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HomeCruiseFrom Handwashing to High Tech: Revolutionizing Laundry on a Cruising Boat

From Handwashing to High Tech: Revolutionizing Laundry on a Cruising Boat

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  • Doing laundry on a cruising boat is traditionally a labor-intensive task, but technological advancements are changing the game.
  • The author shares their journey of transitioning from handwashing and laundromats to installing a compact washing machine on their cruising boat.
  • Researching suitable options, careful measurements, and considering power and water consumption were key factors in choosing the right washing machine.

No matter how you live or where you are in the world, for most of us doing laundry is a necessary evil – even the grungiest of cruisers have to wash their clothes occasionally. For the average cruiser, doing laundry on a boat is a laborious task. For thirteen years I’ve been washing laundry by hand or dragging it to laundrettes around the Caribbean & USA. It’s all part of the cruising life or at least it was for me. Washing machines, if at all, belonged on posh yachts, not regular cruising boats like ours. As the years have gone by, it seems we cruise with more and more comforts and luxuries; and who I am to complain about that. So over time things have changed for us. But a washing machine? Where on earth would we put it? Even I could see that without ripping apart our spare cabin or losing a head, that there wasn’t room. Still, it seemed that since settling in Grenada there was more than a handful of boats with machines on board in innovative places … and not all of them posh yachts or giant gin palaces either. I started to do a little research, not only would I need to find space but factors like electricity and water consumption were important too. These days, though, more and more boats have high output water-makers and high input charging systems that can cope with the demands of a small washing machine.  

Installing a washing machine is one of the best upgrades we have made. Photo by Rosie Burr
Installing a washing machine is one of the best upgrades we have made. Photo by Rosie Burr

Laundry is not particularly cheap anywhere in the Caribbean, in Grenada the average cost for ‘wash only’ is around US$6 per load. I do at least one load, if not more per week, plus fuel to get there, plus the occasional coffee, etc. I did the maths and worked out that the washing machine would pay for itself within a year, including shipping to Grenada. So I proposed the ‘project washing machine’ plan to my husband who was eventually persuaded because he knows a happy wife is a happy life. We decided we had ample electricity to run the machine and keep up water supply using solar power alone – thank you sunny Caribbean! We even decided on a place to install the washer. 

There are many brands out there. One of the more popular choices seems to be the Splendide machines which make ‘space saving laundry appliances’ for RVs, watercraft and small condos. But their machines were still too big for the space we had allocated and they came with a hefty price tag, too. Panda, Panasonic and Bosch are other popular makes. Friends had just bought a machine and their boat was no bigger than ours, so I quizzed them. How big was it? How much water did it use? How much power did it draw?  Of course lots of info on the internet was inaccurate and the same machine would have different specs on different websites. It was only by carefully researching that we were able to ascertain that the machine would actually fit in the small space. After plenty of investigation we decided that the top loading portable Haier unit was probably the machine for us. 

An unusual storage place for a washing machine – our helm seat. Photo by Rosie Burr
An unusual storage place for a washing machine – our helm seat. Photo by Rosie Burr

We installed our washer into a purpose made box that also doubles as our helm chair – a slightly bigger albeit different version of what was there before.  Our Haier HLP21N Portable Top Load Washer is 17.25 x 17.5 x 30in. We can run it off the inverter, no need for a generator. It has three different water levels, low, medium and high … a little over three, five and seven gallons respectively. Each wash uses its equal in water to rinse. What I like most about this top loader is if I want to top up any cycle, I can do so manually without going to the next water level. I also like that you can re-run the wash before it drains for particularly grimy clothes. I can easily wash a double bed sheet, six pillow cases, two sarongs and a couple of small towels on the high water level setting.  

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It’s one of the best upgrades we have made on our boat. Laundry is done at my leisure and no longer takes the best part of the day. This leaves me time to do the more important things like reading a book and sipping cocktails on the aft deck.

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Rosie Burr
Rosie Burr
Rosie and her husband Sim Hoggarth on yacht Wandering Star have cruised the Caribbean and North America fulltime for nine years.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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