16 October 2013

Could You Live Without Your Electric Toothbrush & Hairdryer?

It is starting to dawn on me that when we move on to our sailboat full-time, I’ll need to give up a few things. There are some obvious ones like having a proper bedroom, separate bathroom with a shower and a refrigerator. I’ve known about these all along and think I should be okay doing without. Well, that’s the idea anyway. But I’ve just started to realize that we won’t have an electrical set-up on our boat which will allow me to use my hairdryer and electric toothbrush. They say it is always the little things that hurt the most. You think I would be more worried about a lack of refrigeration, but it is really the electric toothbrush and hairdryer that are keeping me up at night. After all, dental hygiene is important and my hair can get quite frizzy. If I had to pick one, I would go with the electric toothbrush. I have a feeling that my beauty routine is going to take a nose dive anyway living on a boat (especially not having a shower), so I’m not sure my frizzy hair is really going to be the biggest issue.

Most sailboats have two separate electrical systems – an AC system for shore power and a DC battery system when out sailing or anchored up. We don’t have an AC system, so we’re already a step behind most sailboats. So we rely on our DC battery system to power everything on our boat including our chart plotter (essential navigational tool), fish finder (essential to Scott), the pump which connects our water bladder to our sink (you need water to brush your teeth), the interior lights (which we rarely use) and the radio and CD player (sailing is better with music).  And of course the batteries are essential for starting the engine.

All of these things are wired in to the main electrical system and we also have a cigarette lighter adapter gizmo (I’m sure there is a technical term for this) that we can use to charge our mobile phones and iPad, as well as plug in our "anchor light" at night. But what we don’t have on our boat are those ordinary electric sockets like you find in your house. You know the ones where you can plug in your electric toothbrush and hairdryer. And unplug them. And plug in other cool gadgets like blenders and toasters and TVs and computers. Maybe even a DVD player if you want to get really fancy.

If you want to plug in these types of gadgets you need an AC system and a way to power it. There are three ways to go about this – you can hook up to shore power, you can install a generator or you can get an inverter. To hook up to shore power, you basically connect to a giant plug on the dock. Kind of like the ones in your house, except you’re essentially plugging in your entire floating house. If you're not able to plug into shore power, you could get a generator. Generators run off of fuel and produce lots of continuous power and you’ll often see (and hear) them on larger boats with big appliances, air conditioning etc. The downside of generators is that you need fuel to run them (which is expensive), they’re noisy, they need an exhaust system and they take up quite a bit of space. They are also one more thing to worry about breaking on your boat. The final option, inverters, turn DC power into AC power and operate something like a reversed battery charger. This allows you to have AC power without being connected onshore or having a big clunky generator in your boat.

As we’ll be selling our current boat at the end of the New Zealand summer (and buy a bigger one in the States probably with AC power), it doesn’t make sense for us to consider installing an inverter on our boat. It would be expensive and time consuming. Something I can’t really justify just for the sake of my teeth and hair. So I’ll learn to live without, along with no fridge, TV, computer or blender. It’s good to keep learning throughout life, isn’t it?

What electric gizmos and gadgets are a must have on your boat? What have you learned to live without?

Goodbye hairdryer, my hair won't be the same without you.

It was nice knowing you Mr. Toothbrush.
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  1. Living on a small sailboat limits your exercise opportunities. A manual toothbrush will help keep your arms toned and your teeth gleaming. Not drying your hair would be a sign that you've recently bathed, folks will be jealous. Yes, my glass is always half full....

    If you come to the East coast of the states when you look for your bigger boat drop us a line. We might be able to help you in your search.

    1. Good advice on toning my arms - I've been practicing my "bitch wings" after reading your blog, but because my upper arms are so flabby they are much more of the "bat wing" variety. The manual toothbrush will be great to firm them up and give me more of the desired intimidation factor. Thanks for much for the offer to help - we'll definitely be in touch!

  2. Get an electric toothbrush that takes AA batteries. You can get rechargeable ones with a charger that works on DC.

    1. Thanks for the tip - I had one of those battery operated ones once, but it didn't work as well as my electric toothbrush. I like the idea of a rechargeable one - I'll have to look into that option.

      Cheers - ellen


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