Two years ago when we bought our Floating Home, it was more boat than I ever imagined owning. It has two Yanmar 480 diesel engines, Racor fuel filters two vacuflush bathrooms, a 10 KW Generator and let’s just say a breaker panel that scared the hell out of me when I first saw it!
My initial thought and fall back answer when something needed fixing was “I’m not very mechanical, let’s get a pro in here.” Forgetting that when we first moved into our house, with 4 young kids and money was tight, it meant I had to learn how to fix everything from washers and dryers, to how to replace hot water heaters and even how to run new electric outlets. There was no way was I going to call in an expensive professional with six mouths to feed! Oh, how times change.
With boat mechanics’ rates ranging from $60 to $120/hour, and not wanting to be stuck at sea with a clogged fuel filter, I’ve had to learn to do some things myself. This has happened in various ways. First, whenever I did have a mechanic on board, I observed and asked a lot of questions. I knew this would slow them down but I was paying by the hour after all. My other secret weapons are the owners’ manuals and YouTube. I spend many evenings reading manuals and watching how to YouTube videos on repairs.
Slowly my confidence rose. I remember one particular moment when we were leaving Rhode Island to begin heading south back to our home port of Chesapeake City, Maryland. The port engine began shutting down and I knew it was starving for fuel, I had a clogged fuel filter to deal with. I carry a big selection of parts on board including every filter needed for the boat. We headed toward the nearest cove, set the anchor, and I went into the engine room armed with tools and a replacement fuel filter. Twenty-five minutes later I fired the Yanmar 480 back to life and smiled with great pride as if I just discovered a diamond mine! Stephanie caught this glorious moment on video.
Over the last 18 months, since we have lived aboard, I’ve replaced our hot water heater, at least 8 Racor fuel filters, the starboard engine fuel filter. I replaced the ice maker unit, serviced my GPS unit on the radar arch, repaired our washer/dryer combo unit (with the help of a boat neighbor) and serviced the generator by installing a new water pump, pressure switch and fuel filter. I have even repaired the vacuflush toilet!
This past weekend, in preparation for our second trip to Florida, I changed the oil on both engines and the generator which may have taken twice as long as a pro, but hell, I did it myself! Although nobody was here to witness it I did the Snoopy happy dance at the end of the day.
For major repairs or anything electrical, I will still call in the pros. As Clint Eastwood says, “A man has got to know his limitations.”
As we prepare for our second journey to Florida I leave the safety of our home port knowing I have a box of spare parts, an I-Pad with internet access to YouTube and a lot more confidence than I had 18 months ago.