This is Ken of the good ship Silverheels III, three or four years now out of Toronto. Astute readers may recognize the boat name appended to many comments posted to this blog, most of them helpful and constructive when they aren't hectoring me to hurry up and get sailing.
Ken and his lovely and talented wife Lynn are currently anchored somewhere in the "insurance applies" part of the Southern Caribbean, and have, as this photo illustrates, fully embraced the tropical lifestyle. In fact, their biggest challenge recently is digging out of the dim recesses of their sturdy Niagara 35 enough musty trousers and long-sleeved shirts to make the trip back to Canada for the holidays without freezing to death on the trip from the plane to the parking lot.
Ken and Lynn are, like most cruisers, nothing if not practical. You fix your own gear (Ken was for many years responsible for resusitating busted electronics gear abused by students of Ryerson University's Radio and Television Arts course, and was in fact there doing it when I was there as a student 30 years ago...only I didn't know him then.) You source and prepare your own food. You hump your own laundry into the tender, and, if necessary, beat it on your own rock, although it rarely comes to that, I suspect.
But the not-so-dirty and not-so-secret of life aboard? You don't wear many clothes at all. When the air below is the temperature of blood, it's practical to save on sweating through clothing by not wearing it at all. You'll only have to wash it later. If you postpone donning a T-shirt and shorts until the cooler evening hours, you might get two evenings' wear out of it. This economy of treating clothing as a special event means far less expense on sometimes extortionate shoreside laundries, along with a reduction in the chances that an errant wave will douse your carefully packed laundry just as you are coming alongside. If you don't wear it, you don't need to wash it.
Offshore, many folk doff trou upon leaving sight of land or in international waters. Sure, you might have boat sandals, a big, floppy hat and strategic applications of sun block, but there lay undiscovered countries of once-hidden flesh that, in time, take on the all-over golden hue of the once-pallid (if in fact Caucasian) cruiser.
Not that photos of this reality ever make the sailing mags. Everyone there seems to be in shirts they rolled Jimmy Buffett to get, and usually a salt and oil-stained Tilley hat. Little do the lubbers know that the brown, it goes all the way down. I have heard of night watches conducted with T-shirt, harness and tether and not much else, and the T-shirt's only on to reduce the chafing of the harness. Barely sailing? Indeed.
Concerns about moles going funny aside, not only is nudity aboard practical from a clean-clothes conservation viewpoint, but it's arguably healthier than bothering to get dressed in many conditions that the active cruiser is likely to encounter. The damp of sea air, even assuming you don't actually catch salt spray on some part of your clothing, can affect skin to the point of peeling. Salt blisters can form in unlikely places. Nothing ever feels quite dry. So allowing sweat to evaporate directly from one's skin...all of one's skin...means ablutions can be performed with a freshwater swipe of the sponge (conserving water and effort). The breeze, if present, cools and comforts the sailor, although if you notice that a body part is doing a reasonable impression of the arrow of the Windex, it may be time to consider donning foulies.
So let's hoist a glass of the finest rum to Ken, Lynn and all other clothing-optional cruisers. It's a rarely discussed aspect of the liveaboard life, and it takes a brave fellow with steady hands to solder in the buff, but it's a healthy and practical response to feeling hot, hot, hot. Boaters with air conditioning don't know what they're missing.
|Seeks cruising kitty (Obscure TPB reference).|