The Spare Essentials: Pack properly for potential problems and keep these spare parts aboard
Every boating adventure promises an amalgam of excitement, relaxation, mistakes, and mishaps. Rarely does something not go wrong; it’s a truism every boat owner knows from experience. That’s why extra fluids and impellers—and a handheld VHF radio that’s always
charged—can save the day in remote locales where help from other boat owners or towboats is lacking.
“I take those big containers you get at Home Depot and fill it full of spare parts, and then I make a list of what’s inside,” says Perera, who runs his 54-foot cruising boat to The Bahamas two or three times a year. “We started going over there in 1999 and have been all over The Bahamas, from the Abacos to the Exumas.” Having the proper tools to make the changes—such as an oil filter wrench—is also important. “It’s practice at the dock so you know how to use your tools,” Perera quips. “That way when you get out there you know what to do with those tools.”
Expect the Unexpected
Perhaps the weakest link on the boat is the impellers, the muscles inside raw-water pumps. Having a spare impeller for every pump can be invaluable in an emergency. Debris that clogs the raw-water supply can cause engine overheating, and the impeller can implode. “Again, you need to know how to replace impellers and that takes practice,” Perera affirms. “If you can’t do it if you are at the dock, you can find someone who can.” Bad impellers will have cracking where the vanes are at the base, or the tips will show damage. Because they are inexpensive—and you have a spare—if there is a question
then always change the impeller.
Quickly removing raw water from the bilge can also help save the boat in an emergency, and that’s where an extra external water pump comes in handy. You don’t want standing water or fluids in your boat, and again, any fluid is a sign that something is wrong. “Extra belts for your generator and engines are good to carry,” Perera adds. “Belts don’t weigh much and you can stock a full replacement set. Also, have a way to jump-start your battery, and if you have to plug a leak or slap some stuff together, 3M™ Marine Adhesive Sealant 5200 is good to have. It’s also nice to have extra light bulbs in case one goes out, and extra coolant for the engines.”
Some boat owners carry extra propellers or even an extra anchor, but Perera says the extra weight of anchors and propellers makes it impractical to carry a spare. “Spare props
for my boat weigh 500 pounds, and carrying it around burns a lot of extra fuel,” Perera states. “Good luck trying to get three guys to wrestle that out of a compartment, off the boat and then put the spare propeller on. It’s a lot of weight to carry for a very
low probability. And with an anchor, again, that’s a lot of weight to carry, and then you
have to know how to splice it and put the anchor line together again.”
Some items, such as life jackets and flares are more than spare parts, they’re must-haves. “If you are going to do long-range boating, then have the Type I life jackets with the whistle and the light,” Perera recommends. “You will also want a life raft that is certified annually, and make sure your flares are up to date.” Emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) and personal location devices (PLBs) are among many products available that can save lives when catastrophe strikes.
Heir and a Spare
While not counted as spares, it’s important to make sure these valuable electronics are in working condition.“With the EPIRB all you have to do is flip the switch and airplanes and ships can locate your position within five feet. It’s a piece of safety equipment that’s not a spare but a requirement in my opinion.”
In the end, while spare parts can improve the odds of surviving an accident at sea, it’s never completely safe at sea. A boat owner and his crew may have a decent blueprint
about how to create and implement an emergency procedure, and Plan A is having such a procedure and protocol in place but never having to use it. That’s because you arrive at your destination safely, with time to spare.
By Doug Thompson, Southern Boating January 2018