Florida Boating

Saturday, August 18, 2012

TAKE CARE OF YOUR BOAT (Or get somebody else to do it.)

By Barb Hansen
August, 2011

Vic and I were working on the boat recently. My job was to reach deep into a dark access hole and blindly hold lock washers and nuts in place while Vic twisted in three screws from the other side.

Physically, it was agreed, I was more suited to reaching around and holding them in place. Vic said my arms were thinner and I was more flexible. This is true.

Successful boating requires diligent boat maintenance. If you are going to do this yourself you should be no more than four feet tall. Your arms need to be six feet long and elbows should be double-jointed so you can reach and hold fasteners, filters and fittings.

It helps if you are a circus acrobat who can twist yourself into a pretzel shape. Or, you could marry one.

Boat maintenance and auto maintenance are different. Most of us don't get to use our boats as often as we use our cars so we don't get as much warning when something is about to break. Also, unlike car shops, boat repair shops are few and far between.

Some boaters actually enjoy working on their boats. Most don't. Time is short. We'd rather be out on the water. But, maintenance is necessary. The old saw is, Take care of your boat and it will take care of you. I interpret that to mean take care of it or it will break down when you're out on the water.

Better safe than sorry, of course. One of our responsibilities at Southwest Florida Yachts is to maintain our charter fleet. Since we don't want our charter customers to break down on the water, we follow a simple rule: Repair and replace things on a schedule. If we wait for them to break they will break at a time and place not of our choosing.

Vic and I are licensed boat brokers and we help buyers find boats. Right on the front end we tell them to consider the long-term cost of maintenance. For example, twin engines are nice for docking and maneuvering but engine maintenance expense is twice that of a single-engine vessel.

We have managed yachts with every whistle and bell imaginable – high tech electronics, multiple battery banks, electric dinghy lifts, complex entertainment systems. A couple even had trash compactors. We call that "stuff." It's okay to have lots of stuff on the boat but remember, more maintenance will be required. Eventually, everything needs repair or replacing.

Our tilt is always toward the boat that is equipped with what is necessary, but otherwise simple. When outfitting a new boat or retrofitting an older one, choose quality. You'll be happier. Quality lasts longer and lowers maintenance costs and aggravation, especially on a boat that (unlike your living room) is exposed to the elements.

If survival of the fittest theory is correct some day all boaters will be short, long armed, double-joined, and have an extra set of eyes on their fingertips so they can see exactly where to hold lock washers in place.

Until then we will have to use our inflexible bodies or get somebody else to do it.

It's one thing to be stuck at the dock and quite another to be adrift on the open sea. Take care of your boat. Maintain it on a schedule. It will give you more time on the water and peace of mind, too. And that's a bargain.


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