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Old 25-09-2017, 23:56   #1
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Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

So, I'm sitting down today and making this list of all of those things I have got to get done on the boat. Some simple and others will probably take me months to get to.

When you guys are doing boat projects, how do you decide what is most important?

I mean, don't think I'm trolling. I understand things like fixing my anchor light and a fuel leak come first.

I'm talking about the endless list of things that need to be done like scrubbing and bleaching the holding tanks, fixing the toilet, pulling wire that's tinned for the auto tiller, replacing the radio.

Do you usually go by systems or do you go by time it will take, or some other method?

Some of the items are going to take me time because of the sheer costs involved. (Like a new main for example). There's only so much time in a day or week I can really do meaningful work.

On the bright side I'm picking up a new to me tender this week and it only needs a little light work done to it to have it ready to go.

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Old 26-09-2017, 00:07   #2
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

Iím in the same situation. My philosophy is to fix repair anything that prevents me sailing in the manner I want first. After that then just choose. What annoys you most.

When i get to my winter destination the very first thing will be repairing any seals or leaks.

Then Iíll overhaul the engine.

While waiting for parts Iíll tackle small electrical issues.

Then maybe on interior design and comfort projects.

Exterior bits and pieces including painting can wait until spring.

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Old 26-09-2017, 00:29   #3
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

I have an Excel file that I use to add every project as I think of it. With Excel you can sort data, so I have one column named "Priority" and another named " Category" (which is usually the system). Typically I have it sorted by priority so the important things get fixed first. The main thing is to capture the items to do so you don't forget about them.

As you mentioned, safety items get done first. From there it is dependent on if I have or can get all of the things I need for the project and how much time I have. If I need something from the US, I will add a note "waiting on widget" to remind me the status.

Also, if it is something the Admiral wants done, that tends to zoom straight to the top of the list.


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Old 26-09-2017, 00:30   #4
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

First are necessity type items. Safety things such as jacklines. Along with ground tackle, the dink, & sailing gear. Meaning reefing & furling gear, sails, running & standing rigging. Ditto the rudder, engine, & AP.

After that, unless you're going to soon be spraying paint, or grinding, inside the boat or out, it's good to do some things which brighten up the interior & make living on her more pleasant. Like adding that new stereo, eye pleasing cushion covers, & making the galley more ergonomic, so that it's easier & more fun to prepare high class, nutritious meals.

As projects like these make you happy to be on the boat when they're finished, often by several orders of magnitude. This, coupled with it being easy to physically see (or hear) what you've accomplished... so that there's a sense of satisfaction. And when the boat is more warm, inviting, & liveable, then doing the less pleasant projects is less of a grind. Be it putting in new wiring for something, or adding a new filtration system to the diesel's plumbing.

I know that for me, doing the latter is a lot more fun while rocking out with some new tunes on the new stereo, & cold beers from the recently tuned up icebox (but coolers work too).

One other question I'll ask myself, that's a crossover from deliveries & lots of ocean racing, is "What of these projects can I do underway, or once we get there? And which of them are vital to getting us there, & getting us there safely".

So that in looking in things in this manner, it's a lot easier to make many things back burner items, & go out sailing; for the afternoon, or towards the next harbor. And that's a BIG morale booster. Since feeling stuck in port/tied to the dock due to maintenance issues can be disheartening.

Hope that helps. Just composing the above gives me a refreshed sense of perspective. One that pulls my head out of the "to do" list blues funk.

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Old 26-09-2017, 01:19   #5
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

I have concluded that the only way to deal with this (and I'm not joking) is to retire and live aboard. Then I can fix something every day, or make a bit of progress on bigger projects every day. That's what I do when I'm on the boat. Somehow, without me quite knowing how, things on the list get whittled down, and more than a few get crossed off because they are no longer important.

In the meantime, I've got the same problem you've got.

Another answer might be this: do what you afford.
Or this: do the safety stuff first.
Or this: go crazy and read books that say you must prioritize _____ (fill in the blank with your choice of: anchor and rode, thru-hulls, engine, standing rigging...).
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Old 26-09-2017, 01:33   #6
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

The order of doing items isn't as important as getting items fully completed. If you only have a weekend to work on it, then pick something that you can actually fully accomplish. Strike it off the list and get the satisfaction. If you had to fix something else in the process that wasn't on the list, then quickly add it to the list and strike it off. More satisfaction and inspiration.

There will be items on the list that just have to be pending because the material isn't available where you are, you don't have the money to buy it now, the tools aren't available, etc.

Then look at the list and put items that require similar prep work together so you work on them at the same time. Setup and cleanup can be a large chunk of the time. So do your epoxy/fiberglass jobs together. If a couple jobs require emptying the lazzeret or the anchor locker, do them together.

At some point you decide to leave and throw out the list, so you can start a new one.
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Old 26-09-2017, 01:38   #7
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

Like Steve77, I also use a spreadsheet, setup in a similar way, but I have a column for estimated cost and hours DIY.
That way I can tackle a small thing if I have only one hour spare, an item not necessarily on top of the priority list. Do not under-estimate the importance of crossing out an item, any item.

I prioritise item slightly different than posters above, more to do how the boat is used. My categories are:

#1 regardless of how the boat is used, these items need to be done first, yes, often safety related like bilgepumps, mooring lines etc, but may include legal stuff, registration etc.

#2 items to be done when boat is used, ie staying on board, but not leaving pen/slip or mooring

#3 items to be completed when motoring around, maybe in very calm waters

#3 items that need to be fixed when one goes sailing, coastal that is

#4 items to be completed when going offshore

Actually I have a 5th category, but that is more of a wishlist, populated with gadgets that are nice to have/install, but are not vital.

In addition to all the above I keep a a maintenance list, that shows the schedules of re-occuring items, some to be done fortnightly, ie mostly simple 5 minute jobs, like open and close the seacocks, flushing toilets, to dismantle the winches every few years

When I completed an item or installed a new item I do not delete the line, but insert the month/year in a "completed" column. That way a record is kept, just in case my aunty Alzheimer is planning a visit. Another reason for recording all the details is that it may make the boat easier to sell.
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Old 26-09-2017, 04:23   #8
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

Originally Posted by Seeking Solace View Post
Do you usually go by systems or do you go by time it will take, or some other method?

Anything that makes the boat unsafe or unusable gets fixed first, usually quickly, most often very quickly, sometimes immediately.

Everything else... gets addressed in between using the boat. Some of those get my attention more often during use, and those tend to bubble to the top of the remaining chores.

But I try not to become a slave to the boat. It doesn't have to be perfect to be usable.

And some projects are big enough that budget drives the scheduling, anyway.

Excel is useful; individual worksheets for major system types...

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Old 26-09-2017, 04:48   #9
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
The order of doing items isn't as important as getting items fully completed.
This. Nothing worse, for me, than 85 projects 1/2 done.

I also do the ones I feel like doing. Somedays I just want to mindless do some manual labor, so then I'll pick a painting project. Somedays I'm masochistic, so I'll troubleshoot an electrical issue. Materials on hand and/or budget to buy materials will dictate whether a project gets going or not.

I use index cards vs a spreadsheet. On the index card is the task, required tools/materials and costs. I work all day in front of a computer so I tend to do things the old fashioned way on the boat.
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Old 26-09-2017, 08:21   #10
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

The excel spreadsheet is the way to go. Mine has five levels of priority, with deadlines, est'd cost, est'd hours to complete, etc. I often change the priority rating as time gets short, but the most important items always get done before launch.
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Old 26-09-2017, 09:07   #11
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

I am getting ready to do a refit, and I don't have a to do list. It would only make me feel overwhelmed. When I get to the boatyard to do the work, probably the weather will determine what gets done first, second, and third. Inside jobs and outside jobs require different weather.

There must be a to do list somewhere locked up in my brain, and I hope it shows up soon!
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Old 26-09-2017, 09:22   #12
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

I use a simple paper pad / list. It's always visible, laying there on the table. In the time you make your Excel spread sheet up to date and perfect, you can whip the end of a line. That's just me I guess. It's not the list that matters, it's the work.
I find some things just always go to the bottom of the list as new things come up. That's a good thing. Often what one thinks they should do, doesnt need done at all!
I agree with the post about prioritizing what keeps you from sailing or using the boat. When you actually use the boat the list priority changes! Certain things are best put off until you can do all the related things at once! Scrubbing holding tanks? You can take that one off the list.
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Old 26-09-2017, 09:45   #13
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

I've posted this before but this is the single best thing I've done to stay on track. I also use chalkboard paint over the navigation station to keep notes sort of "briefing board ". I don't think we'd be almost finished with our refit if not for this To Do boardClick image for larger version

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Old 26-09-2017, 10:09   #14
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

It sounds like you're having trouble prioritizing *non-safety* projects. This is basically the classic problem of "I have 100 P2s, how do I prioritize within those?"

For the long list of non-safety P2s, I prioritize based on how much it will improve life on the boat. You use your toilet every day right? So that would come before pulling tinned wire for the auto tiller.

Some of this will be much easier to figure out with some time spent cruising. So this might sound counterintuitive, but going sailing for a day or two gets an automatic trump card over all non-safety projects. If you want to go sailing, go sailing. Some problems you'll find *alternative* workarounds for, so the project moves down in priority if you found a decent temporary alternative. And you'll realize some problems you thought were problems are probably just fine to ignore.

Within P2s sometimes I'll bump something up even if it doesn't improve life on the boat, if doing it now will avoid having to do much more work a year down the road. A good example of this is leaks into deck coring. Small leaks aren't a safety issue (unless ignored for a *very* long time), and stopping leaks into deck core doesn't improve my life at all, but it does avoid a lot more work than if I ignored it for 6 months or so.

Also seasonal tasks sometimes get a priority bump. For example, we have an 8 month rainy season where it's very rare to have 5 contiguous days with no rain. So projects that are easier to do without rain, like deck paint or resealing on deck, get a priority bump in the summer.
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Old 26-09-2017, 10:12   #15
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Re: Tackling long to do lists for boat fixes

Different periods of activity determine different methods of categorization: at a dock, on the hard, actively cruising in an area with access to affordable marine supplies, or actively cruising in areas that are remote, or preparing to sell the boat.


1) In all cases safety issues get resolved first.
2) Then items that just keep the boat in normalized state, not enhancements.
3) Enhancements or Simplifications.

Then we group items together that are better done together, such as when access is opened up to an area that is difficult to get to or where things are done more cheaply when done together (even if one item is important and the other is low on the list of importance).

Then we break them into months of activity. Anything that is not #1 or is #2 and prevents the boat from moving, does not prevent us from cruising, unless we need a lot of money or help to do them.
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