Boat keeping — In Praise of Vinegar

Pearl's Main Cabin

Pearl's Main CabinHaving lived on Pearl oddly enough requires one to do regular housekeeping, or in this case boat-keeping, on the interior. Messy is ok. Grubby is not good. There are a couple of things that I have learned over the past few months that I figured I’d share; a number of these involve vinegar.

As a sidebar, I would like to mention that a friend of mine, Denise, who helped move Pearl from Texas to Florida bought a lot of vinegar. She bought vinegar by the gallon. She was convinced that it was a panacea for boat related stuff: cutting soap scum, sanitizing dishes, inhibiting mold, … the list goes on. I thought she was quite mad. It sounded too hippie-godess-ish but I decided to humored her. We must all learn from our mistakes, after all.

As it turns out, Denise was right. Vinegar, sometimes in conjunction with other stuff, is GREAT! Additionally, it isn’t as caustic or harmful to the environment as bleach or many other commercially available products. Note that all of the gray water on a boat goes directly over the side — unlike sewage that goes in a holding tank.

Cleaning the head: vinegar and Simple Green in equal parts do wonders to keep the shower and head crisp, clean, and smelling good. I also use this combination to mop the floors in the salon and berths. Note that the heads on most boats (if nothing else) smell  musty, particularly in warm weather, and the vinegar combo works wonders on keeping it fresh.

Cleaning the toilet: if you use the head on you boat, it tends to get a bit smelly. Many live-aboards, therefore, do not use the head (toilet) on the boat. They hike over to the restrooms on the dock. The odor issue is easily resolved by pouring a healthy splash of vinegar down the toilet periodically. I haven’t worked out the chemistry, but it works!

For extra points, pour a cup of tide into the holding tank every time it gets pumped out. This apparently loosen “gunk” in the system and keeps things smelling fresh and clean as well. Obviously, this isn’t ideal if there aren’t any pump-out facilities. Just saying. Avoid disgorging tide enriched sewage on remote reefs and anchorages.

Cleaning the Galley: yup. you guessed it. A bit of vinegar goes a long way in cutting grease and attendant odors.

Cleaning oneself: a bit of diluted vinegar on a wash cloth. I didn’t realize how much water I used when showering until I had a bath on Pearl and drained one of the water tanks. Keeping yourself clean and fresh when away from a convenient water source is … challenging. I have no interest in being a stinky pirate.

“The solution:” bathe in sea water, wipe yourself down with a washcloth soaked in a diluted vinegar solution, and have a quick fresh water spritz. This can keep your bath down to less than a gallon and leave you feeling fresh and clean. If you want to be even more miserly with your water, just wipe yourself down with a wash cloth soaked with the diluted vinegar solution. Yeah. You might smell odd for a bit, but at least you wont stink.

If you’ve got this far, you’re probably thinking “Gawd! Enough vinegar already!?!” so, I will. C’est tout.

P. S. I’d love to hear anyone else’s thoughts, and ideas about effective boatkeeping.


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