Which Project First?

People ask us all the time. “When are you leaving?”

And the answer is “When we’re ready.”

This is a wholly unsatisfying answer to the person asking the question. It can be wholly unsatisfying to us, sometimes.

But we have some parameters. The “ready” part is NOT the same as a “done” answer. We’ve had the boat since 1992; we know full well it’ll never be “done.”

When we first bought Calypso, she was essentially a blank canvas. Sure, there were settees and even a nav station. The skeleton of a galley.

As we found her

As we found her

Since we knew we wanted to move aboard as soon as possible, the priority list was sorted out without a lot of fanfare. We needed a bed. Second was a galley, although the plumbing (including for the head!) could happen a little later on.

The plumbing could wait?

Yes. We were at a dock and were planning to remain there for a couple of years. Doing dishes in the cockpit or on the pier wasn’t completely convenient, but it was possible.

I think we finished the plumbing, including installing a head (which we did with the boat in the water!) about 2 weeks before we left.

If you’ve got a “new” boat, you likely have a project list. (Yes, even if that boat is brand spanking new you will have a project list.) How do you organize it?

Step 1 is to brainstorm all you need to do. Brainstorm all you WANT to do too! Then start organizing.

Projects that have to do with safety need to be at the top of the list. “Below the waterline” safety comes ahead of “above the waterline” safety; holes in the bottom can sink you, rendering everything else immaterial. Check thru hulls, check rigging. Check your safety equipment (flares, life jackets, sound signals, radio, EPIRB). I’d add that to me, the electrical and charging system is in this category as well, particularly if you’ve got an older boat. An anchoring system is key in this as well.

What comes next in the “order of operations” is a matter of things like time and money and yes, personal preference. Don’t you love that most questions about cruising can be answered with “it depends”?

  • Comfort. Things like good mattresses/bedding for sleeping on, ventilation or heat down below, fixing leaks. Interior lighting. Mosquito/bug netting for the cockpit.

  • Hygiene. Water tankage. A shower. The head.

  • Food/sustenance. Decide on your stove and refrigeration, taking into account any and all electrical draw for appliances and making sure your charging capacity/batteries can handle it.

  • Environment. This is a nebulous term which to me includes such things as refreshing paint down below, making sure the colors of the cushions/throw pillows work for you. It means having cookware and towels and clothing that you LOVE. It means choosing the right artwork for the walls, adding a set of speakers for music. Comfortable cockpit cushions and a table for eating outside. Maybe a cockpit light that makes you smile.

Don Casey, in This Old Boat, talks about making a grid of projects that includes things like safety, time, and money. He assigns a 1, 2, 3 rating (1 means it MUST be done, or is cheapest or takes the least amount of time) and moves through his project list. I like this idea but have not implemented it successfully, mostly because we just don’t like to spend time assigning numbers to things.

Instead, we make our list. Spend time in that thinking chair deciding what’s critical. And then we get to work.

So when are we planning to leave? When will we be “ready”?

We have to get the bunk done (must have place to sleep.) We have to get the galley done (must have place to cook). We have to get the windlass installed (must have way to keep boat from moving.)

The other projects? They might get done before we leave, or they might get done down the road. Or we might decide after all that we don’t need to do them at all!

This is the goal, after all.

This is the goal, after all.

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