Perfect or Good Enough?

JHHOMD1-9270975

The inspiration for this post came from the several comments about the above photograph of a manifold I built on Morgan's Cloud pointing out that:

  • The hose clamps holding the large cockpit drain hoses are too long.
  • The curve in the hose feeding the manifold is kind of tight and that, together with several 90 degree fittings, will have at least some effect on flow rate.
  • The hose at the bottom would be better routed behind the seacock, although actually it does not interfere with the handle.
  • It would be better and more elegant if the whole manifold were built from bronze fittings (or maybe Marelon), rather than a mix of CPVC schedule 80, bronze, and Marelon.

And you know what? The commenters are absolutely dead right on every single point.

But...you knew there was going to be a but, didn't you?

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Dick Stevenson

John, Another thing you did correctly is flipped each hose clamp so they threaded in opposite directions on each hose. Now, please someone, make the argument for why that is another “rule” to follow? It has great face validity, but I do not know the reasoning.
Thanks, Dick Stevenson, s/ v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Oh John also. Please secure the hose to the sea cock with a wire tie. It will make me happy. Any time on Alchemy I find one item being lead past another,I seem to pull out a wire tie. Dick

ChrisW

There is nothing unsafe here.
There is nothing non-functional.
I’d wrap the blue stripped hose with chafing gear where it impinges on handle — and even that is just protection from vibration which likely doesn’t occur in this location.
“Better is the enemy of good enough.” Sergey Gorshkov

Ken Page

No John, I won’t give any nit-picking advice to make that part of your boat perfect because … as long as we can all “see” perfect in our minds, we should naturally be able to do good enough as we see fit. That ability to “see” or “know” the perfect manifold gives us plenty of leeway to build a reasonable fact simile and be comfortable with it.

Scott Flanders

Yea, mouse job for sure. However, they usually work, particularly with the mix of quality parts. The clamps are the best even if the tag ends will cause a bit of blood letting. Ty wraps to tighten them up would be a good thing. Sweep elbows are a better thing. (Groco among others). We have over 13k hours on one particular application with 90 sweeps with zero salt buildup.

All friendly trashing aside, today’s forecast for the St Pierre – SE Newfoundland crowd doesn’t look good. Let’s hope for the best.

S.

Marc Dacey

I hope it went well for you. I just returned to Toronto from a RYA course in Antigua and this “went hurricane” on Monday morning with 15 boats sunk or damaged beyond repair in Jolly Harbour alone. No amount of springs or proper maintenance can save the boat when the actual dock comes apart, which I got to see as it happened. Very educational, indeed!

As for the “perfect maintenance”, I simply aim for 90% in the sense that John describes in that I try to reduce the obvious issues (sub-par clamps, wrong hose type, too many sharp corners, and, in my case, dissimilar metal contacting) to a minimum, while leaving the “showroom quality” aspect to one side. Something I have yet seen discussed (haven’t gotten to the end of the comments) is the element of ease of access in the quest to do a high standard of maintenance and service. If you had the showroom example done in a part of a boat that involves removing a load of gear, two screwed down lids and requiring a midget with infrared eyeballs to reach, you’ve actually done nothing, in my view to accomplish meaningful maintenace. If you, on the other hand, can regularly even glance at your “90% job”, you will spot issues, like rust or drips, much sooner if you can get a wrench on it in 30 seconds. The short form: in my view, ease of access and “visibility” are key parts of successful maintenance and service. Too many production boats bury skin fittings and seacocks where access is difficult.

Jim Madden

I see no fault here. Your striving to find balance between perfection and good enough is what I sum up as “my boat is a classroom.” Being that the boat I have is my first boat I entered into the relationship thinking of her as a classroom to learn boat maintenance and project execution. I quickly found that everything was custom and everything was repairable. I have done projects, glass, plumbing or electrical, in which I did the best I could with the resources, and knowledge I had only being left with realizing that with more available I could have had a better or more functional result. But it was good enough, as you say, and I was able to cruise for the summer. Maybe I had to go back in a few years and redo the project as I found a better way to do it. I didn’t mind the time and effort to “redo” the project for I got a better result and I learned to maintain my boat. The attitude that this boat is a classroom has helped me to focus on my next boat by finding things that work, don’t work, and what would make a better boat.

Peter Bateman

If we as a boatyard followed the perfect every time we would have no business as the cost of doing these repairs would be prohibitive. Whilst we are at the end of the rainbow, in paradise, in Kenya, boat spares are hard to find so we work in bronze and marelon but often have to go up and down in pipe fitting dimensions to make the connections work. To us these problems are yet another opportunity to show an innovative solution.

Dan

Hi John

Thanks for this post, more than you know.

This summer we spent a lot on money on stuff you can’t touch or see. To make it worse we didn’t spend much time enjoying Halcyon. It’s a combination that can lead to, sell boat? We repair the necessary stuff. I’d love Halcyon in be in bristol condition but at what cost and for what? I’m getting lost in what matters and what is smattery sailor ego. I’m getting sucked in. The work to keep a vessel safe is great. The work involved for bristol condition is just daunting. When the manifold gets the attention of a dock lovers brightwork, it’s getting bad. Halcyon spends a lot of time tied to the dock because we live in the middle of the country. But when we go to her, we go, we leave the dock and adventure. Lately, I’m feel bad about all that I would like to do, about getting her restored. We’re spending a lot of money and she still looks a little rough. Ego, keeping up with the Jones’s? I fear it can kill boating.

Of all your wonderful posts, this one helped me the most, it’s psychic in timing. I’m feeling beat up about restoring Halcyon. What is “perfect”. If I give these critiques of the above manifold a serious voice, my dock lines would turn to chain, my wallet would empty and my photos and adventures would suffer.

Safe is as safe does. It’s a moving target..

Steve A

Have at it? Ok, is the crud in the bilges partially due to copper salts leaching off the bronze fittings due to condensation and reacting with the aluminum hull? I have heard of this possible phenomenon…..real or hypothetical? That said stainless steel and Marelon fittings each have their own problems- crevice corrosion, melting in a fire, or freezing and breaking more easily.

Dave Benjamin

Great post John. When we left to go cruising, our plan was to depart the following season and our boat prep was geared around that. But when my wife was laid off, we compressed that one year of prep into 6 weeks. Obviously it wasn’t anywhere close to perfect but it proved good enough for close to a year of pleasant cruising. I still remember installing our solar panels in Turtle Bay along the coast of Baja. I had just enough large gauge duplex wire to do the job. I think there was only a foot or two of wire left over. Talk about a lucky guess on how much to bring.

Marc Dacey

No kidding. I’ve taken to buying the stuff in reels rather than making two or three calls/trips to rectify a failure to estimate my needs.

Ben

This is a great observation/post. It’s so easy to fall prey to unnecessary perfection, wasting time and money. The boat we purchased recently is FAR from perfect, but works. I struggle not to dig into too many projects…I’m learning.

Bottom line is that WE WILL SEE YOU OUT THERE!!

Paul Mills

Hi Dick

I believe there are several good reasons. One, it means that you can sit the clips close together if space is tight. Two, it often makes for easier screwdriver and/or socket access to each. Three, it means that a hard impact will not usually put load on both the clamp adjusters at the same time. Four, it always feels psychologically better to have the same vibration of movement in theory doing one of the clamps up tighter… .

paul

Patrick

Indeed John,
I am a perfectionist and was a craftsman as a young man before becoming an engineer. And have many jobs on my ranch and the island where I live in the Caribbean replete with jobs that have evolved over the years and I have seen where I could’ve done better and used better materials or better workmanship. But indeed, the installation evolved over years and when I do go back to redo it, by replacing materials or equipment, its often much better than the initial.
So. despite my penchant for perfection, I have to live with what’s practical in materials, time and expertise. Several times, when I’ve returned to a project to redo, I lament my first mistakes and learn from them. Nevertheless, although less then perfect, it worked for an X amount of years safely.

Bill Attwood

Hi John,
Not sure if this is the correct thread, but I guess that at a stretch it could be so. Perhaps you would move it if not. My question relates to insulation of the hull. The accepted standard for all metal boats seems to be 2″ to 3″ of sprayed foam, but I have seen no comments with regard to GRP boats, which in my experience need insulation at least for cold climates almost as much as their metal sisters. Kinsa’s headlining was rotten when bought, and probably not very good insulation when new. We have insulated the hull sides from WL to deckhead with 20mm closed cell foam (40mm in forecabin) not glued but held in place with ceiling (horizontal wooden slats). This has done a great job of moving condesation to the deckhead! Have you or any others had experience of sprayed foam on a GRP hull, or any other ideas on how to tackle this further problem. I should say that we have had very limited success with adhesives in those few places where we´ve tried it.
Yours aye,
Bill

Dick Stevenson

Bill, My fg boat came with 3/4 inch closed cell foam sheeting from deck to below waterline which has proven very effective. I have been in N waters (now in Shetland Scotland) for more than 3 years. It has been in place now for 15 years and shows little sign of deterioration. It is glued in (vertical beads of glue allow moisture to migrate down into the bilge. Tools etc are kept dry without a problem even in closed lockers. I would want 1.5 inches were it to be able to be done from scratch.
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Marc Dacey

I have a friend who races very successfully in a 12 metre custom boat in the ORC in Portugal. He has teak decking, and tends to comment that he endorses the product called “Nothing” and applies it religiously every year!

Bill Attwood

Hi Dick.
Thanks for response.
Do you also have our problem of condensation on the deckhead and cabintop sides? I am working on a solution to insulate the fwd V-berth, as this is where condensation overnight is worst. The cabin sides and windows in the saloon aren´t too bad as we have a Reflex diesel stove going most of the time during the day. The vertical beads of glue sound a clever idea, what glue have you used? And a final question, is the foam insulation bonded to anything on the visible side, and if so, did you do it, or was it supplied already bonded?
Yours aye,
Bill

Dick Stevenson

Hi Bill,
One could do a whole treatise on keeping interior of boats dry when living aboard in cold climes.
Basically, we have found, anything pressed against the interior sides or ceiling of the boat collects condensation. We have used a UK product called Drymat under cushions and next to the foam where clothes, papers books etc might slide against the boat side. It works quite well to promote air circulation.
We “double glaze” all portlights and hatches. A 3M product works quite well using double sided tape and a thin plastic sheeting like saran wrap (US product). If done carefully, you do not know it is there it is so clear. For sweating of metal portlights it works a charm.
Lazarettes, sail lockers and engine areas are a big condensation area and I have yet to solve that dilemma.
I did not do the gluing of Alchemy’s foam, but have helped others do the same. I believe a glue called Liquid Nails was used, but I am not positive.
The foam is mostly hidden behind locker backing, or battens etc. None is exposed visually and it has no “fronting” of its own. Up high in lockers where you can see it easily it has a “smoother” side and a “rougher” side. The rougher side is to the hull and where the glue went. The smoother side is actually quite robust. It has stood up to storage that accumulates under sinks etc for years without a problem and has withstood some scrubbing when spills arise.
We have a dehumidifier (desiccant so it puts out some heat also) going when we have shore power and it makes a huge difference. People exhale a lot of water.
It looks a bit shabby, but we rarely close cabinets and lockers all the way unless underway to promote ventilation.
We have used the Drymat to good effect in the forward V berth, under cushions and on their sides, but when it gets quite cold outside (below 5-10c) and/or the water gets cold (below 10c), it just gets wet under the cushions. The storage area is just too cold and overnight we just generate too much heat. Our next step was to introduce warm dry cabin air into the storage areas under the v berth, but we have not gone that far yet. One of those heating “wands” placed in those storage areas would help also when one has shore power, but I have never tried it.
Please report your results.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Carl Linley

The evolving and seat of the pants nature of a build or repair is my daily work environment. I have worked in and owned a machine shop with loads of proprietary methods and machinery for 45 years. Creativity is the fuel that solves problems.

Dave Meindl

John,
Early in the article you say “All hoses are double clamped with the best hose clamps money can buy.” I’ve always bought hose clamps from West Marine and assumed they were of the proper grade. Is this a mistake? Is there a better source for higher quality hose clamps?
Thanks,
Dave
S/V Sha Ka Ree