Ten Years On...

It’s hard to believe we have been at this restoration of Fifer for almost TEN YEARS….and we aren’t done yet. Work tends to quiet down in the winter a bit, but this winter we have been working hard on reconstructing the teak main salon walls. Working on the walls was one of those things where we could have left it all in place and worked around it instead of taking it on and completely refurbishing everything. When we replaced the roof entirely and saw the shortcomings and bad maintenance on the walls, well, why quit? That is the risk with any restoration. When do you stop? Where do you draw the line between what is necessary and what is pushing the project too far? This is an important question to ask yourself when you are taking on a momentous project like restoring a classic yacht. How large the scope of work is affects, A.) Where you funnel your energy, and B.) Where you spend your money. I used to think that it wasn’t all that critical, project planning and management. Time and experience have proven me wrong on that account. It’s easy to take on far too much and become overwhelmed. Once that happens it’s like a domino fall. The cumulative effect of many seemingly small bad decisions on a large-scope project can cripple or kill.

Good questions to ask yourself along the journey are pretty simple. “Is this critical to the overall soundness of the boat? Is it a place and point to invest the time, energy and money at this particular point in the project? Is it possible to put this on the back-burner while we triage the more important critical issues, or will ignoring this make it more difficult to address at a later time?” This boils down to cost, both in energy and money—-and of course, time.

This is why the approach to the scope of your project is so critical. Since we began the work on Fifer our approach has always been triage. Take care of the issues of the integrity of the vessel before we take on the less critical issues. Before we could fix Fifer’s main roof over the salon we needed to take care of the structural deficiencies in the main beam, carlings and beam clamps. There was no way to ignore those critical aspects of structure in order to replace the roof. Things need to happen in a certain order to move the project forward. One wrong decision can throw the project into complete chaos. Many poor decisions can doom a boat entirely.

Since we acquired Fifer at what I consider to be the very bottom of multitudes of deferred maintenance decisions and poor choices of her overall restoration, it was important to have a good idea of what needed to be done to stabilize her in order to even have a chance of bringing her back from the brink. We knew it would take a very long time based on our budget, time constraints and level of labor we would be able to provide. We are two very capable people, but we are only two souls. We aren’t superheroes—-and friends have certainly helped along the way, and continue to. The bulk of the work is ours. We only have a certain amount of time measured in hours and days that we prepared to give. Knowing your limits is key. A realistic approach will save you in the end…..and a healthy dose of perseverance. Playing the “long-game” and planning for a giant restoration with patience is where we have been living with Fifer. We learned these lessons the hard way over the years, and I am really grateful for that.

As far as taking this time to replace the structure behind the walls when we replaced the roof and repairing the the walls themselves? It was the best time to do it. The structure underneath and above it now solid, and the rotten pieces behind the walls weren’t going to adequately hold the walls going into the future. It was time to tear it all out, replace and repair.