Life on board a cruising boat is not all sun, sand and amazing cultural experiences. Okay it is mostly like that, but sometimes you can get stuck with a problem that you don’t know how to solve. We’re talking about boat maintenance here. We have to do all our own boat maintenance and fixing, sometimes in areas with no internet connection so we can’t ‘google’ the answer to our problems. Maintenance is a big issue for cruising boats; it is very easy to get stuck somewhere waiting for that vital part to be delivered.
Now Florence is a simple boat with little to go wrong that we would need to order parts for e.g. no water maker, generator or freezer. We often see and talk to people who have missed a weather window to move on as they have to wait for parts. Thankfully this had not happened to us until now. When a weather window finally arrived to leave Bundaberg and head south, our engine would not start. Quickly diagnosing air in the fuel lines we bled the system and got it started, but after turning it off for an hour, it failed to start again. This was clearly something more serious.
We pride ourselves on being fairly self reliant, especially with Matt’s electronic engineering background, a handy skill to have on board. However we have very little experience of working with engines. As couple of sailors who hate motoring, beyond the basic maintenance, we have had very little to do with our engine. The engine is therefore the biggest worry on board. A bit of an irrational worry, as it is nearly new and has been very reliable, making it half way around the world without any problems.
Luckily for us we are never really on our own; the cruising community is a diverse range of people with a huge range of skills. When one person has a problem, others with experience in that area will always say yes to lending a hand. Matt has on many occasions happily fixed electrical faults on other boats. It was a great relief for us to be able to call on Paul, who is a retired Marine Engineer, to come and give us his expert opinion on our educated guesses as to why the engine would not start. He agreed with our conclusion that the fuel priming pump was broken and he had a trick to prove it. It’s such a relief when ordering an expensive part to be sure that it will fix the issue. We thanked our lucky stars that this happened in Australia where we can get parts easily, in this case overnight so we would still catch the back end of the weather window.
We’re not religious people, but do believe in karma in a way. If you do good deeds for others, when your time of need comes, others will be there to do good deeds for you. When we were in Nuku Hiva Paul and Jill had anchored next to us. It turned out they had a broken rudder and needed to pull it out. We of course offered to help and Matt was soon snorkelling in the murky water under their boat, helping to remove the broken rudder. Thousands of miles and over a year later, here Paul was with all his knowledge just when we needed some help.
The warmth and generosity of the cruising community has been the biggest surprise of our trip. We had no idea that it would be like this but it makes sense when you think about it. All long term/long distance cruisers have so much in common that we are very likely to get along. All have the get up and go attitude required to sail around the world. All understand the difficulties of living in remote locations far from the resources we would normally have on land. Couple that with the fact that most cruisers are retired professionals with a lifetime of skills and experience in everything from engineering to medicine, and you have an amazing support network. Once you get used to living within this community you no-longer feel isolated. You know that if you have a problem all you have to do is put out a call to any cruisers in range and they will be there to help, even if you have not met them yet. You know this because you would do the same for them.