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Old 21-06-2007, 07:14   #1
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How to stay out of maintenance hell, Reloaded

Guys, this is great stuff. Keep it coming.

But go back and have a close look at my original post. What I seek is not freedom from maintenance. What I want is some acceptable level of RELIABILITY.

Maintenance comes in two forms - scheduled and unscheduled. Scheduled maintenance is also know as "preventive maintenance". Unscheduled maintenance is also know as "a nasty surprise at precisely the wrong damn moment when some critical piece of equipment fails". It's these SURPRISES that I'm trying to devise a strategy to minimize and that's why I've turned to the collective salty wisdom of the members of this forum.

I figure there are three options when it comes to owning a sailboat. (Yes, I've left out the "Don't bother" option. After all, a bad day on a boat is better than a good day in most other places.)

1. Buy new. But apparently - and scandalously - this path offers no gaurantee of reliability.

2. Buy used and fix things as they break. This seems to be a recipe for years of misery not to mention involving significant risk to life, limb and property.

3. Buy used and do a complete refit. Zero-time ALL your components and then commence a religious preventive maintenance program.

Number 3 is really the only viable option. So let's focus on that. If you were me and had about $100,000 to spend how would you go about getting a REASONABLY RELIABLE boat?

The basics so far:

1. Don't buy anything larger than the minimum it will take to accomodate you.
2. Simplify. No trash compactors, no engine block-heated hair dryers, no Harrier decks, no cruise missile launch capability, etc, etc.
3. Preferably do the job yourself so that when it all comes apart you'll at least know how it all went together.

I'm open to any and all suggestions. The more specific the better.

I'm offering you all a great opportunity - tell me how to spend my money.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 21-06-2007, 07:41   #2
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kk,

I think you're basically on the right track, but I'd modify option #3 to allow the purchase of some new gear when warranted.

I've been sailing and "refitting" my boat for 18 years now. Many thousands of miles and many thousands of "boat units" under the keel. I believe I have achieved what you seek: a very seaworthy and reliable vessel.

One very important thing you left out of your formulation: choose all gear, however small and insignificant, according to the BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE. Don't skimp. Don't go for the lowest price. Used, quality gear is often infinitely preferable to new gear of lesser quality, IMO.

Follow the advice of a wonderful young sailor and artisan I once had the pleasure to meet: "If it's worth doing at all, it's worth doing right."

Naturally, all boats (except those in a bottle on your mantlepiece) require periodic maintence, including those with top-notch gear. However, you won't have to be thinking about replacing gear that breaks nearly so often as you otherwise would if you went "all new all the time" or settled for less than the very best gear you could find.

Bill
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Old 21-06-2007, 07:49   #3
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Keep in mind the number one rule of mechanical devices. And that is, "If it's NOT on board it won't be a problem when it breaks". How many cruises have been ruined because the reefer system broke down or the AC died. Learn what you can't live without and leave the rest at the dock. If you find you can't live without AC, refrigeration, etc. you had better be either ready to have problems and wait for help or you learn to accept the failure and how to fix it yourself. Sail within your limits of mechanical skills or be ready to be frustrated.
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Old 21-06-2007, 08:35   #4
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"1. Don't buy anything larger than the minimum it will take to accomodate you."

I have heard this advice on this forum a lot and in certain context I agree. However if I can't ultimately own and operate the boat I "want" then I'll find another hobby. A big part of sailing for me is "lusting" after the boat. Don't get something crazy big but get something you will enjoy. Otherwise we'd all be circumnavigating in dinghy's.

"2. Simplify. No trash compactors, no engine block-heated hair dryers, no Harrier decks, no cruise missile launch capability, etc, etc."

I don't think I agree with this either. A better statement is - "For each system you add to the boat recognize the maintenance burden and weigh that against the convenience or utility of the system and always have aplan for when this system fails underway." Aft deck rocket launchers may require a lot of maintenance but I don't know what pirate infested waters you are going to sail in - LOL.

"3. Preferably do the job yourself so that when it all comes apart you'll at least know how it all went together."

If you are going offshore cruising I believe this one completely. Sailing away from port makes the boat and your relationship to it critical to your safety and the safety of your passengers. If something breaks or goes wrong you have to understand enough to make safe passage to port.

BTW - Where in Asia are you?
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Old 22-06-2007, 02:18   #5
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Another iteration of Bill's artisian friend's admonishion:
If you didn't have time or money to do it right in the first place,
when will you get the time or money to fix or replace it?
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Old 22-06-2007, 02:35   #6
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l would be a bit happier with a new life raft.........
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Old 22-06-2007, 07:29   #7
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Just a mild dissenting note - my mechanical skills are maybe C+. If I'm going to have a mechanical problem, it will probably be something that I've worked on. Now mind you, I successfully fix things all the time, but nevertheless have the greatest respect for marine professionals who work in their area of expertise on a daily basis.
For instance, my current boat has a very sophisticated electrical system. It came that way, but all the gear was getting tired. I had a very good electrical guy rework all the AC and DC systems. As he worked, he taught me a great deal. Now I enjoy reliable electricity all the time and can do simple things like adding a circuit by myself. But, I'm really grateful to have had the major work done right.
I started out 35 years ago with a hand-cranked diesel and kerosene running lights, wood boat - no electricity on board at all, so please don't give me any of those luddite arguments - I've been there!
If I wanted to be totally skilled in all aspects of marine maintenance, I probably would never get to go sailing....I'd still be learning. Don't be afraid to bring in the pros - it may save money in the long run. If money is a major issue, then study hard and keep it simple.
Best regards,
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(currently cruising the SouthEast)
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Old 22-06-2007, 07:39   #8
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Get a new 25 to 28 foot coastal cruiser and put bare NEW gear in it. Cruise the Bahamas and East USA waterways for 5 years. That is if you do NOT like maintance.

It may be possible to get a Blue Water boat fitted out for less than $ 100,000 but a 20 foot Flicka is not what I want to be in when the Big Blue Water gets White. Your choice. Just make sure you know what you are getting into with a small boat in Blue Water.
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Old 22-06-2007, 08:32   #9
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I don’t believe that repairs are the bane of cruising life. What drives us nuts is finding and / or waiting for the parts! If you already have the parts in hand, it is almost a pleasure to rebuild a transmission or swap out a drive shaft. Well….maybe not THOSE repairs but swapping out pumps, impellers, light bulbs and the like is not too bad.
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Old 22-06-2007, 08:38   #10
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You're perfectly right Ed, it's always trying to find stuff that kills you. And no matter what spares you have aboard, when something goes you usually don't have a part to fix it. It might be the most common thing in the world but with my luck it's not available.
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Old 22-06-2007, 15:00   #11
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I am a huge fan of not having it in the first place. here's a list of what is essential: a strong watertight hull. A mast pointing up, a keel pointing down (unless you are a multi). A rudder that will not break. The most durable sails you can afford. some rope. A compass and a chart, a pencil. Somewhere dry to sleep, the ability to cook a decent meal.
Non essential items I would add anyway: a leadline, a good reading light and some good books,
For offshore I would add sextant and watch and tables. A good windvane.
About there you are ready to leave, everything else is a luxury, if you add a luxury you add time and cost and maintenance.
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Old 22-06-2007, 22:22   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennykroot
If you were me and had about $100,000 to spend how would you go about getting a REASONABLY RELIABLE boat?
Where possible, choose the equipment on your boat so that you have a working system even when something breaks. This doesn't relieve you of fixing anything, but it relieves you of fixing it RIGHT NOW.

For example, I have air conditioning. For the size of the boat, it takes two AC units, but in the event of a failure (or just wanting to save energy), I can run just one and cool part of the boat. I have had a failure of one of the AC units, and during that time I cooled only the bedroom until I could get the other unit repaired.

The single point of failure in my air conditioning system is the strainer and water pump. To clean the strainer, I have to take both systems offline at the same time. I don't like that one bit, because the strainer only clogs when I need the AC units to work... If I ever buy a new boat, I will have to consider separate pumps and strainers for the two AC units. (And I will carefully watch the installer to make sure he doesn't make a loop that can get air locked, but that is another story...)

I chose air conditioners that could do reverse cycle heating. I also installed a diesel furnace for use under way. In the winter, I keep some electric space heaters around. My worst case ever fallback position involved running the generator to operate the space heaters, because shore power was out, the diesel furnace was broken, and the sea water was too cold for the reverse cycle AC to work.

Obviously, you can't always have redundant systems. You have to consider things like cost and space, but it makes sense to at least think about it for each system. I can tell you there have been times when I was REALLY happy that I could say "yeah, it's broken -- I'll look at it tomorrow".
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Old 26-06-2007, 19:58   #13
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I would put 25K in the bank with the hope that it would be there when I finished the refit for emergency repairs. Then I would buy a strong hull in decent shape with a good mast and boom and a diesel that could be rebuilt, and a brand that parts can be gotten easily for in the areas I planned to cruise.

Then I'd replace EVERYTHING on the boat with the best quality gear I could find. I'd make a list of needs and then a list of prioritized wants.

I'd buy and install everything myself. For wiring, I'd hire a good electrician to draw me a diagram and explain what wire to use. Then I'd run the line and mark everything so that I knew what went where and what it was for, then I'd get the electrician back to help me hook it up and inspect the system.

When things break (not if - when) it is a lot less worrisome if you know exactly what it was that broke, what it does, where it is, and how to fix/replace/remove it. And it also helps a lot to know that there is 25K sitting there earning interest in case the entire rig goes over the side in a hurricane, or the diesel totally dies and has to be replaced, or you get holed and need to haulout right away, or...
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Old 26-06-2007, 20:13   #14
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"A rudder that will not break. "
An intersting concept. As I hear more about mystery failures in carbon fiber rudder stocks (Bendy Toy seems to think a certain number of failures every year are reasonable) and stainless stocks simply shearing off, and the inevitable "typical" fiberglass over steel rudders failing in the armature after the glass inevitably cracks and saturates...

I'm starting to think the old fashioned wood rudder with bronze strapping and a bronze rudder stock might not be such a bad idea. Probably almost as good as a steering board, certainly not too much harder to repair if it breaks.
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Old 27-06-2007, 03:47   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dana-tenacity
I am a huge fan of not having it in the first place. here's a list of what is essential: a strong watertight hull. A mast pointing up, a keel pointing down (unless you are a multi). A rudder that will not break. The most durable sails you can afford. some rope. A compass and a chart, a pencil. Somewhere dry to sleep, the ability to cook a decent meal.
Non essential items I would add anyway: a leadline, a good reading light and some good books,
For offshore I would add sextant and watch and tables. A good windvane.
About there you are ready to leave, everything else is a luxury, if you add a luxury you add time and cost and maintenance.
A hand held gps is a lot cheaper and more accurate than a sextant these days. I would add that too.
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