Monday, 28 March 2011

The Cost of Complexity

It was beautiful weather this weekend, but Limbo is yet to have an outing.  I'm making progress though; the new water pipes, filter and pump are in (tastes pretty good so far), the engine has a new impeller and started first time, and the decks are scrubbed.  I've given the cockpit's teak grating a good clean (oxalic acid brought the colour back), glued a broken piece of the cap rail (Gorilla glue - seems to work..) and even got round to scraping off the remnants of a Poole harbour dues sticker I unwisely attached to one of the windows a couple of years ago (white spirit).

So, progress...but I still need to give the cabin a proper clean, polish the interior wood, re-attach the GPS and VHF, put back all the galley equipment, safety equipment, anchor and various other pieces of gear, fit the jackstays and newly re-sewn dodgers (kindly repaired by the First Mate and Chief Dolphin Spotter's mother), check over the rigging, and re-attach the sails.  That's before any of the improvement jobs I want to do.

Beating to Studland, 2010.  We'll be out again soon..
 These routine little and not-so-little chores are numerous enough even for a simply equipped 26 footer; I don't particularly envy those who choose to sail boats twice the size, loaded to the gills with water makers, generators, pressurised water and electric winches (well, not that often, anyway!).  All more stuff to be serviced and fixed when it almost inevitably breaks down.  On a boat, everything that you add to supposedly make life easier comes with a cost beyond the all-too-obvious financial one.  There's definitely a balance to be struck; but the temptation is always to add more kit.  Doing so can create almost a domino effect of problems, and keep your boat in harbour when you should be out sailing.

A frustrating article in Yachting World last month recognised this downside of cruising, particularly when going long distance ('boat maintenance on tropical islands', as bluewater sailing is often called).  It's great that the problem was acknowledged; but the author's answer?  In a nutshell...take lots of spares!  No mention of simplification, or the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, you're likely to have a much less stressful time if you do without.  

Just in case you think I'm merely theorising, here's a list of maintenance jobs on a well-equipped Hallberg Rassy 42 I crewed in the South Pacific a few years ago.   Her owner was experienced, from an engineering background, and - fortunately for him - enjoyed maintaining and fixing things.   This isn't to say that many of these couldn't have arisen on a smaller, simpler boat, but the effect is cumulative; the less there is to go wrong the better.  And this was on a newish, well-maintained boat over a mere 7 week period.
  • replace failed wind generator (old one failed to shut down in strong winds)
  • broken outboard shaft connection
  • clean outboard carburettor
  • fit new sheaves to new genoa track
  • fit electrical noise suppressor to fridge (interferes with SSB reception)
  • clean shower drain filter and pump
  • reglue rubbing strip on dinghy
  • change generator oil
  • fit new wiring under floorboards
  • investigate skewed weatherfax issue
  • investigate broken anchor windlass (£1300 and several days waiting for spares)
  • fit new anchor windlass, when spares finally arrive
  • mend broken preventor block
  • wind vane steering no longer in clear air due to new radar arch(!) - requires resiting
  • shorten and adjust battens
  • fix cord used to keep settee backs in place
  • mend door catch
  • mend bimini
  • replace windex
  • replace broken ball-race track for booming out pole
  • repaid ripped mainsail
  • replace badly corroded screws on Taylor stove (requires wholesale removal of cooker)
  • grease heads pump
  • discover new windlass daisy is the wrong size
  • unblock shower drain again..
Waiting for parts kept us in Tahiti for several days when we were raring to go.  Having said that, there are worse places to be stuck...

Sunset over Moorea from Tahiti anchorage, 2003.  Go there!

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