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Old 02-10-2008, 04:44 PM   #1
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"And it was cold. After eating......and walking through the ice jumble to relieve himself he realised that must be accomplished quickly if frostbite of a very important area was to be avoided."

This taken from an historical novel about the doomed Franklin expedition to discover the North West Passage.

The novel is not going to be a Nobel Literature Prize winner but it got me thinking about hygiene in extreme conditions. I too have been up to the polar ice, not in the North West Passage but in the North East Passage and I can appreciate some of the trials, tribulations and sufferings Frankelin and his men experienced. I was very fortunate to get as far north as 81 degrees but that was in a powerful, modern ship with effective heating, freezers for storing food and the ability to make our own water. Quite different to Frankelins wooden sailing ships with auxiliary steam engines so hygiene was no problem. In fact, it was one of the few ships I have sailed in where we had not only showers but baths as well - and a sauna. We had, of course, washing machines too. There was no problems with hygiene.

At the other extreme, I remember being in Tanjong Mani in Indonesia on a ship without air con. It was so humid water was continuously running down the bulkheads. Any dirty clothes just left in a heap would grow mould in no time at all.

But, to come to the point, do any of our cruiser companions have any advice regarding hygiene in difficult conditions? Difficult could be shortage of water, no shower available, extreme heat and/or humidity or any other circumstance making the normal task of keeping clean and healthy difficult.

Aye // Stephen

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Old 03-08-2008, 11:07 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Nausikaa View Post

But, to come to the point, do any of our cruiser companions have any advice regarding hygiene in difficult conditions? Difficult could be shortage of water, no shower available, extreme heat and/or humidity or any other circumstance making the normal task of keeping clean and healthy difficult.

Aye // Stephen
No one's taking you up on this one, eh?

My happiness is directly related to how "clean" I feel. Its a major issue for me when sailing, camping, hiking, etc. The towels can be moldy, the cabin can be a mess, but I'd better be clean!

Sweat is not my friend. I break out in rashes with too much heat/sweat so I must get clean if we're in a tropical environment.

I prefer hot water (via solar shower or anything else) but I'll take a cold shower on deck happily rather than feel "icky". While you can't regularly take saltwater showers without risk of skin sores, I've done it many times and simply wiped off with a tiny bit of fresh water in a hanky afterwards. This left my hair full of salt for a few days to a week but there were no ill effects to my scalp or hair (other than it not being soft). It was better to "risk" saltwater induced sores than to have the certainty of a rash due to too much sweaty skin and scalp.

And the bottom line is that I hate to be stinky. I'd rather be salty.

So, there you go. A response to a delicate subject!

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Old 03-09-2008, 04:45 AM   #3
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Because we usually had to conserve our fresh water, I washed our dishes and myself with Joy(tm) liquid and salt water. My chemist father-in-law reassured me that there are few differences between shampoo and dishwashing liquid.

Because salt is a dessicant, drawing the moisture from the air to itself, it's necessary to rinse off the salt with fresh water. Salty skin will lead to rashes and fungal infections. It doesn't take a lot of fresh water.

No matter how careful I tried to be, occasionally we would start to smell "punky", even after taking a shower. That usually meant that fungi were colonizing our skin. Then we would bathe with Selsun(tm), which is a prescription anti-fungal in the US, but available over the counter just about everywhere else. Fungus infections of the skin are pretty common in the tropics even when we had plenty of fresh water, so I tried to bathe once a week or so using Selsun Blue(tm), the dandruff shampoo. Selsun is just a stronger version of the Selsun Blue shampoo, and usually kept the punky smell and "white spots" at bay.

There were times when we would be on a passage when a rain squall would pass over. Catching rain was sometimes worthwhile, but we would always dance around in the cockpit showering!

The worst infection that I got was when we went hiking in a rain forest through a fresh water swamp. A small blister got badly infected, and it was one of the few times that I found that an oral antibiotic was necessary.

A surprising problem for many cruisers who stopped in the Marquesas was sand flea ("no see-um") bites getting badly infected and leaving ugly scars, primarily on their legs. One of the places where an antibacterial soap was important.

vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and Selsun have been our mainstays for keeping infections at bay even when water was restricted for bathing on a passage.
In 1986 we went cruising for a few years. After 20 years and 50+ countries and several oceans, we are STILL "cruising for a few years".

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Old 03-09-2008, 08:39 AM   #4
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Jeanne reminded me of a time when I wanted 'Joy', the shop keeper advised that he had none, I then asked if dish washing fluid would serve as a a substitute - he replied, "there is no substitute for 'Joy'!

When sailing in clean sea water, daily sea water shower using baby shampoo to get a lather, works very well - then 1st rinse off in sea water and final rinse in fresh water.
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Old 03-09-2008, 01:16 PM   #5
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The shopkeeper is right that there is no substitute for joy, but with much searching, I found some for Joy(tm) .

In Australia, reading many, many labels, I found on the brand "Down to Earth" that salt was used as a thickening agent. Therefore, salt water should not cause any problem, and it didn't - worked very well. Several US brands are also possible, usually those with alcohol as one of its ingredients.
In 1986 we went cruising for a few years. After 20 years and 50+ countries and several oceans, we are STILL "cruising for a few years".

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Old 03-17-2008, 01:08 AM   #6
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Old 07-14-2008, 04:07 PM   #7
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Baby wipes, baby wipes and more baby wipes (you can also get antibacterial body wipes). Feet, pits, face; moist wipes are great and can be used all the time and carried with you went hiking.

Also I knew of one cruiser who would spray down with a bottle / mister in between showers - spray & wipe kind of things, saves water and still gets some of the grime off.

When visiting remote villages, especially where I know food will be offered, I also carry the no-rinse anti-bacterial hand sanitizer (just don't let your host see you applying otherwise they either might get offended, or you'll get the opposite effect where everyone around you will want to try it as well and soon you'll be out!).
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Old 02-09-2009, 01:55 PM   #8
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Laundry ... wash in sea water (black garbage sack method) ... rinse in sea water ... final rinse in fresh water ... wring out & line dry ... minimal clothing worn (usually just enough for modesty when other boats are nearby).

Washing up ... wash in sea water ... rinse with fresh water from a spray bottle ... air dry.

Personal hygiene ... wash in sea water ... rinse off with fresh water ... air dry or use paper towels to reduce laundry ... rub olive oil into the skin to prevent salt sores (this worked for the ancient Greeks & Romans) ... my solar shower is a godsend & when the sun is in hiding I fill it two-thirds with cold then add one litre of near-boiling water from a kettle to get a lovely hot shower.

My cockpit scuppers have a 2-way valve enabling me to divert rainwater from the cockpit to replenish my water tank ... when it rains my entire cockpit area catches water ... the valve is returned to the normal function when not harvesting rainwater.
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Old 02-12-2009, 06:15 PM   #9
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It really is amazing how different peoples biological hygiene requirements are... I've never had any problems whatsoever from just taking salt water showers/swims with home-made lye soap and not even rinsing off with fresh water most of the time... same for clothes, other than undergarments I never do a fresh water rinse and have never had any skin iritation problems... ... on the flip side my last first-mate had continual peeling skin and sores... he did finally start rubbing himself down with olive oil which helped his skin but also made for some hazardous hand holds when things got a bit bumpy...
“The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.” (Epictetus 55 - 135 AD)

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Old 06-18-2009, 06:53 PM   #10
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I spent some time in the army in every climactic condition imaginable (except any that provided a degree of comfort). As this is a sailing forum, I will not bore you with some of the things that we did to stay clean in the mountains.

I have heard that people get a lot of peeling from salt irritations initially (especially around sensitive skin like the nipples and that soft skin on the inner arms and thighs), but salt water is a great way to keep things clean. It kills bacteria and fungus but does take some getting used to. I would start to suggest powders and the like, but lets face it: they wear off quickly and can lead to other skin problems. Rubbing down with a rough towel is often better but don’t let the towel fester as that can lead to infections. There are a number of fungi that grow in our skin naturally. If they get too much sweat and dampness they can become a problem. Fortunately, they are totally treatable and the ointment (looks like calamine lotion) is cheap and easy to get. See your doctor for a product that contains it. My doctor is great for this kind of stuff – he is a great resource to check with before any excursion.

I am astounded that atavist’s first mate had so many problems. I would suggest that he is probably the exception, not the rule. I can’t remember anyone having that extreme a reaction to salt water!

Oh, and the water is really refreshing to boot.

Kevin Barr

Ottawa, Canada
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