Day 14 – Hygiene

 Posted by at 11:55 pm  Add comments
Feb 062013

Adam sitting in the stern of the cockpit, tending to the day’s laundry, prepping for the big shower.

[We get a LOT of questions about the day-to-day life aboard the ‘James Robert Hanssen’ – or JRH for short – while at sea. The #1 question has to do with what we’re doing with buckets (very fair, VERY important). The #2 question is “How the heck do you stay clean out there?!?” Adam weighs in:]

Clean. Exactly what does “clean” mean on the James Robert Hanssen? Well, our clean is not quite what you land lubbers might usually think of “clean.” Rather, I would describe our cleanliness as, well, an “Ocean Clean.” We do not have the grime, germs and bugs of the land, but we have the challenge of seawater with its bacteria-laden, salty wetness.

Don’t get me wrong. Out here – mostly for our moms’ sake – we would love to be “Land Clean.” But the JRH is a boat of compromises and our hygiene schedule is no different.

In civilization, we often think of the instant gratification we gain from cleaning: warm water feels nice, we don’t smell, we look good. People want to hang out with us when we are clean, and our moms say we look handsome. However, we sometimes forget the serious longer-term health issues that we prevent through a regular hygiene schedule.

Without regular washing (and drying) your body starts to develop sores. Ingrown hairs, pimples and open sores show up more regularly. …AHEM… How do I put this? Your undercarriage is the most important part. It’s a bit gross, but please think about it: You are spending 12+ hours a day sitting on a rowing seat. You are on a boat where standing is difficult, so you sit during your off-shift. You sleep with your bottom laying against the cabin cushions. (Yes Mom, we clean these surfaces regularly).


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Waves like these didn’t give much warning before dousing every last dry spot on your body.

Every day we have alarms that go off to remind us to brush our teeth, put on sunscreen and wash. Washing is the most important. We wash in the kitchen/science/living room area in front of the two rowing stations. Its a bit of a show for the those who are rowing… Our first rinse is with salt water and minty fresh Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap. After the saltwater bath, we take 1/2 to 1 liter of fresh water to rinse off our body. Now that’s fresh water conservation! (Try that at home…) Thankfully, after bathing we then clean the kitchen area. We usually clean up with our pants off. Awkward, but being dry dry dry is important!

In our first week rowing, after an outbreak of derriere sores, we instituted a policy: Operation Dry Bum. The first couple days we were wearing surf shorts that stayed wet. This was bad. Very bad. We now religiously use our Kokatat goretex pants in messy water. They block seawater splashes from ruining our seat time while wicking sweat away. Thanks Kokatat!

When sores get painful, itchy swollen and sticky, the first step is regular cleaning and drying. We clean as above or use baby wipes to supplement cleaning throughout the day. After some air drying we apply Bag Balm (a Vermont remedy for chapped cow udders) or diaper rash cream. Moms, please be assured, after our first week mishap, we are now caring prudently and regularly for that beautiful bottom you protected while we were young and diapered.

Future adventurers beware! Dry, clean bodies are key to an enjoyable time in the great outdoors. With enough forethought, the right equipment (like Kokatat), and proper discipline, you too can avoid the pitfalls of itchy, swollen body sores.


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  11 Responses to “Day 14 – Hygiene”

  1. Great to see that you are taking good care of the essentails.
    xo Mom

  2. Your moms love you for this (and a whole host of other things)

  3. Hi Patrick,
    Adam’s passage was very interesting. I thought your major concern would be the weather. Now I have learned how important your daily routine is to your well being. As a Mom and good friend of your Mom we are very happy you are taking good care of yourself.
    Your journey is fascinating. I really enjoy all the “eductional”tidbits that you lads post.
    Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers daily.
    Here’s to an exciting (not too tho) trip!,
    Love, Mrs F

  4. Where do you get enough fresh water to last all the way across the ocean, even with that kind of water conservation?

  5. Even my Mom would be proud of you guys… and she’s never met you!

  6. Good explanation, now one step further please. Does the JRH have a ‘head’ or do you use a bucket? i assume you are ‘recycling’ body waste back to mother earth 🙂 Students love the answers to ‘everything you wanted to know about poop, but were afraid to ask’. Stay strong, guys!

  7. Hopefully this photo truly is worth a thousand words.

  8. There was a photo attached of the on-board bucket/toilet… instead I’ll post this on Facebook.

  9. MV:

    Brad here from the 2006 North Atlantic row. In response to your question about where the fresh water comes from, the JRH is outfitted with a Spectra water maker ( which draws energy from the battery bank. The water maker converts salt water to fresh by means of reverse osmosis. Here’s a slide show with an overview of water makers and how they work:

    Perhaps there’s even an OARNW educational slide on water makers?

    The unit onboard the JRH is a Ventura 150 and is capable of delivering 6 gallons of fresh water per hour. This draws about 9 amps, which was a considerable power draw for the power system we had on the North Atlantic. I’m not sure how this affects the battery bank the JRH is currently outfitted with, but I imagine they have a bit more direct/consistent sun light directed at the solar panels, which in turn powers the battery bank.

    Hope this is helpful.

    Great post Adam!

  10. Great post Brad. I know teachers I am working with will find the slide show very helpful. The students will really be challenged by slide 6 which shows the incredible variation of salinity concentration across our oceans. Of course. the crew of the JRH will be traveling through one of the highest concentration areas – certainly a real test for the Spectra water maker. Thankfully those that have followed Brad et al.’s 2006 adventure in Rowing into the Son, or the CWF Salish Sea Expedition last year, they already know of the incredible team of scientists and professionals behind the scenes that have put all the equipment on the JRH to the toughest of tests. The crew have the most dependable tools they can under the real life circumstances of affordability and the forces of nature they are challenged with.
    Nicely shared Adam – here’s to dry, dry, dry. Cheers.

  11. Operation Dry Bum! May the force be with you.

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