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Old 23-06-2022, 23:40   #1
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Learn from My Mistakes

In order to fix anything efficiently -- quickly, economically -- it is essential to properly diagnose the problem, uncover the real cause of it as quickly and efficiently as possible by starting with the simplest and cheapest possible fault first, and then working through all possible other faults methodically.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has great stuff about this, but of course any decent mechanic knows this at the level of instinct.

Why do I botch this over and over again?

I am replacing my anchor chain. Despite the huge spike in steel prices this year (I have paid more than €6000/tonne of structural steel this year when I really needed it), I got an amazing deal on 100m of calibrated 12mm G40 chain, not Chinese but made in France, with extra heavy galvanizing. I think I paid €1200 for it, plus a small charge for shipping from France to Denmark.

I decided that before having the chain brought out by forklift, I had better check the windlass, which had been acting up from time to time.

Well, it's acting up again. Relays clicked, but stuck on in "up", and wouldn't go "down" at all. Damn it. Couldn't find any obvious cause for it -- relays click in both directions, so handset must be ok. Checked connections -- they are tight and good. Must be the relays. And here I have a small panic, because my summer cruise is around the corner, and the Lewmar relay box is no doubt a long lead time special order piece.

So my attention shifts to sourcing the relays. The Lewmar box is indeed special order and costly -- £1300 plus customs (Brexit . . . ).

But a bit of sleuthing reveals that the relays themselves are Albright SW88-113 contactors, commonly used for elevators. Strapped pair. I find a set in Germany for €300, order them, receive them quickly. Then I spend half a day installing them. Power up, and -- sticks in "up", and won't run in "down".

WTH? So it's the handset after all? And I start looking for handsets. Then stop myself. Crawl back into the anchor locker and do a deep dive into the wiring. The high power wiring and connections, which I had checked before, are fine. But the handset wiring -- now I see it -- some strands come out of the handset socket connector, which is badly designed, and are shorting against each other when strain is applied to the handset cord

I remake these connections being very careful not to let strands of wire protrude from screw connectors, attach the socket to the relay box more solidly, add extra strain relief to the handset cord, and Robert is now my mother's brother, everything works right, and I will get my chain on board today.

So what went wrong? Why do I violate the rule, which I know so well, of checking the simplest explanations first, and check them thoroughly, before jumping to the conclusion that the fault is something more complicated? And working through it methodically until I'm sure I've found the fault?

I think I know why -- I fear not having the part I need and getting stuck waiting for it. So I tend to jump to the conclusion that the fault is a part which I don't have in spares.

I will work on this in future.

Hope it helps someone else.
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Old 24-06-2022, 00:27   #2
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

There’s an overwhelming compulsion that sets in, to fix the problem right now, even if you know your method is all wrong. No time to sit back and reassess things. Once you’re started down this road to hell, there’s just no time to change course. You have to continue on, feverishly. Hurry, because this is taking a lot of time, you can’t afford to lose the battle. Clamp the vice grips extra tight and then smash it with the big hammer. Ugh. Well, admittedly sometimes it does sort of work out. So hold onto the dream. Where is that bottle of Prozac...

Completely dissected the hot water heater recently, replaced the element and investigated every conceivable rabbit hole, before figuring out the switch was broken.
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Old 24-06-2022, 02:07   #3
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oeanda View Post
There’s an overwhelming compulsion that sets in, to fix the problem right now, even if you know your method is all wrong. No time to sit back and reassess things. Once you’re started down this road to hell, there’s just no time to change course. You have to continue on, feverishly. Hurry, because this is taking a lot of time, you can’t afford to lose the battle. Clamp the vice grips extra tight and then smash it with the big hammer. Ugh. Well, admittedly sometimes it does sort of work out. So hold onto the dream. Where is that bottle of Prozac...

Completely dissected the hot water heater recently, replaced the element and investigated every conceivable rabbit hole, before figuring out the switch was broken.

Misery loves company


Ugh. Sounds like many similar things I have done.


Must improve process. Must improve process. . .



Despite growing up in a relatively privileged family, I have been fixing things all my life, because (a) I always loved it from early childhood; and (b) most of my sports and hobbies involved gear you need to be able to fix yourself.


Nevertheless, I have somehow failed after all this experience to make myslef into a really good mechanic. I'm going to try harder this year; take more time to think it through; stop myself from jumping to conclusions. And -- keep my tools and spares in better order. Midsummer resolutions . . .
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"You sea! I resign myself to you also . . . . I guess what you mean,
I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers,
I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me;
We must have a turn together . . . . I undress . . . . hurry me out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft . . . . rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet . . . . I can repay you."
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Old 24-06-2022, 02:14   #4
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

As an electrician, I always had to remember, to check:
"Is it plugged in?"
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Old 24-06-2022, 03:56   #5
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

Personally I found myself often in similar shoes as yours. I think Oeanda is correct, we want the problem solved immediately because we become emotionally attached to the whole thing — boat, “illness”, “cure”. A (true) professional OTH would (I) likely have seen the issue more often than us and have a better overall chance at guessing the right solution from the start, but more importantly (II) have no incentive to ‘screw up’ the solution by wild guesses, potentially denting his/her reputation; they see our ‘baby’ as just another ‘patient’ — professional detachment helps see through the emotions!
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Old 24-06-2022, 05:22   #6
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
...... I have been fixing things all my life, because (a) I always loved it from early childhood; and (b) most of my sports and hobbies involved gear you need to be able to fix yourself.........
I reckon this a big part of the problem - you have built up a lifetime of doing things yourself and doing them the best way you know how. As each year goes by, you do your own stuff better and better. In the end, you automatically believe your workmanship and your attention to detail means any fault must lie in the hardware and not in the simple things. You automatically assume the little things must be OK because you did the work, any defect must live in the expensive complicated components.

If you were troubleshooting on a friend's boat, you would do it properly - test and isolate the quick and simple things first but on your own boat - not so much.

All professionals make simple mistakes. I have attended a delayed commercial flight because a radio didn't work, the pilots were in a tizzy because of the delay. On another occasion, an emergency rescue helicopter was grounded for half a day due to an unserviceable radar altimeter. As I was not on duty, several pilots and airframe engineers attempted to fix the issue. Both times, the fix was simple, the equipment was turned OFF. It sounds like a joke but it wasn't. Because the stakes were high (a plane of passengers sitting on the ground / a rescue helicopter on a '10 minute lift off contract' grounded), the crews involved assumed the defect must be complicated.
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Old 24-06-2022, 06:14   #7
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

You're not lazy enough. The lazy man says, "I don't want to do any work that I don't have to, so I'm not really starting to work on this until I'm pretty certain what is wrong, and what is the very easiest way to fix it!"


Practice being lazy!
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Old 24-06-2022, 06:40   #8
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

Good news is you now have spare relays.
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Old 24-06-2022, 07:37   #9
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by GordMay View Post
As an electrician, I always had to remember, to check:
"Is it plugged in?"

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"You sea! I resign myself to you also . . . . I guess what you mean,
I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers,
I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me;
We must have a turn together . . . . I undress . . . . hurry me out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft . . . . rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet . . . . I can repay you."
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Old 24-06-2022, 07:38   #10
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wotname View Post
I reckon this a big part of the problem - you have built up a lifetime of doing things yourself and doing them the best way you know how. As each year goes by, you do your own stuff better and better. In the end, you automatically believe your workmanship and your attention to detail means any fault must lie in the hardware and not in the simple things. You automatically assume the little things must be OK because you did the work, any defect must live in the expensive complicated components.

If you were troubleshooting on a friend's boat, you would do it properly - test and isolate the quick and simple things first but on your own boat - not so much.

All professionals make simple mistakes. I have attended a delayed commercial flight because a radio didn't work, the pilots were in a tizzy because of the delay. On another occasion, an emergency rescue helicopter was grounded for half a day due to an unserviceable radar altimeter. As I was not on duty, several pilots and airframe engineers attempted to fix the issue. Both times, the fix was simple, the equipment was turned OFF. It sounds like a joke but it wasn't. Because the stakes were high (a plane of passengers sitting on the ground / a rescue helicopter on a '10 minute lift off contract' grounded), the crews involved assumed the defect must be complicated.

Very interesting. I guess someone could write a book about this kind of thing.
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"You sea! I resign myself to you also . . . . I guess what you mean,
I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers,
I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me;
We must have a turn together . . . . I undress . . . . hurry me out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft . . . . rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet . . . . I can repay you."
Walt Whitman
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Old 24-06-2022, 07:39   #11
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill O View Post
Good news is you now have spare relays.




You read my mind!


The only way to "look at the bright side" here! So, I was already thinking that.


Also -- any unnecessary work means you've had something apart and gotten to know it better, even if you didn't accomplish anything else. That's always a good thing, too, right?
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"You sea! I resign myself to you also . . . . I guess what you mean,
I behold from the beach your crooked inviting fingers,
I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me;
We must have a turn together . . . . I undress . . . . hurry me out of sight of the land,
Cushion me soft . . . . rock me in billowy drowse,
Dash me with amorous wet . . . . I can repay you."
Walt Whitman
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Old 24-06-2022, 08:09   #12
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

Everyone does it because they accept what comes to mind and blindly follows in the name of knowledge.

I was off the boat last month for 3 days last month because the head motor didn't work. After I got the new motor and everything installed I decided to look into fixing the old motor. Three screws later and a little cleaning it worked. So now I have a spare.
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Old 24-06-2022, 08:20   #13
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

I have to say. Get an ohm meter and use it before replacing parts.
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Old 24-06-2022, 08:31   #14
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill O View Post
Good news is you now have spare relays.
Since he have new relays he will never need them
Something else will break.
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Old 24-06-2022, 09:40   #15
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Re: Learn from My Mistakes

I fear that I unwisely used all my diagnostic and spare parts good luck.

My fridge has been slow to start. I'd turn it on, and nothing would happen for some random amount of time, then it would work properly until switched off.

Yesterday, I had a few minutes for boat projects, so I tore out the switch, which of course meant I had to remove some cabinet work (really- who did this?!). A terminal on the back of the switch was broken. Easy.

I had a spare switch aboard, so after a quick swap all was happy.

I think this was only possible because nobody was around to witness the successful completion of a simple project. I also fear that I used up all my good luck for the year on a trivial problem.
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