Saturday, January 10, 2015

Ten Steps To Enlightenment

Origin of Picture

You don't know what you don't know... Cruising will teach you this.  

Before we left, I had this lofty idea that we were starting out ahead of many of the other Cruisers we know in that my husband has been working on boats and diesel engines for his entire life.  The fact that he’s never been a rich man just means that he’s had to fix things himself instead of hiring it done.  The fact that he’s never been truly poor, means that when a project starts to get out of control… we could just throw some money at it and it would go away!

It’s been a year and a half since I quit my job, thus reducing our income to less than half of what it was.  The boat repairs however, have continued on in force… only now, we have to do things “the Cruiser way”.  What does that mean?  Well, it means that first off, you won’t just throw money at it.  Secondly it means that many times you can find a helpful Cruiser who has the experience you seek and can assist you with your own education.  Thirdly, it means that because on boats, nothing that comes off can ever be replaced easily and in the same way that it went on the first time.  You will be making what we shall vaguely call “modifications”.  

Ahhh the mysterious modifications.  These have left us scratching our heads wondering what in the world the previous owners were thinking when they did this… We can only assume that some of these things were done out in the middle of the Atlantic with parts they had on hand.  And then they just never went back and did them properly, thinking if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it…

We are starting to be repaid for those earlier uncharitable thoughts by being forced to make our own creative modifications… but we won’t talk about those now.  This is about the learning curve and the 10 steps to enlightenment.

  1. Something isn’t right.  A new sound, a new shimmy… something elusive and intangible.  Usually I discover it first and notify Bruce at once.  He professes not to hear/feel said sign of impending doom and so we table it for a while. 
  2. Point of no return.  Some time in the near future, usually at the worst possible time, that aforementioned sign becomes a real problem.  It now will not function.  There is no denying it and it will probably cost more to fix now because it’s broken/damaged something else in the process of dying.   
  3. Denial.  Bruce goes to the ground.  He will spend hours or sometimes days looking at the parts, digging through tools and spares, swearing and making all sorts of exclamatory noises that send me spiraling into despair.  His premise?  “There is just no way this could be happening… it makes no sense!”.  The doom and gloom that waft from the engine room are almost more than I can bear as I curl up into the fetal position and pretend it isn’t happening. 
  4. Acceptance.  At some point, my fetal position stance is no longer doing it for me and my brain kicks into gear.  I come back to the real world and go to Bruce’s aid.  “OK, tell me what you’ve done so far, what is the issue, what are we dealing with here?”… He lays it all out there for me.  We have a problem, lets fix it.  
  5. Investigation.  We both look into it and come up with our individual assessment of the problem, usually completely at opposite ends of the spectrum from one another.
  6. Research.  At this point, we determine whether or not we are in over our heads.  We start with internet research, we reach out to Facebook groups for info, we end up calling friends and relatives to run it by them…  any port in a storm, we’ll take information from anyone.  Learning from the mistakes of others is our motto.
  7. Discussion.  I ask questions and he gives me answers.  He explains the parts I don’t understand and I try to wrap my brain around it.  We discuss possible plans of action and come up with Plan A, Plan B and maybe even Plan C.   
  8. Convincing.  One of us convinces the other of the validity of his/her argument or just wears the other down to the point that he/she will do anything to get the other to just shut up.
  9. Action.  We gather or buy tools.  We procure parts.  We run through it in our heads to make sure we haven’t missed something.  And we get started on the actual project.  You put your plan into action with maybe a few side trips to the parts store to correct unforeseen issues… but we’re doing something.  We have a grasp on it.  We’re feeling good about all of the hard work that has brought us to this point.
  10. Enlightenment.  It is at now that we realize that either we KNOW how to fix it or we don’t.  The sad part is that many times the things we thought we knew how to fix, turn out to be an illusion.  No. We really don’t.  Or, the thing will require those aforementioned "modifications" about which there is no possible way of knowing in advance…This is where it is either fixed and the celebrating and back-patting begins, or it is not fixed and we sink deeper into the realization that we are over our heads and it's time to call in the professionals.  (Hopefully the latter seldom happens)  

 But is this the true enlightenment… no it is not.  True enlightenment is when you discover that although you did not know everything… you have the ability to learn and grow and gain the knowledge to conquer adversity so that next time you WILL know.  And if you’re lucky, you can pass your newfound knowledge along to someone else some day.  That is the real Cruiser Way.  


  1. You nailed it. Couldn't have said it any better.

    S/V Kintala

  2. Oh my gosh this describes us completely. Good to know others go through this same process. We leave in July to do the great loop. Our boats is currently in dry dock waiting for this crazy Ohio winter to pass. Lord knows what we will find when the snow thaws. Your blog is wonderful!!!

    M/V Lady J

    1. We really are all the same essentially! Thanks for reading and for your comment, I get such a kick out of it. AND I'm adding your blog to my list so that I can see how it goes for you. Good luck on your departure and welcome to the Cruising Class of 2015! July will be here before you know it!

  3. Like your enlightening list...especially the transformative stage of from being to assisting...and bringing the intuitive perspective to the captain's consciousness.

    1. It really is amazing how much I can bring to the troubleshooting process even though I have no mechanical background. There have been so many times when the questions I raise have let Bruce to the answer. I really wish I were more able to bring real knowledge to the table or that there were more knowledgeable cruiser guys out here willing to get dirty and help. Access to parts and help slow us down considerably. Thanks so much for your comment and for hanging out with us.

  4. The best book I have regarding fixing and retrofitting is "Offshore Sailing", if you have not read it get a copy and read it immediately before your next project. And if you have never read Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance get a copy and that will prepare you mentally and spiritually for any future challenge!

  5. This gave us a good chuckle. Thanks.

    But sadly, it is so true.

    Mark and Cindy - s/v Cream Puff