November 3, 2014

What Breaks – and What Spares to Carry?

nothing like watching the sunset while making a repair...

I have lived aboard for about 13 years on two boats, and had many evening conversations with other cruisers. Talk among the men often turns to ‘what am I fixing this week’. 

Here’s a short list of common failure points from our point of view, and other cruisers.  And some suggestions for spares to carry for extended cruising:

  • Pressure water pump (usually the pressure switch fails but it’s faster to swap out an entire pump).

  • Propane regulator (we have had a couple fail, mostly because of exposed lockers that see salt water splashes).

  • Propane solenoid valve (these last us about 2 years, again due to salt water and non-rusting construction).

  • Propane barbeque regulator/valve – the Magma ones are particularly bad.

  • Marine Head – carry a rebuild kit. We have the cheapest Jabsco, both on this boat and the last boat. They are actually pretty good if you go easy on the TP. An entire spare pump assembly is cheaper than the parts for many other more expensive models.

  • Navigation light bulbs – this is obvious, but the plastic lenses on the fittings themselves can also fail due to UV. Errant sheets can tear off or damage side/bow lights.

  • Sea water pump impeller – again, obvious but do have spares.

  • Outboard motor kill switch – I’ve seen lots of these fail on our motors and others. Usually you can easily bypass them, but if your motor won’t even turn over make sure it’s not a missing key or a dead switch.

  • Outboard motor fuel hose connectors – O-rings tend to collect grunge and then leak. They can be repaired sometimes but it’s tricky to get them out without an o-ring pick.

  • Cabin fans – in hot climates you should have at least 1 spare. They can run for 24 hours straight on the hot days.

  • Windlass foot switches – again, an exposed location where they get frequent salt water baths make them likely failure points.

  • Anything made by Raymarine/Autohelm. I think it’s the British legacy of Lucas Electrics coming to haunt them. They can’t seem to keep things watertight. We try to mount all our electronics inside the boat. The only outside electronics is a depthsounder at the helm chair and an external autopilot ram. Everything else is inside, out of the rain and the weather.

  • Submersible bilge pumps – hairs around the impeller are a common source of failure, jamming the rotor and then melting the insulation.

  • Bilge pump float switches – seem to have a lifespan measured in days sometimes.

  • Galley ellectric hand mixers – Diane and Maia can kill one of these in a few short minutes when mixing dough. They tend to miss the smell of melting insulation until it’s too late. J

- Evan


LaurenBuchholz said...

We got rid of the old mechanical float switches on Piko about 5 years ago, and this worked the entire time.

If you got something nasty in your bilgle, you may have to take a towel and wipe the slime off it, but worked like new 5 years later...

Tod Flak said...

Thanks for posting this list... very informative,. As we are about to leave San Diego in two days, I am happy that we have at least some of the spares you recommend... but worry about the items on your list that we don't have! We shall see.