Now everything began to move very fast… The thing about a 32ft sailing boat is that you can’t hitch it to the back of your car and drive it back to Ireland! My (yes, MY!) boat needed to be sailed back -
Sailing isn’t like hopping into the car, turning the key, and heading off down a road whenever you feel like it.
Sailing is a thoughtful action, and it needs to be planned.
There is a sailing season (roughly between May and October). Weather, winds, currents and tides all need to be checked, and double checked. A course needs to be planned and plotted on charts (a.k.a. sea maps). How long it will take depends on the wind, currents, waves, tides… will the boat be crossing shipping channels? (where all the giant tankers and ferries and enormous ships plough through the seas) The boat needs to be made ready to take to sea, and filled with provisions: diesel (to feed the engine), food (to feed the crew), water, safety gear, charts, fire extinguishers, compasses, radios, cooking pots and pans, unbreakable plates and mugs, sea sickness tablets, condensed milk…
But wait! Before ANY of this -
The boat needed to be safe at sea - and I needed a survey.
Lucky for me - One of the best boat surveyors in the UK lived just up the road from where the boat sat. And my boat was already in a working boat yard. So any work that needed to be done, she was in the right place to do it.
A survey for a boat is a bit like the NCT for your car. You get a list of everything that needs to be done to make the boat safe at sea, and a list of recommendations. The list I got included many things I expected, many things I did not, and was basically a list of to-do items. I packed my bags, as at this stage I believed a week of work would be enough to have her ready to sail (oh how innocent I was!) and I set off to go work on the boat.
The first bit of work is actually rather boring - We needed to CLEAN EVERYTHING. Every nook and cranny, every surface, every corner and locker. Under the floor, around the engine -until everything is clean, you can’t really see what needs to be done properly. So we (my two brothers and I) cleaned the boat inside and out. We found an old bottle, a coat, a lighter, and even a wasps nest as we scrubbed and scoured - It had been years since anyone had cleaned or used the boat… And unlike a house, since the space is so small, you have to twist your body into weird and super uncomfortable positions to reach anywhere!
Every morning, I threw on a pair of leggings on under my jeans, and off we went, stopping by the chandlers (the name for a shop that sells boat stuff) and picking up sandwiches and crisps for lunch later in the yard. In the evenings, grimy and sweaty and tired, I’d wipe myself down with baby wipes, take off my jeans (so my lovely leggings gave me some semblance of looking slightly respectable), drive the 90minutes back to the city, and grab a take out somewhere, before falling into a deep sleep on the couch, ready to wake early and start all over again the next morning…
We resealed one of the windows that was leaking, and fixed more leaks in the cockpit using epoxy. We blasted tunes, scrubbed and taped the hull, and then I primed it and painted it dancing to Public Enemy’s Harder Than You Think (on repeat) when everyone else in the yard had already gone home. Little by little, we started to cross off items on the to-do list…
What I learnt: The boat was no where near ready to sail away. There was a lot of work to be done by the yard - The mast needed to come down and be put back up again - the valves and sea cocks needed to be checked, and some re-sealed or replaced. The electric’s needed quite a bit of work. The boat was basically just like a business - there is always something to be done, and at the beginning, there is always heaps more work to do that you think!