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Friday, January 28, 2011

Provisioning Tip - Baby Wipes

NOTE: The information which follows may be too personal for those with delicate sensibilities. Read at your own risk of embarrassment.

And now a word about personal hygiene on a long ocean voyage - particularly for those boats: still without water makers; which aren't particularly sea kindly; or which are traveling in cold waters. There are many times when it simply isn't practical to take a full shower. You may be conserving water by taking occasional salt water baths out in the cockpit. If you're fortunate enough to have plenty of fresh water and a below deck shower, you might be sailing hard on the wind for days at a time, which would make taking a slippery shower a risky proposition. And even if you are lucky enough to be sailing downwind in the tropics, with the sweat rolling off your palms as you update blog entries on your lap top, you'll most likely want a refreshing pick-me-up in between showers.

We recently met a man from South Korea (with the improbable, but highly pronounceable name of "Doug") who completed a 30-plus day passage from Los Angeles to Hawaii on a small sailboat fraught with breakdowns of every sort. After making landfall he was given a ride in a car to Customs to clear in. During this brief trip he was very embarrassed by and profusely apologized in broken English for his 30-plus day ripening odor. This got me to ruminating about baby wipes.

Not actually baby wipes, but "adult" wipes. Because what you really want to avoid are the sickly sweet, highly perfumed wipes that leave a weird slippery film on your skin. This is what you'll be stuck buying in some place like the Galapagos if you haven't thought it out ahead of time. These are better than nothing at all, but you'll never be able to appreciate the scent of a clean baby's bottom again in your life.

Wipes are a great way to get relief from that sticky, sweaty feeling before climbing into a berth left hot and damp by the crew member coming on watch (preferably your spouse and not some backpacker you picked up in Panama City). (By the way, I think this is why it's called "hot bunking.") Even sailing in cold climates you'll appreciate being able to hit the three hot spot areas - pits, crotch, and dogs - with a quick and easy spit bath. (Don't forget to add a generous swipe of Tom's of Maine deodorant to your pits to keep those pesky bacteria at bay!)

Which brings me to my personal recommendations based on six Equator crossings in the past three years. Forget anything clearly marked for babies if at all possible. Our most recent best buy has been the Walmart house brand (Equate) "Naturally Gentle Wipes" which are hypo-allergenic and alcohol free. The wipes themselves are on the small side, but that makes it easier to dedicate each one to a particular "hot spot." (I don't know about you but there isn't a hot spot I'd want to wipe after either of the other two.) When you get to Papeete (you are going to French Polynesia, aren't you?) be on the lookout for the Carrefour brand wipe called "Absodys" (which must be French for something, but I couldn't find it in my pocket dictionary), which is specifically marketed for athletic adults. These are alcohol-free and are a large size which tears easily into - you guessed it - three convenient pieces.

So when you finally step on shore after a long passage at sea I hope these thoughts about baby wipes will make your first encounter with a clean person a pleasant one!