Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My Dilemma

Umatilla, FL

Regular blog readers already know that Libby and I are spending much less time on the boat than before.  Also, that we are extremely reluctant to admit to ourselves or anyone else that we are giving up the cruising life.

I said that this winter's stay in the RV park is only an experiment.  Well, the experiment is successful.  We both like it here very much.  To me, it is especially pleasing to see Libby enjoy the pleasures of gardening, decorating, cleaning, and cooking.  It would be fair to call it nesting.  Merely having more space and also being on land offers much more opportunity to do that kind of stuff than living on the boat.  On the boat there is no real gardening, there is no furniture to rearrange, there is very little wall space to decorate, and so on.

We plan to sail to the Abacos next spring with Waves of Grace and Vixen.  What happens next?   Libby very sensibly suggested that we make Lake Champlain the year round base for Tarwathie, and that we find winter storage space for the boat up there.  That allows us the part of cruising we love most; on our home waters of Lake Champlain.

But if we do that, it becomes clear that we will cruise only 3 months (maybe 4) of the year, and leave Tarwathie on the hard for the rest of the time.  That is the part that has me worried.

Any cruiser will tell you that a boat begins deteriorating the first day you place it in storage.   Storing it in freezing temperatures during the winter magnifies that problem many fold.

Recently we've hear from friends on W32 Calypso about major projects that they are working on because of leaks.  Ditto our friend Jay on W32 Pygmalion.  Jay too had a leak which caused damage forcing him into a major renovation project.  So far, on Tarwathie, we have been blessed by never having a major leak.  We have never removed the chain plates or port windows for re-bedding. Tarwathie really has been an exceptionally fit vessel.

The reality I foresee is that 8-9 months storage in cold weather for several will undoubtedly lead to leaks, rot, and major renovation projects for Tarwathie.  In addition, in the next 5-10 years we will probably need new standing rigging, new main sail, new electronics, new barrier paint.  It would also be wise to replace the bowsprit and boomkin  with stainless steel upgrades before rot sets in and we are forced to do it.

I'm also humbled by the extent that our recent major project to paint the topsides, exhausted us.  The fact is that we are getting too old to handle major projects ourselves, nor do we live close enough to a boat yard where we can pop over there and do work on the boat once or twice a week.   If we keep Tarwathie in Vermont, and can use her only 3 months per year, we will not be happy to fit in occasional 1-2 month renovation projects.   When you live on a boat for 12 months, 1 month of maintenance work is not such a big fraction of your time.   That makes maintenance easier for full-time cruisers.

If we sell Tarwathie now, she is in excellent sail-away condition.  If we continue for 5-10 years with long annual storage periods, the eventual sail will be a distress sale, and with or without sale we will be distressed for allowing her to deteriorate.

My head is pulling me one way.  My heart is pulling the other way.  Libby's heart also pulls the other way, but she does not appreciate the future problems I foresee.



  1. I can relate to your dilemma. I was (am at heart still) a cruiser but now am doing something else. I still feel like a cruiser. But in reality, right now the "something else" is more fun/interesting/easy (not as in lazy, but as in flows better and more logically). I don't have a cruising boat anymore, but still hang onto all my gear/anchors/etc. etc. Maybe I'll have another self-sufficient island (cruising boat) at some point? At any rate, not ready to let it go. But it's slightly different for me as I no longer have the "big boat."

    I'm not saying this is what you should do, but just wanted to add that, in my experience (I'm from the Great Lakes), storing over winter doesn't necessarily mean deterioration. Actually, I'm MUCH more nervous storing in warm/muggy places. I'd say the key (presuming you don't have some heated indoor storage - as most of us don't) is to cover the boat. A Fairclough or similar is nice, but a decent frame and some tarps works too. Once you have a system you can hire it done if preferable. A cover means no snow build up, no UV exposure, and no leaks. Huge difference. And there's nothing a fiberglass hull likes better than to be out of the water in dry, winter, air (ironic, but true).

    Water/engine etc. need to be winterized, but batteries can withstand the cold (they do quite well) if they go into it fully charged. Even better if they are AGM. (I can't speak to lithium tho).

    When I was boat shopping my preference was always for a northern boat that was stored under cover over the winter.

    That doesn't solve the short northern season (never did find a way around that).

    Of course maybe keeping a fully rigged offshore cruiser for three months of summer on a (presumably?) lighter air lake doesn't make total sense, but she is already yours. Or maybe a Plan C would be a boat you could live on as a "summer cabin" on Champlain that is a bit more fun to sail; and albeit not as big and homey, you have your winter base for that and boat could be a bit less commodious? (Nothing against W-32 - I cruised on one - but maybe it's like taking an F-350 to the corner store vs. a Subaru wagon.)

    Just some thoughts. I can appreciate the dilemma.

    PS: Being the private type, I appreciate that you allow Anonymous comments. Thank you.

    1. Wow. Thank you for those very constructive comments.

  2. I agree with the above -- a Westsail 32 is not an ideal boat for summer cruising on Lake Champlain. Sell Tarawathie to a voyager, and buy a slightly smaller, newer, more sprightly boat to use on lake Champlain.

    Don't feel bad about liking shore life in Florida -- change is good, and if you are happy in an RV, be grateful! RV life in rural Florida is still fringy enough to not feel like you are dying slowly in a typical Florida condo. Happiness is hard to achieve, so accept your successful RV test with thanks that it worked out.

    Buy a boat with a big cockpit for family day sails, and enjoy sailing a new boat, it will be fun to learn about, it will stimulate you. If you buy a boat that really sails well, it will even thrill you. Your choices are good ones.

  3. Sell Tarwathie and buy a smaller trailerable sailboat. you won't be able to tow it with your Toyota so you will need to buy a larger vehicle or find a friend with a large vehicle to launch and retrieve it for you. store it on the trailer in your daughter's yard during the winters. there is a 25 ft. Catalina with trailer for sale right now in Vt. Check Yachtworld. Nice life...a home in Florida for the winters and one in Vermont for the summers. Whatever you do I just want you to know I have greatly enjoyed reading your blog over the last 11 years. I hope to emulate your life style one day soon.

  4. I also have enjoyed reading your thoughts over the many years. I know how the boat tugs at the heart, but I suspect the engineer will win. Personally, I would look at it as "going out on top" the cruising life. Then I would go a bit differently than above. I would think about a houseboat. Think a great circle adventure. Winters in Florida, Great Circle cruising the rivers in bite size portions. Cruising, but of a different sort. The houseboat because I like my own things and shallow draft go just about anywhere. Anyhow, best of luck and thanks for taking us along. Ken (formerly aboard Satori)

  5. Thanks all for the thoughtful comments. I never got to meet most of my blog readers, but they seem to be very fine people indeed.


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