Hurdles and obstacles
Our path towards setting sail was full of hurdles and obstacles. It often felt like the procession of Echternach, taking one step forward and regressing two, with several severe issues holding us back. But we tried to use our time as productively as possible.
Arthur spent a lot of time doing research on what we needed (equipment, documents, insurance, …). He budgeted and planned everything in advance. So once we found our perfect boat, it was just a matter of executing the masterplan. We bought the boat, de-registered, re-registered, insured it and did the main conversions to a full live-aboard family cruiser in about 6 weeks’ time. We did not have much time to sit around idly. But it all worked out in the end.
Moving onto a sailing yacht with your family and getting to know the confined space is not so much a mental thing. It happens primarily in a physical manner. You bump your head at least five times a day, resulting in a skull full of bruises and a persistent headache. The frequent blows compress your vertebra. Your long giraffe neck is shortened by a few inches.
You bump your head that much that you start to wonder if you should throw away the sailor’s caps and rather get hard hats for the family. Same goes for other body parts. Shins, knees, and hips get chafed and bruised. And especially the toes. When you move things on and off the boat you don’t want to leave black marks on the deck, or scratch the wooden floor, so you don’t wear shoes. Exposing your soft little toes to get hooked in the most awkward places.
6 Phases in moving onto a boat
There are six distinct phases in moving onto a boat and converting it to a live aboard:
1. Grooming phase
It starts off with the grooming phase, where you like what you see and you embellish it to your liking. You have spotted the raw pearl inside its shell and are determined to bring out its shine. Off you go, cleaning inside and outside, washing everything, … At the first sparkle, you move all your personal belongings inside. Then you continue scrubbing down the deck, removing all the marks of rust, water, mould. You sand and oil the wooden strips. Remove all the marks on the sides, scrub off the fenders, … You fix up some small dents on the outside.
2. Acquaintance phase
This is followed by the acquaintance phase: You are getting to know your boat inside out. She keeps you intrigued, sharing some of her secrets and keeping some mysteries to herself. She racks your brain: Why on earth did they wire it like this, why did they put a switch here and not there. You try to figure out the water system, the different tubes, valves and pumps. The previous owner kept the boat well maintained, everything was up to scratch. But he left many question marks open when it came to the why of things. We suspect that he preferred the fun part of sailing and outsourced the maintenance to different technicians. This is an important difference between marina sailors and live aboard cruisers.
3. Honeymoon phase
From there you slip in the honeymoon phase: She has stolen your heart. You’ll do anything to conquer her. You order all types of equipment from everywhere in the world to start your life together. All nicely wrapped up, boxes are delivered every day to impress her. Everyday feels like Christmas. Parcels, parcels, more parcels. The waste containers in the marina are bulging with cardboard boxes and Styrofoam. Bit by bit she gives in. Together you will make it.
4. Commitment phase
The commitment phase: You are fully committed to one another. But, the initial pink cloud starts to lift and cracks become visible. You’ve put her under stress for the first time, and repairs need to be done. Turns out there is a bit of rot on the crossbeam she’s been hiding for years. No major train smash, but better to sort it out right now. Cutting away deep into her inner core, taking out all the crap, patching it all up and making it stronger. For several days you are a contortionist artist. You wrestle yourself in the strangest corners to make her happy. Taking drills and cutters in confined spaces, regularly kicking yourself in the face and pulling your own arm out of the socket. Once the rot is out, you fill it up with hard wood and resin. Getting high down below. Not for claustrophobic people!
5. Consolidation phase
Those new items you’ve purchased that go so well with the design, have to be installed and fitted. Cutting through partitioning in confined spaces sends small specks of fibreglass everywhere.
At the end of the work day, you feel like a cactus. A nice shower with a good scrub sorts you out temporarily. But everyone on board seems to suffer from prickly bum syndrome. At night, looking for some TLC, you crawl into your partner’s arms, but as you approach him you get stung and sting him straight back. Just like the story of the two hedgehogs.
This phase is finished off by the spaghetti-stage. Once installed, all the new electronics need to be connected: Wiring, wiring, and more wiring.
6. End of the tunnel phase
End of the tunnel phase: Things are starting to shape up, you and the boat are ready to sail the seas.