The expert guide to boat repair

…when you find it, let me know

Owning a sailboat can be compared to having a child. A lot of time, patience and money goes toward keeping eveyone healthy and happy. Of which the rewards can be spontaneous, fantastic and unexpected. When the rewards come, one instantly forgets about all the toil, patience and financial commitment that went toward it. There are those moments when all is going well, of planning for the future, of how all these wonderful additions will be added. Interrupted only by the next breakdown and everything is put on hold while the immediate situation is dealt with.

There is also no rule book on how to do it right. Parents and this analogy aside, it can be frustrating determining the best course of action to follow for upgrade and repair and there is an inordinate amount of information to gather before the repair or upgrade is attempted. Not to mention all the material that is needed.

However, it was in the moment of everything going well that I decided to get to work on one of the projects that I had been saving. I needed to remove some staining on the bow of my boat near the waterline that might be UV or something else. I needed a strong solvent and explained this to attendant in the marine store.

“Xylene? That’s a very poisonous substance. Why do you want that?”

I explained that I had been doing some research.

“Where did you get that idea?”

I told him that I read it in ‘This Old Boat’.

“Ohhh fuck,” he said.

A smile crept across my face as the attendant turned and lead me to the solvent and cleaning aisle. He explained that I didn’t want to use Xylene, I wanted to use another product like a ‘Cut & Polish’. I got some more advice from the attendant.

“Stay off the internet.”

I couldn’t agree with him more, though I’m not sure if he was only referring to advice given in sailing forums. I can’t think of a group of people who have more opinions about any given topic than those post advice about sailing and boat repair. It is quite an extraordinary phenomenon.

In a sailing forum, one person will pose a question about say replacing chain plates. There will be some common discussion about how the repair ought to be made and then one person will recommend using 5200 as a sealant and here are the reasons why. The next post is bound to be another person stating that there are a number of sealants to use and one should absolutely not use 5200 and here are the reasons why. Then another person will post that they are a shipwright and have over “X” many years experience and as an expert, explain the different uses of 5200 and the different uses of say 291. Inevitably, another post will snidely remark that the user recommending to not use 5200, frankly, doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about and also partially agree with the shipwright post. Another person will chime in asking which part of the post the snidely remarked user was referring to and perhaps he should refrain from uttering his ill-informed opinion and stick to the facts. And then wish him Fair winds and a Following sea.

At which point someone will politely ask just what the blank is going on and adding that clearly certain sealants work for some people in different situations.

A week or two will go by and someone will inquire what the outcome of the discussion was. The reply to which is that if the sailor is going offshore, they should consider one option and if they are not going offshore they should consider another.

The person who posed the question will then politely thank everyone for their opinions and decide on an option that he had considered in the first place.

A couple of comments will commence, usually at each other about who has more offshore miles than the other and the different stresses on boats and often stray so far off the topic that the comment will become more of an essay on storm strategies than a comment on chain plate repair.

6 months will go by and I will stumble across this page looking for the final, absolutely final, expert, recommendation.