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Design Philosophy

When I began this project I was initially overwhelmed by the volume of choices to make in sealants, epoxies, paints, wires, and techniques.  How could there be so many different ways to build a boat?  Surely there is right and wrong... Right?  Yes, and no.  There are definitely standards and guidelines, but they tend to be high level.  This left me the work of identifying the products and techniques.

What I discovered as I dug into books and articles is that before you can even begin to pick your products and techniques you need to understand what your goal is.  For example, an electrical installation for an ocean-voyaging vessel is fine for a freshwater coastal cruiser.  However, a technique that is adequate for that coastal cruiser might not be sufficient for the ocean going vessel.  A race boat may also have very different needs than a day sailer or a cruiser.

My intention in writing this section is to describe the underlying assumptions behind my projects, techniques, and product choices.  At first I was laying out my project plans based on what the real salty ocean going vessels would use.  After all, if it worked for them it would certainly be right for me!  What I discovered quickly was that given the scope of my restoration project I was not possible in terms of time or budget to bring every system up to long distance cruising levels in one season.  Nor would it be appropriate.  A boat needs to be sailed in order to understand what she needs and how you live on her.  While I had some time in, it was not enough to commit to a complete refit.

The foundation of my plans comprised the following points:
  1. No Oceans: There is very little likelihood that my boat would be used for ocean voyages during the time that I own her.  The exception may be a brief trip from Lake Ontario through the New York State Canal system to NYC, or (dream time!) a trip out the St. Lawrence, down the coast to New York, and then back home via the Canals.  In either case, the salt water exposure would be minimal and all sailing would be coastal.
  2. Diminishing Returns: My boat is 30 years old, and was not ideally cared for during those years.  Although a fantastic boat with a long life ahead of her, it is not a pristine Hinkley worthy of replacing every screw.  I will accept some degree of aesthetic compromise to respect the budget and what I can reasonably expect to sell her for someday.
  3. Primary Use: As big as my dreams may be, 90% of my sailing will be day trips that begin and end at the marina slip.  Most of my "cruises" will be overnights, with perhaps one multi-day trip per year.  As such, design choices should favor the day sail.  
  4. No Racing: Racing is not a design goal.  Not at all.  I may take her around the cans someday for fun, but it will never be a design consideration.
  5. Safety is primary:  When in doubt, overbuild a safety item.  Plan for redundancy and contingency in systems, and don't skimp on safety.  For example, while I don't need an exotic chart plotter, I will absolutely have a GPS on board that I can interface to my VHF radio to allow for a DSC emergency call to broadcast my position.
  6. Sweat Equity: I will not pay other people (the yard) do work I am capable of, even if it means less time in the water.  I will call in expertise where it is needed, but I will not throw money at the boat if I can instead throw sweat at it.  This will necessarily include some stretching of comfort zones.

The other design element is one I learned from a friend who helped me remodel the kitchen in my dry-land home.  At some point you need to stop analyzing and just get into it.  Once you get into it you trust that you will find a way out.  I actually spent weeks trying to figure out which sealant to use for the deck to hull joint, and the toe-rails.  Yes, weeks.  I have finally reached a point where I do my best to identify the choices, then I make one and move on accepting that it may be wrong.  I believe that in most cases my brief research leads me to better decisions than most people (who don't bother to research!) make with much nicer boats than mine.  On a fiberglass boat there is nothing you can't fix. I don't fear breaking it.

One last point I need to make involves overall cost and scope.  I do have a budget, and it is relative to average selling prices I found for CS27s.  That being said, one of the goals I have for this boat is to really learn marine systems and develop self-sufficiency as much as reasonably possible.  I want to know how things work, and learn by doing.  I know that I will mess things up along the way once in a while, but that is part of the intended journey.  I have learned that having others do work on your behalf does not always produce as good a  result  as work you do on your own behalf, and so I move forward without (much) fear.
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