Maintenance in Paradise, January, 2010
knows the old definition of cruising: "sailing from exotic
port to exotic port, repairing your boat." But we were a little
surprised when, in the midst of budgeting for 2010, we discovered
how much it costs to keep Akka in good repair: Over the last two
years, we spent more than $15,000 on boat maintenance! The amazing
thing is that in that period we really didn't have any major repairs
- no motor rebuild, no lost dinghies, no expensive encounters with
rocks or reefs.
$15,000 figure is actually low. It does not include improvements
and upgrades, such as replacing the canvas dodger with a new hard
dodger, nor any sails or rigging. Plus, we do most repairs ourselves
for example, we never pay for oil changes and other routine engine
maintenance, and we install and replace all electronics and electrical
components ourselves. And when we do need help, as we did when the
bolts holding the flywheel cowling to the motor broke, the cost
of labor here in the Southwest Caribbean is comparatively cheap
- a top mechanic might charge $200 a day. On the other hand, parts
are a bit more expensive than in the States - we figure we average
about 20% more, including shipping.
A review of our list
of repairs for the last two years doesn't yield any obvious lessons.
Our biggest single expense was hauling the boat and repainting the
bottom with antifouling paint (about $2000 total, including paint),
a job we need to do on average every two years or so in the tropics.
Next were the Schaeffer heavy-duty jib cars, which blew out more
or less simultaneously; the replacement cars didn't fit correctly
and had to be machined before we could use them ($1300 total, for
four cars). Both of these expenses were related to the size of the
boat, but none of the rest were.
repairs (about $1200) lost out to electrical ones ($1500). During
the two-year period, we had to repair and then replace both our
starter motor and the main 130-amp alternator, at a total cost of
around $700 each. This might seem like a rare experience, but a
review of our records shows an average time-to-failure of less than
two years, for both starters and alternators, both of which we use
heavily (especially the alternator, which runs at full capacity
for 1-2 hours a day and gets really hot). The alternator repair
bill also highlights a factor of cruising that we don't usually
think much about: Two different repairs only lasted a couple of
months, and while they were both under warranty, those warranties
were of no value to us, considering that we had long since left
the countries where we got them.
We read an article by Jimmy Cornell not too long ago, saying that
he had sailed around the world for $20,000 (not including flights
home to England). Mr. Cornell must not sail in a 20-year old boat,
or else he simply is letting it go to ruins, and he must eat really
cheaply. If we add our $7500/year average repair bill to our annual
grocery and household expenses of about $6000, and then tack on
the entrance/exit fees for the countries Mr. Cornell visited on
his around-the-world cruise, we would far exceed his budget. We're
guessing that inasmuch as Jimmy Cornell owns the round-the-world
rally in which he participated, he must get a lot of stuff free
- that's the only way we can think of that he could survive on $20,000.