Some famous old salt once said that sailing around the world is just a lot of ‘boat repairs in exotic places’.
This boatyard in Curacao isn’t very exotic, but it seems a reasonable price to pay, a week or so of maintenance at either end of a 6 month winter cruise.
I can’t think when I started using this phrase, or where it comes from, (NASA maybe?) but it seems to be useful for keeping Escapade’s running-repairs in perspective. Some examples:
“We must get that light fixed in the sail locker”
“Yes, but it’s not Mission Critical”
“We really ought to fix those gelcoat chips on the deck”
“Yes we will, but they definitely are not Mission Critical”
“Wouldn’t it be nice to fit dimmer switches in the saloon..”
You get the idea. I’m not particularity technically minded and while boat maintenance is all part of the fun for some sailors, I’m inclined to put off anything that means I have to leave my lovely life in a remote anchorage and go in to a sweaty harbour to get stuff fixed.
So what is Mission Critical? Well the rig needs to keep the mast up, the hulls need to stay watertight, steering is fairly crucial. Engines? Not really, as long as we can hoist a sail (plus catamarans tend to have a spare engine).
I take the view that everything on a boat will fail eventually, and we should have a plan to manage when that happens. We have kept Escapade as simple as possible; no generator, no air-con, less maintenance, fewer things to repair in exotic places. I put my faith in the magic of solar power (no moving parts to maintain!) and amazing machines like our water maker and auto-pilot which are fearsomely complex, beautifully built and almost maintenance free. It would be highly inconvenient if either failed in a some remote spot because I fear I am not qualified to dismantle them. They are both Mission Critical, so I talk nicely to them and fervently hope they will continue to be so wonderful. On a monohull you would of course have the back-up of large fresh water tanks and wind-vane steering, neither of which work on a light, fast multihull.
There have been a couple of technical problems that required immediate attention. Like when a fridge compressor conked out in the Turks. We can happily sail without engines but warm beer? That had me scurrying in to a marina for a repair pretty quick. But apart from that, as long as the anchor holds and the windsurf kit is all serviceable, I tend to put all the little maintenance jobs on ‘the list’ for some later date.
That later date seems to be now. Escapade is only two years old but as with every boat, there is always stuff to fix, repairs and maintenance. Most of the damage tends to be pilot error (Here we go again, ‘Mission Critical’, ‘Pilot Error’, what am I? A general in the US military? What next ‘collateral damage’? ‘Shock and Awe’?) Anyway I take full responsibility for the bent stanchion, damaged bowsprit, chain dings in the hulls caused by my anchoring technique, nothing serious but now all fixed. We have just spent two sweaty weeks in the boatyard in Curacao, with a very satisfying number of jobs ticked off the ‘Shit to do list’. I actually quite enjoy these minor problem-solving tasks, once I apply myself, and take great pride in my little DIY victories when I fix something without needing to call in the professionals. A boat seems to teach you a little bit about a lot of things: rigging, plumbing, electrics, splices, anodes, pumps, engines, winches, lashings, lash-ups, fridge compressors, WC solenoids etc!
But I know my limits, and here in Curacao we have also been able to find the professional help we needed. Thanks Pedro for lovely carpentry on our cockpit table re-build, Gijs for help with the rig, Andreas for gearbox work, Ismael for fixing the outboard, Rocky and the team at Curacao Marine for looking after Escapade all summer.
So we got it all done, all the running rigging back on, winches serviced, new anchor chain and bridle fitted, even patched up some scrapes in our grey vinyl wrap.
Well we need a day off occasionally.
We have discovered some great places to eat in Curacao, provisioned the ship and even found time for a bit of free-diving to cool off after all that boat work. This is another happy holiday island for the Dutch. We are often the only non-Netherlanders in convivial groups in restaurants and bars. Is it me or are the Dutch getting taller? They are such a long-legged lot, at one Dutch bar in Willemstad I had to stand on tip-toes to reach the urinal.
We’re afloat again! I still love that moment when you first feel the boat move under your feet, coming back to life after 5 months ashore.
Officially the last day of the Northern Hemisphere Hurricane Season. We just hope someone told the hurricanes that. Anyway as far as our insurance company is concerned, it is now safe to go sailing again.
All ship shape and ready to go. Our plan is a quick shakedown sail to Aruba, then on to Colombia. Just looking for a weather window..