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Old 23-04-2015, 19:45   #1
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So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

I'm a relative newbie to the site but I've posted a couple of times. We are in the market for a new catamaran in the mid 40s range and have narrowed it down to a couple of choices. Timeline is 3-6 months before pulling the trigger. We plan to use the boat ourselves and not put it in charter. We plan to sail about half the year and work the rest. My sailing experience is relatively limited... we had a mono when I was younger and in retrospect we had no idea what we were doing. We recently got back into sailing after a 15 year hiatus and took multiple ASA courses to get back to a level of proficiency. Since then we've chartered about 6 times in the BVIs on cats ranging to about 45ft.
Here's the problem. I'm not mechanical at all. The more I hang out on this site the more intimidated I become. Everyone seems to be very knowledgeable sure about what they're doing.There are so many systems on a modern boat and so many maintenance items to deal with. I just don't know if I can handle it. How do you get from A to B? Did all of you just learn as you went along or do you have to have a certain level of competence before even considering buying a boat. Some may say just buy a smaller boat but that doesn't solve the problem. Its still the same systems just on a smaller scale. I don't mind paying someone to take care of it all but that doesn't help me when I'm out by myself and something goes wrong. I guess my question is... is this a trial and error thing and you learn as you go? That doesn't sound too safe or responsible to me. Do you take courses on this stuff? If so, where and what?
I'm starting to question the whole thing
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Old 23-04-2015, 20:20   #2
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Learn as you go mate, no problem! If your planning on keeping it in the BVIs you will never be far from help and technical assistance anyway. Read some books, Nigel Calders cruising guide, maybe a deisel engine day course, some yachts clubs run those, Ask lots of questions on CF when stuff breaks, maybe consider a new boat to minimise older stuff breaking and have some warranty
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Old 23-04-2015, 20:30   #3
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Awww, shucks, he thinks we know things!!

We started reading Don Casey's This Old Boat as soon as we started looking at older boats. Before I laid up fiberglass, I practically memorized both Don Casey's chapter and the West Systems product guide.

As I brought people on board for surveys and initial quotes before we even closed, I asked each of them how they felt about letting me help and having me ask a million questions. Without meaning to, I put it to the test by asking a hundred thousand questions in those initial meetings. The electrician and riggers were enthusiastic and encouraging. Unfortunately, I have not found such a helpful mechanic, but that we are getting to know the neighbors now.

Now, to be fair, both of us considered ourselves quite handy even before we bought the boat. If by "not mechanical" you mean you don't know how to use a hammer...well, at least hammers aren't common tools on most boats.

We have a few essential traits: We can follow directions, we can tell when the directions don't make sense, and we can almost always figure out a quick fix that will actually fix the problem now and actually be quick to reverse once we figure out how to do it right. Oh, and we are generally willing to buy the right tool if it will make the current project easier and be used in some future project.
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Old 23-04-2015, 20:39   #4
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

What Monte said Read that again.

Being a newbie & buying a boat is what is called a "teachable moment". You are wise to be concerned about it, as opposed to just assuming nothing will ever go wrong at the worst possible time....because it will. That's sort of a law of the universe.

But cruisers are really helpful people by nature. When you're out there & stuck with something that doesn't work, ask for help. If you're bluewater cruising, make sure you have a marine SSB radio and know how to use it, to ask for help.

Find out the common maintenance items you will need to know, like changing impellers, being able to work a voltmeter etc. and jump on the learning curve.

If you're the sort of person who really doesn't want to learn anything new, personally I'd suggest you have a rethink about whether the cruising lifestyle is for you. Again, personally I aim to be as self sufficient a cruiser as possible without going over the top and becoming truly expert at diesel mechanics, electrical repair etc.

It's really the same old thing...plan for the worst, and enjoy the best!
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Old 23-04-2015, 20:56   #5
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Thank you all for the great advise. I definitely plan on taking some basic engine maintenance courses. I'm not all thumbs and learn quickly but what level of competence is good enough? I guess that's a rhetorical question
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Old 23-04-2015, 21:05   #6
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

You'll be fine

Your confidence will grow as you progress along the learning curve. I'd encourage you to seek out experienced cruisers and ask lots of questions. They'll be happy to relate their experiences, at least that's my experience.

Right now we are hosting a cruising couple who are visiting Sydney and who have been out there bluewater cruising for 18 years on their cat. You can't help but learn when you talk to folks like that!
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Old 23-04-2015, 21:34   #7
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

There will always be someone who knows more than you or me...I've been messing around and fixing and sailing and repairing for decades and there is so much I don't know but...I do know more than I did yesterday and last week and last month and last year.....so just keep learning. Focus as well on what you do know and not just what you don't know.
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Old 23-04-2015, 21:48   #8
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

You don't have to know it all. That what professionals are for. There are quite a few relatively simple jobs that anyone can learn to do - things like changing filters or impellers, changing oil, replacing anodes, that sort of thing. You can generally find a course for small marine diesel maintenance at your local adult education program, or sometimes at your local sailing club, that will teach you all the basic stuff like that mentioned above. If you have a relatively new boat, and you get the engine(s) serviced regularly and change the filters on time, you'll never need to know a lot more.
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Old 24-04-2015, 09:05   #9
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Thumbs up Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Yes: Don Casey This Old Boat AND Nigel Calder Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual. In his book Casey says "if you can change a light blub you can do this". He maybe a bit optimistic about my skill set but he is a confidence builder. Calder's book is like an upper division college text book but it is a must have on any boat. Calder's Cruising Handbook is also a must have. Calder's books are great reference, Casey is great at talking to you. This pastime/lifestyle attracts engineer types who are great at fixing stuff. They also are usually generous with help to those of us who are less skilled. It comes down to your budget: learn to fix things or budget for professional help (it's almost always available). Jump in the water's fine!
Cheers
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Old 24-04-2015, 09:11   #10
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

We all learn from others. I'am sailing since 35 years on always bigger sailing boats and I still learning. Just don't wait until you have a problem to fix. Keep interested by all subjects. Read forums there is always something to learn. Thanks CF.
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Old 24-04-2015, 09:16   #11
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Wow - so many deja vu moments in reading your post ! In my 40 years of sailing (on and off) and my steady past 10 years .... there are few courses that will equal getting out there and doing it - putting in the time.
My opinion (and you'll be getting a ton of them) is to re-think catamaran and get a monohull. I truly believe you'll be happier in the long run.
Only acquire systems (water maker, generator, vaccuflush head, macerator, refridgeration, after you have sailed/cruised for a season - I had all those and more and took them all out (gave them away) and all of a sudden I'm able to focus on the important systems like ENGINE, COMMUNICATIONS and NAVIGATION.
Always have a six man liferaft, just in case.
I could go on and on.
Good luck, and get ready to spend, spend and spend s'more.
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Old 24-04-2015, 09:20   #12
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

When you own a boat, it comes with the territory (unless you have mega-bucks, which few of us on this forum have!).

None of us were born electricians, plumbers or mechanics. Heck, we weren't even born sailors.

You'll learn.

And many of us are old enough to have learned this stuff before the internet.

Can you imagine?!?

We used that archaic form of information transfer called, gasp!, BOOKS.

They still make 'em! Use 'em.

The two mentioned are the two I'd take if I was limited to only two books.
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Old 24-04-2015, 09:36   #13
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

We each mostly know our own boats really well. When you get your boat, I'm sure you will read every manual, and use every piece of equipment. You will get to know your boat. It takes about a year. Then you will be an expert too. This is nothing to fear, its the fun part! Pick a good boat and get out there and have some fun!

Having said that, I once owned a hunter legend 35.5 with fridge, freezer, showers, pressure hot water, air conditioning....just about everything. Well, it drove me crazy. So my current boat has just about nothing. Volvo B2000, a chart plotter (that works only half the time) and a flat panel tv with nothing to watch. I am a big fan of "less is more"...and fewer systems means fewer things to fix.
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Old 24-04-2015, 10:16   #14
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Be reassured. Just by asking the question means you probably have the right stuff to learn. When the professional's invoices starting coming in by the two's and three's and you're bleeding money, your incentive to learn how to DIY will increase in direct proportion to the dwindling numbers in your kitty. That's been my experience. The more I give them the less I have to go sailing - period. I get off my duff, read whichever of Nigel Calder's book apply, put on my dirty clothes and start. Fear of failure is what usually postponed my learning in the first place, but the more I succeed in each task, the greater my willingness to take on the next task.

As an example, we've been working on our boat for 9 months now. For 3 of those months, my partner has been 3000 miles away making more $$$$. I've learned how to do so many things that he has been responsible for in the past. The "blue" jobs if you will, as opposed to the "pink" jobs. Best thing that ever happened even though I was sure I would not be able to cope in the beginning.

You will learn as you go. You have this forum and others, which are a great resource. Don't make it worse than it is. It's the biggest and most rewarding challenge you'll probably face - and the most fun you'll have. Enjoy!
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Old 24-04-2015, 10:24   #15
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Re: So Much To Learn...So Intimidating!

Good points from redhead.

Ya know, when we first got our boat it was our first with an inboard diesel. I'd been putting off buying one with an inboard 'cuz it was soooo easy to bring the outboard in to get serviced.

So, we got this boat knowing it overheated. Pure honesty from the PO. I bought Calder's and read about it. Took off the HX, shook it like a mariachi band, cleaned it out: problem solved. He just missed servicing a few zincs so it was partially clogged as well as buildup on the inlet port where the salt precipitated out. Like a new engine!

I also put off changing the fuel filters 'cuz of that dreaded "Fear of Bleeding." Turned out to be e piece of cake! Turn one small knob and done.

What happens is once you get into it, it's pretty easy.

There's just a LOT of it.

But, once you learn it, you'll start to realize it's ALL safety related, since there ain't no "roadside assistance" out there.

Good luck.

Oh, and BTW, it is fun, really. A true sense of accomplishment.

Then, on top of all that, you get to SAIL!!!
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