“This is fantastic! It’s kind of like we own a store and we’ve closed up shop to take inventory.”
If ever I needed a reminder: cruising is a lifestyle. We are not on vacation. I am sitting inside our catamaran on a hot December day in Trinidad. The air conditioning is on.
I am surrounded by clear boxes. My husband and I are spending the afternoon taking inventory of our spares.
Inventory. My mind wanders. Suddenly, it’s 1989 and the sound of mall music plays in my head. I can almost taste my Lancôme lip gloss. Vanilla with plenty of sparkle.
“Woodworking bin 1,” says my husband.
Perched in front of our laptop, my hands spring to life. But, when it’s quiet I think about the smell of eucalyptus and cinnamon wafting about the mall where I once worked. Every year, the same Christmas elves were hauled out as decorations. They sat on every railing and a few light fixtures.
My husband holds up a completely random-looking object. “What is it that?” I ask. “No idea,” my husband responds.
After a quick google search we discover that he is holding a Stanley-brand honing guide. Neither of us know the purpose of a honing guide, or how it ended up on our boat. Nevertheless, we plan on some cabinetry repairs, so the item is recorded in our spreadsheet and we move on to the next item.
Click clack. My fingers weave patterns on the keyboard. Line after line I type. My dirty boatyard toes stretch under the table. I am deep in thought, recalling my leather soles and pointy heels working deftly along a shiny sales room floor.
“Did you ever take inventory when you sold computers?” I ask. My husband is quiet. He hasn’t sold computers since he was in university. At this moment, my husband is so “on point” that he can scarcely remember what he has had for breakfast.
As a former sales person – sorry, sales associate, I fondly remember the camaraderie born from the sheer boredom of a day spent counting shoes, purses, and shoe care products.
Soon we open the sanding and grinding box. My husband visibly lights up. “Assorted sanding and grinding blades,” he says. I add a new line to our spreadsheet and start typing.
He moves everything aside to seize a neatly packaged bag, which looks like it holds thin metal donuts. “We would want these if we ever needed to cut through the shrouds.”
His voice is serious, but his eyes flicker, and he’s lost for a moment. Perhaps he is picturing the perfect storm and he is riding the waves on our catamaran. I imagine he looks like Poseidon with his hair wet from sweat, pasted flat against his head as he wields our battery-powered grinder.
“Mast be gone!” he shouts over the sound of the angry waves. The swirling water threatens our boat, and our family. Then, suddenly the grinder completes its task. The mast slips away. We push on.
We love our spares. We have about 20 boxes of spare parts, not including our seven tool boxes. Some of the spares came with our boat.
We acquired many useful things, but we also acquired a set of Lewmar mosquito screens that do not fit the port lights on our boat. It has been a process to determine the purpose of some of the boat parts.
We are happy to part ways with unnecessary parts because it leaves us with more space and a greater sense of organization.
Other spares we have purchased ourselves. We continue to purchase spares for our boat. When we started this adventure we would not have thought to buy multiple propane sensors or multiple propane shut-off solenoids.
We have needed lots of head parts – plastic impellers, o-rings, duck-bill valves, and the hose fittings. We have learned to separate our “generator parts” from our “generator consumable parts”. Some of the parts that we now consider to be generator consumables came as a surprise to us.
We didn’t expect, for example, to have to replace or repair dynamo generator brackets. We now own three spare brackets. Jay Pennington at CYOA Yacht Charters (US Virgin Islands) told us that he sometimes replaces dynamo generator brackets on his charter boats that have Fischer Panda generators.
We are taking care of our spares because they represent safety, sanity and self-sufficiency.
LIVING ON A BOAT IS NOT LIKE OWNING A HOUSE.
On a boat, if you break something you must learn to fix it. There are no Home Depot stores or Linen Chests in a remote outpost in the Caribbean. At one point, we went for 11 days without bathing because we were unable to make fresh water and we were waiting for parts. We swam, and we washed our dishes and laundry with seawater. This solution seemed to work until our can opener seized, and our clothing caused us to itch.
On a boat in the Caribbean, it is not simple to order parts from Amazon. We do not have a mailing address or a phone number. Plus, shipping takes time, and tends to alter our schedule, which is beholden to the weather.
To save time and the cost of shipping, my husband has flown to Miami on two occasions. It was simpler to pick up boat parts in Miami than to have them shipped.
Cruisers are very inventive. People swap and sell parts to each other all the time. In large harbours cruisers communicate their needs and wares (also known as “Treasures of the Bilge”) using VHF radio by way of a cruiser’s net. We recently acquired paper charts for the Pacific Ocean in this manner.
A cruiser’s net is a great way to meet other cruisers and learn about different social customs, and events.
I find that the best advice tends to come from people who have sailed long distances, well removed from ‘civilization’. These cruisers tend to fix things rather than replace them. We once met a sailor who fashioned a temporary front tooth using a seashell. I wonder if he ever shelled out for a permanent crown?
But, back to taking stock, and the tableau that I began painting for you at the beginning of this blog post.
“Adhesive and tape” I say as I spy two boxes in front of me. “How would you differentiate between adhesive and tape?” I ask. I bite my lip and tuck in my chin. My husband grabs the boxes and stores them away.
So our boxes are slowly being put away, and our spare parts are being organized and catalogued. We want to make sure that if we need something in an emergency we know exactly where to find it.
That’s enough from me for now. I wonder how many people arrived at this blog post expecting something brimming with Christmas warmth, waxing nostalgic about 2017, and adopting an ‘attitude of gratitude’?
That sort of “taking stock” will have to wait for another blog post.
Update: We have been invited to spend Christmas and Boxing Day with two local families in Trinidad. To be invited to someone’s home is very special, especially when you are an ‘outsider’ and traveling. Their generosity and sense of hospitality is amazing.