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Spares - Am I being Stupid or what?

spare shaft

by Eric!! » Mon Aug 18, 2008 8:55 am

We (two boats Sarana and Leonidas) recently towed some friends of ours over 300 miles to South America because their prop shaft broke in the middle of the ocean. Once in Ecuador they couldn´t find a replacement of suitable metal locally and had to order one from Panama and fortunately another sailor was sailing down to meet them and brought the new shaft with them.

If they had a spare, they could have saved about a month of sitting on anchor without engine power. (They drug once and we were able to resecure them with dinghies.) See the story here with photos: ... chive.html
and photos of the broken shaft and the repair job on the tidal grid:

In general if the spares are good, it doesn´t hurt to have them on the boat. However they were able to eventually get a replacment.
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by RBEmerson » Mon Aug 18, 2008 11:23 am

Well, shoot, by that reasoning, one should carry spares of everything. Kinda doesn't leave much room (or money) for the crew, does it?

Packing spares is, I think, a roll of the dice. The conventional wisdom is to load up on stuff that goes often, or stuff you can't get along the way. But at some point a choice has to be made, and it should be "well, yeah, they're short on gronigle gaskets in Pago Pago, but how often does one really need to replace them?" Sure, there's some chance the gronigle gaskets will go in mid-trip and much time will be spent replacing them. But then, most times, they'll hold up just fine. It's all a matter of choices and reading the odds.
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by Eric!! » Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:58 pm

Not really, my point is if you already have a good quality spare part, why not keep it for future use.... Otherwise you might find yourself waiting a long time and spending extra money trying to get a replacement.
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by osiris » Thu Sep 11, 2008 11:29 pm

The best part of having lots of "spares" onboard is simple. The original item for which you have a spare or spares will never break or cease to function. Only those items on the boat for which you do not have a spare will break. So I carry around a couple hundred pounds of "spares" all carefully vacuum sealed to prevent rust and have yet in 7 years needed any of them. However, just about everything else on the boat for which I do not have a spare(s) has managed to break or cease at the most inopportune time(s).
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by SY Gemini » Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:27 pm

The check list of items that tend to break in exotic places has been documented in many publications over the years. We like many others have carried a few 100 kgs of spares half way round the world. Many of the items are expensive and take up valuable space. Apart from belts and the genset water pumps few have ever been used.

In my view spares fall into 2 distinct categories for example 1. mission critical self replaceable items such as thermostats, water pumps, belts (engine specific items), epoxy and matt and one length of rigging plus stalok terminals. The second category includes alternators, starter motors, head gasket, battery chargers which are repairable in most populated areas or capable of quick Fedex / DHL delivery.

The lists can be tailored to the needs of individual boats and the items I have included are just a sample.

List 1 items are essential and would be carried all the time while voyages to more remote destinations would involve selections from list 2. Unless you are truly in a remote location list 2 items remain in the shop and the cash in your wallet. It is a good idea to have a list of suppliers and email addresses for each of the items on list 2.

Tradesman in exotic places often have to make do and we have seen some brilliant repairs including machining piston rings and repairing a crankshaft. Don't underestimate what can be done.

Generally the spares lists seem to revolve around our auxillary diesel or genset. Rarely does the absence of an engine stop you; after all the boat does have sails. We witnessed a boat sail half way up the Red Sea without an engine thanks to excellent sailing skills and a dink with a good outboard for getting in and out of anchorages.

The cost argument for a boat full of spares makes no sense, cost of capital and the probability of you giving engine spares away if you eventually repower negate any savings in purchase price or courier charges to exotic places.

I need to get ruthless on our spares inventory ..... or paint the waterline up some more!

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Re: Spares - Am I being Stupid or what?

by SteveFredrick » Wed Jul 07, 2010 7:07 pm

A friend of mine lost his shaft at sea some years ago resulting in a large hole in the bottom of the boat. The shaft coupling had come loose somehow. He plugged the shaft log with a coolie cup, but he did not have a spare shaft. Fortunately we were able to anchor about 75 miles from civilization, and he was able to have a new shaft flown in by seaplane and we put the new one in with the boat in the water.
So, where are you cruising, and how far away is the closest facility? Then again, what are the odds especially if you check those things religiously? I don't carry a shaft, but I sure have lots of other spares. Me, I'd chuck it. That's what I did with my old shaft
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Re: Spares - Am I being Stupid or what?

by SV THIRD DAY » Wed Jul 07, 2010 10:03 pm

I'm trying to remember EVER hearing a cruiser complain over drinks at night about them having too many spares aboard their boat. If you have room...fill it with spares. Spare parts are like Amps and Fresh just never have enough!
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Re: Spares - Am I being Stupid or what?

by bobm » Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:51 am

The ONLY way that you will have enough spares with you is to tow a sistership behind you. You do need to draw a line somewhere but that is a personal choice. For me, I have just pretty much everything and could re-wire the boat at sea or major maintenance on the diesel if required. Prop? Yes. Prop shaft? No.
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Re: Spares - Am I being Stupid or what?

by ajchan » Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:06 pm

My two cents worth is that if you have space on board for a spare anything, keep it. Spares earn their keep in many different ways as they can serve their original purpose, be McGyver'd into something else or used as currency for something you really need. Also don't forget the plain old good feeling you might get from helping somebody else out of a jam.

Once you run out of space than it becomes a triage thing in deciding what to keep and what to ditch. Often the wisdom of Solomon coupled with serious discipline is required. There are limits however as I've just replaced my rudder and there is no way I am going to lash the old one on deck somewhere in the hopes that it might be useful down the patch.

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Re: Spares - Am I being Stupid or what?

by Imram Brain » Sun Aug 15, 2010 2:58 pm

My boat came with a spare prop and shaft. Since the spare prop is the opposite rotation, I suspect that the builder got a deal on a pair of shafts and props from someone's twin engine boat. Both prop and shaft are fastened down in the bottom of the locker under the settee. I think the shaft is about six feet (I'd have to do a lot of work to get down to it for measuring!) The sucker is heavy, but so's everything else on the boat so it's never going to be fast.

Even if the shaft were to break I don't think it would be possible to replace it without a haul-out. But I wouldn't have to wait to have one delivered.
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Re: Spares - Am I being Stupid or what?

by Soggy Paws USA » Thu Nov 04, 2010 1:40 pm

And to weigh in on the specific issue of carrying a spare PROP. Everyone should!! Twice in 3 months of cruising, we have had nearby cruisers with major prop problems.

We were in the Tuamotus of French Polynesia this summer and one boat broke loose in a squall and grounded on coral. We managed to get him off without any hull damage. But he had sheared one blade of his 3-bladed prop. Yes, it is a sailboat, and yes spares are available in Tahiti (very expensively shipped in, with a major delay). But navigating the passes in the Tuamotus strictly under sail would be very challenging.

Fortunately for our friends, another boat had a 2-bladed prop they were willing to loan, and we had a prop-puller (fashioned when the first incident happened in the Galapagos), and we did actually manage to get the old prop off and the loaner prop on, in the water). He was able to safely limp to Tahiti, and navigate his ownself into a dock.

The other incident was in the Galapagos when a pre-departure inspection found a wobble in one blade of a folding prop. Major major expense and gyrations to get a prop into Ecuador (not necessarily the Galapagos, just Ecuador)...they finally had the replacement Fed-Ex'd to the US (from UK) and then flown down by a friend who's expenses they paid...With 2 iterations on a locally-fabricated prop puller, and 3 experienced divers, they managed to get the old prop off and the new prop on. But 'waiting for parts' introduced a month's delay in their tight cruising schedule for the year caused them to have to skip Fiji altogether.

We saw similar issues with rigging parts from 5 or 6 boats this year...people eventually got what they needed, at great expense and after a long delay. But they all had to make a major change in their cruising plans (and severely cut into their cruising budget).

So, it's been said above, I just wanted to add some current, first-hand illustrations... if you like to go to 'out of the way' cruising destinations, you should have all the spares you can carry. Yes, you can get them almost anywhere, but it's how much you'd have to spend, and how long you'd have to wait, and whether you'd be putting your boat more at risk while waiting...

If you're planning on only coastal cruising in one of the worlds popular boating spots where spares are readily available, and FedEx fees won't cost you your first-born, then you can go a lot lighter on spares.

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Re: Spares - Am I being Stupid or what?

by Imram Brain » Thu Nov 04, 2010 3:25 pm

I will just add my own experience, for what it's worth. Last spring I crewed on a friends 45 foot twin-screw motor boat, going through NYC harbor. Due to our 'excellent' navigation, we found ourselves aground between channels. In the process of backing out, one of the props touched some rocks and got bent slightly, enough to cause some vibration but not enough to force us to stop and fix it immediately. He was able to move on down the New Jersey coast toward the ICW and then stopped and installed his spare props in Delaware. (As it turns out, he dinged the other one after I got off the boat. :) )

I would also add that most of the boat consignment stores I've been to in Rhode Island seem to have quite a few props. If you can find ones that fit, I would think that would be an economical solution. My boat came with a spare prop and shaft - but they are the opposite rotation. I think the previous owner/builder must have scrounged up a set from a twin-screw boat.
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