For some unaccountable reason, in the popular mind, liveaboard sailing is almost invariably associated with not working. In fact, like the armchair sailor dreaming of escaping her dreary office life and touring the South Pacific on a yacht, there are those who actually believe that sailing is an alternative to work. This explains why so many people plan to buy a boat after they retire — as if a lifetime of office work hadn’t been punishing enough.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire! Owning a sailboat is more work than work, the only difference being that you’re not getting paid for it.
There is the sanding and the varnishing and the scrubbing and the polishing. There are the infestations of mold and hidden puddles of damp in the back of unused cupboards. No seacock can be fully trusted, no pump will last forever. Every minor crisis must be attended to, lest the boat be forever lost on the bottom of the sea. There are times when it honestly becomes a real drag.
There is a temptation to imagine that boat work is somehow purer, more honest, and more authentic than other types of work. There you are, out in the boatyard, surrounded by the bustle of other, equally industrious boat owners, sanding and varnishing away, delighting in the strength and vigor of your hale and hearty sailor’s form. It is a vision of pride and joy in ones work worthy of a Soviet propaganda poster — and about as accurate a depiction.
I can say from personal experience that the fantasy lasts until about 5 minutes after the work actually starts, at which point it becomes impossible to imagine anything more tedious, more soul-wrenching, more back-breaking, more grueling, more miserable than sanding teak. Even one square inch is enough to give you the hands of a charwoman. It is a sad, unglamorous state of affairs.
Now that I work at a chandlery, I am amazed by the number of customers who come in and are actually excited to work on their boats. For them, the work is part of the joy of sailing. I sure do wish their enthusiasm were a little bit more contagious because I’d like to find myself actually looking forward to the weather improving so we can get started epoxying the wood around the windows and cutting out large sections of our rotting bulkead. (Free advice: never buy a boat with any amount of wood on it.)
2019 is going to be the year that we finally get Pas de Deux into shape. For one, I am not interested in going through another winter in a boat that feels like the bitterly cold, arctic version of the rainforest exhibit at the aquarium, and for two, we need to do a few crucial repairs before we can safely and confidently sail Pas de Deux outside of our peaceful little East Anglian estuary.
Our to-do list:
1) Replacing the rotting aft bulkhead with a not rotting aft bulkhead and reinforcing that suspiciously soft area beneath the starboard winch;
2) Sanding, priming, and epoxying the leaky areas around the windows and in the staterooms;
3) Performing some sort of magic on the head so that it looks, feels, and smells like something other than an outhouse;
4) Building a helm (No, we don’t have a helm right now, thanks for asking.);
5) Finishing the insulation of the hulls so that the space between the floor and your knees is less like a meat locker in winter (Seriously, the rest of the boat may be warm and toasty, but if you bend down towards the floors in the hulls, you can see your breath.);
6) Painting the deck and cockpit;
7) Varnishing the wooden bits;
8) Cleaning the winches;
9) Installing some kind of closet/ organizational system in the staterooms;
10) So many other things that I can’t even recall them right now.
Also top on the list is improving the overall ambiance of the boat by turning up the class a notch. Here’s my decoration inspiration:
Main stateroom (and our berth): Roccoco boudoir
Other stateroom (and my studio): mid- to late-Victorian bohemia
Saloon: Napoleonic era naval captain’s cabin
Benn’s workshop: Victorian horologist meets Doc Brown from Back to the Future
Head: an extremely posh Scandinavian hotel
Cockpit (when not in use): Parisian rooftop garden
Galley: undecided. I’m hesitating between the kitchen of a large Victorian estate and something more spare and Japanese-inspired.
Maybe these ambitions are a bit extravagant for a 30ft catamaran, but this is, after all, our home, and I don’t want to feel I am living in a production boat any more than I’d like to feel I am living in a mass-produced house. It’s true that the weather’s been a bit rough, and improving the interior of the boat seems like a much higher priority in the winter than in the spring and summer, when liveaboard sailboats magically transform into structures used for sailing rather than shelter. Hopefully, those days aren’t too far away now, but in the meantime, I’ll be pondering panelling choices and color schemes.
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