I know, I know, not every sailor does their laundry in a bucket. But hand washing has its hidden charms, especially on a quiet Pacific island like Vanuatu’s Erromango.
A walk ashore flooded our senses: the fragrance of exotic flowers, a riot of schoolhouse voices, the fresh feel of a land breeze. Then we heard laughter coming from the riverside, where women hunched elbow deep with their laundry. Ding! went the mental lightbulb.
Our first thought was to haul away a few gallons of water for the festering laundry pile back on board. Then we reversed the plan, bringing our laundry to the river. It turned out to be a most delightful experience in which clean sheets were but a minor perk. The real joy was sitting on boulders among locals, our faces warmed by the sun, feet cooled by the water. The women whispered and giggled at our amateurish technique, then carried on. For a short time, we were just part of the gang.
With thousands of gallons of fresh water rushing through our little eddy, our laundry has never been so clean. Our minds, too, were clearer for the experience, remembering that the majority of the world’s population does not freshen their clothing with the press of a button. Yet another life lesson - and memorable experience - among many gained throughout a Pacific crossing.