Boat work in exotic places, by Brian

A modern cruising boat is much like a house. On Delos we have many of the same conveniences that make life a little more civilized including electricity, flushing toilets, running water, refrigeration, air conditioning, and a washerdryer. We can go months at a time without tying up to a dock which means we need to be totally self sufficient. We aren’t connected to any public electricity grid, sewage system, or water supply so we generate our own power, dispose of our waste, and make our own water. It is important for boat owners like us to make sure our boats are functioning properly and we are doing what we can to support our boat living, that is why we make sure that maintenance needs like checking the engine, building our supply of bronze bolts, and replacing our teathering rope is at the top of our lists.


Delos Crew takes an afternoon off for a float party in Port Maurelle, Tonga


Rebuilding our windlass in Tahiti

Now Imagine taking your house and moving it thousands of miles from the nearest Home Depot- into a corrosive saltwater environment that loves to chew away at the metal and corrode everything in sight. We had nothing of the sort of metal or plastic glue to fix these. Plus, we were way from the support of appliance repairman, electricians, plumbers, and mechanics. If a light bulb burns out, water hose bursts, or piece of machinery malfunctions you need to be prepared to fix it or do without. In the past, I have had to sell my boat because it just wasn’t built for the conditions we wanted to sail in so I’ve had to get an upgrade — the sea is often more corrosive than people realize so owning a boat that is built for longevity is vital.


View from the top of the mast while working on the wind instruments in Tonga

We set off 15 months and many sailing miles ago stocked with spare parts. In Seattle, I mentally went through every critical system on the boat, noted our spares on hand, and ordered what I thought we needed for a repair at sea. It was like, I wanted to order water pumps online, along with the rest of the supplies we needed. We had drawers full of every light bulb imaginable, spare water pumps stashed under bunks, cabinets filled with toilet repair kits, and plastic organizers overflowing with random bits like metric seals and brass compression fittings.


Hard at it in La Cruz, Mexico

We’ve definitely had our share of failures so far, which you come to expect on a 10 year old boat that’s been out cruising 8 of those years. Stuff breaks and wears out. Luckily most of ours have been fixed with spare parts on board or brought by friends flying in to sail on Delos.


Working on the generator heat exchanger in Neiafu, Tonga

  • In California we repaired the forward head, re-installed our propeller that didn’t want to stay on, and replaced the membranes on our fresh water maker after it started producing salt water.
  • In Mexico we replaced our malfunctioning VHF radio, air conditioning pump, bow thruster propeller, propeller shaft seals, and had every sail re-stitched and reinforced for the Pacific crossing.
  • During the crossing to the Marquesas we repaired the aft head, generator ground isolation relay, and propane hose for the stove after it broke in half leaking propane into the boat (very scary!).
  • In French Polynesia we repaired the electric windlass for the anchor, our ripped mizzen spinnaker, dive compressor, generator salt water impellor, and replaced one of our refrigerator cooling fans.
  • In Tonga we worked on the electric furler for the main sail, serviced the generator heat exchanger, rebuilt the dinghy engine carburetor, repaired the B & G wind direction instrument, and had two battery chargers fail.


Fixing the main electric furl motor in Tapana, Tonga

Luckily we’ve fixed most of our major problems. All our really important stuff like sails, rigging, hull, and main diesel have worked brilliantly through all that we’ve put them through. Right now our biggest problem is our battery chargers. Delos is a very power hungry boat with electric water pumps, toilets, winches, furlers, 2 freezers, 1 refrigerator, and of course all our computers for entertainment. We could get by without most of this, but it makes our life just that much easier. Luckily we have solar and wind power that provide about half of our electricity needs. Until we get our battery chargers replaced in New Zealand we make up the other half by running our main engine and charging from the alternator. Not ideal, but it works!


Our large battery charger that blew up a capacitor in Neiafu, Tonga

Before leaving Seattle we hauled Delos out of the water in preparation for our adventure. While in the midst of painting the bottom with fresh antifouling, replacing the propeller shaft seals, and servicing the bow thruster we had a visit from the previous owner of Delos. He sailed Delos from France to New Zealand and back to the US over a 5 year period. With a smile Stephan asked “So, you do realize that cruising is another word for boat work in exotic places right?” Yep Stephan I realize it, and it still beats the heck out of a day job!