Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in the Ocean Cruising Club’s monthly bulletin (oceancruisingclub.org).
It is in the nature of cruising that skippers occasionally have to repair a system about which they may have little knowledge. It has been my experience and observation that there are some skills that make it quite likely that one will succeed in the repair.
My first “rule” is taken right out of medical training: “Do No Harm.” The primary danger where experience and knowledge are limited is that, in the poking around searching for a solution, matters are made worse. The next worry is that you do not document how items came apart.
Please! Do not rely on memory: your smartphone camera is an impressive tool in this regard. The best insurance to doing no harm is to proceed slowly and thoughtfully —there is usually no rush. In addition to photos, take real-time notes; partly as the notes will be helpful, but also because the taking of notes is a marvelous stimulus to creative problem-solving. It is far too easy to get stuck in a limited line of thinking.
The next and last tool to be mentioned is persistence. If one persists in poking around and resists doing harm, the problem is very likely to reveal itself. Give yourself the mindset to persist. Tell yourself that you are learning about the system at hand, rather than repairing it. Make it fun and feed your curiosity and you will very likely execute the repair. At worst, you will have a better knowledge of the problem and the next steps to take.
Dick Stevenson sails aboard his Valiant 42, Alchemy.