The Triangle: sides 2 & 3
Vegetarian consumed by carnivorous food locker!
How’s that for a tabloid-worthy attention-catching opener?
A couple of days ago, in our previous post, I dispelled any notion that we had launched Ariose, and were off enjoying the cruising life. Our summer has been consumed – literally – by
preparations, and we are now really under the crunch of the project management triangle (time – scope – cost). I shared a bit in that last Ariose Note about the “time” challenges that had grown over the course of the summer. The other constraints have also become daunting.
The second side of that triangle that’s keeping us grounded refers to the project scope. What did we / do we need to accomplish to make our adventure happen? Lots! Our solid but basic 1969 Alberg 30 needed many enhancements to ocean cruise, and our solid but basic 1963 & 1965 selves needed to learn a lot to pull it off. Our initial task list included nearly 300 items. The list drove us. Well, perhaps I should say it drove me, and Tim tolerated me and my list.
What size of solar panels would we need? How the heck are we going to mount them on our narrow boat? Yeah, your design for an arch for them looks perfect, Tim. Little did we know, though, the many, many hours it would take to source the stainless for that arch, and time that would be eaten up waiting for fittings from California that never did arrive.
So that’s how the bilge pump is mounted. A little gungy down there under the engine, isn’t it Tim? Knowing we’d be engaged in a battle to keep the seas out of Ariose, we didn’t want to skimp on pumps. Bilge pump cleaned, manual pump repaired, secondary pump bought, tested, installed, water sensor/alarm installed to wake us from even the deepest sleep should the pumps not be doing their jobs – check!
Another minor plumbing upgrade on the list was adding a sink in the head. Oops! (That’s a substitute for what Tim actually uttered when he discovered that he is a little too strong for Ariose’s own good.) In removing a fitting, he dislodged the thru-hull. For those not familiar with thru-hulls, they are essentially a hole in the boat. Yes, most sailboats, as foolish as it sounds, have several holes in their hulls. They allow us to intentionally take on water (like to supply taps, cool the engine) and expel water (sink drains, engine cooling water out). Keeping the boat afloat is dependant on their integrity! Dislodging the thru-hull was not good no matter how confident we are in our bilge pumps. But heck – Tim’s strength brought an opportunity to learn how to repair this essential part. A little research, some calls to find the right adhesive caulking, a trip into town to buy it, and then we cleaned the fitting, re-installed it, waited a week for it to cure, and tah dah. Done. Not a big deal after all.
We need a radio licence? But there’s no courses being offered locally this summer. Self-study package purchased, and we dove in. It was lots of fun learning radio speak in the evenings (puts a new twist on pillow talk!) but we also triggered some latent anxiety as we youtubed actual mayday calls. We found local examiners willing to give up a precious summer Friday evening to test us (thank you Rick & Anne). Do we now hold our radio operators licence? Roger! One more important item off the list. Then we had to make a decision on which VHF radios fit our needs and our budget and buy them. Done.
Getting a windlass to preserve our backs when hauling hundreds of pounds of anchor and chain was also on the list. On the topic of chain, guess we need to make another trip to southern Ontario to pick that purchase up – less expensive than shipping 300 pounds. To take a quick tangent into the subject of cost, the 3rd side of the project triangle topic, I really must comment that Purolator and Canada Post have surely profited from our upcoming adventure. And while we’re on that tangent, windlasses cost what!? Thanks to Kijiji, we found a perfect, next-to-new one to complement our gear, and were just left with what we thought was the minor detail of determining how to configure the limited space on our bow to mount it and the rest of our anchor gear. New suite of sails – check! Setting up the rigging for the new storm jib looks straightforward; we just need to add an inner forestay. After we got over the shock that the cost for one small stainless fitting for that forestay was double the price of the sail itself, it was back to google to seek out other options. Then we discovered that we needed additional backstays to counter the forward forces that would be placed on the mast. That smell you may notice as you read this blog is a visa card melting. Or maybe it is the smell of drilling more holes into the fibreglass deck or aluminium mast to finish this rigging upgrade.
What else? Medical check-ups, prepping the first aid kit, vaccinations – check! Fresh water tanks installed; deck hardware off, cleaned – check! (I never thought I would harbour such animosity toward something as innocuous as silicone nor would I appreciate how useful fingernails are for cleaning out bolt threads). Leaky spots repaired; electrical plan designed, and redesigned, and redesigned; hoses re-routed; long days of working on our knees, backs bent, and aging bodies complaining loudly at days end as we prepared the deck for painting. Designs sketched, things measured, measured again, cut, sanded, drilled, filled, re-drilled, polished, grinded, cleaned and cleaned again, resined, bedded, painted, paperwork completed, … and more … and just like that, the summer was over!
In theory, we should have focussed our scope on the need-to-haves, and stayed away from the nice-to-haves. With our apparent surplus of time, we initially cast a broader scope than we now know was wise. Hindsight! If we had stuck to the priorities right from the beginning, though, we would have missed lots of opportunity and created challenges for completing some work in future. Everything is interconnected on a boat. Installing a new stove opened a window to bring much needed additional storage on board by building a bookcase into the support wall.
Do we really need to paint the deck? Yes, we needed to re-bed leaky deck hardware, but we could probably have afforded to ignore the slight spider cracks for a year. But taking the hardware off is such a big job and tackling spider cracks early is prudent. Ariose is on land and covered, making painting much, much easier to do now rather than later. Let’s get it done now. Having to disconnect the sink drain every time we needed to do anything on the engine was a major inconvenience. Let’s install it in a better location while we’re reconfiguring the galley anyways. Ariose’s deadlights leaked (if you are wondering – that’s the rather ominous name for the fixed windows on a sailboat), and had caused some structural damage. Their plexiglass was marred and although not having a clear view outside was a minor irritant, polishing the scratches out while they were removed would only take an hour or two. Let me at them! We pulled the floor up to tackle some plumbing. We might as well refinish it while it’s up … that maple could gleam… no … enough! The sole can wait.
Then, as if we didn’t already have enough tasks on our to-do list, other items got added as the summer progressed. Trying to secure insurance was one culprit that caused the work to grow. A seemingly simple requirement that we confirm that the fuel hose adheres to regulation is just one example. After a full day of Tim performing some remarkable contortionist moves to inch the ½ full diesel tank from its holding place aft of the engine under the cockpit floor, we were finally able eyeball the stamp on the hose. Whew! It does meet standards. Next?
The third side of the triangle is that which we have the least control over and has caused the most night-time tossing and turning: cost! We have tackled this project with frugality. It’s our choice to take a break from paid employment while we are still able to pursue this dream, and it feels right to our ethical barometer to not be drawn into rampant consumerism. Well, despite our good intentions, we burned through our initial budget – about the same amount as what we paid for the boat – with alarming speed. After examining what remained on our list and weighing that against how committed we were to making our cruising happen, we agreed to adopt a poker strategy and double-up. Even with that added infusion, we knew it was still a gamble. We set aside the same amount again with an aim to have a healthy chunk left over to fund us once underway.
We did find a few deals along the way. We managed some second hand buys, and scouring through a boat wrecker’s lot scored us some great finds ($900 whisker pole for about $50!). Through the kindness of strangers, we also saved a few dollars. One day, while following the 6th staff through the 4th department of a local hardware store without getting any closer to finding the product I was looking for, a fellow customer offered assistance. He owned a local glass shop, and had the exact item we needed left-over from a previous job. One phone call to his staff, and he sent us off to pick up it up – at no cost! At another time, we had exhausted options for bending the stainless tubing for our solar panel arch, when a casual acquaintance offered us some reclaimed TTC subway hand-rails. Remarkably, they were the exact gauge and angle we needed (thanks so much Brian!). Tackling so much of the work ourselves, though, definitely has saved us volumes.
Steps for climbing the mast retail for about $30 and up per step. Tim designed ours, and by doing the cutting, bending, and coping, we only needed to pay a professional to do a single weld per step giving us a safer, stronger option at a fraction of the cost.
A much more common experience, though, was for items to be far more expensive than expected. We are learning the hard truth in the saying that a boat is a hole in the water that you pour money into. It is critical to use stainless steel, especially when exposed to a salt-water environment, but oy, the cost of stainless!
You would expect it to be gold plated.
At times, even when we believed we were sourcing Canadian items (thinking we were on a Canadian retailer’s website), products actually came from the US, causing us to incur customs fees, not to mention the unfavourable exchange rate. Here’s one of many examples: a personal locator beacon (PLB) is an amazing little device. Should we push “the” button on it, a signal to the American and Russian satellite systems broadcasting our exact location and salient details will like magic, be received by search and rescue. About $300 was designated in the budget for our PLB. We found a model with great reviews that retailed at $266 at an outdoor store we often drive by. We ordered it online then were shocked to note the $400 visa bill. Ah, that was 266 American dollars! Well, we thought, it is important safety gear that if we need it, we know we won’t regret spending $100 more than budgeted. When attempting to complete the required registration, though, we discovered that it did not have an id number accepted in Canada. We then needed to ship it off to an authorized programmer, pay $40 in shipping and an $80 service fee to change the number, and now can register it. And so it goes…
Some well intentioned family and friends have attempted to console us. We were making a good investment, they’ve reassured us, meaning that when we sell Ariose someday, she’ll be worth that much more. Well, not really. Yes, she will be worth more, but an older boat has a top end market value that is far lower than what we’ve put in. We joke that when that dark day comes, we’ll strip every stainless steel nut & bolt off her and get more for that bling than the boat itself. Maybe that’s a plan, not a joke.
But actually, pursuing this dream is one of the best investments we’ve ever made. It’s brought a spark of anticipation in our lives, and every day, it has stretched our brain’s power and polished our hands’ skills. We know ourselves and each other better – how can you not when working hour after hour, side by side in an at-times claustrophobic space? Although this race toward the finish line is not what we had hoped for, there is immense satisfaction in what we’ve accomplished, and that is ours to enjoy regardless of outcome.
Are we going to complete the necessities before the locks on the New York canals that will carry us to the Atlantic close November 15th? That leaves us 3-4 weeks before we need to launch. Back to the gambling metaphor, we give it about 2:1 odds that we will be able to pull it off. Our next Ariose Note will follow in about a month’s time and it will either be a “We’ve launched!” or a “We’re grounded for the winter and cruising in 2017” post.
Late breaking news: just checked the NY Canals website and see that this year the locks close November 20th. That 5 day bonus sure improves our odds. Okay, time to get to sleep. Need to be on the work-site early tomorrow morning…
While we head to bed, we’ll leave you with a slideshow of some more of the summer’s accomplishments. Do be warned – unless you are a real keener about boat repair, it may also put you to sleep. Good night.