Yardbirds: lessons learned living in a boat yard

We were greeted by a sputtering percussion of four-letter-words as we pulled into our holding berth at Trites Marina in Steveston in late April. The source of the expletives was a fisherman in the purse-seinner next to us, who’d wanted to lower the stabilizer boom over the place where we were now parked. After confirming that we were indeed in the right spot and saying as much in a (more-or-less) measured tone, his profanities took on a decidedly more sinister tone, spewing maledictions so varied and inspired that I found myself both fascinated and afraid. At the dark suggestion that he would drop his boom on our boat if we didn’t get out of the way and his seeming preparedness to lay Robin out, we decided to walk off the dock, rather hoping we would not return to find our mooring lines slashed. We were later told by a manager at the yard that he himself had been knocked out cold twice by fisherman with various grievances over the years. So our first lesson of yard life was learned: do not provoke the fishermen!

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Two happy Yard Birds enjoying the first days at Trites Marina and Penny’s yummy Coffee!

Our first day in the yard we studied our boat from stem to stern, focusing on the many deck soft spots that needed to be remedied. With a clipboard and pencil in hand, we marked up our deck like overly-enthusiastic plastic surgeons. “We’ll incise along here, peel back the skin, insert a needle here and pump her full of epoxy!” We tallied up the many elective procedures we were to perform and as we surveyed our now thoroughly pencilled in deck, were overcome with a sense of utter panic at the work to be done. Robin, began searching for other boats to buy on YachtWorld and upon finding none of interest (i.e. less than $100K USD) we were resigned to the work that lay before us. Over a couple of beers we revised our prognosis and opted for a natural look; The MonArk was to be more of a Jamie Lee Curtis than a Steve Tyler. Thus, we learned the second tenet of yard life: plan, panic, and then plan again!

We planned to spend a week on the MonArk’s bottom, removing five coats of paint to get back to the MonArks original gelcoat, sanding everything down, and then applying four coats of interprotect and four coats of anti-fouling paint. No big deal – right? The whole job took twice as long with twice the workforce we expected – putting our estimate off by a factor of 4x! ┬áRobin’s parents stoicly came to our rescue, putting in 8 hours of a day for two whole weeks. We had a wonderful time visiting with Judi and Doug, and by the end of the second week we thought it only right to return their passports to them at which point they took the next available flight home (just kidding – no parents were mistreated or held against their will in the making of our boat). But truly we could not have done it without them! We learned to never provide estimates on how long something will take in the yard, and when forced to provide an estimate, to multiply it by a factor of ten before announcing our grand ambitions to the world.

Much of our time was spent provisioning, driving from chandleries, to hardware stores, to purveyors of plastic, alternators, electrical components and of course the liquor store. On a typical day we’d drive around Richmond seeking out elusive stainless steel metric hardware, which though confirmed as “in stock” by the store clerk by phone, was inevitably nowhere to be found upon arrival. On any given shopping trip we considered ourselves successful if we found at least 20% of what we were looking for and only spent 80% more on it than we’d intended to. Lessons learned: carry a running shopping list and don’t buy a french boat!

Between the shopping trips and scraping we made many wonderful friends. There were five or six boats all lined up in a row, sitting about 10 feet off the asphalt on stanchions. We’d all climb up and down the ladders of our sky-dwellings, visiting each other for coffee, borrowing tools, and commiserating over woeful tales of broken through hulls, bubbling paint jobs, and sodden decks. ┬áThere was constant sharing and gifting: a gallon of strawberries left in our cockpit, Alaskan crab shared with neighbours, extra sealant and paint, swapping of movies and boat tips. The guys at Strait Marine came to The MonArk’s rescue, offering wisdom and advice, when we would have otherwise launched into a misguided project (likely wielding the wrong tool). Our community of fisherman, sailors, welders, and boat builders was so wonderful, that we felt quite sad at having to leave after three-months of yard work. When asked when we set off on our boat trip, we always say it started pulling into the yard at Steveston. We learned many things over those three months but perhaps most importantly that yard work can be a tremendous amount of fun!

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