How to keep up with boat maintenance.
Updated: May 1
A patron saw our previous video about the maintenance of the water maker which sparked some curiosity about how we keep up with the maintenance of all the systems on Calypso-- let’s dive in!
Short answer, I don’t really have a set system.
But let me break it down a little better for you:
I worked in the aviation industry in the Marine Corps for a long time. Power Plants, Fuel Systems, and for those, you do maintenance in different intervals, as well as unscheduled maintenance. For the intervals, you have hourlies, dailies, biweeklies, so on. So every 14 days you go out and you do a 14 day inspection, which means you wash the airplane, etc...
I don't keep a schedule that detailed on the boat, however, my background did make me very picky about things. So I'm constantly checking systems, always going through looking, making sure everything is running properly. Of course there are some tasks that I check on an hour basis-- for instance, the engine needs oil changes every 500 hours while the transmissions are on 200 hour cycle for oil changes.
Every so often I go around and run tests. Sometimes at night I'll wake up and think that I should look at something, so I just go do it. And then of course you have unscheduled maintenance. For instance, two nights ago, our Bilge Pump alarm went off in the middle of the night and never stopped. So the entire next day I spent working on the Bilge Pump. So there are things like that that don’t have a set schedule.
I don’t keep a written record of every single thing that I fix, but I do keep a list of all of the hourlies, and in 2 years I haven’t even taken up a whole page. I write hourlies down so that I can come back and double check those hours so I don’t go too long between changes by accident. I write down things like oil changes, generator oil changes, impellers, primary fuel filter, secondary fuel filters, etc. And then I can come back to it so I know I have about 60 hours left on the engines before I have to do an oil change, which is helpful before a passage so I know that I don’t have to stop in the middle of the passage to do any routine maintenance.
Before a passage I do keep a shortlist on the notes section on my phone as well. As we are preparing for the trip, I go through the whole boat. I look at all the systems we have on the boat and I'll make sure that everything is running properly. I'll also look at the hourlies and make sure everything is ready to go. I keep a record of this on my phone before we leave for easy access to make sure I get this list done before we head out.
When unscheduled maintenance issues do come up, there's a priority level. Let’s say something breaks when you're cruising and you don't have the part, you're probably not going to stop cruising to go search for it -- especially in The Bahamas because they likely won't have it. So if you can put it off, you'll wait until you can pull in and get the part or get it fixed. Other things can be critical (like the Bilge Pump I was talking about before).
The way that we've found that works best for us is once a year, we stop for two or three months and we just knock out that list, get it over and done with. Then we continue on with everything in order. If you stay on top of it and check your systems regularly, you'll usually find those issues before they happen. Sometimes something will sneak up on you and you have to deal with it right away. As you cruise, your list begins to grow, and every once in a while, something stops working completely so we have to fix it then and there.
So, long story short, we don't feel like it's overwhelming. Maybe it was when we first moved on the boat because we were learning the boat as well as fixing all the problems from it sitting for a couple of years. When it does get overwhelming is when you have something that needs to get done but you don't know how to fix it yet. You have to figure that out in order to be able to fix it. That’s when we put our time into searching YouTube and Google.
I hope this was helpful, and apologies for not having a perfect set system for you haha, but this has been working for us! You can also find the video to this post on our server under the exclusive content video section.