A season at the dock…..Part I

We were hoping to make a late December getaway to the Bahamas since November was preempted by some return trips to visit and support family,  but on December 26th I was paid a visit by the kidney stone fairy.  I’m very glad we weren’t in the Bahamas as this was my first time dealing with one of these.  On the pain scale of one to ten I’d give that experience a 12…..I was told by the doctor that I had two more waiting in the wings so we thought it might be a good idea to take this opportunity to fix some things that we had been putting off while we were staying put for a while.

We had a few projects……..Our watermaker had stopped working in the Bahamas, and that required diagnosis and repair…..we had some wood work that needed repair from some very old water damage,……our alternator needed a rebuild and realignment……the adjacent engine driven, high pressure watermaker pump also needed to be realigned……our refrigerator and freezer compressor had originally been wired in the same circuit which I thought was interfering with the performance when both units tried to start up at the same time,….. our wifi range extender was on the fritz,…… our new outboard was due for it’s ten hour service and our backup, new to us, outboard needed some work as well, and our masthead wind instruments (which supply the wind speed and direction to our instruments) stopped sending data to our cockpit display for some reason and finally our refrigerator evaporator plate needed to be replaced. Keep in mind these projects were tempered by trips to the beach, happy hours and visiting friends !!!!

First a quick tutorial on watermaker function.  We take in seawater and filter it to remove any large contaminants.  Then the water is pressurized using a “low pressure” pump at about 17psi.  That pump maintains the pressure to the high pressure pump which operates at hundreds of pounds of pressure.  The water then travels through two tubular membranes (filters).  The seawater is highly pressurized and travels along the outside of the membrane and the freshwater is pushed through to the inside of the membrane “cylinder”.  That freshwater goes to our tanks and the remaining briny seawater goes overboard. Sounds simple right ? Here’s a diagram ……

Our watermaker was a two fold issue.  Our low pressure pump, which feeds the high pressure pump wasn’t moving any water.  It is an intermittent duty (i.e. 30 minutes on and 30 minutes off) pump and required a cooling coil to keep the temperature down and extend the duty cycle.  Unfortunately, the cooling coil couldn’t make 100% contact with the motor so it suffered from some efficiency issues.

I had initially assumed that the motor was burned up.  I removed the pump and was about to order a new one.  I had hoped there had been some advancement in  pump design and we could get a continuous duty pump, but apparently there haven’t been any advancements in this type of pump design.  I thought we were destined to replace the pump for $395.  As I was taking the pump to the trash, I decided to try something and I attached the leads to the battery in our van and the pump ran !! So, I found a local pump repair shop and got it rebuilt for $65…although, it took over two weeks to get the parts.

Once the pump was rebuilt I began to investigate other ways to cool the pump and extend the duty cycle.  I discovered that Shur Flo pumps makes a 5″ heat sink that fits the motors on a variety of other manufacturers pumps.  I get the feeling the motors are all made by the same company and relabeled for the “manufacturers”.  I consulted with a friend who was an aerospace engineer for ideas in cooling the pump motor and he recommended “Thermal Grease” under the heat sink.  This makes the contact between the sink and the motor housing 100% by removing air gaps and the grease has metal particles in it to transmit heat more efficiently.

http://www.steam-brite.com/shurflo-34007-heat-sink-cover-inch-continuous-pump-longer-life-cool-clip-p-11287.html

I added a 138cfm cooling fan like you’d have on a large computer and fabricated a support from a PVC bus hub and a rubber reducer coupling and ended up with this …..we flushed the system and the motor was as cool as a cucumber !!!

 

The “woodwork” turned into tearing out 60% of our port settee and replacing the entire seat and a small section of the outboard bulkhead that separates the storage area.  I used marine grade plywood and treated it with Copper Coat which is a 9% copper solution that prevents future mold, mildew, rot and insect infestation.  I also increased the size of the access hatches so we can store dive tanks under the settee.  The biggest challenge was matching the shape of the board that was glassed into that area which would not come out in one piece…or even six !!  A lot of the outer edge had to be ground out of the fiberglass.  I took this opportunity to run some extra 0 gauge wire forward for the addition of some  electrical items down the road. I was tempted to remove the washing machine during this process, but decided we could do that later.

Next time…alternator….masthead instruments…..pump alignment….fridge/freezer…..etc….etc….etc

An interesting new product we discovered….”Sugru”

On our boat we have a lot of essential electronic equipment.  Some of these devices have remote handsets you can use to control and/or monitor the device like the Autopilot, VHF radio or windlass.  These handsets have coiled, rubber coated cables that run from the control head to the plug.

Recently, our autopilot control head cable began to deteriorate.  This was pretty concerning since our autopilot was manufactured by a European company called “Cetrek” and they have been out of business for a few years.  Since a new autopilot would be around $1500 for just the equipment, we were tying to come up with a way to repair this, and future, cables.

I found a product online called “Sugru” and it is described as a “moldable glue”.  It is billed as being waterproof (including salt water), UV resistant, flexible, electrically insulating, heat/cold resistant and shock / vibration resistant.  This was readily available on Amazon so I ordered a multi pack.  It comes in various colors but for our purposes black matches our cords.

 

I applied the first section as a test and in 24 hours it was fully cured and seemed to live up to it’s sales pitch.  I plan to cover the rest of the deteriorating cord and we will post an update in a few months when we can fully evaluate the wear it stands up to during our travels. I also suspect that Sugru will be a good replacement for caulking around spaces like those around our chainplate through hull openings on the deck combing which need to be recaulked every few years or they leak.  This may be a permanent fix for that issue!!!  It was a great improvement over the electrical tape wrapping I was trying to use on the cord. It was easy to use and not messy at all.

The new Sugru wrapping …..

The old, ugly, sticky tape wrapping ……

You can get some Sugru for yourself right here using this link !!!

 

 

Eleuthera…spiders and seaglass….and breaking stuff

After our harrowing experience at Little San Salvador we made our way to Rock Sound, Eleuthera later that day and anchored for a few weeks….it ended up being longer then anticipated due to some clumsiness on my part.

I had decided that we were due for an oil change.  We were way under on engine hours but over on the time frame for an oil change, so I decided to change the oil and filter while we were here.  Well, long story short, I pumped out the used oil, without spilling a drop (which I should have known was a bad sign) but couldn’t find my slimline strap wrench to remove the filter.  So, I went to the local NAPA and bought a slightly larger wrench that I hoped would work.  Unfortunately, the width of the new wrench snagged the oil cooler line and ruptured it….uh-oh…..bad weather was forecast for the upcoming weekend and after the Little San Salvador incident this was almost too much to deal with….essentially we were going to be without an engine until we received a new line….which in the Bahamas could take weeks……and it did…..we spent about three and a half weeks total and it turned out to be a good thing because we had time to see things and visit our favorite spots again and again.

Part of the moral to this story is ….take plenty of spare parts when you venture away from the U.S.  We have a cruiser’s kit onboard but it doesn’t include oil cooler lines.  I won’t make that mistake again……

 

here’s a satellite image of Eleuthera.  The pin is Rock Sound. The Glass Window Bridge is in the skinny part of the island just north of Gregory Town.
Image courtesy of Google Maps

We considered renting a car, but ran into the insurance issue again, so we hired a driver (Lyle) to give us a tour of the island.  He was a super nice guy and was full of knowledge about spots on the island.  The price wasn’t bad, eight hours for $125 plus he knew a great place for lunch.

The Glass Window bridge is in northern Eleuthera and is one of the few places you can see the Atlantic and the banks side of the ocean at the same time.  It’s more impressive when the weather is unsettled but still pretty cool.

The east side of the “glass window bridge” on the east side of Eleuthera see the video on my Facebook page….

 

the west side of the Glass Window….

 

 

Me at the cliffs….east side of northern Eleuthera

 

 

Long view of the Cotton(Ceiba) Silk Tree

 

A Cotton Silk or Ceiba tree

 

Cotton Silk Tree…upview

 

Beautiful beachfront church in Rock Sound

 

An abandoned 1950’s fire truck stored behind a Kalik beer warehouse….

 

In the spider cave….Kim doesn’t look worried at all….

 

We found this little guy dead on the side of the road….that’s about a 2″ Gatorade lid for scale…..maybe he was hit by a car…..I wonder how badly the car was damaged?

 

The “Boiling Hole” near the Spider Cave

The “boiling hole” is essentially a blue hole or a cave that is connected to the ocean.  At times, if the tide rises or falls rapidly, the water will churn and bubble. Many of the early residents believed these holes were homes to sea monsters.  Animal and fish carcasses would occasionally surface in these holes after hurricanes which only reinforced that belief.

Kim descends to her spidery doom….
The spiders are here !!!

Kim looks apprehensive …..

The beaches on the east side of Eleuthera were among some of the most beautiful and isolated….there was also a TON of seaglass…..

 

The spoils of a couple of hours of seaglass hunting…we found a few black pieces which are the third most rare ….
Believe it or not….that’s the moon

 

We found a great little restaurant and resort on the east side of Eleuthera across from Rock Sound.  It was owned by a wonderful lady named Rose Gibson. She was super friendly, would pick us up when she saw us walking around town, took us for an impromptu island tour one day while fish shopping and was a great cook !!! There are five cabins on her property that are on a hillside overlooking the ocean…..

Here’s a link to her website…..if you go tell her Brett and Kim sent you !!!

http://www.northsideinneleuthera.com


Remnants of the former Cotton growing industry spring up all over the island ……

There were thousands of these little land crabs running back and forth between the foliage and the surf….dropping off their eggs

 

A cropped version of this photo of Kim was used in Cruising Outpost Magazine’s weekly online photo collection….

Mike arrives and brings a double rainbow….and has a Kalik !!

Since Hurricane Irma’s recent swing past the Bahamas you’ll be pleased to know that the islands here were largely untouched. We haven’t heard of any structural damage anywhere in Eleuthera.

A great resource for Radio repair

This is just a quick entry to say thank you to Jahnke Electronics in Green Bay, WI……just before we left Florida we had an issue with our Kenwood TS-50 HF transceiver.  It was blowing the inline fuse when transmitting.  Without that radio we can’t receive emails or weather reports when we are away from wifi and out of range of the NOAA weather reports broadcast by the Coast Guard on the VHF radio.  We also use it to monitor maritime and weather voice networks.

 

The people at Jahnke checked out our radio, cleaned and aligned it, checked the capacitors, replaced the power button and replaced the memory battery, all for $100 !!! Plus it only took a few days !! It has been working great since then…..they weren’t able to replicate the fuse issue after they maintenanced it and replaced the on/off switch, but it works and that’s the most important thing for us.

Since we recently got our “HAM” licenses we look forward to many years of service from this radio…..thanks to Jahnke……

here’s a Link to their website …..

http://jahnkeelectronics.com/index.php

Things we fixed (aka broke) along the way….

Things we fixed…..(the last few things on this list were more like upgrades)

Both heads (toilets)…..rebuilt the pumps, replaced the intake and output lines, replaced the water intake strainers, siphon breaks..rebuilt the forward head pump multiple times before finally replacing the entire housing…

Diesel—adjusted the Valve lash, oil changes, used high dose diesel cleaning solution treatment four times due to contamination of our injector pump…(this wasn’t an issue we caused, it was caused by a boat yards poor work in NC)

Patch the Genoa Sail sunbrella sacrificial cover

Racor filter / housing rebuild and filter change

image

Galley Faucet….this began to leak and reached a critical point while moored in Key West…..the faucet was so old that the owner of a plumbing supply warehouse, who was in the family business for 50 years said he hadn’t seen one of these in 35 or 40 years!!!

Galley Sink….at some point in our boat’s history….someone (possibly a sadist) used 3M 5200 to seal the sink to the countertop…..for those of you unfamiliar with 5200, it’s a great product for installing things you want to be bulletproof…..it’s not so great for something you might want to remove….ever……even employees at boatyards groan audibly when they learn they have to remove something installed with 5200….it has been nicknamed by some “death paste”.   The upside is, since the edge of our sink was so severely damaged during removal, we had a custom single bowl sink fabricated and installed …..if anyone needs such a replacement let us know we have a great source for these sinks !!!

imageimageimage

 

Drinking water inline filters (x3)

Aft head cold water faucet replacement

Power switch for VHF radio….which completely deteriorated and fell apart in my hand when we went to switch on the radio to check the weather in the Dry Tortugas…..

Zinc replacement x2

Remove lines from props ….five times….one with a crab trap on it….no bonus crabs though….

image

Tune up, recommission the diving air compressor and change the breathing air filter

image

Replace outboard prop and kill switch

Refrigerator coolant line unclogging

Replace Aft cabin fan….then replace defective blade….then fan died…again…ugh

Unclog Lazarette drains

Unclog sink drain x2

Fix aft head intake leaking seacock

Replace steering sheave and pins

image

Replace Hatch solar fans

Replace / upgrade anchor to a Mantus 85lb galvanized anchor

image

Upgrade Battery cables, install battery bank monitors, replace underrated/melted battery selector switch and install a main fuse for battery banks

imageIMG_2049

Install new Wind instruments and displays

Painted the salon and V-berth interior

Repair salon sole soft spots

Shower stall refinish……

This all added up to about $12k for the year in boat upkeep….they say to anticipate 10% per year of your boat’s value for upkeep so we are a little high but fingers crossed that goes down next year……

 

   

So,….How much does it cost to live and travel on a Sailboat ????

Aspiring cruisers frequently ask the question “What does it cost to do this?” …..that’s tough to answer unless you keep records for a few months, at least.   Plus it can be difficult since boats and their systems come in various sizes and levels of complexity.  The larger the boat and the more systems you have on board the greater the associated costs.  We feel like we live pretty well on Kitty Hawk.  She has a nice balance of systems and amenities without feeling like you are camping  on the water.

For us, generally speaking, we run between $3,000 and $4,000 per month.  Some months if we don’t have an upgrade or repair and we anchor out more, we are closer to that $3k number.  Some of our friends who cruised in the 1980’s have told us they could get by on as little as $300 per month !!! Looking back, my first car in 1982 cost me $400 !!!

Kim, fortunately, is becoming meticulous when it comes to documenting our expenses on a daily basis.  Now that we have a full year under our belts, I thought it was time to put all of her hard work together into a post.  Since the process of categorizing expenses has taken some time to refine, I decided to limit this first accounting to the last six months.  That should help to make this more understandable.

Unfortunately, the app we use to track these expenses can’t export the information.  We have to use screen shots of the reports, so the resolution isn’t the best but you’ll be able to see how things break down percentage wise.

image

image

 

It seems like the first half of the year is always the most expensive.  Since hurricane season starts on June 1, that tends to be the time when we get any professional assistance with any needed repairs started.  We also pay for our annual hurricane haulout reservation in May, which adds between $250 and $500 to the budget.  There was also about $2,000 of extra expenses, due to some poor work we had done in North Carolina in 2015, that not only required corrective repairs but caused some damages that needed repair also.  There are some front loaded services for the year that come up and we are in the process of dividing these up over the whole year. The average for this last six month period was about $4,480.00 per month.  Adjusting for the extra repairs this number should be more like $4,100.00.   I feel safe in saying that this number will continue to go down as we move forward.  Our rough numbers for the twelve month period was closer to $3,000 per month. I hope our upcoming years will be closer to that $3,000 mark, or less !!

Our largest category, Entertainment, covers anytime we eat out, away from the boat, or any other land based excursions (Parks, tours or the like).

The second largest, Monthly expenses, includes set, recurring expenses.  Things like XM Radio subscriptions, cell phones, our MiFi hot spot, DAN insurance, Boat/car/life insurance, personal property taxes and membership fees fall into this category (our old sailing club dues, our current marina association, Elks club, etc).

In third place we have Miscellaneous, that includes things like income taxes, laundry, health/vision, other supplies, fishing gear, scuba gear, and hotels.

Transportation includes, taxis, buses and rental cars.

Fuel includes both the diesel for the boat and gasoline for any vehicles we use along the way, plus the gas for the dinghy and dive compressor.

“Lowes” is our catch all category for any hardware store expense.

The Marina category covers any docking expenses or other fees incurred while at a Marina or private dock (Wifi, water, electricity etc).

The Alcohol category covers wine, beer or liquor that we buy to keep on the boat. (That 2% is much lower than anyone anticipated, I bet !!)

We will compile another report like this in another six months and include both periods to see how the expenses shape up once we have all the categories locked in.

Never fear….the Key West Post is still coming…..it’s still in the draft phase….

 

It’s been a while…..how have you been ? Or ….Mermaids (?) but no Dolphins

Well, we have made it to the Keys 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉 !!!!!!

We spent a few days motoring south on the ICW in order to reach Lake Worth where we planned to leave Florida and re-enter at Biscayne Bay just South of Miami.  We enjoyed a visit from my youngest sister and even convinced her to pilot the boat for a short period …….sadly, it was the first time we can recall not seeing any Dolphins or Manatees…..it was weird. My sister was understandably disappointed, but that just means she has to come back sooner. Hurry back Sis!!!

 

image

 

We we spent an unexpected three days in Ft. Pierce due to the New Year holiday (who knew some marinas closed all day on New Years Day?) and discovering that the wind was going to be pretty heavy plus we had developed a stalling issue with our diesel.  We discovered the issue while trying to pick up a mooring ball in Vero Beach…..it is a VERY SMALL area with two and three boats on some mooring balls…….a pretty exciting few minutes there…..my apologies to the residents of that mooring field….we couldn’t slow down and when I did, we stalled so I had to come in at about 4 knots and then once we went to neutral we stalled and coasted up to the ball.

We did get to meet a VERY nice and professional TowBoatUS Captain named Al, the next day in Ft. Pierce, which was our first ever tow….if you don’t have BOATUS Towing insurance I highly recommend buying the best package you can afford….we use the unlimited Gold and its only $180 per year and worth every cent….this tow alone would have been $370.

A great by product of this mechanical misadventure was that we discovered what we have decided must be manufactured from voluntarily donated unicorn blood, or some other mystical creature.  Our diesel started fine….ran fine for hours…..then when we tried to shift for neutral we would stall……after some research and consulting with the folks at Trans Atlantic Diesel (a big Thank you to our diesel guru Marcus Neville) we acquired the magic juice…..

image

It’s called “Stanadyne Performance Formula” and your diesel can actually run on just it, but it’s about $80 a gallon, so if you have that kinda coin, can you float me a little?? Long story short, we drained our fuel filters and filled them with this additive, ran the engine at varying RPM’s for an hour ….and …..VOILÁ !!!! SHE RAN LIKE NEW !!!!! We couldn’t even cause a stall…..

We left Ft. Pierce on January 2, 2016 after ringing in the New Year at Cobb’s ….a great restaurant and tiki bar in Ft. Pierce.  If you ever get near there I highly recommend that stop.  We made a quick one night stop in Stuart where the winds howled again that night.  We had the chance to catch up with some friends from our old sailing club, Rick and Cathy.

We arrived arrived in Lake Worth the next day and spent five days in a Marina since the winds kicked up yet again and were blowing 30 knots.  Once that settled down we proceeded on our trek where we anchored just South of Peanut Island (where the JFK Cuban Missile Crisis bomb shelter was built) and we spent five days there again riding out 20+ knot winds…. And rain….and heavy chop…..did I mention that I think the wind is following us ? Lake Worth stretches between North Palm Beach, West Palm Beach and Palm Beach…..

Peanut Island is a man made island constructed from then dredged material created from the digging of the Palm Beach Inlet and Basin and is also the home to JFK’s Cuban Missile Crisis Nuke Shelter.  It seems his family owned a home nearby and the Secret Service chose this spot in the event of a nuclear attack to protect the President.

 

Kim seated at JFK's Bomb Shelter Desk
Kim seated at JFK’s Bomb Shelter Desk
Me ...running for the bomb shelter!!!
Me …running for the bomb shelter!!!
The JFK Nuke shelter entrance
The JFK Nuke shelter entrance

 

 

image

We we noticed after four days of the bucking bronco that our anchor snubber …(snubber: a device made of dock line and a saddle or slotted plate that rides on the anchor chain that is used to absorb the shock of the boat pitching and pulling on its anchor)

….had worn through the starboard side thimble ….(a thimble is  curved section of metal fitted into a loop of spliced line to protect the line from strain and chafe)….so we had to get that replaced at Florida Line and Rigging….another great cruiser friendly place in Palm Beach and Erin really hooked us up, had the new line done in an hour and did a great job on our new snubber line.

See the really rusty loop at the end of that line ?? Rust bad….

 

image

 

The winds and tides at Lake Worth so often ran against each other that our boat and anchor line looked like they were practicing yoga or twister…..I made a rough diagram of how it looked on one day……the yellow line is our anchor chain…the red part is the chain and anchor that was buried in the sand……its no wonder people often think their anchors are set when their boat doesn’t drift away but many times it’s just the tide and wind working against each other plus the weight of the chain and anchor holding you in place….that’s why we always back down (i.e. Reverse and pull) against our anchor to be sure we are set.

 

image

We left Lake Worth and cruised down the coast with 15 to 20 knot winds behind us and following seas…..sadly, not as comfortable a ride as the old saying would lead you to believe.  After we came into Biscayne Bay and crossed over into Key Largo, we stopped over at Gilbert’s resort for a night and met a nice couple who worked there, they are also interested in living on their own sailboat….it was great to meet you Lorenzo and Kate…..

 

Well, that’s it for now……

 

 

Two heads are better than one….or so we’ve been led to believe…

First and foremost…..Merry Christmas from the crew of Kitty Hawk……

The casting net Christmas Tree ….an ingenious design by our friend Joan….

image

Well….this month has been a busy one….we’ve had a total of seven visitors on board Kitty Hawk and have two more on the way.  We’ve done a lot of work to Kitty Hawk to get her ready for the next leg of our journey.  Like any aspect of life on board, using any system can and eventually will, expose any deficiencies or lack of maintenance.

During this month, we rebuilt both pump assemblies of our forward and aft heads.  For those not up to speed on nautical terminology, a head is a bathroom and also the name of the actual on board toilet.  So if you say “I’m going to the head” you just mean you’re going to the restroom.  If you say “the head is clogged” you mean that the toilet has failed to deliver whatever was deposited in it to the intended destination, decided to stop the flow of other materials in the future and by extension, ruined the Captain’s day.

Now, you may ask yourself, “Why call it a head?”….good question.  In the old days when ships could generally only sail downwind, the placement of the head was in the very forward most area of the ship.  Also, near the figurehead that many ships of that day sported for numerous superstitious, decorative or identification reasons. The natural wave action of the boat moving through the sea provided a “flushing out” as the seawater moved into and out of that space through openings in the hull just above the waterline.  Also, since the vessel was sailing downwind the smell was being carried away from the rest of the boat.

image

During our rebuild of our heads, (which are Raritan Compact II manual heads, which means they must be manually pumped to drain and introduce water as opposed to electric heads which just require the push of a button) we ran into an issue where the pump assembly, simply would not stop leaking. We disassembled and reassembled the unit about a half dozen times.  It had what we thought was just a difficult seal around one of the bolts that holds the pump to the base.  My brilliant wife said “could there be a crack in that we can’t see?”  Well, long story short even thought we couldn’t see or feel a crack…there was one…..once we we replaced the pump housing….voilá…no leak.

image

Once the pump was removed we could see the hairline crack on the backside….it looked like a mark from a wrench…..we made sure to inspect all of our spare units and discarded any with a similar mark….so we threw away three of them….which will cost about $110 a piece to replace….ow.

Since we had two sets of visitors it was only right that during each visit one of our heads clogged.  Our aft head was first during the first set of visitors and then our forward head lines clogged.  Maybe two heads really are better than one ? Haha….you don’t want to be without a head at all.  I had even made the comment that “if the aft one has clogged the forward one can’t be far behind” how regrettably right I was.   We were glad it happened where we were, rather than away from easy access to transportation and parts.  Plus, I had assistance from one of our guests when the forward head clogged.  The upside is we have rebuilt pumps and brand new lines for both heads now. These clogs are mostly caused by calcium build up from using salt water to flush the heads.  We are considering changing to composting heads in the future but for now they are just too expensive plus we should get four or five years of use after this rebuild.

On the upside…between clogged heads…..a neighbor and I landed an enormous Redfish….so two heads did work better than one in that instance……sadly, it  was over the size limit to keep but may have been a state record…..

image

 

 

 

The psychological struggles of living aboard……

 

“The battle of life is, in most cases, fought uphill; and to win it without a struggle were perhaps to win it without honor. If there were no difficulties there would be no success; if there were nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to be achieved.”   –  Samuel Smiles

I have felt, at certain points in my life, that I had been successful in certain aspects because I had chosen some paths of lesser resistance or perhaps only attempted things at which I already knew, or felt, I could succeed.  Right or wrong, I think everyone has these feelings at one time or another.  During these times you can doubt your abilities to adapt or overcome adversity, to learn and comprehend new ideas and master new or unfamiliar  technologies.  The important thing to remember is that no matter how alone you feel, help isn’t far away.  This help may come even from within through exercising some patience and the study of your “enemy”.

Once you have committed to live on board a boat of any type, you will almost certainly be faced with a situation, repair or replacement of some system or component with which you are unfamiliar or unskilled.  This can make you feel very overwhelmed and even helpless.  It can even make you want to abandon the dream if you hit a really low spot.  A combination of challenges or gear failures can test even the most hearty among us.  You will question your decision to pursue the dream you have committed to and wonder if you have done the right thing.  After all, for many cruisers, embarking on a long term cruise or to live aboard full time requires a tremendous sacrifice of stability, financial and physical.  These feelings can be compounded by the distance from assistance of any type and a lack of readily available support, whether it is technical or emotional.

It is important during these times to remember that patience pays off.  The seemingly insurmountable problems of today can be overcome with some time and even the slightest change of perspective.  Don’t be afraid to take your time, walk away from the project and take advantage of the time it takes to have parts delivered and recharge your batteries.  You can’t reasonably expect to be an expert in every field, unless of course you happen to be an ABYC Master Certified Techinican in a variety of fields, in which case, do you have any free time to stop by Kitty Hawk ? Haha….(no, seriously, swing by..)

Whenever I am faced with a repair of a system with which I am unfamiliar, I always take the time to conduct a “reasonable” amount of research on the system or component before I try to tackle it.   This can relieve a tremendous amount of anxiety.  Dealing with the unknown only adds a layer to the stress of the situation.  Many systems on a boat, sail or power, have evolved to be reasonably user friendly.  The research tactic can also translate to the planning of a trip to a new cruising area.  Reading the cruising guides, thoroughly reviewing the charts and comments from others who have visited the area before you can make the unknown much less intimidating. If you are anything like me, knowledge reduces stress.  Don’t be afraid to contact a professional and get their input. I was initially surprised how many will give you free advice (not unlimited) on how to best tackle your problem.  I have even enlisted professionals to evaluate my repairs for as little as one hour of their normal labor rate to be certain I hadn’t missed anything.  You’d be surprised how generous they can be with their time in these circumstances.

I can’t imagine how some cruisers make it.  I have seen many online requests for help because the people living on their boat didn’t know how to fix or maintain their engine, outboard, dinghy or any other systems and were apparently unwilling or unable to research the repairs and couldn’t afford professional help.  Their first and only recourse was an online plea through social media for assistance.  Most of these requests are from the same people over and over again.  Living with that degree of uncertainty would most certainly diminish my enjoyment to the point that I might surrender and I’ve seen almost all of those cases end up in a “Boat for sale” posting.

So, how do you avoid that?

Research.  You know how they used to say “Reading Is Fundamental” ? Well, it wasn’t just a catchy slogan.  If you know going in that you can’t afford much (or any) professional help, learn as much as you can about your potential dream boat’s systems.

Take “baby steps”.  There are tons of seminars (online and real time) being given away out there.   They cover everything from repairs and maintenance to upgrading and even boat handling skills. Go to (and watch online) as many as you can.  Be prepared to get a “starter boat” and move up from there adding complexity as you go.  If you can’t resist buying your dream boat right out of the gate, limit your cruising until you can become versed in the systems and their upkeep/maintenance.  That way you don’t end up stranded in a remote location.

Be realistic.  Don’t make your first boat a Pandora’s box of systems you know nothing about and assume nothing will break or go wrong.  The learning curve can be steep and you don’t want to break the bank (or your spirit) in the process.

Finally, remember it’s supposed to be a fun adventure, not a soul crushing grind.  If you don’t rush things and learn as you go, even a complex  problem can be an enjoyable challenge.

And now, a moment to relax after discussing all those stressful obstacles…..

image