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Old 01-29-2008, 06:33 PM   #1
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Reading the post on "what would you do without" reminded me that about a quarter century ago, my husband and I pledged to each other that we'd do everything we could "ourselves" to become the self-sufficient people we believed that we'd need to be as cruisers. We were young and knew how to do, well, very little. But, we grew more confident over the years and one by one things became easier and more routine. From baking bread and canning to engine rebuilding, plumbing and electrical work, our lives on-shore became more and more self-sufficient. We even forgot WHY we'd become so "DIY"! Friends and family say we've always been this way--but, no, we' weren't! We remember the "way back when" we didn't have the knowledge, skills, or confidence to do things ourselves.

I'm amazed and very proud to share the fact that we've only had someone other than hubby or me work on any of our cars four times since 1985--two of those times were transmission rebuilds where we took the tranny in to the shop and re-installed it ourselves. We've also kept the same cars running for all those years--one of them for 370K miles before rust finally took it. It started as a "game" to see if we could be as self-sufficient as we believed we needed to be as cruisers someday. Its ended up being a lifestyle that we have grown to love. I love cooking--but I've never owned a food processor or electric mixer. Hundreds of cakes and batches of whipping cream have come from my wire whisks and wooden spoons. I rarely use the microwave and won't miss it on the boat. Baking bread is as easy as going to the store for a loaf. If we can do something at home self-sufficiently, we just do it. It has become automatic.

We're just now casting off the shore life and getting our cruising boat ready (as I've stated on other posts, last year we started the project of completely rebuilding a classic wooden boat as our choice cruiser) and are thoroughly enjoying the experience.

As we prep our cruiser and spend time sailing on our other boat, fixing little things along the way on it, I'm reminded that every little bit of DIY in my life helps make me feel that this part of life cruising won't be much different than life ashore and we're unlikely to be "stuck" somewhere without a fix. I'd suggest to all potential cruisers to take on projects as you can because things do get easier and easier the more you do. Every little bit helps.

Some parts they just don't make anymore:



(cutting a new veg-fiber gasket for an old oil pump on our non-cruising boat's 1966 Volvo Penta engine--its not much more than an arts and crafts project)



(milling a no-longer-made bushing needed for my car's steering rack)



(Newly made bushing installed in the rack)
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Old 01-29-2008, 07:26 PM   #2
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@ redbopeep

It just goes to show that where there is a will there is way. Although I am not quite sure about playing mechanic on modern cars where every little bit is electronically steered.

Reminds me, when I was in Spain last week we hired a Renault of some sort (forgot the actual model which just shows how interested I am in cars) and it had no handbrake (emergency brake for our friends in the US). No handbrake at all! The thing was electronic. You stopped the car the handbrake went on. Just means that parking the thing on a hill so that you could start it by rolling downhill and then engaging a gear would not work. It would never start rolling as without power the handbrake would not release. And that is supposed to be progress!

At almost certain risk of repeating myself, keep things simple; especially on a cruising boat. Systems are trouble in the long run.

Getting back to redbopeep's post, I think it was Eric Hiscock who said "one should never put to sea unless one is capable of fixing everything on board" or, putting it another way, don't buy stuff you can't fix.

Aye // Stephen
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Old 01-29-2008, 08:11 PM   #3
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I think it was Eric Hiscock who said "one should never put to sea unless one is capable of fixing everything on board" or, putting it another way, don't buy stuff you can't fix.

Aye // Stephen
Stephen, we keep the same cars forever because once one has learned how to fix things, one doesn't want to learn "new" systems. The steering rack shown is from a mid-70's era SAAB 99. I didn't know there was such a thing as a non-mechanical steering system in a car (yet!).

And, yes, we don't wish to have anything that we NEED aboard the boat if we cannot fix it. One reason we're rebuilding a boat and its systems--we'll know them inside-out when done. We do have issues with working on transmissions--neither hubby nor I are willing to work on them other than replacing clutch, etc. Vodoo and/or too many specialized tools required. We're taking our cruising boat's Hurth/ZF transmission off the engine and to a shop for re-build and dynotest before installing the engine/transmission in the boat. The engine/tranny are new/never used --but the boat's previous owner never installed them and they've been sitting in the storage unit for a decade...somehow don't want to hire the crane for getting it all in there simply to find it doesn't work and take it out again. We figure if we can't fix it ourselves, it'd better be overbuilt for the task (the Hurth is) and well-maintained by a shop to keep it in a high-reliability status.
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Old 01-29-2008, 08:34 PM   #4
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Stephen, we keep the same cars forever because once one has learned how to fix things, one doesn't want to learn "new" systems. The steering rack shown is from a mid-70's era SAAB 99. I didn't know there was such a thing as a non-mechanical steering system in a car (yet!).
Every word you wrote I agree with. Strange old world this because the only transmissions I ever played around with were SAABs. They were really simple and a joy to work with exception of getting the shims right. Because of the front wheel drive they had to be spot on.

You are right about the steering system. I know of no normal car fitted with anything but mechanical steering, albeit servo assisted. But everything else is being put under the spell of electrickery - talk about Voodoo!

keep the faith and keep it simple

Aye // Stephen
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Old 01-29-2008, 10:24 PM   #5
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Every word you wrote I agree with. Strange old world this because the only transmissions I ever played around with were SAABs. They were really simple and a joy to work with exception of getting the shims right. Because of the front wheel drive they had to be spot on.

You are right about the steering system. I know of no normal car fitted with anything but mechanical steering, albeit servo assisted. But everything else is being put under the spell of electrickery - talk about Voodoo!

keep the faith and keep it simple

Aye // Stephen
Hubby is very, very good with electrical things (helps that he's got a masters degree in EE...but I digress...he was good even before he had the degree...) and loves fixing things with whatever is "at hand". He keeps all kinds of things--can't bear to throw out something that might be useful somewhere. As such, one day, many years ago, the relay for the lights on the Saab went on the blink. Looked into it and the part was more than $100. This was in the 1980's when $100 really meant a lot to us. So, hubby pulls out his bin of "all things electrical" and found that he had the (open) relays from a pin-ball machine. He installed them in the car, warning me that they were "open" so don't touch them (you know, they're the kind where you can see the relay when it switches in the pinball machine? they click and look quite pretty, too) ..

And, we had those relays in that car until, oh, probably 15 years later when we decided that we probably should go ahead and buy closed relays since we were no longer so pinched for cash. Turn on the lights and hear the "click" really loudly .

About doing things with parts "at hand" and familiar...and front wheel drive Saabs...we both love (love!) the amazing reliability and "overbuilt" nature of the CV joints used in the 99's and 900's. They take incredible abuse without failure. Plus, they're inexpensive considering their design. As such, because our boat engine has similar power/torque to the matching B series Saab engines, hubby keeps saying he's going to put together a CV system for the boat using stock Saab CV's (he doesn't like the design of boat propshaft CV systems readily available...long story...). I tell him that can be one of his pet projects for "the future" and we'll just go with a flexible coupling for now. Even with similar power/torque, the thrust conditions aren't at all the same and I imagine (but don't know) that the Saab CV's wouldn't like the thrust conditions) so I'll probably design a CV using industrial parts at some point--but hubby loves the idea of using those Saab CV's.

I'm impressed that you worked on the (assumed manual) transmission. The tolerances (as you know) are so important! That's so amazing. I hope it worked great for you.
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Old 10-03-2008, 08:16 PM   #6
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It is vitally important to develop as many skills as possible when planning to go to sea. Check that you have ALL the manuals for ALL the equipment and systems aboard. YOU ARE GOING TO NEED THEM!

The skill I struggled with was the "electrician" - probably because I am afraid of "electrickery".
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Old 10-03-2008, 11:38 PM   #7
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At least 12 Volt electrikery doesn't offer shocks while fooling around (sure can start a fire with hundreds of amps into a short)!

No hand brake on a car is really scary cause if the hydraulics fail, how do you stop the car? Turn off the key and wait for the computer to apply the parking brake. No thanks. I avoided rear ending someone by a quick pull on the hand brake when my hydraulics failed once.
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Old 10-30-2008, 12:20 AM   #8
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Can't comment on cars... had one once. Once. Boats, though, is a different matter. Robbie and I have a simple rule of thumb. If it's broken and we can't fix it, the wretched thing never should have been on board in the first place.... it gets the float test... O.K., not literally, but we try to have the most basic and simple things wherever possible.

Much of what is produced for yachts these days is really not fit for purpose - just look at how many spares any race boat has and you begin to get the picture. As electronic stuff has ceased to function we have tended to leave it unreplaced. As far as we are concerned, the only really useful and necessary electronics on board (apart from computers, but that's nothing to do with sailing/cruising really) are the radar, the VHF and the GPS. We gave up on depth sounders after we gave up on anti-fouling (modern permitted anti-fouling preparations tend to be next to useless in our experience and we simply scrape the hull from time to time until we have a haulout every two or three years and then give it a really good scrub and paint it again) and we have a cylinder of lead on a knotted line which works just as well as such simple equipment always has...

Wind direction is most easily judged by using 'tell-tales' (piece of ribbon attached to the stays, usually amidships) and will show you exactly where the wind is coming at the boat from, while the compass will tell you the bigger picture, i.e. which geographical direction the wind is coming from. Wind speed is fairly obvious if you have any sensitivity left in your skin at all and you soon learn to judge it by the different sounds the rigging and other boat parts make when under the influence of different amounts of wind. The list of bits of equipment you can have if you want to but really don't need is a long one.

Autopilots are a story all on their own. If your boat is small enough to take a windvane-type autopilot on the stern, it's probably worth it, or if you only intend to use an electronic autopilot when the sea state is idyllic and the breeze is steady and blowing in exactly the right direction for your planned passage, you could probably enjoy having one but I would never rely on one in any but those circumstances. If there is a lot of steering to be done, the wretched things tend to burn out incredibly quickly.

Anything described as 'automatic' should be viewed with a great deal of suspicion as far as we're concerned. Apart from the fact that things 'automatically' break down just when you are relying on them most, it is unwise to get into the habit of trusting something other than yourself to keep things going. Checking the state of the bilges every day by flicking on the main bilge pump, or lifting the inspection hatch or whatever, should simply be part of the routine of life aboard, for example.

Basically, it's fine to have all the gadgets you want but it's best not to think of most of them as necessary. Get used to managing without the gadgets and you won't feel bereft when they break down in the middle of an ocean. The last straw for us was a representative from one of the world's leading autopilot manufacturers who told Robbie that the cause of the demise of the six-mnth-old top-of-the-range autopilot, installed in a totally dry part of the saloon, was 'moisture'. As in sea air... Oh... right!
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