Laundry Day

We made one serious mistake on our passage: we didn’t do laundry for three weeks straight. We never sat wallowing on a windless day, aka laundry day, so we arrived in Atuona, Hiva Oa with a mound of unwashed clothes, sheets, towels, dish towels, etc. There’s no laundry mat in Atuona, and the cost of having laundry washed was prohibitive for the kilos we had accumulated. We each chose our most precious clothing and gave it to Sandra (the agent who assists arriving yachts)to wash and dry in her machines and then waited for that perfect laundry day. With the squally weather, that day never arrived. Over the next ten days we grabbed bits and pieces of clothes and did emergency laundry to keep ourselves minimally presentable, but the mounds of unwashed cloth continued to grow. By the time we left Fatu Hiva, known as the rainiest island in the Marquesas, we decided that sun or no sun, the laundry had to get done.
On Tahuata Island, after the glorious dolphin and manta ray sighting, we gathered up the bags of laundry, our bucket and detergent and headed to shore in the dinghy. The waves were crashing gently on the boulder strewn shore line, and we motored back and forth looking for a potential jumping spot from dinghy to rock that would place us closest to a stream emptying into the ocean. Our first attempt failed, as Mark landed gracefully on a volcanic ledge only to find himself with no path to the stream and surrounded by scuttling crabs. Take two involved a scramble on a boulder and quick tosses of laundry and bucket, each timed by Devon as he masterfully shifted from forward to reverse to keep the dinghy off the rocks. Safely ashore, Mark and I had to transport laundry and supplies across large boulders covered with small, red ants and the occasional scuttling crab. Being a bit squeamish I had to convince myself that this was still a good idea and focus on my footing so that laundry day didn’t turn into medical emergency day. It was a fifteen minute scramble to the stream, with sure-footed Mark making several trips to carry the load of clothing while I slowly moved myself and then the bucket of supplies. It all seemed like a very bad idea until we arrived at the waterfall. With beautiful coconut trees and hibiscus shading the small pools, and a twenty foot fall into smaller cascades, we found ourselves in a bit of paradise. Even the ant population diminished to an acceptable level. We set up our operation: a small pool served as the pre-wash soak, the bucket for washing central, a small cascade became the rinse station, and a boulder with minimal ant population held the wrung out laundry. It was hard work, but the glorious setting and the merciful shade took the edge off the task. Midway through the mound of laundry we took a break and ate a delicious pamplemousse (large, sweetish grapefruit which grows abundantly on the islands), rinsing the juice from our arms and faces in the rush of the waterfall.
Several hours after landing, we had two large bags of clean, wrung out laundry and a scramble ahead of us. Fortunately, Mark’s toss of the bags into the dinghy was spot on, and Anson’s maneuvering of the dinghy timed perfectly. Mark and I swam out beyond the crash zone, lumbered aboard the dinghy and then arrived at Anthea in brilliant sun light. All hands on deck, we strung clothes lines to augment the lifelines and still found ourselves short of space to dry the vat of laundry. Dancing to the Beatles from our portable speaker, we covered the deck in socks and t-shirts until every item was in the sun. Then the race was on: how much laundry could we dry before the next squall arrived? We spent hours turning clothing, adjusting sheets and towels, so that we could dry as many items as possible. The outcome was quite good: all the sheets dried, and the thinner pieces of clothing as well. We cut the load in half.
Drying the second half of the items was much more laborious and took two days of the game of “laundry out, laundry in.” With each squall we strung the damp clothes down below, as mildew always seems to be seeking piles of dampness. When the sun shone again, out went the socks, t-shirts,and shorts that stubbornly refused to dry. Once again we were reminded of monsoon in Kangra, remembering clothing that hung onto moisture despite days of hanging on lines. Kim

4 thoughts on “Laundry Day

  1. Yes, remembering Kangra monsoon! What lovely writing, Kim. I feel like I was hopping rocks to avoid ants- yuck- and then basking in the beauty of hibiscus, coconut trees and waterfall. Where was Anson through all this? The dinghy maneuvering was essential to avoid a puncture in your transportation but wringing out wet sheets with the aid of his strength would have been most welcome I am sure! The grandmother in me speaking- forgive me! Quiet times in San Miguel as we eat a lot, lovely food cooked by Soledad, Joan’s helper for the past 15 years, watch movies in the heat of May before rains of June to come, with outings to do water aerobics in a hotel pool with her friends, followed by tea and talk. Our being here seems to be good for her, as she tells us daily. We just getting fat and sassy but loving being in Mexico- the people are so wonderful and the food delicious! We eagerly look for postings daily and appreciate so much when you write. Haven’t heard news from or about my grandsons lately. They also write well and we all so enjoy their postings! Am reading a book: Pacific by Simon Winchester which keeps me closer to you all, I feel. Much love and many hugs, Mother.


  2. It’s hard to find the comment section in this blog, but so worth any effort to congratulate all of you on how you handle your daily adventures with ingenuity and hurmor! Amazing and wonderful descriptions, writing, and i loved hearing about the daily frustration of dirty clothes. What we take for granted! Love, Daphne


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