It’d be nice to have unlimited funds for boat upgrades. But most of us have to prioritize. Well, at least we do.
A concept that helps us decide what to do, and what to put off (maybe indefinitely . . .) is “what’s the limiting factor?”
In other words, what’s keeping us from doing what we want with the boat? What’s limiting how we use it? What’s limiting our enjoyment of it? Those items are the ones that come to the top of the list.
I guess the first step is knowing how we want to use our boat. When we bought our first cruising boat, Que Tal, we didn’t really know what our cruising style would be and hence what upgrades would be the most important. And so we set aside our upgrade money, deciding to cruise for a year with the boat as-is before we did anything major. Read more about our upgrades to Que Tal.
Now, with Barefoot Gal, it’s a little easier since we’ve cruised before. We know that we want to be able to explore the Keys and Everglades region, hitting small little anchorages — snorkeling, paddleboarding, walking and enjoying nature — and not just the major ones. That’s one reason we bought a very shallow draft boat.
Right now, our number one limiting factor is a non-working engine. Say what you want about being a sailboat, with currents, shallow water and tricky entrances to anchorages, no engine is keeping us in one place. And so the repair work is our total priority. We’ve turned down a number of social invitations and skipped various events ashore to work on the engine, go for parts, wait for parts to be delivered and whatnot.
We’ve already taken care of one limiting factor: our anchor. Many of the anchorages in the Keys are tough to get an anchor to set in due to various types of grassy bottoms. Others have a shallow layer of sand over solid rock. Many have significant current. So we eliminated the “worried about our anchor” limitation — which could limit us to zero nights in some interesting places — by getting the best setting and holding anchor we knew of: a Mantus.
When we first bought Barefoot Gal, we thought that one of our first projects would be to add more solar panels. While we still want to do this, we realized that with switching to LED lights, we’re doing okay with the panels we do have and the Honda generator. We’ve discovered that there’s a bigger limiting factor . . .
Yeah, our holding tank. We can only go four days without a pumpout. In the short run, we can use our cruising guides to find marinas with pump outs, and Mary Dixon’s list of places with pump out boats in Florida. Longer term, we want to change to a composting head. So that’s moved up on the list of projects we want to do.
Another example: It’d be nice to get our watermaker running (it needs a new membrane, something we knew when we bought the boat), but we have tankage that can last us 10 days to 2 weeks. Not nearly as limiting as the holding tank, so lower priority.
Admittedly, sometimes we end up doing things not perfectly in order by the “limiting factor” principle. Sometimes, it just makes sense to do one project before another, or alongside it. You know, the “while we’ve got this torn apart” concept. It’s easy to get into real project creep this way and totally blow the budget for other — more needed — items. We try to at least be conscious of the choices we make.
Yes, I’d like the perfect boat right now. But the fact is, it’ll never be perfect — there will always be something more we’d like to do. And so when we think about an upgrade, we try to think whether it’s just a “that would be cool” item or if it would actually let us do something that we want to, but can’t.
And sometimes we suddenly realize that the limiting factor is simply working on the boat! Then it’s time to stop the work and head on out.