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  • Writer's pictureNick Vaernhoej

Nothing Works, I Love This Boat!

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

Before unpacking the title of this post, I want to get something in writing and committed.


My most significant asset, and failing, is my disdain for goals in favor of process. I perceive goals as limitations towards what could have been. Once we set a goal, efforts tend to cease when reached. I'm very guilty of this myself, which is probably the root of my disdain. As an example, I didn't start running because I wanted to run. I started running because I wanted to finish a 10K, and the list of similarities is long.

Shifting the perspective towards process as path to extraordinary, with goals merely setting direction we can achieve amazing results. The trick is to not fall into the trap of chasing goals while neglecting the process.

What does all this have to do with sailboats? Nothing and everything. It's the realization that I need a few goals to focus my process. Set a direction, though the goals themselves may not directly produce success.

Now that three months passed since the first (and only) post, it's probably time to make an aspirational commitment to myself. Before the end of September 2022, these are the goals I'm setting for myself to have met:

  1. Once per week, I will write and publish something to this site.

  2. Weekly, I will capture 14 photos, discard the seven worst and publish one of the remaining daily.

  3. Every two weeks, I will publish something to the YouTube channel for the site.

Back to the Title

Everything is broken. No, that's not true, it's just that the boat is very unlike a house where things rarely break, and daily life is robust and reliable.

We finally got around to filling the water tanks of Aries. In total she holds 200 gallons of fresh water between three tanks. Up to this point, the main tank had been half full, maybe, and seen little to no use. Setting out to change this on our journey to becoming more familiar with everything, I filled the main tank and one of the two smaller tanks. Without my awareness, filling the additional tank resulted in the bilge pump kicking on at 15-20 second intervals. A running bilge pump means there's water in the bottom of the hull. It should not be running at any high frequency.

A few things happen in my head when things go sideways. First, I begin mapping out the components involved and connections between them with the goal of establishing the point of failure. Unless expert level understanding of a system is present, which it most definitely is not on a sailboat for me, I end up with knowledge gaps to research before being able to eliminate these areas as consideration from the troubleshooting effort.

Second, I get somewhat demoralized to a degree corresponding to the amount of gaps in my knowledge.

In the case of the fresh water system on the boat, I knew nearly nothing. I believed filling the tanks would be as simple as unscrewing the plugs in the deck and filling till full. I believed water pressure was as simple as flipping the right switch on the panel. Everything else, at this point was unknown and "magic" to me.

Specifically where the tanks were, how they interconnected, how water got into them, how they connected to toilets, faucets, water heater and water pumps and which manifold did what, when and where as well as the types and locations of hoses, sensors and access panels water level sensor, was all unknown to me. All I knew at this point, was filling up water resulted in the bilge pump running. At this point I couldn't even rule out if it was a procedural problem or a mechanical failing. Maybe I simply overfilled the tank?

It's challenging to outline a narrative of troubleshooting efforts. In the end, the problem was solved. The cause was a loosely secured water level sensor on the main tank. Whether it was improperly secured by someone, or simply rattled loose during truck transport, I don't know. But securing this sensor solved the problem.

What I learned to reach this solution include; knowing where the three tanks are, how they connect to each other and how the two smaller tanks gravity feed, to some extent, the main tank, meaning the main tank can be 100% filled, but a lose sensor lid will allow the tank to overflow as the other tanks drain into it till they are empty. I now know how they connect to the faucets, water filters and water pressure pump. Bonus knowledge, I now know the part number to replace the water level sensor, should it ever truly fail.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something, and this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of things learned. The point of the story comes down to this. Things fail. Failure will make us overwhelmed. Troubleshooting the problem will increase your expertise, though is not guaranteed to solve the problem.

One problem was solved. Many more are on the list. Some are failures, some are simply preferences. On the current lists:


  • The TV is small and ancient. I think it's a 12" flat screen with built-in DVD player. We're replacing this with a new, larger screen.

  • Some of the lamps throughout the boat are showing their age. Hinges or cords are in poor state.

  • Generally, wiring throughout the boat is a mess. I see 30 years of accumulated non-organization resulting in large bundles of active/disconnected wires, zip-tied in straight lines through compartments. This bundle runs under areas prone to have water entering and dripping on the bundle, or worse, chafing from rubbing against moving parts and so on. This project is lengthy but will help me understand how everything is connected.


  • The stereo doesn't power up and even if it did, we would be having a challenging time finding tapes to play music. So this one is somewhere between preference and failure. We're replacing it and getting Bluetooth capabilities in the process.

    • Hopefully the speakers work.

  • The freezer/fridge isn't circulating Freon. No idea if it's caused by too much or too little Freon in the system, a faulty compressor, or something else.

  • The radar isn't registering with the navigation station.

  • The depth finder, wind sensor, water temperature sensor, and I think I'm forgetting something aren't registering with the navigation station.

  • The diesel heater (interior heat) doesn't fire up. Air is being circulated, but the heat source isn't active.

If everything is broken (it's not, it just feels that way sometimes), why do it?

Every time we go to the boat, I feel at home. The boat is not a hobby, meaning, I'm not going there to do something specific. No, I simply feel at peace being there. The close quarters and how we're all connected through the practicality of the design, combined with the "cozy" factor of the environment resonates deeply with me. Departing for home is always difficult.

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