|Laundry day on Maunie|
We may be showing our age here but we clearly remember a 70’s comedy TV series called The Good Life, where a couple called Tom and Barbara, living in middle-class British suburbia, decided to give up their jobs and try their hands at self-sufficiency. They sold their car, disconnected the electricity supply, ploughed up the lawn of their detached house and planted vegetables – all to the uncomprehending dismay of their status-conscious neighbours, Jerry and Margot.
Fast forward 40-odd years and Tom and Barbara’s concept seems slightly less controversial, in spite of a spiral of consumerism and technology dependence that they could hardly have dreamt about. Back in our home county of Somerset, the decision as to whether to build a twenty billion pound nuclear power station, just 3 miles from our house, hangs in the balance as the government ponders the pros (of job creation and carbon-neutral electricity supply continuity) and the cons (of the huge problem of nuclear waste disposal and the immediate financial and political worries of handing the build contract to a French company supported by a 25% stake from China). But, meanwhile, we are all becoming more used to the concepts of green energy generation and there’s a wider realisation that energy conservation and even small-scale production at home and in business makes financial as well as ecological sense.
Here on Maunie, as we’ve touched on before, we’re trying our best to work towards some reasonable degree of self-sufficiency. Admittedly our crop-growing potential is somewhat limited and our fishing skills still leave a lot to be desired but our need for electricity and fresh water, at least, is something that we can address pretty well. The key to self sufficiency in these areas, of course, is to make things easier by cutting down on our demand. So our electrical load when anchored is limited to energy-efficient refrigeration and LED lighting which means that our 320W solar panels can more than keep up, given a moderately sunny day. 320W is the peak output, by the way, so in reality we probably generate about 1200 watt-hours per day (about the same amount of energy used if you boil a domestic 3kW electric kettle about 8 times a day, to put it into perspective).
Fresh water is, if anything, more of a challenge. We haven’t connected Maunie to a shore tap for nearly 2 months so our small water-maker, which generates only 24 litres per hour, has to keep up with our thirst when the solar panels are generating enough spare capacity for its 110W power demand or else when the engine is running. Again, the secret for us is minimising demand so we have a salt-water tap in the galley sink for prewashing the dishes and our showers are necessarily kept short; leaving the tap running whilst we brush our teeth has become unthinkable. Clothes washing (or rather rinsing the soap out of them after the washing bit) is the big challenge, however, so when we find a stream or fresh water spring ashore we follow the locals to their laundry spot and get to work; we haven’t quite adopted their technique of thrashing our clothes on a rock yet! The heavy rain of the past two days has given us a welcome break from running the water-maker; we let the rain wash the salt from the decks for a few minutes and then dam up the deck drains to divert the rainwater flow into the deck-mounted water filler for the main tank, whilst the cleaned-out dinghy provides another useful catchment area. We’ve successfully diverted about 300 litres into our now brim-full tank (there’s a micro-filter on the drinking water tap in the galley to remove any potential contaminants) and the 150 or so litres that we pumped out of the dinghy has been used for the laundry today; Graham still did a dinghy run ashore with the soapy clothes to rinse them in the spring water that gushes from rocks on the nearby beach. When the sun’s out a camping solar shower left out on deck provides hot water for the washing up and the sunshine and a decent breeze soon dried the laundry.
In reality, Maunie is one of the smaller and simpler boats in the cruising fleet around here. Many boats have washing machines (not jealous, honest!) and even air conditioning but every extra delight demands more power and adds to the boat’s complexity so we’re happy with our energy vs. luxury balance.