Cruising isn't just fixing places in exotic places....especially if you don't have the right parts or tools.

I had planned on writing an entirely different post much earlier in the day (Saturday) but of course boat factors arose that stood squarly in the way of my writing…namely the need to fix a critical system right away.  This repair shaped the day and made up my mind about where the post would go.

So what would you rather spend….careful time preparing and buying spare parts ahead of time (before things break) or time waiting (and probable extra expense) to get those parts shipped to your part of the world? 

A friend (Andrew South) and my dad taught me the importance of preventative maintenance but nothing compares to having certain critical parts on the boat for that time when you’re NOT in a place where the right part, pump or piece of machinery can be found.  But you can’t really carry everything you might need.  Consumables are important but showstoppers are a must in my mind.  Water pump, starter, grey water pump, black water pump/macerator and small emergency “do anything” pumps are high on my list as is the right petroleum, oil and lubricants (POL) for your breed of pleasure yacht.

I think this is especially important on a boat like mine…older lady with an original (rebuilt) engine that’s in great shape, but must be maintained to a high standard to keep it in good working order.  If you have a newer boat and a newer engine, you might have less issues or perhaps you might not maintain it to a high standard like we try to, but the weekly, monthly and yearly service checks and preventative maintenance should be done anyway.

Just this month, we’ve been lucky to have a new starter on the boat and a mechanic who recommended using it..but having the older starter rebuilt to keep as a backup (which we’re doing) and have a new fresh water pump onboard as the older one just died…today…while I was trying to get motivated to write all about another topic.  The fact is…we sit on a boat (think salt and sand) that sits in the sun all day long and is over 40 years old.  The fresh water pump that decided to randomly die today was 8 years old (built in 2014) and had probably been in continual use since it was installed (before we bought the boat).

Often, these failures come at the most inconvenient times; so having some basic knowledge and the right parts will help to level the playing field.  I’ve gotta freely admit, we’ve had some challenges that I didn’t know how to overcome, but either my buddy boat or a local mechanic/electrician has often helped me trouble shoot and find easy solutions to dumb problems I might have overlooked.

The HelmsMistress and I went to a “diesel mechanic in a day” course several years ago and I took a course on diesel engines in San Diego in 2019 but none of this prepared me for the challenges that cruising would throw at me in terms of overall electrical, mechanical and systems knowledge.  I’ve gained more than basic experience by watching the mechanics and electricians who have come on the boat and asking a lot of questions….and reading my engine instruction manual.  If I can gain the basic systems understanding that I have….you can too.


The point to this little diatribe is that once you leave homeport and start cruising…especially once you lose the ability to get boat parts easily….there should be a consideration for having some of those hard-to-get parts on board or you should be prepared to wait on your parts or rebuild the part that died.

The author and his family (and Great Dane) live full time on their second cruising sailboat, currently in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico.

5 Responses

  1. love your posts…….just incredible all of your adventures from amazing locations to even doing repairs….be safe and love you guys.

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