It’s June. This is ridiculous.
I had all winter to work on my boat to make it close enough to perfect. Did I use winter to work on anything? Heck no. Why? I’m going to cite craptastic weather and my access to 30 amps of continuous power as the main productivity-draining culprits. You know what they say: power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. My faithful laptop is my conduit to the rest of humanity, and if you look long enough, you can find things on the internet that are interesting/funny/stupid/frustrating/insightful and on and on. Darn internet.
Now that the vestiges of summer are peeking through the skies, I’m impatient to pull up that pesky anchor and get the heck out of here. But, since I did nothing to improve the boat over 7 months of dock time, I have to do it all now.
First things first: sailing safety.
The survey pointed out that my running lights were pooped out. The red light had bleached to pink and the green light didn’t work at all. Running lights aren’t totally necessary if you only sail by day, but sooner or later, for one reason or another, sailing by night happens. The wind dies, engines fail, you have to go with the tides, things like that. Everyone should be prepared to sail out of their comfort zone, and that may include having to travel in the dark. I’m fine with that, actually, and think it would be fun to travel in the early morning or late evenings. Therefore I had to fix the running lights. Besides, I don’t need to give the Coast Guard any reason to board my boat.
The light repair brings up a frustrating truth: I’m 28 years old and this is the very first time IN MY LIFE that I’m learning about electrical wiring. You know when you’re in school, usually high school when you have the teenager “I know everything,” “this is stupid,” and “I just want to graduate,” attitudes, you scratch your head in some classes and wonder, “Will I ever use this?” In all my essay writing, study sessions, and AP testing, I was never taught anything practical. Have I used things I learned in high school? Certainly, but I’ve not used anything in day to day life. How many times, for example, have I flipped a light switch? Do I know how a light switch works? NOPE. But hey, I can identify motifs in books, that counts for something, right?
Side note #1. When Mr. Right and I find each other, wed, and do the kid thing, we will teach those kids about electricity, plumbing, and basic carpentry.
In order to swap out my useless running lights for new ones, I had to know something about wiring. I’ve been reading Sailboat Electronics Simplified by the great Don Casey, and have padded myself with enough knowledge to get things done; wiring on a boat must be copper, preferably tinned, and to prevent corrosion it’s best to solder the wires. Having never soldered anything before, I hopped on the ever helpful internet and found a YouTube video. Looks easy enough, but of course the guy demonstrating how to solder was doing so at a table in a workshop. How cute!
A trip to a few hardware stores was also in order.
A second side note. I’m not sure if I’ve written it before, but I hate yard work. Hate it. When I hear people talking about it, mainly my parents, I feel dizzy and lightheaded, claustrophobic and antagonistic all at the same time. If my mom had any say in this blog, she’d chime in right about now with, “Courtney, I didn’t like yard work at your age either.” Fine. Perhaps when I’m in my forties or fifties, the idea of pulling weeds will elicit a better response and not cause my spine to fall out of my back, as the idea does now. When I was thinking of buying my first house about a year and a half to two years ago, I always kept my mother in mind for all things yard. She loves plants and weeding and all that other nonsense–I can’t write about it anymore, I’m about to faint.
Continuing on the side note, when I was a young girl, I didn’t have dolls, wear dresses unless my mom dressed me, and I never had a tea set. I liked blocks, then Legos and model airplanes, and built my projects with a focus that amazed my parents. I’d lock myself in my room all day and build. They weren’t sure what I’d make of myself as an adult, an artist (I drew a lot) or an engineer.
A lot of girls get excited about shoes. I confess that I do not understand the appeal of shoes. Perhaps it’s because I wear size elevens and cannot find feminine shoes. Whatever it is, shopping for clothing items and accessories is a real bore and I do it as infrequently as girlishly possible.
However, when I went shopping for tools needed to work on my boat, I got excited. Ecstatic, actually. Like when I first used a table saw. Oh the power.
After purchasing some much needed items including: a Klein AWG wire cutter/stripper/crimper, solder (60% tin, 40% lead), hex wrenches (needed them anyway), pliers (sure I’d need them at some point) heat shrink (an assortment of sizes), and other useful and nifty stuff, I got right to work. What I need now is a sweet toolbox for all my little, useful friends…
My running lights have to be disconnected and rewired in the anchor locker. I now understand why many people, who originally had the flush mount running lights for their boat, opted to refit their vessels with lights that mount right on top of the bowsprit. Cutting, stripping, and splicing wires located in the anchor locker is a pain the upper arms, shoulders, back, and abdomen, and requires someone:
- with a small upper body,
- who isn’t claustrophobic.
It also gave me splinters in my forearms. I’m not sure what kind of splinters, but they were tiny and couldn’t be seen. Hopefully they’re not toxic.
There is a real satisfaction in working on your own boat, I have to say. Sure, I was dismayed to find the original wiring to the running lights wasn’t tinned copper, but I was tickled that, once the wires were connected, the lights turned on no problemo. The borrowed soldering iron didn’t have a long enough cord, so I picked up an extension cord at our local marine exchange (in addition to two, never been used brass cabin lights!), AND when the running lights are done, I can cross “running lights” off my list of boat projects. With the tools and knowledge I now have, I can tackle other lighting issues in my boat, mainly the dull LEDs in the main cabin and the ugly AC lights.
I’ve also put a outboard block on the back stanchions, to get the heavy outboard motor out of the water when I’m sailing. What’s yet to be seen is if I have the coordination to remove the outboard from the dinghy, lift it while balancing myself inside the dingy, and securing it to the mounting block. I see lots of tying and securing in my future. Or else a big splash followed by a litany of profanities. Inflatable bottom paint is in transit, then I can scrape off the various lifeforms taking refuge on the dink, then paint that sucker so I won’t have to clean it for the rest of the summer.
Spring sure does make stuff grow, and fast. Libby shows me daily how the local coral reef is coming along. I can’t wait to haul out and paint the bottom.
Next project? Another easy one, replacing the mainsheet with a smaller line, one that fits the blocks better, making sheeting in and out a less-stressful experience. I’m also on the search for an affordable tiller extension that is available now and not on back order (this is harder than I originally thought). Then I’ll have to strip the gorgeous varnish work on my beautiful tiller to install it. But it’ll all be worth it when I can sit, sail, and see all at the same time. When possible, I borrow tools rater than buying them, as I have limited space aboard. I’m now on the lookout for someone local who has a heat gun for varnish stripping.
Then I’m out of here. I can’t wait to go!