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Old 15-02-2021, 19:59   #1
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Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

I guess this is relatively common plan: buy a boat on the lakes, learn, outfit and then cast away. We ourselves certainly still moving along such plan. However, here is a bit of a cold shower and a warning to those who contemplate such route. See, unlike for those fortunate enough (basically all sailing channels on YT), on the lakes there is winter. Some longer, some shorter, but for the most part the moment your splash in May, clock starts ticking towards inevitable haul out in September (or October if you are a tough one). It might be OK, but see, all boats require work.

Work loosely falls into three categories a) regular maintenance, b) breakages and c) projects. The "a" work is not that complicated, but usually tedious. Imagine buffing entire hull or changing oil in main engine and outboard (hint: this would take a better part of a day when you factor in trips to buy missing stuff, dispose oil etc.). Work "b" ranges from nuisances to grave dangers. You can safely assume most of work "b" must be dealt with before even short weekend sail. Finally, work "c" ranges from tiny to humongous.

Here is a great revelation I had the other day: you must live on that boat entire summer to be able to sail and do the work. If not, you either don't sail or skip some of the work. The next best scenario is when you are close to the marina so that you can swing by the boat on Tuesday evening to do some work. If you do not live aboard and, say 2h away from the boat, I have very bad news: you are thoroughly screwed. You become a "weekender", the most unfortunate of all. You arrive on Friday night and by the time you move all provisions aboard, it's already too dark to depart or do most of the work. We depart 5AM on Saturdays and have breakfast while underway.

One might think to change time for money, let yard do the work. Regretfully, it is not an option. They seem always work on someone else' boat and that work order of yours is always two weeks out. I remember asking them to re-attach lazyjacks we accidentally let running down. The job would take two weeks, would cost 400$ because the boat must be at the service dock and the guy would need to come up on the lift. Needless to say, I went up on the mast myself, but the weekend was lost for the sailing.

So how do people solve this dilemma? They donít. Most boats keep rotting away at the dock leaving maybe once per summer. Of course, a lot of work can be done while the boat is out of the water. Regretfully, on the lakes it is too darn cold to do any work from November till April. Epoxy does not cure, wires and hoses are way too stiff etc. Renting warm hangar is an option, but the mast has to come down and the rent keeps their cash register ringing. Can be done for very specific large projects, hiring help almost certainly would be needed.

So here we are, three years later on the lakes. Did we learn how to maintain a sailboat? You bet we did, sweat and some blood sprayed all over the boat. Did we learn sailing? Not so much.

And final piece of advice. Use every opportunity to do even minor work during winter. Use winter time to acquire all the parts you might theoretically need. Everything from spare filters to bolts and lines so that you never spend precious summer time waiting for stuff to show up.

Fair winds and following seas.
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Old 24-02-2021, 09:02   #2
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

JEEEZ!

No wonder Yankees are so grumpy.

Now I understand why Great Lakes boats are in better condition than, say, Florida boats. Only four months of use a year, and shrink wrapped the rest.
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Old 24-02-2021, 10:33   #3
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

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Originally Posted by 4eyes View Post
JEEEZ!

No wonder Yankees are so grumpy.

Now I understand why Great Lakes boats are in better condition than, say, Florida boats. Only four months of use a year, and shrink wrapped the rest.
Are we to assume it is the Great Lakes? The entire thread simply refers to "on the lakes", like we all live there.
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Old 24-02-2021, 11:11   #4
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

I just bought a boat on Lake Ontario. Boat is 4 hrs away from home, so the plan is to live-aboard asap in order to get it ready for splashing in May.
I still work, but all I need is a computer and internet...

I'll report back in 3 years...
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Old 24-02-2021, 11:49   #5
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

Quote:
Originally Posted by 4eyes View Post
JEEEZ!

No wonder Yankees are so grumpy.

Now I understand why Great Lakes boats are in better condition than, say, Florida boats. Only four months of use a year, and shrink wrapped the rest.
Vacuum bagged food lasts a long time in the freezer without spoilage. Probably works the same for boats.
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Old 24-02-2021, 13:00   #6
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

I intentionally said in generic terms "lakes" meaning that situation will be same on almost any lake in Northern hemisphere whether it is Ontario, Champlain or Bodensee.

Yes, on the lakes boats age at least twice slower.
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Old 24-02-2021, 13:03   #7
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

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I just bought a boat on Lake Ontario. Boat is 4 hrs away from home, so the plan is to live-aboard asap in order to get it ready for splashing in May.
I still work, but all I need is a computer and internet...

I'll report back in 3 years...
Exactly my point. You know that lake Ontario is frozen solid, right?
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Old 24-02-2021, 14:07   #8
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

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Originally Posted by vladkri View Post
Exactly my point. You know that lake Ontario is frozen solid, right?
Not this year.
Despite a recent surge, Great Lakes ice coverage is well below average, this winter. Ice coverage is currently at almost 38 per cent, below the average of 53 per cent.

Ice forecasts for the Great Lakes issued by Environment Canada at 12:00 p.m. EST Wednesday 24 February 2021 for today tonight and Thursday.
Western Lake Ontario:
Open water except 1 tenth thin lake ice along parts of the southern
shore.
Eastern Lake Ontario:
Open water except 9 tenths thin lake ice including 2 tenths medium
lake ice in the extreme northeastern section. Consolidated medium
lake ice in most sheltered bays in the northeastern section.
Morehttps://iceweb1.cis.ec.gc.ca/Prod/page3.xhtml
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Old 24-02-2021, 15:58   #9
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

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Originally Posted by vladkri View Post
Exactly my point. You know that lake Ontario is frozen solid, right?
Not frozen solid, as GordMay pointed out.

That's why I'm doing all the planning and buying now.

As soon as the snow is gone (next month?) I plan on being on the boat to start the work I need to do...

Maybe next year, I can sail it south to where the water is not white and frozen.
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Old 24-02-2021, 16:42   #10
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

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Not frozen solid,..
... Maybe next year, I can sail it south to where the water is not white and frozen.
Canoeing, in Thunder Bay.
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Old 25-02-2021, 10:42   #11
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

We got a couple of nights at -10 (wind chill -20) last week. It happens every 25-30 years.
I can't see why anyone would live where it and worse is a regular occurrence.
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Old 25-02-2021, 14:18   #12
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

Looking back to our 7 years as boat owners, I think the first few years are the worst in terms of work and the learning curve. It gets easier once you get most of the major planned projects/upgrades out of the way. Hang in there.


Quote:
Originally Posted by vladkri View Post
Here is a great revelation I had the other day: you must live on that boat entire summer to be able to sail and do the work. If not, you either don't sail or skip some of the work.
...

So how do people solve this dilemma? They donít.
We do. You can still do a lot in the shoulder seasons. The regular stuff takes a few days in the spring and fall. We carefully plan the projects and order parts and tools over the winter. May and early June can be too cold and buggy for cruising but warm enough for work. That's when we do most of the projects. This can be done on weekends but working from the boat and doing boat work on weeknights is another option - there is plenty of daylight. When all the planned stuff is done we go over the boat with the fine comb to ensure everything is in top shape, to avoid doing any boat work during the next months.

I imagine like most Great Lakes cruisers we fall into the "weekender" category. However we are fanatical about using ALL summer weekends and usually take 2-3 weeks off to go on extended trips. Working from the boat whenever practical helps too, as well as extending long weekends to 4 or 5 days to cover more miles. Any minor work is done at the dock before departure, or even at anchor. I certainly would not consider a quick trip up the mast to replace the anchor light a weekend killer.

Yes the long cold winter sucks. You better learn to enjoy winter sports or work towards the goal of putting cold winters behind you. We are in the latter group
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Old 25-02-2021, 15:03   #13
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

Quote:
Originally Posted by vladkri View Post
Here is a great revelation I had the other day: you must live on that boat entire summer to be able to sail and do the work. If not, you either don't sail or skip some of the work.

I feel your pain. But it doesn't have to be that way.


I take careful notes and photos in the fall at haulout and plan my work over the winter. I order parts and supplies to arrive by early March and then spend several weekends on maintenance. I do not run errands while working on the boat. If I am short of something I move onto another project, order parts, and revisit the job the next weekend. I order nearly everything from Defender (for marine items and maintenance things like sandpaper, paint, varnish, and brushes) and Mcmaster-Carr (for fasteners) and don't screw around with local suppliers except for lumber, motor oil, batteries, and sail repair.



During the season I try to allow half an hour of maintenance before we depart. Doesn't always happen, but this is enough to deal with odd items that come up during the season and fiddly things that have to be fit in place.



Quote:

One might think to change time for money, let yard do the work. Regretfully, it is not an option. They seem always work on someone else' boat and that work order of yours is always two weeks out. I remember asking them to re-attach lazyjacks we accidentally let running down. The job would take two weeks, would cost 400$ because the boat must be at the service dock and the guy would need to come up on the lift. Needless to say, I went up on the mast myself, but the weekend was lost for the sailing.
Lazyjacks -- Sail without them then? They're supposed to be a convenience. I have a love/hate relationship with mine and am not sure they solve more problems than they create.


I try to find out what kind of jobs the marina likes to do and is good at, and then give them those jobs. In my case the marina is good at launch, haulout, mast stepping and unstepping, lifelines and standing rigging, winterizing/dewinterizing, and winter maintenance items if ordered before fall haulout so that they can plan their schedule. They are also very good and very cost effective for work that requires lifting the boat.


On the other hand, I would not try to get them to do a plumbing or electrical project, especially in the middle of the summer, and I would not want to pay their rates for straightforward yet time consuming work like rebedding deck fittings, paint and varnish, polishing, etc.



Quote:

So how do people solve this dilemma? They don’t. Most boats keep rotting away at the dock leaving maybe once per summer.
To be sure, there are some of those.


I have a day job and am an hour away from my boat. We are typically out on the water 20 days a year. Last year was more because of Covid. This year it will be more because we have three week-long trips planned and there will still be weekend sails.


Quote:

Of course, a lot of work can be done while the boat is out of the water. Regretfully, on the lakes it is too darn cold to do any work from November till April.
In Minnesota we usually get several good weekend days in March and five or six in April. With a heavy maintenance load it is possible to delay the launch until mid/late May.



Quote:
And final piece of advice. Use every opportunity to do even minor work during winter. Use winter time to acquire all the parts you might theoretically need. Everything from spare filters to bolts and lines so that you never spend precious summer time waiting for stuff to show up.
This is good advice. I do also take small items that need work inside, such as outboard motors, companionway boards that need refinishing, cushions, etc.
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Old 05-04-2021, 06:28   #14
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

Thanks everyone for lively discussion. Launch is soon hopefully. As I mentioned a "weekender" is screwed in more than one way. Here is more. There is rock solid weather pattern: is almost always rains on weekend.
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Old 05-04-2021, 19:08   #15
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Re: Getting started on the lakes: 3 years later

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Canoeing, in Thunder Bay.
LOL We did that years ago with an old Grumman. Was a real hoot... until we hit a tree that jumped out in front of us about the 4th or 5th run. All on board survived, unfortunately, the canoe did not. The kid who owned the canoe did suffer some pretty severe after effects when his father found out.
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