Category Archives: coring

Letting go of Perfection

Another winter is right around the corner, and once again, Annabel Lee remains right where she’s been for far too long.  No, the work I’ve been doing should have never taken this long, but sometimes health, hurricanes, and life in general get in the way. All the same I do know for certain (with the exception of any unforeseen impending disasters, of which I’ve had enough, thank you very much,) I am on the home stretch. If all goes according to plans (okay, go ahead and laugh. I know the boat gods are even as I type this.) her completely re-cored decks will once again be sheathed in fiberglass, and she WILL WILL WILL be afloat come spring, her decks nice and solid, her engine gleaming and purring, and her new-old mast standing high and proud. I may have mentioned in the past, it’s my delusional optimism that keeps me going. Hey, sometimes you just have to work with what you’ve got.

Now, I’ve heard the whispers. I know what some people are saying. I’m a perfectionist, and until I come to terms with that, the boat will never be done.  And that is true to some extent. For one, no boat is ever truly done –that just goes with the nature of boats. And I am a perfectionist when it comes to the boat, but only to a point. For example, I have a strong dislike for leaking decks, and I believe if you’re going to tear them all up and re-core them, you might as well do it once and do it right. So no, I won’t cut corners there. And I strongly believe that the engine room should be the cleanest, shiniest area on the entire boat, because then if there are any leaks, they are clear and easily located and addressed. But beyond that, I’m actually rather partial to the New England workboat philosophy – minimal brightwork, minimal shiny bits, and simply freshen up the paint once a season.  Let the boat look respectable, let her show she’s maintained, but don’t sweat the finish. Personally, I’m seriously considering simply rolling the hull with a nice, flat, off-white paint.  It’s a look I’m rather fond of, and not just aesthetically.  It’s a look that says, “This boat isn’t just a show piece.”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m the first to admire a truly beautiful, meticulous finish. You’ve got to respect the work and discipline that goes into achieving and maintaining it, and brightwork that gleams with flawless richness is truly a thing of beauty. I’d been that obsessive on my old catboat, Myra Lee, and took great pride in the admiration she attracted. But these days I’m letting go of that ideal. So long as she’s mechanically and structurally sound, I’d prefer  Annabel Lee be less of a show piece and more of a functional, functioning boat. A boat I won’t mind dogs romping around, and one I won’t mind hauling a striped bass aboard. A boat that guests don’t have to remove their shoes to board. A boat that dinghies can thump against all night without concern. A boat I don’t have to pamper. A boat with the lowest maintenance-to-use ratio I can achieve.  A boat I can simply enjoy.

It’s easy to get caught up in the quest for perfection. As a writer, there’s always another sentence we can tweak, and on boats, there’s always something that could shine just that much more.  But there’s a point where it might be best to let go of perfection in exchange for ‘good enough’. Because in the end, once Annabel Lee is finally anchored out, as the sun dips below the horizon as the clouds streak the sky with a magnificent pink and orange display, the last thing that will matter is how shiny her hull is.

And on that note, I found this video had been emailed to me from Jamestown Distributors, and it sums this philosophy up perfectly. It’s well worth watching.

The destruction continues…

I’m counting the days until Annabel Lee emerges from the shed and returns to the realm of sunlight and tides. The quiet corner where she’s dwelled, once solitary and serene, has over the last few months become a somewhat hellish place of earsplitting noise as compressors, grinders and sanders all tear into hurricane damaged hulls, and a constant layer of gritty white dust that coats everything and everyone. These days, I can’t even hear the passing freight trains — I only know they’re rumbling past when the boat begins to shake.  But progress continues. The bridge is solid, smooth, and sealed up tight as a duck’s rear end. Likewise for the transmission, along with much of the other leaks in the engine room. The salon windows will receive some temporary attention until we can focus on them further. But as our days with the boat indoors, under a roof and out of the weather count down, there’s one last region of leaks I’d intended on eradicating, and though I knew it wouldn’t be pleasant, it had to be done. The forward and side decks.

I’m sure thirty-five years ago these decks looked lovely and seemed like a good idea. True, they had their charm, but at present they weren’t far behind the bridge, and left unattended I knew only too well where their advancing leaks would lead. It was time to be ruthless.

It was painful, ripping the first planks up. But before long I was discovering how many fasteners were all but gone. These decks were on their last days, with or without my help. And in short time, I’d already cleared a large area.

Once all the teak is gone, I’ll strip off the bedding, drill and fill the holes, and this time around it should (theoretically) be a simple case of laying down some biaxial cloth with yet more epoxy, and finishing it off with some non-skid.  After the structural issues entailed in reconstructing the bridge, this should be a whole lot simpler, easier, and faster. At least, that’s my hope, but whatever the case, it needed to be done. I’m just looking forward to the days when I’ll have more time to focus on my writing, aboard a tranquilly floating, dust-free and relatively leak-free boat.