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Preparing for Summer cruising

Tips for maintenance and spare parts on extended trips

Taking a long trip in a boat is much different than taking a long trip in a car. For one thing there aren’t boatyards on every street corner – heck there aren’t even streets! You must be prepared with oils and spare parts on board.

For instance on a typical cruise to Alaska from Puget Sound, a boater will need to make several engine oil and filter changes. If it’s been sometime since the boat was used in an exposed seaway (read “swells”), then it’s wise to carry several spare fuel filters. Sediment that has accumulated on the bottom of the fuel tank can break loose on a long trip, and will quickly clog filters. A dual filter arrangement, with a switch-over valve, will keep you going while the offending filter is changed. Take along extra engine oil, steering fluid (if you have hydraulic steering), and coolant.

A note about fueling up: A friend of mine had the awful experience of buying several hundred gallons of diesel which contained no less than 15 gallons of water! Only buy fuel from marinas/docks typically used by recreational cruisers, leave the fuel barges and such for the commercial boats.

Other spare parts to buy before you leave the dock (insuring you don’t have to wait for an order to be shipped): Engine belts, impellers, spare fuel pumps, injectors, starters and alternators for their engine(s), along with a prop or two (think rocks).

The domestic water pump, a relatively inexpensive item, is a likely item to fail – without it you may not be able to get water out of your tank. Carry hose/tubing for the fresh water system, along with the appropriate hose clamps.

Electrical systems and components aboard a boat take a “silent” beating. Electronics heat as they run for extended periods of time, usually at maximum battery voltage (if the engine is running). The hardwired electrical system is fairly robust, yet it is equipped with fuses – do you have spares aboard? Corrosion tends to attack the connections in our electrical systems, think about carrying a small kit of electrical connectors and a crimper. Use anti-corrosion spray on terminal strips and any exposed connections.

Can you navigate without a chart-plotter? We carry a small, inexpensive handheld GPS aboard our boat as a backup, and it’s a good idea to carry current paper-charts.

Depth-sounders provide extremely important information, especially when anchoring. Think about installing a small second unit as a backup. Lighting can be crucial, such as navigation lights, or just for comfort such as cabin lights. Make sure you have spare bulbs in your kit.

How will you retrieve your anchor and rode if the windlass dies? Cruisers who have teenagers aboard already have a back-up windlass, if you don’t, carry an extra.

VHF communication can be lifesaving. Most of us carry one or two handheld radios, often the handheld becomes the most-used VHF aboard! If you only have one VHF, consider purchasing another radio.

My wife and I have an inflatable dinghy, we often call it a “de-flatable” dinghy. Which means that a patch-kit is a must have item, along with an air pump! Inspect often.

Many of the engine spares we covered for the main engine also apply to the outboard on the dinghy. Filters, oil, spark plug and a spare prop.

Finally, let me encourage the non-mechanical, non-technical cruiser to take classes in diesel maintenance and electrical systems. A few hours with a certified technician at your favorite boatyard will net a tremendous amount of good information, and he/she can walk you through all of the systems aboard your boat.

It was once said that “success is where opportunity and preparation meet!” Here’s to a successful, worry-free, cruising season!


Bob McMurray

Repower Manager

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