Velella's Drift

An account of Velella's voyage from Seattle to New York via Panama, 2009-2011

Nude in the middle of the city

Our anchorage  is pretty much prime cut: It has a killer view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, a protected downtown beach on which to land the dinghy, and a choice of either the colorful curiosities of Fisherman’s Wharf or the vista-rich lawns of Fort Mason both within a quarter-mile stroll. It even has quite a few resident harbor seals, who follow our dinghy so closely it would be alarming if they didn’t look so much like Nuala. Of course what our Utopian anchorage does not have is an outlet to plug ourselves into, so we swing free on the hook, reliant solely on our (awesomely large) solar panels for power.

There are surprisingly many things on Velella that need electrical current to function–things that I never really considered while living on land. The electric bilge pump is a good thing to keep on, and of course refrigeration draws a lot, the anchor light adds a few watts, and we find it pretty important to have charged phones and computers. Even having running water takes the energy of an electric pump to create pressure. Unfortunately, drawing water and drawing HOT water are two different systems, a fact that somehow I’m embarrassed to admit that I had no notion of until yesterday morning.

One of the things I love most about our boat is the incredibly hot hot water heater. It’s not lukewarmish water that we imagine is hot, it’s like scaldingly, luxuriously hot. I was imagining my first hot shower at the anchorage when Prescott informed me that “uh yeah Meg, that hot water heater is on the AC circut–didn’t you know that? It’s either from the engine or from the plug, and we have niether right now.” The news was like a bucket of ice water.

However, we did have one power-free, fresco option. The solar shower. A very simple, very black, five-gallon bag that heats up in the sun, supposedly. I, for one, was a bit skeptical, because I was not into the idea of a tepid shower, especially on that blustery San Francisco Bay day. There is no way that the sun could heat up that bag of water as hot as I wanted it, not North of LA. So Prescott was the guinea pig (he was dirtier too, so a little more motivated). He looked like he was having quite the time–no goosebumps or squeals… and I had to admit that lavender scented Dr. Bronner’s soap (Thank you Brook!) smelled delightful mixing with the salt air…

Then I got impatient and made him give me a turn. Do I wear a swimsuit (we’re in the middle of the city)? I better have my bathrobe close by because that wind was brisk, and I was going to be pretty pissed if this thing wasn’t warm. Prescott was dressed and moving around the cockpit already, leaning up the cushions vertically along the lifelines, and pinning towels around the cockpit’s circumference to create a windproof privacy fence for my shower. No one on the docks or the beach could see me as the solar shower bag hung from the end of the boom and I stretched out on the warm, sunny teak for my first bath in awhile. I thought it would be cold and camplike–instead it was decadent and heavenly. My hair tingled and squeaked clean, my skin woke up, my head cleared, as the steaming bag of water rained down on me in the sun. My bathrobe was right in the shade of the dodger, and as I toweled off my hair in the wind, I felt like a character in a book.

We rowed into shore feeling less like the vagrant hippie sailors we were beginning to look like and more like pressed and clean yachties skipping around the Bay. It’s taking some time for me to get used to not having life’s luxuries readily available (and sometimes it’s a real pain in the ass), but my shower was an enormous accomplishment, and a daily ritual I look forward to repeating in anchorages all along this beautiful coast. Thank you Mom for the last-minute gift of the solar shower!



  Brook wrote @

What a great visual image! It is 60 degrees, windy and cold at high noon here in The Dalles and the idea of an outdoor shower sounds horrible, but I must say that your response sounded honest AND ecstatic. nice.

  kathy wrote @

you are welcome..

  Bonnie wrote @

It was 39 this morning here so an outdoor shower sounds cold. Thanks for the great description.

  webecomeus wrote @

your mom is pretty great.

and don’t worry, i’m sure you still look somewhat like a vagrant hippie sailor…or at least Prescott does, for sure!

  janice reid wrote @

butch and i have one of those solar black bag showers and i’ve never used it. now i’m looking forward to it…with lavender soap;-)

  Bob Mills wrote @

Hi Meghan and Prescott,
Your trip sounds fun and it is nice to know that you are safely in the best city in the world. Tommy’s Joynt on Van Ness Ave near Sutter is a place we liked to eat. Probaby can get there by taking the cable car from the wharf to the California St car and taking it up to Van Ness.
Nuala is staying with us for the weekend along with John and Melanie. She is having fun with Marie and Gus. We are flying into SF on Tuesday and will look out the window for your boat. We will be on our way to Portland and a date with Bob Dylan on Oct 7th.
Love, Bob and Kathy

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