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Old 03-23-2007, 10:46 AM   #1
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I am on a big learning curve and thought that I could learn plenty from others' experiences. This membership appears to be very helpful and happy to impart their knowledge and information for which I (and I'm sure many others) are very grateful to soak up.

So, let me pose a question to all members in the anticipation that you will willingly share your experiences so that we can all learn. Thank you all in advance.

Question: (3 parts)

1) What equipment/systems failures have you had whilst "out there"? (however big or small)

2) How did you overcome these failures?

3) What was the lesson learned for the future?

We all hope to set sail on the perfect boat but we also all know that "Murphy's Law" rules at sea.
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Old 03-23-2007, 11:21 AM   #2
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Oh, I feel a quote coming on.....

As a system increases in complexity to infinity,

the mean time between failures approaches zero.

I forget who said it originally but I do love that quote.

Systems - not for me thank you. I am a hard core believer in the KISS concept. At least that way one does not loose everything at the same time.

Stephen

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Old 03-23-2007, 12:34 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nausikaa View Post
As a system increases in complexity to infinity,

the mean time between failures approaches zero.

I forget who said it originally but I do love that quote.
What a great Quote!!

My wife and I have always been of the mindset that the more complex our sailboat systems would become, the more time (and money) we would spend maintaining and repairing those systems. (I would rather be sitting on deck with a Mojito!! )

We have long been fans of backpacking for weeks on end. It teaches you that the most serious issues in your life (at least for the next few weeks), get quickly narrowed to Fresh Water, Shelter and Food. We have wished to adopt this mentality to sailboating and believe that many of the systems aboard can be diminished to a more simple concept. Example, non pressurized water system. Redundant foot and hand pumps from the water tank in both the head and galley. Shake up flashlights, windable lanters, H20 solar bags and thermoses, hank on instead of roller furling, freeze dried foods, etc... Of course this asn't always practicle and safe. Nothing can replace a good chartplotter and VHF but the idea was to keep it as simple as we could possibly keep it. I have seen and heard of sailboats with every type of convenience known to modern man that couldn't get away from the dock since there was always something that needed the owners attention. NOTHING more frustrating in my book!!

Bajamas
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Old 03-23-2007, 02:09 PM   #4
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Are you sure you want this list? Here goes.

SV Watermelon is a 1981 Jeanneau Sun Fizz. We bought her in 1985.

1985: Installed Hood roller furling on headstay. Parts broke in 1987/88, difficulty getting replacement part. Over next few years, until replaced with a Furlex unit in 1988 and moved Hood unit to the inner forestay where it worked better because a much smaller sail, not used as often.

1985: Rewired the boat with shore tie and battery charger (from 220V to 110V, was no shore tie 'til Peter installed one). Installed SS hot water heater (a bargain Peter found. More later on this).

1986: replaced failed refrigeration with Adler-Barbour cold Machine, which I liked a lot.

1987: Wind instruments failed, replaced with new Datamarine (cheaper than replacing sending unit of the system that came with the boat). datamarine lasted until lightning wiped it out in 1999.

1988: Hot water heater turned out to be a real rip-off, not SS tank, Peter removed the tank in handsfuls. Did not put in another HW heater until 1994.

1993, American Samoa: Refrigeration failed, cheaper and easier to replace with another drop-in Adler Barbour Cold Machine.

Replaced the head commode with a new (?) raritan (?) unit.

The Eno stove (enameled steel) that I loved finally became unrepairable because it was impossible to get parts for it. I had had the oven trays replaced by a SS fabricator in Ecuador, but parts of the stove continued to rust away and I couldn't find replacement burners this far away from Europe. Bought a Force 10 stove, outrageously expensive. To this day, I believe this was the biggest purchase mistake we made on the boat. I hated the Force 10.

1993/4 in Australia for cyclone season: Fresh water system (copper tubing) was developing more and more leaks, finally pulled it all out and replumbed with PVC pipe, really good system bought in OZ. Ended leaks, no further repairs while we owned the boat.

Galley Salt Water foot pump developed a leak, replaced with a Chinese knock-off of the Whale pump that was originally in there. It failed within the year, we bit the bullet and bought a Whale Pump, which served us for the 10 years until we sold the boat.

The less than one-year-old head leaked, rebuild kit leaked. Wrote to mfr. who said it wasn't designed for liveaboard use (!!!!!!!!!!), needed a sturdier head. I was furious! The cost to have a new head shipped to us from the States was ridiculous (West Marine offered a significant credit, but it wasn't enough to cover even half the costs of a new unit). Peter found a Blake head tossed by some other boat in the marina, it worked exceptionally well once he cleaned out the seaweed that was fouling the bowl and cobbled together a pump assembly.

Self-feathering prop removed for servicing while on the hard, it was quite corroded so we sent to the Australian Mfr. for complete rebuild/overhaul. Came back beautiful and with a new tail cone that was a zinc - clearly the original design, without integral zinc, was cause of our problems. The prop fellows in the marina yard installed the prop, and put it on backwards (don't ask). Had to haul the boat again to remove and reinstall the prop correctly.

New hot water heater installed. This one we checked over very carefully to verify that it was all stainless steel. No more problems with hot water heater after this install.

I'll have to think about the rest for a while. This is getting depressing, I think.
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Old 03-23-2007, 02:57 PM   #5
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I have copied this over from another thread as this fits in here as well.

Quote:
Our tankages on our 44' steel ketch was:

* Water = 1,200L

* Fuel = 1,000L for 80hp Lehman

Crossing the Indian Ocean - making good time, looking like 24/25 days.

Roughly half-way - becalmed!

Full fuel tank - startup the motor.

After 5 mins - no water pumping through. Shut down.

Open the raw-water pump - impeller shredded (New, 6 hours of motoring).

Get out the spare.

DISASTER!! Right packing box - wrong impeller!! (from the store - lesson learned here). Only one spare - afterall, we are a sailing yacht!



In case of emergency, pulled out spare hose and rigged raw water from the genset outlet to main engine inlet - cannot run main engine for long with this "hot" water intake.

We were becalmed for TEN days - not a breath to even take the "glass" off the sea. It was stifling hot. Long story but the passage eventually took 40 days.

So, what would you rather have had? Extra fuel? Extra water?
Lesson learned: Make absolutely sure when you buy something that the item inside the packing is the correct thing!

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Old 03-23-2007, 07:02 PM   #6
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I think it was Hal Roth where I read this, but he stated when he bought a spare part, he IMMEDIATELY installed it and put the original back as a spare. That way he KNEW the spare worked.

I've sorta followed that advice ever since.
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Old 03-23-2007, 10:00 PM   #7
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Yup! that's Peter's policy, too!
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Old 03-24-2007, 12:59 AM   #8
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When, as he often does, Michael begins to think he needs two spares, he takes off the almost new part, puts it with the old part in a locker, then installs the brand new one. I wonder what he plans to do when the new/new one goes? Use the almost new one or the old one first? I suppose all this redundancy should make me feel very secure.
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Old 03-26-2007, 04:47 AM   #9
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I've had several items failure, but I'm at a truck stop in New Mexico and need to get to sleep, so I'll just tell you in detail about the one that bugged me the most.

I had a West Marine manual bilge pump *(see below). Now it looked pretty strong, and it cost enough for what it is. I bolted the thing to the outside of the cockpit next to the companionway, so that there would be no hatches to open to reach it in an emergency, as I sail singlehanded most of the time. I guess the month in the Arizona sun weakened it, as on her first ocean voyage in the San Pedro channel, the handle snapped at the joint (where the sturdy plastic handle meets a steel pin.) I was able to sort of manually push up and down on it to makeit work, but that bugged me. I have two electric bilge pumps on the Hard Knots, only one of them is automated, the other isn't used, as it's being saved for when the main one breaks.

Robin

*( GUZZLER/BOSWORTH Guzzler Manual Bilge Pumps, 400 and 500

Guzzler 400 and 500 Bilge Pumps Capable of a 12' suction lift and a 12' delivery head. Surface-mount pumps include a fixed...

From $54.99 USD)
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Old 03-26-2007, 06:54 AM   #10
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One trick I learnt the hard way many years ago was when I was aboard a converted wooden fishing boat. The stern gland was tight when the prop. was not turning but water poured in a soon as the prop was put in gear. The skipper was considering abandoning the boat (?) as the pumps could not keep the water out. Then I thought of a "trick" I had heard of years earlier....

We closed the sea water intake to the engine and loosened the hose connecting it to the engine's SW cooling pump. Suddenly we had an extra pump and were able to make port.

What lessons were learnt?

1. You can never have sufficient pumps

2. Improvission is a vertue for seamen

3. Never even contemplate abandoning a vessel until you can step UP into the liferaft

Aye

Stephen

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Old 03-26-2007, 09:15 AM   #11
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Biggest Failures:

DC Charging Systems. I tell friends and customers that on a cruising boat your DC charging system is the most critical and, if not properly done, a major system for headaches. Start with the largest bank of high quality batteries that you can afford. I prefer AGM or Lifeline over all others for the crusing sailor (pass on any lead acid including 6 volts). Then use great care in installing and wiring these batteries; high quality boat cable of adequate gauge and equal length to individual bank controllers and a positive distribution point.

Your charging generator should also be the best you can get. I recommend the Balmar 100amp. If you exceed this, you MUST increase to a bigger chassis and dual pulley system.

If long lays at anchorage are in your future, you can lighten the load on your engine and alternator with either wind or solar or both.

Keep your DC installation clean and neat and stick to ABYC standards for wiring and you'll have years of hassle free service, even in harsh ocean cruising conditions. And finish it off with a good monitoring system. Doesn't have to be a high dollar unit. I prefer a Blue Seas digital monitor on the discharge side and just a basic analog ammeter system on the charge side over a combined unit.

The only spares I keep for this system, a stock alternator, spare regulator and belts. I also keep supplies for any electrical repairs on hand including wiring, terminal fittings and GOOD wiring tools.

Auto pilots. Single most important piece of electronics on your boat. I carry a full spare Autohelm 4000. Even if you splurge to an electric or hydraulic unit, you are still open for at sea failures. Long shorthanded legs is the primary opportunity for exhaustion to set in. The expensive units fail to and keeping spare parts can get exhorbantly expensive. THat 4000 will give you a long service life if you are diligent about keeping your sail plan properly balanced to keep the work load down on the light weight motor and drive pullys and belt.

The rest of my electronics have performed flawlessly, but I keep a handheld GPS, VHF and Sat phone as well as boat and individual locators for a disaster at sea.

My personal failures in a one year cruise (all have been upgraded since and all working fine). Multiple alternator failured due to low quality and installation shortcomings. Batteries due to small bank of low quality batteries and poor charging alternator, and a single failure of the autopilot 4000 where the pullys began to desinegrate in the last week of a year long trip.
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Old 03-26-2007, 09:28 AM   #12
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Old 03-27-2007, 02:31 AM   #13
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thanks, Bluh20

More failures.

The boat came with a robertson Autopilot. It failed in 1987. Peter decided to replace it with a new, improved Robertson Autopilot (which billed itself as one of the best around). We used the wind vane most of the time, but when we were motoring in light to no wind we would use the autopilot. So the new one failed in 1991 in Costa Rica, we had it repaired at great expense, and again in 1993 on our way to American Samoa. Most electronics fail "off", but both times the autopilot failed, it failed "on", so Peter had to disconnect it! We had to practically threaten the dealer to get it fixed, and I insisted on receiving the bad (mother board - something to that effect, anyway). An electronics engineer cruising friend took a look at it and said the problem was a bad design.

We finally wound up replacing it when in Singapore when it failed again and I refused to consider dealing with "those people" again.

An alternator failed on our way to Ecuador. Most difficult to get a new/rebuilt one where we were in Ecuador, but we managed.
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Old 04-09-2007, 02:27 AM   #14
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We've been out in some remote places of the South Pacific during our 17,000 nM over the past three years. We've seen every type of failure on lots of various manufactures products, Generator problems, in mast furler bearings shot, flooded engines, windless filled with water and on and on. The only thing I have to add is keep it simple and carry extended cruising spare parts if available, Shipping delays and Metric vs Standard sizing is really an issue in those out of the way places we love to travel.

We tried to keep track of what works and what doesn't on our "for future cruisers" web site

http://www.creative-cruising.com/what_works.htm.

Also check out the changes made and what didn't work page. We've been very lucky with no major failures but we do travel with the keep it simple mentality, but Murphy is out there.. we wrote a specific page dedicated specifically to our crew member in our journal pages http://www.neoscape.com/billabong/Journal/...rphys%20law.htm

Know your boat and the systems you put on inside and out. The first thing I do to a new boat is rip it to bits and put it back together so I know how everything works. I'm not sure how brand new boat owners survive without that step. If you like the out of the way places (not everyone does) and don't feel comfortable repairing or working on a piece of gear you have installed...maybe it shouldn't be on the boat or you should figure out how to get comfortable prior to leaving. Fear is a great motivator!!

It's a great lifestyle.. I'm not sure how we'll ever come back to the "land of stuff".

Chris
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