Monday, 16 December 2013

Costs of Renewing an Old Boat

I took a major financial decision this week, one that may have major implications for my frugal philosophy.  I think it was the right move but only time (or less of it) may tell. Let me set the scene, the weather here is deteriorating, we haven’t had any snow yet but we have had severe frosts with night-time temperatures as low as minus 4 degrees C, plenty of wind and some rain. I’ve been working on setting up the twelve volt electrical system for the boat, sitting at home by the log-burner to read up on the subject each evening, and trying to apply the theory each day. For wet days I have transferred a good deal of removable wood to the attic where I can paint, varnish or oil it in comfort but there is a limit to the amount of work I can do in this way – at some point I’ll run out of wood to treat. Meanwhile my boat is exposed to the elements and, if last year is any guide, it may still be cold and snowy in April.

I need to get ahead but much of the work is weather dependent and two jobs in particular have been bugging me. One is the renewal / repair of the hatches and the other job is the installation of a 240 volt AC circuit for use in port and for charging the 12 Volt batteries – the best advice I have been able to obtain suggests I should leave this job to a professional. A badly installed 12 Volt DC system in a boat won’t kill you (although it might start a fire) but. a badly installed 240 Volt AC system will both kill and fry you. As for the hatches, well I’ve taken them off to work on them at home – but the boat is open to the heavens and to potential thieves. We get very little crime here and most of it is ‘opportunistic’ rather than planned but I can’t imagine a stronger invitation to an opportunistic thief than a boat without hatches.  

I was thinking about these issues when the phone rang and I received a request to undertake a project on behalf of my old employer (the States of Jersey).  It’s an interesting project and it will give me the opportunity of mixing with old friends and colleagues again. It will take time however, and although I can do much of the work from home, it will still have an impact on how much time I can devote to the boat.

My original idea on coming out of mainstream employment was to exchange time for money – i.e. I didn’t expect to have a great deal of money BUT I would have time. Well, there was one gross error in my calculations – I never planned to have to spend at least four times longer on any job that a professional. Its all new to me - these guys do it everyday. In effect, it’s an uneven exchange; I could earn enough in a quarter of the time I would spend working on the boat to have a professional undertake the boat work for me.

So here is my financial decision. I undertake the project, which will take between 15 and 20 days to complete and I use some of the income to pay for the additional cost of rolling my boat into a hangar where I can work on her whatever the weather, and then I use a little bit more of my unexpected income to have the 240 Volts AC system installed by a professional. Is that a cop-out? Have I sold-out on my ideals? Have I visited the same cross-roads where Robert Johnson made his famous pact? Who knows? Looks like I need to get my old suit dry-cleaned though.

Meanwhile - for more on Frugal Living in France follow this link