Wednesday, June 27, 2018

I Can't Do This Anymore!

Well … I can't do it *this*way* anymore.

I got off the road last October and took what I thought was a part-time job. Turns out that we weren’t using the phrase ‘part-time’ in the same way. They called me PT because they couldn’t guarantee me 40 hours. However, if they needed 50 hours, they expected that I should be able to do that for them. They needed that a lot. That story is here.

So, I quit and went back to a small company that I had driven for in the past. I knew how they ran, so I asked beforehand, quite specifically, if they were on electronic logs yet. Oh, yes, they assured me. Their drivers use a logging app on their phone. I took that at face value, but after a couple weeks on the road, and a hundred dollar ticket, I figured out that they didn’t actually have the app properly hooked up to the truck. My initial hopes for this new gig is here.

A Paper Log Example
When I drove for them back in the paper log days, they ran my ass off and expected me to make it look legal afterward in my logs. That was exactly what I was trying to avoid, but the temptation of a flexible part time schedule clouded my judgement. Their drivers are doing the same fix-it-later thing as before; now with a sexy phone app to give the appearance of compliance. Many of the drivers probably appreciate that they can run as many miles as they’d like, but I can make plenty of money and do it legally. I don’t mind running hard; I’ve done it. I just don’t want to have to think so hard to cover my tracks. In addition, there are so many crazy drivers out there. Even a minor fender bender with one of those crazies would be a massive, expensive hassle if I was found to be running outside my legal hours.

I have run on electronic logs for a long time and can squeeze every drop, every mile out of my available legal hours. In fact, when I inquired about going back to the last bigger company where I’d been, my former dispatcher immediately and unequivocally wanted me back in his fleet.

Which brings me back to the "this way" part of “I can’t do it *this*way* anymore." My holy quest to find a lucrative part-time position has failed. I was already living hand to mouth, paycheck to boat parts, when I got the large bill for my engine installation. Money was tight by design but had become a constriction. Summer is upon us here in Florida; August and September can be brutally hot especially working inside the boat. If I was working part-time, it would be August before my cashflow recovered. All of these factors have led me to make yet another change; third time since October I’ve quit a trucking job. It sucks but I'm going to concentrate on getting ahead financially. Instead of trying to do both at the same time, I'm going to earn the money and concentrate on boatwork later. 

Boatyard Basin
One of the dangers of living in a boatyard in Florida, is getting bogged down in the boatyard lifestyle. It is easy enough to live this way. In an out-of-the-way place like Riverside Marina, you can exist in this purgatory of almost being ready to re-launch your boat -- for decades. These boat projects can be a bit like a tide. The tide of positive energy and forward motion comes in sometimes with great strength, but diminishes as it approaches slackwater. Just at the turn of the tide there is almost no energy before it ebbs and starts to go back out; backward motion. The boatyard trap is that slack moment when it is so quiet that you don’t realize the tide has turned against you. In the yard right near Emma, guys and their boats who have been *almost*ready* so long that they don’t even know they are getting less ready every week. They are drifting further and further away from being ready. I consider this job change a preemptive strike against the boatyard life. In order to make it to the Sailing Life I aspire, I must not get caught up in the boatyard life.

Most of last year, and a good part of 2016, I had a pretty stress-free trucking gig. If it wasn’t for my ill-conceived quest for less hours, I’d still be there. So, I’m going back
because I need the money. I’m going to cover the boat up, work full-time for 6 ot 7 months, scrimp and save and then get back to boatwork in cooler weather. Come January or February, I will have a good nest egg and I can concentrate on boatwork. This way I can drop all my current stress about miles, eLogs and the little time or money I have for the boat. Emma and I are stuck where we are for this hurricane season, but we can get back in the water before the next.

I can do just what I want and still get what I need. Why should I accept someone else’s BS?

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Oof - Breaking Free is Hard.

Sometimes I have to re-read my “I Really Don't Give A …” manifesto just to keep doing what I do. Some people may suppose that I have some kind of tenacity to still be working on this project after all this time. The truth is that I am a bit too stubborn, but mostly too dumb to quit at this point. And yet some days are not so easy.

When I started this journey I came up with a slogan. It began a bit of a joke, but solidified into the underlying philosophy of my vagabond life.

“Eat When You’re Hungry.
Work When You’re Broke.”

I haven’t fully escaped on a boat yet, so the slogan hasn’t been fully implemented. It has, however, guided my life. Even now, where I thought I was going, and where I wanted to be are subject to changes wrought by this guiding philosophy. After months of wrangling at one job and ultimately switching jobs just to get to a part time schedule, last week I negotiated to become less part time already. My vagabond philosophy turned me around and changed what I thought I was doing.

It will help to start at the beginning of my current situation. In January 2016, I bought my boat, s/v Emma, sight unseen from Michigan because she was exactly the boat I wanted. She was also one that I could afford because she had been neglected ... and had no engine. Buying the boat and moving to Florida took most of the money I had at the time. I went to straight to work near the boat to get back to flush. Soon after, I found a lovingly rebuilt engine at a great price and was able to jump on the opportunity. It was several thousand dollars and most of the boat money I had accumulated by then. I am basically earning the funds to refit Emma as I go along.

My poor engine sat in a shed at the marina for 14 months and through two hurricanes; not exactly Plan A. It came together last month for the normally-very-busy marina mechanic to have time to align and install my engine. I am doing as much of my own work as I can, but the prospect of aligning the engine was keeping me up at night. It was a critical project that was not going to be easy and -- today --  I am still not a very good diesel mechanic. When it became possible to have a pro do it, I jumped at the chance. Walton came up with a project plan which I approved without a formal quote. I know … I know. But the work had to be done and a window opened to have it done professionally. Not to mention that the meter had been running all along and I was paying for engine storage in the shed.

My boat had a couple metal rails in the engine space where an engine had been. The engine I bought was not the same as whatever engine had been there. The work that needed to be done included lowering the engine into the boat, marking and then removing the rails, modifying, strengthening, and re-installing those rails, aligning the engine and driveshaft, replacing the cutlass bearing and then bolting everything down. Even if I had been able to successfully complete all those steps, it would have taken me months of trial and error and learning by doing to accomplish.

After I said ‘do it', in a moment of panic, I ran to talk to the ladies in the office and made my bargain. I had said, “I’ve approved Walton’s plan, but I don’t have any idea how much it’s going to cost, it may take me a couple months to pay for it all. If that’s not OK, then we need to slow him down and run some numbers.” Beside the normal interruptions of being the one on-site mechanic, Walton's work never stopped.

Last week, I came home from the new gig on the road and saw the driveshaft sticking out Emma’s stern tube. This is great news … and not so great. When I paid my boatyard rent for June, I got the bill for all of Walton’s work. I really never had any idea what it might cost. Occasionally, I thought it would be fairly inexpensive; other times I just didn’t want to think about it. The bill was actually almost twice the highest number I had worried about. Oh, boy. 

That brings us back to “less part time already” from above. My new trucking gig is with a small company that I had briefly driven for before. My new schedule was going to be one week on, one week off. I had visions of huge numbers of boat projects getting crossed off my list. That schedule lasted exactly one month. To pay the marina off in a reasonable time, most of each paycheck would have to go to them for a while. I’ve had a couple weeks like that and it isn’t much fun to have to lay low without the funds to do much boatwork. I decided to take the initiative and pick up some more time at work. So, I went from every other week to three weeks out and one week home. I’ll still get a little bit done in the short term, but more importantly I’ll be able to pay my bill and keep the marina fairly happy.

I don’t mean to be coy about financial numbers, I just felt they would be clumsy in the narrative above. I am doing this project on practically no money, but that was the basic plan anyway. I want to show that a big dream can be accomplished with small cashflow. I bought my boat for $6000; and then moved to Florida. The engine I found was $4000 and the storage, plus labor and miscellaneous parts to install the engine was another $5000. Beside this $15,000, I have about $2000 in other parts that I had previously purchased. By the time I dress up the interior and get some electronics and other equipment, I will probably spend another $8000. Importantly, I will have done so much of the work myself that when I’m done I will have an intimate knowledge of my boat and her systems. This will help me keep future maintenance costs down.

The week I moved to Florida back in 2016, a Westsail 32 only a couple years younger than Emma, but painted, polished and ready to sail, was listed near me for $52,000. Now, they weren’t going to get their initial asking price, but they likely got between 25 and 30 thousand for her.

Even if we get in the water and I hate it, I can sell her without losing my shirt.

Don’t worry, I won’t.

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...