Becoming a boater is a lot like taking a spouse.
Like the vows spoken to our beloved, we each made unspoken promises to our new boat to have and to hold, from this day forward, in sickness and in health, and perform routine maintenance.
On our honeymoon cruise we poured a little champagne on the bow and drank the rest. Giddy we were on the maiden voyage, picturing the two of us cruising forever, lifelong partners. We understood, of course, that this marriage, like any, would require regular maintenance and time. Actually, we looked forward to it.
As with all relationships, the true test came after the honeymoon. We often hear people say, "We used to spend more time on the boat when we first got it.” Responsible reasons are offered up. Children were born. They required more of your time. The job was increasingly demanding.
Strolling around Marinatown Marina recently, on another beautiful Florida day, I realized I didn't see many familiar boating faces. Boats rested comfortably in their slips, but they seemed lonely to me.
Is the 24-hour/7-day negativity about jobs, homes and stocks keeping boaters from doing the thing they love the most? I fear this.
It seems to me that as the economy and marine industry sees new life, now is the time for boaters to be with their boats. Boats float and they move gently in their slips, but they are our rock-solid safe havens from the cares of the world.
I think it's time for many boaters to work on restoring their boating relationships. One way to do this is to spend time with their boat and give it some tender loving care. Like a marriage, sometimes the longer you have the boat the more it requires.
It's comforting to you and, I imagine, also comforting to the boat if you have boat care people who perform regular maintenance and upkeep. (This is one of the grand benefits of putting your boat into charter, by the way.) But, you know, you can do it yourself and enjoy the rewards that come to do-it-yourselfers.
You know the drill: Tend to the engine, changing the oil, oil filters, fuel filter, impellers, etc. as necessary. Grease the fittings. Top off the fuel tank. Start and run the dinghy motor.
Check the electrical system and all the electronics. Do the batteries still hold their charge? Is the marine radio still sending and receiving? Squirt some corrosion-proof lube on the connections.
Scrub, hose, dry, oil, wax. Cover parts of the boat that get the full blast of sun.
When we bought our boats we didn't recite "until death do us part" but there was an implied commitment to make the relationship work. If we're no longer able to make that commitment, then maybe a trial separation is in order. Just remember, it isn't the boat's fault.
But my advice is, do the routine maintenance. Hold on to what you have.
After this labor of love you'll feel better and your boat will look terrific. Invite some friends to join you for an afternoon cruise. Tell them how much you love your boat. Oh, and tell your spouse, too.
Barb Hansen manages Southwest Florida Yachts, yacht charters and Florida Sailing & Cruising School, a liveaboard yacht school. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via phone at (239) 257-2788. Visit her on the web at www.swfyachts.com.