Apr 072013

I still have a lot of plans for fixing up and repairing the Fritter, it’s simply a severe lack of funding that is preventing me from getting anything done.  Until I get some serious extra cash rolling in, nothing is going to happen to this boat, but that doesn’t stop me from scheming and planning.

I mentioned the porta potty.  In actuality, this is a pretty simple upgrade.  The boat has the fittings in place, all I need is the toilet, and some hose running from the tank to the pumpout and vent fitting.  In all, it will be about a $200 job if I get a new porta potty.  One of my clients who owes me some money has a nice one that I mentioned I would take instead of cash.  But he has been unable to reach a decision as to whether he wants to give it up or not.  West Marine has exactly what I am looking for and at some point I may just grab a new one and be done with it.  Installation will be nothing and with the free pump out service now available, it’s worth the cost.

The next project, one of the biggest will be the electrics.  I took some time recently and went over the boat, inside and out, to see what all I have and what I need to get working lights and other essentials.  My conclusion is pretty simple, but expensive.  My best option is to rip out all the existing electrics…all the wiring which is worn, corroded, and stuck into hard to reach places, all light fixtures, which the wiring is also inaccessible, the control panel, everything.  Tear it all out and start from scratch.

The electrical system I need for this boat is pretty simple.  Navigation lights fore and aft, steaming, anchor light, and radio antenna on the mast, bilge pump, couple of cabin lights, the winch for the keel, maybe an inverter so I can plug in the computer and iPhone.  Fridge and ac can run on shore power although given how low my electric bills are, I may be able to power the fridge off the batteries.  For charging, a solar panel should do the trick.  All lights will need to be LED as they use very little power, run cooler, and last forever.

That means new light fixtures fore and aft and on the mast, I have a couple of cabin lights that might be usable, and new panel, batteries, and of course wire, conduit, and assorted other electrical working tools.

The current wiring that runs to the mast is a rats nest of wire and switches.  Because the mast comes down rather easily for trailering, the wires to the mast are long enough so when you drop the mast you pull the extra wire out through the cabin ceiling and stuff it all back in when you put the mast back.  This will need completely redone.  I’ll need some sort of waterproof connectors that I can unplug when the mast comes down and will stay dry when the mast is up.  Harley used to use exactly what I need on their motorcycles and I may be able to adapt them for use on the boat.

All the current wiring is run behind bulkheads and into the bilge.  As a result the wire is corroded and not much good anymore.  So if I run all new wire I will route it along the ceiling in conduit so it can be traced and repaired easier in the future.  And run it all back into a new panel.  The only wires running under will be for the bilge and winch.

It all sounds like a lot of work but in reality, with new fixtures, and new wire, and all run out where you can see it, it shouldn’t be that big of task work wise.  Cost, not so much.  This is a project that could easily hit the $1000 mark by the time I am done.   And when I pull down the mast I will be wanting to repair or replace the halyards and any other rigging.  So one project will lead to another.

I see motors for sale online all the time.  You can pick up an outboard big enough to push this boat for around $1000 or so.  I never heard anything more from the marina regarding mandatory motors so for now and until some of that money thingy starts rolling, the motor will have to wait.

My neighbor who is a scuba instructor agreed to let me rent some of his gear so I could jump in and scrape the bottom.  It needs it real bad.  All he needs is to get some tanks filled.  That was over a month ago.  Sure would like to get it done myself as opposed to paying somebody.  Not a hard job and won’t take very long.  The Fritter needs bottom paint and the hull could use a sanding and a new coat.  Another $1000.

Inside, all the cushions are shot.  The cushions on the quarter berth that I sit on all day concocting my ever growing online empire. And the cushions I sleep on.  They are the originals with some ugly ’70’s vintage plaid pattern.  They were not in very good shape when I bought the boat and with two cats who use them as their own personal scratching posts, they are about at the end of their economical usefulness.  For now, they will remain.

My same neighbor recently had his big trawler done over by the bug exterminator.  He had an infestation of roaches.  While he did get rid of them on his boat, the resulting spraying spread the bugs to other boats.  I found this out last week when I pulled the cover off the winch keel and was attacked by about 50 roaches all about the size of small bird.  I hit them with some bug spray and got a lot but a lot more scurried into the nether regions of the boat.  They still come out at night.  I don’t dare bomb the boat with bug killer because of the cats.  For now it’s get them one at a time.  Welcome to Florida.

Things around the marina remain busy.  I now have new neighbors.  A family with two small kids.  Noisy kids.  Living on a sailboat with not much more cabin space than mine.  On the other side are the partiers.  One loves to crank up his radio and let it run all day long, whether he is on the boat or not.  Never been able to figger out the mindset for that.  I don’t say anything as once shit starts it will escalate.  And I leave my boat far too often to have to worry about whether it’s safe and secure or not.  Like rv living, your neighbors change all the time.  Sometimes they are good, other times, not so much.  I tend to keep to myself and worry about my own affairs.  As long as they leave me alone, it’s all fine and dandy.

So, there is a lot to consider on this old boat if I chose to do so.  The biggest problem with all these projects is not that I don’t have the money to do them so much, as if I do drop a thousand here and a thousand there, I will still have a boat only worth what I originally paid for it.  In other words, while adding the porta potty, redoing the electrics, and painting the bottom are stuff the boat needs and will make it more livable and sailable, it’s money I won’t get back.  I am still always, always, looking for alternatives.  I find an occasional deal here and there.  A smaller boat, cheaper, in better shape, but I can never seem to put the logistics and deal together.  Going back on land is unaffordable right now.  I do have a line on a possible small studio over near Old Town later this summer.  Not a fancy place but gated, in a central location, and walking distance to everywhere.  Downside:  $900 a month and a lease.  $300 buys most of my food for a month.  Hate to toss that into an apartment and be stuck with a lease that I can’t get out of should I want to leave.  I found a nice little rv for sale in a retirement park up in Marathon.  A 29 footer at a reasonable price with affordable lot rent.  But again, juuuuust out of reach.  And I ain’t ready to move back to Marathon.

So, for now, I sit here on the Fritter, with the cockroaches and the cats, and keep pressing on.  The projects are there if and when I decide I can do them, and I’ll keep looking for possible alternatives.  You never know what will come up.  Life ain’t too bad right now.  It could just be a little bit better.

Capt. Fritter