The “Art” of taking a shower at 45 degrees!

The following is today’s blog from one of my crewmates on and I thought you might like to see how they are staying clean down there in the ‘roaring 40s’!

So here I am again, 4am on a cold morning on and taking a quick break in my current engineering and cleaning duties. The washing up of nighttime hot drink mugs has happened and the bilges have all been checked and emptied so I can snatch a minute or two before I clean the heads [toilet & tiny wash basin cubicle] in anticipation of watch change over at 7am (boat time). For those of you wondering about this situation, let me assure you that yes I did pay to be here and for the opportunity to clean two loos in the dark at 45 degrees, but that comes as part and parcel of the whole sailing experience.

Obviously, not all time spent in the heads is about cleaning the physical fittings, it is also the one place on the boat where we can actually fully clean ourselves. I listen with envy to stories from my crewmates who sailed on Leg 1 and enjoyed the opportunity to shower behind a screen off the back of the boat in the equatorial sun. Unfortunately, although we have had sunny days recently, the Southern Ocean temperatures aren’t conducive to outdoor showering. That being so I recently completed my weekly full body and hair wash in the aft head, a space about 1-meter square.

The important thing is preparation. Once in the head and stripped off, there is no point suddenly remembering a vital component of the operation. You are not going to run naked through the boat to get things nor get dressed again as you are tossed from one side of the cubicle to another just to collect a missing towel. For me, the necessary components are a bowl or bucket for head washing, a jug or water bottle of fresh water for rinsing, saltwater shampoo/body wash, towel, a dry bag of clean underwear and base layer and toothbrush and toothpaste. By now, things are getting pretty crowded and I find myself frantically tying as much as possible off the floor.

Start with a not-too-full bowl of seawater from the tap. The temperature is Southern Ocean Cold! Plunge in head to thoroughly wet hair all over before applying a little shampoo. Note the quantity is important as too much creates the problem I experienced the first time I did this – an almost alien invasion of bubbles which were nearly impossible to disperse down a pump toilet. Once my head is fully lathered I use a wet cloth to dampen the body and then clean all over with the body wash. Feet are difficult as these involve standing on one leg and using at least one hand to prevent falling over and things are now getting pretty slippery and wet. The whole procedure is then repeated with at least one saltwater rinse followed by a freshwater rinse at the end. Hypothermia is avoided by racing through everything as quickly as is physically possible.

It might not sound much in print but the acrobatics, core strength and muscle bracing required to stay upright as the boat moves means that despite the whole experience being with icy cold water, I normally end up quite warm by the time I get around to towelling my hair and body dry. The final and best part is putting clean underwear onto a clean body before cleaning my teeth, wiping any hair off the floor (don’t want to pollute the bilges) and scuttling back to my bunk to climb into my cosy sleeping bag. I’m lucky that my hair is short enough to towel dry so I don’t go to sleep with wet hair as although we have a hair dryer on board it is exclusively to dry sails requiring repair and not for crew heads!

So as each of your family, friends and followers head off for your daily ritual of a shower or bath with hot or warm freshwater covering your entire body spare a thought for your loved ones who may or may not be enjoying the weekly ritual described above. It is just another small component of what makes this whole experience the race of our lives.

Bye for now, from a relatively clean cleaner in the Southern Ocean

(SK, hope you do not mind a little plagiarism!)

2 thoughts on “The “Art” of taking a shower at 45 degrees!

  1. Take care gramps! I bet you’ll have mastered living at 45 degrees by the time you’re back! Stay safe, look after yourself and other team members, I love you lots and will see you when you get back! Love Jodie xxx
    P.s hope you enjoy reading the books we gave you!


  2. Dear Robin,

    Don’t know if I will see you before you go but I wish you well and hope it lives up to your dreams and expectations.

    Just think of coming home to the little things in life like log fires, upright hot showers and clean knickers!

    I’m sure Mary and I will be having a few fish suppers or suchlike.

    Enjoy it but stay safe – you will owe us few coffees at the gym.

    Love Lynda.


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