It’s amazing how far we’ve come in a year.
A year ago, I didn’t know how to change engine oil, how to crimp electrical wires, how to epoxy pot or how to use sealants, and didn’t know that drill + tapping was even a thing.
A year ago, we were spending most of our project time battling mildew and mold (just a mild case, but still a lot of work), doing lots of cleaning, replacing head plumbing clogged by petrified poop, and triaging only the most essential safety projects / upgrades needed for our summer cruise.
While lacking sorely in experience and expertise, we made up for it through time and persistence. Since we both have fulltime jobs, and sailing gets priority over projects if the weather is right, finding the time was often difficult. To give you an idea of how much time this took, I put in about 6 hours every Thursday night over the last 6 months, and about 8-16 hours on 75% of the weekends (depending on whether there were other commitments) over the last year. I’d guess somewhere around 600-1000 hours. By putting in a lot of time, we got an amazing amount done.
Here’s a list of everything, from the big stuff to the small stuff. Most cruiser blogs I’ve seen that list projects only list the big ones – the impressive ones – but the little ones take up at least 50% of the time, in my experience. I’m also including projects that are regular maintenance, and repairs for things that broke, because those things take up time too.
The Big Stuff:
- At haul out: Fiberglass repair of two sections of deck (hired).
- Transmission removed, rebuilt, reinstalled, engine aligned (hired).
- At haul out: Installed a speed transducer thruhull and Raymarine i70 display.
- At haul out: Seacocks cleaned and lubed.
- Installed 2 new motor mounts.
- Cleaned/lubricated all winches (6).
- Installed rigid boom vang.
- Installed a masthead wind transducer.
- Replaced head plumbing.
- Rebedded all deck fill ports (5).
- Rebuilt leaking cabin heater exhaust flue deck cap and epoxy potted thru bolts.
- Rebuilt manual bilge pump and replaced its bilge hose.
- Replaced compromised forestay extension tang.
- Stripped varnish from handrails (partially complete) and did 5 coats of Cetol on one.
- Cockpit propane tank wooden base: removed, sanded, repainted with Cetol, dried and epoxy potted all the cockpit holes, sealed and reinstalled.
- Got cabin heater working: cleaned fuel tank, fuel lines, installed filter element, recalibrated metering valve (twice).
- Rigging: replaced intermediate diagonals (from lower spreaders to upper spreaders). (hired)
- Repaired anchor locker lid hinge that was leaking into deck core. Drilled out, dried, 3-stage epoxy fill, redrilled. (took 8 weeks because it kept raining)
- In-progress: replacing a rotted wall between the engine compartment and a storage locker.
- In-progress: refinishing the galley cabinets and shelves.
The Little Stuff:
- Attached boat name, port, and registration decals.
- Cleaned: dodger, sail cover, bimini, wheel cover, waterproofed canvas, anchor locker, head cabinets, v-berth hanging locker, port lazarette, nav station locker, stbd lazarette + hull wall, rudder quadrant, engine, engine bilge area, storage areas below settees, deck around hardware, transom compartment, under cabin headliner, bilge forward, port, stbd and aft.
- Marked anchor rode lengths.
- Installed 3 new halyards and new reef line.
- Cleaned and measured water tank.
- Installed new hatch gaskets for galley + head.
- Designed / installed lazy jacks.
- Repaired a broken hatch bolt.
- Engine: changed oil + filter, coolant, impeller, cleaned air intake filter.
- Engine: replaced primary and secondary fuel filters.
- Engine: Installed new hose on raw water pump to make it easier to access the impeller.
- Installed CO detector.
- Resealed inner forestay (solent stay) chainplate.
- Resealed backstay chainplate.
- Installed vacuum gauge on fuel filter.
- Repaired broken battery tie down clasps.
- Resealed leak in lazarette rim.
- Replaced aft scupper hoses.
- Replaced cockpit scupper hoses and scuppers.
- Rebedded leaking deck tie downs.
- Miscellaneous small gelcoat repairs in cockpit area.
- Repaired/replaced acrylic plate for battery master switch.
- Drained and cleaned fuel tank.
- Applied for FCC ship station license and MMSI for portable VHF.
- Installed 12V DC charging plug.
- Replaced various corroded hose clamps.
- Measured / bought jacklines.
- Marked genoa furling line for reef points.
- Rebedded 2 deck U-bolts that were suspected leaking (turns out they weren’t).
- Fixed two leaks in dorade boxes.
- Watered batteries (3x).
- Removed old swim ladder deck mounts.
- Removed old unused wiring runs: phone line, 2-3 disconnected/cut DC wires, 3 old fluorescent lights.
- Removed old cockpit power port and compass light (pull switch / wiring), and blower switch.
- Rewired port side cabin lights.
- Disassembled and inspected autopilot drive wheel.
- Inspected / lubed wheel pedestal chain.
- Removed old marine blower from transom compartment.
- Lubed roller furler and replaced missing screws.
- Made new wood supports for the helm seat.
- Replaced old hull liner in 2 cabinets in galley.
Looking at this long list, I’ve been asking myself has it all been worth it? Or have I turned the boat into a project boat when it’s not a project boat (at least not by my definition). From the beginning I’ve never want to lose sight of what matters the most – actually sailing (and we *have* been sailing throughout the last year). All my project choices are designed to not make me into one of those people who just works on boats for the sake of working on boats (and spends years delaying their cruising dreams). Although there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s truly your goal – boat work can be pretty fun in and of itself. But then you’re not a cruiser, you’re a boatyard worker / marine electrician / diesel engine mechanic / rigger.
Not every single one of these projects was truly necessary, but we found it really helps to do some cosmetic jobs or easy comfort improvements in between the other ones. The cosmetic jobs are like your dessert – they provide variety and a break from more difficult, tedious, or less rewarding tasks (rebedding is important, but it has no visible benefit to your sailing in any way).
In the end I think it was worth it, because by doing all these projects I now know the boat like the back of my hand. If something breaks at sea, I can mentally pull up a map of every single thruhull, hose, wiring run, every turning block or rigging hardware. And have confidence that the important things won’t let us down. Plus we’re into the bonus round now – working on projects that we don’t *need* to do but just want to do.