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Old 09-06-2007, 09:18 PM   #1
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Reading this blog for the past few weeks makes me realize how incredibly difficult it must be to own a boat if you don't have the skills to do the mechanical work yourself.


I wonder what percent of today's cruisers rely on a mechanic versus do-it-yourself?

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Old 09-07-2007, 12:32 AM   #2
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I couldn't possibly afford this lifestyle if I had to pay others to work on my boat.

If I cannot figgure out a problem or installation or maintenance issue, I'll first ask my trusted neighbor about it. Next, I'll buy a book or two and try to educate myself. If that doesn't work, I'll look-up and consult with experts. Finally, as a last resort - I'll hire the best expert and meet him / her at the dock and have them explain as we work on it together. By that time I have a pretty good understanding of how to fix it.

At this point I feel comfortable doing everything on my boat... with the following exceptions: refrigeration gassing, alternator repairs & serious repairing of electronics. Other than that... I think I can beat anything into submission with a big enough hammer.

I have found that "experts" do not love my boat and often cut corners at great expense on my part.

And... who are you gonna call when something breaks when you're out there on your own?

To Life!


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Old 09-07-2007, 01:19 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Gallivanters View Post
At this point I feel comfortable doing everything on my boat... with the following exceptions: refrigeration gassing, alternator repairs & serious repairing of electronics. Other than that... I think I can beat anything into submission with a big enough hammer.
I can sympathise a bit with these guys -- I don't have the expertise to fix everything on my boat, and fuel pumps and diesel engines generally are probably my weak point, especially if it was a lift pump which failed. Failure of a lift pump can be tricky to pick in advance unless you're happy to disassemble the engine periodically to test them.

In reply to your point above -- electrics and electronics are things that I do know about, so alternator repairs (rewiring, uncoiling and recoiling generally, not a lot can go wrong with brushless rotary style generators or motors really except for complete burnout which actually can be repaired if you have the time and patience) are easy. If by serious repairing of electronics you mean board level de-soldering, re-soldering, etc, I can do that, and I have even repaired at the chip level once (cut the bad piece of silicon away in a bridge rectifier, allowing the rest of the chip to do its job). Not sure how I'd go doing that last job at sea -- it requires a bit of precision, and I have unsteady hands at times anyway.

So perhaps if we're aboard at the same anchorage some time you can rebuild my lift pump and I'll fix the electronics in your autohelm, so long as you cut me some slack about not getting down and jiggy with the diesel pump myself.

= New South Wales, Queensland,
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Old 09-08-2007, 06:46 AM   #4
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I'm with you'all about DIY whenever possible. Years ago, when my husband and I were young and didn't know a whole lot about fixing anything we promised ourselves that we'd learn how to fix the things that broke on our car, in our home, on our bikes, etc...

All because we wanted to cruise in our own sailboat someday--and back then in the early 1980's, that was the common knowledge--you needed to be able to fix things when they break down because no one was going to come rescue you and fix it for you.

Now, 25 years later and just starting our real cruising life, that DIY mode is SO ingrained that we don't even consider hiring someone until we've gone through all the self-diagnosis, read the books, ask the knowledgeable folks we know...try to fix it! When we do feel that we should bring in the experts, we do the same as a previous poster--we hire someone to work alongside us and teach us how to do the job. In that manner, we can keep improving our skills.

This is what we've always called the "cruiser mentality" and we think it's most effective in keeping us safe and sound.
"Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda

What we're doing - The sailing life aboard and the Schooner Chandlery.

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Old 09-19-2007, 07:55 AM   #5
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I think a lot of new cruisers get overly complicated with gear at the beginning to offset their inexperience, but find themselves married to professional “experts” to sort out the problems.

Hopefuly they soon embrace the KISS principle and gain a modicum of freedom.

Like Kirk, I treat any new problem as a learning experience and proceed just like he described. I never hand over the problem to so called “experts” and look the other way.

Probably my greatest mechanical gift is the knowledge that 90% of what I have onboard is not necessary for a safe journey and repairs can always wait until I have done the proper research and troubleshooting at anchor.

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Old 09-19-2007, 10:31 AM   #6
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I have copied this post from Chagos news in our SE ASIA forum to illustrate what can be done by cruising yachtsmen/women when the chips are really down.

17th September 2007 message relayed on the radio net for S.E. Asia by the Catamaran "Backchat" on its way back to Malaysia from Male in the Maldives :-

"Hi Richard

At Chagos, an South African boat "Shoestring" ended on the rocks at Takamaka atoll after a front came through. Smashed rudder, bent drive, and holed, plus other damage. The hole was plugged with epoxy putty and the boat then beached at Boddum atoll. Rudder replaced with old centreboard, hole ground out and glassed, and rest repaired except for drive. Prop cut off and shaft not sure. They are now ready and will be leaving for Africa in the next couple of days. The Tsunami was a non event there. In 2004 it was only 2 1/2 feet but was very noticeable so this time it was obviously zilch.

All the Best

Jock on Backchat"


The above message regarding Tsunami at Chagos confirmed by other cruisers now in Chagos.

In case readers are not aware of the location of the Chagos Archipelago :-

Click image for larger version

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Almost slap bang in the middle of the Indian Ocean - with no facilities of any kind whatsoever on the 2 atolls where cruising yachts are permitted. Only Yachtie ingenuity to depend on (don't leave home without your epoxy putty!)

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Old 09-19-2007, 04:17 PM   #7
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Wow! Excellent work...and no kidding about the epoxy putty. I'll make sure to buy some this weekend and keep it on the boat. Thanks for the info Richard.


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