All boats are subject to wear and tear. Regular maintenance can keep up with the day
to day stuff, but over time bigger, non-urgent but necessary maintenance items
accumulate. Paint ages. Portlights craze. Varnish fades. If you happen to be living
aboard, as I was for nine years or so, it is almost impossible to do the bigger tasks
without a major disruption to your everyday life. Your stuff is in the way of the project,
and you don't want sanding dust / paint / varnish to get on everything.
So, in my case, the maintenance was simply deferred. Eventually, outside events
conspired to make me give up the liveaboard lifestyle (my father, who was in his
eighties, finally decided to move to Florida and live with me so I could look after him).
Fortunately, I was able to find a house with boat dock that suited our needs and was
Now, an extensive refit of a sailboat is a big project. The size of the project didn't faze
me, and I knew it would involve learning new skills and polishing up old ones. But it is
also an excuse to buy new power tools, and what male can resist that? The hardest
part was that I knew that once the project began, Sloop Du Jour would essentially be
"unsailable" as she would be in various states of disassembly for the duration. Well, if
it has to be done, do it and get it over with, I thought. But do it right. That means
incorporating all those improvements that I've thought of, but never had time to do, as
part of the project.
Once the decision to start was taken, another reared its ugly head: where to start?
The engine room? The cabins? The cockpit? The deck? They were all crying out for
I decided that for the most part I would work on the boat's exterior first, working from
stem to stern, since the outside was badly in need of repainting and associated
repairs. However, to use my limited time efficiently I realized that I would have to have
several sub-projects going simultaneously.
Let me explain why this is so. To keep my personal economy going, I find it necessary
to do the work-for-a-living thing, and that usually means going to the local office or to a
client site. Most of our clients aren't local, so that can mean flying out of town for four
or five days at a time. Obviously, no work on the refurb project happens during that
business trip, so it's important to maximize the usage of the available time.
So I came up with this hierarchy of priorities on how to spend my available project time:
- If the weather is good, I work on the boat itself (at the dock)
- If the weather is not so good, I work on a sub-project in the workshop (aka
Many of the sub-projects also tend to take a long time overall but require only short
intervals of work. For example, it takes only a few minutes to apply a coat of finish to
teak parts, but you then have to wait a day for it to dry before applying the next coat.
This type of work lends itself to doing in the evening after a day at the office.
Refurbing - Background