Offshore reliability is a virtue

Offshore sailors John Harries and Phyllis Nickel voyage aboard a 56-foot aluminum cutter called Morgan’s Cloud. They cruise while running their business, Attainable Adventure Cruising Ltd. They also post items to their blog, Attainable Adventure Cruising. Below is a post about something dear to the hearts of every mariner: a piece of gear that just keeps working year in and year out. For a voyager, reliability may be the most important virtue (other than a full cruising kitty).

From Harries and Nickel’s blog: Our Tank Tender from Hart Systems is 20 years old and one of the few pieces of original equipment left on Morgan’s Cloud. For those of you not familiar with this unit, it relies on hand pumping air down a tube in the tank and then measuring the resultant pressure to determine fuel or water level. Our Tank Tender has helped us manage our fuel and water in some pretty remote places where it really mattered; like the east coast of Greenland where running out of fuel will result in a long and very chilly (we heat with diesel too) trip home. (We have carefully constructed a graph of liquid depth against volume of fuel or water remaining that is surprisingly accurate.)

At the end of our last cruise, the Tank Tender started to get a little flaky–still usable, but not its old reliable self. Even this failure was probably not the unit’s fault since it got drenched with salt water some years ago. We removed it, diagnosed a couple of bad valves and sent it back to Hart Systems.

Three weeks later it was returned (most of that time was for shipping) all cleaned up and in working order with a very reasonable invoice attached. Not only that, and without being asked, Hart included a new manual and a full set of tube ends just in case we had lost the manual (we had) or the tube ends had corroded (they hadn’t).

Sure, we could have replaced the unit with some fancy electronic system, but I wonder how many of those will still be working 20 years from now. Or, even more to the point, how many electronic systems of any type bought today will be obsolete, superseded, and not repairable just five years from now. My guess, based on bitter experience, is most of them. Makes you wonder if new, fancy and electronic is always, or even generally, a better way; doesn’t it?

Not only is the Tank Tender great gear, but Hart Systems are a pleasure to deal with: communicative, helpful and going the extra mile by providing the tube ends and manual without even being asked.

By Ocean Navigator