Questions & Answers
Any quick fix advice if something on the boat isn't working quite right?
Ask and you shall receive! Here are a few things that I've run into that you CAN do before you call in the charter mechanic or tech.
Charterer's Guide To DIY- What you CAN do on your own!
On a bareboat sailing charter, we tend to expect "smooth sailing" (literally), but there are times when we need do some good old fashioned problem solving and get our hands dirty. Charter yachts are a mix of modern components blended with ancient technology. The end result is a broad mix of centuries old technology and high tech mechanical "things" with lots of moving parts. When any one of these "things" doesn't work quite right (or not at all), one piece of onboard gear tends to get used more than others to address issue that arise: the mobile phone. A quick call to the base and a mechanic is on the way. I might suggest that this be the second option. Much of what may come up on charter is very minor, especially if you know what to do. Besides, waiting on a mechanic can burn anywhere between an hour and a day. A simple DIY job starts to look pretty good about then.
Here's a few things I've run into while bareboat charter sailing that anyone can remedy.
Cabin Fan Rattling
If you've ever chartered a sailing yacht before you've heard the rattle of a cabin fan. Oddly enough not every fan aboard is affected. There's usually just one. The one right above your head by your bunk (where else!). Here's a few ways take care of that:
1. Tighten the nuts. There are two plastic "nut" end caps on either side of the fan holding it to the mounting bracket. These tend to come loose. Tighten these up and the rattle usually goes away.
2. If the end caps nuts are tight and it still rattles you can tighten the fit between the end cap nut and the fan cage with a thin piece of cordage wrapped tightly between the end cap and the fan cage. Pulled snug this will take up the loose space, and soak up vibration. Note: A twist tie can be used in place of cordage.
Water Pump Won't Stop Running
Normally a running water pump means the water tank is empty and it's time to change over. But what if the tank is full of water and it won't stop running? Leaving it run is not an option. It's a guaranteed way to burn out the pump. If this ever happens to you, try these:
1. Be sure you truly have water in the tank and the tank selector switch is on the correct tank.
2. If you have water in the tank and the valve is on, run the sink in the galley. You may notice a bit of air coming out of the system. If you do, an air bubble in the line is your culprit. Let the water run until there are no more air bubbles (about 30 seconds to 1 min). If the issue persists, purge the sinks aboard as well.
3. If you've recently emptied one of your water tanks and changed over, double check the change over valves. Sometimes the valve doesn't get pushed "all the way." Also be sure you flipped the right valve. Yachts with fore and aft tanks sometimes have change over valves in less than intuitive places. Like a change over valve for the aft port tank on the starboard side. Then there's always human error. During one briefing we were shown how to change over the tanks only the briefer got the valves backwards (on turned out to be off and vice versa).
4. If none of the above work and you do need to call the mechanic, be sure to turn off the water pump on the main panel.
Errant Alarm or Battery Alarm Sounding
We had a rough and very swelly ride one day with lots of bouncing and splashing. When we pulled in that evening our bumped around boat let us know just how much she liked all that in the form of an electronic revolt. All the systems worked, but all the electronic monitoring registered zeroes across the board making it look like we had no fuel, water, or batteries. This caused our low battery alarm to sound off. A low battery alarm is a common alarm, in our case we had plenty of juice. Be that as it may, getting that annoying alarm to shut off is the same either way.
Here's how to handle those alarms:
1. Errant Alarm. This one is easy. Locate the directional pad (D-pad) on the nav station electronics panel. It has for "buttons" arranged in a large circle. Right in the center is a circle button (the "enter" button). Press and hold the center "enter" button until the alarm turns off. That's it. Describing where it is and what it looks like is harder than the actual solution!
2. Alarm With No D-pad. There are two options here. There will either be an alarm cancel button or, if there isn't you can start the engine or generator. This will also shut down the alarm if the system thinks the batteries are low.
3. True Low Battery Alarm. Starting the generator and switching on the charger, or running 1300 RPM with the engine in neutral will both shut down the alarm and get the juice back into the batteries. Like the suggestions above, you may also have the option to cancel the alarm manually by holding the enter button or alarm cancel button in the nav station.
Note: Never make assumptions about alarms. Investigate the cause thoroughly before canceling any alarm. Remember there are alarms for the bilge, low pressure gas leaks, and fire too!
Air Conditioning Not Cooling
It's true, sometimes the A/C quits working. Shudder at the thought! But each time this has happened to us, it's never been the fault of the A/C.
Try this if your AC is not cool:
1. Check the air intake vent. These can be located in weird places. Like the foot of the bunk. This is where it was located on one of our sailing trips and we soon discovered just how much neatness counts. The bunk didn't get made up each morning. The bed sheet hung over the foot of the bed and covered the A/C intake vent preventing air from entering the system. So, check your intake vent. You never know where you might find it (or what's blocking it).
2. If the intakes are all clear, check the hatches. Are any open? If so, A/C systems using a chiller will freeze up. The humidity will cause the chiller to literally freeze. Think frost like you see in the onboard freezer. Be sure all are closed and check the chiller unit to see if it is freezing up. If it is, leave the system off and allow the unit to defrost. Once it is, you'll be good to go (so long as you keep the hatches closed once you turn the thing on).
3. This last one is quite common for yachts with more than one A/C "zone." In the hurry to cool the yacht down, each zone sometimes gets turned on too quickly one after the other. Basically loading the amps up on the generator too quickly. In other words, if you flip on the "front" A/C then immediately flip on the "back" A/C, the "back" A/C will pop its breaker and shut off. You won't have anything blowing out of the vents then. Allow for three to five minutes between powering up each A/C compressor and you'll have cold A/C in no time. If a breaker does pop, give it a few minutes to cool down and it won't pop a second time.
Sink not draining
Just like at home a sink can back up. And just like at home, don't put anything down the drain that does not belong (keep it liquid). But even playing it safe, sometimes they back up. Luckily, the solution is a simple one. Cup your hand over the top of the drain like a "hand plunger" (think sink CPR compressions). Press down firmly two to three times insuring you have a good "hand seal" over the drain. The pressure will unblock the drain. It's worked every time so far! Keep in mind sinks drain right into the ocean. Don't use any chemical "unblocking" solution.
Dinghy Key Missing
Here's a phrase I've heard more than once on nearly every charter: "Did you see where the dinghy key went?" We're pretty organized aboard, but for some reason, the dinghy key has a knack for hiding. Should you ever misplace yours or lose it here's an easy fix. The dinghy key slides under a small knob of sorts on top of the tiller arm. This "knob" needs to be pulled upward to allow the engine to run. Without the dinghy key it slides down preventing the engine from starting. If the key has gone missing pull the knob up and slide a piece of cordage in the space normally occupied by the dinghy key. Do not wrap it, you should be able to be pulled free just like the dinghy key. Tie a loop in the end of the cord and place it around your wrist. You'll be able to start the engine and still have a "kill cord" should you exit the dinghy unexpectedly.
Dinghy Valve Leaking Air
I put this one to the test on a recent review. The starboard side of our dinghy was slowly leaking air. When I went to inflate it with the dinghy pump I ended up doing just the opposite. The moment the hose was removed from the valve, it dumped all the remaining air. I'm glad it was sitting on deck at the time! On closer inspection I discovered a spring was missing from the air valve. This little spring pulls the valve shut so air can't get out. At first it seemed like there was no easy fix for this one. After all, without that spring putting pressure on the valve how would it stay closed? Then it hit me... pressure! If this should happen to you, try this:
Grab that dinghy pump again and start pumping. If the problem is the valve as it was in my case, the dinghy will fill with air. As it does the air pressure becomes the valve "spring." Pump it up good and tight. When you're done, remove the hose quickly and the valve will seat itself closed, held tight by the air pressure. If the valve is depressed when you remove the hose, quickly pull it toward you (a second pair of hands helps with this part). The air pressure now keep will keep the valve closed. The trick is to keep the pressure up, just about full aint gonna cut it. There won't be enough pressure to hold the valve shut. Last step, cover the valve with duct tape or sticker of some sort so the valve isn't accidently depressed by the crew. When I used this fix it lasted the duration of the charter trip with no issue. But I stowed the pump and some duct tape in the dinghy just for good measure.
Dinghy Outboard Suddenly Stops
Being dead in the water can be a spooky subject for some. Driving along, out in the middle of nowhere (or in the middle of the night in our case) and suddenly the outboard stops (hope you brought the oars!). Now, I am no outboard tech, but I can share with you what I've encountered and what has worked for me and the Charter Advisors crew when we've had outboards die on us. If yours should suddenly stop, try these simple solutions before digging out the innards of the motor.
1. Check to be sure you have fuel. You'd be surprised how many dinghies I've towed to the dock after they ran out of gas.
2. If you do have fuel, be sure it's getting to the outboard. Check the clip at the end of the gasline where it meets the gas tank. This line can get loose if the gas tank can slide around on the bottom of the dinghy. Its position in the bottom of the boat near people's feet can also be a factor. I had visitors come aboard one day and no matter how many times I asked, they used the gas tank like a step to get in and out of the dinghy. The gas line loosened up and unclipped slightly (though it wasn't apparent by looking at it). We got left high and dry on our way back from Saba Rock late one night. Doing a "hand check" of the gas line connections produced an audible "click" as the line re-seated when pressed. A couple of pulls on the cord and the engine started again like a champ.
3. If all looks ok, check the dinghy key. Be sure it's pressed in all the way. If the "clip" on the dinghy key looks thin or worn, try pulling up on the "knob" the key sides under and starting the engine.
4. What about if the engine starts the first time but won't start a second time? If you should run into this one, check the engine fuse. From time to time a fuse makes it in there with a "lower than optimal" amp rating. It will start the engine, but blow out in the process. Replace the fuse with proper size from the spare parts drawer and your good to go. If you have no spare fuses aboard you can bridged the blown one by wrapping it in tinfoil and snapping it back in place. She'll start right up! (be sure to tell the charter company to replace the fuse.)
5. This last one isn't a solution but it's a way to keep from having a problem in the first place. If you're having trouble starting the engine, resist the urge to pump the ball in the fuel line. It's a really good way to flood the engine. Instead pull the choke. The only time you should need to prime the engine with the ball pump is when you first hook up the fuel tank.
6. If none of these help, break out the oars and paddling songs!
Open Cabin Hatch Not Funneling The Breeze To You
Hatches are a funny thing. For one thing, if you leave them open at night it's guaranteed to rain. And two, they funnel the trade breeze but some how that tunnel of sweet air always flows somewhere other than where I'm sleeping. And it applies to many-a-charter-yacht out there. Sure, a Breeze Booster can be added (a wind scoop - tent sort of a thing), but they don't redirect the air, just scoop more of it (that I don't get either). One night aboard I finally got irritated by the whole concept. I was in the bow cabin of a chartered 40-foot monohull, the hatch aboard this particular yacht was positioned just above the foot of the bunk. The open hatch scooped air all right, but funneled it out the cabin door and down the saloon. When the door closed, much less air flowed through the cabin. It was basically a "closed system." Still no breeze for me. I've never understood why some forward cabin hatches aren't placed to get the breeze to those in the bunk. Even the hatches placed directly over the head of the bunk tease and don't deliver much direct air-flow. So I took matters into my own hands. This is what I did:
I raided the spare towels!
Searching through I found the biggest beach towel of the lot. With the hatch open at 45 degrees as normal, I tucked one end of the towel under the bottom of the hatch, tucking it in around the hinges, wedging the towel in tight. Then I took the other end of the towel and tucked it into the foot end of the bed, in between the mattress and wood bed rail.
The set-up wasn't pretty, but it worked! The towel billowed like a sail and threw all the breeze that would normally go straight down the saloon back to me. I slept the rest of the night and every night there after in pure bliss, even reaching for the sheets every once in a while!
The "towel trick" proved to be a simple solution that can be put in place in 10 seconds and taken down in 1.
Jib Line Winch Override
A winch override is a fancy way of saying, "I tangled my line around the winch." One review trip I brought a large crew of very very green "sailors." Some had never even seen the ocean. But this is the reason Charter Advisors is here. To introduce charter sailing to those who may have never considered it before. Some adapted and embraced the adventure and responsibility quite nicely. A few of them were eager to get their hands dirty. Maybe a little too eager as it turned out. What they lacked in experience, they made up for with brute force, resulting in a jib line, double winch override (both the port and starboard winches fouled). And both were wire tight. Powered winches (which we had) are especially good and cranking things down extra good! The question is, how do you slack a line tangled around the winch so it can be sorted? Especially when it's super tight and heading the wind doesn't do a thing to slack them up.
First instinct might be to reach for the ol' knife, but that's a bit too simple of a solution (Unless it's really necessary!).
Try this instead...
1. Identify if you truly do have a line tangled around the winch. Start the engine, head the wind, depressurize the sail, and unclip the jammer. See if any line will feed back out. If it is doesn't move, you've confirmed the winch override.
2. Take the load off the winch. No knot has ever come out while it's being pulled tight. Take a spare length of line (of roughly the same diameter) tying it off at the at the jib clew (where the line attaches to the bottom of the sail). Run the spare line to another winch, taking up the tension of the jib. You may have to use a snatch block (pulley of sorts) to guide the spare line. A spare snatch block is often included in the spare parts bin aboard. Now that the spare line is holding the pressure of the sail, you can freely work the tangled line loose and get things sorted out again.
Wrap the once tangled line back around the winch neatly using three turns as usual, closing any jammers along the way. Ease the spare line putting the job of running the jib back on the jib line. There you have it, override fixed, no knife required.
Under all that teak and gleaming deck hardware even the most luxurious charter yacht is still just a boat. Every one of them has a personality of its own, so you might as well embrace it. Revel your chartered yacht's uniqueness and have fun with the occasional exercise in problem solving. It sure beats the heck out of waiting on a mechanic all day just to realize you left a bed sheet over the air return (well THERE'S your problem). I've used every one of these "tricks" at one point or another. As the Charter Advisors crew often says: "There's always a simple solution."
- Charter Review: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite by Captain Kev
- Charter Review: VOYAGE Charters, VOYAGE 520 Silver Lining by Capt. Kev