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The luxury of onboard showers can leave you all wet

2020 November 1

Full disclosure. I love showers. Hot showers. Long, hot showers. I have done some of my best thinking during a leisurely shower, and it reached the point where I installed my own waterproof notepad: a square of Lucite hanging from the shower head with a wax pencil attached. Some great thoughts, including more than a few of these columns, came off that piece of plastic.

That said, showers aboard sailboats are a complete embarrassment, and designers should be condemned to stand in one for hours under cold water. 

There are, it seems, three types of shower stalls: small, smaller and impossibly small. This, of course, is assuming that you’re not aboard a 100-footer and, to be honest, some of those showers are pretty silly too.

The most basic type is what is euphemistically called a wet shower. Whoever dreamed up that label should be sentenced to use that head after someone has taken a “wet” shower. Their clothes will get wet and they might as well take a shower too.

A wet shower is where you pull the faucet on a hose out of the sink and just fire away. You may have the luxury of a grating underfoot so you aren’t standing in a puddle of soapy water. Or you may just have bare fiberglass with a puddle of lather that slowly drains into the bilge. 

Trust me on this one: a wet shower soaks everything. There are some clever devices like the flip cover of a Rolodex that are supposed to protect your toilet paper, but I’ve always found that they actually channel the water onto your TP, thus presenting the next user with a useless wad.


And then comes the next question. Did you jump into the shower naked? You must have, because you have to leave your clothes outside a wet shower. And that’s where you left a dry towel as well. And you probably need a second towel just to dry off the bulkheads, sink and everything else.

The second stage of shower madness is when the designer/builder puts a folding seat over the toilet. I don’t put a lounge chair in my shower at home, so I don’t know why they think you want to sit down while showering on board a boat. If they hold the illusion that it somehow keeps the toilet dry, well, I want some of what they’re smoking.

From here, we progress to, ta-dah, a shower curtain. Seriously? They screw a track around the overhead, grab a ten-buck shower curtain at Home Depot and, voila!, they think they’ve created a “dry” shower. 

If you have used one of these shower curtains in a small head compartment, I’m sure you’ve discovered the magnetic effect of wet skin and a cold vinyl curtain. You can always recognize when someone is showering on a boat with a shower curtain. It would be quieter if they were rasslin’’ a bear in a phone booth. 

And then there are the builders who manage to find enough space to actually create a shower stall. The best of these are often across the hallway from the head compartment, but you take what you can get.

These are generally so small that even Clark Kent couldn’t turn into Superman in one. They may have the luxury of a folding door to keep from soaking the head compartment, but heaven help you if you drop the soap. 

There are, of course, other ways to stay both clean and presentable to your significant other. Showering on deck in a temperate climate is possible, especially if you aren’t close to other boats. On one Transpac Race, it was hot, we were young and sweaty, and the skipper decreed daily scrubbing with a bucket of seawater and a bottle of Joy dishwashing detergent. 

On small boats that I’ve sailed in the tropics, I’ve found that a pump garden sprayer from your neighborhood hardware store works nicely in the cockpit. If there are other boats around, I have old baggy swim trunks that lets the water both in and out. 

She Who Must Be Obeyed believes that roughing it is slow room service, so two things she carefully checks out are the shower and the galley aboard any boats we charter. If they pass that test, I know I’ll be just fine. 

I just have to remember to bring my Lucite note pad.