Building a Better Boat Day 11: Taking Stock

Building a Better Boat Day 11: Taking Stock
04 Oct 2018

I am sitting in the salon of Downwind Dogs on a gray and humid Puerto Rico morning. I’ve finally adjusted to the east coast time zone. I’ve been surprised at how difficult it has been to do so on this visit. Normally it’s not an issue–I stay up late the first night and wake up on schedule the next day.  This trip, however, I’ve been staying up late and waking up at 830–2 hours past my normal 630.

Today I awoke about 7 and for the first time in 2 weeks I don’t have a long list of items to complete. That signals that this trip to the land of sun and stories is winding down. My head is beginning its transition back to “land life” and I’m consumed with the myriad issues I’ll face when I land on Saturday. The dog is sick;  I’ll have to figure out how we got an $800 electric bill in Mexico; the house will need to be cleaned; the car needs an oil change…

THAT list is quite long….

And just a moment ago one of the marina guys knocked on the boat and said, “My boss said you gotta get rid of the cart with the metal. Now man.”

Since my first reaction was to tell the guy to go to hell (don’t worry, I didn’t…) I know that I’m changing back from “the island guy” to the suburban technology professional with “grown up” responsibilities.  Apparently I’ve gotta take the trash out now too…..

When I commuted back and forth to St Thomas on a near weekly basis this transition took place on the 3 hour flight to or from Charlotte. On the way North, the internet on the plane would connect about 2/3rds of the way through the flight. The work emails would hit and I’d spend the last hour clearing the inbox, sending IMs and generally putting out fires. By the time I landed,  I’d be fully plugged in–intense, business-like. Adult.

On the southbound flight the opposite happened. I usually carried a change to my typical shorts and bar tee shirt in my Travelpro roll-aboard. As on the Monday flight, I’d wrap up on Thursday evening or Friday morning by reading my email and settling open items. As soon as the plane was out over the Gulf Stream the internet would shut down and I’d look out from my normal window seat and see the deep, bright blue of warmer water.

That was my signal to go to the lav and change–Superman style–to “Island Guy!”–more Laid Back than a sleeping golden retriever and Tanner than your average mild mannered reporter. But today,  like the Hulk settling in to Bruce Banner, the other Jonathan is taking back over from his smiling, sun loving, Virgin Islander alter ego.

I hate it.

At least reflecting on the past 2 weeks I can honestly say I’ve gotten a lot accomplished. When I arrived the boat was in “skeleton” shape–powered by an extension cord and a couple of solar arrays to keep the various batteries charged just enough to run the bilge pumps. Today, the boat is operating off her own internal systems and connected to shore power using the newly repaired 120V system on the boat.

Here’s what got done in the last 10 working days and how long it took:

  1. Removed damaged shore power cable and blown breaker connection (4 hours)
  2. Tracked down mysterious ground fault condition causing the shore and generator power to blow every time it was turned on (10 hours)
  3. Installed new battery charger and programmed it for the boat’s setup (4 hours)
  4. Removed, cleaned, and reconnected the entire boat grounding system and main DC connections (8 hours)
  5. Removed, cleaned, and reconnected the inverter/charger and reconfigured to work with new battery charger (4 hours)
  6. Replaced water pump for generator. (2 hours)
  7. Performed yearly maintenance on generator including removing entire raw water system and cleaning out exhaust elbow (6 hours)
  8. Repaired windlass power connection and removed blown breaker. Verified windlass is fully functional. (2 hours)
  9. Installed new lighting in master bathroom (2 hours)
  10. Removed all life line railings and stanchions that were damaged (6 hours)
  11. Full exterior hull and deck clean (4 hours)
  12. Polished exterior stainless steel to remove rust stains (4 hours)
  13. Cleaned boat interior (4 hours)

Total time spent on boat projects: 60 hours

I also worked my normal “day job” (32 hours billed to customers last week, 30 or so this week plus admin time).

So basically that works out to two 90 hour weeks. Plus the adventure to the BVI and USVI last weekend thrown in. I’m tired….

But I think I got a lot accomplished.

One of the many spare parts I’ll need to bring back.

As I reflect on what’s gotten done, I can say I honestly know my boat from stem to stern. At this point I’ve touched and maintained every system onboard. I know where all the cables are and what they do. I know how it’s plumbed and where every seacock is. I am confident in my ability to diagnose and fix most of the “normal” technical issues that arise with diesel auxiliary sailboats.

I’ve also learned that there are things I’m just not good at. For example, making things look nice and finished is hard for me. Finding the patience to take fiberglass back to showroom shine is very time consuming and trying on my patience. The boat will need the hull sanded and painted at the next haul-out and that’s something that I’ll consider having done because I know, despite my best efforts, it won’t come out as professional as I’d like.

So as I get ready for my first call in 20 minutes, I’ve decided I’m going to downshift a little for the next couple of days. The big projects are done for now, and I’m blocked on most of the little ones because I need parts or time that I don’t have. I’m going to to look at this as a boat in the Caribbean and not a project to be completed.

Wish me luck.

Which work is more real?










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