Friday, June 20, 2014

Turn on the tap, plug in the electronics

After living at anchor for four weeks on a boat that is designed and set-up to be tied to a dock, it feels downright luxurious to be at a marina. Unlimited electricity and unlimited fresh water.  

But it's going to my head. I'm washing dishes three times a day, and I hate washing dishes. I open the fridge with abandon, sometimes standing in front of the cool breeze for more than a minute. I'm washing clothes and diapers. I'm taking showers aboard. Hans has thoroughly washed the outside of the boat. The girls are taking baths. We have fans running on high, strategically placed for comfortable sleeping.

Yet it's not as if we were really roughing it when we were cruising down the ICW. We were simply using as little fresh water and electricity as possible since they were both finite.

Power: Our batteries are not high-end house banks designed to slowly discharge and then recharge. Pretty much as soon as we turned the engines off their voltage dropped. We don't have solar panels or wind turbines like most cruising boats have, so we were reliant on our engines or generator to give us power. If we stayed somewhere for more than a day, we had to run the generator, which we discovered was wholly inefficient at charging the batteries and then developed a pesky fuel issue which would cause it to surge and stall every 30 minutes. We never ran out of power, per se, and our engine(s) always started up in the morning, but the fridge would often turn itself off during the night when the battery voltage got too low leaving puddles of water in the vegetable drawer from the defrosting freezer.

Water: we carry a lot of water, but a lot of water is never enough with two adults and two kids. We didn't resort to washing dishes in salt water and rinsing with a fresh water spray bottle like we did on Whisper, but we did turn the water off while washing our hands and we shampooed in saltwater and rinsed, very quickly, in freshwater.

Swimming with Freja at anchor near the northern entrance to the Pungo Canal in NC.
The water was beautifully fresh and clean. But further down south, when we hit the saltwater,
a freshwater rinse was not an option after every swim.
Partly because we had to save the freshwater to clean this little face.
It takes a lot of water to wash off all that ketchup! 

I'm finding myself swinging on a water and power pendulum. At anchor I stood in front of the fridge and strategically planned my grab: what do I want and where is it? Now I wander down to the fridge open it up, root around, looking for something to eat, eventually closing the door after a minute or so. I let Freja was her hands alone, knowing full well that the water is just pouring out of the tap. I've been washing laundry in our little machine. (Though I'm back to using cloth diapers on Matilda which means more water usage but less plastics in the landfills.)

I love living aboard because it really makes me think about my impact on the environment. I know where my power comes from and how much I am using at one time. I know how much water a shower takes and how full I can fill the sink when I wash dishes. Now that we've been at the dock for almost a week, it's time for me to level out that water/power pendulum and be a little more conscious of my environmental impact while not feeling like I'm dirty and living in the dark. I don't want to go back to days at anchor when I was washing dishes in a mere puddle of water, but I also know some ways in which I can cut back and use less.

This pendulum also makes me think forward to future cruising days. How can we outfit a boat so we're not camping and not obsessively thinking about our power draw and water usage? On Whisper we prided ourselves on making 60 gallons of water last for almost 3 weeks, yet we wondered why no one wanted to come over for sundowners. (Hint: I think it's safe to say that we were rather stinky and salty!) On our next cruising boat, we'll have to find a comfortable and environmentally friendly middle ground between how we have lived at anchor and how we live at the dock. And we'll find the answer both in boat systems and in personal habits.

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