By Erik Dolson
A sailboat is a world of small spaces. If the boat doesn’t have a water maker, fresh water is precious and saved mostly for drinking and cooking and (efficiently) washing dishes. Showers are further down the list, so sailors often shower on shore if a nearby marina has facilities.
Taking a shower in a marina has challenges. Here are a few tips.
First, give up any idea you want to be “presentable in public” while walking up the dock. You are on your way to the shower, and that’s how you look.
Spending 10 minutes primping for a three-minute walk is silly, even if that nice, always-put-together Canadian couple want to chat as they return from their early breakfast. If you simply nod and hurry by, the impression they’ll have of you as both “disheveled, and rude” will linger. You have to choose. Hopefully you brushed your teeth back on the boat.
At the showers, concrete floors are usually wet from anonymous people who showered before you. The shower cubicles are not large. Nicer ones have wet seats you never sit on, and a couple of hooks for clothes you hope to keep dry if there’s a curtain separating shower from “dressing area.”
You have your own soap and shampoo and possibly a razor in your bag. These need to be placed where they can be easily reached. There is rarely a shelf of any sort. The little soap dish is deceptively curved and designed to dump your things onto the floor. You don’t want that to happen because part of naked you will bump against the walls when you bend over to pick them up. That place of you will feel like it wants an extra washing. Not that I’d know.
Since every flat surface in the shower is wet when you walk in, don’t put anything down. Clean clothes get hung on one hook in reverse order of how you want to put them on. If underwear is not put on top of pants, you have to do something with the pants while you put on the underwear. Since you don’t know the practices of the previous occupant of your shower stall, DON’T PUT THEM DOWN ON THE WET SEAT!
The other hook (if there are actually two hooks) is reserved for your dirty clothes. You do not want your bare feet on that wet floor at any time. Put your shower shoes (I prefer flip flops) on the floor, lift one foot and take off one shoe and then one pant leg and half your underwear, holding up the pant hem so it doesn’t drag along the floor, put the first foot down onto one flip flop and lift the other foot, take off the other shoe, the other pant leg and the rest of your underwear, stand now on both feet and gather up your clothes put them on the hook or in the bag hanging from that hook.
The showers usually take quarters, six quarters for five minutes, but you can extend the time if you get another quarter or two in the feeder before the time runs out. Be sure you made a mental note of where you put the quarters when you leave the boat. Getting dressed again without actually taking a shower feels especially futile. Not that I’d know.
What? Quarters are in the pants pocket? No. Maybe in the bag pocket? No. Feeling a bit vulnerable standing there naked rifling through your bag behind a short door with a two foot gap at the bottom? Get over it. The quarters are in the dry baggie with the Q-tips.
There is no time to be wasted once the water is running. That time is needed to find the right water temperature in a shower you’ve never been in before. Hopefully, someone flushing a toilet next door isn’t going to result in a scalding, or quick dowsing of icy cold water. Maybe more than once, that’s a busy bathroom. You know this because concrete does not muffle sounds.
Take your shower, trying not to drop either soap or shampoos onto the floor (perhaps this is why “soap on a rope” was invented. That would explain so many things, except why I received one every Christmas in the late 70s).
Keep a nervous eye on the timer. Make sure extra quarters are where they can be easily reached and fed into the box, or you risk running out of time, not having six quarters to get the shower started again, and not getting all the soap off.
Excess soap does not work well as a skin conditioner. At first it’s a bit sticky, then gets too slick while walking up the street to the store in warm sunlight, especially if you perspire, though perspiration bubbles are rare. Not that I’d know.
Getting back into clean underwear and pants, with your body still slightly damp and clothes a bit clingy, involves another set of contortions, this time while trying to balance on wet and slippery flip flops. Foot stuck in pants leg? Hop on one foot while remaining upright. DON’T SIT ON THE BENCH! DON’T PUT BARE FEET ON THE FLOOR. DON’T DROP YOUR UNDERWEAR INTO THAT PUDDLE!
Afterwards, reward yourself with a coffee and a cookie at the cafe nearby. You want to be warm and dry before the long walk down the dock back home to the sail boat. Maybe you can stop by and make amends with the nice Canadian couple, show them you can be both nice and clean, too.