Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Let There Be Light
By Michael

Not a bad view from the worksite
Seventeen months ago, we bought new New Found Metals portlights for our Fuji 40 at the Annapolis sailboat show. Of course, given that time span, new is now a misnomer, but only this week I finished installing and bedding the last one. These beautiful, solid, heavy portlights allow more air and light inside the boat than ever before. Because the plastic lenses of the old deadlights were completely opaque, we are able to see through our cabin sides for the first time.

But new portlights come at a cost. And I’m not writing about the cost of the portlights, I’m writing about the cost of returning to life aboard a construction zone: cutting through the solid fiberglass cabin side in our living space wasn’t pleasant. Doing it nine times (seven new portlights and I reinstalled two existing portlights) really sucked. Attempts to make it tolerable involved lots of duct tape securing a plastic trash can or cardboard to the inside of the boat, lots of Dremel grinding, lots of vacuuming, inevitable seal failures, and more tape and vacuuming. Butyl rubber, anti-seize, and caulk were in heavy use. I consumed eight jigsaw blades, a couple sheets of sandpaper, and almost a liter of acetone.

We took a slip in Marina de La Paz 30 days ago to get this and other work completed. A marina is like a parking lot for boats. While we generally pay nothing to anchor our boat someplace, it always costs money to park our boat in a marina. But alas, it is usually easier to complete serious boat work in a marina where profligate use of water and electricity is not a problem. A month at Marina de La Paz cost us $535.
I think there is an assumption among some cruisers and non-cruisers that if money were no object, everyone would park their boat in a marina wherever and whenever possible. After all, loading stores and hauling laundry are made easier by dock carts, showers don’t require a dinghy ride, and there is a perception that sleep will be sounder without a concern that the anchor may drag.

This isn’t the case for us (and many folks we know). Marinas have a place in our cruising life, and we appreciate all they have to offer when we need them, but we are seeking to minimize their role—and not because of the cost.
Here I am using the Dremel to
cut excess length off the bolts
pressed into the rebuilt

Windy and I still marvel aloud about the capable little vessel we have made a home, about where we live today, about how rich our lives feel. To a large extent, I attribute these feelings to the relative austerity of our cruising life lived on the hook.
But a cruising life spent in a marina means we no longer have to transport the water we need for use aboard, in 5-gallon jugs from shore. Marina life means making toast without respect to the number of amps we already consumed today using the drill. Marina life means showering as often as we like, without a long, potentially wet dinghy ride ashore to do so.

Time spent in a marina sounds much less austere than time at anchor. Thus marina life is preferable?

Not really. The relative hardships of our cruising life at anchor make it inevitable that we take much less for granted than ever before. They make it inevitable that we live more slowly and more fundamentally. We appreciate things more.

Whereas at anchor we are too far removed from a life ashore to make any comparisons of the relative comforts, marinas lie at the intersection of a life ashore and a life afloat, highlighting the disparities. Give me a hose bib, power cord, and a key to the showers and everything suddenly seems…harder. Case in point:
When the air temperature is hot in an anchorage, we jump over the side and remind the girls we have the biggest swimming pool in the world. When the air temperature is hot in a marina, we don’t dare jump in because marina water is filthy, and the girls are reminded our boat doesn’t have air conditioning.
Furthermore, life at anchor allows me to see all of the familiar things around us that comprise our home, in changing settings. In the same way I may see something familiar in a different way because I see it in the company of another person, my boat, my home, my personal space are constantly redefined for me by their setting. Even in the same anchorage, my home swings, offering changing vistas in different light. In a marina, our boat is doesn’t move, tied up at four corners like it’s ready to be branded. My personal space is never redefined, it’s jostled and jerked in place by dock lines.

This is the snazzy new deck/anchor wash fitting
I installed at the bow. The hose is integrated and
stows in the watertight recess.
And life at anchor promotes transience, either because time is restricted, or because we can see the horizon. And transience increases our exposure to new, and novel things. Marinas are anathema to transience; the sirens of permanence are sometimes hard to ignore. Marina cost structures are such that rates are cheaper the longer we commit to staying. Every slip includes a box the size of a large closet to store our stuff. Before we know it, days begin to fall prey to pattern. Fewer things seem novel.
In case I wasn’t clear, I wrote a poem to illustrate my thoughts:

I dream of life at anchor
An island unto ourselves
The sun sets unobscured
Peace, quiet
Damn the docklines!
Damn the docklines!

In addition to the portlights, I replaced the corroded-beyond-repair wash down fitting at the bow, removed and sent our turbocharger to Mazatlan for a rebuild, removed our injectors for cleaning and testing, ordered and measured for a new mainsail and code zero on a foil-less furler, reinstalled the rebuilt turbocharger, installed the new diesel injectors I ordered, arranged to have stainless bales welded to our anchor rollers and a structural eye welded in place to support the code zero furler, arranged to have a UV cover sewn on to our spare (now primary) headsail, arranged to have chaffing protection added to our dodger and to scallop the leading edge to provide additional handholds, arranged to have new eyes glued inside the front tube of our dinghy, and completed a bunch of minor projects.

Whew! It has been another expensive and demanding month (five weeks). Except for the portlights, these boat improvements/repairs stem from our shakedown cruise up from Puerto Vallarta. This boat is now ready to cross oceans (or as soon as our new sails arrive).
And that makes it more than worth it, marinas and all.


It was their time.


After a couple days bringing carrots and kind words to a horse they found
 in an empty lot a few blocks from the marina, Windy and the girls
happened upon the owner, a gringa, who set a date for them to learn to
groom the horse and ride him. They were thrilled.

1 comment:

  1. A project well done. I like it. I agree with you, being in a marina, well taxes you and takes away what you've worked for...the freedom of not being stuck next to some big boat that decides to let their dog bark at you every time you walk by or run their motors or hold a daily happy hour where one women cackles so much you swear one day you'll just walk over and strangle her. This is the longest stretch by 10x we've spent in a marina in over 3 years and I think for the good of the kitty, it'll be fine, but for my sanity other than collecting off-colored comments which a man makes daily on the gangway (which are over the top, um, funny but also kind of tragic) I'd be going a little crazed. So yes, toss the lines, go, move and shake it up....and we'll be right behind you...before we're full fledged members of some club of those that arrive and never again move.


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