To the editor: The November temperatures were dropping, triggering our annual maintenance, replacements and repairs. Charting a course to Kilada, where Big Sky would dry on the hard while we enjoyed our family in Canada, we stopped in Piraeus, the harbour of Athens — and the place to find just about everything on your tattered list. We wore down the treads in our shoes, marching in and out of dozens of closet-sized specialty stores and ship chandlers, pretty successfully shrinking our beat-up list. As any cruiser knows, the salt water and air is a harsh environment for boats. When you own a boat, there’s always something.
This year the list was exceptionally long, and on our scavenger hunt we found: brass hinges to replace corroded ones in the galley; deck fitting fill cap O-rings; bilge pump switches; freshwater and bilge pump repair kits; a fridge seal; an engine blower; and plenty more what-you-call-its. In a shoebox-sized shop, Con tossed 12 euro cents on the counter, beaming over a stainless steel circlip he’d found for our bilge pump float — that had been a two-year hunt.
We serviced the life raft, learning that the previous service had actually punctured it! Sheesh. We replaced the microwave — it gave up that summer; replaced the dingy — it delaminated, causing a slow leak; replaced three fire extinguishers, four hand-held flares, four parachute flares, two smoke canisters, and half a dozen fenders. We carried the UV-worn fenders to the bins, along with our retired microwave, and within 30 minutes they’d all found new homes.
Without missing a beat, we had our pilothouse cushions reupholstered, hired a mechanic to service our cutter sail furling motor; greased all the winches; replaced all our halogen lights with LEDs; cleaned the Jabsco filter screens; replaced the three water tank level sensors and gauges as well as the windshield wiper arms and blades; re-caulked the head; organized our cupboards; tussled with the new discharge pump for the septic tank; straightened our bow ladder (the CQR stern anchor released and the ladder hit the quay); and replaced our stern anchor — it’s now stuck on a rusty chain in the Greek harbor of Hydra, a stone’s throw from Leonard Cohen’s house.
The sailmaker arrived, carrying away our sails for re-stitching. The electrician arrived and our anchor switches were re-wired for helm-control use. I pulled out the old galley and head faucets while Con refit our newly arrived Ray Marine multifunction display (the original died with a lightning hit), and then he helped me fit the new IKEA faucets into place. With the tasks nearly done, I made a Greek salad and poured two glasses of cold white wine.
Our neighbour hobbled over in his thigh-high cast, asking if we would hoist him up the mast for 50 euro. He’d been looking at our Windex and it needed to be replaced. “Okay, thanks, and can you bring down our horn, it needs repairing,” Con said and mumbled, “There’s always something.”
Finally, before calling it a day, we walked over to the Port Authority office to chat about the new Greek tax. Our conversation was interrupted by a call from a boater: “Zea Marina, Zea Marina, this is There’s Always Something requesting assistance docking.”
—Barb Sprenger is a freelance writer and author of the internationally selling book, Sailing Through Life. She and her husband Con have sailed in and out of 53 countries aboard Big Sky, their 51.5’ Nauticat sailboat. They are currently wintering in Cyprus.