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Old 11-11-2013, 09:09   #1
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A "Simple" Boat

Over the years I'm read lots of posts recommending people have a "simple" boat. I wonder just what people are recommending not to have in order to have a "simple" boat. My boat is fairly simple, but I don't really consider any boat "simple" as long as it has all the wiring and electrical systems to take care of.

So what does a "complex" boat have that a "simple" doesn't and what are people really willing to do without to have a "simple" cruiser (a cruiser that you spend your time on and is your home instead of a boat that is just something to day sail etc.)?

Things I have read that make a boat non-simple include:
- auto pilots
- gps/chartplotter systems
- pressurized water system
- a real head
- water maker
- generator
- furling sails
- anchor windlass
- inverter

I don't have all these, but the only reason I don't is about money not the maintenance of the items.

In 5 years of boat ownership with 2 boats the above have only been a problem as follows:
- Autopilot computer worn out and I replaced as I just feel that an autopilot is just so important and adds such a great amount to traveling by boat.
- The only problem I've had with my gps/chartplotter is a bad receiver and wiring connections at terminal strips
- I have had to replace a water pump. I never would have considered not having pressurized water for the $120 cost of a pump once in a while
-My last boat had an electric head and the current has 2 manual heads (had a total of 3 combined on both boats). I have rebuild them 2 of them and replaced 1 discharge pump. Never would consider pooping in a bucket instead.
- Never had a water maker, but will before heading out long term as getting water is one of the biggest pain in the ass things I do currently. Water makers really are not that complex and I bet most problems are due to installation.
- I never have had a generator but would LOVE one. I would say of the things I listed I read more generator problems than all the other items.
- Furling sails, you either value the convenience or you don't. The only problem I've ever had was a broken furling line
- Anchor windlass. The motor on mine died this year and that 60# anchor with chain really did a number on me getting it up even with me hooking the line to a winch to get up.
- I never have had a problem with an inverter and my first boat had 1 that was so old it used capacitors!

If I add up all the time I have spend on maintenance for these "complex" systems I bet it comes to around 10-20 hours in 6 years (most of it on tracking down the electrical problems as I always start there). Compared to the hours of use and enjoyment they provided the maintenance time was just really minor.

I just wonder what people feel they are really saving to "go simple". I don't want simple I want enjoyment!
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Old 11-11-2013, 10:03   #2
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Re: a 'simple" boat

You must be my long lost twin!!
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Old 11-11-2013, 10:11   #3
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Re: a 'simple" boat

If you want to learn the difference between wants and needs, go for a weekend(or longer) cruise, and as soon as you leave the dock, turn your batteries switch to OFF. The NEEDs get obvious real quick. Can you get water from your tanks without electricity? Does your stove work without 12 volts? Remember the 12 volt gas shut off? Can you bypass it so you can make hot food? Does your head work manually, and can you direct discharge so you dont end up with a full holding tank, and no way to pump it? Do you have a couple of kerosene lamps, so that you can function below when the electrics go dead? Do you have a windvane, so that you are not exhausted from steering after the autopilot sucks the last bit of juice from your batteries? Do you have your manual bilge pump set up so it is easy and convenient to use? Do you have paper charts? Can you get your anchor up without power? (sounds like you have already had that pleasure). My point being!!!! you can have all of the complex goodies that you can afford to buy and maintain, but when the power dies, you need the basic backups so your boat and crew can carry on. ____I recently talked to a fellow who twice had to turn back after leaving Mexico for the Marquesas, when their auto pilot packed up a few days out. By the time they got it fixed the second time, they gave up and motor sailed back north. A piece of equipment that was supposed to make life easier, ruined a trip of a lifetime. Electrical problems probably ruin more cruises than any other thing, but they dont have to. Too many cruisers sit in harbour waiting to get things fixed that they think are essential when they are really comfort items. _____Just my 2 cents worth._____Grant.
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Old 11-11-2013, 10:16   #4
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Re: a 'simple" boat

Agree! Sometimes simple is a PITA!

Like hauling water to a cruising boat on a dingy, or finding and hauling ice to keep your food cold. Or hauling your afore mentioned bucket to dump it. How about warming water up on the stove to wash up or wash dishes with? I had all of those wonderful simple pleasures on a previous boat.....no thank you!

There are certain comforts that are certainly worth the occaisional maintenance!
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Old 11-11-2013, 10:39   #5
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Re: a 'simple" boat

Surprisingly, most of my complicated boats have not had alot of breakdowns, but I usually start out having gone through most everything.
Significant things that have broken down:
8D batteries. two have dead shorted out in less than a year. Just say no to 8D batteries.
Watermaker. I modified an AC watermaker to be engine drive. The old membranes were failing as well as some of the aluminum fittings. I replaced with a larger single membrane. Should have done initially and wouldnt have had this repair. never really broke down.
Various electric waterpumps have broken down.
Electric heads have been nothing but breakdowns.
Home built 12V watermaker/generator broke down a couple times, frame cracks and sheave cracks. Due to no flywheel on the Kubota engine. (vibration)
Yanmar 3GM diesel, piston failure.
Fuel tanks in bilge: failed twice on two different boats.
Rudders: many have become waterlogged.
In general it seems that electric motors always fail at some point. You buy a boat there's always one that's not working!

Never had a failure in 30 years:
Autopilot: Tillerpilot, B&G hydraulic (1), Alpha 3000 (3)
GPS
Radar
Electric windlass: Maxwell, Simpson Lawrence
Propane system
Furling (always Profurl)
Maxprop
Invertor/charger
Microwave
High output alternators (Ample Power & Balmar)
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Old 11-11-2013, 10:59   #6
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Re: a 'simple" boat

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorboy1 View Post
I just wonder what people feel they are really saving to "go simple".
I am saving my sanity.

As much as I love creating and building a complex thing, I absolutely detest the management that goes along with it to keep it going. The act of fixing something that is broken is not so bad. It is the repetition of what I feel are incredibly uninteresting tasks that drives me nuts. I am not a "manager" type of person.

Pickling a water maker = Boring
Rowing to get water = Exercise

I know that one day I will become completely sick of managing/maintaining my boat. The more simple it is, the longer it will take before I quit the boat.

It is just the way my brain works. There is nothing that can be done about it. I cannot get a new brain.

Steve
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Old 11-11-2013, 11:00   #7
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Re: a 'simple" boat

The single biggest maintenance issue on boats in my experience is electrical motors. Everything else is simple by comparison. And half the time the problem with the motors is the wiring, and chasing down where the break in the line is...

This is why if I ever buy a new (not new to me) boat I will insist on a distributed bus system. No more home runs, no more hidden wires, no more 18 gauge wires burried in bulkheads...

Second on the list is the big diesels. But these problems while they may be a pain are almost all either bad fuel, bad fuel, or bad fuel. With an impeller needing replaced every now and then. Parallel racor filters, and a fuel polishing system make this a much easier issue.


Everything else combined probably adds up to the problems I have had with just the electrical. But a lot of it is just maintenance, and replacing service parts. I have found many people wait until things break to fix them, instead of putting things on a regular maintenance cycle. This of course means everything breaks at the worst possible time, instead of being out of service on my schedule.
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Old 11-11-2013, 11:23   #8
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Re: a 'simple" boat

Simple for me is what is comfortable and relaxing for me! Mostly it means avoiding excessive consumption of electricity, expense, and noise... so generators, microwave ovens, blenders... running the engine as little as possible, gear I can fix myself. Part of it is wanting to escape our power everything society. Part of it is being cheap
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Old 11-11-2013, 11:36   #9
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Re: a 'simple" boat

Quote:
Originally Posted by Panope View Post
I am saving my sanity.

As much as I love creating and building a complex thing, I absolutely detest the management that goes along with it to keep it going. The act of fixing something that is broken is not so bad. It is the repetition of what I feel are incredibly uninteresting tasks that drives me nuts. I am not a "manager" type of person.

Pickling a water maker = Boring
Rowing to get water = Exercise

I know that one day I will become completely sick of managing/maintaining my boat. The more simple it is, the longer it will take before I quit the boat.

It is just the way my brain works. There is nothing that can be done about it. I cannot get a new brain.

Steve
yeah, maintenance is big thing on a complicated boat. Not sure you save anything (other than $!) by going simple though. It's less work maintaining a watermaker than it is taking jerry jugs to shore that's for certain!
Still..... once you can get yourself off the electrical umbilical..... life does become simple.
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Old 11-11-2013, 11:58   #10
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Re: a 'simple" boat

The answer reduces to a combination of how you will use the boat and how large the boat is. I have had both ends of the spectrum. From foot pumped water to hot and cold on demand. From no heat or A/C to dual units one in the aft cabin and one in the main salon. From oil lamps to dual red/white interior lighting.

If you are doing one or two week vacation cruises then minimal works the best. Reduced maint. chores. you don't want to spend three days working on the gen set half way through a two week vacation. Hauling ice twice and heating water is no big deal.

Cruising for months and years then creature comforts become important. Also, you will have more time for preventative maint. and doing maint. as part of cruising. Windlass, AC, showers, etc., comm upgrades over VHF, are all required.

For a boat 40' and over you are pushed into complexity just to manage the boat.
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Old 11-11-2013, 12:20   #11
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Re: a 'simple" boat

I will restate that the "complex" systems maintenance has been very minor time wise in my 6 years of sailing. The maintenance on the "simple" systems have taken up a lot more time.

I can and have sailed as basic as you can get; with the sails with all electric stuff off. This is just where I would have been if I had been simple to start with. The thing I took away from that is ................ it sucks!

BTW solar is pretty basic and takes care of a lot of the issues with complex systems, which is how to power them. I ran my freezer and refrigerator all season out on the mooring while I wasn't on the boat (always cold beer and food in the freezer etc that I didn't have to take each trip).

I feel all you are losing going "complex" is money, and you need to decide if the money spent is going to be worth the enjoyment of the items. If you say it isn't, what did you say to yourself when you spent money to get your boat to start with?

Are the "go simple" people also the "go small" people?
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Old 11-11-2013, 13:00   #12
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Re: a 'simple" boat

First off, what do you mean by "simple"? When I say simple with regard to my boat, I mean desirable -- as in: the item or boat system will serve a needed purpose (#1) , and will do so with reasonable effort on my part (#2).

The first part of this (#1) is identifying needs vs wants. In our western culture we are surrounded by wants. Learning what you actually need is sometimes difficult. But once you've got that sorted, then the next step (#2) is to identify items, systems or tools that will do the job well. Here I think in terms of two dimensions.

On the one dimension (the X-axis if you will) is reliability. Solar panels, hand-held GPS, propane stove, heck even sails and hull ... all these things are fairly complex items. However they are also very reliable, so they rank well on the simplicity scale.

On the other Y-axis are systems that are easily understood and managed by me. Stuff like pumps, winches, DC electrical, etc. They aren't as reliable all the time, but I can likely diagnose problems and enact repairs and/or perform basic maintenance on these things fairly easily. This also makes them "simple" in my view.

So the stuff that is unreliable AND difficult to maintain/repair that becomes undesirable -- complex if you will. This is the stuff to avoid ... unless you want to spend all your time fixing things or living with broken systems.

NOTE: Notice that Y-scale is relative to each individual. I may find something ridiculously difficult to understand -- refrigeration for example -- whereas you might have no problem with it. So something that is simple for you may be out of reach for me. This is where we get into disagreement.
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Old 11-11-2013, 14:26   #13
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Re: a 'simple" boat

I think it is as much about the installation as the equipment that is the problem (and that related to a volume / numbers thing)....not so much piss poor original installation (albeit it happens) but from much being "out of sight and out of mind".......at least for the first few owners.

Likely those who know how to fix stuff are the more likely to have less problems due to understanding how things should be installed and maintained and used than those who can only write a cheque.........therefore "simple" will vary from boat to boat / person to person.
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Old 11-11-2013, 15:35   #14
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I still say it's either old complex stuff that get's you or poorly installed complex stuff or God forbid the old / poorly installed / poorly maintained trifecta.
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Old 11-11-2013, 18:06   #15
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I would say that as long as there were workable manual backups for the major systems (water light navigation anchoring sail setting and dousing) then complexity becomes a matter of deciding when the maintenance load starts detracting from the convenience of the items and if there is significant safety risk if any or all go down in a remote location. That is something you won't know for yourself until you get 'out there'. I got the impression the OP has owned the boat for six yr but has not gone walkabout with it yet.

By workable I mean you can pack up and make a multi day passage offshore or gunkhing without unacceptable strain, which is once again a personal definition.
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