Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Actual Boatwork Getting Done

Trucking to support my boat habit
Though I have only scheduled a couple days a month at home, I managed to get some actual boatwork done in this week while I was in town. My schedule was to be home a couple days next week, but trucking is really slow between the holidays and so I took them this week. While I’m concentrating on filling in the boat budget, I’m not putting any pressure on myself to get things done. Mostly, I fiddle around when I’m home. I’m not sure what got into me this week but I was motivated to get busy.

I have written before that the depth sounder on Emma was a useless and flaky. There was a little Hawkeye depth sounder attached to a door hinge so it could swing out into the companionway. The transducer, meant to hang off the transom a small boat, was unceremoniously glued inside the hull
under the starboard bunks. Further, the transducer was glued a fair distance above the keel on the
Flaky Hawkeye mount
curve of the hull. Hence, it was pointed well to starboard. The transducer works like most people imagine sonar does; a pulse is sent from the transducer and the depth is measured by how long it takes for the pulse to return. With it aimed off to the side, the pulse will either measure too much depth or the pulse will simply not return.

Last spring as I helped prep and deliver a Westsail, we found that the Westsail hulls are too thick for a depth transducer to work from the inside; even with a proper set up. When Emma’s flaky transducer seemed to be working at one point down in Miami, I tied a piece of bronze pipe to a flag halyard as a lead line. The actual depth I measured was at least four feet shallower(!) than the readings from the Hawkeye. Yesterday, I removed the silly hinge mount, unstrung the wire from its run through the cabinetry and knocked the transducer off the inside of the hull.

Yanked transducer and nut
When Emma was hauled here in Ft. P, lo and behold, I found another transducer from outside the hull. I located it from the inside this week. This one was a proper through-the-hull transducer. I have to assume that it wasn’t working. Not only was it replaced with the elaborately useless Hawkeye, but they snipped the wires so close to the bronze that it would be impossible to rewire even if it could be tested. I yanked it out too.

The seacocks in the picture are not mine but a picture from the web. My cockpit drains each have an identical Groco seacock. The one to port was open but not operable. I took it apart and fixed it. They are old school with the rubber cylinder inside and no longer made. This type of seacock is prone to
Someone else's seacocks
weep a little bit of water. I may replace them, but keeping them would be a couple hundred dollars I don’t have to spend. I’ll do some research. They are robust which seems good.

I also took up the floor in the main cabin to inspect the bilges and the tankage underneath. I’ve only been able to spy a small area from the access hatch for the tanks. The floors are sturdy, but just plywood. Right at the bottom of the companionway is a section of the original planked floor which looks salty but is well worn. Into the main cabin, the floors are plywood all the way forward to the V berth. I would like to redo the floors with a little more care.

The "Beam"
In taking up the floors, I found a small “beam” placed between the hull beams. This kind of stuff drives me a little crazy. I don’t know what the intended use of this “beam” was, but it is two pieces of wood with plywood gussets and a whopping four screws. It may have been intended to help hold the smaller piece of floor in place. However, when I stepped on it, I thought it was rotten. It isn’t rotten, but the four screws holding the pieces together are just not enough to be structural. It just bends there.

I don’t know much about Emma’s history. Two owners back was quite a vagabond I understand. I can’t really blame him for the seemingly slapdash approach to boat maintenance. He must have been really living on the edge and for that I can commend him. However, I’m now having to catch up and fix this approach. There was some creative salvaging going on to keep the boat going. Things like this “beam,” the extensive wiring done with old school 22/4 phone wire, the odd color choices of interior paint, the 2x4 boomkin and its 2x6 cousin, the bowsprit. Even the interior lights which are blindingly bright LEDs look as if they might have been stolen out of a call center office. I am just thankful to have been able to find her and bring her back to fashion. Granted I am aiming for “Shrimp Boat Finish” rather than “Bristol Yacht Fashion,” but Emma will soon be a lovely girl again -- and safe and seaworthy too.
Main, Staysail and Yankee

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Patience Grasshopper

[Editor’s Note: The author owns the box set of Kung Fu show episodes]

December has been hard on my brain; and my heart. I didn’t spend much time with Emma in November and December and my brain started to wander. Three months into my boat fund building schedule was starting to wear on me - I only see Emma a couple days a month for now. I started to think that I could afford a better-equipped boat for the money that I’m going to spend on Emma this year. After abstaining for months, I started looking at used boats online. There was a boat nearby that has been on the market a while but hadn’t sold. The owner already lowered the price a couple times and was probably willing to make a deal. The boat wasn’t exactly what I wanted but was well equipped. And, in my patience-deprived brain, I could be sailing again -- this year!

I got to spend a couple days with Mom and Dad in November. They brought me some boat things
Can't beat the Mahi Sliders! 
that I still had in Michigan. After running me all over town doing errands, we had lunch at my new favorite place, 12a Bouy. It was wonderful to hang out a while as I hadn’t seen them since moving in February.

I had been worried that Emma had termites or something, and on an errand with Mom and Dad I picked up a box of insect bombs. In two places down below, small amounts of what looked like sawdust kept appearing. I had swept the dust from the forward bench of the dinette and from the top step of the companionway, only to see the dust had reappeared on my return. The fear of what insect damage might be happening aboard added to the doubts about my plan.

It is a difficult thing to keep your mind, and your efforts, focused on a long term goal. Even with a prioritized project list and steady work, there will be moments when doubt will creep in. When those moments soak into days, doubt sets up camp and stays. My goal remains to spend as much time as I can cruising under sail -- sailing.  And yet here I am again with a fair stretch of boatwork ahead of me. Nine years of working toward my goal of sailing, I am still working on a damn boat. Nevertheless Emma is the best, most ocean-capable of the three I’ve owned. With her, here on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, I am closer than I have ever been to achieving my goal. Nevertheless, my vagabond heart complains that I am still not sailing; still not doing that one thing that I want to be doing.

Pete at the tiller
Pining for sea time does make me appreciate the wonderful sail from Miami. Sailing at night is like going to church for me. It was a great sail and Pete was good company and great crew. I can’t wait to get back on the water -- on this beautiful cutter that I own.  

The downside of driving for a living is the 12 hours a day in my own head. Rolling down the highway this last month, one moment I was configuring an offer on another boat. The next moment, I was staying with Emma. For a natural born, daydreamer, such vivid thoughts are all consuming. The flip-flops are disruptive and painful. The grinding indecision even affected my sleep.  

The upside of driving for a living is the 12 hours a day in my own head. I deactivated my Facebook profile in August in order to take a personal retreat into my analog life. It was a chance to concentrate on accomplishing things that I really wanted to be doing. These projects included reinvigorating my
Who says truckin' ain't pretty? 
meditation practice, writing more often and finishing several books I had with me in the truck. It was this time, gaining control of life in my own head that may have allowed me to think openly about whether I was on the right track. In the end, I believe that the unencumbered time in my analog life helped to solve my conundrum.

After taking a deep breath, I fell back on the careful analysis of pro and con that I learned from my coach back in 2006 and 2007. This new task was a welcome replacement to a brain flipping and flopping aimlessly down the highway. Realistically, comparing how well equipped an unknown used boat might be with the funds I might invest in Emma’s refit is just apples and oranges. There are so many potential hidden problems on a used boat that any comparison without a close look or a real survey is empty conjecture. Emma needs a lot of work but, for me, she is a known quantity. The Westsail 32 is exactly the boat that I wanted after helping to sail Eleanor, a Westsail 42, down the East Coast in 2015. Emma is everything that I want in a boat; a heavy displacement, full keel, transom-hung rudder, commodious, ocean capable, liveaboard sailboat. The fact that she is rigged as a cutter is a welcome bonus.

After the highway-head analysis, the fact that Emma is the devil I know tipped the scales in her favor.
Sailing north in July
There will no longer be any unknowns when I have finished. I will know her intimately and everything required to make a safe and comfortable voyage -- anywhere in the world -- will be aboard. We might not have radar or pressurized hot water, but my original plan never included those things anyway. Mindless comparisons don’t hold water.

There will always be surprises buying a used boat. The scale, and especially the cost, of used boat surprises cannot be known, of course. By definition, comparing the money I plan to spend refitting Emma to the asking price of some other used boat ignores these potential surprises. Just a small number of surprises could drastically change this already faulty sense of equivalence. Further, none of the boats I looked at aligned very well with my stated criteria.

Whatever your passion is, whatever path you have chosen to pursue, eventually you will be haunted by doubt. Blazing your own trail was never for the faint-hearted. If you are on your path, you don’t have to be distracted by doubt. Accept that it was inevitable and that you can work through it. When the moment is right, take a deep breath and drop into your analysis. For me, nothing beats writing out all the pros and cons.

It’s just as important to be reflective as it is to be ambitious and persistent. Your analysis should be thorough. It’s OK if you end up deciding to make a change. Your plans should never be so rigid that you can’t steer toward your goal in changing conditions. And plans should also be open enough that if it becomes apparent through careful consideration that you need a new plan, you will need to let this one go.

I have a good plan and a great boat. Emma may be a diamond-in-the-rough, but she is mine. Looking at the current asking prices for Westsail 32s online, I could spend twice what I plan to and still break even selling her in the middle of the price range.  Sometimes, I just have to write it all out to remind myself.
Livin' the Life, summer 2016

Homeward Epilogue

sv Ruth Ann in Beaufort, SC, 12/23 Ruth Ann is the last in a series of boats on which I was attempting to escape. I found her when I found a...