No more fridge-free living

Have you ever looked carefully at the condiment shelf in your fridge? I bet you can identify items that are years, maybe decades old. And then there are things we wouldn’t know how to keep if we didn’t have a refrigerator and freezer. For example, mayonnaise, or butter, or fresh ginger.

For years, I’ve been reading about cruising sailors who live without refrigeration. Boat refrigeration is expensive to install and painful to maintain, and it’s the item that uses the most electricity, a scant resource. So I’ve always assumed that we would just learn to live without it.

But living on a boat at anchor and living on a boat on jackstands are two different things. We don’t have nice cool water around our boat, and without masts and booms, we don’t even have any shade. It is hot, hot, hot.

But we have a vehicle, and there are plenty of places to buy ice nearby. Block ice, which keeps longer than cubes, is a little harder to find, but we found the places that carry it. Beaufort Ice, the wholesaler, will sell it to us if we happen to be in town during regular business hours. Once, at the end of the day, they gave us a free block, because we didn’t have exact change. They distribute their blocks to other places, like Captain Kenny’s BP station and the strange and dark mini-mart we call “Skankland,” but of course it costs more.

So we started buying a block of ice for our icebox every day. Sometimes we would go two days, and then buy two blocks. But it’s a hassle. Our friends were using block ice, too, until they got their fridge working. Now, when they see us hauling ice back from the gas station, they just smile contentedly. “You should buy a little refrigerator,” said Gigi. “I saw them for $64 at Kmart, I think, or Wal-Mart.”

She was right. We were spending over $70 per month just for the ice, not counting the gas and the time. I went to Kmart and plunked down the credit card. Returning home, Barry put the new fridge over his shoulder and carried it up to the cockpit. “It sure is light,” we both commented.

Then we plugged it in, and I read the little manual. Wait, what’s this? It’s a thermoelectric model with no refrigerant. It says it can lower the temperature up to 20 degrees from ambient. That won’t work when it’s 95 degrees — who wants a 75-degree refrigerator?

I went back to Kmart and carried the fridge to the customer service desk — I didn’t even need a cart to return it. I should have known that a 22-pound fridge wouldn’t work.

So on to Wal-Mart, where we bought one that weighs 55 pounds. We had to use a block and tackle to get this one up to the cockpit. But it has a real compressor, and a tiny freezer compartment where we can make ice cubes, and although it’s only 1.7 cubic feet, that’s enough room for our milk and cheese and lunchmeat and a few vegetables.

We’ll have to sell the fridge when we launch the boat, and then we’ll figure out how to live without refrigeration on the water. But in the mean time, we’re in cool heaven. And instead of carrying ice up the ladder, we get to carry something better: Ice cream!


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