Tuesday, January 30, 2018

All day, every day, working on the boat…

That isn’t literally true of course. We don’t work on the boat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It just feels that way sometimes.

We have been told that people follow along with us on this blog to see how our cruising life is working out. I hope they aren’t too disappointed. So far our “cruising life” has come is short spurts. Between those limited months of moving, exploring, and getting to know many new faces, have been far more months of sitting and working. For the first couple of years the sitting and working always involved family boats. Even before dropping the dock lines to go cruising we had to deal with the initial problems with the V-drive / transmission failure. When the jobs went away and we decided to call it quits on the “American way of life” there were more months of work. Even before Kintala went on the truck for the trip east; the wind vane install and a repair on the bottom faring chewed through many weeks of near constant labor.

Once in Oak Harbor we thought we were close, but then came the labor needed to get Ye Old Tartan in big water without taking on said water. Labor that included hauling the boat out of the water, dropping the rudder, and taking on a pretty ugly fiberglass repair in the tiny space under the cockpit. We threw in a rudder repair while at it, just because it seemed like a good time to fix a rudder that was split all the way across its bottom.



Our first trip south saw us holed in Oriental for a few weeks struggling with the failing fuel injection pump. We got some cruising in after that, including our first trip to the Islands with our friend John.

The summer working on the Bear came next. Months went by, working through the Florida heat. Little did I know that was a precursor of life soon to be. We did make it back to the Chesapeake, where Kintala went up on the hard and, yes, we spent many a week working on her once again. It was good work, bottom paint and some interior changes that made living on her much, much more comfortable. But it was still seemingly endless days of gazing out at the anchorage wondering when we would find our way out there again.

We did, eventually, making it to the Islands for many glorious weeks. But that cruise was followed by the first stint of being a professional boat mechanic. It was good experience, and helped revive a nearly exhausted cruising kitty. Plan all you like for “retirement,” but don’t bet on it working out that way. Issues can and will pop up, and one is left to deal with them as best as possible.

We got another stint good of cruising in after that, visiting our beloved Abaco Islands and, this time, sailing all the way around them and back to the States. Then it was back around the Keys for a second season of fixing other people’s boats. That season ended a couple of weeks ago but we are far from being on our way again. I suspect it will be at least another month before we can sail off, and I will not be surprised if that estimate proves too optimistic.




Cruising, at least in our case, is just doing the best you can to get by while living on a boat. In some ways it is a lot easier than living on land simply because it is far easier to “get by” when one isn’t burdened with cars, houses, insurances, and an endless array of “stuff” rarely used but still taking up space.  But boats are labor intensive devices. The older they get the more labor intensive they become. As a life long mechanic and tinkerer my way of making peace with that reality has been to regard Kintala as a hobby as much as she is a home. So what if it takes a few more weeks to make the teak pretty and the bottom smooth? Why fret over changing pumps and plumbing, adding accumulators and inverters if, in the long run, it makes our daily living a bit more enjoyable? I spent endless hours tweaking the GXSR, working on projects out in the shop, keeping little airplanes flying, and working on houses. It helps to think of boat work as more of the same.

If our history is to repeat itself we will get “out there” again before too long. It may take a bit of effort to scrape the rust off of our sailing skills, rust acquired after months of sitting in one place. The good news is we have all of Tampa Bay to warm up in, and can take all the time we like. Until then it is...

All day, every day, working on the boat.

7 comments:

Phil Gow said...

I like the philosophical acceptance of boatwork as a hobby, as a way of life. I'll bet you've got one of the best Tartan 42s out there for all your labors. I've got a new (to me) boat, a Nonsuch 30, and the realization, once the mast is restepped in a week or so, the boat could conceivably be sailed, came as a revelation - these few months it's not been a boat so much as a series of projects and financial outlays. Probably made all the more more dire seeming by not having ever sailed or slept on her as yet. It's reassuring to have full time employment while this all goes on, so all the more credit to you two for making this happen while 'retired'! Here's hoping you get some more great cruising in soon!

hypathia hunter said...

I am reminded of two things that were explained to me early on... BOAT is short for Break Out Another Thousand and Cruising is defined as getting to fix your boat in exotic places... But trust me when I say boat work is a snap compared to building a new house...

s/v Sionna said...


Yet another way of saying that “Cruising is a lifestyle, not a vacation”!
But just think, at least you’re with your boat, doing boat stuff, and it’s (relatively) warm. We’re thinking longingly of returning to our boat, currently taking up space on a friend’s dock in Marathon, while we enjoy a Maine winter and eye surgeries! The key for our mental health is to release all expectations and find the enjoyment in every day - even when it’s hard to find. Which is not to suggest we always succeed in doing that, but we try! Steady as she goes, my friends!

TJ said...

Built a new house, once upon a time. Swore I would never go through that again. The real trial, for me anyway, when there is this kind of boat work going on is that daily living feels like an ongoing disaster. The cockpit is bare of teak, locker lids loose, blue tape stuck all around, and stuff is scattered about even more than normal. The inside of the boat is is disarray with tools out and about because putting them all away each night is just too much hassle, and takes too much energy. The dorads are off, fenders and fender boards are strewed across the deck, and odd ball lines lay about in tangles. It is all very un-ship-shape and out of control but most of the day's energy allotment goes into getting actual work done.

It is all good though. The idea (hope) is that, when we do get back in the water, it will be with a 3-year boat; fresh bottom and barrier coat, good teak, and all systems up and running (not that I expect them all to keep running for three years). We hope to put in some miles, see some places, meet some new folks. The first coat of bottom paint when on today, and the last coat of Alwood should go on the cockpit teak tomorrow. Yeah!

s/v Sionna said...

I'd love to hear. More about this "Alwood" of which you speak? Sionna's rub and toe rails we're painted, but that's failing now and frankly isn't attractive to us. Looking for options...

TJ said...

s/v Sionna, we just finished the cockpit teak and are starting the toe rail. Alwood is a commercial product they use here at the yard. It isn't a two part paint so you don't need to mix it. Like varnish is goes on rather thick and is a bit touchy in the application. Not too bad though, and it comes out looking really good. There is a primer coat, then eight coats of clear, than a thinner top coat. You can put on several coats a day without sanding each one. We did sand at the start of each day, using 220 grit. Truth to tell though, if you used 120 I suspect it would take a real expert to tell the difference. On the last coat, before we put on the thinner, top coat, we went all the way down to 400 wet sand. Probably completely unnecessary for outside finish but, when it is your own boat, you can be as detailed as you like. (Some might have q different word for it.)

I don't think we will do the 400 wet sand on the toe rail, but we wanted the cockpit to sparkle as much as possible.

The stuff does have a tendency to bubble up with tiny little bubbles. Most of them brush away with the next coat but they can be a pain if you get a glob of them. I tried thinning the product a little and it seemed to help, but it didn't eliminate the bubbles completely. Look close enough at the finished piece and you will see them, but from more than a foot away they disappear.

Good luck. If you have any questions feel free to ask.

s/v Sionna said...

Sounds like a product worthy of research - thanks!