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Old 12-05-2008, 19:24   #1
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Replacing Fluid in Ritchie Compass

Now that I am finishing the internal refit, i have begun to check the above deck equipment. I noted that my Ritchie Compass seems to be out of fluid. How easy is it to replace? Is this something I can do and the fluid (remember I am in Venezuela and they don't have a specialist agent here) can I use a common light oil or must it be a propriortory brand.

Thanks for you help

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Old 12-05-2008, 19:32   #2
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Ritchie will do a total rebuild on the compass for a flat fee. The fluid leaked out. Wouldn't it be worth fixing why? It's not just adding more oil but fixing the leak and perhaps other problems. Not having fluid for a long period brings up the issue of if it's fixable.
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Old 12-05-2008, 19:53   #3
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Paul,

That was a quick reply, thanks.

Actually we come back to the Venzuelan problem. Getting it to Ritchies is doable however if it will arrive back safely is the problem.... Theres a black hole here for valuable goods. It will cost a few hundred USD to courier there and back, plus the repair. I had just noticed the problem this weekend. I had hoped that the problem was more to do with a simple maintainence. A new compass will probably be the same cost and they are available here. Therefore I had hoped that it could be simply renewed. I have a Fluxgate compass and GPS, but believe must have the basic working. Actually I can always find someone here who will gladly repair it. However at best they are enthusiastic amateurs and less involved than me and as such, I thought to give it a try.

Alan
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Old 13-05-2008, 00:16   #4
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Here is a link the Ritchie Website - It talks about serivcing the compass. I don't think you need to send it back.

http://www.ritchienavigation.com/service/faq.html

Here is a link to the service manuals for popular models.

http://www.ritchienavigation.com/service/manual.html

You can also poke around their site for valuable tips and tricks as well as the correct servicing fluids.
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Old 13-05-2008, 07:59   #5
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Thanks Dan,

It was my intention to visit their site today.... You saved me some time

I appreciate it.

regards

Alan
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Old 19-05-2008, 16:54   #6
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I had Ritchie ship me out a new seal and fluid to Pago Pago a few years back, and that solved the problem for less than $100.
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Old 19-05-2008, 17:43   #7
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Our last boat was equiped with a Ritchie when we bought her in 1994. We were in Hawaii and it, too, was low on oil. Not dry... but certainly below the card.

I called Ritchie and was given a sales pitch about sending it back to them to re-build and fill with their "highly refined oil". I told the guy that I was flat broke and would just have to live without their expensive compass...

The guy finally relented and told me that they use MINERAL SPIRITS in all their compassess

So - I removed the dome and took the skinny O-ring to a local specialty seal & packing shop and purchased the closest replacement, followed by a trip to a local hardware store where I spotted a can of Jabsco Paint Thinner with a label which read the contents were composed of 100% refined mineral spirits.

I took the new O-ring & paint thinner home, sat the compass on the cockpit table and replaced the dome with the new O-ring, propped it between my leggs with the plug up at the zenith, removed the plug and carefully poured the fluid into the compass with the aide of a toothpick to help the fluid flow into tiny hole in the compass, instead of all over the cockpit.

Voila! Worked like a charm and cost me less than ten bucks!

The compass functioned perfectly until we sold the boat ten years and 25,000 nm later. Problem solved.

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Old 09-06-2008, 10:31   #8
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Sorry that I haven't replied to the above suggestions, but was trying to finish off other work before addressing the compass. Firstly the compass seems to work, insofar as bringing a magnitised item near will send it spinning and return to correct position.

My problem is that it is set in the binnacle and getting it out to do my own replenishment of fluid would be problematic and quite honestly as everyone who does a refit knows, everything takes much longer to finish and i want the boat in the water to sail and the binnacle will not disassemble easily and i will probably also have to make a new one. So is there an alternative solution.....

As Gallivanters post indicates there is a designated "fill" plug at the side... As I can't access this at the moment is there an alternative option.... It could be that I open the dome, check/replace the "o" ring and add the fluid. What would be the downside problems/repercussions. Equally I could leave it as is and address Gallivanters solution when I next have time.

Your comments as always would be greatly appreciated.

Regards

Alan
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:27   #9
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Alan-
For a compass to spin and work properly, the fluid needs to be of the correct viscosity and you need no (or nearly no) air bubble at the top. That almost always means removing the compass from the binnacle so that the fill hole is "up" and you can really fill it all the way.
The magic fluids aren't really magic, "mineral spirits" can mean simply top-grade kerosene or something similar. The only gotya there is that the wrong solvent can dissolve the markings on the card or create similar damage. AFAIK the main choice there is "alcohol" versus "spirits" and damage unlikely in a modern compass using a kerosene-type spirit.
Still, I think you will have to unseat the compass in order to fill it properly. IF the only problem was the little o-ring leaking, a simple refill and new o-ring will get you going again. If this really becomes an issue, it might pay to buy a second compass, something you can locate elsewhere after you have had the primary one repaired or confirmed that your repair works on it.
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Old 10-06-2008, 02:45   #10
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Ritchie made compasses with both alcohol and odourless mineral oil (and now Isopar L) types of fluid.
The way to tell which fluid you have (since they look the same, but don't mix) is to take a sample, and put a few drops in a glass of water. Alcohol based fluids will mix with water, whilst mineral oil fluids won't.

See the Ritchie FAQs (What type of fluid is in my Ritchie Magnetic Compass?):
http://ritchienavigation.com/service/faq.html
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Old 05-08-2008, 17:12   #11
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Finally I got round to the compass ( rained last week) and dismantled the binnacle and found black melted goo on the base. It would seem that the PO must have mixed the fluids and it melted the gasket/bladder. Absolutely nothing there. I will replace the compass with a new one….however, thought to try and a see if Ritchie sold replacement parts and have a workable spare. Had no reply to date from Ritchie to my email and thought to access the wealth of knowledge and experience here in the CF.. Donradcliffe mentioned a new seal…Gallivanter 'O" ring..Is this seal? O ring and my melted bladder/base/gasket one of the same and if so how did you get it. If they don’t sell them is there an alternative I can try.

Best regards and thanks as always

Alan
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Old 05-08-2008, 18:36   #12
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Alan, Ritchie used to offer discounted replacements for failed compasses. You might try to contact them again, by email of phone, and simply tell them the older Ritchie compass on your "used" boat had a melt-down, do they offer a replacement service?

And of course, compare the price to that of a new one from a discounting chandlery. One never knows.
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Old 15-08-2009, 20:46   #13
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Similar problem to Alan's. It started when I tried to connect the two little lights and found they didn't work. When I removed the Ritchie deck mount Helmsman I saw the lubber lines were not moving freely, and that there was the dreaded bubble.
I called the local rep who said it would cost almost the same to repair as to buy a new one ($160). They had one bulb ($25) but not the other. So I bought a 12 volt green LED from Radio Shack ($2) and made it work. Then I spent $8 at Home Depot for the Odorless Mineral Spirits. After disassembling and cleaning the dome O-ring I set it back with a touch of Permatex gasket material (the black one that doesn't harden) and reassembled that end. Working with the compass upside down I 3/4 filled it with the Spirits, and left it to check for leaks and air bubbles. Then I filled it completely and put back the rubber cap with another touch of Permatex.
The compass was probably 20 years old (like the boat), and if I can get another ten years I will be happy.
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Old 16-01-2012, 22:21   #14
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Re: Replacing Fluid in Ritchie Compass

It is the cruiser’s lot to be in a constant struggle with the elements to keep our gear working. Fair enough, it’s a tough environment. But sadly, like everywhere else in the modern world, we see the gradual deterioration in quality of virtually all marine products, more and more built as cheaply as possible, hoping to snare the unwary with cheap, fall-apart stuff. Raymarine sold me a heavy duty, offshore drive for my self steering arm made of plastic gears. West Marine recently shipped me two Ronstan snap shackles (the volkswagon of marine hardware manufactures) in Harken (the BMW) bags at Harken prices. And on it goes with line (rope) without UV protection, galvanized shackles that rust within days, Stainless steel fittings that aren’t “stainless” because they are made of such low grade steel they rust happily, blocks that blow up… and now a compass that failed within months.

I am a little embarrassed by my invective in the open letter to Ritchie Compass below, but I want to vent. I don’t know if I’ll ever send this to them directly, mostly because I doubt anybody at Ritchie would care one way or another, or that it would make one small bit of difference. But, at least, sailors contemplating a new compass need to hear this. And I’m mad as heck and not going to take it anymore!


Open Letter to Ritchie Compasses
Dear Mr. Ritchie,

Your Compass sucks.
Can you imagine my disappointment, after spending $800 SGD on a brand new Ritchie “GlobeMaster SP 5c, to find, just months after it came aboard, a pool of oil on the teak cockpit sole and an air bubble the size of a tennis ball in the liquid filled compass?
The whole product has a cheap feel to it. When I unwrapped our mail order, to my vast disappointment I found the compass light is ‘engineered’ from two LED lights, mounted on an unprotected circuit board, just waiting to soaked by the next wave to come aboard. (Getting that replaced will mean a lot more than finding a light bulb!) And everything else is made of plastic of doubtful dimension and chemical composition. Just days into our first passage, I was not impressed to see splotches of rust showing up all over the “stainless steel” mount. But the last straw was the bubble!

Now you and I are faced with the hassle and expense of a warrantee repair. I lose time. You lose money. I mean really, what are you guys doing? You know this product is used in a marine environment of salt water spray and constant motion on ocean passages of thousands of miles. You know we will expect it to last more than a few months, one boating season, or even, heaven forbid, a few years. Why then are you using 304 stainless on the mount? Why would you design a compass light around an unprotected circuit board? Why would you build it so poorly that it leaks in the first three months?
Yup, your compass sucks. Shame on you!

I am telling my cruising friends about my experience with Ritchie compasses, because as your website says, "navigation really does begin with the right compass", and its sure not a Ritchie!

Yours truly,
etc.

There is more at play here than consumer rage. There is a much more serious issue. It is not just about “fucknowlogy”, fumbling high tech stuff released into the market place, nor is it about businesses maximizing profit by squeezing quality, or our mute acceptance of ever more false advertising claims, though all of these are issues too rankle and highlight civilization’s failing social consciousness and values.

Rather, the more serious issue is the question of our very survival – we are wasting our planet’s resources. And I mean ‘wasting’ as in depleting, diminishing, exhausting, stripping, denuding, wrecking, etc.. because almost everything we produce is designed to fall apart quickly. And we are doing so exactly when we need so desperately to be doing the opposite. When we should be doing our modern best to build stuff that lasts a long, long time (repairable) – things that make the most prudent use of the planet’s resources -- we are, instead, building C.R.A.P.(Carelessly Resource Assailing Products).

And so we all ask as sailors and consumers alike, "What can ‘I’ do?"
This is the important question. I hope you will join me in a personal quest to stop buying CRAP. Join me in rewarding manufactures who produce quality repairable products and punish manufactures who build cheap fall apart stuff. As for which camp Ritchie falls, you'll have to decide for yourself.
But help us save the planet - DON'T BUY C.R.A.P.
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