Reading the Flamingoes' blog about doing the laundry - a mere day and a half into the trip! - brings home how easy it is to take for granted the washing machine and efficient spin drier, and indoor drying space if the weather is inclement, none of which is available on a historic boat, even a big one. Flamingo has a battery bank, and a washing machine, which is more than Chertsey has, and while I enjoyed playing around with the posser on the Trent a few years back, it's certainly easier not having to do washing on a long trip.
So how, you may ask, can I go a boating for a month without doing any laundry? The answer is, firstly, by never throwing away any knickers, and secondly, by redefining 'dirty'.
Chertsey may not have electricity, running water (still less hot running water), or a washing maching, but what it does have is plenty of space. And I have plenty of clothes. However, I have learnt over the years that I actually get through far fewer clothes than I expect.
So, had I gone on a month-long round trip to Hebden Bridge, what would I have taken?
30 pairs of knickers - yes, I do possess that many, if you include the ones that live in the attic and are tactfully referred to as 'boating knickers'.
15 pairs of socks, of varying thicknesses
15 bras - this might once have been the trickiest item, but I have now stocked up on £3.50 'sports' crop tops from Primark which, again, only come out for boating.
These are the things one wears every day, and are thus easily predictable. The rest is a bit more flexible, and weather-dependent, but for this trip I would have taken all the shorts I possess (i.e. 3 x walking pairs, and 2 x lazing around ones), probably four pairs of trousers (2 x walking; 2 x hippy) - plus the emergency quick-drying ones that live on board; 6 t-shirts, 4 long-sleeved t-shirts, 6 sleeveless vests; 2 shirts and 2 fleeces, to be worn in various combinations (and this would turn out to be too many, but which would be superfluous would depend on the weather). 4 nighties (but could get away with fewer if I had to). I usually take a nice-ish jacket (actually always my brown cord Levi's jacket from the RSPCA shop in March, circa 2007) and a skirt, in case of going anywhere posh, but I usually wish I hadn't, because they're the one thing I can't just stuff in the cupboard, and after a few day's boating, anything that hasn't yet been worn counts as posh. This nearly all fits in the cupboard over the cross-bed. As things become dirty, they get stuffed in a succession of bags in the side bed.
So, what does dirty mean? On land, at work, it means 'showing any sign - visual or olefactory - of having been worn.' When boating, it's a bit different.
Dirty from the inside is still dirty, exactly the same. Hence the multiple undies. But I do usually manage to give myself a good scrub every night, which sees off the worst of it. Getting food or drink down something - that would still mean I definitely wouldn't wear it again, but fortunately, I mostly manage not to do that. Mostly.
But when boating, the following on clothes do not count as dirt:
- coal dust
- lock wall slime (in moderation)
- grass stains
- small quantities of mud