Our boat is on the hard in a nearby boatyard and iglooed in a white plastic dome of shrink wrap so we can work aboard in relative protection from the elements. Cruising boats always look like beached whales when out of the water, awkward, unnatural and strangely still.
Even though the boatyard is as quiet as a graveyard in winter, there is a well beaten track to our boat. After taking her south to the Bahamas last winter and sailing her some 8,000 miles since we bought her a couple of years ago, this winter was her time for a complete going over and refit. She is 14 years old and her systems need care.
So, we took her apart from the masthead to the bottom of the bilge. Literally, every piece of furniture, every sail, every length of standing and running rigging, every electrical or plumbing connection has been unscrewed, unbolted, unfolded and unlinked so we could check and repair whatever was not quite right. I have to admit that our boat partner Tony Knowles, who is a highly respected marine surveyor, was the impetus for most of this disassembly and refit. He knows what can go wrong and wants us all to be on the right side of that.
We have seen and cleaned corners of the bilge that sunlight has not reached since the boat was first launched. We have checked and tested all of the standing rigging’s end fittings and turnbuckles. We have put the meter onto the electrical circuits and checked and cleaned connections throughout the boat.
Plus, as we have taken everything apart we have been able to revarnish the floorboards, and pieces of furniture that were showing signs of age and wear. The old girl will be like new when we launch her in the spring.
The refit accomplishes a number of things. First of all, it puts to right any pieces of the whole boat that needed repair and upgrading. That just makes her more seaworthy and reliable. Second, it allows us to take a full inventory of how everything aboard works and where all the pieces fit together and what spare parts we need to carry with us.
Lastly, and most importantly, taking the boat apart and putting her back together again has added greatly to our knowledge of how the boat works and how each system works on its own and in harmony with the other systems aboard. Modern cruising boats are full of complex gear and equipment. If you don’t know how they work, you can never be self reliant enough to solve problems and make repairs when they are needed.
So, topping up our knowledge and expertise are the real refits that we are going through this winter as we pore through the manuals, run diagnostics and get our hands dirty. The boat will be launched in top working order and we, as her skippers and chief maintenance officers, will have a deeper and more thorough knowledge of all of the systems that make her tick. And that just makes us better and safer sailors.
That’s a good thing since her next voyage will take her offshore in the fall for a winter in the Caribbean. Looking out the window at the snow today, that cruise can’t come soon enough.