illustration of a couple showering on the deck of their sailboatWe’re among the lucky ones, we made it. After years of dreaming and prepping, we’re living aboard our boat in the Tropics. It’s everything we hoped it would be and we miss none of the creature comforts of the home we left behind. Not a one. Well, one.

We have a shower aboard our 1981 Morgan 382, HuskaBean; I’ve seen it. It’s in the head, right next to the loo. In fact, it even has a seat, the toilet seat. Because everybody needs a place to rest while they’re showering, especially anyone keen on cleaning the head while they lather up. But our onboard shower doesn’t get a lot of use. Don’t get me wrong; we bathe aboard HuskaBean. It’s just that bathing in a shoe-box-sized shower aboard a boat requires impossible contortions. It uses way too much of the water in our tanks. Everything in the head gets wet and covered with soap. It’s so darn hot down below, we can really work up a sweat while washing off the sweat. Heck, we need a shower after our shower! What’s a dirty sailor to do? Take the party outside, of course.

Bathing topsides is where it’s at! You may immediately be thinking of those solar shower bags designed for campers. Just don’t. Nothing’s more frustrating than trying to shower under a leaky sandwich bag filled with water, trust me. “What’s the alternative?” you ask. We got ourselves a pesticide sprayer! (Because nothing says “clean” quite like a toxic chemical bath!) Of course, we use a new sprayer, one that hasn’t been used to treat for termites. We pump that thing until it’s about to burst and pull the trigger. The full-force mist lets us experience what a sidewalk feels getting pressure-washed—at least for 10 seconds, then it’s time to pump some more.

But at least it’s a lukewarm-ish mist. We fill it hours before we plan to use it and leave the whole contraption in a sunny spot on deck, our hopes high. (We recently learned we can paint the sprayer black if we want the water warmer—and we do, by the way. Then, right before the sun starts to set, right about the time our anchorage neighbors begin to congregate in their cockpits for sundowners we weren’t invited to share, we gather our shower supplies and start pumping. The green flash they’re waiting for has nothing on the sailor flash we provide, believe me. It’s only the French sailors who anchored too close who don’t bat an eyelid when they see us gallivanting around in our buckies.

On passage though, topside bathing is best done in the cockpit, for safety’s sake. And bathing in the cockpit while underway is an experience not to be missed. But be warned, once the boat starts rolling the nonskid on your cockpit seats will scrub your bum sparkling clean. And hang on tight; you can really pick up speed as you slip and slide across the helmsman seat. I know this for a fact.