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Old 29-01-2013, 10:02   #1
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Boat ownership and maintenance

Hi everyone,

I have started crewing regularly on other peoples boat this past year and have become quite passionate about sailing. I am now considering purchasing a boat in the 35-40 foot range that would be used primarily for salt water coastal cruising (and occasional offshore passages as experience grows).

While I am now convinced about my interest in sailing, I would say that repairing stuff and doing odd jobs is not something I enjoy a lot or have a gift for. Don't get me wrong, I realize and accept that boat ownership entails regular maintenance and fixing stuff here and there, which I am ready to learn and do. However I wouldn't enjoy spending large amounts of my time doing this.

So my questions are:

Is it possible in your opinion to enjoy boat ownership without being a DIY person?
Is maintenance a large part of your life as a boat owner?

Thanks in advance for your views.
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Old 29-01-2013, 10:14   #2
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Re: Boat ownership and maintenance

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Originally Posted by Cruzor View Post
Hi everyone,

I have started crewing regularly on other peoples boat this past year and have become quite passionate about sailing. I am now considering purchasing a boat in the 35-40 foot range that would be used primarily for salt water coastal cruising (and occasional offshore passages as experience grows).

While I am now convinced about my interest in sailing, I would say that repairing stuff and doing odd jobs is not something I enjoy a lot or have a gift for. Don't get me wrong, I realize and accept that boat ownership entails regular maintenance and fixing stuff here and there, which I am ready to learn and do. However I wouldn't enjoy spending large amounts of my time doing this.

So my questions are:

Is it possible in your opinion to enjoy boat ownership without being a DIY person?
Is maintenance a large part of your life as a boat owner?

Thanks in advance for your views.
Hi it depends how deep your pocket is. Maintenance is always a priority but if you can't do it, it will COST you. So go on courses and develop good friendships with like minded people. With live aboards they always help each other, however if your offshore with no wind and the engine will not start-say no more. Good luck.

Peter
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Old 29-01-2013, 11:39   #3
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Re: Boat ownership and maintenance

Maintenance is not necessarily a large part of boating if everything is good condition. But things break even on a day cruise. There were several times when I had to replace a raw water impeller while underway. Its not that hard but it does require basic tools. Not being ably to do that would have required a tow in to the dock..

Another show stopper is when a fuel filter gets clogged. Knowing how to change the fuel filter and bleeding the engine after should be on every ones skill set. Its not hard with the right tools and know how and its something that does happen from time to time. Another is adjusting the stuffing box. Pretty basic things.

So unless you have really deep pockets and can afford marine labor rates at $85/hour and emergency repairs, it will save a lot of money if you can do some of the basic repairs that might leave you stranded on the water.

Oh preventive maintenance will do a lot to keep the boat running, but things happen....
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Old 29-01-2013, 11:42   #4
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Re: Boat ownership and maintenance

I would say boats is on par with owning a car in the 1950's - you don't need to be able to fix stuff personally, but someone will have to! and if not you then you get to pay someone else to. Plus the reliability does go up if you can at least recognise when you need to get a fix done before it gets more expensive........in practice being able to do at least basic maintanence (aka preventative fixing!) will drop the costs a lot, plus has the benefit of you being able to choose when to do the work......rather than have "events" dictate.

I doubt if boats will ever get to 2013 Toyoya car standard of low maintanance - or build quality! (that probably will never get much past the 1970's in car terms - especially in longevity of low TLC).
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Old 29-01-2013, 12:36   #5
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Re: Boat ownership and maintenance

I remember working on Navy Literage like the Mic Boats (LCM-8) and boy did that require alot of maintenance. Detroit deisel engines, V-72 series engines. Lets see, I remember that while on the deck of the ship, we did have the impellers off. The impellers were made of like a rubber circular finned all the way around looking thing that you took off so that when you ran the engines on deck, you wouldn't burn the impellers, because, being that it wsn't in the water, therefore, the water wouldn't cool them by having water run through them. The impellers were the car versions of a water pump. You see, you use the sea water to cool the engine. Capeche? That involved a like three or four bolts to hold the plate and you pulled out the impeller. Maybe a nut to hold the impeller, I don't remember. Very very basic.
Then we had a SEA STRAINER. Just really a filter but like a huge main filter used when sucking in water from the ocean that would be used for engine cooling. And NO ANTI-FREEZE on these engines imagine that happy horse manure? We had a closed system hydraulic system for the ramp. We had two or four, can't remember large accumulators. These engines started on accumulator pressure pushing the hydraulics over a starter to kick the engine over. If the accumulator pressure was gone, you had to pump it by hand. At least one of them to get the other ones charged once you started the engine. You opened up the valves to the other accumulators to charge them up. You closed the valve when you hit a pressure of like 3000 psi per each accumulator. Very cool indeed system. Then, if its a Detroit Diesel, you know it leaks. It aint a Detroit Diesel if it aint a leakin. So there was always bilge work to be done. The bilge pumps were pieces of crud electrical junk that was just bound to not function or clog up. Sometimes I had to pull them out to clean them. Then, we couldn't do that at sea on top of the ships deck, so they were used only at sea. These bilges filled with water and oil from the engines. How did water accumulate inside the engine compartments? The darned rain. They would crevice their way into the compartment via condensation and rain would find its way via the hatch seals.
Yes, you should know a little something about basic maintenance. Sometimes a fix is just a simple loose line, or chaning out a malfunctioning part, but everyone should also recognize their limitations and if its feesable to just farm out the job versus trying to fix it yourself. Time too is money. It may be that a local marine shop holds the competative advantage to do your heavy work versus you doing what you do best.
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Old 29-01-2013, 20:51   #6
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Re: Boat ownership and maintenance

Purchasing a boat is like deciding to have a child. With it comes responsibility. You will either have to take care of it or pay someone to nanny. Either or , if you don't , it will only piss you off.
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Old 29-01-2013, 22:49   #7
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Re: Boat ownership and maintenance

Cruzor,

It is pretty easy actually to own a boat without constant maintenance headaches. But it does require deeper pockets than if you are willing to DIY. The two things you really need to do are

1) buy a relatively new boat, something less than 10 years old.
2) hire someone for regular maintenance. This will run you about $25/hr, but you will need to guarantee them so many hours a month. They should be responsible for light maintenance, sailing hardware, ect... Not engine work, or real electrical which will have to be paid separately.

Figure it will cost 2-3,000 a year more than doing it yourself for the basics, and maybe another 2,000 for more serious things that may or may not be DIY anyway. In any year you don't spend this, bank it because you will spend it the next year.
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Old 30-01-2013, 07:28   #8
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Re: Boat ownership and maintenance

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Originally Posted by Cruzor View Post
Is it possible in your opinion to enjoy boat ownership without being a DIY person?
Of course it is. It will just cost you a bit more, since you'll be paying someone else to do whatever maintenance needs to be done.

That means that if you buy an older boat, that needs more maintenance, you'll be paying out quite a lot. If you are looking at newer boats, perhaps even new boats with warranties, then your maintenance costs will be less.

The analogy to buying a car is a good one. If you don't know how to work on cars, and you don't want to spend a lot with the local mechanic, then you'd have to be a fool to buy a 20-year-old car with 150k miles on it. A lot of people, however, DO know how to work on cars, and enjoy doing it, and for them the 20-year-old car is a great value.

I think this forum tends to be populated more by those who enjoy doing at least some of their own maintenance. That's probably why you see it talked about so much around here.
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Old 30-01-2013, 07:41   #9
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Re: Boat ownership and maintenance

Like you, I have never been a DIY kind of guy. My pockets are not terribly deep. I don't live in a card board box, but at the same time we have to keep a close watch to insure we don't run out of month before we run out of money. We decided the only way we could begin coastal cruising with an eye for longer voyages is if we learn some new skills. I didn't want a project boat. Now most of my evenings are spent out in the garage working on her trying to get her in the water. Again not my idea of a fun evening. BUT i WANT TO GO SAILING and that is what its going to take for us. Add to that the intimate knowledge I am gaining about my vessel and it's all for the good. I sure wouldn't want to be half way to Hawaii and not know how to fix the things that require immediate repair. I guess I wouldn't really want to be half way to Catalina and in that position.

As the others have noted if your budget is high enough you can hire a guy. Here on the west coast I think that is a lot close to $60.00 an hour but I have been mistaken before.
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Old 30-01-2013, 07:44   #10
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Re: Boat ownership and maintenance

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Originally Posted by cortezsailor View Post
Purchasing a boat is like deciding to have a child. With it comes responsibility. You will either have to take care of it or pay someone to nanny. Either or , if you don't , it will only piss you off.
Indeed. Well said. If you hate maintenance and do not have a full time nanny you will be a short time boat owner. There are many around.
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Old 30-01-2013, 07:45   #11
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Re: Boat ownership and maintenance

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Plus the reliability does go up if you can at least recognise when you need to get a fix done...
Excellent point. Makes me think of what happened on my last charter in the BVI. I think it was the third day out, we were motoring into North Sound, Virgin Gorda, heading for Saba Rock. My wife was at the helm and I nipped below for something. I noticed that the voltmeter only showed something like 12.5 volts. Since we were motoring along at over 2500 RPMs, I knew it should be higher than that.

Once we got moored I called the charter company to tell them what I had observed. They said that the battery was probably just fully charged, and that's why it wasn't showing a higher voltage. They said I should just run normal electrical stuff overnight, start it up in the morning, and it would probably be fine. Well, I knew that was wrong, but figured I'd just do what they said and they could sort it out in the morning.

So, we had lights, fans, and refrigeration all night. The next morning we fired up the engine and sure enough, now it's only showing about 12.1 volts. I called the charter company again, they agreed that something wasn't right, and while we were having breakfast they sent out a couple of guys who fixed it in no time flat, with almost no inconvenience to us. (Loose ground wire on the alternator.)

My wife was impressed that I knew something was wrong, just by the voltage (ain't it wonderful when you can impress your wife!). Had I not known that a charging battery has to show more than 12.5 volts, I might have just kept going along until the batteries were dead, the lights went out, the engine wouldn't start, the chartplotter failed, whatever. Then it would have been a whole lot more inconvenient to deal with the issue, and might even have put us into some danger.

So, even if you don't want to do it yourself, knowing enough about how the systems work, what can go wrong, and what it looks like when failure is impending, is a very worthwhile thing.
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Old 30-01-2013, 07:48   #12
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Of course you can... its how folks like ME make a crust... and the others in which ever boatyard I've worked in...
BUY THAT BOAT.....
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Old 30-01-2013, 10:58   #13
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Re: Boat ownership and maintenance

Some very interesting points made.

As I said, even though fixing things and troubleshooting engine/electrical problems is not something I truly enjoy doing(as opposed to a lot of peoples I know), I do realize maintenance will be part of boat ownership.

If things require replacing/repairing one by one and don't break all at the same time, I feel like I will be able to deal with it all and perhaps even enjoy learning.

If the boat is in perpetual state of repairing, not able to sail for long periods of time, requiring constant and large amounts of money to be spent on, that will cause stress and I will probably lose the enjoyment of it.

I have a stressful job and my free time needs to be spent doing relaxing things like sailing; not adding more stress

Maybe the key is to spend a bit more on initial purchase and buy a newish 5 to 10 years old boat?

From your experience, are production boats such as Jeanneaus and Beneteaus more prone to issues than others?
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Old 30-01-2013, 11:20   #14
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Re: Boat ownership and maintenance

Interestingly, going back through my receipts, the previous owner who did no DIY, spent a lot less on maintenance than I do, doing it myself. But the boat is in much better shape.

If you really aren't interested in maintenance, have you considered joining some kind of sailing club where you can use their boats? I'd have a lot more money in the bank if I'd just stayed in Spinnaker, unlimited day charters for $200 a month.

I like having my own boat though, improving it, and getting everything working perfectly and how I want it. I
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Old 30-01-2013, 11:41   #15
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Re: Boat ownership and maintenance

I can get competent professionals to work on my boat for $45 per hour, which is about half of what one would pay around these parts in a boat yard. This means that it's going to cost me between $2,500 to $3,000 to do have the interior varnished, including the cost of materials. (When it comes to varnish, I use the good stuff.)

Consider a scenario where Option A is that a boat owner can sacrifice a week of vacation time to do varnish, and Option B is that the boat owner can work an extra week and earn enough to pay for the work to be done. For those who take home more than $45 per hour, Option B is going to be the most cost-effective avenue. The big question, however, is whether doing the varnish is pleasurable. For some people, it's a nice break from work. For me, I'd rather take the time to get some extra writing done, or take on a consulting project, and then hire the varnishing out to professionals.

The bottom line is that boat ownership is not just for DIY personalities. Clearly, everyone who makes offshore passages has to know how to rewire a circuit, bleed a diesel, change an impeller, or repair a sail. Beyond that, however, you just have to be smart enough to realize that preventative maintenance is less costly than repair work.
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