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Old 31-10-2013, 12:37   #1
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How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

My stepson is considering a 31 to 36 foot sailboat and his question to me was how do I learn about doing repairs? I cannot advise him because my father, who was an automotive machinist, taught me a lot as a kid, and I have worked as an electronic technician so with books about boat repairs, say from authors like Don Casey and Nigel Calder, I feel like I can do alright with sailboat repairs, but what about the person who did not have any background but is intelligent enough to read and understand a book? How can he make the jump to working with tools to get a job done? I would like to hear from folks here who have made that transition from books to tools and how did you go about doing it. What were the problems? Did you get training somehow?
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Old 31-10-2013, 13:03   #2
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Re: How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

That's a difficult question to answer as it really depends on the aptitude of the person. Boat ownership promotes ingenuity and adaptability, or it should. I frequently confront aspects of boat repairs that I don't have prior experience with. My general approach is to read what I can, talk with sailor friends who have direct experience topic/issue, and then forge ahead. If it is a task that benefits from prior experience in terms of craftsmanship, then I will often convince someone to help me, or hire an expert as a consultant.

The key in my opinion is knowing which things you can reasonably do yourself, where a mistake or two are non fatal, and which things require that they be done properly from the start to ensure a quality/safe outcome.
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Old 31-10-2013, 13:05   #3
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Re: How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

School of hard knocks, other people and books. In that order.
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Old 31-10-2013, 13:08   #4
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Re: How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
School of hard knocks, other people and books. In that order.
Same for me.

Being in a place with a lot of resources (large maritime community) helps. Annapolis, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, other places I'm sure.

Have good tools, smart people around, good books, and just embrace the fact that anytime he does anything it's going to be bad and then he'll get a little better, and a bit better, and a bit better, etc, etc.
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Old 31-10-2013, 13:08   #5
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Re: How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

By doing.
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Old 31-10-2013, 13:09   #6
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Re: How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

I've found that reading, talking to someone that has done it and visting forums like this helps. Sometimes just one of the above works.
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Old 31-10-2013, 13:09   #7
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Re: How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

get a boat. stuff breaks. kinda like car ownership.
cheapest way to fix is by self, with a lil guidance. then ye learned that one...wont have to wait too long for next lesson....
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Old 31-10-2013, 13:16   #8
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Re: How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

In my teen years, I started as an electronics hobbyist; building small kits and following basic schematics. It progressed to electronics troubleshooting...and progressed to an Electrical Engineering degree. Add the amphibious flying hobby...it progressed to knowing a great deal about power plants, seamanship, navigation and avionics; decades of flying experience. This does not include the Pharmacy schooling and certification...

To sum it up...decades of book knowledge and hands-on experience.

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Old 31-10-2013, 14:21   #9
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Re: How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

Just do it. Anyone with a modicum of sense should be able to figure out how to do most of the things required to maintain a boat. Books, magazine articles, etc are good for more technical stuff like wiring, etc. Work that requires physical skills like wood or fiberglass work can only be learned by doing. Reading can give you the mechanics of doing the work but only by doing can you train the reflexes. Be aware that skills of this type may not be within his physical abilities to do at a journeyman's skill level and may need to be hired out. Unless he's doing a total rebuild, that's a level of skill that's probably not needed, fortunately.

I talked my parents into letting me buy a Sailfish board boat kit when I was 12. Built it over a period of a couple of weeks out of precut parts and very rudimentary 'tab a' into 'slot b' schematic. Had no instruction or help, just did it. Bought two new sailboats, commissioned them, and maintained them by doing it. Read every sailing magazine I could find, the few books that were available at the time to get me started but basically just did it.

The same when we built our Westsail 32 bare boat kit. When I first removed the plywood screwed on to temporarily cover the companion way and looked into that huge bare fiberglass bathtub, thought, "What have I got myself into!!!". A not so helpful manual that came with the boat, some help from others building boats in the yard, looking at finished and under construction boats, hiring out work that was beyond my time and skill level, and just went after it. Even though I'd had no woodworking experience other than building that Sailfilsh, done any fiberglass work, wired anything, or done any rigging beyond stepping a mast and adding a few blocks, managed to launch the boat in a year of full time work. Still get complements on the boat.

Help your step son with your mechanical skills and lend a hand when he needs it. Think he'll be just fine if he has the inclination to just do it. If he doesn't, there are a plethora of yards and skilled tradesman who'll be glad to take his money.
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Old 31-10-2013, 14:22   #10
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Re: How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

By having things that are expensive to have fixed/maintained and not having a lot of money. Baptism by fire I suppose.

From a resources standpoint I use any and all at my disposal: books, friends, Google searches, forums like this one, YouTube, etc.

A natural curiosity seems to help as well, as it makes one less afraid pull something apart and figure out how it works.
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Old 31-10-2013, 15:16   #11
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Re: How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

I have been learning from books, mags and forums, from others, and from experimenting. It seems a never ending lesson.

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Old 31-10-2013, 15:26   #12
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Re: How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

Great suggestions above... I'll add that I don't think any of us a born with aptitude, it is gain through curiosity, research, and leaping-in. I like to help friends with their projects... sometimes I teach and sometimes I learn... what to do and what not to do.
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Old 31-10-2013, 15:36   #13
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Re: How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

As has already been said, but do not be satisfied with a second rate job. If it is not the way you want it, do it again, and again if necessary.
I am sure I built our boat at least twice!!

Regards,
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Old 31-10-2013, 15:38   #14
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Re: How Did You Learn To Do Maintenance?

If you were able to help on a consistent basis it would make the initial learning that much easier.

There are some things that just don't come across in books. Good wiring, how not to remove skin from knuckles, the correct way to hold a chisel/knife/etc, to be very careful with hole saws and similar skills are ingrained in my psyche but are better learned with gentle advice.

Other than that all of the above looks to be good advice on an initial reading.

The other aspect of DIY that I've found recently is to Google for similar situations. If there's nothing then it's generally not too hard, if it's tricky then someone will have posted how to do it.
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Old 31-10-2013, 15:51   #15
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The Internet

If the net doesn't have the info, it can surely point you towards he correct book.
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