Boat Projects: The Winter Work List

Digitizing the list of winter maintenance projects makes the crew of the David B more efficient.

Winter projects
The author works under the winter cover to replace the foredeck, winter 2011.Christine Smith

People often assume that because yacht charters a seasonal business, the off-season is a long vacation. When I started, that’s what I had visualized. My dream of the off-season was of quiet winters sitting by a fire, reading paperback books with a sleepy cat stretched out on my lap. Instead, the months between charter seasons are filled with the rush for renewal.

The off-season for charter yachts is really "maintenance season." With an eighty-three year old wooden boat, the project list never really shrinks. Each summer we dream up new projects to make the _David B_ prettier and more functional. I'm convinced that for every project we finish, three or four new projects are spawned. The Winter List, as we call it, has been holding steady at nearly two hundred items for a couple of years.

In most years, our first step is to build a shrink-wrap cover over the boat. The cover is instrumental to getting work done in our cold, wet, windy Bellingham winters where it doesn’t get light until eight in the morning and it’s dark by four. Two years ago we redid the foredeck under a shrink-wrap cover, and while it was cold, being out of the wind and having lots of florescent lights made the project possible.

After the cover is up, we focus on that long project list. This year, we’ll be doing work to the front of the pilothouse and that we want to brighten up the decks by sanding them back to bare wood and then adding a fresh coat of oil. Then there are the two skylights that need to have their brightwork refinished. Besides these, there is painting in the cabins and galley, and maintenance that needs to be done to the engine. It sometimes makes my head spin when I think of all the projects that we’d like to finish in the short winter months.

Several years ago when Jeffrey and I were combing through the list, we realized that it needed to be reorganized. At the time it was four pages long on eight-and-a-half inch college-ruled notebook paper. Jeffrey devised a system and uploaded it to our computer. It helps us decide which projects make the most sense to tackle. The list can now be organized by: priority, hours to complete, whether we have the materials, and cost. Having a good way to prioritize has made our winters more productive. The “materials” section also keeps costs down and our shop somewhat less cluttered.

We’ve got a lot to do. Our first 2013 charter is in five short months, and I’m very excited to get started on our winter. While having the Winter List in a database hasn’t cut down on the number of projects, I hope that every once in a while, I’ll be able to sneak an evening in front of the fire with a good book and a loving cat.

An excerpt from The List:

ID ** Project Name** ** Priority** ** Hours** ** Got Materials?** ** Estimate** ** Project Group**
299 Drain holes in Skylights 2 1 1 0 Small Individual Projects
301 Cover or fill holes in sole in passenger cabins 3 2 1 0 Small Individual Projects
313 Rebuild Windlass chain remover legs 3 2 1 0 Small Metal Projects
315 Fix Kayak rack 4 8 1 0 Small Metal Projects
325 Rebuild FWD LPG heater 1 8 1 0 Forward Head
340 Wine Racks in ESR 2 6 1 100 Engineers Stateroom
341 Shelves and bunkboard in ESR 2 24 1 100 Engineers Stateroom

Working on the winter cover: