Ithaka


Taming The Lists

By Bernadette Bernon
February 14, 2000
Newport, RI

Thinking back to days of innocence, a mere four months ago, Douglas and I had a list of about 50 small and large projects to accomplish before we moved aboard our 39-footer to go cruising this spring. The list, big as it was, gave our winter weekends and evenings a satisfying, busy-beaver structure. But now, as we look squarely in the face of March, knowing our move-aboard day is only two months away, that original friendly list has become lusty and insatiable, spawning other, far more aggressive lists, and we're beginning to scramble.

Photo of Douglas removing old prop

Douglas pulls our old prop in order to replace it with a Max-Prop, checking off one of the items on our winter-projects list.

Photo of Raycore filter

We plan to add a second Raycor filter, so that if the first filter clogs we can easily switch to the second.

Photo of battery boxOur battery box needs to be rebuilt to accommodate these larger-capacity Rolls batteries.

Chins are stroked as the batteries are considered. ("You'll need more capacity, or you'll be running the engine every day.") Or the placement of some wiring is scrutinized. ("I'd redo it.") Or a sail is found to be delaminating. ("Bummer, you're going to need a new one.") Or the number of filters is frowned upon. ("I'd install another Raycor.") Or a fitting on the packing gland is examined. ("A gossamer connection." Huh, Steve? "It's not strong enough. I'd replace it.") We follow along like puppies, hungrily keeping notes, hoping to be tossed a bone. "Brilliant boat," they finally say. "Love it." "Really robust." We perk up with relief-but our list grows longer.

Lists of upgrades: They're endless. Here's next month's after-work checklist. Rebuild the battery box under the companionway ladder, which accommodated four small golf-cart batteries, to house four new larger-capacity Rolls deep-cycle flooded-cell batteries with Hydro (recombinant) caps. While we're at it, we'll add battery posts and a set of circuit breakers. We'll regrease the seacocks and winches, put new gaskets around the ports, replace the traveler, add a freshwater foot pump to the head sink, figure out a system to lock down the floorboards, and build brackets for the propane and scuba tanks.

Photo of Rolls batteriesThe Rolls batteries are taller, but worth the effort of rebuilding our box.

Lists of things to learn: The French and Spanish courses we'd intended to take have been displaced by a celestial-navigation course, by Michael Carr's intensive five-day Heavy-Weather Avoidance course taught by Michael Carr and Lee Chesneau at the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies in Lithinicum, Maryland, and by the excellent Take the Helm series at put on by the National Women's Sailing Association at Sail Expo in January. Oh, and we're repeating Larry Berlin's diesel-engine-maintenance boot camp, just to be sure we know what we're doing with our iron genny. We still need to learn how to use the radar and the SSB on the boat, as well as the windvane, a trim-tab system with which we're not familiar. All the while, copies of The New York Times Book Review pile up unread at the side of the bed as we devour books on technique by the Pardeys, Steve Dashew, Eric Hiscock-all the masters-and add to our lists the things they say we need to do or learn.

Photo of examing replacement sailThe first of two yard sales netted us the down payment on a new storm trysail and track and on a replacement roller-furling jib. Sailmaker Aaron Jasper and I inspect our old, delaminating genoa.

Lists of arrangements: My friend Nete Ellis has agreed to handle our mail. We've set up a Schwab Access account to allow us to take care of our bills electronically. If any part of this house of cards becomes unreliable from the boat this summer, we have time to switch to one of the established mail-forwarding and bill-paying services while we're still Stateside. Health insurance has been a challenge to obtain, and it looks like I'll have to stay insured through COBRA, an expensive disappointment. As I write, on February 19, Douglas, armed with a fistful of prescriptions from our doctor, has gone shopping for the contents of our onboard medical kit. Next on our list to purchase are the contents of a ditch kit and the extra items we'd like to add to our life raft, which will be opened and inspected next month.

Photo of baby niece HannahHannah.

We signed a contract on our house last week and began to dismantle things, trying to decide what goes in storage boxes, what goes on board, what just goes. I'd hoped to auction some of our furniture on eBay, but we're running out of gas, and we're not that organized. Often, lately, we'll get into a dither over the mundane aspects of letting go and gearing up. It's easier to obsess about diodes and dodgers than to fully grasp how big this all is, how much our lives are really changing.

Early yesterday morning, my stepmother's mother died peacefully at 88. At the same time, my sister-in-law Gina went into labor five weeks early and Hannah Noel Brennan was born, teeny but healthy. She's my brother Mark's first child, my first niece, my dad and Suzanne's first grandchild-all around, it was a big day. That's how it's been going. The snow is melting, the air has changed, and we can smell spring. The clock ticks, but our lists are forgotten for a while as we stare at Hannah.


This article was published as an editorial in the April 2000 issue of Cruising World.

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