Rick Allender goes back to basics with a low-cost and simple way to shower on a small boat

We are all faced with the problem of washing our bodies with fresh water when we anchor out for any more than a day or so. The warmer the climate the more easily this problem is solved. Swimming may be a simple solution except for, among other things, that residual, clammy, salty feeling.

On Stormbird we have considered, tried and discounted many different options. These include fitting a fully-equipped ensuite style bathroom with gas-heated water and electric pressure pump (too expensive and space consuming); using handheld garden sprayers (difficult to stow); black plastic bag showers (needs sunlight and goes cold overnight); plus a bowl and flannel (not efficient at cleaning).


1 An en suite shower takes up space and is expensive


2 A garden spray pump is awkward to stow


3 Solar heated plastic bags need sunshine



4 A sink and flannel is not efficient at cleaning


Stormbird has been built in a utilitarian manner and the only facility for washing is a handbasin. This is not altogether a bad thing as ‘the less there is, the less there is to fix’.

This maxim is how we came by the milk-bottle shower. Shown to us by friends who had a malfunctioning pressure shower and who by choice, after first discovering it, use their bottle shower everyday.


The bottle shower consists of a plastic two-litre milk bottle with small holes drilled in the cap. Acap-cmykThese could be melted through with a heated needle if a drill isn’t available. Before filling it the water is heated in a kettle, though not too hot if you’re to avoid scalding yourself and distorting the plastic – which incidentally, is a good way to reduce the bulk of plastic-bottle rubbish. One bottle is just enough for a shower, although two is luxury and essential for shampooing hair.
When the weather is cold or windy we use the bottle shower in the shelter of the cockpit.
I suspect when we get into colder seasons and climates the bottle method will lose some appeal, but at present in the temperate summer climate of New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds, the shower in a bottle is serving us well and keeping us clean.


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