Mid-Life Cruising Sabbatical

Chapter 11

Spare Parts & Tools


OK, so now you've stocked the galley. What about spare parts and tools to fix all the things that are going to break?

We have a simple rule about spares and tools: don't carry a part that you can't install yourself and don't carry a tool that you can't use. You can spend a lot of money buying spares that you may or may not use. We certainly did. Assuming you are following our route, spares are readily available along the way, and when they are not you can get them shipped from the US. In most countries you can get your parts shipped duty free as a "yacht in transit". It may take a little work on your part to do this, but, heh, you're cruising - what's a little time?

Obviously what you take in spares depends on what you have on your boat. However, here's some general advice:

Ground Tackle

You'll obviously take more than one anchor so you can't really call them spares. Don't forget spare rodes though and shackles. Assuming you use chain and line some day some idiot is going to cut your rode. It's nice to have a spare to use while you are practicing your marlinespike stuff.

We bought new anchor rodes before we left. We bought 600 feet (an entire spool; cheaper that way) of 3/4 inch line; cut it in half and spliced thimbles on each end of each piece. That gave us a new rode for each of our primary anchors (45 lb CQR and 33 lb Bruce). The thimble on each end allowed us to turn the rodes around and use both ends of the rode.

Sails

Most people carry more than one headsail which, again, can't really be considered as spares. We had a 135% Genoa on roller furling and carried a storm jib. Never used the storm jib. I don't know anybody that carried a spare main (too expensive and takes too much room). So you should carry some method of repairing your main should it become damaged. Many cruisers carry sewing machines. Some carry manual sewing kits. Our answer was some super duty sail repair "tape" we got from a loft in Miami. I put the word "tape" in quotes because this stuff was actually in rolls about two feet wide. Never used it.

Before we left we took all sails to the loft and had them re-stitched. We never had any need for repairs along the way.

Running Rigging

Lines wear and break and shackles and blocks break. Carry spares such that you can replace (on a one by one basis) every running line, every block and every shackle. This doesn't mean you have to go out and buy a bunch of stuff. Dock lines will serve as sheets (they probably started out life that way). One spare block may work in many places.

Our outhaul shackle broke at least three times and the shackle attaching the head of the main to the halyard broke once. We carried a wide range of shackles as spares.

Standing Rigging

Again, expensive and hard to store. In an emergency you could use anchor rode as a spare. Our solution was to carry chain and bulldog clips. Standing rigging almost always breaks at an end (actually usually the fitting fails). Using the original stay, chain, bulldog clips and shackles you can fashion an acceptable replacement. The bulldog clips attach the chain to the stay and the shackle attaches the chain to the tang.

Engine Oil and Filters

Remember that your engine is going to get a lot of work. Assuming you change oil every 100 hours, you could be changing oil once a month instead of once a season. Oil is available everywhere if you are not picky about brand. Filters for specific engines might not be. Carry several.

Since you are going to be changing oil a lot, you might consider "remoting" your oil filter. You can buy kits from automotive supply stores that allow you to mount your oil filter on the bulkhead next to your engine. This makes it much easier to get to the filter. In the case of our Perkins, the filter on the engine is upside down. How you are supposed to get it off without spilling oil everywhere is beyond me. The remote set-up allowed the filter to be mounted right side up. I remember the kit cost about $ 30.

You also might want to look into a pump to get the oil out of the sump. We used a 12v job from Boat US that worked fine. We kept it in a Rubbermaid box all its own so it did not make a mess when stored.

Buy shop towels and Grease Relief to clean up spilled oil. Go to a medical supply house and buy a box a latex surgical gloves (no I'm nor getting kinky here -- just read on). Don't waste money on sterile ones. You can get a 100 for about     $ 20. Use them when you change the oil or fuel filters. Not only do the keep your hands clean, but they also give you a better grip. Remember you're in the tropics and your hands are sweaty.

Fuel System

One more time -- you are going to run your engine a lot. Ergo you are going to use a lot of fuel. Some of the fuel you buy will not be the cleanest. Translation -- lots of fuel filters. Here is one place I agree with Bruce Van Sant in his "Gentleman's Guide To Passages South". In it he describes an arrangement of two primary fuel filters installed in parallel with valves allowing either to be used.

You may have read about using a "Baja" filter on the fuel you purchase. Forget it. No fuel dock is going to let you tie up their space running fuel through such a device (they are incredibly slow because they use gravity to push the fuel through). Accept the fact that you are going to get dirty fuel.

We knew one boat that had two separate fuel tanks. They put new fuel in one and pumped it to the other, filtering along the way. A solution, but who has two fuel tanks and can afford to carry only one full?

A comment on primary and secondary fuel filters. Most boats have a primary fuel filter (like a Racor) mounted on a bulkhead and a secondary filter as part of the engine. The fuel flows first through the primary filter then through the secondary. In our Perkins 4-108 the primary filter was a Racor with a 5 micron filter. The secondary was a 20 micron filter. I'll bet your engine is similar. Think about it. Something which passes through a 5 micron filter is not going to get caught in a 20 micron filter! So don't bother carrying spare secondary filters (well, maybe one).  (After I originally posted this chapter I got email saying that I was wrong.  The writer said imagine a fuel pollutant as a human hair.  If it is straightened out it has a small diameter and can pass through your 5 micron filter.  Before it gets to the secondary it gets balled up and is too large to pass through the 20 micron secondary.  I guess this could happen, but every time I checked my secondary filter, it looked snow white and brand new.  Now, in 2003, I would seriously consider something like the Gulf Coast Filter products.)

I think it also a good idea to carry a spare fuel lift pump. I would not carry a spare injector pump because they are expensive and although you (not me) might be able to install one, calibrating it would be another matter. I would not bother with spare injectors. You can buy them and/or get your old ones serviced all along the way, usually much cheaper than in the US.

Water Pumps

We all know to carry spare impellers for our raw water pumps. Each new impeller comes with a new gasket. Buy spare gaskets. They only cost a few cents. If you open the pump to check the impeller and find it OK you will need a new gasket. Also look at those little screws that hold the cover on your raw water pump. Are they brass? What are the chances that at some point in your cruise the bilge is going to eat one? Buy spares, again for a few cents each.  (Now I see that there is a nifty product that helps with this problem.  See Safer Boat.

We had an engine and a generator so we had two raw water pumps and two fresh water pumps. During our 31 months all four were replaced or rebuilt. Rebuild kits are available for most pumps but sometimes it is better to buy an entire rebuilt or new pump. A rebuild kit for the Perkins 4-108 costs about $ 55. An entire rebuilt pump costs about $ 85. However, to install the rebuild kit you need a hydraulic press to remove and replace the shaft. Got one of those handy? We didn't. The moral is that sometimes rebuild kits are not such a good buy. Consider the specifics on your engine before deciding.

Other Engine Spares

Carry fan belts of course. You should carry at least a valve cover gasket and maybe a complete gasket kit (at least upper set) for your engine. Some people carry a spare alternator. Don't forget zincs.

Watermaker

If you have a water maker you will need filters for it. We found identical ones to those sold by the manufacturer at Sears for 1/4 the price. We also carried two rebuild kits and never used either one. We would have used one, but the pump failed under warranty and was rebuilt as part of the warranty repair. I would not carry a rebuild kit again. Expensive and easy to get from the States.

Fresh Water Pumps

Most boat use a diaphragm pump (like a Par) for pressurized water. Carry a rebuild kit and maybe a spare pump. You might also consider replacing your diaphragm pump with an impeller one. Buy it from an RV dealer. Same pump, much cheaper.

Bilge Pumps and Switches

We had both a diaphragm and a submersible (Rule) bilge pump. The diaphragm one was rebuilt during the trip. We never had any trouble from the Rule, but we did go through a couple of switches. A rebuild kit for your manual bilge pump would be a good idea. Not that you use it much, but the heat and humidity seem to do in the diaphragm and seals (ours was a Whale).

Raw Water Strainers

We had three raw water strainers: one for the engine, one for the generator and one for the air conditioner. All ours were identical Perko and we carried a complete spare. Never used it. We also carried spare parts like covers, wing nuts, and baskets. These we did use.

Heads

Expect to spend a lot of time maintaining your heads. Carry rebuild kits; you'll use them. Two bad things happen to heads. Calcium deposits build up, especially in the discharge hoses and the pump seals wear out. You can cut down on the calcium build up by flushing a mild acid solution. Some people use straight vinegar. Van Sant recommends using diluted muriatic (hydrochloric) acid. He has a whole set of recipes for using muriatic acid, in fact. You buy it concentrated in hardware stores (its used for cleaning plaster walls prior to painting). YOU MUST REMEMBER TO DILUTE IT. You'll want to use about a 3% in your heads. The stuff we bought was 30% so we did a 10:1 dilution. Commercial strengths vary, so pay attention. Although more hazardous than vinegar, the concentrated muriatic acid is much more compact to store. You might be able to buy concentrated acetic acid (what vinegar actually is), but you would probably need to go to a chemical supply house for that.

You can lubricate the seals in the pump by pouring a small amount (ounce or so) of vegetable (cooking) oil in the toilet and pumping it into the pump.

(Our new boat (see Chapter 22) will have a head flushed with fresh water.  Although it may seem like a waste of water to some, it will solve all these head maintenance problems and eliminate the greatest source of boat odor.)

Hoses

Carry a good selection of the hoses found on your boat. Also carry hose barbs and clamps to repair hoses. If you are outfitting in Miami, Amazon Hose is a great place for hoses, fittings and clamps. Much cheaper than marine supply places.

Dingy and Outboard

If your dingy is an inflatable, you'll need a repair kit. Our dingy got a hole in it from rubbing on a concrete dock. Don't forget spark plugs for the outboard.

Miscellaneous

We've already said that you should carry a variety of shackles and blocks. Carry a variety of sizes of hose clamps. We even fixed a pepper mill with one! Of course there are nuts and bolts, screws, Cotter pins, fuses, light bulbs (don't forget the spreaders), tape of all kinds (duct, electrical, rigging), lubricants (WD-40, light oil, silicone), sealants, electrical wire and fittings. A good choice for screws and nuts are the little kits sold by the marine stores. You may pay a little more than buying individually, but they sure are convenient. The same is true for electrical repair kits. You get a crimping tool and a selection of terminals in one box.

Take what you need to maintain your teak. Most people have some product they believe is best. You will not find these along the way. Things like high quality varnishes are unknown in the Caribbean. Sand paper is available. If you are picky about paint brushes, take them with you.

The Unwritten Rule of Cruisers

There are a lot of common parts on boats. Sooner or later you will be in an anchorage and someone will get on the VHF saying they need such- and-such part. The rule is, if you have one let them have it. Charge only what you paid or what you figure it will cost to replace it in your spares. They need it now; you don't. As sure as the sun rises in the east, you will one day find yourself in their position.

Below is our inventory of what we carried as spares. Lots of the small stuff mentioned above is not included. This list was used primarily to locate an item. The general purpose stuff was stored together and so we did not need its location.

Some of the stuff (like injector lines) came with the boat, were never used and were sold with the boat. But, for what its worth, here's the list:

ITEM

QUANTITY

ALTERNATOR WIRING KIT

1

AVON REPAIR KIT

1

BILGE PUMP STRAINER

1

BULLDOG CLAMPS

4

COMPAIONWAY STEP (antiskid)

 6

DESALINATOR FILTERS

12

DOUBLE SWIVEL BLOCK

1

DUCT TAPE

1

FANS (12v cabin)

2

FRESH WATER HOSE

20 feet

FUEL GAUGE

1

FUEL HOSE

20 feet

JIB FURLING BLOCK

1

LAMP WICK (for oil lamp)

1

LIGHT BULBS (cabin)

6

MARINE TEX

1

PAR PUMP MOTOR

1

PAR PUMP PARTS

1

PERKINS FAN BELTS

2

PERKINS FRESH WTR PARTS

1

PERKINS FUEL PUMP

1

PERKINS IMPELLER GSKTS

3

PERKINS IMPELLERS

4

PERKINS INJECTOR LINES

4

PERKINS INJECTORS

2

PERKINS OIL FILTERS

12

PERKINS RAW WTR GSKTS

1

PERKINS SEC FUEL FILTER

2

PERKINS THERMOSTAT GSKTS

2

PERKINS THERMOSTATS

3

PERKINS VALVE COV GASKET

1

PERKINS ZINCS

4

PERKO WATER STRAINER

1

POWER SURVIVOR SEAL KIT

2

PRIMER BULB

1

PROPANE GRILL VALVE

1

RACOR 2000 FILTERS

12

RACOR 2010 FILTERS

12

RACOR DIESEL TREATMENT

4

RARITAN HEAD KIT

2

RAW WATER STRAINER PRTS

1

RESCO EPOXY KIT

1

SHOP TOWELS

4

SINGLE SWIVEL BLOCK

1

SNATCH BLOCK

1

SPARK PLUGS

12

SPURS REPAIR KIT

1

WEST EPOXY KIT

1

WESTERBEKE FAN BELTS

1

WESTERBEKE IMPELLERS

3

WESTERBEKE OIL FILTERS

12

WESTERBEKE SEC FUEL FILT

1

WESTERBEKE THERMOSTAT

1

WESTERBEKE VALVE COVER GASKET

1

WESTERBEKE ZINCS

8

WINDLASS GEARS

1

So What Broke?

Now you know what we took in the way of spares. Want to know what broke? Other than minor stuff like rebuilding pumps, replacing hoses, and shackles, here is the major stuff that broke. At least what we can remember.

Anchor Windlass - The seals failed on the anchor windlass allowing water into the gears and motor. This required a complete rebuild. It would have actually been cheaper to replace the unit, but we couldn't find one that would fit.

Wind Speed & Point - Electronic failure requiring return to manufacturer.

Multifunction Depth, Speed, etc. - Electronic failure requiring return to manufacturer.

Watermaker - Spring broke in motor unit. This happened under warranty and was repaired by manufacturer.

Engine Oil Leak - Our Perkins had always leaked a little oil. During the trip it got worse and worse. We finally traced it to the rear crankshaft seal. Repairing required separating the engine and transmission and hoisting the engine. A big job.

Starter Solenoid - Failed and was replaced. We had the starter rebuilt while it was off the engine.

Alternator - One of our two alternators on the Perkins failed. We replaced it with a rebuilt one.

VHF Radio - Died and was replaced with a new one. We replaced the antenna as well. I didn't realize that fiberglass antennas wear out. Apparently its the heat in the tropics that gets them.

Refrigerator Electronic Module - Died and was replaced.

Main AC Electric Panel Switch - Shorted out and was replaced.

Cruising 80 Battery Charger - Burned up and was replaced as defective by manufacturer.

Air Conditioner Water Pump - Failed and was replaced.

Engine Starting Battery - Several failed and were replaced. Failure was probably due to high heat and overcharging.

Generator Exhaust - Mixing elbow cracked and was replaced.

Dingy and Outboard - Before we left, we had lifting rings added to our Avon dingy to carry it on the davits. These turned out to be inferior quality and we had them replaced. Our outboard was not of very high quality and we were always working on it or having somebody work on it.

Tools

Over the years of owning "Down Time" we had acquired a fairly complete selection of tools. We did not add anything to this to go cruising. We had two tool boxes: one a Sears with three drawers where we kept commonly used tools; and the other a smaller box in which we kept little used tools. We carried screwdrivers of all sizes, a set of nut drivers, pliers (regular, locking, wire cutters, needle nose, slip joint), wrenches (open end, box end, and socket (including extensions), (all in English and metric), hammers, saws, bolt cutters, pipe wrenches, Allen wrenches, levels, tape measure, files, plane, drill, oil filter wrenches.

Here's a suggestion. Do not carry sockets loose in your tool box. They roll around and drive you crazy. We started out this way and replaced ours with a Sears set in a plastic case. Each socket was held in place by an elastic loop.

Another suggestion for harmony between captain and crew. Make sure both have a common set of names for all the tools. That way when one of you is up the mast and asks for a specific tool, the other can get it without asking, "What does it look like"?

The only power tool we carried was a variable speed reversible 3/8 inch drill.

Some people have complete machine shops on their boats. I remember one with drill press, lathe and bench grinder.

We did add a tap and die set along the way. It was a Christmas present from Diane to Jim and came in very handy.

OK, hope all this didn't bum you out too much.

Jim & Diane

Send comments to: jkbarrentine@earthlink.net


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This page last changed on: Monday, June 02, 2003