October 17, 2013

What's missed most of all

ALTHOUGH MODERN CRUISING YACHTS seem to be able to provide almost all of the luxuries of the modern home — right down to the toaster, the microwave, and even a form of washing machine — there is one appliance whose absence is rued more than any other: the dishwasher.

It’s ironic, to say the least, that the dishwasher, the most desirable of all electric mod-cons, should be the one that’s missing.  Very few people find any kind of enjoyment in washing dishes by hand, even on shore, but when it comes to washing up in salt water in the cockpit of a boat rolling its gunwales under at sea, even avowed martyrs tend to cry off.

I know what I’m talking about.  I have solid dishwashing credentials. I have washed dishes three times a day for four men for 33 days in a row while crossing the Atlantic.  I was the designated dish washer and dryer because I couldn’t take my turn at cooking.  Not only was I unable to cook, but any attempt made me seasick.  As I was also the navigator, they needed me to be un-seasick in order to fathom out where we were, so we came to a compromise.  I would wash up and they would cook.

I also washed dishes professionally as a crewmember of an ocean liner plowing a wake between South Africa and London. I was, in fact, a paid-up member of a seamen’s union — catering branch.  The job involved fetching food and washing up for six men in the starboard greasers’ mess.  But after a couple of nights of dutifully washing their dishes, the greaser’s steward from the port greasers’ mess across the way wandered by and asked what I was doing.

He laughed when I said I was washing up, of course. He said nobody did that any more. “Throw them out of the porthole,” he said.  “Pick up clean dishes from the dishwasher in the Tourist Class galley.”

I felt a little guilty at first, throwing all that perfectly good crockery into the sea, but it did give me a lot of spare time to go on deck and catch a nice tan to show off in dreary London, and I was much obliged to my new friend across the way.

I have known cruisers who advocate putting all your dirty mugs, dishes, and cooking pots into a mesh net and dragging them behind the boat overnight.  The theory is good, but I have never had the guts to try, fearing that some hungry shark would be attracted to this nice shiny bundle and devour all our cooking and eating utensils.

Experienced singlehanders do all they can to reduce the number of plates and pots they use. The male variety, especially, tend to save labor by eating and drinking straight from the can, deliberately living on baked beans for days on end, and treating everything edible as finger food. 

Well, when you’re on your own and there’s no one to criticize your table manners, what does it matter how you actually transfer food from the stove to the mouth?  All it takes afterward is a good suck of the fingers, and you’re good to go. No washing up. What a joy.

Today’s Thought
It’s not labor that kills, but the small attritions of daily routine that wear us down.
— Roy Bedicheck, Adventures with a Texas Naturalist

‘Waiter, there’s a button in my plate of crab.”
“Terribly sorry, sir. It must have come off when the salad was being dressed.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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