The Year of the Refit


Boat work means lists, projects and knowing it will all be worth it  (published January/February 2018)

Switching my electric sander off, I watched dust settle around Yahtzee’s cabin. A steady, cold rain fell outside and I could see my breath in front of me as I surveyed the area I was working on. It looked good. This was improvement, I told myself.

Before leaving the boat that afternoon, I took stock around the interior at what I’d completed and what was left. In the moment, it seemed like I had a lot of projects started yet none finished. And while that was mostly the truth, I was making progress—and even completing small jobs meant headway forward in the infancy of our open-ended refit.

When driving away from the marina, I was once again glad we chose to move off the boat for the Alaskan winter in order to get the work started. Actually, I don’t know how a family of four could liveaboard and do what we were doing and manage to stay sane in the process.

Of course, writing this from a cozy cabin nestled in the woods and mountains just miles from the marina, I can be happy about that decision. A fire crackles near me in the woodstove and the sunlight of fall seems to be really far south already. At 60 degrees north, it is.

Next to my computer on the small pine table is a long list written with several different pens on several different days. The tough part about punching through the various items on it isn’t necessarily the projects themselves, it’s in how to prioritize them. And, in many instances, which to throw money at and which to tackle with my own hands.
The bottom line with stopping to work on and refit a cruising boat is that no two refits are ever alike. Ever.

And the money side of things might be the biggest difference for sailors undertaking a refit. Some folks have the money but not the time. Others have the time to be intimately involved with every project and each step of how they get finished. You can put me mostly in that latter category.

For us, work and life on Yahtzee always seems like a refit. We’re constantly finishing one project or another while we’re cruising, and now that we’re stopped to get more done, we can expand that list. So what’s on it?

As all boat owners are well aware, one project can lead into many and that is very much the case with us. Taking out some old plumbing led to a cabinetry project and then to a stern shower and finally to the need to replace all the old freshwater hoses throughout the boat.

Sprucing up interior brightwork has led to the removal of our aging diesel fireplace, the refinishing of the bulkhead behind it and the possibility of replacing the heater all together. Plus, the start of a new headliner throughout the boat.

On deck, in a quest to rid ourselves of a chronic leak and to re-run some wiring and add two antennas, a new stern arch is in the works over the cockpit. And with that will come a spring makeover of the cockpit that will include removing the teak on the combing, rebedding winches and cleats, and replacing clutches.

Throw in new cushions in the salon and eventually new sails, and Yahtzee will seem like a very different boat when all is said and done. Right now, though, it seems like I’ve got a mountain to climb.

Fortunately, I know that, in the end, when the bow is pointed back out to sea, all the time, work and money will have been well worth it.

Andrew, along with wife Jill and sons Porter and Magnus, are currently living in Alaska while working on their Grand Soleil 39 Yahtzee. Follow their adventures at

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