There’s a point in every relationship where the fun “dating” phase ends and you start to really get to know a gal. At first, she’ll make sure she’s always “put together” when she knows she’s going to see you. She’ll tidy up her place if she knows you’re coming over, and she’ll always try to be in a good mood around you. It’s not like she’s putting on airs or anything, you’re getting to know her, on the surface, you just haven’t yet seen the “real her”─raw and exposed. After a few months, efforts to always present herself in a certain manner will wane and she’ll start to let you see little things about her that reveal more about her true nature. Maybe she wears a retainer at night. Perhaps she keeps a really messy sock drawer. She is annoyingly particular about how you load the dishwasher. She snores. Any number of things that weren’t uncovered in the easy, fun dating phase and, at first, they kind of drive you crazy.
But, over time, you come to find these are the things you really love about her. The intimate workings of her personality─her quirks. The things no one else knows because they’re not as close to her as you are. You start to see the method behind the madness of her seemingly sock disarray. You get her systems. You know what makes her angry, what makes her tick. And you love that you do and that no one else does. That’s when a relationship really starts to form. When you get to really know her.
That’s what we’re going through right now with our boat. When we first bought our 1985 Niagara in April, 2013 she was ready to cruise. We made our first passage on her, across the Gulf of Mexico from Punta Gorda, FL to Pensacola, FL, right out of the gate and she carried us through some very rough seas seemingly with ease.
Then we spent an awesome year sailing and cruising her around our local anchorages and to the Florida Keys. While we experienced some common gear failure and deterioration, for the most part our boat performed beautifully the entire time. We doted on her and made some upgrades and enjoyed every minute on our wonderful boat.
Then the dating phase ended.
When we started spending more time on her, looking in lockers and under the floorboards, we started to uncover some things. For one, we found our mast stringers were rotting. They had been for a while. We also found our hand rails were leaking, our lazarettes were leaking, our port lights were leaking. Let’s just say a bunch of stuff was leaking. Once we completely disassembled her to make the stringer repair, we found many other little annoying things about her─some hoses were deteriorating, some modifications were not done the right way, some (okay, many) things needed to be re-bedded.
And, it started to drive us crazy! You had to start to wonder if this was really the gal we first met in Punta Gorda and had been cruising around on for two years. Had she been putting on airs?
The answer is no. She was always there─her quirks and finicky systems─just lying under the floorboards for us to discover. But, we had to get her raw and exposed to really see her. We had to uncover every inch and once we did we found these were the things we really loved about her. Sure, she’s got some leaks, some corroded wires, two very sad rotten stringers that need to be repaired.
But, she’s got good bones. She is a solid, well-built, well-designed boat. Once we took everything apart and could see the ingenuity of her systems and the durability of her construction, that’s when we really got to know her. It may seem like a lot of work disassembling your boat and scouring every inch, but you have to really expose her to get to know her, to appreciate her. Phillip and I have gained a wealth of knowledge about our amazing boat during this entire repair. While it has cost us a good deal of time and money, we know it is the absolute best thing we could have done before setting off to really cruise in our boat─get to know her. Every system. Every locker. Every inch. That’s when the real relationship begins. We know we’re building a bond that will keep us together─functional, fulfilled and afloat─out on the water.
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