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Most everyone thinking of sailing to Patagonia has heard of Skip Novak. His high-latitude expeditions are well known, and well thought of. Yesterday I came across a link to a Yachting World article written by Mr. Novak where he describes his expedition yachts as being “well-used.” I could see how the article could have a lot of truth to it, and it prompted me to share my thoughts on the subject.

Since Rebecca and I first looked at the Amel which would ultimately become our new home and vehicle, we not only saw a vessel that was capable of taking us to Patagonia safely, but one that we could live in comfortably. We didn’t have blinders on though. We could see that the 32-year old boat wasn’t perfect, and for a serious expedition as we had hoped to complete, we’d have to upgrade a number of significant things, the standing rigging being just one such example. Presently, with limited funds and time, we have chosen to focus our efforts on all of the essential boat systems, rather than on cosmetics. That’s not to say that we aren’t doing everything that we can to make the boat look good too. In fact, as we were polishing the exterior stainless the other day, a friend of ours who happened by commented that we were making him look bad due to our efforts. There are limits though.

Yesterday, as we were waiting for the paint to dry in the forward lockers so that we could add a second coat of paint, our friend Ken questioned why we’d even bother, the location being subject to such hard use, and not open to the scrutiny of passers by. It’s just the way I am though. My thinking is that when it’s easy and relatively cheap to make something look good, why not do it (note this is why ZTC and the Leopard that we crewed on always looked so good)? I can see how Skip’s comments in the article have a ring of truth though, that, without a full-time maintenance crew, keeping a yacht in bristol condition could be an exercise in futility when actually used for its intended purpose in tough conditions. I guess we’ll just have to find a balance that we’re comfortable with.


  1. Hey guys, reading your comments on vessel maintanence touches home for us.
    We are in our second year of salt water cruising ( from the Great Lakes) and the eye opener of saltwater cruising is a testament of pride and ownership.
    We agree with the “balance” but it is that sense of pride and owners that drives you to make your vessel the best it can be which was the same for us when we owned our nice properties in the past as “land dwellers”.
    It has been a great feeling to have all the wonderful comments(you have the nices looking boat in the yard before launch) and a reply of “thank you and it is our labour of love”.
    We be leave that extra mile of shining that stainless every week while at sea for example, gives you that sense of pride and ownership.
    It is like getting into a new car everyday, you are excited to be behind the wheel!
    That comment from the neighbors, “mi you have the nices gardens”, your property is beautiful!
    We believe it is worth the time and effort and on that note you also have a easier time on resale, when and if the time comes.

    Fair winds, Paul and Paula

  2. Mike and Rebecca,

    I think it is so important that you share the upkeep and maintenance of your vessels. There are a lot of weekend warriors out there that simply have a cleaning service or marina yard maintain their boat. I see this a lot with people that are not dedicated to their vessel. There are no plumbers, electricians, or maintenance people out there when you are offshore or cruising. My vessel is 20 years old and I take great pride when somebody remarks how good she looks and then to find out she is 20 years old. It’s a real dedication when you perform all the maintenance of your capabilities and strive to improve your vessel. Keep up the great work in posting your adventures and daily endeavors. I appreciate the explicit detail that both of you are committed to in your vessel and your adventures. You guys have come a long way and I wish you safe and exciting voyages and may Frost always have a special place in your heart.

    Fair winds and gentle following seas, Bill

    • Thanks, Bill, we do try our best.

    • “… There are no plumbers, electricians, or maintenance people out there when you are offshore or cruising….”

      Ain’t that the truth.

      I’ve had more than a few failures while cruising, and none ever stopped a cruise. With a good knowledge of your boat and a few skills, there is always a fix or a work-around. Even the smallest hardware store is a treasure trove if you can think outside the box.

  3. I like painted lockers. The paint doesn’t need to be be perfect.

    * More light, or rather more is reflected.
    * Easier to clean. Just wipe it or rinse it out.
    * Easier to see what is wrong. Dirt hides everything.
    * Easier to see what is hiding in the bottom.

    In the end, it saves time and work.

    One of the first things I’ve done on every boat and in every house that I have owned is paint the insides of closets and cabinets (all of them) near white.

  4. Unintended association. I have been reading your blog for awhile now along with other cruisers.. I am a land lubber myself but helps me keep a different perspective on life. I read your blog through a reader named Feedly that is popular on iOS. The reader includes the title of your post and usually superimposes it over the first picture in the post and this was where the unintended association came in.. The title of this post ‘well used’ was captioned over a picture of your lovely wife Rebecca. I must say the visual when I opened the app was quite shocking and my first thought was .. oh she is not going to like that.

  5. Off-topic, but I gotta ask.

    Why Patagonia vs. Greenland and that direction? Or is that perhaps too familiar to places you visited in Canada? Or is the other places you will see on the way?

    Just curious. How about a post on how you decided (or did I miss that?).

  6. You may be interested in our friends’ blog
    Clint & Reina, they are currently in Patagonia. They give a very good account of their voyage.

    Will be in Grenada ourselves soon.

    Nicki & Richard
    S/V Hello Texas

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