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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.
Wanted: Your Stories
Share your boating mistakes and mishaps so that your fellow boaters might learn from your experience. Send us your first-person accounts, including what went wrong, what you’d do differently, your name and your city, to [email protected] and use “ILAB” in the subject line. If your story is selected for publication, we’ll send you a $100 West Marine Gift Card!”