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Old 07-03-2008, 19:36   #1
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Redundancy - how much

OK not sure if this thread should be in Seamanship or in "Off Topic" but I will let the moderators decide.

In reading many posts in many threads, I have noticed quite diverging viewpoints on the general aspects of redundancy. How many anchors / radios / bilge pumps / docking lines / sails / egg whisks / etc and why we carry (or not carry) them.

I would like hear how you make your decisions - is it cost, calculated risk of failure, emotional response, gut feeling, past failures, bar room stories, reading other accounts of what went wrong, just have two of every thing (and why not three).

For me, my first consideration is that any item on board should have at least one use and normally more than one. I then provide redundancy should the failure of the item potentially place the boat in clear and immediate danger of loss. No matter how rare the failure may be. e.g. I consider a bilge pump, anchor rode or fire extinguisher to be in this category but not say a VHF radio, sounder or engine.
Then there are items that experience (mine or others) shows that they fail and such failure may add to the chain of events leading to loss of boat. e.g. VHF radio, main haliyard etc. I will provide redundancy if it will fit on board, isn't too heavy etc.
Then come the items that are nice to have and make life comfortable and occasionally fail, again I provide redundancy if there is clearly sufficent room to stow it AND I can afford it AND I don't expect to be able to replace it at next port.

I separate safety aspects and operational aspects and provide more funds to redundancy of safety items commensurate with probable degree of failure. Of course some items like bilge pumps provide normal operation duties as well as safety aspect while other don't e.g. EPIRB.


Otherwise less is more... but I am pedantic - who said general PIA
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Old 07-03-2008, 19:57   #2
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This is a good topic. When you are offshore and you have a gear failure you only have a few options; replace it with a spare which can match the specs, repairing the failed gear to working order, even if less that optimal, finding some other gear which can do what this was doing, or do without the gear.

Some bits are very much like a backbone and without them a lot of gear won't work. If your batts dies, your electronics are in the tank, your nav lights, cabint lights, radios, pumps and you can start the engine or run the fridge. OUCH

Anchors don't seem to fail but having spares for different bottoms or for using 2 at once is not exactly redundancy, but can be thought of as redundancy.

Of course you need tools and spares to fix all sorts of things, nuts and bolts... hose, line, blocks, pumps, alternator, fuses, bulbs, hand held radio and GPS, self steering... just to name the basics.
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Old 07-03-2008, 21:32   #3
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There is no right answer because the amount of redundancy depends upon the individual and that depends on how much risk an individual wants to take.

The best analogy I can think if is whether to use a condom or not. Some people do and some people don't...who is to say who is right and who is wrong?

Obviously some things cannot be made redundant...like a spare hull. Others things, like a backup battery powered GPS, can. Its going to be interesting to hear ideas but ultimately, it will be dependent on your level of risk, your perceived level of risk, costs, availability of spares, weight and a plethora of other variables to juggle. There is no right or wrong answer...just ideas.
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Old 07-03-2008, 22:08   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David M View Post
There is no right answer because the amount of redundancy depends upon the individual and that depends on how much risk an individual wants to take.
........
Its going to be interesting to hear ideas but ultimately, it will be dependent on your level of risk, your perceived level of risk, costs, availability of spares, weight and a plethora of other variables to juggle. There is no right or wrong answer...just ideas.
Yes, agreed, what interests me from a seamanship perspective is the process we each use to our reach own individual answers. I suspect whatever process say you use to decide what redundancy to carry, you also use the same process to decide how to handle say a severe storm or a difficult landfall. I might use a different process and come to the same or different conclusion.

By hearing what someone elses process is, I may see a different approach to another problem.

Thanks for the input so far.
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Old 07-03-2008, 22:11   #5
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David M, I like your analogy - because that is just as complicated - yet how many just make a split second decision and have no idea why - no blood in the brain LOL.
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Old 07-03-2008, 22:19   #6
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What a huge subject. The first thing that comes to mind are my tools. I literally built a Sears toolbox into my cabinetry. This one..minus the wheels of course: Craftsman 6-Drawer

Obsessive?, yeah probably. But in my experience stuff does happen out there and it has been my own experience running a small research vessel that I need all kinds of tools to either fix my own things, modify things to get them to work or to fix the things of my customers (scientists) that they either break or don't work correctly in the first place. The downside?..a few thousand dollars worth of hand tools, power tools, electrical test equipment and probably 250 pounds worth of weight. But thats my own quirk...most people probably don't need that.
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Old 07-03-2008, 23:43   #7
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Redundancy is about risk management and risk tolerance. If you aren't able to properly assess the risks you are likely to have too much redundancy or too little.

Do I need an alternator or the bits to build an alternator? This sounds like "experience" or "expertise" of the sailor. But it is also about risk managment. If the risk of an alternator failure is low, I may decide that neither spare alternator or bits are required, nor is the knowledge of how to replace the alternator, much less tear it apart and replace internal bits.

Most of us would say that if you took the latter approach you had seriously misunderstood the likelihood of an alternator failure and not assessed the risk of having no way to make power while at sea.

However - I could readily decide that if I don't have an alternator, or refrigerator, or GPS or any of the electronic gear then the need to worry about power loss goes away. Nobody says you have to have creature comforts while making a passage. Sextant, dry goods, plenty of water (drunk warm) - You get the idea...
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Old 07-03-2008, 23:47   #8
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Nice subject.
Over a beer a year back chatting with other cruisers, we discussed who carried what as spares. We've had a starter motor go twice - so as you might suppose - we carry one of those. But not one of the the others did.
One guy had a boom break three times - guess what - he carried a spare boom!!
It seemed odd the way we all differed, but as one lady said, we'd all made the right choices as they were based on our gear, our boats, and how we treat them.
But one thing we all agreed on. If you are seriously thinking about buying that spare part and don't do it - sods law will see the need for it the moment you are out to sea. Almost guaranteed.
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Old 08-03-2008, 05:46   #9
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Quote:
I would like hear how you make your decisions - is it cost, calculated risk of failure, emotional response, gut feeling, past failures, bar room stories, reading other accounts of what went wrong, just have two of every thing (and why not three).
I think all these come up from time to time. If you lost something for whatever reason you would of course want another OR have the ability to fall back on something else or improvise something or change plans. Often times redundancy is a "plan". If you have a failure you have to do something as well as perhaps replace something.

If you have been out on a trip and something did fail the tendency to want a spare of it the next time is huge. The spare boom is maybe a bit too much but it did happen.

Cost, space, and weight add up and you can't carry a totally spare boat. So you make plans and decide what you can bring to fill out the bag of tricks. You could totally rip the main sail beyond repair. The inclination might be to carry a spare OR the inclination might be a more substantial sail repair kit. Knowing how to repair sails would be a requirement for this dilemma. Knowing what to put in the kit is the next issue. You can plan for many types of sail problems even if you don't carry a totally ready to go sail.

You make plans or you fail to plan. Plans can always be taken to higher levels of detail. Over my own sailing experience I like to think I get a little bit better after each trip. I don't see a limit on how far you can go. We can all plan a little more or perfect our skills a little bit more. Desire has nothing to do with success yet has everything to do with preparation for success.
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Old 08-03-2008, 07:00   #10
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One of the reasons I sailed around the world in a catamaran was the redundancies on board.

Two steering wheels
Two Rudders
Two quadrants
Two engines
Two separate fuel systems
Two hulls with five separate water tight compartments in each hull
Two refrigeration systems
Two heads
More than two GPS

I was surprised during the eleven year voyage that I didn't use most of my spares. I replaced alternators, drive belts, and salt water pump impellers, bilge pump switches, bilge pumps, and fresh water pumps. I also carried autopilot spares and used them on two occasions.

Since the advent of DHL, FedEx, and other overnight shippers, I found that it wasn't necessary to carry so many spares. I now carry spares more out of a matter of convenience rather than necessity.
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Old 08-03-2008, 07:08   #11
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In my experience, I discovered an incredible propensity for electronics ("waterproof" or otherwise) to fail when most needed. I would take backups for backups of things like GPSs. For when the batteries utterly fail, I would practice a philosophy of "low tech backup for every high tech essential." for example, I made a lead line and am improving on a quadrant-style log line that I made some years ago. If I had a lighter displacement boat, I'd stash a sculling oar for when the engine quits. I even have a sextant and the sincere ambition to learn how to use it! (someday!).
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Old 09-03-2008, 21:14   #12
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How far from the shop or repairman...

What spare parts you need is really a function of how good you are at repairs and how far from service facilities and parts suppliers you intend to be, not to mention questions about the quality/age of your equipment and it's installation.

There is always the chance that you would be better off keeping the cash in your pocket and paying for assistance when you need it. Waving $10,000+ round is bound to get someones attention.

I am going on the principle that all equipment must be in first class condition and fully tested before leaving and am only planning to carry what is needed for routine servicing.
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Old 09-03-2008, 22:09   #13
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I think it all boils down to experience and evolution with your particular boat and application. Obviously high wear items like filters, fan belts, impellors and weak link items like fuses should be carried.

When a particular mechanical item fails on my boat I look at the history and integral wear of the casing to decide if I should buy a new one or just a rebuild kit. If I but a new one, I still if practical, rebuild and test the old one as a spare.

Overtime you accumulate spares of equipment that has chronic design weaknesses and to me that is the natural evolution
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Old 10-03-2008, 01:56   #14
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Quote:
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Redundancy is about risk management and risk tolerance. If you aren't able to properly assess the risks you are likely to have too much redundancy or too little.
.........
Nobody says you have to have creature comforts while making a passage. Sextant, dry goods, plenty of water (drunk warm) - You get the idea...
OK so far I think most of the posts could be distilled down to some definition of risk management - risk tolernace. I think Ex-Calif puts it most succinctly.
So can seamanship also defined similarly; and using Ex-C's wording "If you aren't able to properly assess the risks you are likely to have too much "seamanship" or too little. Well I don't think you can have too much seamanship but you can have too little. Extending the thread to "How do YOU assess risks from a "seamanship" perspective.

Just thinking aloud
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Old 10-03-2008, 03:57   #15
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Are you costal crusing or making passages... two big differences in my opinion. I have some spares for the engine, impellors, filters, and clamps. It is important to fully understand your boat so that you are able to make as many repairs, or temp repairs as possible to get you to shore, therefore tools are also on my list. Along with my 3 bilge pumps I have a manual pump. I also have interior lights that will burn oil if needed. I have a backup VHF. Most of the stuff I have allows me to repair stuff, not replace. But I am only coastal crusing, I would think it would be different for a passage.
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