shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Nuts and Bolts and Such

March 21, 2016

How do these things ever get started? One nut at a time. When we bought our first sailboat, a SouthCoast 25, in 1993, the previous owner had simply let the marina take possession of her rather than pay back dockage. So while we got her for nearly nothing (exactly what we could afford at the time) we also got everything that he had left onboard. Most of those goodies we either wore out, threw out, or left onboard when we sold her. But the one treasure that started the mess we have now we called the "screw bin." It was a simple box full of nuts, bolts, washers, screws, and various fasteners of all types. It was small, but it was fantastic to be at anchor on the Wye River over a long weekend and have that hardware store at our disposal when one of the kids broke something aboard. That little container did not go with Lay Low when we sold her, but we also didn't bring it back to the square box we called "home" at the time. Instead, it moved directly onboard what would become Eurisko. And has multiplied like rabbits since then.

"Staging" is on the left.

For every project that Dave completes onboard, he always over-purchases fasteners. The price of stopping in the middle, rowing to shore, walking to the hardware store, and rowing home is significantly higher than the 8 cents that extra washer would cost. Need 6 bolts? Buy 8. You'll likely drop one overboard and one will have bad threads. Need 2" bolts for part of the project but 2 1/4" for the other part and can't remember how many of which? Buy enough that you can do the entire project with 2" OR 2 1/4" bolts. All this extra hardware goes in the ever-growing screw bin.

I wrote an article for Good Old Boat Magazine the other day and included a line similar to "we bought such and such wood, but figured we could scrounge the hardware we needed from what we had onboard." It was then that I realized that maybe some readers don't have half a hardware section on their boat. Maybe they should. The freedom is incredible. Dozens of times Dave has said, "I can fix that with a [blank] if I have the hardware I need." I usually keep my laughter down to a quiet smile. IF? Really? What DON'T you have in there?

But the real growth of the screw bin occurred when we left Eurisko for a year or so and bought a 29'' Bolger sharpie to spend a summer in, playing around in 13" of water and traveling up the ICW. The former owner had already removed everything he thought of value from the boat. But he left his own "screw bin" onboard. And since we didn't have the room to take everything off Eurisko and put it on Walkure, her screw bin stayed behind. We just build another one to augment the little one Walkure started with. Then, of course, like Lay Low's, it came with us back to Eurisko. And it continues to grow.

Dave has always picked up bits of stainless steel hardware that we find on the ground. Every time he does he says, "That's a quarter, right there. You wouldn't walk past a quarter, would you?" When we were in the work yard in Trinidad, he paid the kids a penny a piece for any usable piece of hardware they brought him. Of course, once he clarified that it was a TRINI penny they quit trying so hard to find it, but still brought him a handful every day when they wanted to buy a cold soda. And just last week we were walking along the road in Miami when he saw a pile of large bolts, nuts, and washers (about $15 worth) lying by the side of the road. They must have fallen off someone's truck. They now reside in the screw bin.

The screw bin has changed shape as it changed in volume. Currently it consists of a series of varying sizes of LockandLock containers. When our organized son (yes, of the three there is only one who matches this description) was still at home, each container had a purpose. There was one for washers, two for nuts, one for machine screws, two for bolts, and a huge one for screws. All these little containers fit inside a huge one, meaning, if one were strong enough, all the hardware could be brought out in one container. But over the years since Garrett moved out, things haven't remained quite so organized. And Dave has created "staging." When he has one lonely screw that he found somewhere, rather than tearing apart his entire locker to get to the screw bin, he puts it in "staging." Staging now has almost as many pieces as the organized screw bin.

Okay, so we're cheap. But there is a lot more to this idea of keeping every screw (and bit of string) that we find. It's about freedom. When the nearest hardware store is a three-mile walk or a half-mile row, having all the hardware you need to complete a project can make the difference between getting it done or not. And not all projects are optional. In some cases, having exactly what you need onboard becomes a safety issue. So if you haven't yet started your own screw bin, the next time you go to the hardware store for 8 screws, buy 10. And hope you have at least one organized crew member aboard.

MONDAY we'll share a water-saving tip, now that we're in the land of no rain and RO water.


Connie McBride's work has been published in Good Old Boat, Sail Magazine, Small Craft Advisor, Cruising World, All at Sea, and Blue Water Sailing. As a full-time liveaboard cruiser for over 15 years, she has written several books and in her spare time, well, who has spare time?

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