The definition of cruising, so they say, is: “Boat maintenance in exotic locations”. Lately, Instagram has been alive with the saga of New Zealand friends in Grenada who replaced their thrust bearing without taking the boat out of the water.

The final picture (in SCUBA gear with a screwdriver to tighten the anodes) was greeted with a wave of congratulations from around the world.

I was in awe – but then maintenance aboard Samsara tends to be rather more mundane. I have spent much of the day in the Virgin Islands with my head under the sink, trying to find out why the carpet was always wet.

Now, I dare say that readers who still have to go back to work on Monday will be horrified at the idea of carpet on a boat. The correct surface for the cabin sole is pine and holly stripes – immaculately varnished. I had that aboard Largo, and very fabulous it looked.

But I have been surprised to discover how many cruising boats have carpet – and there’s a good reason: If you walk around on varnish every day, you have to give it a new coat every couple of months – and then get off the boat for 24 hours to let it dry.

Also, carpet is not slippery when wet – and I thought mine was just to cover up the grotty lino…

Anyway, out came the detergent and the disinfectant and all the other plastic bottles which live in the most inaccessible locker on the boat – and sure enough, once I got the floor out, there was a good couple of litres of water down there. Fresh water, too – even though it was a bit brackish.

If I’d known about this when I was running out of water back in 2020, it would have kept me going for an extra couple of days.

Now the problem was getting rid of it: There were so many pipes, and it was at such an awkward angle that the big sponge wasn’t much help. Never mind, I had my handy hand pump.

I bought this on a whim on Amazon, and it’s never really been much good. For one thing, spending its life with its tubes coiled up at the bottom of the cockpit locker means that you can’t poke it down into small spaces where it’s needed. Obviously, I’d had this problem before because guess what was taped to the bottom: The forged and tested galvanized shackle I bought for the anchor chain before realising that it was too big for the bow roller.

I always wondered what had happened to it. I knew what had happened to its pin – that was weight on the pull-through cord for the clarinet (you need something that’s heavy but slim enough to slide through without getting caught on all the gubbins inside.)

It had always troubled me that if ever I should need a really strong shackle more than I needed a clean clarinet, I wouldn’t be able to find the rest of it.

And that wasn’t all that was down at the bottom of the cockpit locker. Have I mentioned that every boat has a secret place where stuff goes to hide – the really expensive snatch block that I hadn’t even used, the Leatherman Multi-tool that disappeared from the chart table into thin air…

Lately, they had been joined by the spout for the spare fuel cans. For the past year, I have been laboriously syphoning every time I ran out. Now, the mystery was solved: I don’t know how it is with yard-built boats, but their home-completed cousins tend to have cockpit lockers which are open to the bottom of the boat.

This is a better idea than it sounds – any water drains into the bilge.

So does a spout for a fuel can.

And if the boat spends long enough bouncing around on port tack, a spout will work its way over from the port cockpit locker to the starboard.

This was brilliant: two problems solved – and I hadn’t even started on the galley leak.

Actually, that was the easy part: I just had to find some way to stop the broken adjustable spout jumping off the water filter every time the foot pump increased the pressure.

I jammed a clothes peg behind it.

Now I expect congratulations from around the world.

8 Responses to Maintenance

  • Hi John,

    Re siphoning fro. Fuel cans, have you discovered jiggle pumps? they work really well…I use several times a week to do many 20 litree cans… get the about 3/4 inch size from AMAZON

  • I may ‘plagiarise’ this bril trick and start a thread on to Reader re ‘101 Uses For An Old Clothespeg’.
    The question is – should I credit JP, or would he not wish his reputation sullied by such boat-bodgery?

  • You can’t beat a wooden clothes peg ! Great idea…. Isn’t it interesting how we’ve gone to plastic ones, now likely back to wood because it’s better for the environment and they don’t get brittle & shatter … and you can use them
    To properly fix things

  • Wooden close pegs are essential boat gear. We use half a peg to stop the genoa cars rattling on their tracks on those all too frequent and annoying occasions when there’s little wind but a big swell (the port car is located inches above my head when in bed). Oh and of course – congratulations!

  • Perhaps the beginning of a new book ? 101 things to do with a clothes peg (other than the obvious) ? I trust you applied a little Gorilla glue to make permanent?

    • Wot??? Thereby rendering it useless for redeployment when the same clothes peg comes to the rescue to save the sinking yacht (or perhaps peg a sock out on the guard rail?) – please don’t over-engineer what is already a perfectly adequate solution to an engineering problem.

      I’m not sure how many congratulations you need, or from where, to qualify for “congratulations from around the world”, but you certainly get my congratulations from Pin Mill, Suffolk (Syntonic, Rival 32).