Working the Dream

sailors Sep 11, 2018
Working the Dream

Sailing Pristine: the Maintenance Issue

For those of you who open Pristine’s adventures for soothing photos of paradise to help you through your workday, we’re afraid we will disappoint you this time around. For those who want a more realistic picture of what cruising is actually like, you’re in luck. It’s a common refrain that cruising is simply fixing your boat in exotic locations. Common, of course, because it’s true.

Over the past six months, our attitude about the never ending maintenance + surprise problems + trying to understand intricate systems, has developed notably from streams of four-letter words that would make a sailor blush, to something resembling Zen acceptance:

“Uh oh. Baby, have you seen this?” 

”What’s wrong now?” 

”The bleeping [part] isn’t bleeping [relevant function]!” 

[Sigh] “Aaah. Okay. I’ll put it on the list.” 

The list, of course, is so enormous and unfathomable that looking at it would be like staring at the sun, so we keep it prioritized and chopped up into tiny little categories, hidden deep inside a phone app, so we don’t get overwhelmed.

Then we look at whatever’s at the top of the list, and only at whatever’s at the top of the list or else face the paralyzing consequences of task-blindness. Anne Lamott has a well-known book called Bird by Bird, named for her father’s advice about how to tackle a long-procrastinated school project one item at a time. Let’s just say there is a Hitchcockian flock of birds lurking inside our all-knowing task organizer. 

If you think all these organizing strategies have banished all the stress, you’ve ignored all the bleeping that remains in our lexicon. It’s not so much that we mind hard work. It’s more that we’re still in the learning-to-cruise phase where every activity and problem is outside our experience zone. 

Since we spent the money to buy a beautiful, well cared for boat—if we’re honest—we’re a bit terrified of breaking her. But there’s nothing for it but to do our research, locate the right parts, plan out the job, take our deep breaths and go for it.

The cool part is, it always works out. Even when things go wrong, there’s always a way to solve it. And in the end, we come away that much more confident that we know what we’re doing and have earned our job as Pristine’s caretakers.

This joyful outcome has not, of course, stopped all bleeping. But unless we’re completely fooling ourselves—a distinct possibility—it’s diminishing a bit. Here’s a taste of the birds we vanquished while Pristine sat in a slip in LA Harbor. 

Changed oil & transmission fluid, fixed new diesel leak from top of aux tank, went to great lengths to clean up results of said leak in environmentally friendly way, replaced zincs (fridge, raw water strainer, prop & gudgeon), flushed and cleaned raw water strainer bucket and bowl, cleaned seawater filters (3), checked sheaves and connections at top of mast, cleaned backstay and smeared with corrosion inhibitor, cut & installed air flow sheeting around bed cushions, checked all fuses and bought spares to have on hand, installed more shelving non-skid, bought and experimented with pressure cooker (yummy roast chicken in 25 minutes!), got temporary import permit (TIP) for Mexico, acquired fishing gear & permit for trolling in southern waters and bolstered first aid kit. Plus, all the regular maintenance stuff: exercised seacocks, tested EPIRB, deep-cleaned & lubed head, did laundry, provisioned, etc.

Birds still swarming: update boat insurance (current policy only covers as far south as Ensenada), update health insurance from US to global plan, activte sat phone, create a lashing system for jerry cans, get a chain for dinghy, install fans.

Birds lurking: clean bottom, service all 13 winches, complete ditch bag, flush & replace engine coolant, adjust valves, replace propane monitor, create/update lee cloths, re-tailor sheets for updated bed shape, build organizing shelves in seat locker, build protection for sensitive electronics in closet, update CPR/First Aid certifications, update vaccinations, secure air duct, mount guitar & ukulele, and buy everything that might soon be very hard to get from our favorite sunscreen to a replacement lens cap. That and a thousand other tasks that haven’t yet made the list—or that we have yet to discover.

It’s important to be clear that we’re beyond grateful to spend our energy on something that means so much to us. What we’ve learned is to change our perspective—and our language.

Cruising isn’t about living the dream. It’s about working the dream. 

We’re working hard, but we’re working for ourselves. Our startup is a grand adventure for two, and this is exactly what we signed up for.

That said, to balance the working with the dream parts a little better, we’re itching to put some more miles under the keel. Assuming we can sort out all the paperwork in time, the current plan is to cross into Mexico in October and just stay north of the hurricane latitudes until it’s safe to continue south.

Between now and then, we’re negotiating with the weather goddesses to see if we can make it to Santa Cruz Island. We’re currently in Ventura Harbor, waiting on a weather window to skip across the channel. If all works out, we’ll try for a few more photos of paradise next time. 

Fair winds and following seas.

Thanks to warmer water and/or greater electrolysis, our zincs are lasting half as long down south as they did up north

Sometimes the small person is the better tool. On transmission fluid day, one of us was better suited than the other to engine area crouching.

Making sure we have adequate spares of fridge and raw water strainer zincs

Is it really laundry day again already? At least we could find a coin-op. Our other washing machine is a bucket and a plunger.

Which day did we choose to climb the mast? Why, the day it was gusting 30 in the harbor, of course. Thank you, mast steps. 

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