So you’re sailing to Mexico…are you rich, retired, or just stupid?

Like many, I have an instinctive predilection to shroud myself in ambiguity as a natural defense mechanism. After all, if you gloss over the messy guts of a thing, you never really have to defend the truths at the center, be it past action, future plan, or pervading emotion. It is an easy method of avoiding embarrassment but, at best, it is a passive way of being disingenuous.

So, while it wouldn’t be impossible to recount at length all the improvements I’ve undertaken on the boat without also delving into the actual financial costs of those projects–in fact, most blogs I’ve found are quite successful at furtively shielding those figures from the light of transparency–it would pose a willfully less complete history and consequently, in my eyes, be less interesting. And since the question of money is implicit at the center of all adventures at sea, I’ll endeavor to treat it with frank honesty. If, at any point on this blog I start to slide into vague platitudes, be suspicious.

To quote Sterling Hayden from his 1963 autobiography, Wanderer:

“To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen, who play with their boats at sea–‘cruising,’ it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.”

Leaving aside the fact that my journey is, indeed, an exercise in cruising, or as he so ably skewers it, “playing at my boat at sea” I am tickled by this passage. Smug and self-important? Sure, but welcome to Sterling Hayden ladies and gentlemen. What he also expresses so brilliantly is discontent at the status quo. At an inability to appreciate–no, to even be able to see a thing at all–unless you are in peril of destroying it (or perhaps already have done so.) Echoes of that same dissatisfaction probably drive my own voyage; that same financial unrest certainly does.

As a good-natured tip of the cap to the great expense of boat ownership, $1,000 is often abbreviated with the term boat buck. I bought my boat in July 2018 for 24 boat bucks. That was more than I expected at the time to spend (I had been seeking more of a fixer-upper) but I fell in love with the lines, the condition, and had full confidence that the previous owners were exactly the kind of meticulous caregivers that I needed to purchase from. Then comes the out-of-water survey, another buck-and-a-half, however without which, it is nearly impossible to secure an insurance policy or find a marina berth. Taxes? A couple more boat bucks before I can blink.

a lotta boat bucks sitting placidly on the bow

A new electric windlass (winch for my anchor chain)? You guessed it, another boat buck. Rightfully it should have been several, but I chanced ordering off of a Spanish flash site that my research showed most often (though certainly not always) delivered the purchase. A buck for 275′ HT 5/16″ G43 galvanized chain, US made (Acco). Half a buck for the anchor itself, once the stainless swivel, and bridle are included. Professional help cutting a hawse hole, installing the windlass, and wiring the dedicated battery to the aft charger, along with some other rigging projects? Easily 3 bucks. New Lewmar self-tailing primary winches to make it easier to single-hand my boat? Yeah, that’s a couple bucks. Sail-o-Mat windvane autopilot bought used from a neighbor? Bordering on another buck. New Raymarine Axiom GPS chartplotter? Another bu–hey not so fast, partner. That was only half a buck, thankyouverymuch. Radome upgrade? Even used/refurbished, the Raymarine Quantum wireless unit was still a bit more than a buck and more than 6 weeks late in delivery to-date. Haul and DIY bottom paint/windvane installation at the Napa Valley Marina? A screamin’ deal at a buck and a half.

I’ve also installed new headliner in the V-Berth (twice, since it looked so bad the first time), refinished the exterior teak (scrubbing, acid wash, then multiple coats of StarBrite Teak oil sealer), recaulked the exterior teak trim as well, installed a new VHF and line to the masttop antenna, put in a 1000 Watt true sine wave inverter (Xantrex, to match my extant battery charger) for AC power when underway.

out with the old…got a whopping zero point two boat bucks from this 18y/o setup on craigslist

May I remind you, my friends, that this laundry list took place on a boat that was in truly wonderful shape (and appraised for 38 whole boat bucks) when I purchased it. But, systems break down or become antiquated over time, and getting ready for a multi-year voyage has different demands than does living aboard in a marina. Still, it does make my approximately 5 item “pre departure to do” list from last August look hilarious in retrospect though. As I’m wont to say these days, I can work all day and my list of projects will still be longer at dusk than that dawn. That’s the problem with actually learning what you’re doing, I reckon. Eventually you start to lose the blissful advantages of ignorance. That’s also why I’m kicking this voyage off in the next couple weeks no matter what, which may or may not be before I’m so well prepared for it that I don’t have any bucks left to throw at the trip itself. Sterling might well be proud.

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