There are few things more satisfying to my seafaring soul than periodically emptying the boat of EVERYTHING and giving her a good scrub and sorting and maybe a few coats of paint and varnish. Only one other time, in faraway Cartagena, Colombia, have we had the opportunity to do that to Ganymede, and after a year of living aboard with three tiny children and cruising hard in some dirty places, it was most desperately needed. That time, as I staggered through the lounge in the boatyard with armload after armload of stuff to be cleaned and sorted, I received ever more incredulous comments from another cruiser who was limply fanning herself on a sofa in the crushing heat. “Are you gonna take everything out?”
“All of it!” I gasped, sweat streaming in rivers.
“I’ve lived on my boat for thirty years and never done that!”
I pretended to be too out-of-breath from carrying the stove to be able to answer. What could I have said? “I can tell”? Hardly appropriate, though true. “You probably ought to”? Telling others how to conduct their seafaring lives is the quickest way to being unliked. I’d like to think that my silence spoke volumes, but likelier it fell on deaf ears. Anyway, whether I set a good example of not, when we packed Ganymede up again she was spicker and spanner than ever, we knew where everything was and how much of it we had, and having got rid of tons of unnecessary junk, we had elbow room galore.
Our next chance at a full emptying did not come until this fall, when we moved into a rented house, four years after having emptied her in Cartagena. It has taken more carloads than I can count to get everything out of her, but now she’s empty again, and scrubbed down, and ready for some much-needed paint and varnish, which we hope to apply when the weather begins to warm up again. Till then, all her stuff is at the house, slowly being gone over as time allows: lamps cleaned and serviced, anchor and chain awaiting galvanizing, canvas getting patched, locker lids painted, and most importantly to my mind, her rigging getting a complete overhaul. We last did that in the winter of 2011-2012, when I had a tabernacle built so we could easily strike and step the mast ourselves. It was then that I changed over from the rusting galvanized turnbuckles and shackles to aluminum deadeyes and lanyards.
Though I have no fears that my synthetic shrouds may be getting worn—after all, the far older synthetic shrouds I took apart for inspection after several hard years in the tropics were in pristine shape—I find it prudent to periodically go over everything with a fine-tooth comb. Not that I don’t perform frequent inspections aloft while cruising, but it’s nice to stretch everything out at ground level and eyeball it closely from time to time. A lot of lashings that are now over five years old will get replaced just as precautionary maintenance, and all stainless steel fasteners in the aluminum mast will be backed out and in again, just to make sure the Tef-gel they were bedded in is still goopy. I can also cram more Tef-gel and Lanocote in appropriate places, and generally make sure everything is properly shipshape and not corroding into valueless white powder.
Having a house with a little garage to do all this in is, of course, most convenient, and it’s just too bad that the boat is so far away, and the weather so cold that I can’t reasonably go down to her after work. But the longer Spring takes to come, the more coats of paint I can get on the oars and locker lids, the better I can get the rigging serviced, and by summer Ganymede should be looking and sailing her very best again—better than ever, in fact, since every tweak and improvement of the rig makes her appearance neater or increases her efficiency.