Whine of the Ancient Mariner

By Bob Bitchin

I finally made one of the toughest decisions I have had to make regarding my boat, and it took me over a year to make it.  Every boater goes through the same process.  You’ve got a boat that you’ve had for a while, and you know every little defect in the darn thing.
On the Lost Soul[1] , after 14 years and over 75,000 miles, there was no spot on the boat where I could stand and not see something that I wanted to fix or change. What was odd was that other people would come aboard and “ooh” and “ahh” all over her, but all I could see was what needed to be fixed or changed. And so it was that, a little over a year ago, I talked Jody into putting her on the market and starting to look for another home.

Since I have lived aboard for almost 30 years, I am pretty particular about what I want in a boat.  I know all the little things that make a boat a home. We put her on the market and started looking.  It didn’t take long until we found there were no boats like the Lost Soul[2]  being built anymore.  Well, there could be, but the cost was way prohibitive.  It would have to be custom-built, and after talking with my friend, Bob Perry, I realized I couldn’t afford it. So we looked at what was available in something we could afford.  At every boat show, we would walk the docks, and I have to admit I did find a few that we could have lived on.  The Hylas 54 and the Moody were in contention, as well as the new Gozzard.  They were all in the type of boat we were looking for; large enough to live on, easy to handle, and strong enough for a world cruise. And each time, after we’d sit on these great new boats, we would think, “Yeah, we could do this.”

Sitting on a new, well-laid-out boat takes your worries and throws them into a bait bucket.  You don’t have to worry about if your tanks might start leaking.  The Lost Soul[3]  is 23 years old and has black iron tanks.  We already had to fix two of the four tanks!

And the wiring.  Look at it!  Beautiful color-coded wiring, with every wire in its right loom, and each one labeled and tagged, with beautiful new 12 volt and 110 panels, with cute little lights that glow when the switch is activated.  Compare this to our mish-mash of wiring that has been done and redone 20 times, sometimes at sea, and always in a hurry.  Every wire is red because we got a special on 100 pounds of red wire back when we were first refitting the boat.  Lots of dead wires, and wires leading nowhere. And then walk the new teak decks.  They feel so firm underfoot. The caulking is perfect, and they use the new pressure-applied system with no screws to work loose and create leaks.  Not like our decks, which are a tad on the spongy side, and caulking that has been redone more often than Tammy Fay’s makeup and looks just as bad.

And then there is the fact that they are dry!  The Lost Soul[4]  has only a couple of leaks, but I gotta tell ya, I have traced them for almost 15 years and have been unsuccessful in locating the source of these mystery leaks.

And then the show is over, and we head home.  We board our baby, and it is like walking into a womb.  She surrounds us with warmth, and she feels solid, and every little nook and cranny has a memory and a story to tell.  It is our home.  The others are more like hotels to us.

And so we sat, and we thought.  Just what are the problems that we want to get rid of in order to be happy?  A list was started.  As we added to that list, we started to feel relieved.  All of a sudden it was like we’d made the decision.  Everything we liked about the other boats was listed first, as what it would take to make our baby have the same “good things.”  We listed everything that was wrong, no matter how slight, and then we tried to figure out what it would cost to make our true love in as good condition as a new boat.

And so it was; we started on the list.  The major things that actually put fear into our hearts weren’t all that bad (in theory!).  We wanted easier sail handling, so we ordered Leisurfurl In-Boom Furling.  The leaks that bugged us were in the pilot house, so we started destruction and a complete rebuild of that structure.  Teak decks a little soft?  We will rip them off and re-glass, and then re-teak the decks. The wiring?  That threw us, but then I bit the bullet, and we started to tear out all the wiring on the boat and will be re-wiring like a new boat.  Stem to stern.

We’ll see just how  long the blush stays on that rose!

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