How to Repair Your Boat…Conversation

Boat owners have a habit of talking about boat repairs. Which would be fine, except that boat ownership often entails an ongoing string of breakages and repairs. Ask a question like, “How are you today?” and 90% of boat owners will tell you all about how they have been trying, probably frustratingly, to fix something. Or how while fixing one thing they found/broke some other bit.

Most people who do this are not are not asking for help, but rather they are unloading onto anyone within earshot. These exchanges often leave me feeling overwhelmed and confused. I swear I was just being polite and saying hello, not inviting you to lay on the sofa and tell me all your problems. When people do this before you’ve had your second cup of coffee it is down right rude. Quite frankly the whole dialog is exhausting, and after a while I am apt to avoid engaging people all together, particularly early in the morning.

This scenario becomes increasingly tedious when it happens at the bar after 5 o’clock. When we’ve purposely gone ashore to get off our own boat and away from our own boat problems the last thing I want to do it be saddled with your woes without consent.

Beer O'clock in the boatyard
Our standing “Fence Beer” date in the boatyard included a ban on “Boat talk.”

We try to politely steer the conversation away from boat repairs, especially when 5 o’clock and beer are involved. However, people always seem to circle back to the subject. If, after several “Have you read any good books lately?” and “How about those Met’s?” type of interjections the conversation keeps drifting back to boat repairs, we have been known to simply excuse ourselves from the conversation, and the table.

Which is why I don’t often delve into our boat repairs here on the blog.

Even when it takes 3 months to have our engine rebuilt and we discover that they blew up the alternator, damaged the heat exchanger and half the paint peeled off before we even got a chance to turn the key.

Yes, we paid for a paint job
Yes, we paid for a paint job

Or when we ordered a heli coil kit online and it ended up arriving in record time but the inserts were a size larger than the package stated and not being able to effect the repair meant yet another launch delay.

Engine Repairs, helicoil
Using a helicoil to repair stripped screw in exhaust manifold of our newly rebuilt engine.

Or when we discovered, just days before we were finally ready to splash and sail away, that the screen on our chart plotter, which had been removed from the cockpit and stored inside while we were in the yard, went blank 58 seconds after turning the unit on, rendering it useless and us without a reliable navigation system.

Chart Plotter Problems
Chart Plotter Problems

As Emily Post advises, it is not polite to “dilate on misfortunes, ills and unpleasantness.”

Besides, in the end problems have a way of working themselves out. Either you discover that you could live without said broken piece equipment (probably quite happily now that you’re no longer having to make half-assed repairs to it because you can’t find the correct parts), or you are able to make a proper repair or find a replacement item (even though it causes delays, and stress, and challenges your knowledge of profanities.)

The last few months on board Kate have been challenging.

At times overwhelmingly so. However, we choose not to dwell on those set backs. Misery is not the kind of company that I enjoy, nor is it the kind I want to foster.

The Aussie “she’ll be right, mate!” attitude, especially when uttered in the midst of an equipment failure when your dirty and hot and things seem to be spiralling out of control, used to really get under my skin. It made the situation sound trivial, when obviously it wasn’t. But that’s not what it is means. Is it a phrase that is said to remind us that shit happens and stuff breaks and you may have no control over it but, it is temporary, so don’t let it ruin everything. Especially a good conversation.

We are afloat, and a wonderful, calm feeling of being “home” has settled over us and our routines. We are already looking ahead, not only planning our next few stops in the Philippines but our passage to Borneo, the Xmas holidays and where we will ring in the New Year.

As for the boat repairs…



5 Comments Add yours

  1. Bruce&Anne says:

    Wonderfully written Heather, yet again. I really love reading your stuff, and this one really hit home. Earlier this year I found myself in a similar situation – one thing breaking after another and me consumed with repairs and tales of woe. I was not in a good place. So I did something about it. I sold the boat. And now we sail on other people’s boats. We get to enjoy the sailing and they get a sympathetic ear for their tales of woe. Life is good ⛵️

    1. Heather Francis says:

      Sold the boat?! Well, like you said, now in a better place and still enjoying sailing. There is always the charter option! Still, sad to hear we won’t have a chance to share and anchorage and a cold beer one day. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  2. Ann & Greg says:

    Totally agree with you. We have just bought our first boat which needed a few things done to her (as any 19 year old requires) and yes we have many tasks to complete before we set of on our cruising life dream. However we are continually learning how she works, where things are and pretty soon we will be able to leave our marina spot (here in Sydney Aus) on our own! Oh…Did I mention we are not proficient sailor yet!! Life is full of challenges. Love reading your updates.

    1. Heather Francis says:

      Ann & Greg, Congrats on the boat and your impending break out of the marina! Exciting times ahead, try not to get too discouraged, sometimes it still feels like we learn how she works! What kind of boat? Name? Can I find you on Instagram? Thanks for reading, H

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