There is something to be said for that old saw about a pessimist never being disappointed. When you underestimate the time required for planned work on your boat, you build failure into every job. Sure you can go back on Sunday and finish the task, but by late Saturday the joy is likely to be gone out of the project. Let's face it, you had counted on finishing it by then and you did not. And if you had planned to sail on Sunday, you'll end up doubly disappointed. All it would have taken to avoid this negative result was a more realistic time estimate.
Does this really matter? You bet it does. The pleasures of sailing are nearly always tempered by the burden of maintaining a boat. Often what chases once-enthusiastic sailors off the water has little to do with sailing. The less you enjoy messing around on your boat and/or the less pride of ownership you feel, the more likely your are to join the growing ranks of ex sailors. That is too bad, because sailing is one of the few truly rewarding activities that age does not deprive us of. You can sail for the rest of your life, finding fresh challenges and insights every time you go out. Few of us will claim to enjoy changing the engine oil or sanding the bottom, but it is possible to take pleasure in some of the other aspects of boat husbandry—if you don't spoil it with unrealistic expectations. The more enjoyment you can find in the non-sailing part of owning a sailboat, the longer you are likely to enjoy the sailing part.
Keeping a maintenance and improvement log is an even better idea. Along with the date and a cryptic description of the job, log the start and finish times. Good, work-completed records are valuable in other ways, but if you include times, you will be able to schedule an adequate time allowance in the future by looking in the book.
Unfortunately, many—perhaps most—of the “improvements” we make to our boats are non-repetitive. When you decide to paint the topsides, build a shelf, or install a three-step regulator, you may have little if any experience to draw on for estimating the time the job will demand. So what do you do now?
Start with a Conscientious Guess (CG). This only takes a couple of minutes longer than the more traditional Wild Ass Guess (WAG), but it will give you a far more useful result. For the CG, you need to break the whole job into its components, and then make your best guess of the time each task will require. Let's take painting the topsides as an example. Quickly jot down the steps involved. Your list would look something like this:
|"Start with a Conscientious Guess. This only takes a couple of minutes longer than the more traditional Wild Ass Guess, but will give you a far more useful result in the long term."|
Now imagine how long each of these steps will take you and write down your best guess. Don't try to do anything special here. You know how fast you work, so if you think you can sand your hull in an hour, that is your estimate. Your list will now look something like this:
Here is where you recover the price of admission. While few of us are very good at doing accurate estimates, my experience suggests that we are nearly all fairly consistent in our optimism. For example, anytime I estimate the time for a job, large or small, by the time I gather up the materials, deal with the unexpected, and take care of the details I failed to account for in my estimate, the actual time is about 2.5 times my estimate. A 10-minute job nearly always takes me closer to 25 minutes and a one-week job actually takes me two and a half weeks. This is what we can call the K factor. In our example, multiplying 20 hours by 2.5 will get us far closer to the actual amount of time that painting the topsides will take. The formula for this is CG x K = SCG (Scientific Conscientious Guess).
Use my K factor or dial in your own, and I guarantee that you will consistently feel better about every job you take on. This trick doesn't actually provide more sailing time, but it feels like it does. And that's almost as good.
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