Being lightweight


I recently helped a friend launching his boat in Buzzards Bay during a nice but chilly afternoon. I just finished to roll up a coat of primer on Tranquillity’s deck so I abandoned the yard works to join Freddie for the launch of Destinada.

Once in the slip and afloat  he tried to back up but the notorious poor reverse manoeuvrability of the long keeled boat forced him to an audacious turn around in the slip. The manoeuvre in close quarters happened with myself hangin from the boat life lines and pushing with my legs against the dock, making the boat spin.

Pushing Destinada was like pushing any decent size tender. We moored on a floating dock with ease: from the dock it was easy to move Destinada just pulling the mooring lines. When I asked Freddie what was the displacement of his boat he answered 7400lbs. Same as Tranquillity!

I noticed for the first time that a boat can be lightweight! I assumed they were not because I never really sailed a boat that weigh less than 20 tons. For this class of weight human power can’t do much. You better have big lines and powerful engine and motors. Everything has to be powerful and heavy duty. This seems pretty obvious but this last experience had the effect of an epistemological revolution on my boating experience.

Now my boat is a 29ft. and displace 7400ft. The cleats and the deck hardware look like toys to my eyes but they were there when the boat sailed offshore to Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean. They were there facing Hurricane Hugo in 1989. When I consider the refit of the boat I have to let down my previous experience on big boats and learn a completely new way. What do I need?

I have to look at different examples. Like Jeff that sails his Bristol 29 singlehanded in and out of the mooring without an engine. The engine simply doesn’t work but it’s not necessary, he says. And when there’s no wind all he does is sculling with the rudder. It takes some time but it works.

It looks like that the more I go into this refit the closer it gets to the essential. It scares me but maybe I don’t need all the fancy equipment I planned to install. I thought I was being an extremist already but I feel now I am acting in a very consumistic way. I am starting to feel that being lightweight is good attitude towards boating and perhaps life.

Paint problems or "How to figure things out"

The first days have been so hard as the project looked so overwhelming. Oh my God we have to do everything! Anytime I started a job and I posed my sight on a different corner of the boat I saw an umpteenth job to do and then another one and I felt I was going crazy. Actually I did go crazy. Luckily Kate intervened to keep me focused on doing one thing at a time and to avoid compulsive shopping.


In four days of full time work we accomplished several tasks but most important we found a method. It took one fight and some snipping, we also hit dead ends or wandered around the boat (not that much walking though!). Not that now everything is under control, we learned to move slow but with a constant pace. For both of us it’s the first renovation process and learning requires time.


Another important factor is alliance. In 4 days we were so lucky to have good people around. From John and Sue who not only welcomed us in their home but also wired us up to the most useful connections around, last but not least a young couple of fairhaveners who owns a boat. It sounds like we have new friends. Their boat is much more ready than ours and that means we may be able to go sailing soon with Freddie and Heather!

Columbia 29

The biggest hassle at the moment is painting the boat and which paint to use. There are different brands (Awlgrip, Interlux, Imron, etc.) different types (one or two part epoxy or polyhuretane) and different prices, including a guy who is selling paint 10$ a gallon of the weirdest colors on earth. It looks like we are not able to make a decision right know and asking the experts only adds confusion as anyone has own different opinions. We could be very close to have the deck and the topside painted, but we miss the paint… It is just a matter of luck I guess. Anytime the situation overwhelmes me I try to focus on the small things I have ahead. There is a lot to do anyway and if we are not ready to make a decision about paint it’s because it’s not the time. Something will emerge. In the meanwhile we just express preferences… out of many possibilities.


Boat project has begun


In few hours I will finally lay hands on my boat again after 4 months. After purchasing Tranquillity, Kate and I went through a process of preparation that kept us apart and far away from the boat. For her it meant cutting the dock lines that kept her moored in NYC for a very long time. For me it was to wander the caribbean and harvest the necessary gold to start the restoration and equipment for Tranquillity. The rigor of New England’s winter contributed to postpone our project and the yard work. In some ways, we are still wimps.

We are brave however, when it comes to the decluttering process. We need to select and reduce our belongings to fit into a car first and then into a 29 ft sailboat. The task is not easy but I am lucky because Kate became a professional in this kind of operation and she is a great help. To reduce our belongings involves binning a lot of clothes and items, it means also merging departments and discarding surpluses. Sometimes I am terrified when I have to let go something, I feel like a real part of me is going away. Wait for an hour and this feeling disappears, and your pile of clothes and junk look more tidy, eventually fitting into a small place.

I am a very lazy guy and as many others I have this tendency to occupy all the available space, like a stuff Big Bang. Choosing a small boat means to seek discipline in this matter. There will be no space for the surplus, we will have to pick the essential and take care of what we have.

The decluttering process pointed out to me the importance of quality. While I was ironing my clothes I was amazed at how old but still beautiful is one of my shirts. That garment is probably more than 10yrs old and it has been with me in any place I traveled and went through third world washing machines, but it is sill pretty while other relatively new cheaper clothes show signs of wear. Quality is something to consider when purchasing equipment and even if we run on a small budget we should get few essential quality items.

Now we have no excuses, we finally moved ourselves and a well-sorted pile of things to the proximity of Tranquillity, in Fairhaven, MA. A kind friend, Keith, helped us to find a temporary nest in his parents’ house while we go through this project. For a long time Tranquillity will be not suitable for occupancy due to the restoration process and we will be shore-based in the place where Moby Dick took form, a place where the ocean is part of daily life and wrote important pages of history.