Bobby C Laundry: A How-To Guide
(This, like all good sea stories, contains some exaggeration and adjustment of facts to be slightly more entertaining. But only some—all of these things have happened to someone mid-laundry.) So there you are, not a clean pair of underwear or non-greasy shirt to be found anywhere in the depths of your bunk. It’s about five weeks into the trip, and after all this time, the hour is upon you. Yes, it is laundry day. In my opinion, the best time for laundry is after dawn watch, because what else could you possibly want to do after you wrap up a six-hour work shift that started at one in the morning? The key here is that it’s still cool outside and not yet brutally sunny, so you can (theoretically) wash your clothes, hang them up on the line, and then go collapse in your bunk and let the breeze and the sun work their magic. When you awaken from your slumber, you will skip around collecting your dry, fresh-smelling garments, fold them all nicely, and put them away where they belong, leaving you refreshed and ready for the coming days. If only it worked like that. The first step is, of course, to begin an excavation in your bunk. Collecting all your dirty articles into whatever vessel you can find—pillowcase, laundry bag, wrapped in a towel, whatever works for you—is difficult, and involves plumbing the depths of your cabinet, shoe drawer, neighborhood stuff bunk, and Gear Adrift to chase down those last few T shirts that still have sleeves. Once you’re certain that you’ve wrangled everything requiring a rinse up to the foredeck, you’re ready for the next challenge: bucket selection. As everyone knows, the most valid reason to have a big boat is carry aboard it as many other smaller boats as you can. Robert does this very well, ferrying three smaller boats all over the Pacific. One of these is a lovely little sailboat named Gene, who contains our cleaning supplies. Gene is full of five-gallon buckets: some are orange, some yellow, some black and white. Many are labeled with “Murphy’s” or “Bleach” or “Envirox” from field days gone by. All have certainly been used for slops in their time. Everyone’s laundry method is different, so choose however many you need—just make sure they are clean, or else all your scrubbing will be in vain. It’s worth noting that while you’re completing your bucket survey in the six inches of space between Gene and the lab top, a boat checker will need to get by you. When you try to move out of the way, you’ll run into an engineer doing some maintenance on the outboard motor perched by the lobby door. At this moment, the watermaker finishes filling one of the starboard water tanks and water begins to spurt regularly out of the vent all over your shoes. The sound of laughter from people hanging out on the lab top drifts down mockingly as you, the buckets, the engineer, and the boat checker maneuver around each other, all moving with appropriate alacrity. Finally, you find yourself back on the foredeck, where your clothing pile awaits you. On to the next challenge: filling your buckets. The aggressive pressure of the salt water spigot surprises you, hitting the bottom of the bucket so hard that it splashes out again and soaks you. That’s okay, though, because the clothes you’re wearing definitely also need a rinse. This is usually the point where I remember another crucial component of this process, and so when the bucket is full it’s back to Gene to track down some soap. And what options there are. A baking soda container filled with mysterious powder that smells cleaner than anything else on this ship? Or should we opt for the Skippy’s peanut butter jar labeled “Laundry Soap for Laundry?” Perhaps a bottle of whitish liquid from Tahiti that smells overpoweringly of vanilla? Maybe some Liquid Pot and Pan Detergent? It doesn’t matter what you choose. Just don’t forget the washboard when you head back to your buckets. Now it’s time to get started. The water blackens the moment you dip your first shirt in, and no matter how often you change it out, dirt just keeps coming out of your clothes. Where it comes from out here is anyone’s guess, but it definitely accumulates. Booby poop rains down from the sky unpredictably, making this a high-stress endeavor. Hannah walks by every two minutes on her daily deck marathon, making conversation with you in snippets. No fewer than three people need to get into Wayne’s World [a locker for tools and a work bench] for very important projects. Someone on watch comes by to “water the lawn,” meaning wet down the deck, and activate the power of evaporative cooling to help the people down below sleep, but you are already keeping the deck wet with your furious scrubbing, and they quickly retreat to the quarterdeck. The process is going smoothly now: soak, crub, rinse, wring out. You’re in the groove, buckets strewn across the deck, clean clothes ready for hanging, dirty ones awaiting their transformation, hose standing by to rinse out or refill… And here comes C Watch to strike the tops’l. So, with sigh, you shuffle your buckets out of their way, take a seat on the deck box labeled DANGEROUS CHEMICALS, and wait, soapy sweater in hand. When they’re done casting off some lines and hauling on others and the tops’l is tightly hugged around the mast above you all, you help them coil down—mostly because you’re a good shipmate, but also because the brails have found their way into the bucket with the washboard, and you can’t continue until they’re nicely hung. Finally, when the foredeck is quiet again, you scrub on. It might take an eternity, but finally, when you finish with the last pair of shorts, you’ve done it: laundry day is almost over, and it’s nearly time to sleep. There’s just one more battle to fight. The laundry lines are always crammed, and today is no different. In fact, as you search hopelessly for just an inch of pace and some empty clothespins between forgotten sun shirts and sole towels that will never dry, someone leaps out the lobby door with a stack of microfibers in hand fresh from chores to claim the last bit of real estate available. And now you know that you’re about to become the ship’s villain, because anything remotely approaching dry is now destined for Gear Adrift. After your trip to the stifling sauna of 16th Street, you’re in the final stretch. Hang the clothes, dump the buckets, return the washboard and the laundry soap to Gene for the next unfortunate shipmate, and then you’re on your way below to bed. As you pass through the doghouse, you catch a glimpse of the radar. What you see stops you in your tracks. There, as far as the eye can see, a massive blot of red. Squalls upon squalls, a wall approaching the boat, standing by to ensure your laundry will never be dry again. Oh well. I guess it’s an extra fresh rinse. -Izzy Lardner, Deckhand (B Watch) PS: hi family! I hope you are following along as usual and enjoying plotting our interestingly circuitous cruise track. Thank you for all the birthday wishes I like to imagine you’re sending me: let’s have ice cream cake in august. ellie, go for a swim at Kingsbury for me.