Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Learning Curve Blues

We knew that reconditioning and outfitting a 20 year old boat, even one in excellent condition, would involve a steep learning curve.  But what we didn’t realize is that the learning curve is, in fact, multiple curves that keep cropping up relentlessly.  It reminds us of running a trail marathon, where you grunt your way up a major hill and experience relief and elation on reaching the top…only to have your gaze settle on the rest of the trail in front of you, which rolls up and over numerous other hills that stretch out as far as the eye can see.   

We were just beginning to get comfortable with all the epoxies, catalysers, and putties one needs to patch up a boat, and gaining confidence in our own abilities to repair things.  After having refurbished an old house together, I learned once again to appreciate Patrick’s DIY skills.  He doesn’t always do things in what I would consider to be the most logical manner, but when he’s finished with something, it’s both solid and aesthetically pleasing.  When we drew up our “To Do” list, we made mental notes about who we would ask for advice or help with each task.  Slowly we’ve begun to realize with a certain timid pride that we can tackle many of them ourselves.

But our relief and elation at our new-found independence was short-lived as new challenges arose this week.  On our Maintenance Log is a seemingly simple task:  have an electric windlass installed.  While this is no simple operation, we would be paying someone else to do it, which I thought meant that this task would require little intervention on our part.  Pay money, cross something off the list, right ? 

The chain locker
So we met with the electrician to discuss the installation of said windlass. First, he terrified us with suggestions of cutting into the forward cabin and shortening it by several feet to improve the slope of the chain locker (“You guys don’t intend for anyone to actually sleep here, right?”).  After he saw our pale faces, he looked around at several other boats in the yard and found a solution that didn’t involve major alterations.  We will have to cut the chain locker hatch in half and stratify the forward part to have a solid base for the windlass, but that should be the only modification needed.

To test the placement of the windlass and the clearance for the anchor and chain, we lowered the anchor over the side and noticed that the anchor arm pitches upwards and hits the genoa furler as it goes over the davit (or comes up).  Two options were presented: either we manually put the anchor into position on the davit to avoid hitting the furler or we extend the davit a bit.   

The next problem was that even once the anchor is beyond the davit, the anchor blade tends to bang into the prow, which argues for extending the davit.  Since the prow also already has some dings that need repair (probably from hauling up the anchor with the chain raking against the prow), it was also suggested that a metal plate protecting the prow would be a good idea.

We next went inside to look at the battery for the motor that will be used to power the windlass.  Long story short: It’s too small. We have to buy a new one.

That simple task “have electric windlass installed” is now:
  • Cut the chain locker hatch in half and stratify the forward section
  • Buy and install an extension for the davit
  • Buy and install a metal plate to protect the prow
  • Buy and install a new battery
  • … and then “have electric windlass installed”. 
We’ve been spending 3-4 hours every day working on the boat and still haven’t managed to cross many items off our “To Do” list.  When we’re home, we’re on the internet researching models and prices of various pieces of equipment, reading forums for advice, or emailing friends for help.  We work from 10 in the morning until 8 at night every day, and we’re starting to get tired and cranky !  Summer sailing Plan A evaporated weeks ago, and now summer sailing Plan B is starting to look overly ambitious as well.  But as with running a tough race, we’re simply going to have to lie convincingly to ourselves that if we can just get up and over that next hill, things will get easier, and then set ourselves the goal of finishing with no injuries and big smiles on our faces.