Jan 25, 2021
PO’ed at the PO
Was the previous owner of your boat a blessing or a curse?
POSTED BY Alan Jacobson
Beneteau 40CC “Imagine II”
The letters “PO” can represent many things:But in the world of boats, “PO” refers to the “previous owner.” Some POs are saints. Others are sinners. I had one of each. My boat’s original owner was an airline captain. Like most pilots, he was meticulous in every way. He created his own “manual” for the boat. It comprised 40 pages of practical information such as the part number and manufacturer of every filter, when to reef each sail and how much to reef based on the wind, location of all thru-hulls, contact information for everyone who had performed regular maintenance on the boat, etc. His manual was far more extensive than the information Beneteau provided. I remain the lucky beneficiary of his effort to this day. I refer to his manual often. The second owner of my boat was … well, let’s just say he preferred to defer maintenance rather than perform it. His go-to repair supplies were silicone and electrical tape. None of his wayward ways appeared in the surveyor’s report, nor did I become aware of them until after I took possession and began finding leaks and electrical problems. But I blame myself. When he first showed the boat, he proudly showed me his fix for a strut that did not support the companionway steps when it was lifted to access the engine. His solution? Move the saloon table over to the companionway steps and support them with the table. This was a tell – but I was too wrapped up with buying the boat. Instead, I ignored the obvious. I merely made a mental note to replace the strut. When I think about the two previous owners, I am reminded of “Goofus and Gallant” from “Highlights” magazine: But here's how I imagine Goofus and Gallant as the two previous owners of my boat: “Goofus tries to fix leaks by smearing silicone on the outside of stanchions and hatches. Gallant removes the leaking components, cleans the surfaces and rebeds with 4200.” Sometimes I think the PO was colorblind. When he installed wiring, red sometimes meant “positive.” Sometimes it meant “negative.” Sometimes he spliced red and green wires together – with electrical tape, of course. To power a CD player, he ran a yellow wire direct from the battery on the starboard side of the engine room, through the saloon and over to the nav station on the port side. Here’s a photo of his electrical handiwork. Almost all the wires are red, but half of them are negative.
Most of the wires are red; half of them are positive, half are negative. Some red, yellow and black are negative. Some wires go nowhere. Note the icing on the cake: the orange wire nut in the midst of all the electrical tape.
He replaced the water tank sending units installed at the factory with aftermarket senders that never worked and always leaked due to his faulty installation.
Water tank sending unit
To stop the leak and restore function to the water tank gauges, I had to buy two sending units from Beneteau. This set me back $500 – which is half the cost of used day sailor on Craigslist. Thanks, PO! When he installed the davits, he used 1-inch fittings on 7/8-inch tubing. I had to replace the fittings to secure the davits. He wired the start battery to the house battery, so there was no way to isolate each one with the battery switches. A marine electrician discovered this gaff. I had no idea. When the sheaves for the outhaul cracked and the outhaul car Torlon slide rods wore out, he didn’t replace them. Instead, he pulled the outhaul directly from the boom – rather than from cockpit as it was designed – because the failed parts caused too much friction. When he cracked the Bakelite housing of the windlass solenoid, he patched it with silicone.
Windlass solenoid with cracked Bakelite housing
But am I pissed off at the PO? No. I am grateful. How else would I have learned how to trace down wires, rebed hatches, install water tank sending units, troubleshoot a balky windlass and install a new solenoid, find outhaul sheaves manufactured by a spar company that’s been out of business for years, and learn that my outhaul car uses Torlon slide rods rather than bearings? My boat has been more than a vessel. It’s been an education. And I have the PO to thank.
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