At the extreme of hygiene
Have you ever been camping? Living in a tent for a couple of days with one or two other people, remember how quickly everything becomes a mess if one of you doesn’t tidy up?
Well, imagine an ever so slightly bigger tent; make sure all your clothes are in there, then the kitchen, all the food you need for the whole trip, oh and don’t forget the toilet. Are you getting a good picture? Well that’s basically what it’s like living on a Volvo 65 for 15-24 days at a time.
Now if everyone stuffed inside this carbon-fibre box – ours is the mighty Dongfeng – shared the same ideas on living, it would all be so much easier. BUT we don’t. There are the messy ones, the loud ones, the stinky ones, the “have you seen my socks” ones, and, like me, the neat freaks.
We are all there with a bigger objective of winning the Volvo Ocean Race but sometimes it can be hard. The hardest place to keep respectable is the kitchen; it’s basically a carbon-fibre sink with a camping gas stove bolted onto it. At the best of times it looks like the end of a kindergarten arts and crafts time, with multiple different days of spilled freeze-dried food, powdered smoothies and god knows what else.
The next entertaining one is the rush for the morning ritual. The toilet – or should I say the “heads” – is located just in front of the keel bulkhead in a place about half the size of a portable toilet. Funnily enough as uncomfortable as the toilet is, being made entirely of (yes, you guessed it) carbon-fibre, it is probably a more expensive than one you would find in a five star hotel.
Everyone makes a bigger effort to keep this area clean for obvious reasons; the worst time is when you are doing your business and someone comes past to move something or in light winds when everyone is sleeping in the bow, literally sleeping next to you…you can’t have privacy issues on these boats.
Next to eating – out of a dog bowl, which helps you not spill any of your food when you are crashing around through waves. We eat freeze-dried food some of which is quite good. It is a real art to get everything right, from the right water level required, to which condiments to add in.
Whatever you do it generally comes out looking like the same stodgy meal, whatever the flavour. Your biggest friend is barbecue sauce; this can really turn any meal, from chicken curry to salmon pasta, into a true delight. Next is just getting inventive – dried banana, milk powder and honey and you have yourself a banana smoothie!
Being a race, we can’t take much personal gear with us because of the added weight penalty, so you don’t exactly get a clean pair of socks each day. With this in mind you have to be pretty tactical as to when you decide to change an item of clothing for a new one. If you go too early and run out it’s bad times. So rationing for the leg is a good idea or you can save up the clean stuff for the last few days and it feels like Christmas!
In the last leg the first underwear change was about day 11 I think; one of the most amazing feelings ever. I was a bit gutted though as about an hour after I changed them we got called on deck in a rain squall and I was soaked from head to toe – very disappointing.
When you see Dongfeng after a leg, having arrived in civilisation again, you realise how we really live like animals inside the boat. But it’s still entertaining watching everyone’s different coping rituals!