In our final months of preparation for this trip, before eventual shove off, Jeff somehow managed to fry our refrigerator during a tinkering session. I took this as a sign.
Let’s try to live without the fridge. I seem to recall proposing to Jeff enthusiastically.
Since I’m generally the go-to person for food, Jeff was willing to defer this decision to me. Okay. If you think we can do it. He responded, with some hesitation.
Thus commenced my ill fated attempt to live without a refrigerator, at a marina, with a readily available ice machine (which really should have made it a gimme). Twice a day I was lugging ice back and forth to our former fridge, now ice box. It took maybe one week for me to decide that living without a fridge was possibly one of the worst ideas I’ve ever had. So we bought a replacement unit, the Norcold Teck II to again convert our icebox back into a fridge.
We used the fridge intermittently all the way through Mexico as energy output allowed. Staying at marinas, where we could be plugged in, helped to keep us on the icy side of cold. It was just another tether keeping us coming back to the dock. While at anchor we turned the fridge off at night, but it always got back to temperature sometime in the late morning and cycle off intermittently during the day.
As we moved further south, the intensity of the sun increased and the water crept towards bathtub temperature. The temperature in our cabin hovered around 90 degrees and our red hull was warm to the touch on the inside. It turns out that we lliterally live in an oven. How silly is it to put a fridge in an oven and expect it to work efficiently?
Fast forward one year after the commencement of our journey when we were leaving the land of cheap(er) marinas, likely to live at anchor in the confines of whatever energy production was currently at hand (which at this point was two 70 watt solar panels and the alternator, our homemade wind turbine having succumb to rust). Once we left the 110 watt playground known as Marina Chiapas it became readily apparent that our fridge might not make the cut, especially when up against our computers (computers trump dairy, meat and cold beer in our household).
It must be the insulation, we reasoned. If we just beef up the insulation, surely the fridge will consume less energy and stay colder longer. This led to an attempt to re-insulate the fridge with the expanding foam we “conveniently” had on board, which led to foam oozing out of its makeshift cardboard and waxpaper “mold” and expanding to 6 times its size in places where we really didn’t want it, which led me to have a mental breakdown in the vberth and proclaim through bursts of tears Why did I ever bring that *** expanding foam onto the boat! even though I knew the answer to that question and at one point it had been a reasonable decision (another story, another day).
Who really needs a fridge? was our next response. We don’t need a fridge, we just think we do. Right? It’s either that or drop some money into amping up our energy production…or turn tail and head for a marina…or stop using our computers. But this is an adventure in minimalism (which is what we tell ourselves after looking over our latest bank statement).
Along with celebrating one year at anchor, we are also celebrating one year of living without our fridge. Living without a fridge in the tropics has taught us a good number of things about food selection and preservation. There were a couple times when I honestly didn’t think it was possible, but necessity is the mother of adaptation. It might have been a challenge at first, but now it’s just a part of life. We eat really well, arguably better than we did before, and we’re not continually fretting about the energy hog more commonly known as a fridge. Turns out we’re doing just fine without a fridge…and that’s pretty liberating.
The only thing I truly truly miss about having a fridge? Cold beer on demand. But that just gives us a good reason to get off the boat and go out drinking with friends.