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Personal Hygiene, Yachtie Style!

Carolyn taking a shower on SY Ganesh
Carolyn taking a shower on SY Ganesh

My wife has sailed with me for 43-plus years. Yesterday she made Goodlander Family maritime history: while underway on passage, she took a freshwater shower. I couldn’t believe it! Actually, I barely recognized her as she stepped out of the shower, smugly brimming with cleanliness. She’s Caucasian! Who knew? Worst, I couldn’t smell her. How would I be able to find her when I needed sex? What if she fell overboard, and there wasn’t her normal slick to jibe back towards?

Even worse than not being able to smell her was smelling me! For the last four decades we’ve been enveloped in a sort of mutual ‘odor soup, putrid stew’ while on offshore passage – now she had broken the tradition.

It had been very 1960s… like MAD, mutually assured destruction. Now what would she do next – brush her teeth? I mean, what good is going to sea if you’re going to bathe, bathe, bathe the day away?

Oh, it was sad. When we were younger and friskier, she used to write tiny erotic instructions on her skin – and I’d occasionally take a pick-axe to her dirt … weeks later offshore … sort of a treasure hunt of epidermal perversion. I’m reminded what Woody Allen replied when asked if sex was dirty. “If you do it right,” he said.

Matted hair can be a turn-on. There’s nothing wrong with dread locks downstairs!

I firmly believe that a lot of our modern racial problems are really the result of too-vigorous showering. After all, in yesteryear even the English were so dirty it was hard to tell if they were white, black, or just waterless.

I mean, if god didn’t want you to sniff each other, why did he make all the fun parts reek?

Oh, we used to have so much fun together, my wife and I – cleaning out the cockpit scupper hoses, replacing the head sink drains, and just shoveling overboard the debris which fell off of us if, say, we were hit in the head by the boom.

My wife is Italian. She has Big Hair. She sheds about a pound of it every day, and has for all her life. Our bilges used to be full of it  – especially the bilge pumps, strainers and limber holes.

I have a beard and mustache. Occasionally during heavy weather, it is hard to prepare a fresh meal. Thus during prolonged gales, to keep my blood sugar elevated properly, I’d just comb some of the debris of my previous meal into my mouth… yummy, once again! Déjà Vu, yeah baby! Waste not, want not…

Why buy modern sun block when old-fashioned filth will work just as well?

That’s why I prefer my old foulies versus any new foulies. I WANT to smell the fear from a previous gale! And, let’s face it, foulies wouldn’t be called foulies unless they were! Who ever heard of donning your ‘cleanies’ as a storm approached?

The main requirement I have for a foul weather jacket is big pockets. If the coming offshore blow is a prolonged one, I just fill my pockets with hard-boiled eggs. Then, for nourishment, I just crush and peel an egg inside the pocket, hold it up to a boarding sea for a moment to salt-season it, and then gulp it down with a maniacal grin.

If you’re wearing foulie bottoms as well, the resulting flatulence can be a problem. After all, heat rises. Your bottoms will noticeably balloon for a moment. Then the bubble rises like an internal tire to your waist, bubbling upwards to expand your chest area, and finally escaping with an odiferous ‘pop’ as the putridness momentarily inflates your hood.

Sure, I’ve heard that cleanliness is next to godliness, but I’ve always kinda sided with the other guy. True, he’s not as nice – but far, far more interesting. I mean, why would I want to go to heaven when all my friends would be elsewhere? The point I’m trying to make is, a dirty body begets a dirty mind, which has always been my goal, regardless.

Muslims are fence sitters, in my opinion. I mean, why just one dirty hand? Why not both? Why not whole-hog!

Speaking of pigs, they’ve always been my role-models are far as personal cleanliness goes. I like to root, too! And the unabashed way a pig wears his filthy coat of honor – super-duper, as far as I’m concerned.

No, I never subscribed to Good Housekeeping or Yachting.

Did you know that the pigs of Tonga fish at low tide for clams? They do. And they are very dainty about it. If lucky, they barely rinse off any dirt at all.

I personally prefer dogs over cats – their method of ID-ing other individuals seem vastly superior to our own.

All of which isn’t to say I never bathe. I do, but on an annual or semi-annual basis. I don’t want to scrub away that protective ‘barrier layer’ which germs so find so difficult to penetrate. Or, maybe, they just can’t handle the stench.

In any event, I have no allergies. I seldom get colds. I rarely get sick.

Of course, I lather up if constipated. Then I just plop myself down a LoVac marine toilet, twitch my buttocks a few times to ensure seal, and then pump a stroke or two. It’s a sure thing, and much cheaper than Ex Lax or other chocolate treats for the aged. (Reportedly, a bag of prunes comes with every LoVac marine head.)

My first large ketch had a traditional mahogany bowsprit with twin bobstays. In heavy weather going to windward I’d jump down just below the sprit and hold on to the whisker stays as we plunged down, down, down into the suddenly rising trough… ah, no need for TP with this traditional hearty sailor’s method.

Yes, there’s nothing like a good ‘pressure wash’ of the privates while in deep ocean!

I, for one, hate bidets on a boat. Kneeling that far down to brush my teeth makes me seasick.

Yes, I’m a sucker for maritime traditions. To this day, Arab dhows plying the Gulf of Aden still have a fully functional ‘head’ in the bows for the common sailors and a real ‘poop deck’ aft for the officers. (“Bombs away,” Carolyn would call naughtily as we dinghy-toured the Salalah harbor of Oman.)

Okay, I’m not too bright. That’s a given. Much in modern marine life perplexes me. For instance, why do they call ‘em holding tanks when I use them because I can’t hold it?

I prefer the olden, golden days of the Great Age of Sail … when any Jack Tar before the mast knew that belly button lint made the finest, most expensive baggy wrinkle imaginable.

Yes, those were the good old days! To ensure a departing whale ship wasn’t going to sea with any ‘ladies of the night’ still aboard, sleeping sailors (usually sleeping off the rum) were required to stick their legs out of their bunks so that gender could be observed. To this day, we ‘shake a leg’ upon command.

The Brits were the best. Instead of towels or rags to wipe their greasy hands in the mess hall, they just used the same frayed rope end every day. Yes, the dining area was a mess!

If the lice crawling around on a sailor’s head began to prevent him from sleeping on his off-watch, he’d just tar his head with the same rigging preservative they used on the hemp shrouds… which is, of course, how Jack Tarr got his name.

To this day I lubricate my sextant with human grease squeezed from black heads on my nose… try that with a modern GPS! (All it does is smear the screen – how pathetic.)

We came up the Red Sea in 2010. We stopped in Sudan. Much of the population there lives in the desert. Water is precious. Thus, when the man of the house comes home from a long camel ride, his excited spouse lights a small sandalwood fire in the yard to stand over in her long, flowing, scent-catching gown. As soon as the smell of the fire overpowers the stench of her sweat, she dashes for the matrimonial bed.

Nowadays, we’re getting two tiers of citizens: the First World and the Third World. Interestingly, the First World reports far more allergies. At first, I thought this was because wealthy people can afford to be more neurotic, but now I believe it is because the Super Pampered of the 1 percent just don’t eat enough dirt as youngsters.

As a cruising sailor, I attempt to span both worlds. I often wallow all night long in the gutter, but I always wash out my mouth with soap afterwards.

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