Spares & Repairs Underway
We received a new starter motor to keep in our spares kit, and now I need to install it and check it out before packing it away. While this may sound like an over kill, I can tell you that after years of receiving new gear that doesn't work there is no way to know if its OK unless it is checked out. The upside to fitting and testing the starter is I now know that I have the tools and ability to change IT. I have to say tools are as important as the spare parts, you can have all the spares in the world, but you will need some way of fitting them.
If “IT” quits working and you don’t have the capacity or the tools to repair what ever “IT” is, and if you don’t have a spare “IT,” you and your crew will need to be able to survive without “IT” for the rest of the voyage
So what’s the best thing you can do about “it”? Perhaps the thing on the top of the list for anyone contemplating an offshore voyage is to make totally sure that all systems are in excellent working condition before leaving the dock. Not an easy thing to do if you don’t use your boat regularly, for reliable systems it really appears to be use it or loose it. Progressive maintenance and tweaking things as they show signs of wear and tare and the odd drop of oil and polish help grease the wheels so to speak.
The larger the boat, the more complex the systems can be and with this added complexity you have a higher potential for failure. Bigger is better, but only if it works, the same can be said for newer, it’s good but only if it works. Another problem creeping into system reliability is the fact manufactures are building obsolescence into a lot of systems they now produce. So if you have a component that is warranted for 3 years make sure you have a spare when you’re nearing the end of the third year. Unfortunately this forced retirement of components could end up making it too expensive for some of us to keep maintaining a vessel properly. Instead of being able to refurbish system components sadly replacement is the only answer due to being deliberately designed that way. The flow on effect will be that some people will be forced into two options, retire from boating and sell the vessel or go to sea with a vessel that is not in the best shape.
I would like to bring up Plan B, what happens when one of your systems fails to function. In this day and age where one component can be a major part for several systems you need to be sure you have that component as a spare and know how to change it. Of course there is still the option of keeping systems separate and spread the load so to speak. Whether you loose functionality due to the separate units not communicating together is purely conjecture.
What are the crucial systems onboard your boat? Is it something that could compromise the safety of the crew or the vessel like a leaking rudder or propeller shaft? Perhaps it’s reduced performance like damaged rigging. What about the loss of the chart plotter GPS now that electronic navigation is usually the primary source of positioning. A head pump failure could certainly make life uncomfortable for all on board and the loss of cooking facilities could make the crew contemplate mutiny. There are a lot of systems onboard a cruising vessel that can compromise safety or make it uncomfortable for all on board. On a vessel with a large complement of crew the loss of the auto pilot would not be a serious life threatening problem. Uncomfortable and tiring yes but with the right crew rotation on the wheel a serious problem can be averted. However the same failure on a vessel with a crew of two could compromise the safety of the crew due to fatigue and the inability to trim sails and make rig adjustments without two on deck. So it’s a case of identifying your primary systems keeping in mind the number of crew and passengers on board. Some service systems may become of primary importance once the crew numbers decrease.
If you want to take one spare of everything you’re going to need a bigger boat. The solution is to identify the most probable failures in each system crucial to satisfactorily completing the voyage. You will also need to have the tools, ability and parts on board to repair these systems. Even if you do have the ability and parts is the boat going to be stable enough to allow you to undertake the repair. You already have a good idea what you need for the essential boat function, items like hull, steering, rig and sails. Consider these systems very carefully; a failure here can be disastrous. The keel bolts working loose, broken steering cable, hydraulic steering pump failure, a failed gooseneck, cracked boom or a broken shroud will all require immediate attention. All have the capability to affect your performance and have the ability to threaten the safety of vessel and crew. Even though we are not racing the loss of performance is a big problem, and may lead to major change of direction or port of call if the vessel cannot be sailed on certain headings.
Before setting off into the ocean, prudently consider your bilge pumps, and while those who know me may think I have a fascination with bilge pumps I do know when there is water in the boat these are the most efficient way to clear the water out of the bilges quickly. Being in the bilge trying to clear the water with a bucket while in a sea way is firstly not an easy thing to do and can be slippery and dangerous.
Depending on the weather, during the first few days of a voyage you are likely to have more water on board than you’ve seen before. If you haven’t pulled up the floorboards and thoroughly cleaned the bilge the chances are that you will find the strainer or pump blocked with the remains of a fur ball that has accumulated there. The cause of blockages does not stop at fur balls, any work over the last couple of months or for that matter years if not properly cleaned up can just add to the collection of debris in the bilge, particularly nasty items known to have quickly brought damage to bilge pumps are screws, sawdust, cable ties and last but not least hair.
Chances are you rarely use your manual bilge pumps, and I know from experience if the diaphragm is more than a couple of years old, it won’t last when you really need it. Clean the bilge, and by that I mean really clean the bilge, this may mean you get the garden hose in there and wash the muck that accumulates under the floor boards into the sump and pump it out, refurbish the manual pumps, and take along rebuild kits. Take along a whole spare electric pump(s) ready to install with extend wires and lugs on the cables if necessary. Have the pumps all set up ready for an easy hot swap. If you have a back up/primary engine driven pump check the PTO/ clutch and give the pump a new impellor and grease the bearings and fill the grease cup if necessary, put several litres of water in the bilge and by pumping it out it’s a great place to see how the pumps perform. While talking about impeller style bilge pumps it’s a good idea to check the internal cam, that’s the bump that you can feel or see inside the pump at the inlet and outlet ports. This is important for the correct operation of the pump, if this cam is worn the pump will certainly not operate at its rated output. Make sure your pumps are in good order, I have heard of some boats that have had to have someone pumping intermittently for most of a voyage.
Where do you place systems like electrical, instrumentation, information, communication, plumbing and refrigeration? Some people place these into the support system category as they are less likely to threaten the over all safety of the boat. But there is nothing like a failure to upset the crew and this is certainly a quick way to plunge crew moral into the dumps. Those of you, who sail with a significant other as a crew member, I will let you in on the fact that this can be disastrous and will certainly reduce the fun and quality of the rest of your voyage, remember the old saying ‘Happy Wife, Happy Life’.
If the engine won’t start or run long enough to recharge your batteries, what systems will stop functioning? Cruising boats or should that be crews, are becoming more reliant on electricity the loss of power can certainly be a problem. To start with there is the loss of a GPS position, navigation lights and radio communication. Perhaps visibility is reduced and there isn’t enough power to run the radar, the list is getting longer and longer. Another problem to add to the growing list is that your gas stove probably won’t function any longer without power, well that is unless you have the right components so you can bypass the solenoid. Tea and coffee isn’t very tasty when made with cold water, and a cold can of beans and biscuits for dinner doesn’t bring joy to many crews.
Below is a list of things that have happened while under way that I have either heard about or have been involved in. You could ask yourself what if these things happened to me.
1.The engine refuses to run for any length of time due to ongoing fouled fuel filters from the muck in the bottom of the tank becoming stirred up now the boat is away from the dock and is in the ocean proper.
2.Some time during the past twelve hours the battery switch was left in “BOTH”. There was no procedure to check the battery levels before they became critically low and now “BOTH” will not turn over the engine.
3.Your fresh water pump has failed, how will you get water from your tanks?
4.The propeller shaft bearing/packing has been leaking for a couple of days. The electric bilge pump that was keeping up with the ingress by running intermittently every couple of minutes has sucked up an old cable tie blowing the oversize fuse and will no longer run after clearing the cable tie and a fuse replacement. You now find the manual bilge pump fatigues crew members quickly due to an ineffective pump position.
5.The short flexible hose connecting the gas bottle to the gas regulator starts to leak; the good news is there was minimal gas loss by turning off the gas bottle tap. But how are you going to cook now?
6.The Admiral comes on deck and tells you the head doesn’t seem to be working.
7.Entering the busy shipping channel all the daisy chained instruments (GPS depth speed wind etc) stop functioning and the vessel position on the chart plotter disappears thanks to a short in the active GPS antenna power cable
8.After doing the dishes the captain forgot to completely finish the job and most of your cutlery went over the side with the dirty dishwater; you have limited other utensils.
9.The power for the ballast tank pump has failed and by staying on this tack you won’t make land fall any time soon.
10.The single electric winch for halyard and sheet control has seized, how do we now hoist the sails and control the sheets.
Get your crew and sailing friends together as a group discuss the following systems and recognise the most likely failures you could experience in each. Once you have established that the existing systems are in a good condition, insure that you have the skill, tools and bits and pieces to deal with a failure.
· Hull ·Rig ·Sails ·Steering · Engine · Plumbing
·Navigation · Instrumentation · Electrical · Communications · Refrigeration · Information
Is your idea of fun repairing crucial boat components in the ocean? If it isn’t then rebuild and service your systems before leaving the dock. From first hand experience repairing crucial boat components in the ocean is not fun and it’s not an easy thing to do unless you get becalmed. Strangely enough that never seems to happen when things start to go pear shaped. The strategy of taking along a repair kit for one of the systems that is showing the first signs of wear and not rebuilding it before you leave port is not very sensible or practical. Rebuild it now; carrying a heap of spares is not a substitute for well maintained and reliable systems.
Check over your motor fuel system pipes. All those rubber hoses have a habit of getting brittle with age and fail when you least expect it. What ever you do don’t over look the little hoses between the injectors, these are usually a lot smaller diameter than the standard fuel pipe sizes. Some times the engine will fail to run due to sucking air into the fuel system, but the really annoying problem is when one of the pressure pipes cracks and sprays the whole engine compartment in fuel. I don’t know what it is about the smell of diesel in a rough seaway but it has been known to accelerate the route to sea sickness. Check your motors secondary fuel filters, these are the ones attached to your motor. These filters are often put on the motor during the last stage of assembly and are painted with the rest of the motor. The flow on problem is they are now camouflaged and some have never been changed until they are so blocked they no longer pass fuel.
When underway boats tell you when they are not happy. Judge this for yourself but I have found most things start to make a noise before they fail. Keep your ears open and when you hear a new or strange noise, check it out. One of the boom bails on our vessel was starting to fail; the day before it failed I could hear a high pitched squeaking noise coming from the boom. The problem was trying to isolate where the noise was coming from but with persistence we found the culprit before it parted. When setting up your boat try and make it quiet down stairs, search out sources of noise and find ways to make them quiet. This way any new noise is a signal that some thing has changed and needs looking at, even if it is not failing. If the weather permits take a walk around deck and look at all of the rigging connections, shackles pins, blocks and check for chafe on sails and sheets at least twice a day. Take a screw driver with you and make sure there are no screws loose on the furlers or boom fittings. It is much better to catch something before it fails than having to deal with it after it has. One system that has been shown to have a high failure rate is steering, someone needs to inspect the steering system (cables or hydraulic fluid & leaks) and rudder bearings, cotter pins in the quadrant on a daily basis when under way, put it on the daily checklist.
You do have a underway check list don’t you? If not perhaps while you have the crew around discussing the probable failures it would be an easy thing to make notes and nut out a daily check list. Keep in mind a walk around check isn’t a major investigation it’s a visual check. It can be likened to the checks before you start the motor, check the fuel filter water separator, oil, coolant and belt(s), then once the motor is running ensure the exhaust is spitting water. Most of it is simple and a no brainer. When doing walk around boat checks its things like looking for chafe and loose items, broken strands of rigging wire, it’s only when checking under covers and below decks it may become complicated. You may need to wait for some crew to be on shift, for example when bunks are built above machine spaces like the steering space. Another good management tool is to take a reading of systems when running. Any changes in the data will show problems developing. As an example look at the current draw for the auto pilot when working, any slow increase in the amount of current drawn while operating over a couple of days can be an indicator some thing is becoming tighter, or the boat is becoming badly unbalanced.
Redundancy: a part in a system that has the same function as another part and that exists so that the entire system will not fall over if the main part fails. While easy to say it’s not always easy to attain redundancy in all systems. Due to the nature of use, operating long distance from shore self sufficiency and redundancy needs to be engineered into the systems. It is quite common to see dual types of battery charging, perhaps large motor driven alternators with back up alternator regulators, wind generators, solar systems and separate battery banks for radios and emergency motor starting. Simple redundancy in the plumbing system, if the fresh water electric pump fails a manual hand or foot operated will avert problems until repairs can be made. Electric fuel oil feed pumps are inexpensive these days and can be permanently plumbed and wired in. With a little thought given to the plumbing and filters they can do service either being a lift pump if the mechanical pump fails. Or if the source of the fuel is doubtful used to remove contaminants in the fuel while under way.
The navigation system is one system I have put time into setting up and installing some redundancy. As a back up for the chart plotter I have a laptop that is set up to run a navigation program. Well it’s set up to run a couple of different navigation/charting programs on the laptop just incase one becomes corrupted. The laptop can be connected to either the integrated instruments or can be used stand alone using a hand held GPS. I have a plug permanently wired in so the hand held GPS can be used to input position data should the primary and secondary GPS receivers both fail. Having a second depth transducer installed and the cables run incase the primary transducer fails, it can be connected up quickly if needed. A second depth instrument does service as a slave display but can be put into service as primary with a quick change in the set up. So we should not be with out electronic position and depth information for any length of time.
Tools and spare parts and what to do about them, in the planning stages before setting off ask the professionals; well it doesn’t have to be a paid professional, start with your sailing friends. I am sure you will have an idea who has had the right answers the most times in the past. Then if you do get stuck there is always your local boat builder, sail maker or your favorite diesel mechanic. Get their opinion of what you are likely to need in the way of spares and tools. When it comes to tools make sure you have the big ones, nothing is more frustrating than not having the spanner or socket to do up the very large nut on the rudder shaft or tighten up replacement sea cocks. If weight is an issue go through the tool kits and spanner rolls and remove the spanners and sockets you don’t have nuts/ bolt sizes on the vessel, but you want to be sure.
Spare Parts: What will you need? This is a list from my boat and includes items we consider important for cruising but this list should not be considered comprehensive. There are a lot of items not listed like seizing wire and grub screws and special fittings for the furler for example. It’s not easy selecting tools to take and you could easily take way too many. Like the list of spares there are tools I haven’t listed like the wood working tools stored away incase we want to do minor cabinetry repairs.
As every vessel is unique even the production line models have various options during the build, so if you have deep pockets then head off to the dealer with a list of parts you feel should accompany you on your travels.
Rig severing tools, hacksaw, bolt cutters, rig wire cutters
Hand crimp tool
Socket set - Metric and SAE
Allen keys- Metric, SAE and Torx
Spanners open ended and ring (box) - Metric and SAE
Screwdrivers: set of Phillips, and flat with spares, jewelers (precision drivers)
Vice grips 2 standard jaw, and 2 long nose
Punch kits: hole, pin, drift, center, cold chisels
Electrical wire cutters, wire strippers, insulated lug crimpers, un-insulated lug crimpers
Thermocouple (a sensor used to measure temperature)
Pliers: regular, channel, needle nose, multi grip, channel locks (water pump pliers)
Pipe wrenches various sizes (get some large sizes)
Vice on wooden base that can be clamped down
Adjustable spanners various sizes 4”-18”
Hammers engineers, claw, gasket
Tap and die kits, metric & imperial, drill bits
Hacksaw and spare blades
Map gas blow torch
Hot knife (electric)
Drill and bits (hand operated & electric)
FIDs and splicing tools
Batteries for whatever uses batteries
Cable ties: small and large
Shackles: stainless and rated galvanized
Wire rope grips
Turnbuckles, rigging screws, spare rigging wire, termination
Cotter pins and rings
Line assorted sizes/lengths of Dynema / Spectra
Blocks replacement sizes
Chafe material (anti chafe material)
Sealant (for various jobs)
Gasket material, various types & nitrite sheet for fuel tank gaskets
Duct tape, masking tape, rigging tape, emergency rescue tape
Lubricants: Teff Gel, Marine grease, Inox, lanoline grease, lanoline spray
Bottle of acetone
Epoxy kit, including glass and filler
Hose clamps; assorted sizes, types
Boat wash acid (phospheric acid)
Dielectric silicone (silicone grease No 4 or 111)
Screws, S/S self tapping pan head & counter sunk, wood screws pan head & counter sunk
Nuts and bolts various sizes relevant to the sizes used on the vessel
Hatch seal rubbers, glue to install seals and hold down closures
Polycarbonate for hatch replacement
Rivets for hand rivet gun, monel, aluminum in assorted sizes
Paints, varnishes, antifoul etc
Sail cloth various thickness
Sail makers palm
Sail makers needles
Whipping twines various thicknesses
Impeller for motor raw water pump & Gasket/O-ring for the plate
Lift pump (fuel lift pump)
Parts & Service Manuals
Coolant Treatment Yanmar coolant
Marine Diesel Fuel Treatment (Fuel Doctor)
Belt water pump & alternator
Lube oil (enough for 3 changes & empty oil containers to put used oil)
Gear Box oil (ATF)
Fuel line hose, 1/8 “5/16” & 3/8”
Lube Oil Filters
Oil filter wrench
Fuel Oil Filters
Racor 500 FG Element number 2010 10 Micron water separator
Air Filter Element <washable in kero/turps & re oil
Thermostat & Gasket
Circulating Water Pump
Alternator, alternator regulator, starter motor
19 mm & 13 mm Hot water hose, 300 PSI and -30 C to 90 C temperature
Joiners for hot water hoses (plastic/brass/bronze barbs)
Propeller and zinc
Autopilot rudder reference unit, drive motor, fluxgate compass
Spare GPS antenna
Fuses, circuit breakers, indicator lights
Wire and connectors, heavy duty cable and lugs
Bulbs: Internal lights, Masthead/Stern lights/Nav, Anchor, Foredeck light
Spare antennas for VHF & HF
Misc Spare Parts:
Cooking Gas Regulator
POL fitting & braided stainless hose
Fresh water, Bilge, Sump (shower), Washdown,
5 & 20 Micron sediment filters
Charcoal activated water filters (chemical/chlorine removal)
Feed Pump plus a diaphragm kit, valve kit and switch kit
Plumbing fittings, tap washers, drinking water filters, drinking water tubing
Flush Ball seals
Vacuflush head; vacuum pump and service kit, bowl seal gaskets, ball seal, ball shaft, water valve, ball cartridge insert.
2 Stroke oil