Leg 3, Day 23 – How clean is clean?

Natalia Cohen By

Day 23 – How clean is clean?

My last experience on a boat was a little different to this one.

Flash back to 2013 where I found myself on a 62m Super Yacht cruising Mallorca, France and Croatia in the Mediterranean. My role on the boat was Lead Stewardess, which basically meant that I served the clients and was a glorified cleaner of the boat interior. For those new to the industry, Super Yachts are 5* luxury boats that are usually privately owned and used by their owners and friends or chartered out to randoms.

Before the owner’s arrival and during their stay, the boat has to be cleaned thoroughly and I mean meticulously in every nook and cranny, air vent, cupboard corner, ceiling, floor, sideboard, surface, picture frame, light switch…are you getting the picture? We’re talking ear buds and toothpicks in the final stage of the ‘detail’ clean to ensure not a speck of dust or dirt remains and then the cleaning continues daily.

Let’s now come back to Doris. The state of cleanliness on our little 8m boat is definitely questionable. In our defence it’s not easy to clean thoroughly when you’re constantly being thrown around a tiny cabin space, time is of the essence during an awake shift, you’re sleep deprived and there is no financial motivation.

So…we’ll let you decide how clean is clean!

Living quarters:

When the sea state is rough, the hatch door has to remain permanently shut. This means that condensation forms on the walls of our cabin and then everything gets and remains damp. For very brief moments of airflow, we may flush the cabin by quickly opening a hatch to allow some air to enter. If this is timed incorrectly there will be varying amounts of water depending on the wave size that will enter the cabin. With all this moisture and water, the underneath of our cushions that line the bottom of our cabin are always a little or very wet, covered in small bits of stray food and hairs. The ideal scenario is to go into the hatches that are underneath these cushions as little as possible! Cleaning this area is futile but we make a cursory attempt every week or so.

Our make shift rubbish bin (thanks to Lizanne in Leg 2) works well but is not a self emptying bin. It still requires someone to decide when it is full enough and be changed for another bin bag and small enough so that it can still fit into our ‘rubbish hatch’. I would say that both Ems and I are the main two that take the initiative to empty the bin but it very often looks overflowing.

The footwell has always been a little distressing. It was definitely Izz’s least favourite place on the boat in leg 1. It is a collecting area for any stray hair, rubbish that didn’t quite make it into the bin plus any random stuff that a rower may accidentally bring in with them on their feet when entering the cabin after a row shift. Luckily our footwell also holds four 4 litre water containers that we use to collect our desalinated water. Without fail everyday when the watermaker is run someone will be momentarily distracted and there will be a minor fresh water flood. For this reason we all seem to think that the footwell is almost self cleaning!?

Food and beverages department:

Our sporks all live on the small thin shelf in the aft cabin that is the holding place for the auto pilot. It is not meant to be a shelf for random stuff that has no home, but it seems to be used as such. So the sporks just lie loose on this shelf collecting all the talc and other roaming particles in the air. After eating we normally give them a good lick and consider that to be clean. They then go back on the auto pilot shelf!

Tupperware (by the way mine seems to have befallen another tragedy yesterday where it was apparently washed overboard by a large wave…sad times) is used for breakfast, main meals and desserts. There has been an evolution of cleaning methods where the tupperware is involved from cold water and a sponge to a quick rinse with boiling water. They often look pretty clean, but when you open them in the morning there has been known to be a strong smell of the previous day’s meal that wafts your way. So are they really clean?

Our water bottles have been with us for our whole journey. Some just contain water and others are used for our SOS rehydration salts. After a certain amount of time any plastic water bottle will begin to develop black bacterial spots. We have been rowing for over 8 months day in and day out drinking water, so although attempts have been made in each stop over to clean the bottles and with Milton during the legs, for the most part these black spots still remain. We all seem to have done a mighty fine job of just ignoring the spots or some (myself included) will try a wipe with tissue paper to temporarily remove them. That makes them clean again – right?

The outside deck:

The main deck area is in direct line of rain so will often get a natural clean when the heavens open. The area under our gunnels, however, where our extra oars are stored, is another story. This part of the boat can be tricky to access and is quick to accumulate grime and slime. Flying fish often end up in this area too and if undetected as they are well hidden from sight and if they are not smelt, will stay here and decompose. Only if we have a large foot washer or wipe out wave (please refer to A, B, C of Waves Blog for more info), will these fish be released from this area. BBQ tongs are too big for this type of cleaning and none of us even own ear buds!!

In conclusion, Doris is privately owned, and although she is not maintained to the incredibly high standards usually expected from her owners, she will always be our ‘Super Yacht’.

We love you Doris we do!!! x

High wind and travelling in an unfavourable direction led us to deploying the para anchor last night. That meant an uncomfortable 12 hours for Ems and I sweating horrendously in the fore cabin and LP sweating and doing log book duties in the aft cabin. The lovely Meg, however, had a great night. She managed a full 8 hours sleep and was not hot at all!??!! Go figure…



  1. Simon TY says:

    That must be really annoying: you want Meg to see how tough it has been at times, and get the full experience. Then, blast her, she sleeps for eight hours. Why could she not be a little bit sick, a little bit insomniac ? Suffer a bit, get the battle scars. Then, like a babe, she sleeps.

    Hope today has been a bit better. The pink dot veered north, did a zig zag, but now appears to be westerly again ? Do you ever get in the “lee” of Port Apia and the string of islands ? Or is that naive ? Maybe 20 miles away, but not further ?

    I googled an old Cairns friend from years ago, Peter Tibbs who taught me to dive. Sadly, I see he passed away in 2010. He was an enormous bear of a man and I remember about three of us having to struggle to,pull off his wetsuit. I still have my first log book with his signature. In 1981 there were no computers and I still have my logs, and at a pinch could probably still use them.

    Another memory of Cairns, where I worked for six weeks, was picking fresh avocado. But we got it in a strange place, from above the cages of the Cairns zoo. I have no recollection of what was in the particular cage, but it was smothered by an avocado tree.

    I was staying in Cairns with a Canadian couple, Ev de Jong and partner, name forgotten. Baileys had just been popularised, but Ev made her own cream and whiskey concoction. But it went off faster than we could drink it. I was working in the “Cri” ( the Criterion Hotel). In those days bars were forbidden and alcohol ( as I recall) could only be sold in hotels. The Cri was one of many hotels with no rooms !!

    Enough rambling. If any of the parents get to Cairns a few days early, do the Kuranda steam train up onto the escarpment, past an extraordinary waterfall. It was completely dry when we were there, but postcards showed a Niagara like torrent in the wet season.

    Xx STY

  2. Peter Walker says:

    Yuk to that rotting fish smell. A confession of mine is buying a fish to leave on a friend’s engine as he drove away from the church after his wedding reception. His friend suggested being a little more devious, so we took a screw driver to the central vent in the dashboard and slipped the mackeral in behind it. That is the bestman’s role isn’t it? It took him months rather than days to find the bony remains. Am I forgiven?

  3. Jim Andrews says:

    Great blog Natalia, who would think that after 8 months, you can still cover a whole new subject about life on Doris. Cleanliness must be so difficult when, as you say, you are being rocked and knocked all over the place, flying fish, spilled food, constant soakings, I just don’t know how you do it. I am sure Doris will not be quite as spotless as the super yacht you describe but I think that the level of cleanliness will be as good as you can do under the circumstances, the thwarts will certainly be well polished?Sorry to see, that once again, you are getting battered by the Sea and Wind conditions. I hope you can get back on track very soon and enjoy some more placid weather for your triumphant arrival in Cairns. Still a lot of rowing to do but that light at the end of the tunnel must be very visible now? My praise of you ladies and your achievement probably gets monotonous but it is certainly not questionable. In modern parlance, I think the term would be, “You Rock”? Stay safe

  4. JG says:

    The test of cleanliness is the state of the stomach. We’ve had no reports of tummy bugs so your hygeine must be perfectly adequate. So what’s a few hairs here and there! You should see the state of my shower plug after a visit by my daughters!

    The Naked Jogger. Two old men are sitting on a bench outside their retirement home. Suddenly a female resident dashes past them jogging, completely naked.

    Old man “What was that?”
    Friend “I think it was old Mavis from room 22 ”
    Old man “Was it really? What was she wearing?”
    Friend “I don’t know but whatever it was definately needed ironing”

    Keep safe girls, not far now

  5. Barney says:

    I laughed a lot reading that blog, culminating in the hugely amusing vision of Meg sleeping 8 hours while the rest of you sweated it out. I am very surprised you all let her sleep! Did she snore as well? How annoying would that be for LP sharing the aft cabin with her. Hope you got a video clip for the epic film to come.

  6. Esther B says:

    I always read your blog on my lunch break at work and that one was almost enough to put me off my cuppa soup! From my time in Oz I always remember us saying “there is clean and then there is camp clean” so now we can add “Doris clean” to that!

    Any news on what is happening to Doris once you reach Cairns??

    Keep up the good work girls xxx

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