The Value of Rituals - Part II
Picking up where I left off in Part I, after a brief hiatus from recent hurricanes...I will continue the ritual of inspection, replacement, and review I like to do every six months or so.
I like to inspect my lifelines and stanchions to make sure they are adjusted properly, and can bear weight in an emergency. The wire used in lifelines is pretty strong stuff but it makes sense to check out the turnbuckles and swaged fittings to make sure they are tight and not showing signs of wear or rust. I often use a rag with stainless polish like Flitz to clean and brighten them up, and pulling a rag along its length quickly identifies any nasty wires that need attention.
When was the last time you inspected your inflatable PFDs? I was surprised when I checked ours a couple of weeks ago. I had no idea that they were already five years old and some of the gas cylinders were corroded on the outside. I'm sure they still work but the aspirin-like tablets that dissolve in sea water were long gone and needed replacement. (Of course, they would still inflate by pulling the lanyard or inflated by mouth, but the auto-inflation feature is another thing to go wrong.)
I like to restock my pantry during this time of renewal. I'm not particularly provisioning, but rather just making sure that the staples we just assume are aboard are. This covers a wide range of items, from toilet paper to jars of mayonnaise. And the point of this exercise is that when you run out of something, and becomes an issue if you can't replace it with something very similar, at least in size. A couple of examples come to mind. If your refrigerator is mot the full size one finds at home, the various containers of some staples will dictate whether they fit or not. Running out of that medium jar of Hellman's mayo and not being able to replace it with a similar size container can become an issue if the only thing you find in that Git-n-Zip convenience store is a full-size jar of generic mayo that won't fit in your fridge.
If you are the kind of cruiser who likes the simplicity and elegance of full-size paper table napkins (versus paper towels), and you run out of them, I can almost guarantee that what you'll find in the gift shop in Beaufort, SC or Spanish Cay will be cocktail napkins...and they don't fit your napkin needs at all. You'll be luckier if you go shopping in Ketchikan, where the local hardware store has everything from shotgun shells to an assortment of wedding dresses, but that is not true when you stop at many small towns not exactly set up with supermarkets.
While I am doing the restocking thing, it is a good time to check any open boxes and jars, to see what has gone stale or expired. (Did I really buy those olives five years ago???) Open bottles of tonic go flat quickly, those Oreo cookies go limp from moisture, and the Parmalat container of milk (for coffee emergencies) expired six months ago. Should you keep it just in case? How lucky do you feel?
During the recent Bay Bridge Trawler Fest, I had dinner with a group that included sailors, Nordhavn, and Krogen owners. We got to talking about provisions and the full lockers of cans and jars everyone knows so well. One couple had sailed around the world in their sailboat with two small children, before buying their current Nordhavn. The woman told us about how she once made a specialty dish for her family and friends over the holidays that required mayonnaise. She searched her stores and found a jar but it had expired. She held up her pinkie and said she took the tiniest dab the size of the end of her finger to taste it. She was sick for several days.
I also try to notice household items to recall what may have changed, such as that pot holder that somehow went overboard during a July barbeque, or the corkscrew that broke in my hand last weekend. Anything that requires batteries is a prime target for inspection and possible battery replacement. The LED headlamp I use for night grilling is used only occasionally, so I typically just need to make sure it still works. That is not true for my other flashlights that get used much more frequently. I have several, and some use batteries that are not the typical AA or AAA Duracell ones. A small, simple battery tester is a great investment for your boat, so your extras are not just additional dead batteries sitting in a drawer for years.
I open the grill and now is not a bad time to really clean it, as that party two months ago gunked it up and it needs to go ashore to get cleaned with elbow grease and heavy duty cleaners not carried on the boat. I mostly overlook such things when we are cruising, but it is a good idea once or twice a year to make things shiny and really clean.
As I go through lockers and drawers, I check for sticky drawers and door pulls, and adjust or lubricate as necessary. Yeah, you noticed that before but just never got around to dealing with it. Funny how that is, but taking care of it now will make a difference because they will become irritating once you head off and have to deal with it without the right tools or lubes on hand. Same for broken light switches or dimmers that don't, or a string of track lighting where a third of the lights are dark. Such things seem to pile up on a boat. Individually, they don't make us notice much, but collectively they become a pain if left alone and you begin to use the boat besides the seasonal weekends and short cruises. (Which is why my boat was always in the best shape when I lived aboard.)
The list goes on and on. Is my favorite fleece sweater still hanging in my locker, or did my friend forget to return it after she borrowed it when she got sunburned a month ago? Did we ever return the boat hook to its normal spot after we borrowed to hang that lamp fixture in the dining room at home? Do any of our fenders feel limp, especially as the weather cools? Maybe it's worth getting out the air pump/compressor and giving them all a shot of air. Never hurts. And what about that project where you were looking for a small length of parachute cord but could not find any on the boat? Why not make a small ball of it and put it where you can find it for the next time. And don't forget the Bic lighter to burn the ends when you cut the cord.
As I mentioned before, it is extremely satisfying when I take care of the things I can control mindfully. I have the time, I am in the mindset to do it, and I am not distracted by being under way. The key to successful cruising (to me anyway) is to not leave anything to chance.
Enough of that happens all by itself when cruising.
I just got back from helping bring a Hallberg-Rassy 372 to the move-in effort for the U.S. Sailboat Show, which starts on Thursday. Should be a fun week and hope to see what's new in boats and gear.