When we made the decision to buy a boat and move aboard I vowed to be a full partner and competent sailor in the adventure. I did not grow up around the water so this was a very steep learning curve for me. We quickly fell into his and her chores; some boaters refer to these as blue and pink tasks.
One day, I decided I wanted to understand how our manual windlass worked. This was a blue task while I “manned” the helm. Fifteen minutes later and a deep wrinkle developing between my brows in spite of the layers of lotion I diligently apply each night at bedtime, I could not figure out how to operate the bloody windlass.
Perhaps a diagram would help and in that moment the little black book was born. Well, it’s actually a turquoise book because that’s all we had on board.
So page one of this book has a diagram of the windlass in with arrows and explanations in my handwriting so that I can understand it. Soon to follow were serial numbers of parts and where to get them from; window measurements for curtains; diagrams of engine components so that when you take the alternator off, you don’t put it back on again upside down; the size of the zinc we prefer so that you don’t have to dive down each time it needs replacing because you can’t remember the size you bought last time; the location of all the sea cocks throughout the boat – well, you get the general idea.
In frustrated moments, we refer to it as the first thing we will bequest to the next owner of this money pit we call a boat, and when things are going well, we refer to it as our bible. We keep our little “black” book in the same place so that it can always be referred to quickly if needed and it has become a conversation piece with other boaters on more than one occasion.
So, I share with you this idea that came of my determination to learn something new and who knows, one day your boat may have a little black book of her own. I could also tell you about the colour-coded lines so that I know which sheet to pull when tacking or the labels on the gears so that I don’t accidentally put the transmission into forward when I ought to have put it in reverse. We have basically idiot-proofed the boat so when under pressure we don’t screw up.