Everything on a boat needs fixing. Everything.
It isn’t a moan. It’s just part of sailing life.
The water maker blocked today as we were sailing. ‘Ah, no problem,’ the captain said. ‘We need to reset it. There’s equal pressure on each side of the system.’
I stared – as usual stunned by the extent of his practical knowledge.
On Friday, our 12kva generator didn’t immediately start. It always starts. Well, once in Antigua it didn’t, but the captain fixed it. He fixed it again now. Twiddled the catching mechanism of the starter motor and told me to turn it on again. I pressed the button. It fired instantly.
‘I knew it wasn’t something big,’ he murmured to himself. He murmurs a lot when he fixes things. ‘Falco’s only just serviced it so it can’t be something big.’
In these moments, I feel like I’m trying to sort through different weeds growing out of the ground. ‘Do you think we need a new starter motor?’
You can only truly live on a boat if you join the geeky mindset of a fixing crew. Anyone else – even our children – are just visitors. Anyone who isn’t fixing isn’t really here. Might as well be holding a suitcase.
‘Maybe. Let’s see if we can make it work again.’
Indeed, two days later, the gennie needed extra encouragement. Extra twiddling and moving parts around – fan belt, starter motor teeth, various cranks and shafts. Eventually it started. Still, we probably need a new starter motor.
Part of the mental map of cruising is working out what systems you can live without. For the generator for example, we can turn Quest’s engine on instead of the gennie to top up the house batteries – but hold on. We need to fill dive bottles. For this we need the compressor – powered by the generator. We need it.
It just happens that the wire to our green starboard navigational light has gone too. From testing and seeing it light up in Peakes boatyard, it didn’t want to play during our night passage to Grenada. Jack spent considerable upside-down time in the anchor locker in Prickly – to no avail.
‘Connection’s corroded,’ he finally concluded, his re-inverted face a shade of beetroot.
None of this is stressful though. Not really. During our time cruising, we’ve watched the captain make this transition from stressed-out person-when-things-break to person-who-fixes-things. Took him a good couple of years. He maintains it happened when he stopped including time as a factor. If you don’t worry about how long it takes to fix something, it takes almost all the pressure away. And fixing things can be frustrating.
What do I know? I stand there and nod. I mean, I listen sure, but I’d be lying if I said I retained it. Sometimes 50%. I’m thinking about my blog. The girls’ school. When to cook, what to cook or do I need to cook at all? Possibly a painful cleaning task. What? I can’t help it.
Lu, in one of her extremely insightful moments, declared that I should be given one of those toy steering wheels for children who want to drive but can’t. The ones who sit happily in the car twirling their wheel – as their parents drive.
Thanks, Lu. in the meantime, we’ve added St Lucia to our list of islands to visit. The electronics place there fixed our red, port side light in 2016. Now maybe our gennie too. And possibly our water maker. In the meantime, we keep fixing. It’s just the way it is.