Maintenance on board: how mechanical are you?

3 Jun
Maintenance month

We just had a crazy stretch of boat work on Totem, and knocked several big items off our list of essentials for maintenance or repair as we anticipate next year’s Indian Ocean passages. Sometimes it was just a matter of paying a vendor. Sometimes it was work we did ourselves. Typically it was a combination, where we invested a lot of effort too: replacing the boat batteries wasn’t just a swap out. Jamie built a whole new box to store them in and decomissioned the old one. Over and over, I was grateful for his diverse skills and creative problem solving in everything from carpentry and fiberglass to fabricating the new roll pin needed with positioning a bearing on the autopilot. What else happened?

Maintenance month
sleek stack pack, nearly invisible dodger sides

Battery bank. This was the top priority, as our existing bank was on fumes. A Malaysian supplier, Pollux, had the right batteries at the right price. It looks like we nailed not only bank size for our use, but our green power generation, and corrected Totem’s starboard list at the same time. DONE.

Engine service. With a referral to a skilled Yanmar tech, we completed major service (for 5,000 engine hours) that included cleaning and pressure testing heat exchanger, replacing fresh water pump, servicing raw water pump, replacing seals for turbo, servicing start motor, replacing the start solenoid, servicing alternator, de-greasing and cleaning, painting, and alignment. DONE.

Replaced mainsail cover.  A tidy new stack pack replaced the dead mainsail cover. Very happy with how it looks, and even happier about how easy it is to get the main down now. DONE.

Replaced soft sides on dodger. We nearly didn’t do this, since it’s costly and could have been deferred, but ended up taking an eleventh hour, lower cost approach that we love. Instead of getting Sunbrella-bordered sides with large clear windows, as we’ve had since 2007, we put in 100% clears around the front and sides of our hard dodger. It is stunning to have the full viewable range, and Totem gets a sleeker profile. DONE.

Replaced settee covers. New covers once again protect the foam beneath, and light colors are a great lift for the main cabin. Splashy pillows set it off, and the whole place feels brighter. DONE.

There’s a lot left on that list of pre-Indian Ocean essentials, since they’ll either need to wait for a specific location… or for our bank account to take the impact. Meanwhile, slowdowns on the engine service ended up causing a three week delay for getting south from Langkawi, but that’s a tradeoff we don’t mind for having great work done by quality techs who really know Yanmar engines. It also meant: more time for MORE MAINTENANCE! OK: some new stuff, too.

Maintenance month

Some of these were standout Jamie did an incredible amount of work during our stay. The delays meant we could do more, and it’s all good. This is the short version:

– New SilentWind 420 watt wind turbine installed, with external regulator
– New 270 watt solar panel installed
– New 60 amp MPPT solar charge controller installed
– Autopilot motor and linear drive unit serviced
– Watermaker motor service: brushes replaced
– Replaced eye bolts for steering cable at quadrant, added Dyneema lashing as backup
– Removed autopilot drive mount (rusting I-beam) and fabricated new fiberglass mount
– Cleaned main diesel fuel tank and polished diesel
– Serviced Lavac toilet (there is no escaping maintenance on the head…)
– Installed three new cabin fans (costly Caframo BoraBoras failed inside 15 months)
– Serviced two winches on mast
– Installed low friction rings at leech reefs

the shop where we brought the alternator, starter, and watermaker motors for servicing

Those projects just what he did on Totem, roughly over the last month. Here’s what he did on other boats in our watery neighborhood, while we swung at anchor in Telaga Harbor:

Maintenance month
helping remove the engine going out for an overhaul from a friend’s boat

– Rig inspections: 8
– 16:1 cascading vang installs: 2
– Fix poor mainsheet setup: 1
– Replace hardware with strop to connect mainsheet to boom: 2
– Service winches, windlasses, and autopilots: 4
– Dyneema check stays installed: 4
– Dyneema lifeline installation: 1
– Steering cable replacement: 1
– Install a complete new propane system: 1
– Solar panels installed: 4
– Pactor modem install and setup: 1
– Installed / wired wind turbine: 1
– Configured and installed charge management systems for dual alternator systems: 2
– Wires replaced or repaired ends: way too many to count!

Mechanical skills: if you want to go cruising and you don’t have them, well, hope that your partner does!

Hands-on types know we love it when you read this on the Sailfeed website.


  1. Behan - s/v Totem

    Hi Susan! Our current plan is to cross the Indian Ocean next year, which will put us arriving in Sough Africa in late 2015. The kids’ longest passage so far was 19 days from Mexico (PV) to the Marquesas. None of the Indian Ocean passages will be that long, not even close. We’ll take a route that involves island hopping and lots of smaller (5ish day) passages instead. 28 days from SD to the Marquesas, sounds like you had a great ride!

  2. Susan

    Are you going to Africa? I thought I read that once, if so, how long would be the passage?

    My husband & I sailed 40 years ago—San Francisco to Marquesas–in those days the voyage took us ( from San Diego to Marquesas) 28 days.

    Are your children okay with these long voyages?

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