Cruiser’s Guide to Fixing Things

MacGyver must have been a cruiser. Duct tape, silly putty and grit. That’s the life of a cruiser.

Our last passage out to sea we discovered our steaming light had, for lack of a better word, disintegrated. No surprise, since it’s plastic, takes the full brunt of wind and seas and is about 20 years old or more.

Bent Bracket


First a steaming light is about 2/3 the way up a mast and is one of our navigation lights that tell other vessels who we are and what direction we’re going. It’s white and tells people we’re heading right for them. During the day this is not a problem. At night, more so.

Fixing bracket best we can


Enter the MacGyver of sailors. Spotlights work as a good substitute. So does a lantern, you know like they used on the tall ships. We were set for the night at sea, but not comfortable being out of compliance.

We love night sailing, but without the proper equipment, it’s just not that fun. Too much worry. As soon as we hit port, we acquired the right equipment and left MacGyver at home, until we went up the captain went up the mast.

Did I mention the cost of a professional to install anything on a boat? No, well, let’s just say for a crew with no income, paying two guys $100 or more an hour a piece, just doesn’t make sense. At least, not when The Captain has MacGyver skills of his own.

This is what replacing a steaming light 50 feet off the water looks like.

Captain MacGyver


First you have to find a calm day when the wind is not blowing snot. It really isn’t pretty when the captain is flying the highest trapeze without a net. Bad enough when a motor vessel zooms by leaving 3 foot wakes to rock the boat. If the captain doesn’t have a good grip on the mast, he can appear to be flying, in reality he’s wing-less.

Hanging Tight


Then, the captain has to rely on the admiral, me, to get him up the 50 feet and eventually bring him down.

I do have the advantage of the anchor windlass to help. It can be a bit tricky, but with enough practice it works. It’s the same mechanical advantage we use to bring the dinghy on deck when we move the boat.

Mechanical Advantage


As a crew we are tasked with keeping all equipment working and there’s really nothing on the boat we need as much as the hull and rigging. Fresh water is a close third followed by electrical systems. On a boat you have to be a jack of all trades or you spend most of your cruise waiting on mechanics.

Life is a lot like a boat, if you don’t find ways to fix the little things on your own, you never really live life. We admired Macgyver as a show and wondered just how he learned all that stuff, but if we look closely we find we all have a bit of our hero in us.

What have you learned to macgyver in your life?

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About Nancy J Nicholson

Nancy J. Nicholson is a wife, mother, writer, and full-time sailor, writing of her adventures and creating contemporary mysteries along the shores of the eastern United States and Caribbean. She fills her time with new friends, exploration, food, knitting and reading.
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7 Responses to Cruiser’s Guide to Fixing Things

  1. I’m with you on the duct tape. I use out all the time. My best was keeping a dying fridge alive when the door stopped closing. Heh.

  2. Natalie says:

    Oh my – your hubby is a brave soul indeed – yikes!
    I LOVED MacGiver – totally rocked my world and I definitely married one of my own. Hubby can fix anything. I, on the other hand, am handy challenged so the things I’ve MacGivered in my life are more on the emotional side – relationships etc.
    It’s good to know how to work and make do with the basics, eh?!

  3. boy if I was up in that mast I’d have to be duct taped to it! I’d definitely be a flyer….lol….I’m no good at McGyvering ….DH is pretty good at it, my son is a whiz..but I’ve lost that gene somewhere!

  4. My husband is the expert Macgyver around here. He never fails to remind me of how I spackled a hole with a plastic knife um, serrated side to the wall (it was a pretty texture though).
    Maybe I am the smart one, considering I’ve never been asked to spackle again!

    • You’re right. You may be the smart one as long as you have an expert in the house. Welcome aboard Fawkes. We don’t always have the luxury of experts, that’s where the Macgyver skills come in. Glad you could join the journey.

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