On Your Own • There is an old saying that cruising is nothing more than sailing your boat from one exotic repair facility to the next. But while the locations can be exotic, they are often without what we would normally call facilities, without even electricity or running water.
We have hauled out on a beach in Panama’s Perles Islands using nothing more than the tide and a few oil drums to hold the boat upright. Halfway up the Red Sea, we helped a buddy pull the head off his engine, grind the surfaces by hand and re-bed it with a new seal made from blank gasket material…and it worked. Once, three days out of Gibraltar, we had to temporarily fix a leaking engine injector by wrapping it with fiberglass cloth and resin; surprisingly, that repair held for the 10 hours we needed to motor to the island of Madeira. We have used MarineTex to fix any number of things including a broken head (numerous times) and a split water lift muffler on the engine.
I am no mechanic, and am not especially handy with tools. But I always carry with me the tools I might need and spare parts for just about everything. The point, really, is that we have always worked hard to be as self sufficient on our boats as we can be because, at sea, there are no diesel mechanics or sail lofts. And, in the great cruising grounds of the world—the truly exotic islands—you aren’t going to find much in the way of assistance, either.
Over the years, we have had to repair or replace just about every working part on our boats and being able to do so, or having friends nearby who can help, has brought a lot of new knowledge and a certain amount of satisfaction. For example, I am no electrician, but I have rewired the power transformer in our ham radio using only the schematic in the user manual as a guide and I once cooked our handheld GPS in a warm oven to bring it back to life—it never failed again.
A big part of being self reliant is making your boat as energy efficient as possible. If you can generate and store an ample amount of electricity, you will be able to stray far from the marinas of the world and you will be able to run power tools and make all kinds of repairs when the need arises.
That’s why we are pleased to bring you our annual special feature on Energy Afloat, starting on page 38. The section’s authors, Andy Cross, Daniel Collins and Ellen Massey Leonard are all vastly experienced cruisers who have lived and breathed self sufficient cruising for years. And they have struggled with and solved the energy afloat problem in low cost, high reward ways. We hope their insights and advice help you on the road to being more self sufficient, too.
And as you sail from one exotic repair facility to the next, and improvise and solve your own gear issues, you will discover the joys of relying on your own wit, skill and imagination to keep your boat and your cruising life in good working order. That’s what self-sufficient cruising and true seamanship are all about.