June 24, 2008

Maintenance and Housekeeping

One of the more daunting aspects of sailing is the sheer amount of maintenance and housekeeping required to keep a boat afloat. Nothing deteriorates faster than a vessel in water. We find ourselves constantly noting and fixing things that yesterday were sound and today are going to hell in a handbasket. Here Dave is tending to our leathers, which has nothing to do with our sex life and everything to do with staying secure on our mooring:

If you've ever taken a stroll along the waterfront in Monroe Harbor, you may have noted that the moorings are indicated by white bobbers in the water. They are attached by chain to enormous chunks of concrete that sit on the harbor floor below. I don't know the exact physics of it, but to hold a multi-ton boat in place, those chunks must weigh tons themselves. The effort to get every mooring placed properly in the spring and removed in the fall is an endless source of lunchtime entertainment for me. My hat's off to the Westrec guys. It's a scary-looking process involving cranes, minibarges, little skiffs and usually uncooperative winds and water.

After our first summer in Monroe, we noticed that our mooring (which we have come to love, honor and cherish, holding us fast as it does through thick and thin) had dinged up Smitten's bow pretty thoroughly, so out of an inverted Fleet Farm feed tub, a couple of swimming noodles and sundry bits of tin and rivets, Dave engineered a bobber cover. Seen above in a nauti shade of blue.

Between the bobber and the boat is the bridle, the lengths of rope that reach up and connect to our port and starboard bow cleats, keeping us secure on the mooring chunk. The bridle suffers a lot of wear and tear throughout the summer as Smitty dances against wind and water, so Dave periodically pulls out a darning needle and replaces the leather sheaths along the chafe points.

Becoming quite the little seamstress, he is. The process involves a tricky stitch that Mrs Lee, my 8th grade home ec teacher, would probably swear I will never have the patience for.

For my part, Chief Fiberglass Buffer and Bird Shit Chaser that I am, I try to keep topsides in order with a sponge and bucket. I spoke a while back of loving Crowley's ambiance for the sheer industrial-ness of it, but that environment produces a lot of dirt, and here I'm removing some smattered gak that adhered, well, probably to the whole boat, but I noticed it most on the windows.

Inspired by Jan Mundy, a frequent seminar leader at Strictly Sail and apostle of the green approach to boat maintenance, this year I'm trying to go green, eschewing my usual choice of noxious cleaning products for good old-fashioned water, white vinegar and baking soda. I'm pleased to report good results. Smitty shines when I'm done with her. Actually, I'm never done with her. Keeping a boat clean is a little like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. When you're done at one end, you start over on the other.
I grew real tired of some deteriorating cushioning we had lashed to the aft seat rails some years back, so next chore was to remove it ...

... then clean up all the stainless in the cockpit. Yes, that's me polishing the pole ...

... and no doubt wisecracking about it ...

Admittedly, keeping Smitten cleaned and tuned is time consuming. I've been asked if the maintenance and housekeeping aspect of boat ownership is a total pain, and a few of years ago I would have said yes. But maturity and patience have crept up on me. Or maybe Smitty has presented some good lessons, because I've learned to enjoy the focus of a task and appreciate the zone it opens. Get a lot of good thinking done while I'm at it. It's funny, I only grudgingly do housekeeping around the house, and in fact I contract the job out to a great crew that comes in twice a month to deal with our dust. But on board, I'm happy to pick up a rag and a pail and spread some elbow grease.

There are a lot of aspects to the boating picture besides zooming through the water under full sail. The actual act of sailing takes up a relatively small proportion of a typical weekend on the boat. To complete the analogy, many pictures make up the Weekend on the Boat photo album. They show us reading, napping, cooking, eating, sipping, watching fireworks, hitting the Grant Park festivals ...

... or just sitting around balancing large buildings on our heads.

Tending to the housekeeping is simply another picture in the album.

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