Looking for a Good Rock

Certain rituals seem to be ageless. One is the gathering of women to beat dirty clothes against rocks, to share a little gossip, and to generally pass the time.

This ritual continues for boaters…it’s called the marina laundry room.

Every week Mark hauls a big bag of laundry to the marina washers while I tag along with laptop, book, quarters, detergent and softener sheets. He deposits the bag and leaves. I fill up two or more washers and sit down to wait at least two hours until its done.

Unless others are there before me.

In Charleston Maritime Center there are two washers. A sign asks you to use only one machine, reserving the second one for someone else. Both were in use. Another woman arrived right after me. We both knew we had at least three hours in the laundry room, provided the people using the other washer showed up.

We hunkered down for a long chat.

My co-washer shared that she’d been up all night, going from Jekyll Island to Charleston in one long haul in order to bypass Georgia. Her sailboat had a nine-foot keel. Yup, she would have run aground in the badly shoaled Intracoastal Waterway. We almost did and we have a four-foot keel.

In wandered another woman with only two items. She didn’t go back to her boat knowing she couldn’t wash for three or more hours. She sat down and gave us a scintillating account of her husband’s gallstone operation and her own need to find a dentist.

Next came a man who apologized for hogging the washing machine. He put his clothes in the dryer and told us about his scientific expedition to measure toxins in plastic littering the ocean south of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He was off to Australia next.

We sighed and decided we didn’t want to sail to Panama. We just wanted clean clothes.

When he left, another man came in to empty a dryer and told us how he was glad we weren’t in one of the snooty marinas where enormous yachts cruise in, roll off their golf carts, and sneer at lesser boats like all of ours. This marina was friendly.

We nodded. The snooty one probably had a dozen machines. We needed to start our laundry. No rocks in sight.

Charleston Maritime Center doesn’t have a lot of washers and dryers, but it has lots of chairs. And little does it know, it’s preserving an ancient, social ritual.

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