Parts and Preparedness Page 2

Parts and Preparedness
Parts and Preparedness
Part 2: Boat Repairs continued

By Capt. Ken Kreisler — July 2001
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Boat Repairs
• Part 2: Boat Repairs continued
• Essentials

 Related Resources
• Maintenance Q&A Index
• Maintenance Feature Index

Bad Fuel
When your engine stops abruptly, your problem is probably contaminated fuel. Off-engine filters, like Racors, should bear the brunt of such contamination, so if the problem is water, you may need to just drain their bowls and be on your way. When water or solid contaminants find their way into the filter element--or worse, into the engine-mounted filters--you'll have to replace them all.

Assuming you have spares and tools, the job should be simple--with two caveats. First, if you have a big load of bad fuel, you'll have to change the elements more than once. That's why you should carry a number of spare elements. Second, if you don't know what you're doing, you could introduce air into the fuel system, compounding your problem. Make sure you understand the procedure for swapping filter elements and bleeding air from your fuel system.

Dead Batteries
If your engine won't start because of a dead battery, you don't have a lot of options. The obvious play is to hit the battery parallel switch, which combines your two starting batteries. If you have a genset, you can start it and let it charge your starting batteries. This can take a while, which is why many captains carry jumper cables. Although the starting battery for the genset is much smaller than those for the mains, it may provide enough power to get the engines started.

Other Electrical Maladies
There are all sorts of other electrical problems that can leave you dead in the water--or without a radio, depthsounder, GPS, etc. Few boaters are electricians, but anyone with a modicum of logic can figure most electrical glitches and fix them. Before you start removing access panels, remember our primary rule of troubleshooting: Do the simplest thing first. Check all battery switches and circuit breakers, especially those on remote panels. This will be a lot easier if you've located them ahead of time.

Next you can start tracing circuits, looking for loose connections or severed wires, a job that's a lot easier if you have a circuit tester aboard. You won't need a degree in electrical engineering to use it, just a knowledge of basic electricity. For instance, the ohm scale measures resistance, so a reading of zero means an open circuit. The voltage reading should coincide with system voltage; if it doesn't, you've probably got a loose or corroded connection. Most circuit testers come with an explanatory pamphlet that walks you through the steps.

Watertight Integrity
Admittedly, the possibility of something compromising your boat's watertight integrity is a remote one, but you should plan for it nevertheless. Two scenarios are likely. In the first, a hose lets go. In most cases, simply shut the seacock attached to it. But what if the seacock is jammed or for some reason inaccessible? If you carry an assortment of wooden plugs, you should be able to jam one into the through-hull fitting from the outside. You'll need a mask, flippers, and maybe an underwater flashlight, which you should have onboard anyway in case a line fouls your props. The plugs are tapered so they should stay in place until you arrive back in port.

In the second scenario, you hole your hull. Working fast is essential, as you must keep the rising water from shorting out your batteries and killing your bilge pumps. Immediately stop the boat and locate the breach. Plug the hole with a pillow, sheets, or any other material that you can jam into it. If you have a tarp aboard (a good item to carry for many reasons), stretching it over the breach and tying it securely there will stem the flood. You should be able to proceed slowly without dislodging the tarp, although if you've notified the Coast Guard, help should be on the way and you may want to just stay put.

Whether you're a bluewater cruiser, fisherman, or day-tripper, there will be moments aboard when things don't go the way you planned. That's when preparation, the right tools, and spare parts can make all the difference.

Next page > Boat Repair Essentials > Page 1, 2, 3

This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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