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Old 06-22-2021, 02:31 PM   #1
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Question How to determine your limits...

My father is the kind of guy who always fixed everything. Walls, appliances, cars, lawn mowers - if it broke, he fixed it. I definitely got his desire to fix it myself, but I definitely did not get his know how. I was way more artsy than mechanical growing up.

On my first boat, the 1967 Chris Craft 31', I lost my reverse gear when I took it off the transporters trailer. After doing my due diligence, I printed out instructions for the transmission, and decided to call a mechanic. I was scared to break something. When the mechanic got there he stated, and I quote, "I've never seen one of these." Could've been lack of experience, but it was probably moreso that he was twenty something. But I read him the instructions that I had printed out, and then paid him $190 for an hours worth of labor and trip charge. The only thing he literally did was turn a wrench a few times.

More recently, like last week, our stuffing joints needed to be repacked. The thought of water coming into the boat was a bit too scary, so I called another mechanic. After receiving the invoice for $294, I went over to youtube and found that I probably could have done the job for the cost of materials.

I have two problems. The first is that I am paranoid of sinking the boat, so anything that deals with something that can potentially create a leak I cannot control, scares the living $h!+ out of me. The second problem, is that I often bite off more than I can chew, or know how to digest, and it ends up costing us twice the amount it needs to. Like last years A/C replacement that should have been a plug and play deal, but ended up being a three month fiasco with Flagship, and then the purchase of a new Dometic unit.

I'm very envious of these boaters who can start a project, drag it out over three days time, and contemplate every step they need to make to accomplish the job. I have quite a lot of free time for projects, since I only work 14 days a month, however I don't have a lot of judgment skills.

How mechanically inclined were you when you first started boating? If you weren't that mechanically inclined, how did you develop the mindset needed to accomplish projects - especially without buying materials two or three times and redoing things? And most importantly, how do you know when it's time to call in a professional?
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Old 06-22-2021, 02:40 PM   #2
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First: I was poor and had to do my own fixin'.

Second: I often made things worse with my efforts so got more schoolin' than I bargained for.

Third: By the second or third time I got it right and could do the next job using the experience I then had.

Fourth: I wasn't afraid to screw up, knew I would, and had faith I'd get it right eventually.

I bought a lot of tools along the way and am now quite handy. I have a few engine rebuilds under my belt, lots of "creative engineering" to fix all kinds of things from broken appliances to leaky roofs, have sunk and raised a few boats, have even rebuilt an airplane from a pile of wreckage.
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Old 06-22-2021, 02:41 PM   #3
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After you've taken it apart, if you can't put it back together again, or it still doesn't work when you do.........you've exceeded your aptitude.
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Old 06-22-2021, 02:54 PM   #4
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I take the time to fully understand the system before I begin. I do my best to be prepared, walk through the process in my mind and venture forth. I just removed my aftercooler for the first time, and had plenty of anxiety before doing so. I had it serviced, put it back on and all is well. Every job is a confidence builder and some things I will still sub out. For me, I enjoy it, and want to understand everything on my boat to the greatest extent possible. As someone else already said, I will make mistakes along the way but get better and build more confidence each time.
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Old 06-22-2021, 03:03 PM   #5
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Youtube helps. I've tackled bigger chores in new territory after watching the helpful videos from others.
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Old 06-22-2021, 03:07 PM   #6
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If you have spare parts after putting it together, you may want to rethink your limits.
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Old 06-22-2021, 03:14 PM   #7
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My current list of projects is

-figuring out why the sump pump in the forward head decided to quit (self installed)
-replace the water pump on my starboard engine
-get my fuel gauge running again, it hasn't worked since the old gas was pumped out
-replace the float switch on my forward bilge pump
-replace the mid ship bilge pump all together
-eye splice the rode to the anchor and get the windlass up and running

Once these three are done we'll be ready for our first shakedown cruise.

Future projects are
-starting an NMEA 2000 network
-installing fuel flow (gph) sensors
-updating the VHF radio and antenna
-figuring out if I still need the old Raytheon radar, and removing it if I don't.
-Installing soft starts for the A/C's
-Installing a rudder indicator

We've been living aboard for 33 months now and still have yet to spend the night at anchor. God willing, we be able to before the end of July.
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Old 06-22-2021, 03:18 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soo-Valley View Post
If you have spare parts after putting it together, you may want to rethink your limits.

I've rebuilt two carburetors on the Chris Craft 327 engines, as well as put electronics in the distributors, and changed out a starter, and everything ran. So I know I can do it. I just wasn't scared to ruin anything on that boat.

The difference is that this is our full time home, that we paid a lot of cash for, and own outright. I'm very afraid to "get into" these engines and other systems, for fear that I might ruin it. I suppose the worse I could do is cost us $6K for another crate engine though.
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Old 06-22-2021, 03:43 PM   #9
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I have no shame in watching YouTube videos before undertaking a new task or project. I usually will watch three different videos for the same project because usually out of one of the videos someone will have a tip or trick to get the job done easier. With that being said I will not work on the girlfriend's car no matter how much research I do.
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Old 06-22-2021, 03:49 PM   #10
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Buy the latest edition of Calder's Boatowners. Then stick it in a locker. When something goes wrong pull out Calder's. I read the appropriate section multiple times in order to understand the problem, and solutions possible. Even if I do not do the work myself I have a road map to a repair.

As long as you are capable of learning Calder's can be a worthy guide. Frankly, every long term live aboard boater I know has this book. It is in my opinion worth the extra for the latest edition. I did not care for the electronic version.

Good luck.

Addendum: Ah, you have gasoline engines. For those be sure to have the shop manual and repair books. They will prove useful too.
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Old 06-22-2021, 03:59 PM   #11
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Being attached to a marina makes it easy to call in expensive and often unskilled help.

Thankfully, we don't have that problem. (-;
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Old 06-22-2021, 04:02 PM   #12
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Addendum: Ah, you have gasoline engines. For those be sure to have the shop manual and repair books. They will prove useful too.

Unfortunately! But they're paid for!!
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Old 06-22-2021, 04:25 PM   #13
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+1 on Calders. But what has repeatedly saved my butt is the cellphone and friends. I take a huge amount of pictures as I’m taking something apart. I also use them and the phone, email or other comm (satphone,SSB) when I can’t get a friend in person to tell me how I screwed up or what to try next. I keep all printed manuals but also down load them. Even when they’re in a foreign language I can still use the exploded views. Some vendors will share decision matrix diagnostic diagrams which are a big help. YouTube is wonderful and often play and replay it during the job. At first if you don’t succeed try, try again. If it’s broke you can only make it more broke with difficulty. Be kind and pleasant to techs. If you are some will teach you. You’ll learn more if you’ve done your homework before they show up. As my dad said “when you stopped learning they better have thrown dirt in your face or they soon will.” Really like the northern lights courses which in conjunction with several other diesel courses has been helpful. Rest not so much.
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Old 06-22-2021, 04:50 PM   #14
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Greetings,
Yep. If it's broken the only thing you might do is make it more broken. True words. You might as well take a stab at it before calling in an "expert" (hahaha...expert).
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Old 06-22-2021, 06:02 PM   #15
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Two side of the coin, either you pay for it and you wash your hand and get it solved, or you do your homework, you try to get as much info as yo need to get the level of confidence that you can fix it, you work on it by yourself and solve it and on the way you learned and got more knowledge (and maybe at the end you pay for it to get it fixed as you screwed up but still you learned).
Some things are easier than other, and more specially some things require tools or equipment you don't have and won't use much.
Most of things are logic, and if like me your boat system are a bit old things maybe simpler than you think.
I would not be much comfortable working on recent engines full of electronics but in my case it is old school and purely mechanical.


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Old 06-22-2021, 06:19 PM   #16
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I think there are at least three components to the equation.

First, is your current knowledge and ability.

Second, is what you feel you can and want to learn. You have to weigh the stress factor and the finances and the time.

Third, your relationship with a dependable yard you trust. You know the cost that comes with it but also that they'll do it right. If you don't have someone you trust to do it right, you might tend to go beyond your aptitude.

I think you need to weigh all factors. If tackling something yourself gives you a pleasurable sense of accomplishment then great. However, if it starts to impede on your enjoyment of your boat, make it all much less pleasurable, then perhaps it's now wise. Only you can judge.
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Old 06-22-2021, 06:30 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toocoys View Post
I have two problems. The first is that I am paranoid of sinking the boat, so anything that deals with something that can potentially create a leak I cannot control, scares the living $h!+ out of me.
That made me think of the time I had a visiting boater at our pier help me drill a new 3/8" hole in the hull below the waterline (boat was afloat) to install a reference zinc holder for my Electro-Guard corrosion control system. I handed him a cordless drill and the went over the side with a plumber's helper to cover the approximate area when the drill would poke through the 1.25 inch mahogany planking. He was nervous as heck, but as soon as the hole was though, I pushed the 5200-coated bronze bolt and washer I carried with me up through, and all was well. He went off kinda dazed saying, "I'm gonna tell everybody I drilled a hole in the bottom of Rich Gano's boat." I had to laugh.
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Old 06-22-2021, 06:41 PM   #18
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Limits: there are several different kinds.

There are limits to knowledge. For that you can choose to school yourself using the variety of resources listed. YouTube, manuals, advice from friends, etc. For this part, you have already identified the issue, which is fear of failure.

Mechanics are not schooled in quantum mechanics physics. The good ones are pretty bright, but they learned and you can too if you choose to. Yes you will make mistakes, and learn to laugh them off. The saying applies, good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement. You have a killer advantage the pro does not, and that is you can apply more care and time than they can afford to give it. They have a killer advantage of having tricks of the trade. As one carpenter told me, if there are no tricks there is no trade.

There are physical limits. How much can you lift, how contorted are you prepared to get to make the repair. Some jobs take someone bigger, or smaller, or more limber than we are. Back surgery isn't worth it to save a few dollars.

There are occasionally limits of tools. Most things need simple tools. But if something expensive and specialized is needed, that you may never need again, that just might be the time to call in the pro.

There are at times risk / reward limits. If you screw something up, are you going to injure yourself or others? Personally, I am pretty shy around voltage. I limit myself to simple basics. Others are better at it, and good for them.

And then there are the kinds of limits attached to true grunt work. Many hire out the work of bottom paint. Its not complicated. Its not hard to learn. But its just worth it to pay someone else to do the nasty job.

Choose wisely.

Boating gets damned expensive, fast, if you hire help to do every little thing.

It comes down to two questions: 1) CAN you do it? Often with study the answer is "yes". 2) SHOULD you do it? That's tougher to give broad answers for.
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Old 06-22-2021, 07:00 PM   #19
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Third, your relationship with a dependable yard you trust. You know the cost that comes with it but also that they'll do it right. If you don't have someone you trust to do it right, you might tend to go beyond your aptitude.
All good if you don't go anywhere
But if you actually cruise you are at the mercy of the great unknown - or you carry spares and lift your game
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Old 06-22-2021, 07:50 PM   #20
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