After more than three years of sail boat ownership I am happy to announce that the debate is over. Our family has decided to install a washer/dryer on Aphrodite, our St Francis 50 catamaran. For years the decision to own a washer/dryer was hindered partly by a reluctance to bring on new gadgetry, but also because we couldn’t decide where to put it.
Where can you retrofit a washer/dryer on a St Francis 50 catamaran?
We bought a Splendide 7100XC combo machine. I have been using this machine for about six weeks and it is
we now smell fantastic. The Splendide 7100XC s proving to be a great machine for our family of six, and can accommodate loads of up to 15 pounds.
We knew when we bought the machine that it would be too wide for our interior doorways. We talked about dismantling and rebuilding the machine. In the end, we determined that we could not install the machine at the bow of our boat without performing major surgery.
It seemed that every workable idea we had involved a sacrifice.
In 2015, we considered placing a washer/dryer on the galley counter but we would have lost counter and storage space.
Then, for a long time, my husband, Rick wanted to mount a washer/dryer behind the helm seat. This design idea meant carving into a seat, building a box, dropping in the machine, and using gel coat to finish the box. But, I never really liked the idea of pimping our ride with a washing machine. Also, I felt the box would make it difficult to access the winch we use for our traveler.
A few months ago, we met with a contractor in Georgia and committed to renovating an aft head (bathroom). The plan was to cut a hole in our galley and sacrifice an aft head (rear bathroom) in the process. As it turned out our contractor had other projects lined up this summer, we were in Canada, and our laundry reno didn’t happen.
In the interests of leaving the marina and actually sail, I thought I should sell the washer/dryer. But the stars aligned when we temporarily removed our saloon table to gain better access to our battery bank. (Rick is in the process of replacing our batteries with Lithium batteries.)
When we removed the saloon table, our kids marvelled at how large the space suddenly felt. Rick stared hard and saw potential.
Below the saloon floor is a shallow, chart storage cupboard. We thought that we could easily part ways with the charts cupboard to drop our washing machine into the floor.
Upon closer examination, the chart storage cupboard was exactly the right size for the machine.
In short order, my husband discussed a design with the contractor who was involved with the original (aborted) summertime plan. Rick also talked to our boat manufacturer, St Francis Marine, in South Africa about where he might drill to accommodate the plumbing.
Then Rick fired up his jigsaw. And, he cut out the floor of our saloon. The noise and energy were fantastic! Noise! Noise! Noise! Sawdust was flying, and the jigsaw was pummelling.
In short order, we had a hole just big enough to accommodate our washer/dryer. Rick finessed the sides of the hole with a Multi Tool. I put duct tape on the sides of the machine to protect the finish from the rough edges of the hole.
The deed was done. We lowered our washer/dryer into the hole. Rick tested the plumbing for leaks and the machine was set into action.
But, we are not done.
Since the hole was cut, Rick has met twice with our contractor to discuss the dimensions and color of a custom under-the-table cabinet. The cabinet will match our cherry finish, and conceal our washing machine when it is not in use.
Because the contractor works remotely at a boatyard, Rick created a template of the saloon floor using a roll of brown paper. The template mapped out the area surrounding the washer/dryer. It saves our contractor from coming out to take measurements as he works about an hour away from our marina.
Essentially, the washer/dryer machine will be housed in a box, and mounted to prevent tipping. The table will be placed above the box, using some of the materials from the original table legs.
The design of the box allows space for the protruding bits of the machine like the door handle. The design also provides adequate room to service, maintain and reach the soap dispenser. We will have a single wooden pocket door that folds into the cabinet when the machine is in use.
With a pocket door, there will be less risk of someone kicking the door off – as can happen on a boat, especially as we have four energetic children. We considered using sound proofing for the box but it seemed to be overkill.
For the past three years I have washed all of our clothing, towels and sheets by hand. I didn’t mind the physical effort. I liked feeling part of the subculture of people who wash laundry by hand.
The process of hand washing is pretty much the same across cultures. It is such a basic task. It is more grass roots than natural childbirth. When the weather cooperated, hanging laundry was zen. Here are some photos I took of our laundry in the Bahamas.
But, it wasn’t a lot of fun. Moisture and the heat of the Caribbean can fester. On a few occasions the weather did not cooperate – sometimes it would rain for weeks – and I could not line dry our laundry.
While shaking our laundry over the back transom, the surrounding fish are doing cartwheels. I stressed to my kids “Never in my life have I shaken maggots from my clothes before. Never. Children, I want you to know this is not a normal part of childhood.”
Needless to say, the washer/dryer is an amazing addition to our boat. It leaves me more time to home school, and to enjoy the amazing people my kids are growing to be. The addition of the sewing machine from my last blog post and the washer/dryer have not gone unnoticed by our kids. Karen (7) and Betty (10) tell me that they “feel like they are living on a super yacht.”
Final product? This is a work in progress. Stay tuned as I will post pictures of the box, table and final installation. By then, I’ll put our seat cushions back and our family will return to eating at a table, and not on our laps.