The boat doesn't have to be perfect to go into the water . . . but there are some things that just have to be done.

Projects and Priorities

“You’re still in the yard?”

“As long as you’re in the yard, you should do X.”

“Why are you doing all these ‘easy 80% fixes’ and not just going ahead and doing the real fix?”

“Was the boat just in worse condition than you thought?”

Every day, we get these – and other – questions/comments from family, friends and  readers. The answers are all – sort of – interconnected.

Last spring, when we bought Barefoot Gal, we thought that we could get her ready to go in the water with two to three weeks of work this fall. Basically, clean her up after a summer in storage, move aboard, fix the stove, do annual maintenance on the drive leg, install a new shore power charger and slap some bottom paint on. Everything else we’d do once she was in the water.

So why are we still in the yard after 55 days? And it’s probably going to be at least another week.

Well, it’s a combination of things. Number one, we’ve had to come to grips with the fact that we’re not 20-something. While I don’t think we’re slackers, we just can’t work as hard for as many hours a day as we once did.

We’re in a DIY yard and actually like doing our own work for several reasons – we catch problems as we find them, we know how the work is being done, and if there’s a problem in the future . . . well, it’s our own fault. But being in a DIY yard means that work happens at our pace.

Number two, summer storage brought out some issues that hadn’t been apparent last spring. Namely, that our bottom paint was just crumbling off. To simply apply more bottom paint over the crumbly stuff would have been a waste of money (not to mention wouldn’t have done a thing to keep the bottom clean).

However, while half of it just fell off, and some more came off with moderate scraping, there was perhaps 20% that didn’t want to budge. I jokingly say it was made of 5200.

After talking extensively with Pettit (the company whose paint we decided to use), we came to the decision that the best thing to do was to remove all the paint, properly prep the bottom, then prime and paint it. Very labor- and time-intensive; we hope it’ll be worth it in years to come.

We also discovered that there were more gelcoat dings in the hulls than we remembered. Maybe there had been some chips that had grown with the summer temperature changes? Whatever, we needed to fix them. And that means not just patching them, but cleaning the hull and buffing it all out. The boat is looking pretty, but it’s taken 5 days to do it all.

Third, a number of projects took longer than expected since they were the first time we’d done them on this boat, or due to “deferred maintenance” in the past. Yeah, it took three days to get the prop off, then because of the problems in getting it off, we had to take it to be reconditioned – another half day shot. Three and a half days for what we thought would be an hour project to take it off, add lubrication, and put it back on. Another three days to virtually rebuild the stove, instead of an hour to just tighten a leaky propane connection. We should know that nothing goes as expected with a boat.

We definitely underestimated the time to really move aboard the boat, go over what was here, get things cleaned and organized, and stock up on food and parts. In retrospect, we should have spent the first few days aboard doing this, but we were concentrating on things such as “repair the stove” that we thought were the priority. The lack of organization and spare parts – simple things like screws – made the first few projects take longer as we kept having to go to the store.

Add in a bit of “real life” stuff like going to our son’s Army retirement, a few days of bad weather, a doctor’s appointment, a couple of vet trips, and we’re still in the yard.

But what about those “quick fixes” we’ve done on some things? How come we’re not taking the time to do the project “properly?” A filtered water dispenser instead of plumbing one in? An 80% improvement on our windows? Running an extension cord to the computer instead of wiring in another outlet? Stick up lights in the galley?

The answer to those is that we really do want to get the boat in the water. And while some of those would “just” be a day or two, it all adds up.

And that’s the same reason that we’re not doing some other projects “as long as we’re in the yard.” We’ll buff out the deck and cabin top once we’re on the water. Ditto for some upgrades to our electrical system. A few other things that aren’t critical might get put off until next fall.

If we did everything we’d like to do before we put her in the water, we’d be here all winter. And really, most of those other projects can be done with her in the water.

Our priority is to get the boat in the water and us using it. Yes, we’ll be continuing to do some work on her, but we’ll be mixing in fun stuff – both day sails and things on shore.

So while we’ve been in the yard, we’ve been concentrating on things that have to be done while she’s hauled out (the bottom job), engine maintenance (the drive leg work and prop), safety issues (fixing the stove, getting fenders and dock lines ready to go), making the boat legal (safety equipment inspected and in place, stickers on, name on) as well as moving aboard.

And we’ve managed to do a few big improvements that didn’t take long as we had “waiting time” on other projects – polishing out the windows fell in this category. We could do one at a time as time allowed.

It’s hard to resist the project creep. Seeing the hull buffed and polished makes me want to do the cabin top, bimini and steps . . . now. But that’s not necessary to get the boat in the water, and can be done at a dock or even at anchor. And that’s the priority – getting out on the water.

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  • Suzanne Nikolaus
    Posted at 24 November 2014 Reply

    So very true! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Sue
    Posted at 24 November 2014 Reply

    Yes jt is hard isn’t it! The important thing is safety and the things that need to be done under the waterline. When we left Hobart 8 years ago we were really not ready, although the bottom had had just been sandblasted and a whole system painted on and we were in the water at the dock finishong building a cockpit and davits we got so sick of wellwishers wondering when we were leaving we just went when things were safe…and with the homeport paint still wet and only undercoat on the pilothouse. These were things we could do at a later date. Undercoat wascthere 4 years later. Been rectified now.

  • Ann Capehart
    Posted at 24 November 2014 Reply

    We have worked on our “new” old boat all summer. Final clean up will be done in FL before we put in. Feels like forever

  • Mike Robinson
    Posted at 24 November 2014 Reply

    In 2013 we spent 6 weeks in Green Cove Springs Marina/Boat Yard. The plan was for one week but we experienced exactly the same type of issues you describe. I feel “your pain”. We did meet lots of great folks in the yard, a valuable part of cruising indeed. Unfortunately our boat sank 4 days after we launched (details in our blog 2/22/14). After almost 2 years of searching (poking around), three trips to Mexico, more West Coast searchs, we found a “new old boat” in our back yard. If all goes well we will sail down to Sea of Cortez next fall.
    Cheers and thanks for such great ideas/posts!

  • Terri Zorn
    Posted at 24 November 2014 Reply

    Awww, it will happen. Just knowing you are doing a good job on your land projects should give you peace of mind and a great sense of a accomplishment. You will be doing the “happy dance” soon enough. 🙂

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 24 November 2014 Reply

      Thanks! We know that, but it’s sure nice to hear 🙂

  • Chrystal Lakeway Henthorne
    Posted at 24 November 2014 Reply

    Spent all day winterizing the Leah Belle, feels good to have that done.

  • Gerald Hemming
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    When I first put my boat in the water it leaked. Mostly minor problems from 8 years of neglect. I bailed the bilge every 2 hours. I repaired cracker water lines slept cleaned filth from the corners, bailed some more and slept. When it stopped leaking I slept showered and apologized for the black water from my pumps. That’s over now but shit happens that you werenot expecting. You’ll get by. Make sure you take some time for yourselves. These are the good times.

  • jason
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    A timely post for sure.

    I am restoring an Atkins Thistle…. sooooooo many things to do.

    …which isn’t a good combination along with my unanswerable question “Have I got it right yet?”

    I’m now learning to get her in the water, enjoy her, and get her ‘right’ slowly over time.

  • Rob
    Posted at 27 November 2014 Reply

    I had to chuckle at the comment “….we’re not 20 somethings.” As a ‘youngster’ in the community in my early 40’s, I can still relate! We purchased our ‘new to us’ boat this spring also. BUT, I still had to prep and sell our old boat as well. Only thing worse than trying to maintain one boat….is trying to maintain two!

    So enjoy your current boat and take all the time you need and give her all the love you can! It’s all about the journey.

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