Table of Contents
Before jumping into our topic today about packing light, we wanted to highlight news about Patrick and Rebecca Childress of s/v Brick House. Their youtube channel has been an inspiration for both of us, and we were quite literally shocked to find out that they were both diagnosed with coronavirus on May 15th.
While Rebecca is slowly recovering aboard their boat in South Africa, Patrick was admitted into the ICU and has been on a ventilator and is experiencing kidney failure. Their insurance claim has been denied since it does not cover pandemic, so we have donated to help them out.
Money should be the worst and last thing anyone in this situation would need to worry about. Having Patrick come back home as soon as possible to Rebecca… that’s what is important.
If you would also like to help, here is the GoFundMe to support them. Thank you.
Update as of July 17, 2020
Last month, Patrick Childress passed away, roughly 3 weeks after being admitted to the hospital. Rebecca was allowed to see him, say her goodbye and let him go. She said that everything is OK now, he can go and she will catch up with him someday again, and that they would have fun together again someday. Her farewell brought tears to my eyes.
30-weeks to minimalism kicked off the first of a 5 part series on getting prepared to live on a sailboat. This begins by downsizing many of our land-based belongings. We made a yeoman’s effort earlier this year, but in this post, we take a critical eye at clothes and consider packing light.
This also gives us an opportunity to give you a boat tour of s/v Rachel J. Slocum.
“He who would travel happily must travel light.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
In my 30’s, I caught the travel bug after my first business trip to Milan when I was working at Universal Studios. Eventually, this lead to a business development position at Technicolor, where I flew to Asia and Europe with some frequency. During the few hours I could steal way between meetings, I would visit sites profiled in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Back then, packing light was desirable when I would be in a different city each night while circumnavigating the world.
Now, packing light is an imperative as we embark on our sailing adventure.
When Andrew and I began to travel together, it didn’t take long nor did it take much discussion before we began to pack all our belongings into one bag. Yes ladies, one single bag. Shocking, I know.
Andrew usually took the lead, gathering all that would be needed on a trip.
The first of our trips was camping and hiking to a few of the highest peaks in California (San Gorgonio and San Jacinto). Because he was more familiar with the gear, he selected and packed in Tetris-like fashion everything that we needed into our packs. He would take into consideration balancing the weight in addition to the bulk of hard vs soft items. All-in-all, a thoughtful approach.
When we went on our honeymoon for two weeks traveling throughout Japan and Taiwan, we each carried a backpack, opting to stay in AirBnB’s to do our laundry every couple of days for the few clothes we carried.
As a result, we discovered the pleasure of staying nimble so we can take impromptu excursions and side-trips. For example, just as when we were headed for Kyoto, we took a detour to hike Poet’s Mountain. There’s no way we would have done that with a roller-bag.
So with this background, we turn to packing for the rest of our life in a 50’ sailboat.
How do you go about packing for the rest of your life?
While Bill was taking Andrew through some of the topside features of the boat, his wife and I went down below while I recorded the measurements of each of the drawers and hanging lockers, paying attention primarily to the areas for personal items.
Spaces in the bilge, under the settee, pantry storage, v-berth where the workshop is located - I didn’t bother measuring, since I envisioned all the spares, tools and provisions would be allocated to these spaces.
So with these few bits of information, we could begin to formulate a plan.
One of the most impactful changes will be downsizing clothes for this lifestyle. In our house, our clothes currently occupy 5 closets, 4 dressers, and a linen closet. This is roughly 510 cubic feet of space.
While I easily have 2-3 times more clothes than Andrew, we both have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to preparing for this lifestyle.
In the owner’s cabin of s/v Rachel J. Slocum, there is a single dresser (8 drawers), 2 hanging lockers, and 2 hatches above the bookshelves next to the bed.
Additionally, there are two other hanging lockers: one located just outside the v-berth and another next to the companion way to stow foul weather gear.
This is about 65 cubic feet of space compared to 510 cubic feet which we have in our home. This requires that we be ruthless to reduce our possessions by 85% or more.
In 30 weeks to minimalism, we talked about purging by knocking out each category one at a time. This helped to get rid of two closets worth of clothes, and I was quite proud of that effort. However when I looked at the storage options available on RJ Slocum, I knew I needed to start from zero and only take what I need and could fit aboard.
Thanks to several years and thousands of dollars spent on Lululemon, we have more than enough athletic and technical clothes to choose to bring with us aboard. By technical clothes, we mean fast drying, sweat wicking, UPF, waterproof, windproof, and insulating yet breathable.
We also have a variety of clothes from Arc’teryx, Ex Officio, Kit and Ace, The North Face, REI among others, If we want to remain comfortable at sea, gone are the cottons, silks, linens, leather, wool and other fabrics that will not hold up well to this lifestyle. A tropical marine environment spawns mold and mildew if you’re not careful. Additionally, salt water and sun will take their toll on everything. We feel pretty validated based on experiences by Sailing Eurybia and other cruisers.
To store these clothes, we’ll use a variety of techniques that many apartment dwellers use to save on space. These include:
- stackable hangers
- folding the Marie Kondo way
- vacuum bags for seasonal items
As for shoes, marine shoes, flip flops, hiking boots, etc. will be stored in plastic milk crates for ventilation at the base of the hanging lockers. Dirty laundry will also be stored in milk crates.
Foul weather gear will go in the locker closest to the companion way.
To put this into practice, I taped off and measured 20” of hanging locker space for myself, 12” of foul weather gear locker space (of which I would take up half), and the precise dimensions of the 4 drawers I would take up on RJS for clothes. When I saw the amount of space I had available to me, it was sobering. For many women, it would be a shock.
Then, I referred to Beth Leonard’s The Voyager’s Handbook which detailed the number and type of items considered the minimum to pack for a tropical and temperate cruising destination (e.g., 10 t-shirts, 4 tank tops, etc.)
In other words, these all went into the “Yes” pile. What I had already pre-selected several weeks ago became the new “Maybe” pile. Any category of clothes that had not yet been screened automatically went into the “No” pile.
All of a sudden, I was done and packing light became a reality.
Food for Thought
When this experiment was near complete, I showed Andrew the approach and he was equally enthusiastic about the results. He then threw in the potential for taking more items if we were to vacuum seal some of the items from the “maybe” pile so that we wouldn’t wont for more.
This is one of the many examples of the “battle of the givers.” I found a way to become at peace with less and he gave me a way to take more and not feel quite as much sacrifice. Rather than packing light, I would then be packing medium… at least until we arrive and assess what additional storage could really be found.
How to handle rejection
For the clothes that are in the reject pile, they can be gifted, sold or donated. Going Zero Waste provides some ideas for organizations that will take donations of unusual items such as bras, eyeglasses, cosmetics and shoes. Before tossing anything, we will also be taking advantage of TerraCycle to determine what to do with other waste streams.
Progress to date
as of May 18, 2020
The table details our approach: on the left is the choices we will make for clothes and on the right is for linens. Beginning with a list of all of the items and working from left to right, each item is assigned some relevance (marked in orange) for sailing in high-latitude, temperate or tropic climates. Each item is also given a minimum number or range required as per The Voyager’s Handbook. Additional clothes were itemized if they weren’t listed in the handbook (e.g., pajamas, climbing gear, vest, etc.)
I filled out the next 2 columns based on a) items that fit in the allotted hanging locker and drawers and b) optional items I would like to take if there is more room aboard the boat. The next 2 columns were filled out by Andrew.
Andrew had a chance to tackle his closet with the same rigorous editing. Going into it, he thought it would be easy, breezy. About 30 minutes into the process, he realized this was going to be a grind. While I sat on the bed happily knitting, I would field his packing-related questions. By lunchtime, he had gone through his wardrobe and he felt good about the progress he made. While he didn’t take the final step as I did, which was to pack all of the items into a suitcase, he now has everything in order, except for shoes.
Linens was also a topic of conversation over the past week. We will provide more details on that when we discuss the Boat Head.
Thanks for reading!
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