I Learned About Boating From This: Carrying Spare Parts Improves Boating Safety

When 100 miles from shore, home and help, this boater’s preparedness prevented potential catastrophe.
Boaters with broken steering
Carrying spare parts for important systems on your boat will decrease the likelihood of being stranded. Tim Bower

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As a 57-year-old third-generation boater who grew up on the waters of the Long Island Sound, I understand that our hobby comes with inherent risk every time we depart the dock. Even armed with spare parts, tools and resources, breakdowns occur. I like to think we keep our boats well-maintained. Service intervals are strictly followed, and if anything breaks, it’s quickly fixed.

In late 2020, my family purchased a 2013 Grady-White -Marlin hull with no engines. All the components and rigging for the new twin engines were updated. However, we missed one vital component that I never once thought to check in my years of boating until it failed nearly 100 miles offshore.

Shortly after dusk last August, we were jigging for bigeye tuna. We boated a bigeye and were thirsty for more when catastrophe struck. I grabbed the wheel, and it spun in my hands as I looked out over the dark water. No steering!

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Heading offshore is serious business, and we carry an array of spares. We quickly discovered a kink in the hydraulic-steering hose under the rubber boot where the hoses connect into the steering actuator. The 10-year-old hydraulic hose had ruptured. Fortunately, calmness prevailed, and one of my crew jury-rigged a patch with the protective boot, several extra hose clamps and zip ties. With limited steering, we headed north and still managed another tuna and a bunch of mahimahi as we limped home.

Within a week, all four hydraulic-steering hoses were replaced. The lesson to share? Check under the protective boot and always carry extra steering fluid, a bag of zip ties and extra hose clamps. It is super cheap insurance.

Mike Epstein
Trumbull, Connecticut

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