I hate house cleaning. I like boat cleaning (mostly). I hate house chores. I like boat chores (mostly). It’s not rational, but it’s true.
Growing up, I liked helping my parents get the boat ready every spring, because it meant spending time on board—and I could usually pretend we were no longer on dry land. While sanding, waxing, or cleaning, my mind would wander back to a favorite adventure from the previous summer, or step ahead to a dream destination that might be only a few weeks away. Either way, it was like virtual boating: almost as good as the real thing.
Now that I work on my own boats, there are a few chores I have to do every year, which pushes them off the fun list and onto the “routine maintenance” list—where their house equivalents live. Doing something for the first time is fun; polishing the same topsides year after year can be drudgery, especially if there are several new scratches to remind you of that botched current-against-wind docking episode last August...
So this year, I’m going to try to recapture some of my childhood daydreaming approach by using these five tips for putting the fun back in spring projects:
1. Make a list. This is something that can be done before the spring thaw to start your summer daydreaming: write down what needs to be done before launching day. Make sure to include the small projects too, so you can intersperse those with the bigger jobs. And if possible, break those big jobs up into several smaller ones. There’s nothing more depressing than seeing the same item at the top of a list, day after day—and nothing more inspiring than seeing an item with a line drawn through it or a check mark next to it.
2. Don’t try to complete your list in one day or one weekend. As a wise friend once told me, “give yourself the gift of time.” Putting in 2-3 hours a day over several days is a lot more palatable than an 8 hour grind the day before launching—with that “Must get it done today or else” deadline hanging over your head.
3. Accept help. Once in awhile, someone asks me if I need help doing spring boat work. My knee-jerk reaction is usually “No, thanks, I’ve got it,” but what’s the real harm in saying “yes please” and signing up that person for a few hours of topside polishing or sanding? The work will go more quickly with company, even counting the supervision required to make sure the job is done up to standard. And I might just be sharing the satisfaction of boat ownership as well, teaching someone to Embrace the Hacksaw.
4. Get the family involved. Growing up, I learned a lot of skills from my parents, which is why I now know how to do my own boat work. Yes, today’s kids have a lot more distractions, but that’s no excuse: so do I and so do you, and we still make time for boat work. Ask for help, and then turn over an appropriate amount of responsibility for a specific task. Showing rather than telling is the best way to teach kids to take care of their future boats and other toys.
5. Take breaks. One of the biggest advantages of splitting one big task up into four smaller ones is that you can take small breaks every time you complete a piece of it. Sit down in your favorite spot on deck, and take a deep breath and a look around; your mind will instantly transport you on a little “stay-cation” to your favorite harbor or marina. It’s a nice reminder of why you’re doing the next not-so-fun project: to get you there.
Bonus tip: Keep yourself fed and watered, and don’t overdo it. Plan ahead and bring what you need for snacks and lunch, including hydration; running to the store every time your stomach growls or your mouth feels dry can easily eat up several hours of a work day. And after a long winter cooped up inside, it’s easy to get behind on fluids and then be less productive the rest of the day or weekend.
So that’s it, my thoughts on how to make even the seasonal boat chores more fun. As for the daydreams that make the chores fly by? I’ll be thinking about a daylong sail around the island... and I’ll let you know where I end up.
PS: If you need advice about a specific chore, browse through our how to video playlist. And if you want to read a little more before you get started, here are a few suggestions:
10 Stupid Spring Commissioning Mistakes
Spring Commissioning for Your Boat
Spring Shake-Down Cruise: 10 Problems to Look For