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Every Journey begins with the first step-back and bored pirates...

Updated: Feb 26, 2022

I had a good friend nudged me the other day who said - "Why aren't you posting updates?" Dang good question!! So here is an update - possibly sprinkled with a few post-surgical / recovery induced errors ;-)

Of miscalculations and misguided preconceptions...

Anyone who has been involved in boat projects knows - by virtue of often painful experience, there is a haunting, evil, insidious mantra: "Everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much as you think it will." That empirical wisdom already applies to us, and we haven't even started working on Hakluyt yet...

Historically, I transported parts in my truck to my previous "ocean" sail boat in Mexico. I sourced any additionally needed parts and odds and ends from street corners, back alley marine part stores and the morning VHF "net". However, "project" Expedition Hakluyt requires that I bring a LOT more tools to her for the myriad of refit projects we have in store. Even with "Hakluyt's Garage" (image above) - our cargo trailer filled with tools and outfitted for said refit projects, there wasn't a lot of room left over for parts. Back in December, I thought to myself, ordering parts should be a no brainer, easy peasy lemon squeezy process - it's 2022 and I will be in Canada after all right? I know Internet! I know amazon! I know West Marine! Search, click, credit card - boom, parts! Let's do this!

Not so fast...

When life hands you lemons - Google harder...

Enter COVID. Which ushered in parts / chips / supply / sanity shortages. Which collided with transport shortages. Which increased prices and made availability of marine parts an exhausting journey down the Google tube to a parts "nonederland". If they issue gold medals to google user consumption metrics - I definitely win. I now dream of Googling for parts. Then top it off with the great Canada trucker blockades... I squeezed every bit of part ordering resource knowledge out of the Google lemons as I could to reroute, reship, re-address, re-order, find back alley marine part stores, and more - as I possibly could. These are different times - and I'm not sure if it is me or Google that can't keep up with my thirst for salient crystal clear guidance on sourcing affordable parts.

Let me give you a small example.

How not to buy paint...

I asked 10 different marine paint outlets - why can't I get a gallon of marine paint in Canada? To which the unified response is - almost on cue: "Sorry - we only have quarts. Paint is a hazardous material import item". My take away from that - apparently quarts are less hazardous than gallons - too much risk there in gallons, makes sense in some esoteric way. Now I understand the gas pump thing here being in liters...

Back to school.

I always thought there are 4 quarts to a gallon. But the last marine paint guy on the phone said 4.8 quarts equals a gallon - I need 5 quarts for every gallon of paint I was requesting. After he hung up, I realized that he was talking about an "Imperial" gallon of paint - or - he was trying to be a clever salesman and sell me a few extra quarts... My International volume translation travel skills are a tad rusty it appears. Google? I want a US gallon of paint - but this is Canada, which - as I am slowly learning - still hugs some of it's British roots. The US being a good neighbor doesn't outdo paint can sizing pedigree. I am so confused. In any event, US Gallon or Imperial Gallon aside, I still can't source 'A' gallon of marine paint in Canada without paying a cruel 300% markup. It makes my head spin. Paint "should" be easy. At least in my mind. Picking out paint - not so easy for this guy, but buying paint "should" be easy. Point, click, credit card - boom, I get paint. Like getting a slurpee or something. What happens if I need something more complicated like a radar? Do they only come in quart sized radars, or Imperial sized radars (that would be cool actually)?

Ordering things that are not paint...

Then there are the import fees and taxes. Effectively we have met the "costs twice as much" benchmark on every part I have ordered. I thought there was this thing called NAFTA (which sorta recently migrated to USMCA) which both Mexico and Canada signed. I lost track what came after USMCA and maybe that is my problem. In my NAFTA 101 course I was pretty sure that effectively made Canada a state - or the US a province; and import fees, brokerage fees, duties and GST (tax) and brokerage fees and PST (some other tax) a moot point.

Every order I place feels like I am paying a shady middle man a 50% levy just to get my goods from Nebraska to Colorado in the back of rusty '72 chevy pickup that gets 5 miles to the gallon (oh and the fuel surcharge needs to be added in) and breaks down at least twice on the way to the delivery address because they had to take an alternate route due to a COVID trucker blockade. It's normal for 2022 I suppose... But it feels like I am living in the Boston Tea Party redux.

Ranch life is good, almost too good to leave, and despite it's inherent "remoteness" - that remoteness contributes to it's incredible peacefulness, scenery, tranquility and beauty. And - it provides ample zen moments to attenuate the frustrations of part procurement headaches! Not to mention offering some great photographic opportunities!

Now, if only shipping were easy in the 21st century - then, the trivial matter of paying the import toll fairies would be the least of our worries. This winter - December, January and February have been our "refit logistics" phase of the Hakluyt Expedition which have been rooted at Judith's ranch. The ranch where - nobody (except kind hearted friends) will deliver anything to... There is a post office in town about 15-20 minutes away (longer if the road is laced with snowdrifts) - but Fedex, UPS and the other competing delivery companies will not deliver to the good and resourceful (in town) postal service building known as Canada Post (much like in the United States Post Office) because they are too nice - or something... So we turn to the charity of some good, in town friends to receive our deliveries. Its an incredibly nice gesture from them to offer to receive our packages, but I just don't have the heart to repeatedly text to let them know; "Hey - another delivery is coming your way tomorrow, it weighs about 150 pounds, do you mind stopping everything you are doing and cancel your plans and interrupt your breakfast so you can sign for my package that will take half your driveway? Thanks! Bye!"

I am well versed with the phrase "We can't deliver to a PO Box". And even more well versed with "We can't deliver to that address because that address does not show up in our system". I am slowly getting used to my well rehearsed retort: "Yeah - that address is in Canada, I am sure it isn't in your US based system - but it is a real address, I know the people who live there!" Only to hear back - "Yeah - that address still doesn't show up in our system..."

Then there are other random items that crop up - even if parts do finally arrive.

Hakluyt's solar panels made it, but notice the crushed palette frame.

Which resulted in the panel on the bottom being completely shattered... I gotta give a shout out to Graham at Modern Outpost Solar who orchestrated an immediate replacement panel just before the whole of Canada ran out of them - thanks Graham!! December, January and February are logistics months after all...

I am really excited about these solar panels. I will discuss more at a later date about our selection decision and mounting - but for now it is interesting to note that these are "bifacial" solar panels. The "bifacial" aspect allows photons to hit BOTH sides of the panels to produce more energy than their single sided counterparts. This makes good sense for us as Hakluyt's solar panels will be mounted on the aft radar arch largely above the water. This "should" help us milk as much energy as possible out of any reflecting photons to charge our massive battery bank. This event does raise an interesting question however - will they survive an impact with a crashing wave? My gut tells me they will not... So no crashing waves over the radar arch - check.

Of hernias and a 190'ish square foot roaming cabin on 6 wheels...

(Most) Hakluyt parts are ordered (except the ones we don't know about yet and are certainly waiting to taunt us in a couple months). Welcome my latest development: the bilateral hernia. Without going into details - I decided to repair the hernia now during the best available "down" time, and not risk my intestines making a surprise visit into an alternate location in my body somewhere in the middle of the ocean during a raging storm (as Murphy would have it). The "hernia", a la surgery condition created both an opportunity to hang out at Google some more so I could find more noble marine paint suppliers and also created a moderate setback to our spring Newfoundland migration plans. One of the key ingredients to our S/V Hakluyt refit strategy is bringing our accommodations with us to Newfoundland so we have an affordable - no/low cost - place to stay during our projected 4-5 month refit. That "affordable place" - is a retrofitted 2013 school bus Judith fondly named "Hakluyt's Wanderer" or HW. One important point - HW hasn't been completely retrofitted yet. Yet... Post surgical lifting restrictions make "retrofits" a non-trivial affair. (We will post more about Hakluyt's Wanderer here in the near future.)

The hernia was not the only retrofit impediment. We thought we would be much further along the bus retrofit before the surgery. But bitter arctic cold and snowy weather has been unusually persistent in these parts. It isn't really difficult to work outside in -20°F temps. It's just difficult to move with all the layers...

We did manage to get about two weeks worth of work done on HW and installing the wood burning stove was key to getting things moving even quicker. During that time, things really progressed nicely and Hakluyt Wanderer's cozy, cabin like interior started to take shape. Excitement was really building - then... surgery... The work has since stalled and our roaming cabin'esque abode has suddenly frozen back into the backdrop of the cold Canadian plains. But the excitement still remains!!

I should rephrase - the work has "temporarily" stalled. We did get more done than the image above would show - but that is a story for another blog.

In any event, the 4 and 3 legged pirates are starting to get bored and don't seem to appreciate we will soon receive 20 quarts of hard earned bounty!

Thanks for reading!


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