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Old 04-14-2006
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How to dry clothes at Sea?

Is there any good way to dry clothes while on a passage?

In Sep 1990, I crewed on a traditional 35" wooden boat sailing from Hawaii to California. I'm getting bitten by the cruising bug again and I was re-reading my diary of the trip. What I noticed in the diary were frequent references to the difficulties in getting clothes dry, even in moderate weather. If they were put up in wind (fastest drying) they had a good chance of collecting salt spray and the whole process would have to begin again. If they were laid out in a protected area, they would take longer to dry, assuming they had enough time.

Now, I suppose on a megayacht one simply throws things into a dryer. But is there any good solution for mere mortals on how to get clothes dry while on a passage in wet weather?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions
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Old 04-14-2006
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There is no real solution to this "problem". Sailing in rain/heavy weather you get wet. Change out of the wet clothes when you are not on watch and then put them back on when you have to go back out. No sense in getting all your clothes wet. Wet polypro or wool will still insulate and keep you warm to some extent. Dry stuff off during pleasant weather and repeat. Enjoy the moisture, it's inevitable.

Paul
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Old 04-14-2006
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Also, if the clothes aren't rinsed with fresh water, the salt in them will not allow them to dry completely.
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Old 04-15-2006
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Thanks, guys, for the response. I appreciate both of you taking the time to answer an "obvious" question because these are questions that leave you wondering: am I missing something here? I see that I'm not and I can simply live with the situation.

For your amusement, here are a couple of taciturn entries from my diary while we were banging to windward for 9 days North of Hawaii:

DAY 3

Would like to have a water maker. Peace of mind for long voyages and the luxury of fresh water showers. If in cold latitudes, it would mean you could get the salt out of your clothes and stay warm. Might be difference between being uncomfortable (because of cold weather) and miserable.
Nudity seems the most practical in the tropics. No smelly clothes and air around groin or other covered areas.

DAY 9

We've come about a 1000 miles and are at 36'30" or 37' North.
It's no fun to get wet now. The water is colder, the wind is colder. It takes longer for everything to dry.

With the continued winds 20+ knots and 5-foot seas the only dry place in the cockpit is the lee cockpit seat against the cabin. It takes a lot of attention to get anything to dry, and even then it's a judgment call on how long you'll leave an item out to dry. The longer it's out, the better the drying but also a higher chance of the odd wave or spray drenching it and bringing it all back to start.


Once again thanks for the help.
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Old 04-15-2006
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Nudity in the tropics is also a really good way to get sunburned in places you probably don't want to get sunburned.
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Old 04-15-2006
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Wet clothes up the line

Assuming you're on a broad to upwind sail, think about running a few wet clothes up a line attached to the spinnaker halyard during the daytime. Out of reach of most spray yet consistently exposed to wind. Just remember to bring it down with someone on the foredeck so your freshly (nearly) dry stuff won't get doused on deck waiting to be picked up.

Nothing short of a dryer or other heat source will give you truly dry clothes but this works well enough in the near-tropics. And a fresh water rinse before raising the halyard does make a major difference in the end (Yeah--watermaker!)

Good luck,
Mark
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Old 04-17-2006
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Thanks, Mkfcdl, that was a good suggestion regarding the spray problem. It was the spray across the bows that was doing in my drying efforts.

Ah, Sailingdog, never tried the nudity thing but it was a thought at the time. North of Hawaii I was just wearing running shorts, an occasional shirt, and lots of sunscreen. The running shorts were just a little too tight and irritating in the crotch area.

Your point about sunburn is well taken. Later in the '90's I lived in the Marshall Islands, 7' N, the REAL tropics. I'll tell you, tropical sun on white skin, even at 0900, can actually hurt. When I went back to US people would ask me, "Why aren't you more tan?" "Because, the tropical sun is too much and I stayed out of direct sun as much as I could."

Last edited by Traveling_Jim; 04-17-2006 at 04:52 PM.
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Old 04-17-2006
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Hi-Tech Fabrics and Lo-tech clothes dryer

Use Hi-Tech fabrics 'patagonia' etc and build a place that will serve as a clothes dryer.

The Hi-Tech stuff can be rinsed in very very little water to remove the salt and at least most of the stink (few drops of vinigar in rinse works wonders) and then squeezed almost dry. Hanging up on a line in the cabin they will mostly dry just hanging for an hour or two and body heat will finish the job, but better yet a homemade dryer will dry them out very quickly.

One can rig a dryer many ways. Have an empty locker with some open racks to put the clothes on and a heat source and a small fan to circulate the air.
(1) Fan can be natual air ducted from a dorade vent or a 12Volt muffin fan like those used to cool electronics gear and they use very little power.
(2) (a) The heat source can be a heater core (small radiator) from a car heater (cheap to buy new at auto parts store) and piped to use the hot water of the engine cooling water. (b) Any other heater in the boat can have some it's heat siphoned off and directed to the locker.

Hi-tech / quick dry is the key. Wool is a natural fiber that does well in damp and if you use the fine/soft grades of wool it is great but they do not dry as quickly and easily as hi-tech. Lambs wool, alpaca, angora, casmire all are so effective/comfortable that in a pinch you can just wring them out when soaking wet and put them back on and be surprisingly comfortable.

Throw the cotton stuff away or at least don't use it on the boat.

Last edited by sailandoar; 04-17-2006 at 07:47 PM.
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Old 04-17-2006
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Thanks, Sailandoar. Your suggestion was exactly what I was looking for for drying clothes in the mid-to-high latitutdes and in inclement weather.

For the low latitudes and better weather, "Mkfcdl's" halyard/vertical clothesline seems the trick.

I appreciate everyone's help. To me, this was one of those "tricks of trade" issues that I've never seen discussed in any cruising book. (Having said that, I suppose I'm inviting a reference to ____________. The sound following wil be me slapping my forehead simultaneously with a Homer Simpson "D'Oh" ).

Last edited by Traveling_Jim; 04-17-2006 at 04:52 PM.
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One warning... don't leave clothes hanging during long passages, as chafe can quickly destroy the clothes.
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