Having been recently replaced by a newer, flashier model, and hailing from a land steeped in a tradition of boat builders and shipwrights, I eagerly accepted my friend's offer to hang out on his vintage Hatteras motor yacht and tinker with things while I reinvented myself under the Caribbean sun.
Arriving in St Thomas in early December 2009, having just narrowly escaped winter's arrival in the north, I was anxious to see how vintage this Hatteras would be and what kind of "tinkering" I might find that could be worth the pleasantries of having an island address for the winter.
What I found did not disappoint. Wired, despite her 1980 launch date, had held up nicely, the recipient of obvious attention. When launched, Wired was referred as a 64MY, but somewhere along the line, she was lengthened to 70' with the addition of a beautifully-executed custom fishing cockpit. Her engine room was bright, clean and well endowed with two 871Ti's and two Northern Light gensets. So far, I was coming out way ahead!
Unfortunately, what looks shiny and welcoming in the daylight can be scary and intimidating after darkness sets in. There is no more thorough introduction than your first night aboard a strange boat!
Winter's early sunset sent me looking for house lighting. Now, I come from a sailing background, and I understand being miserly with lighting, but are the lights supposed to flicker as a warning that you've exceeded your limit? Was there some good explanation why the shower I chose as my own refused to offer up a single drop of moisture? Minor inconveniences, for sure. First thing in the morning everything would be rosy again.
Then around midnight the shore power tripped. Why? There was nothing on. Except of course for four or five air conditioners, but how much can they draw? And if there was no power, then what was driving the sirens and buzzers that were announcing my dilemma throughout the marina? How were all the mosquitoes getting in? Was the water pump going to stop running sometime?
Eventually, exhausted and resigned to being fly bait, I drifted off to sleep, comfortable knowing this was no charity ball. I'd earn my keep. Despite her good looks and charm, age had taken a toll and there would be plenty of meaningful ways to pass the time onboard.
In the next few days, I would set about making lists, setting goals and prioritizing. Cosmetics, for sure. The harsh tropic sun had done a job on the teak and on the topside finishes. Electrical, check. My ABYC Systems-Tech training and a well-worn copy of Nigel Calder's Boat Owners Electrical and Mechanical Manual would be enough to clean up some of the DIY messes most boats harbor. I'll have the good sense to call a well trained professional for the big stuff. Mechanical, you bet. Things look good in the engine room but a thorough review and inspection is in order. I'll check filters, zincs, fluids, belts etc. What spares are on board? Are the necessary tools onboard to affect repairs? What records have been kept?
For those of you far enough along on your own list to spend your time reading, I'll share my notes and take you with me as I set out to breathe some new life into a worthy old boat. Over the next few months, join me as I take on restoring the brightwork and teak, spot repair and compound the topcoat, and service and inspect the mechanicals and electrics. I'll give you some opinions and share my experiences. Stay tuned.
Peter Patterson is a Canadian Coast Guard certificated Master and an ABYC certified marine technician. He is a former Canadian Yachting Association Instructor/Evaluator and powerboat instructor. Currently he is on trickle charge while he re-invents himself.