Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cheap Boat Keeping

Extracted from a larger post at Sail Delmarva, here are some thoughts from Drew (I especially like #2, because I'm just too good at #3):
At first glance, without my glasses, this WW II poster bothered me.

Most of use would rather put money in our 401-K or the kids' college fund than pour it in the water. I spread my maintenance funds thin as paint, using every trick I've learned over the years. It helps that my dad is a painter (watercolor artist, but also a house painter in college), my grandfather was a mechanic, and I've tinkered since I was a kid and worked around chemical plants for years. Perhaps some of these ideas will be of use to others.
  1. Use your engine. Never let it sit for over a month in the winter; the lube needs to circulate and the electrics need to dry. Run it enough in the summer to turn the fuel over a few times each season; we change the oil twice each year, so why would we expect the gasoline to last longer? Engines don't wear-out so much as deteriorate from disuse. I've done lots of fuel testing in my "real" job, so I'm neither quoting from a book nor guessing.
  2. Cleanout every locker twice each year. You'll find stuff and reduce repeat buying. You'll gain space and stow things smarter. You'll save weight and clutter by pitching old rubbish or at least taking it home. It will remind you to maintain a few things. Remember, carrying junk costs $20/pound.
  3. Save bits and pieces of materials. Some aluminum or FRP plate, a bit of stainless tubing, some left over wire, scraps of good wood, a bit of gasket material, and leftover old fasteners; never old junk parts, but bits that might be found in a hardware store or West Marine. Keep it neat.
  4. Learn sail repair (hand work). A stitch in time saves nine. Really.
  5. Find a good thrift store, one that carries some marine stuff but doesn't realize it. Small towns near the water. Also a great source for Gore-Tex foul weather gear; mostly the sorters don't know the difference between a worthless windbreaker and the real deal.
  6. Stay at a working marina. Often 1/3 the price of a recreational marina.  Also look for houses with a few unused slips out back, or maybe a rusted up marine railway.
  7. Use a good 2-year bottom paint.
  8. Learn painting and composite repair. Really, you can be very efficient with these things, given the proper tools and some practice. I figure I save a good $100/hour pre-tax; I've learned speed and quality over the years.
  9. Get a book book on marine wiring. Buy a good ratchet crimper. I'm an engineer by trade, which is a good start. However, even if you only apply your knowledge to troubleshooting, it's a blessing when somewhere remote. Do professional quality work the first time or you'll lose reliability, endanger your boat when you're away, and mostly do it over some day.
  10. Anchor out. Even if it means adding solar and upgrading a few things, you can save $50-$150 per night. Enjoying increased freedom is priceless.
  11. Waterproof grease. Electrical connections and anything that comes apart. Teflon pipe dope is good too, particularly where aluminum meets stainless.
  12. Watch chafe and wear. Lines--running and mooring--can last for many years if you don't let them rub or slap.
  13. Stay in the water all winter. Of course, this depends on the area--not practical in the Great Lakes--but for most of us it's a great saver. The season can be stretched, and the boat suffers less disuse, the hauling and storage fees go away.  You will need a good 2-year paint.
  14. Learn small engine repair. They're really simple. Even if all you learn to do is change plugs, rebuild a carburetor, and change the impeller, there's real savings and less chance of being stranded. You'll need some tools and parts, of course.
  15. Fish! It's free and nothing is better.
In 25 years of boat ownership, I've only used contractor services for:
  • Major sail work and new canvas.
  • Hauling.
As a result, I know my boat inside out; that's a good feeling and an important part of seamanship.

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