It is almost a guarantee that when browsing the numerous articles on repainting the below-the-waterline portion of a sailboat with anti-fouling paint–a copper-based concoction meant to discourage growth of both flora and fauna on the bottom of a boat, commonly shorthanded as bottom paint–the author will introduce the topic in such a way:
“You realize you can’t put off that time-honored scourge of boat ownership any longer; your boat must be hauled and you must confront the messy, sweaty, and foul-language inducing task of scraping, sanding, and stripping by-any-means-necessary of the previous coat(s) of noxious bottom paint. The sane among us pay professionals in a yard, the rest of us soldier through what is undoubtedly one of the lowlights of boat ownership.”
Something to that effect, anyway. I, for one, couldn’t disagree more. I relished the opportunity to haul my boat in a DIY yard and tackle the project on my own. This is not to suggest that the project was in any way NOT messy, sweaty, and foul-language inducing, just for me it represents one of the few times that I feel any sort of mastery of my domain. You see, prepping, sanding, and painting I know. Maybe my first job way back in a grade school summer break was painting our family home. Many houses have followed that first. I’ve prepped and painted cars. I’ve done an awful lot of plaster prep (essentially, masking, sanding, and gluing of walls). No, I had never previously worked with this toxic blend of cuprous epoxy but the same principles are at play: sand, mask, wipe, and put on multiple thin coats. To some it may be an onerous job, but to me it really helped me feel in charge of my boat, and restore some minor sense that I am capable of caring for it in the ways that it needs and deserves.
One of the great struggles I have with boat ownership is the constant tension between the tasks that I see need to be done against my own limited capacity to perform them. In those low moments when I just want to crawl into bed and put the covers over my head it feels like everybody else who owns a boat just implicitly has the wide-ranging knowledge and skills that caring for a sailboat demands. I am not a master carpenter, electrician, plumber, tailor, pilot, celestial navigator, or frankly really any other moniker that might be pertinent to a vessel. Neither do I have the money to pay a professional for every service within these realms. So, I’m left internet searching, and book reading, and anguishing, and eventually moving forward on my own. I’ll be honest with you: there have been a wide range of outcomes. If I didn’t care so much about the boat, I might not be so put-off by shoddy/imprecise/inconsistent/ugly/incorrect work. Lamentably, I do and so I am.
It is no real tangent here at all to state that I also mounted my Sail o Mat windvane on the transom of Shearwater while she was out on the hard. I purchased it second hand from a neighbor of mine in Richmond a few months back, and installation involved drilling four largish holes through the hull in a relatively precise fashion. I…may or may not have done it correctly. I’m not being dramatic, there actually is ambiguity there, since I am waiting on delivery of the requisite blocks (sailing pullies) to finish the interface between the windvane and the steering wheel. Then I will have to trial it at sea before the jury is back with a verdict. I can tell you, however, that due to a variety of factors that I did not properly account for, the windvane paddle extends further into the water than they recommend as ideal. And maybe that’ll be just fine, he interjects hopefully, but I’ve done a lot of online searching, and blog reading, and all I can find are people who seem to have installed their system if not effortlessly than certainly flawlessly, and I’m left to wonder is it really that I am just less skilled than I need to be (and than my boating peers) or are people so in the habit of projecting only the best of themselves that I’m making that classic blunder of comparing apples to oranges? I see my own insecurities and failures but can only see the curated version of other people, in precisely the manner they want to be perceived? I mean, that much is obviously true, but whether it encapsulates the reason why I feel so relatively inadequate as the master of my boat is ambiguous.
Gosh, it could well just be that one calendar year is simply not enough to learn and hone all the skills of boat ownership. Which, I obviously state to help myself contextualize these feelings, but at the same time, what difference does that context make when the electrical jobs need to be performed today?! Confidence in eventual competence doesn’t get the job done in the here and now.
All of which is to say, I’m working a lot on the boat. Sometimes I feel good about it. Most times I feel a debilitating anguish like I’m in way over my head. Welcome to my process! I can’t say that it works well, or that it is healthy, but boat or no boat, it is definitely all mine in a very familiar way.