Saturday, October 20, 2012

Plans are nothing.....Planning is everything!

As the walls of overwhelming were closing in, I realized again that I needed a plan.  I talked to some guys at the club, Dennis, Reese, Mark, Dave and Rick.  One of them mentioned that I should get a copy of the book This Old Boat.  I told them I already had and the contents stimulated me to develop a tool that I could use each season to help me plan and prioritize my projects.  I decided to call it the Master Maintenance Plan.  The plan would have to address three major areas of the Constance Marie: structure, features and finishes. According to This Old Boat it is helpful to remember these as layers of the boat:

STRUCTURE:  These are the hull and deck, hatches and portholes, bulkheads, rigging, sails and engine. These components are central to the boat's integrity and essential to her function

FEATURES: Anything that is bonded, bolted or screwed to the structure. These include built-in cabinets and accommodations, appliances, lights, cleats, winches, handrails, electronics and cushions. These features add comfort, versatility and perhaps security.

FINISHES:  This is the gelcoat or paint on the hull and deck, laminate on the bulkheads and counters, the oil or varnish on the teak, the fabric on the cushions.  This layer has two functions:
  1. Preserve whatever is underneath the surface of the decks.
  2. Improve the appearance of the boat.
Figure 5 - Master Maintenance Plan of the Constance Marie (click to enlarge)
Taking these three layers, I designed a Microsoft Excel-based spreadsheet that showed each of these layers in rows and and priorities in columns.  Priorities were deemed "Immediate", "Less Urgent" and "Someday". To these were added addtional columns for estimate and actual costs for parts and labor and the same for effort to complete.  A column to the left identifies the project number in the sequence in which the projects were to be completed.

The next step was to create a simple bill of material (BOM) for the first half-a-dozen projects that I thought I would soon be doing.  The purpose of the BOM is to list the name of the project, the parts and tools available or needed and the description of each.  See the example below:

Figure 6
Project Bill of Material (BOM)
Now, I live 10 minutes from our yacht club and its boatyard.  How many of you have traveled over an hour or more to get to that same boatyard and realized that you forgot a tool, a part, or some support equipment like a portable heater.  This BOM was designed to help plan out each of the projects listed on the aforementioned Master Maintenance Plan.

Lesson Learned: It's a good idea to have 5-6 BOMs completed and ready to go so that when you have the time to knock one off, you are all set.  You don't have to stay to a particular order as motivation to accomplish will vary over time.  

Keep the BOMs in a three ring notebook containing the Master Maintenance Plan so you can easily take them with you.  Of course, now that we have a list of the tools, parts and equipment we need for the project we need to determine what is already on-hand and what we need to buy.  Don't know about the rest of you, but as for me, I use any project to ask myself, "what new tool can I buy because I have this project(s) to do"?  Hey, a certain amount of toys is necessary to maintain a guys personna, and also to help the economy, right?   

The final tool in the plan, is the Procurement Master. The Procurement Master is also an excel-based tool and part of the Master Maintenance Plan.  It is basically a rolling spreadsheet listing all the parts, their description, date needed, estimated and actual costs, chosen supplier and their contact information and all this cross-walked to a particular project as listed on the Master Maintenance Plan.

How many times have I searched the internet for the likely vendors who might carry a part or a tool that is needed.  Many times those sources come from word of mouth from members of the club and many times it takes hours of conversation on the club's front porch to get to the subject matter.  So the Procurement Master is my respository for research done once and recorded so that when Peter, Paul or Pius sails again with me and steps on the solar exhaust fan, I don't have to worry about replacing it. Oh, hello Pius! :)

Figure 7 - Procurement Plan of the Constance Marie (Click to enlarge)

Well, thanks to these tools, I now know what needs to be done, in what priority, what I have on-hand to do the work and what I need to buy to complete the project.  Whew...I am exhausted!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Winter is coming.....the sky is falling

It's been a couple of weeks since putting the Constance Marie up on her boatstands.  The wooden footers were not in good shape but they are working to hold Her up.  I was beginning to realize that this was going to be more than a weekend workshop project. I have spent my earlier career as a logistician in the Fortune 1000 moving into Supply Chain Management as a Management Consulting and Technology in the 1990s and having started several small businesses.  What I learned about myself is that I hate to run things but love to start things and that I was gifted in bringing order from chaos. Once the chaos was gone, look out for the boredom. But I soon learned that for old boat owners, the chaos rolls like a wave...up and down, up and down!  Winter was fast approaching and common sense told me I needed to do some things to the boat to get Her ready for cold weather.  I received immediate help from a club member named Dale, soon to be a good friend,  who ran a trucking company most of his life and who knew diesel engines forwards and backwards.  His boat was stored only two postions from mine.  Dale helped me winterize the Constance Marie.  He didn't do it, as he instructed while I learned the ropes of winterization.

Figure 4 - Constance Marie second from the right
I was speaking a new language.  Pink Piss, raw water (like there is another kind?), impeller, sea cocks! Somehow we got the Constance Marie winterized despite me.  Anything that had water in it, including the bilge, got pink piss poured into it.  We ran the engine till pink piss was discharging from the exhaut. It looked like the Constance Marie was participating in a breast cancer regatta.  It would come to pass later on just how sick the old girl really was.  There were a lot of things that never got done that first winter like change the oil, all the filters, inspection of the belts and alternator, etc.  Up to now, it was react, react, react.  I did not feel in control.  They say that the word "BOAT" really means "BRING ON ANOTHER THOUSAND" like in bucks, moolah, greenbacks, dollar bills.  I did not want to see that happen without a plan as I had promised myself that all maintenance would be funded from monies made from extra sources of earned income and not from my full time job.  I needed a plan before the sky fell and crushed me.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What do I do next?

For anybody who has attempted a task that they knew nothing about, this should be a most familiar question.  Well today, we took the Constance Marie out of the water.  I would have liked to sail her as October is a beautiful month for sailing but my skills are not there yet to attempt going solo. Prior to pulling the Constance Marie from the mooring field, I learned that I had to take down the Genoa, unhook the forestay, set the dock lines and motor over to the dock so that the traveller can pull her out.  I took Russian in high school for four years, but this was the beginning of learning to speak "sailorese".  Genoa, is that not a brand of salami?  Forestay, isn't that something a couple does prior to getting serious! 

Figure 3
Not the Constance Marie but very much the "pulling" process
We positioned the Constance Marie getting her ready to be placed on her boatstands.  Right away I noticed that the marine plywood footers were older than sin. 

Lesson learned: Prepare your boat storage area the day before you pull your boat.  Check the stands welds, lubricate the screws, inspect the wooden tops and footers, lay landscape fabric under the entire area of your storage site.

Too late, we settled her and tightened, but not too tight, the boatstand screw supports that snuggled up to the hull.  I then realized that the storage location for the Constance Marie was between two mid-sized cruisers whose owners nobody at the yacht club had seen in 300-400 years.  I was told that I have the responsibility to be the good shepard and maintain the correct tightness of the boatstands for these adjacent "relics" of the previous century.  If I failed to do this, then be prepared for them to fill up with rainwater and incline themselves in your direction.   Ok now that the Constance Marie is settled in.  What do I do next?   I needed a plan.

The first thing I did was to get hold of the professional surveyor who did the last survey of the Constance Marie.  To someone who knows nothing about sail boats, the 153 things he commented on in his report drove my posterior quickly to find a chair to settle my thoughts. 

Lesson learned:  Have someone do a survey on the boat before you close the deal.

One of the yacht club members told me to buy a copy of the book "This Old Boat".  He said it would lay everything out for me.  So I did.  Several days later, my nose was glued to the pages of that wonderful resource.  Good ideas, when they present themselves, are put into action with patience and prudence.  Both traits lacking in most men.  When I find out the guy who has been praying for patience for me, look out!  The ideas of a plan began to flow.  I learned in my field of work that big problems can be divided up into smaller tasks and over a period of time, significant progress can occur.  Within This Old Boat I found the framework I was looking for that encompassed a project orientation within a practical approach.

Hmmm....let's see, the problem is we have a 32 year old sailboat that has been used for local cruising.  Engine, exterior lights, electrical AC and DC, water tight portals and hatches were all known to be unreliable.  The problem seemed overwhelming.  But, I do know she floats with no below the waterline leaks!  Olivia is always telling me to look for the good in everything. This was the fact to a positive start that I needed.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Honey, we now own a sailboat!

She is Ours....Now What?

Most of the family knows that we have been power boaters these past years. As my wife and I have reached that age of our lives when the kids are all out of the house but we are still too young to retire, we have had some time to seriously do some "golden years" planning. This involved purchasing a "project sailboat" and selling the power boat because you can not serve two masters. Starting this, I knew nothing about sailing much less the nomenclature of all the components of a sailboat.

Figure 1 - She was built to cruise!
Welcome to the Constance Marie.  She is a 1980 Hunter 27' sloop which of course makes her designed by Mr. Cherubini. Think of her equivalent to a '55 Chevy. A lot of them were made and owned by many families.   Found her earlier this month in a local paper for $4k. My wife, Olivia recommended that I call the owner and I did.  Olivia loved sailing from her earlier years. I told him I would buy her.    I told the owner that I was looking for a project boat to begin my transformation to sailing.  He was thrilled because I was not pursuing a survey as a prerequisite for the purchase. This would be a pure leap of faith that I was not taking on something I could not finish! The day we went to close the deal, the owner asked if I wanted to see her first. I said sure and as we were getting into the dink to motor out to her, he asked me if I wanted to know the name of the boat?  Ok I said. She is called the "Constance Marie". I nearly fell overboard. My Mom who passed away in 2007 at 90 (remove the double 00 and you have 27) was named Constance Marie! Mom was always a stickler about the significance of numbers in people's lives.

Well, when we boarded her I wished I had brought a machete because September is spider season in our region and the boat looked like it was all decked out for Halloween.   I learned then that she was launched originally on the Patapsco River leading into Baltimore. Also learned that the head had not been used in 10 years, most of the lights did not work, she had an original experimental 10 hp Westerbeke 10-2 diesel engine, all the portals were missing screens and most of them leaked with broken dogs, She had one battery system, the teakwood exterior and interior had not seen finishing in years, the original depth finder did not work as well as the original prop meter, the stuffing box was maintained in Mordor and the prop shaft "wiggled" three inches as it rotated.  But what I saw and envisioned was nothing more than a labor of love and I fell for Her right then and there.  After all, how many children get to resurrect a dead parent! 

When we got back to shore, we closed the deal and the Constance Marie was all ours.   I was surprised that in the paperwork transfer how much information about the Constance Marie. I learned that in 32 years we were the third owner. The last two surveys were provided as well which gave me a good history of our new purchase. Surveys were done in 1992 and 2002.  I called the surveyor who performed the 2002 survey and was pleasantly surprised to learn he was still in business. I was even more surprised to learn that he was a Master Piper of Scottish descent. Well, all was shaping up to be too good to believe. My paternal side is Scottish  and all I could see now was the Scottish battle flag flying proudly from the Constance Marie.

While all this was occurring, we also joined the yacht club where the Constance Marie was moored.  It was like going back to the 1950's when I was a young boy growing up around the Great South Bay of Long Island.  This yacht club was founded in 1952, the year I was born, it is a do-it-yourself, and help your neighbor type club.  Like a hippie commune in the 1970s except for sailors who want to fix up old boats and cruise.  Nothing bigger than a 35 foot Pierson wider than 12 foot beam and going as small as a 17 foot American on a trailer, smaller if you include the 80-100 dinks.  All told over 120 boats of all sizes and shapes and almost all close to 20 years old or older.  We even have some in the historic registry.  
Figure 2
First pulling of the Constance Marie
We launch and pull our own boats with the help of our tractor and rig, we weld, we cut, we mill, we turn, we grind, we sand, we paint, we lift until the job is done. We are moving to getting baywise certified through controlling our water run-off and installing a professional boat wash basin to comply with the emerging regulations. Aside from the work in the yard, our social event includes our annual April celebration of the Burning of the Socks where we march to the Piper, bless the boats, fire our cannon, raise the flag, burn our socks and enjoy the pot luck feast provided by our own membership. We have our spring shakedown cruise during Memorial Day Weekend, our 4th of July cruise to Georgetown, Havre de Grace and North East to enjoy the fireworks, our summer Hawaiian Luau, our pig roast, our "Down the Bay" cruise to points famous in Chesapeke history, and finishing up the year with our Commodore's Ball and Christmas fund-raiser for the needy in our area.  Well, I hope you will cruise with me as I unwind the maintenance Journey of the Constance Marie.  My intent, by the time we dock, is to provide the novice a good overview of repairing the structure, features and finishes of a mid-sized sail boat.  Let me remind you, in September 2012 my knowledge of sail boats and sailing was missing in action.