Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Going to the Dark Side

No, I'm really not much of a Star Wars fan. Haven't seen the new one. Haven't seen any of the prequels. And it has likely been several decades since I have watched any of the original “Big Three”, though I vaguely remember enjoying them when they were first released. It might be an interesting experience to see them again. The older I get the less appreciation I have for simplistic story lines and clean cut boarders between right vs wrong and good vs evil. (The same chafes at me with the LOTR movies, and I never made it all the way through the three Hobbit movies – though maybe I will – someday.) My guess is the Big Three wouldn't be quite as much fun as the first time around.

Our home for
Nor have Deb and I decided to move to some kind of power boat. Kintala is still our home, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. But I am going to the Dark Side nonetheless. For I know a guy who manages a boat yard. A good guy. One I consider a friend, and one who does the kind of work that should always be done when someone is paying for a job to be done right. The person who owns the boat yard where my friend works feels the same, and their reputation is getting around. The yard is full of projects, there are more projects coming in, and they are having some trouble finding people to do the work that an increasing list of customers wants to have done.

My name came up and, as a result, I was invited to drop by and see if we might have something to offer each other. It appears we do. I have a lifetime spent working as a mechanic in a demanding field, with now eight years working on boats, years that include two extensive refits and uncounted repairs and modifications. They have a place for us to live and the means for us to fill a nearly depleted “cruising kitty." So, come sometime early next spring, Kintala will settle into a slip in a boat yard and I will start punching the clock as a full-time, paid, “professional marine technician," the very kind of person about whom I have written so many kind words of admiration and awe these past few years, including countless blog posts and a book. Talk about walking a mile in another person's shoes...

I am still working my head around the idea. My last job was as an extremely well-paid Director of Flight Operations / Chief Pilot. There was no time clock anywhere in the vicinity. In fact, I haven't punched a time clock in over 30 years. So the bad news is the kitty is not going to refill in any great hurry. The good news is that it doesn't have to fill very far to support a lifestyle far simpler and much more modest than the one lived as a Director of Flight Operations / Chief pilot. There is also this nagging thought: I am not a “professional marine technician”, not really. I was a professional aviation technician and am a boat hobbyist. A boatyard lives in a different reality. Get them in, get them done, get paid, get them gone. It keeps the lights on, fuel in the travel lifts, and money in the bank to cover the paychecks. No excuses. No alternatives.

I haven't been a citizen in that kind of world for a very long time, and it may not be as much fun as the last time around. But there is no escaping the reality. I have, over the years dealing with the marine industry, claimed to be at least as good and usually better than the ones whose work I have had to correct, replace, or live with. Now I get to prove it.

No excuses.

I do have to admit, though, it looks like they are having a lot of fun in the yard. There are boats with the bottoms peeled and boats with huge access holes cut in the hulls so fuel tanks and / or engines can be removed. Various systems are being installed, masts are down, ways to fit custom these or add specialty those are being sorted out. There is a wood shop, a fabricating shop, indoor sheds for working on some projects, and covered slips for working on others. A paint booth will fit anything they can haul, and there are three travel lifts in motion. It is exactly the kind of place kids with little belts full of plastic toy tools hope to find when they grow up. Being in the place stirred memories of hangars and airplane parts, tough people, tough jobs, hard work, and things getting done. Good memories of a world where I was once at home. A place to find some satisfaction in being at home once again.

A place that may not be the Dark Side after all.


G4DYR said...

It sounds very much like you are putting the cruising life on hold TJ


Deb said...

Oh no, not at all. Dealing with replenishing the cruising kitty is a pretty constant struggle for most cruisers. Unless you are independently wealthy and don't have to work at all ( not a problem we'll ever have), finding some way to pick up some cash along the way is always on cruiser's minds. A good many cruisers work over the hurricane season so they can cruise over the winter. We consider ourselves pretty fortunate to have been able to cruise two whole years without working for pay at all.

TJ said...

My two cents …

The year we left the boat got pulled out of Carlyle on July 26. We set off in mid-October. The time in between was spent working on the boat. The next summer, after our first visit to the Islands, we ended up on a dock for months while working on the Bear, and then on Kintala. Then we went to the Islands again. Last summer we sailed north to Oak Harbor where we spent the summer doing four or five major boat projects. We shared each of those summer boat works sessions alongside other cruisers doing the exact same thing. Months of “cruising” punctuated by weeks or months of boat maintenance / repair / modifications looks to be pretty common for many of those “out here”.

And it must be admitted that a couple of boat projects got out-of-control in spite of our best efforts. There were things we hadn't done (solar panels, auto-pilot, interior mods for more storage space) that turned out to be more necessary than we thought. There were unexpected repairs; rudder and skeg, deck, standing rigging, steering system, batteries and box. And we were overwhelmed by The Bear. At least we are getting Kintala squared away enough so that this summer, while I work on boats and Deb handles most of the projects on our boat, money will be coming in rather than going out.

Also, we are citizens of the only first world country on the planet that isn't smart enough to figure out how to control health care costs. The cancer scare we could have handled. The boat and Bear costs we could have handled. But the two added together? We had planned as best we could when we left land and, though we knew it was close, it looked like we had put enough aside to make it through. But, as they say, cruising plans are sketched in the sand at low tide. It turns out that includes financial planning as well.

In other words... stuff happens.

This coming summer will be another spent working on boats. I hope to learn some new tricks to keep in my toolbox, prove to be a productive member of the team, meet some good folks, and make some new friends. Come the fall the plan is to be underway once again. It is, to me, all part and parcel of this lifestyle.

Stuart McCullough said...

There's nothing wrong with seasonal cruising TJ!

That sounds like a great way of approaching things and maybe the experience will give you enough material for a follow up book on boat repair and maintenance.