Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Who Needs a Maytag

One of my least favorite chores on a boat is doing laundry. Invariably, the clothes are still both dirty, soapy and, when we tried washing them in seawater, also salty. Not to mention that we've just put in a lot of work for zero reward. I've taken to washing just a few things at a time in the sink, all in fresh water with a tiny bit of soap and some ammonia. This system works pretty well, but since water conservation is a big deal onboard most of the time we just break down and pay to have our clothes washed.

But I have finally found a place where I enjoy the whole laundry thing. The Rio Diablo. Yes, I know that translates to the Devil's River, but when Vlad and I took a heaping bag of dirty clothes upstream in the dinghy I swear we found laundry heaven. We motored about 20 minutes up the river, and it was like a Kuna superhighway. We were constantly passing people in cayucas who were tending gardens or bringing fresh water back to Nargana (the water pipe is broken in town). We hauled the dinghy up on a sandy bank in clear, cold, fresh water and commenced to laundrying it up.

I did the washing in a bucket, and Vlad did the rinsing in the river. He developed an efficient, assembly line process that consisted of throwing clothes upstream, catching them, wringing them out, and repeating until they were rinsed. I, however, just got covered in soap. We got to watch herons and jesus lizards and tiny fish all while completing one of those basic household tasks that you rarely think twice about on land. And we were not alone in our efforts. Another cruiser and a Kuna woman and her grandson were washing clothes at the river bend as well, creating a nice feeling of community in the middle of the jungle.

But after finishing our giant bag of laundry and heading back down the river, we got to meet another not-so-friendly river denizen. The crocodile.

We had heard from the other cruisers that there were some crocs hanging out in the water further down stream, and while Vlad navigated us through the half-submerged tree trunks I was on croc watch. We were both lamenting the fact that we had yet to see one when we spotted this guy lounging on a piece of drift wood. Vlad kept getting us closer and closer while I took pictures until we finally got a little too close and the crocodile hissed at us, mouth open and filled with jagged teeth, and slid into the water. Cue my mini freakout. That sucker was eight feet long! Washing clothes in the same river where crocodiles wile away the hours certainly gives an extra thrill to laundry day.


  1. Just the mere fact that you have to stand a crocodile watch while you do laundry is pure awesome.

  2. He certainly has a toothy grin! Maybe best to use a telephoto lens rather than have Vlad get so close? They lunge, you know. What are jesus lizards? Frankly, I think this croc should be called a JESUS! LIZARD! Great photo, as usual.
    Hope your adrenal glands have recovered from that personal encounter with huge teeth.

  3. Avoid their areas especially during mating season. They are extremely unpredictable and aggressive during this time. Give them a wide berth - always 15 -20 ft. You'd be amazed at how fast they are in the water. Avoid their areas in early evening and night which is when they are hunting. A snake can strike the distance of it's body. Same idea for a croc. If it's and 8ft croc give'em 16 ft at least and probably more. Don't dangle hands, feet etc. if they are known in the area. Remember they can leap and take down a water buffalo or other large animal just standing on the shore getting a drink. They are animals that uses the element of surprise. Watch the water if you must be near them, look for eyes just barely peeking up. Humans are not their usual diet but like sharks they have been known to eat almost anything, cattle, license plates, etc. If you are moving and they are hungry or protecting young a mate etc. you are in danger. If you are attacked then go for their eyes. If your hand or leg is caught in their mouth then go for the valve at the back of their throat that closes when they are submerged. It is a flap of skin. If that is blocked and cannot close then they will drown. if you are attacked you'll need to get to a dr. immediately as they are very dirty animals and a great deal of filth and bacteria is present in their mouth. Best advice is stay away from their areas.

  4. I have washed cloths in saltwater before and rised with fresh water...worked well the few times I tried it at sea, but I haven't thought of the fresh water rivers. I might have to try that. For now though, I just go to shore and use the laudromats. In the Bahamas though they are 5 times more expensive then Florida. Almost need a coffee can full of quarters here.

  5. Very cool! Cool as a Crocodile. Awesome picture, although I'm surprised you held onto your camera after it hissed and showed it's teeth to you!

    Anonymous above seems to have some first hand experience with Crocs, sounds scary when you read the warnings, but ah well.

    Stay safe, and remember if threatened gladly hand over your hiking shorts...Crocs may need them too.

  6. hey we're heading out monday. Probably be in Porvenier mid late week. We will try to get on the ssb net when we get there. So excited!!!!

  7. Hey, guys! Thanks for all your comments and warnings. Just to assuage any croc concerns, we washed our clothes far upstream of where we saw crocs. The crocodiles seemed to chill in the murky water closer to the mouth of the river, and we do laundry in the clear, swifter moving water upstream with the other cruisers and Kunas. Not as exciting as it first seems, but still more thrilling than your average laundry day.

    And sorry about the silence on the blog front. We were not eaten by crocodiles, just merely far away from the internet the past month.

  8. Word on the street is that V&A had a computer failure n addition to spotty internet access, so they've been unable to update the blog. We're working on getting them fixed up, so hopefully we'll see some updates soon!

  9. Thanks for posting that. I was thinking about them yesterday and wondering if they were between places or what. Funny how we get so attached to the updates on people's progress.