Becoming Boat Wise & Learning the Ropes

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April 2022
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By
April
Winship

Name Reveal - becoming boat wise - marinalife
Name Reveal | April Winship

When meeting a new friend, I find there’s loads to discover … and a new boat is no different. As Rogue One was awakened from her yearlong COVID hiatus and lowered gently back into the water, we were grinning ear-to-ear.

Under the watchful eye of the previous owner, my husband Bruce fired up the engine, shifted her into gear and motored toward the marina. Just as he nervously angled us into our assigned slip, a sudden gust of wind broadsided us. Stretching beyond my normal abilities, I barely lassoed the dock cleat for a safe landing. Whew! First challenge accomplished.

Blame it on the excitement, adrenaline or my fourth cup of joe, but instead of counting sheep that night, I laid awake tallying up the barrage of questions swirling in my head.

Morning came too quickly, and I grabbed a pen to jot down what I could remember from my brain’s overnight wanderings. What does that yellow knob beneath the steering station do? Why is the red fault light on the invertor panel blinking at me? And the most pressing question, what if the contents of the holding tank that sat for way too long is a rock-solid block of you know what?

The growing to-do list beckoned us to action. As I ruminated about where to begin, Julie Andrews' sage advice from The Sound of Music spilled from my lips ... "Let's start at the very beginning... a very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C..."

With this in mind, we began from stem to stern nosing through and emptying out every compartment, locker and cubby. I took inventory of what treasures of the bilge we had inherited, what we would keep and what we would discard. This helped us uncover and scrutinize every square inch of our new home, and the process revealed additional projects that melded into our workload.

We focused on assessing systems that were imperative to our new lifestyle, then graduated outward to the ones necessary for venturing beyond the breakwater.

We first familiarized ourselves with the plumbing, refrigeration, shore power and battery banks necessary for comfortable dockside living. Because of Bruce's engineering background, he is compelled to use check-off lists to keep us on track. Handing the list over for my review, I playfully penciled in a few items of my own. It wasn't even 9:00 a.m., and I had already completed my first two tasks: wake up and have my morning coffee.

Crossing off a few simple jobs such as installing shelving in the hanging lockers, upgrading the dozen cabin lights to modern LED fixtures and repairing the torn seams on our canvas bimini top led to greater confidence to tackle more substantial projects.

With fresh bravado under our belts, we hoisted aboard 450 pounds of fresh house batteries and tamed the colorful bird's nest of wiring lurking behind the electrical panel. I took sole charge of the sanding and varnishing of all the interior teak, which evidently shamed Bruce into elevating my galley fantasies into reality. Measuring twice and cutting once he took his jigsaw to the kitchen counter and replaced the outdated alcohol stove with a newfangled induction cook top. On a roll, he tore out the frustratingly shallow sink and swapped it for a larger, deeper one.

Life was looking pretty good.

Since all work and no play isn't a healthy combination, we took time to walk the docks and meet our neighbors. We were surrounded by a potpourri of boaters: weekenders, cruisers making their way south, and others like ourselves adapting to liveaboard life and learning about their new vessels. New friendships were kindled, and boating experiences were shared.

Ready for Safety Inspection

Maintaining a safe boat, practicing good seamanship habits and being prepared for the unthinkable is of paramount importance to us. So, we enrolled in the free America's Boating Course by the United States Power Squadron. The course not only covered basic boating skills and navigation, but also highlighted what safety equipment was required onboard.

After completing the eight-week course, we wanted to have a fresh set of eyes look over our boat and invited a Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteer to perform a courtesy safety inspection.

Before the visit, I took out a three-ring notebook and gathered copies of our boat's legal documents such as proof of current registration and insurance and detailed the locations of all safety gear aboard. A pre-printed form with the emergency MAYDAY procedures gravitated to the front of the book along with the boat-towing service information and a check list of Coast Guard requirements.

boating certificates - becoming boat wise - marinalife
Receiving Boating Certificates | April Winship

Our focus on personal and vessel safety had paid off as the auxiliary volunteer came aboard and in less that an hour ticked off each item as he worked his way through the inspection. Being prepared earned us a Coast Guard Auxiliary Vessel Safety Check decal, which we displayed next to our boat registration sticker.

As the Florida winter unfolded, confidence in our vessel grew and those nagging first questions and many more were resolved.

Surprisingly, my most gratifying moment had nothing to do with decoding our two-month electrical mystery or successfully replacing an impossible to reach bilge pump.

I was caught off guard by the burst of emotions that swept over me as I smoothed out the edges of our new name decal on the once-empty transom. I sprinted to the next dock to snap photos of our newly christened Rogue One. That pretty little vessel, this new friend I adored, was all ours, and becoming more so with each new day.

Set Sail and Live Your Dreams (Seaworthy Publications, 2019) is the Winships' book about their family's 10-year adventure cruising aboard their 33-foot catamaran Chewbacca. It is available in paperback and e-book editions at Amazon.

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