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Old 15-01-2012, 09:01   #1
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Refit Insanity

I have been giving a lot of thought lately to the products available to us as boat owners and the overall quality and thought that goes into design and manufacture of these products.
I have been in the marine industry for about 20 years. My background consists of the sale of every type of new boat I can think of, brokerage, new construction of large motor yachts, and have been involved in a lot of refits. I have watched technology progress over the years from the days of loran and radio direction finders to the technological marvels we call boats now and I have come to a conclusion. Boating is not better, more fun or easier than it was 40 years ago. To the contrary we now build complicated, complex, aggravating boats that have amazing amounts of computerized equipment with short lifespans and built in redundancy.
I bought an older sailboat last year and decided to undertake a complete and total refit to create a stylish boat with some of the modern conveniences that make boating long distances more comfortable and better. As I only want to do this work on this boat once, and have no interest in spending my future recreational time constantly repairing or replacing all of the systems and equipment that I just put in I did a lot of research trying to find equipment that will be reliable and possess as long of a lifespan as possible. This is harder than I thought. The manufacturers of marine equipment work very hard to create products that we cannot repair, that are controlled by computers, and masses of Chinese circuit boards that fail as soon as you untie the boat from the dock. With the exception of navigation equipment why exactly do we need all this stuff? For instance who really needs a high tech generator that communicates with the electronics? What is the real world benefit of that? I bought a new diesel generator and I wanted one that didnít have a load of computer boards that fail as soon as the warranty runs out. I donít care if it can talk or not. So I found a company in Seattle that makes generators for commercial fishing boats, it is continuous duty, no complex circuitry and lasts 30k-50k hours before it needs a rebuild. Price $13,000. The same high tech generator that is guaranteed to blow up in under 5,000 hours was only $8,000. Why? Every system I replaced on my old soon to be new boat was the same. A lot of the time I could not find a simple reliable piece of equipment at any price and was forced to buy high tech gizmos. For instance I needed a new battery charger; you would think this should not be that hard. Wrong. The only battery chargers available are multi stage, multi-tasking computerized rubbish with blinking remote computer controllers. A battery charger is pretty a simple piece of equipment. You turn it on and you charge your batteries, when you are done you turn it off. Simple. They donít make simple. I had to buy a fancy battery charger last year and it quit in 2 months, I replaced it and the replacement overheats and doesnít work half the time either. The manufacturer of the failed unit wonít replace the warrantied unit when I called their warranty center in Bangladesh so I just threw it away. EVERYTHING is like this. If we have made so much progress in the last 30 years why are our boats more problematic and less reliable than the boats they built in the 1960ís? Who the heck needs Zeus Pod Drives anyway? If you spend the time to learn how to drive a boat safely and competently you donít need joy sticks for idiots. We probably need to remove the McDonalds drive thru mentality from the manufacture of boats. It is really hard to relax and enjoy the boating experience when you are spending all your time tied to the dock or in the yard constantly repairing all this high tech super modern crap that they make you buy nowadays.

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Old 15-01-2012, 09:10   #2
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Re: Refit insanity

Hear, Hear!! good post. Tony

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Old 15-01-2012, 09:30   #3
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Re: Refit insanity

on the other hand I feel that most stuff lasts longer than we give it credit for if it it is taken care of
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Old 15-01-2012, 10:04   #4
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Re: Refit insanity

Sounds to me like you want your cake and eat it! Why do you need a generator in the first place? To power your other toys of course. If you want simple go simple and leave the toys at home. Boats were simple in the past because we did not have computers to connect to the internet, Sat TV and phones, Hi power stereos, Microwaves ect ect.
The battery chargers inverters, generators and such are the price you pay for the toys you have. If you can live with oil lamps and a hand crank motor hell you would not even need batteries.
I think the trick is obtaining a balance in simplicity and pleasure. Hey I like my autopilot and computer, I am not complaining about having a GPS chart plotter to help with navigation. I do not need a generator because I do not want to watch TV 100 miles off the coast. Most of us are willing to give up some of the toys but not all. Years ago I lived on a 25' with no TV, refrigeration or anything else really; all I had was a VHF and 8 track stero lol (OK so now I am dating myself!) I am older now and want AC and autopilot and I am willing to suffer the price I pay for that in additional support equipment and repairs.
If anything I think the equipment is by far better now than in the old days. I too have been in the boat biz for more than 35 years. I think back to having to tinker with everything to make it work right. Batteries are better now and most electronics are by far more reliable and water proof. True fixing then is harder if possible but I honestly think they work better and longer.
If the stuff makes you unhappy or frustrated do without it, is that simple. Just my 2 cents.
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Old 15-01-2012, 10:55   #5
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Re: Refit insanity

@ rourkeh
How you describe it, is exactly how I'm going to refit my Vega, I do like redundancy, and I'm lazy.

And yes I do like my microwave and generator, but for WHEN they break down I have my Origo burner and Kiss wind generator, which I can fix anywhere when taking a break from sailing, fiddling with the saltwater infested GPS chart plotter, dusting of the sextant.

So enjoy a bit of the modern era, but be prepared and accept it all do break down, which leaves you much more time for yourself, your family and loved ones.
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Old 15-01-2012, 11:29   #6
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Re: Refit insanity

I believe that three stage chargers enable batteries to last much longer. My house bank ran for 13 years, and was still doing fine when I replaced it.

A simple Ferro-resonant charger will cook batteries if left on too long, and a lot of time is consumed to properly charge batteries manually. Many folks only get three years or so from batteries due to charge not being properly maintained. The float mode of a three stage charger will hold them at proper values when the boat is not in use.
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Old 21-01-2012, 11:59   #7
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Re: Refit Insanity

Good post everyone,

I agree, if you want everything then you pay the price. If you can live with very little then life can be simpler and harder. On our current boat we have a lot of systems and more to be added; that said I am not adding a genset as I refuse to add anything that my solar panels can't handle. We were asked at dock one day, "Do the solar panels supply all of you electrical needs?" to which I answered "Yes, because if there isn't sun I shut different systems off and live with out them until the sun comes back out". If we have full sun and the batteries are charge the children get to watch movies. The water maker also gets run when there is plenty of sun and shut down when there isn't. It is all a life style choice.

As far as reliability goes I can not relate as of yet with the things breaking. I did have one component break, but hey I knew it was Chinese junk when I bought it. Everything else I have bought to date has been quality and over sized when possible and has served me well. I have not even made an effort to make sure all of my components are marine; for instance my solar (three stage charger) is a unit designed for a land based operation. It is not water proof or engineered for the marine environment, but it is paced in a dry location and is a quality unit. The one thing I have learned is to look at what non marine companies are offering when shopping, because they are not near as proud of their stuff and many times it is just as good. Of course I think you need to be knowledgeable when making these decisions; somethings should be marine grade.

Those are my thoughts,

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Old 21-01-2012, 15:18   #8
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Re: Refit Insanity

Rourkeh, you just questioned the entire concept of built in obsolescence. In this age of monster factories they need to produce lousy products so that they fail and you will go out and get another. They use the efficiencies of mass production, the built in failure mode of lowest bidder components and the cheapest materials to build something that will fail. If they didn't the plants would all have to shut down because once they sold the product, no one would need another.

We are bred to be consumers and this is the system they use. Buy Buy Buy. We are programmed to need the newest toy every time the next model comes out. For instance, I was having problems with my desktop PC last February and I though it was about to die. So I bought a kit PC. When it arrived I had figured out the problems with the old one and never got around to building the kit. I just finished putting it together. It was obsolete a month after it left the factory. I can get a new kit, twice the PC now for about 2/3rds the price. No one wants this brand new year old PC.

I went to the Toronto Boat show on thursday last, and while I did buy some stuff, I steered away from all things electronic, as I won't need them for at least another year. By that time there will be two more generations of latest n greatest.

Start trying to live your life by the KISS principal. Keep it Simple, stupid!
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Old 21-01-2012, 17:14   #9
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Re: Refit Insanity

Well, if you cannot afford the way things are built today, simplify. Chuck out the electronics and then the batteries. No batteries - no electric issues!

You had very bad luck with the charger though, stay away from that brand. We use a "cheap" Waeco (Mobitronic) and it has given us 8 years of 4-stage, 0-hassle service. We only ever change the ventilators on it, USD each, as they will die one a year.

But I must agree there is loads of low quality equipment being built today and a good share of it comes from brand, expensive makes.

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Old 22-01-2012, 02:00   #10
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Re: Refit Insanity

Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
But I must agree there is loads of low quality equipment being built today and a good share of it comes from brand, expensive makes.
That is one of my pet frustrations - whilst cheap and low quality is often good enough (if not also ideal!), nowadays often a toss up as to whether a high price means high quality - or simply high marketing costs.

Hell, even Mercedes don't build a Mercedes like a Mercedes used to be built .
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Old 22-01-2012, 03:25   #11
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Re: Refit Insanity

Rourkeh you are 99% correct. The 1% goes to manufacturers keeping their promises.
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Old 22-01-2012, 04:14   #12
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Like everything you can buy consumer grade or commercial grade.

The reason you can buy a chartplotter for <$1,000 is because consumers want a chartplotter at that price point.

Go out and buy commercial grade stuff at 10x the price. Or go without.

The dirty little secret is that we are all amateurs and no matter what we say or do around this forum or in the marinas we are ina recreational activity. We just aren't as important to the marine industry as we think we are.
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Old 22-01-2012, 04:27   #13
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Re: Refit Insanity

Right. I was on the brink of buying a chartplotter. Now, I do not. Do I need a chartplotter? No I don' t.
I will sacrifice a piece of my scarce space to house a serious volume of charts. A pro GPS will have to do the rest.
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Old 22-01-2012, 04:47   #14
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Re: Refit Insanity

A few old school thoughts. First is to identify the difference between the electric side of the boat (power supply) and the electronic side of the boat (consumer).

The batteries are the electric side. These supply power to your devices; devices such as nav lights or refrigeration. Even to power the devices to recharge the electric side.

The electronic side comprise everything that will use the power provided by the batteries.

That out of the way.

I think today's electronics are much better than those that were before - when you consider what you are buying. Technology marches on. The VHF radio I just bought is light years ahead of the radio it replaces - vintage 1984. And I expect to replace it before it dies in a few years. This new radio uses much less power than the old one. it performs many wonderful functions that were not even a dream 28 years ago.
My new charger, Voltmaster Chargemaster, is a wonder compared to what it replaced. 28 years ago when I needed to be concerned about battery charging I wish I had this technology available. Now, I plug into shore power and I do not need to be concerned about boiling my batteries.
I do not have a genset. If necessary I will fire up the engine. But, I can also go without and sail away. The thought of a little generator is nice, but I do not need it. If you need it you pay the price.

I do not dislike the changes we have. Most are for the better. Change in technology is how we advance. The challenges of sailing can be met with a lode stone or with a GPS, I know which track I am on and like it.
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Old 22-01-2012, 04:57   #15
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Re: Refit Insanity

Not really. Things are no better than 30 years ago. My old Delahaye (model 1949) is still in top driving condition. Albeit now in a museum.
I long for my old Brookes and Gatehouse set that fitted my old boat so nicely in the early 80' s no trouble working instead of the labile electronics of today.

The problem in electronics today is not so much the device as a whole but the quality of the individual components. And that is something making the difference. As well as the drive to produce a quality product. That (emotional) cannot be found in today' s profitcenters and makers of mass consumerproducts.

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