Making progress without moving forward...


Efforts to get First Light ready to splash continue. This stint was supposed to be the one where we finished up the last of the items keeping the boat on dry land. We made some good progress, but we were also forced to push the launch date from next month to a month yet to be determined. Making progress without moving forward: a paradox likely familiar to many a sailor. 

On the progress side, the repair of the hardtop over the aft deck, the one that supports the solar array, is finished. The job took longer than hoped but not as long as feared. It also came out looking better than it might have, thanks in large part to Deb's expertise with paint and primer. I can shoot a mean coat of color, but brush and roller efforts often end up looking like a Kindergartner's project gone awry. While she made my repair look better than it deserved, I crawled around in the dirt under the boat sanding prop (times two), rudder (times two), and drive shaft (times 2). Trawlers, it turns out, have a whole lot more going on under the water than do sailboats. The complex shapes of much of that stuff makes hand sanding the best approach. Slow going even with 40 grit paper. But by week's end all the shiny metal bits that hang down in the wet had been covered with several coats of dull grey. Spray cans I can handle.

Part done, part not. We used a good primer first then a topcoat.

All done and snaps replaced. Oh, and by the way, that stretchy shipping plastic
wrap works great to protect things like the teak support poles from stray paint.


One of the first projects we did on First Light was to to replace the busted up ceiling trim in the salon. The last project we did this time around was to replace those trim strips once again; this time with real wood rather than plastic strips pretending to be wood. Plastic seemed like a good idea at the time, it sat pretty in the rack, required no sanding or staining, was cheaper to buy and a breeze to install. But it drooped and warped in the heat, looking even worse than the busted up trim it replaced, and just had to go. Sanding, staining, measuring, cutting and installing took most of a day, but the wood trim looks so much better. Still, doing projects over again is not really making much forward progress.

There are additional issues putting serious brakes on going forward. First Light now sports a hole in her bottom where the thru-hull for the starboard engine cooling water inlet used to be. The thru-hull worked fine during the sea trial and survey, but was found to be frozen tight this time around. Efforts to break it free resulted in the steel handle overwhelming the soft bronze of the shaft. Something that, for a short while anyway, put a serious dent in my mood. Taking angle grinder in hand and chopping that worthless hunk of metal out of the boat brought about a bit of mental clarity. It was far better to uncover the failure now, rather than when the boat is hanging in the sling waiting to be lowered into the water. With one thru-hull already tossed, a second that hasn't always been cooperative may fall to the grinding wheel as well. Sourcing parts and installing them will likely take more time then we have between now and the originally schedule launch date.


Another item making for the delay are electrical modifications needed to address a lack of over-current protection in several circuits. All efforts to contract the work out at some reasonable cost have come to naught. Once upon a time I spent several months completely re-equipping and rewiring a twin-engined sport fishing boat. Modifying First Light to keep the insurance company happy isn't much of a challenge in comparison. But (fortunately) I don't work in a boat yard anymore, special tools, materials, and parts are not lying right at hand.  And (unfortunately) no one is paying me to work on First Light. Sourcing parts, acquiring the necessary tools, and doing the re-wiring needed is going to chew through a nice chunk of $$$ and take many a vacation day. Then there is the gelcoat work at the waterline the obviously has to be done before there is water lapping at that line. Many of the tasks still on our list could be done on the water but, truth be told, they will be much easier to accomplish with parts and supplies a car, not dingy, ride away. In addition, hurricane season draws near. A boat inland, on the hard, is far more secure in the face of another enthusiastic hurricane season. We live two days away from the boat. Should a storm pop up while the boat is at a dock we might be hard pressed to respond in time. Boat-based reasons to stay on the hard, making progress but not moving forward, have piled up.

Yet, for all of that, it is non-marine issues that have us thinking this is a good time to stand in place. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the world is in state similar to that of the boat, making progress without moving forward. There is a new telescope now looking deeper into the cosmos than human kind has ever managed. China is launching a deep space telescope and a space station of its own, increasing the human family's understanding of our place in creation. The LHC is back in service with new and more powerful sensors, delving as deep into the world of quantum as the JWS is into space. The depth of knowledge soon to be ours is nothing short of astounding. But genocidal war now fills the headlines with threats of nuclear exchanges once again being floated by the powers-that-be. Here in America, gun violence is now the leading cause of death among children. Most people now realize that climate change is real and pandemics actually do rage across the planet. But the gains we are making in knowledge are being negated by a lack of wisdom and compassion. We don't know what to do with what we have learned, and we don't seem to care enough about each other to try and figure it out. 

By my modest lights, a good part of the world, including the US, isn't even stuck in place, it is working at going backwards as quickly as it can. So, on a personal level, husbanding resources while keeping money flowing in to offset money flowing out seems like a good idea. In addition, our home base is far inland, surrounded by the people we love most in the world, out of the reach of hurricanes, not in the fire zone of the American West, with plenty of water still falling from the sky and farm land not too distant. The biggest physical threat facing our land home is the occasional tornado and power failures due to heat waves. Pretty low risk stuff compared to many parts of the country, let alone the world. 

Getting back on the water is still our ultimate goal. But, at this moment in time, taking full advantage of the good fortune surrounding our family seems like the prudent thing to do. Getting First Light in the best shape we can manage while giving human kind a chance to figure out what “moving forward” means? For the time being I am pretty content with that being the best way to make some personal progress.


Not a sunset over the water, but still a beautiful sunset over North Carolina.

Older Post Newer Post