There are many unusual issues that confront a group of people, especially several couples, when they are confined to the relatively small space of an average charter boat. As local personality and entertainer Tony Snell said: “Your oldest best friends can soon become your newest worst enemies.” Areas of contention include the sharing of domestic chores, choices of restaurants or party venues, comments about a person’s physical attributes (or deficiencies) etc. As a charter skipper Charlie is pretty good at smoothing ruffled feathers, pouring oil on troubled waters and mixing that tropical cocktail with a certain pizzazz, enough to calm any impending stress. Some things, though, are a different kettle of fish – and that appropriately describes the problem of personal hygiene.
One such occasion that Charlie had to deal with recently involved a single gentleman who was manifestly unaware of his own body odor. Now Charlie is no pansy when it comes to being squeamish over unpleasant smells. He has unblocked foul smelling heads, cleaned disgusting bilges, hot-bunked with various and sundry deck apes on long voyages and yacht deliveries, and even reluctantly cleaned up pools of vomit from well-heeled tourists who somehow insist on spewing up over the windward rail. But strong body odor on a charter is not only unpleasant but so easily avoidable.
Charlie left the dock at the charter base with two full tanks of water. At the briefing of yacht systems the man in question was informed that an outside cockpit shower existed and that this was the most effective way to wash. In fact Charlie would bathe this way every morning and seldom used any of the boat’s precious fresh water supply – just jump in, go for a swim, come out, soap up, scrub down and then jump in again to rinse off. Charlie would towel off straight away to remove the stickiness of drying salt water.
The unpleasant odor arrived on about day three. Charlie managed to swing the conservation around to ‘types of shampoo’ and what kind did they use in the northern parts of England (where the culprit was from). That had no effect. The following morning Charlie went for his usual swim and when the smelly gent arrived in the cockpit, coffee in hand, Charlie managed to spin the conversation around to ‘swimming’ and the efficacy of a morning dip. Apparently this still fell on deaf ears. The worst thing was that wherever he sat it seemed to be upwind of Charlie. Charlie would move and then Smelly would move – just upwind of him; it was uncanny. On day five, early in the morning, Charlie heaved a sigh of relief; he heard the water pump running for a long time and presumed some relief from the noxious odor would be at hand; he was wrong. Smelly had indeed bathed and then donned the same rancid clothes.
Charlie was almost at a loss. Then he remembered a short story that perhaps would hit home:
‘A man disembarked from an international flight to Sweden bereft of his deodorant (thanks to Homeland Security). He went straight to the pharmacy to get a replacement. “Do you have deodorant?” he asked the pretty young shop assistant.
“Yes sir,” she replied in that rather lilting Swedish accent. “Would you like ball or aerosol?”
“Well, I was rather hoping you’d have armpit,” he replied innocently.’
Charlie said he thought the joke was appreciated but the man’s hygiene habits didn’t change. Charlie thought that perhaps the Englishman was one of those brought up in post war Britain where baths were normally taken once a week.