Yes its official, we have added a real washing machine to Party of Five. I know that may be shocking to some, but laundry is one of the most tedious jobs aboard our boat. As the kids get bigger, its has only been getting harder. Eventually we just decided that having a machine aboard would increase our quality of life immensely.
Of course adding a real washing machine to a 40ft catamaran is not a trivial matter. The first problem is location and size. There is really only a couple of spots on Party of Five that we were willing to give up in order to have a machine aboard. The first optional spot was on top of the port side toilet, since we only use that head as storage. The second optional spot was on a small bench in our state room next to Rhonda’s closet. Both of these spots had about the same dimensions (Width=70cm, Height=90cm, Depth 50cm) but the bigger problem was the doorways. The doorway to our stateroom is 44cm (yes cm) wide and the doorway to the port head is only 40cm wide. Now I challenge you to get a tape measure to actually visualize those dimensions. There is no way you would ever find a full size washing machine in North America to fit those dimensions. However, being in Martinique, we have access to the fantastically small appliances from Europe.
So with the dimensions in hand I set out in the car our friends on Romone had rented to find our machine (thanks guys). It’s a good thing we needed a small washer as this has to be the smallest car I have ever driven. Not only that, it has the strangest automatic transition since its really a robotically controlled manual (clutch and all). Although it shifts gears automatically, there is no “Parking” gear and it will roll backwards on a hill even if its in drive. It’s a Citroen C1.
I stopped and looked at a few different stores. However here is one of our most favorite stores here in Martinique. BUT is French clone of Ikea complete with the maze and everything! Here is the appliance section. Unfortunately I wished I had taken more pictures of prices so people could compare.
Hmmm Beko, never heard of it before. The dimensions fit (she is only 40cm deep), and the price is damn right. I spun her around and fully expected a “Made in China” sticker, but no. Made in Turkey, hmm is that good, no idea.. Sold, pack that bugger in the C1!
Back at the boat I ran into the next BIG problem. How the hell am I going to power a 220V 50hz washer on a boat that is wired for 120V 60hz(don’t remind me I converted the boat to 120V). Here I have a beer and sit in perplexed silence as we have a distinct failure to chooch when trying to run on a transformer. I really thought it would work fine on 60hz as the motor is a universal DC motor powered by a VFD. However the electronics didn’t like the frequency and just went into a reset loop. We actually tried 2 transformers and had the exact same result.
Enter power option number 2. A 220V 50hz modified sine wave inverter. I was able to talk a local shop into not only selling me this inverter at a discount, but to accept the return if it failed to work. Sigh, unfortunately I had to take the shop up on their offer. Although we did have some washy sudsy action, the unit chooched very strange on the modified sine wave. The motor just didn’t have the power it should have had and the machine made a strange buzzing noise.
Enter power option number 3. Our friends on Sirsha Mor loaned us their ebay special 220V 50hz 2500W pure sine wave inverter.
WE HAVE LIFT OFF. The clothes spun around like a ride on the Gravitron while machine worked its cycles and ejected the heavenly smell of real laundry. Best of all, we were able to do 3 loads of laundry using our excess solar production without running our generator. Of course it drew a ton of power (like 80A @ 12V) while it heated the water, but it only heats water for a few minutes. After the heating element turns off it only draws between 8A-10A while doing the various cycles.
Seriously I have no idea how North America does not adopt stuff from Europe. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a single A+++ rated washing machine sold in all of North America. Let alone one that is the size of 2 toaster ovens.
I called that a win and promptly ordered the exact same inverter to be delivered in St. Lucia. $212 USD delivered to St. Lucia in 15 days. Nice!
With the power option now sorted, I set about with the permanent installation for both the machine and the incoming inverter. As you can see by the picture we choose to install the machine on the small bench in our stateroom. We felt this was a better option as access to water and a thru hull were available in the closet. Plus this would leave our spare toilet still free in the event our currently used toilet had an issue. Notice the stainless steel U-bolt installed in the closet front. This will be used for a securing line when we are underway as the washer is not bolted down and just sitting there.
I didn’t take a picture of the inverter location, but it will be installed right next to the batteries. We will simply turn it on and run a 220V extension cord when we want to do laundry (waiting for a sunny days and free power).
I wonder how many of you noticed the fire extinguisher on the floor and will post saying those have been recalled”!
Now for fun, I thought I would post our progression of clothes washing aboard Party of Five.
Here is our original washing equipment. A bucket and clothes washing plunger. We washed our clothes using this method for over a year. It worked, but SONOFABITCH was it a lot of work doing laundry for 5 people.
Last year when we were in Martinique we decided to “splurge” and buy this little beauty. She was quickly named “Barbie” and was a great step up. Within the first few loads we noticed how much cleaner she was making our clothes. We stood back and stared at the laundry on the line and commented “Oh, that’s what color that stuff really is!”.
Although she washed clothes fantastic, she was still a lot of work. Nothing was automated and although you didn’t have to plunge your guts out, you still needed to fill and drain her. Plus she used copious amounts of water at 22L/load. To conserve water we would use the rinse water from one load as the wash water for the next load.
Once we are confident in the new washing machine then we are hoping to find Barbie a new home where she can continue making clean clothes for another cruising family!