Saturday, February 20, 2010

(Recent) Lessons Learned About Boats

Our New Tramp
Our New Tramp
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Every phase of our boat life has been marked by a series of very hard won lessons. Even though DrC tends to be absolutely pathologically diligent with the research and study routine, even though I have tendencies as an OCD project manager, we still manage somehow to break shit, forgot stuff, screw up by the numbers. It's a Thing We Do. So it is without too much surprise that I report to hitherto unexpected trials in prepping the boat for sale and moving back to land.

Catamaran Tramps are Structural -- Don't let anyone tell you that catamaran tramps are just a pretty little play space at the front of the boat. It took DrC and I two and half days working sun rise to sun set to install the new tramp on Don Quixote. To string the tramp from edge to edge, we had to put the webbing on a winch and pulley system… every two loops. DrC estimates we put at least a 1000 pounds of strength into the corner. Our hands were raw, back sore, muscles aching. No amount of tequila made it easy to sleep at night. There is no question that our boat must be designed to account for the tramp quite literally holding the front of the hulls together in rough seas.

Confirm the Presence of Hot Water Before Picking a Haul Out Yard -- I really don't think this requires elaboration.

Don't Clean Anything Until You Move Off -- Every time I think something or somewhere on the boat is clean and ready for the new owner, DrC smashes a bloody mosquito on it, the girls walk on it, or the cat rolls in it. I've had it. We're going to find a really cheap motel in town, and I'm going to move the family off before I clean even so much as a single additional square inch.

Things Break Because You Plan to Sell Them -- For no particular reason, systems that were otherwise 100% functional have decided to behave like gimpy pieces of crap. Murphy moved on to the boat about three weeks ago. We're spending a lot of time cleaning up after him.

Don't Attend A Swap Meet Until You Are Actually Done -- We sold everything about three weeks ago at the monthly swap meet. Then -- as I noted in the previous point -- stuff started breaking. And of course, the part we need? We sold it. Murphy tipped back a pint and snickered at us when the spark plug on the outboard decided it needed to be replaced. It's not hard to get a new one, and we'll have it installed within an hour… after shlepping into town to buy it and bring it back to the boat.

The Boat Smells - Actually, every place we humans live stinks. Your home has a unique odor that is probably just fine for you and your loved ones. You may not even notice it. When you walk into another home, however, your nose is assaulted by the odor of different soap fragrances, variations on cooking themes, and someone else's farts. Boats are more pungent than houses and not just because people are living in a more constrained space. Add to normal home smells the piquancy of a mobile sewage system, two diesel and one gas engine with associated fuel tanks, and the unique eau de bilge -- an unavoidable miasma of damp goo, mold, and wet wood of which no boat is completely free. However, when a buyer arrives for a sea trial it's not a good idea if his first thought is, "Oh my god this boat stinks." The Cruiser Dream just doesn't extend to the reality of Boat Smell. I've been trying to figure out how to fix this on Don Quixote. I think the only solution is again… move everyone off the boat and explode an incense bomb in every cabin and locker.

It's Expensive to Sell Your Boat -- Did you know that brokers take 10% when they sell your boat? I didn't. Call me just royally big-word-starting-with-an-F stupid, but this was a surprise to DrC and I. So let's say you buy a boat for $100,000. The day you take ownership… even if you could sell it for the same amount you purchased it for… your boat has depreciated $10,000. Hate this. I was figuring the broker fee would be similar to housing in the 4 to 6% range. Somehow, however, brokers have managed to maintain a stranglehold on the 10% price point. I have no idea how they do it.

No More Procrastination -- Another way your boat costs money to sell is that you have to do all the deferred maintenance tasks you never bothered to get around to while you were living on it. In the case of Don Quixote, these items are largely aesthetic. For example, we replaced a bent lifeline, took the sails to a loft for patches on spots which were starting to show a little wear, sanded and varnished the table, touched up the paint on the outboard mount and the windlass case. The boat looks fantastic, but it all adds up to money, work and time. One of my readers said there is a 95% point where only the previous owner sees the problems. Other than the layer of boatyard/child/cat dirt coating every surface, I think Don Quixote is ready for her new owner. It's true that the remaining items are mostly bits that only DrC and I know and care about. The next owner might not ever notice those items and instead find other reasons entirely to curse us.

Mexican Gotcha
Mexican Gotcha
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
It's Emotional -- A boat is more than a home. We pour so much of ourselves into our boat identity. We pour so much of our time into just keeping the thing functional. It is very hard to let go. Then suddenly, you're done. You've let go. But the boat -- stupid, expensive bitch that she is --still sits there sucking up money like a high power ShopVac. I've begun to resent all this work and time and money. Worse are the moments when I regress and start crying when I see her on the horizon as we dinghy back after an evening at the taqueria. Don Quixote is a beautiful home. I panic sometimes that we will never have anything even fractionally as nice ever again. Talking me off this particular ledge is one of DrC's most challenging ongoing tasks.

* * *

I don't want to learn any more boat lessons for a long long while. The family is ready to start screwing up our transition to New Zealand with glorious failures of cultural understanding and financial ignorance. The countdown to our departure is well underway.


Anonymous said...

Whoa. This is so weird. I only just found your blog tonight and came to it at a point where you are obviously broken hearted.

But I just wanted to say that in the one entry where you said ...We can only hope we find methods and places and people that come close to the incredibly stimulating and rich lifestyle we have led for the past two years....... I have to say trust in yourself and your family to make it what it has been. Although the boat life is fucking amazing, you know where ever you guys land will be just as. It's not the boat, it's making an adventure where ever you land. My early life was boat life and now Im living at almost 7,000 feet in the snowy rocky mountains having the time of my life. I homeschool, (unschool really) my children who have never been to school and we work and play hard around here. If there is anyone I know that can get through this it's a kiwi. Sending love and support.

Anonymous said...

It's probably too late, but for odor removal, this stuff really works.
It's not a perfume, it oxidize the odor molecules.
I have used the stuff, and it really does work.
This link goes to their webpage:
The product you want is "OdorXit ClO2." I have not used any of the other products, so don't know how they work.

Transitions are hard -- best of luck in your new adventure.
I'm not where you are, but can relate. On a 47 foot cat, I'm 66% into what I thought would be a one year refit, which means I'll be lucky if I'm actually at 33% of what now looks like two years.

stephen at sailorsparadise dot com