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Dealing with the Temporary Normal

by Nigel Barron

Like everyone, my plans of late have changed pretty dramatically over the last month. I don’t recall my sailing calendar ever being this empty.

The Pacific Northwest Offshore (formerly Oregon Offshore), Southern Straits, Swiftsure, and now the summer Hawaii races have all been cancelled. While the starts for the Victoria to Maui and Pacific Cup races weren’t until mid-summer, getting ready for an ocean race while respecting social distancing norms is unlikely. On top of that, the aforementioned qualifying and practice races were all cancelled, along with Safety at Sea classes.

Boatyards are open—if operational changes based on current guidelines have been made. At CSR, we’ve closed our office and are having the office staff work from home. That means leaving one person per day in the office to answer phones, take payments, and handle deliveries. We’re also temporarily limiting access to the yard to only employees, assuring we can keep safe distances and control who is coming and going.

With all this time on your hands (other than day use or some anchoring) and not a lot of places to go with your boat, what are the projects you can do by yourself or with just your significant other?

Get Projects DoneOne project always on the list is cleaning. Maybe now is the time for a deep clean on your boat. Something that we do regularly on race boats is to take everything out of the boat. The exercise makes it easier to clean inside, but it also forces you to inventory all the stuff you have and decide what to put back on board.

What about those drawers of miscellaneous spare parts that you have on board? Are they organized? Do you have the belts and filters for your current engine, or did some of it come from an old boat? How are those belts that have been on the boat forever? It’s a lot easier to figure out if you have a problem if the boat is clean to start.

Along the lines of organizing, I have an electronic copy of all the manuals for all the systems on board. If you can’t find an electronic copy, which is pretty rare these days, just plan to scan what you do have. The beauty of keeping this stuff on Google Drive, or somewhere else in the cloud, is that you always have access to it.

I also tend to keep a lot of pictures in my drive of different things on the boat. It’s a lot easier to see if something is different, if a crack got bigger or something moved, if you have a picture to refer back to. Before you take a long trip, download a copy to a USB stick, so even if you don’t have internet coverage, you can still access your manuals.

For sailors, there is not much that is more gratifying than breaking down a winch, which must be done regularly if it’s going to operate correctly. The best part about a winch is that there are no spare parts. If you put it back together and discover an extra spring or pawl, take it apart and start all over again. There are lots of great videos online that can walk you through this process. I also recommend having a paper copy of the exploded diagram of the winch on hand.

The other tip is to do them one at a time. That way, as winches on your boats are typically in pairs, (and if it really goes sideways), you at least have another one to compare it to. People also forget that a windlass is really just an electric winch. Get the diagram, have a look, and see what is recommended. And while you’re at it, take the time to let out all the chain and rode, perhaps on the dock, so you can inspect it. You’d be surprised how many boats don’t have the end of the rode tied off to the boat.

When was the time you cleaned the engine compartment and checked fluids levels? Again, it’s a lot easier to find a problem in a clean space. Take the time before you start to read the manual and maybe watch a video. Time is on your side right now to learn about all these systems on your boat. Maybe you have some other projects you’ve kept putting off because you just don’t have the time. Well, the time is now!

Get some projects done. It gives you direction, you’ll feel good about completing something, and you will be that much closer to getting out on the water again with friends. Above all, be safe and be respectful of those that are still working at Fisheries and West Marine. Everyone is still figuring out this temporary normal.

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