We arrived in Florida on Monday, February 15, and all our free time has been fully dedicated to getting Sweet Day, and ourselves, ready to cruise. Since Tim has a few weeks left of work, that means most of the days I am navigating this very new world of boating and boat parts solo. And, wow, I've learned (or was reminded of) a ton.
1. There is SO much to learn.
There is not an hour that has gone by that I haven't learned something new. Our boat is our home, car, office, back porch, kitchen, storage, and more which means it comes with all the basic systems and challenges these assets have, plus it's on water. This has meant a crash course in everything from electrical wiring, plumbing, AC/DC circuits, cleaning products, picking the right (and compact) home goods, learning what sounds our engine makes, when to change fuel filters (figuring out what is a fuel filter?), how much oil is needed, and so much more. Not to mention, this is all on top of also learning how to drive the boat; how tight can she turn, how does she steer, what do the different buoys mean, how do you know good weather conditions, and the list goes on. While all encompassing, and exhausting at times, it is very cool to be learning something completely new and out of your element (and far away from Zoom calls).
2. I feel like Sherlock Holmes.
After arriving to St. Pete, we quickly realized there were a lot of parts we still needed to acquire in order to ensure we could complete the repairs. I am tasked with figuring out what we need and how to get it, so Mike, our very helpful knows-everything-about-how-to-fix-boats handyman, could install it. Since most things on our boat are 25+ years old, I quickly learned acquiring things is not as simple as putting in a part on Amazon and it shows up the next day. It's a lot about figuring out and following the clues--my process (roughly) for pretty much acquiring anything, goes a bit like this.
3. Surround yourself with more knowledgable people and be kind (they may even become a friend).
After doing as much research as I could on my own, I often still need help. Being friendly and respectful has been invaluable, and it's fun to create your own new "community" when you're far away from home. I found the number of Steve, the inventor of our generator, online and we had a great conversation about his travels around the US, not to mention his helpful guidance in looking up part numbers for items I needed on the generator. (He's now on speed dial). Kip, my main guy at West Marine, gave me some great recommendations in his home town in Wisconsin for our trip while doing countless laps at least twice a week around the store and google searches helping me find things on my list. John, who did a fantastic job detailing our boat, spent extra time teaching me his tips, and even left a bottle of his special formula for keeping your railings clean. I am so thankful for the extra patience, kindness, and encouragement from those helping us start our journey.
4. Google doesn't always have the answer.
Having been accustomed to having access to "how to" guides for just about anything and never being too far from finding an adequate answer on Google--I'm learning this isn't the case with boating. There are a lot of how-to Youtube channels, and many that cover boating topics, but boats come in all shapes and sizes and often the answers you find may not apply to the problem you're trying to solve. This has been somewhat of a test in patience and confidence. Having spent 30 minutes unsuccessfully trying to screw in a pressure gauge on our propane tank, and watching Mike do it in 15 seconds puts me in equal parts awe and frustration. Like anything, learning these skills and knowledge take time to develop--and sometimes you are forced to rely on nothing but your gut to make a decision. When I ask Mike what we would do without him, he says "wing it" which is a skill I think we'll be fine tuning a lot this year.
5. B.O.A.T. is an acronym, not a noun.
We knew it was going to be costly to get our boat in cruising shape and luckily we budgeted well for it (and why we purchased a less-expensive boat). But we quickly learned boat really means "Break Out Another Thousand." Pontoon seats--a thousand, dinghy davits--a thousand, windlass--a thousand; anchor rode + chain, and the list can go on. Like planning a wedding, there always seems to be an opportunity to upgrade or there is a new, exciting, can't-live-without item to have. It's been a good lesson for both of us on prioritizing and trying a bit more DIY projects (and testing our patience) to cut some costs. (Except in safety, we're willing to spend the $ for that).