for the telltale pump complaint that tells me a tank has gone dry.
Watching, watching..
I´ve heard this crazy rumour that, on land, water comes to your house through a pipe, and you don´t even have to do anything but pay for it!  Fairytales, fairytales…


Kate said...


We just did a project on water for Brownies. We had to list all our uses of water and prioritize them and then consider people in the less developed world and how they use water. What a great learning opportunity your blog was today. :)

I hope you get clean sheets soon.

Love Kate and B

Anonymous said...

Oh, Your machine is a thing of beauty. As long as little fingers don't push the buttons you will be all set!
Love Mom

Anonymous said...

17Gal/hr!!! What luxury.
Our 110yr old house with a similarly ancient drilled well was producing 12Gal/hr when we moved in.
Yea, it comes in a pipe but …..