Saturday, March 17, 2012

Something to Brace Against

Well, the week that we planned to spend in the yard has swollen into two.

Being grizzled veterans of all things boat, Alisa and I are not surprised.  (That's our keel above, in mid-process.)

We talked about leaving the expensive short-term rental we've been staying on and moving back on board Galactic for the rest of the haulout.  But the decks are filthy with boatyard grime and I don't fancy getting Eric up and down the ladder every day.  So we're staying in the rental for the duration.

I occasionally get the suspicion that I'm making things harder than they need to be with the boat, that I'm being too fussy and doing work that really doesn't need to be done.  I start to wonder if other yachties go through this sort of boat yard epic.  I've been working all day every day, I don't get back to the rental in time to eat with the family or tuck the kids into bed, I wake up in the morning and spend the first hour of the day walking all hunched over and crooked while my body slowly warms up for another day of work.  Surely, I think to myself, people would never spend so much money on boats if this were the experience they were buying themselves?

But then Alisa and I talk it over and we decide that I'm not getting carried away.  If I see something going wrong with the boat I try to set it right.  That's all.

And there's always something going wrong with a boat.  

This passage from Two Years Before the Mast sums up the maintenance side of the sailing life as well as anything I've seen:

When I first left port, and found that we were kept regularly employed for a week or two, I supposed that we were getting the vessel into sea trim, and that it would soon be over, and we should have nothing to do but sail the ship; but I found that it continued so for two years, and at the end of the two years there was as much to be done as ever.

Anyone who dreams of a carefree life as a "cruiser" on a sailboat should be required to memorize that passage.


As much as I say I don't like boat maintenance (believe me, some people do like it), I don't really mind these epic bouts of yard work every year.  Sometimes I find myself wondering how long we'll want to keep doing them, but for now I just take it for granted as a part of the game.  

It's hard to articulate, but the sort of work and dedication that is required for long-distance sailing give our life a certain structure.  I was thinking today of the scene early in The Shipping News where Quoyle thinking thinks that moving to Newfoundland, and all the hardship that suggests, will "give him something to brace against".

So I guess that I see the yard work as something like that.  I do need a challenge to be satisfied in my mind.

There is also the idea from The Shipping News of the value in a lifestyle where living and working are not things that are separated.  

Sailing full-time unifies living and working in spades.

So, all to say that this yard stint hasn't been too bad.  Though I will be very relieved, as always, to get back in the water.

And, for anyone who is thinking of traveling the world in their own boat, helping someone with their annual haulout is about the best preparation that you could get.
Alisa organized a sitter a couple times this week so that she could lend a hand in the yard.  The hardest thing about sailing with little kids is how they complicate maintenance, and it was really nice that we could work together on the boat for a while.


  1. I know that Bronwyn and I found that the annual haul-out work on the boat was enjoyable, however horrible it got. The point was that we were working together on knotty problems, striving for a common goal, and finished each day on the hard exhausted but satisfied with a job well done.

    For general liveaboard life, I have to agree with that quote "the value in a lifestyle where living and working are not things that are separated". That, for us, encapsulates our life aboard. Yes there were always things to fix, yes there was always more work to do, but the things and the work were part of our daily life, and weren't "work" the way that driving to the office is "work".

    1. yep, combining work and life is a pretty cool side of it all. of course, since we, like you guys, are in the prime "earning years", there's also the issue of very separate work that comes along now and then, as we go out to earn the dollars to keep it all going...