Saturday, August 13, 2011

Questions ... and answers

Boat Maintenance Costs Accounting

Richard asked about how much we have been spending on boat maintenance. A few comments are in order.

  • We spent a small fortune (no make that a large fortune) getting Ainia ready to go and these costs are not included in our monthly expenditure summaries.
  • There are also valid questions to be asked about our accounting practices. We keep very close track of spending as we go, but have not considered the use of boat s paresin our costing. For example, we left Florida with something like a dozen oil filters for the Westerbeke (and comparable numbers of fuel filters along with filters for the genset) and perhaps a dozen gallons of diesel oil. When we do an oil change we have not included the cost of the oil and filters in the monthly charges but would add them on when we replace these items - which hasn't happened yet.
  • Very importantly, when you cruise you often cannot spend much on boat maintenance because there is nothing to buy that you might need. In some countries there are few boat parts to be had and you can get stuff sent in. Panama and the Bahamas are good examples of this. In some places, Ecuador is a good example, you could try to get stuff sent in but more often than not it will disappear somewhere along the way (likely in the infamous customs warehouse in Guayaquil). Or you will be asked to pay ‘handling charges’ that may be more than the value of the shipment. (In theory, shipments to a “Yacht in Transit” should be duty/sales tax free but this stipulation is often ignored.) A boat here had some engine parts shipped in and was required to pay Fiji$18/hr for a customs agent to accompany him from the post office to the boat to make sure the parts were going to a boat. The customs woman actually went out in the dinghy with him to see the box put onboard.
  • Some places have some yacht equipment available and most services you might need. Fiji and Tahiti would be good examples. Even in these places the selection is limited, prices high, and sizes generally metric, which does not help if you have an older North American boat. There are a few places where you can get anything and everything – New Zealand and Australia are the obvious examples, although even there you will be faced with marine industries focussed on 240v and metric measurements. It is a happy coincidence that most cruisers go to one or the other for cyclone season which provides a good opportunity to get your boat back in perfect shape after coming 10,000 miles or so and before heading off the next long stretch of a circumnavigation.
  • American Samoa is a unique place in the sense that it is part of the US postal system and recognizes the “Yacht in Transit” designation (they have a local sales tax on other imports apparently). In fact, West Marine offers $20 flat rate shipping to AS and does do price matching. There are a couple of complications though. Defender only sends order up to $500 (although they sent us an order that was almost $2000 (water heater and new instruments) because we were repeat customers). West Marine wanted a bank draft above $1000. In any case, a visit here does give you easy access to US boat stores and we spent quite a bit of money here that will be reflected in the monthly summary for July.
  • In terms of getting work done, you can usually find a diesel mechanic (parts are a different matter) and outboard mechanics, but you rarely will see an outboard in the South Pacific smaller than 20 hp (most are much bigger) so parts are a problem. Different brands of outboards dominate in different countries. Fiji, where we are now, is dominated by Mercury but elsewhere you would rarely see a Merc. Boat refrigeration and electricians are rare.
Tank Capacities
David asked what our tank capacities are and whether they are adequate. Our tankage is similar to your Gozzard. We have 140 gallons of water and 100 gallons of fuel. We actually have one additional water tank and and one additional fuel tank that have leaks and we do not use them (fixing them has proven a problem and there is no way to remove them short of taking apart the interior so we have left them for now.

Our tankage has proven perfectly adequate for our needs but the answer really is that it depends on lifestyle. If you like real showers like onshore you will need to use your watermaker or get water from shore often. Remember that water from the watermaker is really just diesel fuel in disguise. We have friends who run their genset a couple of times a day to charge batteries and make water (one a Little Harbor 44, Richard). We might run our genset once a week and then only if the sun has not been strong and the winds light in an anchorage.

You also have questions about fuel and water availability and quality. Diesel fuel has been available everywhere but often you have to go to a gas station with jerry cans to get it. we have a very nice folding cart for carrying jerry cans since you may have to go a few hundred meters with fuel. A few places like Panama and Tahiti have fuel docks but these are rare. Diesel quality has not been a problem. We started with pristine fuel tanks, lovingly cleaned and always use our West Marine copy of a Baja filter. Other than that, normalinterval fuel filter changes have done the trick.

Water is also available just about everywhere again by jerry cans. Quality varies though with water in some places being questionable for drinking but fine for laundry and showers. Makes one think that it would make sense to have dual water systems on the boat - one for potable and one for other water. Water quality is a bit unpredictable. At the marina in Papeete, the water was not very good in the day or so after a heavy rain (little organic bits floating around although it was chlorinated). In sleepy little Mangareva they had a well in the hills behind town where they got water that was then chlorinated before being sent to the town. In some harbours, Suva and Pago Pago come to mind, you can't use your watermaker because the harbour is quite polluted.

BTW, we have four diesel jerry cans and two water jerry cans and that seems to work well.


Richard said...

Great information. Love to hear more about you prep prior to leaving.

Darvin/Marilyn said...

The richness of your commentary is amazing -- a wealth of information.
Niagara 35
Bread and Roses

Rhys said...

The dual water system you mention is exactly why I want to have a designated "rainwater or slightly dubious freshwater" tank as a stand-alone. Washups, deck cleaning and the occasional rinse of the Lavac plumbing would be a good idea. We would typically shower in rainwater piped into the tank via a dedicated fill on deck and piped out into a nice black thick plastic bag of the solar variety, or into the head if modesty is required.

As we are on the topic of plumbing, do you simply pump overboard on passage, or have you stayed in one place long enough to merit a short trip to pump out in the ocean and then to return? I am thinking that then would be an opportunity to run at decent RPMs, to charge the batteries and to make new water (not while pumping out, obviously).

I've passed the staph infection info you've provided to Becky, designated ship's doctor. Thanks!