Since returning home, inevitably someone has asked me about toileting and showering situation while living on the Windeward Bound. So, for the curious, here is all the information you need – and perhaps more.
To be used by the entire collection of crew and passengers, we had one upstairs toilet (head) for ‘number ones’ and one downstairs toilet (head) for ‘number two’s.
The former effluent could be let into water close at hand whereas the latter could only be released when at sea. With tinier exit pipes than a home toilet, we were required to press the ‘button’ for a count of at least 30 seconds, in order to be sure none was stuck and all was away. It should come as no surprise in the first couple of days after I returned home I found myself standing over my home toilet counting to 30 – usually on the count of about 13 or 14 I would remember where I was, shake my head and laugh.
‘Did you have an ensuite?’, one friend enquired. She shuddered when I explained our situation. Then I reminded her of pre-seventies Australia where the majority of people lived in homes with one small bathroom, and many still lived with an outside toilet – and some still live with these same ‘arrangements’ even now decades along. How soft we have become, and how short the memories of older folk.
The ship had one small shower recess next to the downstairs toilet. From one wall a hand basin could be folded down, the tap swivelled around, and then used before refolding back flush with the wall. All perfectly serviceable and user friendly.
Thirty seconds was our mantra for two activities – with the flushing of the toilets and with the use of water at other times.
For each function; the washing of hands, showering or brushing of teeth (using a mug with water was an easier way of limiting water use- a number of passengers stood spitting over the side), only 30 seconds of water was permitted. I am sure you can appreciate that showering in 30 seconds takes planning and a process.
In addition to being constrained by the knowledge I would only have a bursts of water for a shower, I was also being forgetful in the relaxed atmosphere of the ship. I wasn’t sure I could remember which taps to turn which way so as not to get salt water, and not to get cold water. “I’d like to think I could go another day or two. Will see how the armpits develop today. Anyway it’s cold so we are layered up at all time and dry underneath – no exertions. This morning I saw another woman’s hair- we had always been wearing our beanies.” On the one occasion when I showered for the week (was I really that terrible?), I felt compelled to wash my hair as well as the body in the 30 seconds of water use. Tap on and wet all over in seconds. Shampoo on and body ‘soaped’ (I took my own soap-free body wash). Tap on for 10 seconds removing the foam and soap. Time for conditioner onto the hair. Alas, back home, I had absent-mindedly loaded two different types of shampoo into the two containers. New foaming of head. With the remaining 15 seconds of water, I barely removed the excess, and suds remained around my feet. I shook my head in disbelief – and now realise, as I write, that my fellow passengers will read this blog post and know who was responsible. Most of all I missed the satisfaction that I usually feel during and after showering. While the water was scaldingly hot, I couldn’t cool it without wasting water during adjustment! Ridiculous. Amusing now. Frustrating then but nothing that diminished my pleasure in being in this almost people-less wilderness landscape.
If not all, then most of us adhered to these restrictions and practices. Certainly I didn’t want to be responsible for a blocked toilet or for the ship running out of water.
We were told that the Windeward Bound had a watermaker which was used to top up our ever dwindling supplies, although I never asked to see it. Now I wonder where it was located and how it operated. 20 people go through a great deal of water daily (this includes the water needed for cooking and drinking – not only the ablutions) so consistently thinking about care for the water supply was essential.