Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lessons Learned - A Day of Living in a Boatyard

I haven't done a lessons learned post in a while and, after seeing a post from my friends over at ZeroToCruising doing a play-by-play post from a recent passage, I figured I'd give you a typical day in my life at the boatyard so you can draw your own lessons from here goes.

Woke up at 6:00am to a cabin that is about 60 degrees.  It would have been 45 if I hadn't had the small electric space heater running in the cabin.  With the boat on the hard, there is no good way to run systems that require raw water...such as the reverse cycle AC (heater).  After about 30 minutes hiding in the warmth of the bed, I decide I need to make the trek to the bathhouse.  I get dressed, move the space heater from the cabin to the salon, and head off for the morning ritual.  At least they seem to have turned on the heat in the bathhouse now, the past weekend it was pretty cold in there.

Returning to the boat, I decide I need my morning coffee.  I turn off the heater so I can use the electric kettle to boil some water.  The boatyard only has 15 amp service (normal wall socket) so I can't run multiple high-load electric items at the same time (I bought an adapter so I could plug my 30 amp cord into a standard 15 amp extension cord).  After the water boils, turn off the kettle and turn the space heater back on.  A check of the weather and it says the high today may make 60 degrees F...much better than the rainy 50's the past couple days.

I turn on the propane and make a ham, egg, and cheese bagel sandwich on the stove.  Using the stove top helps impart a little heat in the boat, at least temporarily.  While eating breakfast, I check my email and do the drawing for the book giveaway.  I write a quick post for the blog announcing the winner using the boatyard WiFi.  I then open up my list of tasks so see what I have in store today.  I check off installing the new fresh water pump head that I completed yesterday (after verifying there are still no leaks this morning) and figure out what I can do today.  I'm almost half way through the list.

Since it is still cold outside, and a little damp from the rain during the night, I spend some time cleaning up and organizing the boat (a task that seems to always be desperately needed). It finally starts warming up some, so I go outside and check on the dinghy to see if the sealant helped (more on this in another post).  I decide to clean it as well as take care of some rust streaks on the boat hull.  I go get the long hose attached to the spigot across the yard, attach my sprayer, and drag it back over to the boat.  I also dig through the boat looking for my rubber gloves and the cleaners for the dinghy and hull.  About this time the clouds start moving back in and the temperature drops, so I go back inside.

I look at options for my destination heading south, trying to find a big enough city I can find parts and supplies, but small enough that the marina dockage fees aren't too expensive.  While I'd love to be on the hook more, when I'm doing lots of work on the boat it makes sense to be at a dock (as well as to have an address where  I can ship stuff). I also need to figure out options to get me and my help back to Deltaville (my victim volunteer deckhand has a boat here in Deltaville and while I'm doing work on the boat I keep dragging my car along).

After making a chicken salad sandwich for lunch, I notice the sun is once again out and go back and continue my work outside.  I clean the oxidation and bottom paint dust stains (the dust is insidious in how it can stain things) off of the dinghy.  I apply the On and Off gel to the rust stains on the boat, wait a few minutes, then wash off...making sure not to get any on my new bottom paint (it will apparently remove that as well).  It does an OK job, the streaks are no longer rust color, but just a dull black ghost of the previous stains.

I check my email and get some good news.  The sheave kits for my genoa car rollers have made it off the slow boat from England and are in.  The anchor roller I had a local machine shop make is also ready. Yay.  I drive to the store and machine shop and gladly drop about $250 (U.S.) so I can get the last parts I've been waiting on.  I get back to the boat and look at the parts (basically plastic rollers).  The anchor roller should be perfect, but the sheave kits are different than the original so I go try and install one to see if it will fit.  The instructions are useless as they don't depict the exact model I have, but I figure out how to make them work using a subset of the parts they supplied (the kit apparently fits several different genoa car models now).  Of course, while I'm putting the sheave in, a gust of wind comes out of nowhere, grabs the plastic bag of parts and flings them off the boat.  At least I'm in the yard and not on the I can climb down and retrieve them.

Now that it is "standard time" it is starting to get dark at 4:30pm and the wind is increasing and getting colder so the other sheave and the roller will wait until tomorrow.  I take a walk around the yard and chat with the other guy crazy enough to be living on a boat in a boat yard.  He tells me it might go below freezing tonight.  Yuck.  I go back to the boat and turn the space heater back on to try and increase the heat before the space heater can't keep up with the temperatures.

With it getting colder, I decide I had better take my shower early and so grab my towel and shaving kit (soap, shampoo, etc.) and head to the bath house.  The bath house seems to have plenty of hot water, which is really nice when it is cold outside.  The water in the yard isn't the best as it seems a bit salty, but works fine for a shower.  Guess I should mention that I do NOT fill my boat tanks with the water from the yard as I don't want questionable quality water in my tanks.  It is now dark outside, the moon is not yet up, and the lighting in the boatyard is not very good.  The result is that I step in a deep puddle of water on my walk back to the boat.  On the boat I clean up my shoe, and debate what the gray substance is that has stained my now wet sock...probably mud combined with all the colors of bottom paint and other chemicals that have been used in the yard over the years.

I make a shopping list and head to the store (one of the advantages of still having the car, this isn't a whole-day ordeal).  I come back with several bags of groceries and carefully place them on the transom, climb the swim ladder to get on the boat, and then shuffle the bags inside.  After a brief fight with the top loading refrigerator (one of these days I'll learn the secret to organizing it) and hiding other items in various storage locations about the boat, everything is stowed.

I then get the spaghetti casserole (basically lasagna made with spaghetti noodles) that I made a few nights prior (when it was really cold and I figured using the oven would be a good source of heat as well as food) out of the fridge, temporarily turn off the space heater so I can microwave a slice along with some canned corn for dinner.

I have my usual evening call with my wife and she tells me of some weather phenomenon that may bring very cold temperatures and snow to the east coast in the next week.  I guess it is the result of an unusual typhoon that is now heading toward Canada or Alaska and will shift the jet stream south.  The scientist they were interviewing suggested that the unusual weather activity may be the result of global warming...resulting in local cooling.  In any case, it sounds miserable and just gives me more motivation to head south.  The Caribbean is looking pretty good right now.

I spend a little more time looking around on the internet, researching my next stop, and figuring out if there is anything special I need to pay attention to when we splash the boat, and then take a break and watch a movie.  I move the space heater down to my cabin and note the thermostat says it is a balmy 56 degrees in there.  I come back up and type up most of this from my notes while my cabin warms least a little.  While working on the post, the salon temperature drops (boat hulls are just not well insulated) so I decide I'll finish the post the next day.  I make one more trek to the bath house in the cold evening air and then climb into bed around 10:30pm.

Lest you think it is all pina colladas and sunsets, there is a price to pay for this lifestyle.  Actually, this is one of the better days as I was able to get the parts I needed and may be able to launch the boat soon.  The day before I spent a fair amount of time chasing a phantom problem with my fresh water system after replacing the head of one of the fresh water pumps.  And today, the boatyard water pump has failed and so there is no water, hot or cold, in the bathhouse.

So, there you have it.  A brief look at a random day in my life at the boatyard.


  1. Hi Mike,
    Thanks for the boatyard perspective. I must admit, I hadn't thought much about this side of cruising life.

    1. No problem Alan. There are a lot of sides to cruising life...and most of them aren't the romantic idea of sitting on the transom with margarita in hand watching the sun set. Sometimes it is...but definitely a lot of work in between.

      If you have a plan and do the work yourself, I think it goes easier than picking up the pieces from someone else...and you don't spend as much time in the yard.

  2. Here in Mazatlan, we hope to "splash" tomorrow, 3 weeks since we were hauled. We couldn't live on the boat on the hard as the windows were all replaced and the interior was a mess (still is ... hopefully not by tomorrow night). So, we've been playing Hotel Roulette.

    These past 3 weeks, we've had lots of margaritas (some nights, perhaps too many) including some watching the sunset, but none on the boat.

    1. Actually, I hope to splash tomorrow too. I'm in the travel lift slings right now so I could finish the bottom paint. I think anytime you are in a boatyard the boat is a mess...of course, half the rest of the time my boat seems to be a mess too. ;-)

      Good luck with your launch tomorrow!