The Generator is probably the most used piece of equipment we have installed. It now has over 1,000 hours on the meter and overall has served us well. The Next Gen 3.5 KW is a perfect size for our boat and needs. It will run all of the equipment on the boat without straining, including our 16,000 BTU air-conditioner. We did trip the internal breaker once with the air-conditioner, microwave and hot water heater all on at the same time. There were a couple of issues that gave us problems, but those were corrected easily. The raw water hose that connects to the intake side of the water pump collapsed. The short piece of hose was made of a very soft material and it couldn't hold up to the suction. We replaced that with a good quality Trident hose and have had no problems since. Totally unrelated, the raw water pump impeller self-destructed for no apparent reason. That, too, was replaced and has been fine since. The raw water pump also began weeping and we replaced that rather than have the pump rebuilt. It had only been in about 6 months and was a bronze Johnson pump, so we were surprised it was beginning to fail. Next Gen did not cover it under warranty and that was a little upsetting to us. A fuel line also developed a leak. It was determined that the line was made of a very poor quality material and the tight hose clamp cause it to leak. It is an odd shape to be able to connect to the fuel pump, and we didn't want to use the same line from the manufacturer and have this happen again. So instead of the pre-shaped piece of line, we use a longer section of diesel fuel line and looped it just enough so it wasn't kinked. No leak since then. Other than these few problems, the unit has worked hard and provided us with all the power we need.
The Garmin autopilot is our favorite crew member. Our GHP 10 steers the boat much better that we can and does a fine job in almost any conditions. Making crossings in the Bahamas and in the Gulf Stream in large, following seas were the real tests, and the Garmin passed with flying colors. The power draw is small and the response is excellent. Even in long, straight stretches of waterway canals, the autopilot does all the steering with only the occasional adjustment. Having the wireless remote at the lower helm instead of a second control head also proved to work well. Since the lower helm is only used in bad weather, the remote doesn't get used very often. When it does get used, everything works as advertised. The crew has been very pleased with this decision.
Our electronics are getting older and many of them are legacy models. But they all work great and we can't justify replacing things just because there is something newer out there. Our RL 70, Raytheon radar is over 30 years old. After a repair to a connector, it has served us well. We have had this unit on both of our boats. The unit on Beach House was here when we bought her. Many skippers have discussed at length the need for radar at all.We don't use it often, but when we do, we need it. Most of the time the radar is used to track approaching weather. It's easy to tell if an approaching squall or weather front will hit us and gives us enough warning to prepare the boat and crew. It can even help determine if we can find a sheltered spot to get the anchor down, or if we need to just batten down the hatches. The boat's radar has come in handy a few times in foggy conditions. Usually the boat stays put if there is fog, but occasionally the fog will lift, we get underway and the fog returns. It happens. Our elderly Raymarine depth sounder is also still doing an outstanding job of telling us that we have run aground. There have been a few occasions when the depths began to display all over the place, but those were probably anomalies rather than failure of the equipment. Our Standard Horizon VHF has been back to the manufacturer once for repairs. Other than one problem, it has worked just fine. During the repair process, we relied on our backup handheld and a loaner VHF from a friend. Our CP 300 Standard Horizon Chartplotter has helped with the navigation for thousands of miles without a complaint. It may not have a touch screen or all of the capabilities of the newer, more expensive units, but it gets us where we need to go as safely as any of those units that cost two or three times as much.
The WiFi equipment that we built and installed years ago is still doing just fine, thank you, is in use almost every day and pretty much stays on 24 hours a day. The original Bullet extender still pulls in access points that are miles away. We are finding fewer and fewer open WiFi access points as in earlier years, but there are still some out there. In the marinas, when everyone else needs to go to the office or clubhouse to use their computers to get online, Beach House has internet access from the main salon. Because we do need to run our business online, we have added a Verizon MiFi to our wireless arsenal to fill in for those times when an open WiFi or marina WiFi is not available. This combination works well and keeps us connected all of the time. There is a post in the planning stages to bring our boating WiFi information up-to-date. For the most part, nothing has changed and all is well.
Our Ford Lehman 120 engine is a real workhorse. Maintenance is a priority, and oil and filter changes are about the only regular maintenance items. There have been a few replacement items. Early on, all of the heat exchangers for the oil and transmission were replaced, just in case. The main heat exchanger was cleaned, but eventually started to leak. The problem presented itself when the fresh water side of the engine began to manufacture more water that it held. The replacement was easy, but not inexpensive. If you follow our posts, you know that the front main oil seal started leaking and it took two tries to get it repaired. So far all is well. The repair isn't difficult, but you need the right equipment to do the work, and re-installing the new seal must be done just right. The valve cover gasket had developed a few slight leaks and that was also replaced. The Racor 500 housing was another replacement. Not because anything was wrong with it, but rather the metal had starting rusting in several places.
The electrical system was not immune from wear and tear. The batteries all required replacing at about the 6-year mark. Not all of them HAD to be replaced, but our thinking was, if some needed to be replaced now, the others were probably not far behind. The start battery just mysteriously died unexpectedly while we were in Baltimore last summer. The house bank was showing signs of losing its charge faster than normal during our Chesapeake bay cruise. The 6-volt Interstate batteries that have served us well in both of our boats were very difficult to locate. The decision was made to replace them with Duracell 6-volt batteries, and the best price available was from Sam's Club. All of the new electrical panels are holding up fine. During the installation of the generator, new transfer switches had to be added for the two electrical panels. The main panel is fed off of shore power, the generator and the inverter. The second smaller panel is just for the air-conditioner and is only fed from shore power and the generator. Sitting in a slip for a couple of months, we have been on shore power only. One morning recently, the air-conditioner panel was showing a reverse polarity fault and only 9 volts on the display. After disconnecting the power from the dock and opening up the electrical area for inspection, it was found the that transfer switch was badly burned. It would not turn to disconnect or switch between sources. Any find like this is very disturbing and trying to determine the cause was priority. Unfortunately, we could not track down how or why this happened. A new switch was ordered and installed and all is working fine with no signs of heating. This is something we will be keeping a close eye on in the future. There were some electrical issues with the dock at the marina on the St. Johns River where we spent this past winter. The owners corrected the problem, but it may have ultimately caused the switch to fail over time.
The anchor windlass died on us while we were in the Bahamas last year. It was repaired in Marsh Harbor and worked fine until reaching Virgina on the return trip up the ICW to the Chesapeake Bay. Rather than repair it again and have it fail once more, we purchased a new Maxwell windlass to replace the old one. The Maxwell is much more robust and has a lot more oomph to raise the anchor and chain. It will run the anchor rode out where the previous windlass would only do free-fall when dropped. The Maxwell will do both. Maxwell is well-known for their quality, and the price was the best we could find for anything in the same size range. The switch was easy, since the Maxwell footprint was about the same as the old windlass. We could also use the same foot switches and solenoid, making the replacement about a 30-minute project. It's been doing a fine job of making anchoring easier, hundreds of times since the replacement. The Maxwell retrieves the anchor rode at about twice the speed of the older unit.
The Livingston dinghy and all of the accessories we have installed have served us well and met all of our expectations. Running up on a beach covered with shells or landing on a rocky shore is no longer a worry as it was with an inflatable. If there is a downside, it's the dinghy bumping against the hull or swim platform while in the water. With an inflatable, we never heard it. The Livingston lets us know it's there. The Weaver Davits on the swim platform and the addition of the electric winch on the mast make launching and retrieving the dinghy a breeze. It only takes a few minutes and is effortless. Either of us can launch or retrieve single-handed with the push of a button. Our lift for the outboard has been another improvement that is appreciated over and over. Our vintage 6 HP Johnson is not a light hunk of steel, but getting it off the bracket mounted to the stern, on to the dinghy and back off again is no longer a bodybuilding exercise. It makes a big difference if there happens to be a little chop in the anchorage. The lift came in very handy when we were replacing the batteries and needed to lift them from the dinghy to the deck.
Although this list is not complete, it covers the highlights and most important installs and upgrades we have done so far. Our cruise will resume in October and we look forward to putting all of the gear through its paces once again. On a boat nothing lasts forever, but expectations are that things will last at least long enough that you feel like you did get your money's worth. Over the decades, we have watched as some of the best manufacturers have dropped from the scene or allowed the quality of their equipment to fall. There are a few that have maintained their reputation and those are the same manufacturers we have tried to stay with over the years. How about you? What equipment has held up well for you on your boat? We would like to hear from you.
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