Waking up in an unfamiliar space that has yet to become our own can be a bit disheartening, especially when faced with the reality of thorough deep cleaning and essential repairs.
The demoralizing feeling is compounded by the fact that we find ourselves outside our comfort zone. Aries, technically still in winterized mode, offers no running water, and despite the engine having received the marina's attention for the upcoming trip, the boat lacks the warmth we desperately need.
As we navigate these initial challenges, power on the boat is of limited use, providing only essential lighting and powered outlets. The weather forecast doesn't offer much comfort either, with the day's high expected to reach the low 60s and 30 mph gusts, leaving us shivering in the absence of onboard heating. Despite these discomforts, we decided to prioritize a celebratory return, kickstarting our journey with a breakfast run to the local Sift Bake Shop. While one might argue that a breakfast run isn't the most pressing priority given the circumstances, it holds a special place for us. It's an immediate way to infuse some joy into our surroundings and find motivation as we face the daunting tasks ahead. Our to-do list, initiated over breakfast, becomes our roadmap for the days leading up to our optimistic departure date of 6/3—just a few short days away. In less than a week, we're set to embark on a journey to the Great Lakes.
The urgency of the upcoming departure creates a sense of purpose, motivating us to tackle the challenges head-on. Finding smiles and motivation amid the initial discomforts becomes the first crucial step in turning an unfamiliar and slightly demoralizing environment into a space we can proudly call our own. As we savor our breakfast, the list of tasks serves as a guide for the week ahead, ensuring that by the time we set sail for the Great Lakes, Aries will not only be technically ready but also a welcoming haven tailored to our needs.
Though the week was a flurry of activity, here follows, roughly prioritized our list of what needed to be done.
Aries was in dire need of a thorough cleaning, and the task at hand was two-fold. The exterior, as expected, required a good scrubbing with soap and sponge, having been neglected for over half a year.
The weathered varnish, though noticeably in a sorry state, would have to wait for its turn as we prioritized the immediate cleaning needs.
Inside the vessel, Britt took charge, initiating a meticulous process of dismantling furniture and cabinets to eliminate every trace of mildew that had accumulated during the extended period of inactivity. This was more than a routine cleanup; it was a commitment to restoring a fresh and hygienic environment within the confines of Aries.
As part of this comprehensive overhaul, the cushions, and mattresses, which had inevitably absorbed the mustiness of the dormant season, were carefully transported outside. There, they underwent a thorough soaking and sanitization process, ensuring that every bit of mildew and lingering odors were eradicated. Left to air dry in the warm embrace of the sun, this practical approach guaranteed not just cleanliness but also a renewed sense of freshness within the living quarters.
Despite the apparent challenges, the cleaning process became a rejuvenating ritual for Aries, promising a vessel that not only looked shipshape on the outside but also provided a comfortable and hygienic interior for the adventures that awaited.
Preparing our boat for the upcoming season involved the necessary task of reconnecting hoses, pipes, and fittings after the marina's winterization process. What initially appeared to be a straightforward job turned into a mental exercise, requiring a careful understanding of the water system's layout.
Sorting out issues with the cold-water flow was relatively straightforward, but the warm water became a persistent challenge. The marina had disconnected the water heater during winterization, leaving me to grapple with reconnecting the cold-water intake, warm water output, and bridging the two. Unfortunately, the quest for a missing PEX coupling added an unexpected hurdle to the process.
Throughout the week, the search for the elusive PEX coupling became a focal point, not only due to the challenge of finding the right part but also because the absence of hot water raised questions about the entire setup. Ultimately, it was discovered that the heating element in the water heater was faulty, rendering warm water inaccessible.
Complicating matters was the mixed use of updated PEX pipes and original garden hoses in Aries' water system. Navigating the connection between the frayed garden hose of the cold-water intake and the PEX pipe of the warm water output added an extra layer of complexity to the task.
Additionally, the time-consuming process of filling the water tanks, applying a cleaning solution, waiting, draining, and repeating proved to be a meticulous yet necessary aspect of the boat's maintenance routine.
Reflecting on the week, it became evident that the challenges were not just technical but also a test of patience and adaptability. Although warm water remained elusive due to the faulty heating element, the experience provided valuable insights into the intricacies of boat maintenance, highlighting the satisfaction that comes with overcoming obstacles.
This proved to be the enduring challenge throughout the week – a relentless series of issues demanding immediate attention. On the night of our arrival, before even settling in for the night, the expired and chirping CO2/fire sensor required immediate disconnection. While acquiring a replacement was on the to-do list, it wasn't our top priority at the moment.
As part of trip preparations, we decided to purchase and configure AIS, a task that now required installation on Aries and connection to the rest of the navigation equipment. As mentioned in a previous post, the endeavor to get the systems working proved elusive. Radar, wind, and depth indicators never came online despite appearing to be powered up. Integrating AIS into this mix was a calculated decision, based on the belief that I could identify the fault and breathe life into the entire system. Failing that, AIS would have limited utility for the trip. In hindsight, the solution was remarkably simple – a fuse replacement. However, the existence of this fix remained unknown until I dismantled the wooden electronics wall to locate 12v for the AIS. While discovering a fuse was the culprit felt somewhat unsatisfying after spending days, weeks, and months the previous year troubleshooting the electronics, the valuable prize was an enhanced understanding of boat wiring. With the mystery solved, integrating AIS into the navigation setup became a swift task. The old GPS receiver made way for a new one, and a quick call to the equipment seller resolved a minor issue, making us visible to other vessels and allowing us to spot them on our nav station.
Another high-priority item was the sump pump, presenting a series of failures that needed sequential addressing. Initially, a fuse replacement revived the pump. However, the water pumped was limited, leading to several days spent finding the right combination of primary and spare bilge pump, along with maintenance parts. In the end, we had one functioning pump with new components, prompting the need to purchase a new spare pump. While a replacement float switch was acquired, time constraints led to its installation only halfway to Wisconsin.
The question loomed: did we really want to rig the sails, knowing we'd have to unstep masts in just a few days? Despite the imminent unstepping, we decided to proceed, recognizing that each day offered a valuable opportunity to learn more about Aries and become more acquainted with her.
While the logistical priority was to make the journey from CT to WI without unnecessary delays, we took the gamble that we might have the chance to sail at least some of the time.
This task, however, had to wait until Friday due to uncooperative weather. Most days were blustery, reaching a point where we deemed it impractical to fight the wind and risk potential damage. Yet, when we finally set out to rig the sails, the process went surprisingly quick and smooth, marking a satisfying milestone in our annual routine.
Now, I must confess to a couple of blunders. I mounted the genoa upside down – a mistake that, admittedly, drew a quick laugh from Britt, making the correction both quick and easy. Additionally, a self-inflicted hiccup occurred when I had to scale the main mast to untangle and retrieve some lines. The main halyard had found its way down the wrong side of a spreader. While time-consuming, these detours added a touch of adventure and amusement to our day.
Balancing boat maintenance, repairs, and preparations for the upcoming journey with the needs and attention spans of little ones required a creative approach.
We find that involving them in age-appropriate tasks fosters a sense of contribution and keeps them occupied. For instance, during the thorough cleaning sessions, the kids were given small, safe responsibilities like wiping surfaces or organizing mildew-free cushions. This not only kept them busy but also made them feel part of the boat-prep team.
When technical challenges arose, turning these moments into learning opportunities became key. Explaining simple concepts or involving them in non-intrusive ways helped redirect their curiosity. For instance, while troubleshooting the electrical systems, we could engage them with discussions about switches and buttons.
Rigging the sails turned into an unexpected source of amusement. The kids were captivated by the unfolding sails and the entire process of preparing the boat for sailing. While we focused on the task at hand, their genuine curiosity and enthusiasm made it a shared family experience.
Throughout the week, we also carved out moments for dedicated playtime. Whether it was exploring the marina, drawing pictures, or reading stories, ensuring they had their special moments helped strike a balance between the demands of boat preparations and their need for attention.
In essence, it became a dance of juggling responsibilities and ensuring that our daughters felt involved and entertained. The key was finding age-appropriate tasks, turning challenges into learning opportunities, and creating special moments amid the hustle and bustle of boat preparations.