Boats are like houses in some ways. They both can start out new and have only a few problems initially, if they were built with quality and with good quality systems, and if you properly maintain them. There are some big differences with boats though. Things break down quicker with boats than houses no matter how good the quality. Some reasons boats break down quicker are:
- Boats are actually more complex than houses with more integrated systems. Boats have their own electric power generation (usually with multiple generators and solar power), their own communications systems (VHF, SSB, Satellite, AIS, Radar, etc.), their own water systems (water maker, fresh water, salt water), their own sewage system, plus their own transportation system (engines and sails).
- Boats live in a much harsher environment. They live around salt water which is a corrosive environment which leads to corrosion. They also live on the water, and if they travel through blue water they get subjective to mighty forces at sea. A multi-day passage can lead to tremendous forces especially if the seas are rough. And wind is an incredibly strong force which puts enormous forces on the boat even when we reduce canvas to protect the sails and rigging from harm. And finally, the power of the sun is tremendous at wearing down components on the boat – canvas/sails, plastic, and rubber are broken down by the UV of the sun.
- Boats then also have the basic appliances of a house (refrigerator, oven, freezer, air conditioning, heat, washer/dryer, etc.). Some of these are designed to address some of the harsher environments and unique situations and power limitations of boats. But, are not necessarily built to the same quality standards as home products since they are only sold to a much smaller population. They tend to have more quality issues than products that are built for millions. Costs to repair them are also often higher and parts usually have to be shipped from far places.
Tahina was new when we bought her in 2008. She was built in South Africa in late 2007, and then sailed 8000 nm to the US to be shown at the Miami Boat show before we bought her. So, although a new boat, she already had more miles under her hull than some boats get in a lifetime. Since then, we have sailed her another 27,000 nautical miles under those same harsh conditions mentioned above.
After 35,000 miles, the most used critical systems on Tahina are starting to show wear and tear. The biggest most visible evidence of this is Tahina’s sails. Both the main and jib have both had to be repaired multiple times now. Both of the sails are no longer pure white like when they were new. Mildew, volcanic ash, and other things have gotten dirt on them. The sun has done the most damage slowing eating away even the strongest anti-UV thread and the fabric itself.
My hope had been to wait until we got to South Africa to replace the sails. But, after Karen (with some help from me) spent three days repairing our main sail in Darwin, Australia last September, we started thinking maybe we need to replace these sails sooner. We don’t want to have to do a major repair like that while crossing the Indian Ocean.
So, we recently got a quote for new sails. I went to the original maker, Quantum Sails, in Cape Town, South Africa for a quote. They still make the sails for new boats of our make/model, and they also make sails for Gunboats (the fastest production cruising catamarans on the water). They now use a new material that is a carbon and kevlar fusion membrane which is what we have selected. These new sails should be super strong given those material’s reputation.
This will be the largest expense we have had to incur to replace a part on Tahina. The last was the spinnaker (another sail) which we replaced last year. But, this is an expense we budgeted for and knew would happen during the circumnavigation. The cost is the equivalent to a used car (or replacing the roof on a house). But, when you consider they provide us with transportation, and last for 30,000 miles and five years, in the harshest environments, it’s a reasonable expense. We are excited by the thought of having new sails which will not only look better, but will be stronger and not cause us to worry about repairs in the near future.
It will be several weeks before the sails are manufactured, then another several weeks before they are shipped by boat to us here in the Malaysia area. We will report here when we get the sails and show lots of pictures of the installation and new sails aloft.