Shoving Off & What we learned from our Sailboat Service

Shoving Off & What we learned from our Sailboat Service

We’re beyond committed to this new chapter of our lives, we’re all in.  The piggy banks have been smashed and anything that work on the sailboat has been sold or donated.  We’ve been jumping at every learning opportunity and most days we’re so excited about the adventures ahead we struggle to relax.

There are a lot of different steps to go from landlubber to seafarer, and were trying to share each of them.  However, throughout the process there has been one overwhelming feeling we’ve gotten more than once.  Out of my league, over my head, fish out of water?  None of these phrases quite fit, but I’m not sure what does.

We’re both sensible people (or so I think) and we both came from working class families that busted ass to make ends meet.  I think those humble beginnings are what made us such savers in our sedentary lives.  We never lived above our means and always worked hard to create savings, not debt.

So, it feels strange to purposefully put ourselves back in a no savings position.  However, for some insane reason we know it’s the right thing for us to do. We know what kind of adventure we are about to embark on and we know it’s going to be worth the investment and then some.

As we were gleefully preparing Curiosity and getting ready to shove off the dock we were handed a piece of paper that nearly caused an aneurysm.  It was our service invoice.

OUCH!  Looking at the five figure number I couldn’t help but think to myself, “this is what it must feel like when a guy gets kicked in the nads”.

In all fairness, we had an idea of what we were in for, but we ended up going substantially over our expected amount.  Our survey and haul out had revealed there was some work to do in order to get our boat “off shore” ready.  The survey list was the need-to-do list.  Then there were some wants and small repairs that got added to the list.  Looking over our invoice it didn’t take long to figure out where the money had gone.

Aside from the sticker shock, there was the overall beat down that came with being in service.  It was far more draining than we had anticipated and we felt unprepared for it all.  So, we sat down and thought about the experience as a whole.  What did we learn from this experience and what can we do to make for a better experience next time?  That is what today’s video is mostly about, what we learned from our sailboat service experiences.  That, and saying goodbye to a ridiculously awesome toy as we shove off the dock.

How fantastically silly is that cruzin cooler!?!  I can think of sooo many times I would have loved to have had that thing while RV’ing around the country, not to mention how perfect it would have been for Burning Man.  We did hold a fun little contest and gave it away to one of our Patreons.  The cruzin cooler is now on its way to Ventura California where it will be used to hand out worms to kids at the Rotary Club Fishing Derby and then become a raffle item for the rotary club.  Sounds like the cruzin’ cooler has fun times ahead.

jason wynn cruzin cooler
cruzin cooler on sailboat

Ok, switching gears back to sailboat service.

You may be thinking, but you bought such a nice boat?  Why so much work?  I know it seems crazy but as solid of a boat as our gal Curiosity is, she is still 11 years old.  Nothing lasts forever, especially on a sailboat.  So, while we have a great boat with great bones, there are still a heap of moving parts to consider.  And, we’re quickly learning that it’s not a question of if a part will fail but when it will fail.

When it comes to the safety of our boat we don’t want to cheap out or be unprepared.  Also, preparing and outfitting a sailboat for full time living and traveling around the globe is a different set up in comparison to the recreational sailor and coastal cruiser.

Over the course of the first three months of owning our boat we spent 45 days of it in and out of service with the team at Just Catamarans.  The work is solid, the service guys were great to work with and we learned a ton.  I’ve read a lot of blogs, watched videos and talked to every salty sailor willing. We’ve learned from every interaction but none of it prepared us for being in service.

Lessons learned from Sailboat Service

Dock Fees – Budget for dockage while in service.

Sailboat service isn’t like RV service.  In the RV world it’s common to be allowed to stay on property at no charge while you are in for service.  This is not the case in the boating world.  The service guys don’t own the marina and have to pay for the dockage, which means we have to pay for dockage.  It didn’t seem like a big deal at first but it is surprising how quickly $65 a day adds up.

cleo on patrol

Estimates – Get an estimate for anything and everything.

Getting an estimate may seem obvious.  What we made the mistake of doing was giving the go ahead on small items along the way without first getting an estimate.  “Hey, while you are here, do you know if this small thing can be easily fixed?  It can, oh great let’s do that”.  Doh!  Always get a written estimate first!  We had a few things repaired, that had we taken the time to get an estimate, we would have held off or done the work ourselves at a later time.

clogged black tank
Jason would rather deal with the clogged black tank himself than add another service item to list!

Time Frame – Plan on double or triple the time frame any service center estimates.

Delays were one of the most frustrating parts of being in service.  It left us feeling stuck and tied to the dock when we wanted to be elsewhere.  Sailboats, much like RV’s are unique individuals.  Unlike mass produced vehicles that are carbon copies of one another, sailboats are not as mass produced.  This creates a lot of unknown variables when it comes to service and parts.  Which all leads to delays.  Our new rule of thumb will be this: double or triple the time frame a service adviser gives us.  This way, we’re not disappointed when the delays happen.

crabby dock neighbors
Even our dock neighbors were crabby.

Money – Everything marine is expensive.

We underestimated how complicated marine work is and how important it is to have quality parts.  Certain things, such as our solar install, ended up being far more complicated than we could have ever anticipated.  However, it’s also super sturdy and should take the beating of a hurricane if need be. Then there are the extra maintenance items that keep popping up.  Seems there is always something in need of a tune-up or repair due to the harsh environment of the sea and sun.

Now that we’ve taken care of our major upgrades, and many of the big 10-year maintenance projects, the service budget should settle down.

We’ll keep track of all the numbers and eventually share the costs of everything once we get a chance to break it all down into more appropriate categories.  One things for sure, if it’s a big fix where we will need to be at a service center, we’ll just assume that it will cost us around $1k per day to be at a service dock.

Most written sources we came across told us to expect to spend a minimum of 10% of the boats value in maintenance every year.  In our case that would be at least $30k.  That would be ridiculous and every salty sailor we’ve talked with doesn’t spend anywhere even close to that percentage annually.  Perhaps that might be the case if we never did any of the work ourselves and paid top dollar to have a service center do everything.  But even then, $30,000.00 per year seems crazy. Of course as newbies with an aging boat we’re on par to hit this number when it’s all said and done for year one, but hopefully year two is a different story.

defrosting sailboat fridge
Conveniently defrosting the fridge on a hot summer day while contemplating what our bill total might be.

Cleanliness –  When in service, expect to get dirty, real dirty.

I like to keep a clean boat.  A clean boat means it’s easier to spot a problem…but mostly because it just looks good.  Cluttered or dirty spaces leave me distracted and unable to concentrate.  So, I tend to be extra picky about it all.  A working dock is essentially a nightmare for me.  Everything, everywhere is dirty.  Bottom paint, chemicals, metal shards causing tiny specks of rust everywhere…and the list goes on. Keeping a clean boat while in service is nearly impossible, unless you want to upset all the workers and give yourself a stress-attack. Eventually I decided it wasn’t worth the extra stress to keep a perfectly clean boat, but we did take a soapy brush and water hose to the high traffic parts of the deck each evening after the service guys left. We decided a quick 10 minute daily scrub and an intense two day super clean before leaving the dock would be sufficient.

nikki wynn cleaning the sailboat engine
Engine and engine bilge clean, check!

Education – Service is “free” education.

One very big upside to being in service was learning how to fix things.  Over the course of our time in service, we spent a lot of time asking questions, observing and working on projects ourselves with supervision.  It was like a crash course in mechanics and maintenance.  We learned about everything from engines to patching through hulls.  It has given us the confidence to take on projects and repairs ourselves…thus saving ourselves money down the line.

Jason Wynn repairing generator
Handy man Jason fixing the generator issues with the supervision of Just Cats.
Jason and Kent working out the solar install
Jason and Kent hashing out ideas for our solar install.

Get It Done – Sometimes, we just want the job done.

We could have saved ourselves a good amount of money by doing a lot more of the work ourselves.  But that would have delayed our departure date big time. We had a big, daunting list of things to do before we crossed any oceans big or small.  Coastal cruising wasn’t a problem but leaving civilization was.  We were able to get a lot of work done in a fraction on the time it would have taken us otherwise.  Plus, the professionals know what they’re doing and we’re still learning. We choose to pick up a few extra side jobs to help cover the costs and get it done. This means the work is complete and we’re out exploring the world sooner.

But Wait, There’s More!

Sadly we’re not done. As we mentioned in the video we’re just doing a 2 month shakedown cruise. We plan to come back to Dania Beach and have Just Cats haul us out and replace a few through hull fittings, our PSS dripless shaft seals and bearings along with whatever else comes up that needs to be repaired or replaced. Soon we’ll need new sails, new running rigging, new standing rigging and a host of other items before we leave for good, but I doubt we’ll be able to afford it all this go around…but we’re ok with that.

What Next?

The plan is to not touch a dock for the entire two months. We need to live on the hook as much as possible to save up. From Ft. Lauderdale we’ll sail south to the Keys. No real destination at the moment, just plans to complete boat chores, do some video editing, fly the drone and enjoy the cruising lifestyle. It should be great couple months away from the dock and it’s an extremely important step to get us mentally and physically ready for our Bahamas trip in late October.

Want more?  These are some of the good reads I have found on outfitting and servicing a sailboat to sail about the world:

Did you find this video and post helpful?  Want to say thanks?  Here are a few ideas and you’ll notice most of them don’t cost you a dime:

Your turn!  Please share your thoughts and surviving service tips in the comments below, one small tip could save someone else a “boat load” 🙂