I gave myself a twinge the other day when I posted yet another beautiful sunset picture on Facebook. It felt like I was committing a lie of omission. I really was enjoying the sunset, however, I don’t want to leave the impression that everything in my boat life is peachy keen either. Eventually, I’d like this blog to be a rather honest portrayal of one man’s escape into the life he wanted. By keeping it honest, I think that I can show that anyone can find their passion and escape from the mundane existence that has them bogged down. To stay in that spirit, I will add some details to my boat report about the condition of Emma and the work to be done. The following will occasionally sound like a bitch session, but that is not my intention. I hope to illustrate that while l have learned to pause and soak up the occasion sunset, there is still a lot of work to be done. I intend to show that by force of will, doing my own work as much as is feasible, and by being too stubborn to quit, that a fairly humble man can create the life he dreams of. Further, my current goal is to get the boat ready, to be able to wander. This is not an end point, a destination, rather this goal is the point of departure for another set of goals; the wandering itself.
I am bogged down right now with the electrics of the boat. All I really need is running lights and a radio to sail her from Miami to Fort Pierce. To accomplish that, however, I had to replace the battery bank. And because of the unpredictability of my previous schedule, I had purchased new batteries a month ago, but just got them to the boat. Once there, I realized the ‘kitbash’ nature of the wiring on the boat. There is Romex house wire in a couple places; which is really bad on a boat. Worse yet, the majority of the wiring is old school quad phone station wire, probably pulled out of a dumpster and repurposed. Anything more than a small light bulb at the end of such thin wire is a fire hazard. I am just rewiring now what I have to in order to move the boat, and will end up taking all the wiring out and redoing it from scratch.
Two of the three solar panels aboard are from a Miami company with a less-than-stellar reputation for either selling good panels or standing behind them; according to my Googling anyway. Occasionally, their panels are grounded differently than everyone else’s. Yet I have three panels all wired together. None of which was connected to the charge controller or battery bank. Further, the panels are wired together in what looks like a great mess of gooey, old school electricians tape. I have yet to tackle that. I don’t know if this wiring mess was working at one time or was slapped together and then abandoned without ever being tested.
There is a VHF radio onboard, but no antenna on the masthead. If anyone has pressed the transmit button on the mic without the antenna, the radio is probably blown. I have a handheld radio that will suffice, but really wanted the stronger reach of a full size radio. I may attach an antenna to the stern pulpit to see if it will work. Cheap enough redundancy again.
The rig is OK to get to Fort Pierce, but I will replace it rather than trust it any further than that. In the photos, Emma obviously had a wooden boomkin and bowsprit. However, they are not the original, but a home constructed replacement. I was going to replace them with the stainless steel versions anyway. The bowsprit is fairly loose right now. The bobstay is chain which is not as stable as cable. The whisker stays are also loose, and I hope that they will tighten before the turnbuckles bottom out. The forestay needs tightening but will have to be balanced with the backstay to keep the mast plum. The stainless steel chainplates are rust stained on the outside. I dread seeing the inside but will replace them during the refit. Various hardware at attachment points for the the stays on the bowsprit and the boomkin are not appropriately sized. Luckily, most of them are too big, but occasionally that is causing some scarring on the hull.
The running rigging has been baking in the sun for some time. I hope it will get me to Fort Pierce. This will all be tested a little more before I leave. I haven’t raised all the sails to get a look at them yet. At that time, I can evaluate the halyards and sheets.
The depthsounder that is so elegantly installed in the companionway will not likely work. The transponder is unceremoniously glued inside the hull with a great blob of what is likely 3M 5200.
When Alex and I painstakingly installed an inside-the-hull transducer on his W42, complete with the oil filled PVC pipe, the hull was too thick to get a signal through. I can hang the transducer off the stern as we did on Eleanor, but the readings of depth right behind the boat are far less valuable than a reading right under the boat, for obvious reasons.
Nevertheless, I am super happy with the composting head that I installed. And I have cooked aboard on my single burner swing stove. There is lots of work ahead, but, hell, life is good. A bad day on the boat still beats a good day at the office.
I wouldn't have it any other way.
Epilogue: Whatever is going on with you, take time to pause and really enjoy a sunset when you catch a good one. Then get back at it, and make your life your own.
Long before I found the boat, long before I found the Florida job, my brother and his family invited me to visit them in Switzerland. It was great fun to hang out with them and hike around the Alps. Of course, going from sea level to hiking at 6000 feet can almost kill a crusty old truck driver. Besides hiking, we went to a water park in the Italian part of Switzerland, went to a park with rope bridges and various swinging things on a trail through the trees, went to a concert, and I ate more cheese and chocolate in a week than I had in the previous couple years. Thanks, DT’s!!
It was also good to finally be able to take a deep breath and evaluate what was going on in my life. Nine hours each way in a plane will help you do that. When I came to Florida I had a new-to-me boat in Miami, a storage unit and a seasonal job hauling sod in Fort Pierce, where I wanted to eventually keep the boat. It all seemed to fit together so well.
Crewing on Alex’s W42 down the East Coast last spring, we ended up at the Riverside Marina in Fort Pierce. Ironically, I had picked out that very marina on the web. My original plan with the Michigan boat was to sail out and down the coast to spend a few months in the Bahamas, and then backtrack to Florida and Riverside Marina(!) to find a job and do some boatwork. Riverside Marina is where I hope to keep Emma, my Westsail 32; as soon as I can get her there.
So, I’ve been here since mid February, hip deep in ‘sod season’ and running so hard that I’ve only seen my boat a few times. I bought new batteries, an inflatable dinghy and an outboard engine. The batteries finally made it to Emma - just two weekends ago. Hopefully, they haven’t completely self discharged. Twice I drove more than two hours to Miami just to pay for my mooring ball and peak at the boat from the bayfront.
Truthfully, I always have a Plan B. And even though the sod company might have kept me on, I had been keeping track of employment opportunities in Fort Pierce, and in Miami where the boat still lies. When I found a trucking gig that was 7 days on and 7 off, I simply had to take the opportunity. Staying true to my boat project occasionally means making tough decisions. I was working for a good little company, but I never intended to get pulled into a six days a week schedule. There was no malice and I have no hard feelings but, just the same, it is an unforgivable sin that I haven’t been able to work on my boat.