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Old 16-07-2007, 08:22   #1
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Repair / Maintenance Skills

As part of my preparation for cruising (on a limited budget), I would like to find out what repair/maintenance skills experienced cruisers feel are essential with regards to:

Diesel engines
Outboard Motors
Boat electrical systems
Standing rigging
Fiberglass repairs

Any input from long-term crusiers would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 16-07-2007, 08:48   #2
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Regarding diesel, look at Mack Boring Diesel engine classes. I've heard great things and plan to take the three day myself this fall. Anytime you don't have to pay $80/hr for routine maintanence is well worth it. One of the easiest ways is to find boat owners who are close to you and find out what boat projects they are doing and when and use their materials and their boat and improve your skill sets.

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Old 16-07-2007, 10:13   #3
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Your skill level with any of these would need to include knowledge, tools, and spare parts to be able to effect repairs. That is where it does get complicated. You can easily spend a lot of money on spares and tools. Being able to identify as many parts ahead of time by part number would be a good idea. Having set up sources where you might acquire the parts is also good. You may not want to spend a lot on spares so you'll need to prioritize the list based on cost and space. Having on paper all the part numbers you can determine will make it possible to order parts sent to you with certainty that if you order it it will be the right one.

I don't think you can know too much about anything. The more you know the better you'll be able to repair what you can and minimize the damages when confronted with things that must be replaced. Nothing is really more important than anything else. There can be scenario where the item in question is not operating properly and it makes for extreme difficulties for you. If you assume anything can happen then it opens the door for a lot of possibilities. The last owner of the boat left me a large supply of spare engine parts. None where ever needed in their 6 year trip. It does not mean you shouldn't have them but you might need just one thing and it could be important. Trouble is you can't know which one it will be before you leave.

Leaving knowing as much as you can can't be overstated. You can't know everything but you can prepare yourself with the time and budget you have. Learning about things does not require the huge expense of hauling a hardware store of tools and materials. I would start out learning a general knowledge of everything on the boat and where everything is, how it's connected and what parts might be replaced. Being able to inspect your boat means you don't have to leave a port not knowing if the parts are in good condition to get you the next leg along the way. If you can check regularly you'll avoid disasters more often.
Paul Blais
s/v Bright Eyes Gozzard 36
37 15.7 N 76 28.9 W
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Old 16-07-2007, 10:56   #4
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Most cruisers eventually learn to do nearly everything themselves. I say most because there are some "checkbook cruisers" out there that rely totally on boat yards and boat services. They are few and far between but lately their numbers have been increasing.

The best thing you can do to learn is join a yacht club. You will find that members are very helpful and you will get assistance and advice. Lots of advice.

Formal classes are good but the knowledge gained soon fades if you do not have a boat to work on. You can teach yourself through the internet and books such as Calder's. When you're out cruising you'll meet many who are very skilled and who will help. The cruising community is very friendly and I have found that there's always someone out there that knows more than I do about a specific problem.

For most diesels and electrical systems are the most challenging. I would learn all I can about those. Fiberglass repair would be a nice to know but initially all you have to know is how to plug a hole! As an aside I am presently learning to repair stress cracks and voids in my 19 year old boat after watching it being done by experts. Outboards are pretty reliable nowadays and standing rigging, although important on a boat, rarely requires work.

Like most of us you will learn as you go, as problems arise, and as necessity requires. It's amazing what you can do when you have to!
Rick I
Toronto in summer, Bahamas in winter.
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Old 16-07-2007, 21:00   #5
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Originally Posted by orsailor
As part of my preparation for cruising (on a limited budget), I would like to find out what repair/maintenance skills experienced cruisers feel are essential with regards to:

Diesel engines
Outboard Motors
Boat electrical systems
Standing rigging
Fiberglass repairs
Not a long term cruiser but here's my 2 cents - These are skills IMO that are useful when you start - your experience will definitely grow over time.

Diesel Engines - Understand fundamental Diesel Engine operation, i.e. how it works. Change accessories (starter / alternator / Pumps), impeelers, oil, injectors. Troubleshoot fuel system and cooling system. No need for "overhaul level skills" although you may gain them over time.

Outboard Motors - Similar to diesel - depends on 2 stroke vs. 4 stroke, but understand gasoline engine operation. Troubleshoot fuel, spark and cooling system.

Boat electrical - The more you know here the better off you are. Most used boats I have seen are a disaster in regards to electrical systems. People add a system and they seem to add a pair of wires in the most direct route possible, bypassing distribution panels and fuse boxes - LOL. You should know DC electrics pretty well cold. You should know how to repair a circuit and design and add a circuit. You should become intimately familiar with battery care, maintenance and charging. You should be an expert on alternator charging systems and have a good working knowledge of solar and wind. If your boat has an inverter and A/C systems you will need to become very knowledgeable on AC circuits.

Standing Rigging - You should be able to inspect and determine when standing rigging is getting past its use by date. You should be able to tension and adjust the standing rigging. Depending on your boat you probably won't ever end up getting the equipment needed to effect chain plate repairs, swage new shrouds etc. but you should be able to understand the terminology and supervise the work.

Fiberglass - I doubt these skills will ever be used seriously unless you buy a project boat. I helped a guy design a repair for a pretty nasty ding he got in a collision. The repair area was at the hull to deck joint, encompassed the toe rail. The guy had sailed half way around the world (from Canada) had been sailing 30 years and had never done any fiberglass work. YMMV.

Emergencies and Creativity - I think it is more important to continue building a set of basic skills and learning, if possible, creative problem solving skills. Many of the situations you will run across will be out of site of land and will require a little or a lot of creativity to solve.

Couple of examples -
Mainsheet blocks broke - swapped out boom vang and lashed boom vang
Starboard stay failed - stabilized mast with spinnaker halyard
Impeller raw water leak - fabricated gasket out of a granloa bar box
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Old 18-07-2007, 02:04   #6
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Batteries, bleeding and oil...

My limited (but bitter) experience so far suggests that :-
1) You need to know how to keep your starting battery fully charged and in good condition.
2) You need to be able to bleed the injectors and the injector pump.
3) You need to be able to change your own oil.

Don't expect that a mechanic will know how to do this basic work.

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