Jan 042013

Now that a new old boat has arrived in my life I’m finding myself on a serious learning curve. It’s not because it’s a bigger boat [while that does require some adjustment to approach and technique in the confines of the marina] but because it has a few more mechanical systems that the old boat never had i.e. an inboard motor. As a result, I’m feeling more like a diesel mechanic apprentice rather than a sailor at the moment.

The topics for research seem endless at the moment. For example:

  • Where are the filters?
  • How much water should there be in the bilge due to the stern gland drip?
  • What’s the technique to hand-start the motor if the battery runs down?
  • How much fuel does the tank hold?
  • Why does all that sooty black stuff exit the exhaust? Is it because the motor hasn’t run for 6 months or is it because the air filters are clogged?
  • Are the propeller and shaft properly protected by sacrificial anodes? What’s the best material for an anode in fresh water?
  • How will I stay put at anchor? Do I cave in and use the usual 5m of chain coupled to some anchor line or do I stay true to my more weight [chain] is better and go the all-chain rode route again? What size chain for a 5-ton sailboat? 6mm, 8mm or 10mm?
  • How has the previous owner sailed and rigged the boat? What’s that line for? Where are the spinnaker halyards? How does his single-line reefing work?
  • Cool, there’s a VHF on board, but why does no-one answer when I call? Oh, ok, the antennae was disconnected.
  • The navigation lights – sailing, motoring, anchor light, deck lights? Do they work? How do I select the different modes? I’ll have to label that switch panel a little better I think.
  • What about CoF’s? Who inspects the vessel? Does it need slipping to get this done or not?

And so the list of things to get my head around continues to expand as I dig into each and every corner of the boat. And I’m loving it. The previous boat, after 8 years together, fit like a glove. It was almost as if I thought and the boat responded automatically. The new one is far from that stage but will hopefully grow on me to the same extent.

That’s why a skipper should live with a boat and sail her for a good couple of years I think. It’s also one of the reasons I believe in getting my hands dirty and doing as much as possible myself in terms or maintenance and upgrades. The more hands-on you are, the better you learn the boat and the closer you get to that “hand-in-glove” relationship.

And while all the learning is happening, don’t forget to sail the boat! Take her out in calm weather, moderate weather and stormy weather. Gently probe the limits of the boat-skipper-crew team and learn the boat. After all – we own our boats to sail them, not to just work on them!!

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