Safe Harbour | Winter Projects

Summer 2017 was one for the record books in Southeast Alaska. In a place known for rain, this was the rainiest summer ever. More than 45 inches fell in Ketchikan in June, July, and August. That’s nearly double their average and more rain than typically falls on Seattle in an entire year.

All this rain exposed a few leaks aboard Safe Harbour. At 17-years-old and with more than 5000 hours underway, a few leaks are inevitable. Boats flex and vibrate. Materials heat up and cool down at different rates, expanding and contracting in the process. Sealants fail. Unfortunately leaks seldom seal themselves, typically worsen, and can lead to mold, rotten decks, and worse. Thus, eliminating the very minor leaks on Safe Harbour is a high-priority winter project. I figure that if a few leaks have begun, more are on the way, so this winter I’m going to re-bed everything that penetrates the deck or cabin sides.

Plastic portlight with big, unfilled voids

Here’s the preliminary list:

  • Re-bed all deck hardware (cleats, stanchions, fills, hatches, faux stack, etc.)
  • Remove, rebuild, and reinstall all windows. The window frames are painted aluminum and showing their age. They’ll be sandblasted, repainted, have all new gaskets installed, and be reinstalled on the boat.
  • Replace plastic portlights with stainless

Eliminating leaks is just one part of my winter project list. Here’s a system-by-system look at what I’m planning. Most of this is routine preventative maintenance, but a few address recent failures.

Main engine:

  • Replace exhaust elbow and original wet exhaust hose
  • Pull aftercooler, clean, pressure test, reinstall
  • Adjust valves
  • Pull and test injectors, replace as needed
  • Change oil, filter, and fuel filters
  • Change transmission oil
  • Replace impeller
  • Replace throttle and shift cables, leave original cables installed but unattached as emergency backup


  • Drain coolant, flush cooling system, remove heat exchanger core and have cleaned and pressure tested. Replace thermostat. Replace heat exchanger boots and hose clamps (AWAB hose clamp…MUCH better quality than most)
  • Inspect and (probably) replace exhaust elbow
  • Find short in 12V electrical system (likely the voltage regulator)
  • Change oil, filter, and fuel filters


  • Small hydraulic leaks visible at autopilot pump and steering ram
    • Drain steering fluid
    • Remove AP pump and send to Accusteer in Bellingham for rebuild
    • Remove steering ram, install new seal kit
    • Remove helm (not currently leaking), clean check valves, install new seals
    • Fill with fresh hydraulic fluid


  • New seals and oil for high pressure pump
  • Paint pump housing

Ground tackle:

  • Remove windlass motor, take to motor/alternator shop for inspection and possible rebuild
  • Install new control arm (old one is bent)
  • Mark chain with fresh zip ties
  • Clean anchor locker


  • Replace davit cable with spectra line (can be easily cut for quick escape in case of fire or other emergency, plus no corrosion!)
  • Service outboard
    • New spark plugs
    • Change lower unit oil and seals if necessary
    • Change impeller
    • Adjust shift linkage to make smoother
    • Install new prop
I’ve been hauling out and bottom painting every two years. It’s time again this winter.


  • Replace propane sniffer (failed in August)
  • Relocate propane solenoid and regulator higher in locker to avoid get drenched in seawater in rough conditions
  • Replace windshield wiper pantograph adapters, arms, and blades (originals are a rusted mess)
  • Haul and bottom paint
    • Remove prop, tune, reinstall
    • Check and replace zincs as necessary
  • Wax entire exterior
  • Install new WiFi booster (failed in July)
  • Install exterior cell phone antenna for booster
  • I’m sure there will be more!

This is a BIG list of projects, the biggest in the four years I’ve owned the boat. Much of the work could probably be reduced or eliminated. I could re-bed the existing portlights instead of installing new ones, fix the few window leaks rather than rebuilding all the windows, leave the generator thermostat alone, and keep monitoring the leaks (really weeps, the total volume of leaked fluid in 500 hours is not measurable) in the steering system. But I’m not tolerant of failures. Next summer, I don’t want to find the bed soaked by rain or the steering system inoperable or the generator overheating because I didn’t take care of it during the winter, when parts and expertise are easy to find.

Maintaining a heavily-cruised boat is a time-and-money intensive process to be sure, but the cost of not maintaining all these systems—in downtime, dollars, and frustration—is far higher.

As I chip away at the projects, I’ll share what I’m doing and what I learn. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask. And if you have tips or suggestions, please share!

7 thoughts on “Safe Harbour | Winter Projects”

    • Hi Kevin, sorry I didn’t reply sooner!

      I purchased a MikroTik Groove:

      Honestly I don’t think this is the right solution unless you’re pretty computer savvy. It is not easy to set up (I haven’t set mine up yet) and there’s no support.

      The old WiFi booster was a Ubiquiti Bullet. It worked well but did not support 5ghz bands. This new one supports 2.4ghz and 5ghz. Given that 2.4ghz is super crowded in marinas, I’m told the 5ghz, even with worse theoretical range, often performs better.

      Realistically, I haven’t even wanted to connect to WiFi in months. Cell is almost always faster and more stable.

  1. Hi Sam. Good winter list, your boat will love you next year. One caution on the davit cable replacement with Spectra, be sure to inspect and eliminate any sharp edges in the cable run. Some winch motors have guides or fairleads where sharp edges can be created over time, in addition to sharp pulley grooves. Sharp edges can obviously tear up a soft line, and at some point, it becomes unsafe. Inventory some spare line.

    • Thanks Jay, I’ll be sure to check. Hope you had a great summer, you missed a lot of rain in SEAK!

  2. That’s a big list Sam. Good luck. One question, Is your ram the original? My boat is a 2001 and all steering is original. I have owned the boat for 5 years. I’m the second owner. 627 hours on “Priceless” currently. I get some fluid on the ram and it does drip on a pad below. Can’t decide if I should just replace it or do a seal kit. The money is not an issue so maybe replace? Nice to see Safe Harbour and Airship had another safe summer. 🙂

    • Yep, the ram is original as far as I know. Now that you mention it I’ll have to research rebuild vs. replace. Or depending on cost maybe replace AND rebuild and keep the rebuild as a spare, although these things don’t seem to be particularly failure prone.

      • Good idea Sam. If i spent as much time offshore as you do I would Replace and rebuild and keep the rebuild as a spare. Since I have 2 rudders I would Hate to be with out steering… Looking forward to hearing how all the winter projects go.

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