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Old 03-13-2015, 04:02 PM   #1
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How Reliable is your boat?

My prior boats were, for the most part, inshore boats, that were all heavily used and not well maintained before my purchase. I think I suffered most every mechanical failure imaginable and got towed in plenty of times.

I purchased my current boat new and have been meticulous about maintenance. In the six years and 2,000 + hours I have owned her, I have never had a cruise ending failure of any sort. In fact, I have had very few failures that I wasn't able to remedy on the spot, and none of them were of critical system. (The icemaker broke on a fishing trip, but I was able to diagnose the problem (no freshwater flow because the float bowl was stuck), the video card on one of my NN3D black boxes failed, but there are 3 in the network so it was only an inconvenience; one of four engine room blowers failed -- I ran with three and replaced on return; anchor windlass blew a 500 amp fuse, but I had a spare.)

Still, it is common (IME) to see what seem to be well maintained boats suffer a mission critical failure (a dockmate lost a transmission 100 miles offshore, a friend lost power to both ECM; another guy overheated his engine (s?), even though he had been running at low rpms), etc.

Between those vicarious experiences and my person experiences with prior boats, I can't help but be concerned by the prospect of a debilitating failure when I am days from anywhere. Do you all worry about that, or do you regard that sort of failure (ie, critical, that you can't repair) unlikely? I really wish I could stop worrying about it.
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Old 03-13-2015, 04:22 PM   #2
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Good question. You don't mention if you have twin or single engines. I think worrying (continually checking systems, playing out 'what if' scenarios) actually is the key to being safe. I would keep it up. The challenge, imo, is to keep it in proportion and not let it overpower your spirit of adventure.
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Old 03-13-2015, 04:40 PM   #3
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She is very reliable.
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Old 03-13-2015, 04:42 PM   #4
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wor

I boat in remote parts of Alaska. I do not even know if towing is an option. It would be easier and cheaper too hire a floatplane to deliver a critical part to me than to tow my current boat.

I think of reliability in terms of...

1. Would a failure make me cancel, or end a trip.

2. Would a failure leave me stranded or worse.

That said I have had one or two cancelled, or ended early trips, and one tow but these were in trailerable size boats, spanning a decade plus of boating.

My current boat hasn't had either thing happen yet. That said, like you I carry spare everything, and have the tools and skills to fix almost anything at sea.
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Old 03-13-2015, 05:03 PM   #5
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Having the experience to know when to press on with a failure or impending failure is priceless.


Many times I have proceeded on to a repair facility with the confidence that a system, engine will hold without serious damage. Other time I knew to shut down immediately and not go another inch till repaired or jury rigged.


So having the confidence to stay out of serious trouble or serious inconvenience and/or the ability to keep things going (fixed or jury rigged) is valuable for one not worry all the time.
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Old 03-13-2015, 05:08 PM   #6
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Good question! I haven't had to actually worry about it yet, but it's been in the back of my mind lately, and I'll be faced with this question when I start using my new boat. What options are available if I have an un-repairable failure 50+ miles offshore (i.e., outside of my TowBoat US coverage)? Right now, I'm just thinking "Don't go that far out" but I know plenty of other people do it.
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Old 03-13-2015, 05:30 PM   #7
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Good question. You don't mention if you have twin or single engines. I think worrying (continually checking systems, playing out 'what if' scenarios) actually is the key to being safe. I would keep it up. The challenge, imo, is to keep it in proportion and not let it overpower your spirit of adventure.
Twin engines (Cummins QSM 11's, 660 hp, with TwinDisc gears). So, in all probability losing an engine or transmission won't leave me stranded.
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Old 03-13-2015, 05:34 PM   #8
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She is very reliable.
So, when you are way offshore do you worry at all about the possibility of a failure? Even though I haven't had a major failure yet, and even though my engines and transmissions seem to have a great reputation, and even though I maintain per schedule and inspect thoroughly and regularly (I am confident that I will notice the first signs of any problem), I can't help but worry about the possibilities of failure. I believe my fear is irrational and if actual, relevant, statistical data were available to me I might worry a lot less (it is not, hence this thread). I like your response -- what is your secret?
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Old 03-13-2015, 05:38 PM   #9
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Good question! I haven't had to actually worry about it yet, but it's been in the back of my mind lately, and I'll be faced with this question when I start using my new boat. What options are available if I have an un-repairable failure 50+ miles offshore (i.e., outside of my TowBoat US coverage)? Right now, I'm just thinking "Don't go that far out" but I know plenty of other people do it.
At least the tow guys will come out for you, for a healthy charge. I don't know what would happen if I got stuck hundreds of miles from any port. I guess I would find some tow boat that could get there in a couple days and charge me $100 per mile.
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Old 03-13-2015, 05:43 PM   #10
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The tow companies will generally get you if they can, otherwise they pay someone who can up to a certain amount.

Call your tow company to get it explained in great detail.
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Old 03-13-2015, 05:46 PM   #11
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The tow companies will generally get you if they can, otherwise they pay someone who can up to a certain amount.

Call your tow company to get it explained in great detail.
I have asked this question of SeaTow and TowBoatUS. Their answer is basically that they would do what they could, but that their boats are not don't have the range, etc., to make a tow that could require multiple days.
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Old 03-13-2015, 05:55 PM   #12
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Excellent topic. I've owned a boat for 30+ years, all on lakes until 3 years ago. The last two and a half years we've covered over 40,000 miles on the water. Yes, I know it sounds like a crazy number but it's our number. I've never experienced such a failure and never had a tow. However, I remain very conscious of that possibility. Sometimes fear or concern is a great motivator. While some failures perhaps are unavoidable, most are not. In offshore cruising, fuel is the biggest risk so filtering and even centrifuge is the protection. Coastal, perhaps grounding, which on the ICW is easy to get towed and in Alaska not so much. However, less chance in Alaska too. There logs might be more the issue. So remain aware of the risks where you are. Then there are the mechanical and electrical aspects. If it has a problem, fix it now. Religiously follow all manufacturers recommendations on maintenance if not more frequent. Keep spares and do it systematically. Have a list of the spares you should have. Some builders even have recommended lists. Inspect your engines. Before undertaking a long trip, make sure all is good. Take the extra minutes at the dock. Have good warning systems. As an example, if the engine temperature rises out of range there's a problem. Might be an easy fix if identified the moment the rise starts. Might strand you if not. We're very conscious of hose condition and of impellers. We keep an eye on those in use and our spares. I've known someone to have an impeller become brittle and break, go to their spares and find out they were all old and brittle.

We never let the fact we haven't had a problem influence our thought about the possibility other than to remind us to continue the diligence. But if you suddenly become over confident, rest assured you'll make a mistake.

I was about 25 and had never changed a tire. Everyone said you should practice. I said, I'll read the instructions and learn when necessary. By 25 I'd begun to think I was beyond it happening, modern tire technology and all. Well, it was a stormy wintry day, bitter cold and windy, early morning and I was returning from a business trip. I had also loaded the trunk with boxes of product, every box that would fit. And the back seat was filled with my luggage and more boxes. So, task one was emptying the trunk but cardboard and rain mix poorly so moved them all to the front seat of my car. Now to get to the tire and tools. Of course the tire was a small one, but at least it had air in it. I got it out, got the jack. This part was really simple. But before jacking the car up I was smart enough even to remove the lug nuts while the wheel was still on the ground. Unfortunately, whoever put the wheel on was not smart enough not to over tighten with a power wrench. It seemed like it took me days to remove the lug nuts. I had to put myself in many different positions to get enough force and I am a pretty large and relatively strong man. In real time it was probably 5 minutes. Ok, now jacking and changing. This was the easy part. Put the removed wheel in the trunk. Keep in mind of course it would not fit where the spare was. Put the jack away. Start moving boxes back to the trunk, but now with the wheel there they wouldn't all fit. Leave the passenger side in the front with boxes, get in the drivers seat soaking wet. I'd long ago given up on the idea of being anything but drenched and freezing. It felt again like I drove for hours before seeing any signs of a gas station of any sort. Finally, probably after a ten minute drive, I see one and exit. I first just pull under the shelter to rearrange some things and dig down to some clothes in the back seat as boxes were on top of the luggage. The girls inside and the old man there too couldn't help but laugh at me. I did go buy a roll of paper towels on the way to the rest room and dried myself with them while changing. Back out and on my way to the office. Fortunately I'm paranoid about being late so still had time not to be. Two lessons learned. First, I can have a flat tire. Second, next time someone asks if I can take a few boxes of samples with me, without hesitation I will say "Ship them."
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Old 03-13-2015, 05:57 PM   #13
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I have asked this question of SeaTow and TowBoatUS. Their answer is basically that they would do what they could, but that their boats are not don't have the range, etc., to make a tow that could require multiple days.
With QSM's kept in good shape you are highly unlikely to have reliability issues resulting in the need for a tow. Even if you have the dreaded exhaust manifold leak you will get lots of mileage after the leak is detected. I know, as my last boat had those engines. However, you are still faced with the possibility of damage to running gear making your boat do nothing more than bob around in the waves.

That is what I worry about when I cross the Gulf of Alaska in the dark or near dark. Anywhere besides open water I rely on my 40 hp dinghy to get me to a safe anchorage. I keep a 40 gal gas tank on deck just for that development but it has never been needed. YET!
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Old 03-13-2015, 05:57 PM   #14
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I have asked this question of SeaTow and TowBoatUS. Their answer is basically that they would do what they could, but that their boats are not don't have the range, etc., to make a tow that could require multiple days.
I guess it depends where you are....the company I work for has towed over 100 miles offshore but know other franchises have lesser equipment....however Sea Tow will pay up to $5000 and BOATUS up to $3500 to someone to tow you. Above that and you pay but I would hope many insurance companies will fill in some of it.
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Old 03-13-2015, 05:57 PM   #15
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So, when you are way offshore do you worry at all about the possibility of a failure?
When I think of the boat failures that I have experienced offshore, they have all been annoying (stupid owner tricks mostly), but repairable while wallowing around wishing I was somewhere else than a hot engine room.

When I think of the failures that made me want to change my underwear, it's been things like a steering failure while running through Deception Pass (very narrow, high current) or loss of all controls while crossing a very rough bar when the pilothouse windows were blown out. Every scary one that I can think of happened in close quarters, and involved losing control of the vessel temporarily.

I think the best way to reduce the worry is to really know your boat and its systems. Doing the bulk of your own maintenance helps tremendously as does being able to find where you hid the spare part that you need!
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Old 03-13-2015, 06:10 PM   #16
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I guess it depends where you are....the company I work for has towed over 100 miles offshore but know other franchises have lesser equipment....however Sea Tow will pay up to $5000 and BOATUS up to $3500 to someone to tow you. Above that and you pay but I would hope many insurance companies will fill in some of it.
To avoid confusion, SeaTow and BoatUS will tow at least 100nm, maybe 200nm. My concerns are more what happens if I am fishing the offshore banks halfway down baja -- 400nm from either Cabo or Ensenada?
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Old 03-13-2015, 06:32 PM   #17
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To avoid confusion, SeaTow and BoatUS will tow at least 100nm, maybe 200nm. My concerns are more what happens if I am fishing the offshore banks halfway down baja -- 400nm from either Cabo or Ensenada?
They will pay someone to come tow you up to an agreed upon amount. Whether a local fisherman or a professional tow craft dispatched from where ever.

sure at some point you are paying out of pocket......name of the game....at some point you could get coverage through some insurance company if willing to pay the premiums....
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Old 03-13-2015, 06:51 PM   #18
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They will pay someone to come tow you up to an agreed upon amount. Whether a local fisherman or a professional tow craft dispatched from where ever.

sure at some point you are paying out of pocket......name of the game....at some point you could get coverage through some insurance company if willing to pay the premiums....
I am not so focused on the cost of the two as not having anyone to call. I can imagine a satphone call and them saying we will get back to you, and them calling back hours if not a day or two later, with one take-it or leave it offer. Exactly what I am trying to avoid.
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Old 03-13-2015, 07:18 PM   #19
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They will pay someone to come tow you up to an agreed upon amount. Whether a local fisherman or a professional tow craft dispatched from where ever.

sure at some point you are paying out of pocket......name of the game....at some point you could get coverage through some insurance company if willing to pay the premiums....
If you're crossing the Atlantic and 800 miles from shore, towing might well be problematic. If conditions are too dangerous, it could be. But otherwise there are very few places you can't get towed by someone. You should always start through the tow company you're covered by (and we have both) because that will get you some assistance with the cost even if they can't help you there. Almost any marina knows of people who tow in their area.
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Old 03-13-2015, 07:25 PM   #20
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If you're crossing the Atlantic and 800 miles from shore, towing might well be problematic. If conditions are too dangerous, it could be. But otherwise there are very few places you can't get towed by someone. You should always start through the tow company you're covered by (and we have both) because that will get you some assistance with the cost even if they can't help you there. Almost any marina knows of people who tow in their area.
Perhaps I worry too much (hence my original question), but I have visions of trying to contact anyone at the nearest Marina (which may be Mag Bay in about the middle of Baja California), with no phone numbers to anyone at that local "marina" and SeaTow telling me that it is out of their range but they will call me back if they find someone.

By the way, I saw a personalized California license plate "B and B" Small world if that is you.
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