Marvelous Marsden and the Miserable Maintenance

Morning at Marsden Cove

They say cruising is merely boat maintenance in exotic locations.  There is definitely some truth to that.  I’ve wallowed away many a beautiful evening at anchorage contorted into an advanced level yoga pose to reach the back of a loose connection.  The girls are now helping with this as well, while I become less pliable to reach these spots, they are becoming old enough to access the other end of that connection and help out.  

Our return to Banyan has been glorious, it’s great to be back.  At the same time, a boat doesn’t wait for you to return to start aging again.  Boats are like most things, if you leave them unattended and unused they will slowly deteriorate.  The presence of salt water, salt air, heat, humidity, and New Zealand UV speeds this process.  My goal was always to buy a boat and sail away, to keep sailing until I was done sailing and sell the boat.  Our five-year full-time cruising plan has become something a little different and that’s o.k, it’s all a part of cruising.  We’re together as a family and that was the overarching goal in all of this.

Upon our return, we’re tackling some projects that we knew about (engine mounts, light carpentry, annual toilet pump replacement, and some that we did not expect such as our solar panels biting the dust.

Solar Panels

Upon returning to Banyan we found our 400 watts of flexible panels had packed it in (as they say here).  This was not 100% unexpected as flexible solar panels don’t have the life span of the rigid panels.  There are a couple companies that do make very reliable flexible panels but these come at a very high cost.  Right now the market has been inundated with inexpensive flexible panels with two-year warranties, buyer beware.  The frustrating thing is that our panels are actually within their 5 year warranty period but to get them back to the U.S. is almost $800, the initial cost of the panels.  

Our solar needs were also beginning to outpace our production.  We’re moving to 400W of rigid panels on a small solar arch (a stainless steel mount we are having to manufacture) and hope to keep 200W of flexible panels from a reputable producer.  This will also necessitate the installation of a second solar charger which gives us a backup.  This will provide us with 600W of solar and 400W from our wind generator.  This should amply cover our power needs.

We don’t typically lay our paddles on the solar panels, but since these panels are dead, we are sizing up space for a paddle rack under our new solar arch which will carry our hard panels

Engine Mounts

Our engine mounts were identified as a potential problem in March of 2018. We have a dripless shaft seal that has started dripping while underway and we’re hoping the new mounts will decrease the shaft vibration and take care of this.  Yanmar recommends changing them every two years but to date, I’ve never heard of anyone doing that.  In the marine environment, they slowly rust and the rubber hardens decreasing their functionality. I believe our mounts are probably from the original installation of this motor in 2002.  I actually purchased the mounts and carried them through the South Pacific in case I needed to change them but it did not get to that point.  

I finally deemed it time and went to work.  To replace the mounts on Banyan we raised all engine mounts to max height.  This involved removing the alternator, parts of the cooling system and some of the inner framing.  We then carefully lowered one mount at a time while the engine was supported by the tripod of the other three mounts.  One mount was such a beast that I laid on the engine, Annie stood on one corner as a cantilever while Isa and I carefully pulled the old mount out and slid the new one in.  Two of the mounts disintegrated while moving them off the boat.  

We also found that one leg of the engine was loose.  Upon removing the alternator I was also able to get a good look at our raw water pump which looks like it might have the telltale signs of coming failure.  There’s also a number of little spots that will get some touchup paint. The more time you can spend laying on your engine, the better you’ll get to know her!

a typical position

Repainting the outboard

We returned to an outboard that was shedding its paint.  We currently have a 15hp 1994 Johnson.  It’s a trusty workhorse and being a two-stroke it’s lighter than newer 4 stroke engines.  It was Isa’s idea to paint her green with a gold pinstripe to match  Banyan.  Having a unique outboard decreases the chances she’ll be stolen and makes her easier to identify in a busy anchorage.  Annie and the girls have taken on this task which is awesome.

outboard engine prepped and ready for paint

Toilet pump

After five years of cruising, I’ve become a huge believer in preventative maintenance and the toilet sits at the top of the list.  Historically we’ve spent 99% of our time anchored out so we need to have a reliable head.  The very first thing I did upon returning to Banyan was to install a new Jabsco hand pump to replace the old one.  I’ve gotten in the habit of doing this annually before we see signs of failure.

Rigging Inspection

The standing rigging of a boat is the wires (and in some cases rods) that hold up the mast.  The running rigging is all your halyards (ropes that pull up a sail), sheets (ropes that position the sail to port or starboard and allow the sail to be close in or let out), and all the other ropes that do a myriad of other jobs mainly associated with powering or de-powering the sail.  FYI, there are no ropes on boats, they are mostly lines and all have their own special name. When the force of the wind fills the sails, the standing rigging is what supports the mast and keeps it straight and upright. 

The forces on the standing and running rigging can cause all types of deterioration over time.  I typically go up the mast to inspect standing and running rigging every couple of months and before any significant passage.  This year I’m having an independent inspection completed as well by a local rigger.  After my initial inspection, I had a few areas of minor concern which I’d like his professional opinion on. He has already been once and will come again.  So far, so good.

Cameron aloft

Minor Carpentry

We’ll have some small carpentry things done next week.  This is in part to aid with airflow in certain electrical cabinets and also to improve access to the area under our nav station seat.  I love having a professional shipwright/carpenter on board as it gives me a chance to learn and ask a lot of questions!

Sail Inspections

While we were away we took the sails off (a beast of a job) and had them stored at UK sails, a local sail loft.  They inspected and repaired areas of concern and also did some retrofitting for us.  If you recall, we’ve had some challenges with the mainsail pulling out of the track near the bottom of the mast.  We had them install additional “cars” or connection points between the sail and the mast track to help spread the load and hopefully reduce the frequency of Annie and I re-attaching the sail from the bottom up, mid-ocean passage.  

working to source parts

These are the main things that have resulted in us loitering in a marina this last month.  But, there are hundreds of other little things that get worked on whether that is sewing that needs doing, touchup painting, stainless polishing, anchor chain inspections and so much more.  

O.K. Back to the bilge…….

By Cameron Vawter


  1. Douglas Vawter says:

    Great post!! Very interesting to all “us landlubbers”. Thanks for yesterday’s call and the new photos to our NixPlay. Adelaide’s garden looks good. How are the music lessons going for the girls?? Enjoy your land trips as you discover north NZ. Love to All!!

    • Anne Vawter says:

      The music lessons are going well! FaceTime or Skype or Zoom we get them done. We are also doing speech therapy via zoom with my cousin’s wife! You will hear Adelaide’s piano song in the January One Moment a day!

  2. Liz says:

    All this is so interesting to me. Thank you for tapping it all out! And is that a bacon model of a catamaran there on a plate next to you? 😀

  3. Scott Gerber says:

    What a Great Post!! Your detailed list and clear explanations, generated a list of my own! If and when you ever want to practice your mechanical expertise, there is a great glass of Cab awaiting you at the end of your work on Late Harvest – Huntington, NY! Our Beneteau 423! Good luck with all. Looking forward to your next Post! Safe travels. Scott Gerber ⛵️

  4. Marianne McGriff says:

    Good morning, Cameron, Anne, Adelaide and Isa
    I LOVED all the details of your maintenance…maybe, if I was there??? I’m going to go back and reread later today. One of the pieces, of course, is that it’s a family ‘affair’ and your overall goal of spending time together. I just finished my bookcase and the selection of those memorable ones for placement. « The Dove » was in the mix!!!!!! Please tell the girls that I have a new recipe that was served at my small group last Monday…only three ingredients: cocoa, nuts, dates! They were delicious and Carver loved them!!!! I’ll pass along as soon as the recipe is sent to me. My granddaughter, Elizabeth, who is 14 is reading George Orwell’s « Animal Farm. ». Somehow, it missed my reading lists in MS and HS, but it was an interesting read…you might add to your list, Anne. Love and Blessings to ALL of you, Marianne

      • Marianne McGriff says:

        I listened to a blog where Beth Moore was being interviewed. She said that books are her LOVE language. « If you want to be smarter, READ and if you want to be dumber, spend your time on social media. ». Now she acknowledged that she as an author, teacher, speaker, uses social media to promote her books, talks, etc. But, she’s very disciplined about the amount of time she spends daily in front of a screen!!!!!!!!!!
        You are SO wise to READ, READ, READ…love, Marianne

  5. Fred Blue says:

    It’s comforting to know that when you set sail your Banyan will be in tip-top condition even tho you have been bent out of shape getting there. lol This adventure is truly a family affair and definitely everyone does their share and all will reap the rewards.
    Again, we were so happy to see all of you at Christmas. Our grandson Sean (Brett’s son) will be somewhere in the New Zealand area early March on their way home from S Korea where they’ve been teaching English. We will never forget visiting your family in Australia when Kim was only 6 mos. old. I think that is where this sailing seed got planted in your mind. 🙂 Good luck on all your repairs and may all your refurbishing go smoothly….Cuz Brian B. would really come in handy… 🙂 Our Love, A Janis & U Fred

    • Anne Vawter says:

      Thanks, Fred! We’ve been in touch with Sean, hopefully we can hook up! Cameron has been communicating with him so I’m not 100% sure where we are in planning, but we’ll do our best! Thanks for your comment!!

  6. Barbara Vawter says:

    What a great blog all about maintenance & keeping dear Banyon in great shape! Cameron, you share the details & photos of boat maintenance so well. Cameron and Annie, I admire you so much and your instilling great values of hard work, fun and working together as a family to dear Adelaide and Isa. You are great mentors to your girls and I’m sure many boating families, plus the all the landlubbers. May God continue to guide you in your adventures and safe boating. New Zealand is a beautiful country indeed.
    Love and hugs, Mimi

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