Hello and welcome to YACHTONUS!

I am delighted that you have chosen to visit this site and find out more about YACHTONUS. On this page I share some information about myself, why I set up YACHTONUS, who this is for and finally my own experience with boat maintenance.

Who is behind YACHTONUS?

My name is Alex Dowdalls and I have been sailing since I was 10 years old. Now, 35 years later, I am the proud owner of a 45ft Wauquiez Centurion called WISH which I sail around the North Sea and along the UK, French, Netherlands and Belgian coasts. I hope to sail to Norway and cross the Atlantic in the coming years! I started sailing in a wooden Mirror dingy and progressed through 420, laser, GP14 and Wayfarer before my first experience with a sea going yacht - a Westerly GK29 on which I crewed around the west coast of Scotland. I followed the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) training programme in the UK and the Centrum voor Watersport Opleiding (CWO) programme whilst living in Holland. I currently hold the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore and CWO III Offshore Skipper certificates.

I think that I am typical of many sailors - I enjoy cruising and the occassional regatta but I am not able to make the time available nor fund any credible offshore racing interest. I admire the ability of the leading racing skippers who push their boats to the limit in extreme conditions but dont see myself doing this. I enjoy passage making during holidays and weekend sailing with family, friends and work colleagues. As an engineer by background I also enjoy understanding the boat, how it is designed, built and operates.

For many years I chartered yachts in interesting locations and have sailed in the Mediteranean Sea (France, Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, Turkey and Greece), The Baltic Sea (Denmark, Sweden), various Carribean locations and in Florida, USA. In all my years of charter experience, I never had a boat on which all components present actually functioned and some of the boats lacked basic safety features (e.g. a liferaft) or the ability to receive a weather forecast!

Why set up YACHTONUS?

I finally decided to buy a yacht myself and settled on the WISH. I commissioned a survey which was very thorough and generally positive and I bought the boat. My first hand experience of maintenance started when I turned up to collect the boat - two water pump heads had split open during the winter as a result of residual pressurized water freezing! How do you repair this when the exact specification of pumps are not available in the local store? Do you wait for three days to have new pumps sent in and then delay returning to work ? Do I take an alternative pump and then reconfigure the alignment of the valves and pipework to meet this different sized pump? In the end I fitted a smaller pump as a temporary measure to get home and then replaced just the pump heads with a "pump head replacement kit" - apparently this freezing problem happens often!

Since that day, I have grown my knowledge of boats and maintenance but have found myself challenged by the breadth of areas in which a boat owner needs to have awareness. I did not know how often to check a deep cycle battery or whether to fill this when charged or discharged, how to repair a stress crack in the polyester, how to calibrate the wind meter and electric compass nor how often the water tank should be cleaned to prevent bacteria growing.

I searched many internet pages from communities and suppliers, but the knowledge required was not in one place. I also found that my boat has around 200 components on board - which is not exceptional by any means. Each of these has a maintenance level varying from "broken" to "as new" and it is hard to remember what maintenance is required for which component at which time. I wanted a planning tool to capture the configuration of my boat, record the maintenance status of these components and then give me advice and answers to specific questions so that I could schedule maintenance tasks.

This did not exist so I decided to create it - and the result is YACHTONUS which I am delighted to share with other owners.

Yachts, Motor boats and other vessels

Once I delved into the world of pumps, thrusters, polyester and anti-fouling I quickly discovered that motor yachts share much in common with sailing yachts and that the specific configuration of apparently similar vessels can vary hugely. I decided to design YACHTONUS to be fully flexible in the configuration of boat and cover as wide a range as possible, with easy adding and changing of components (many of which are the same between sail and motor boats). I also tried to accomodate different hull configurations and materials. My goal is to make YACHTONUS work for all yachts - whether sail or motor (or any future innovative power source). The design is such that I can easily add new hull configurations or components to accomodate anything that is missing today. If you cant find a component in YACHTONUS then contact me and I will add it!

My boat

My own yacht is a Wauquiez Centurion 45s, built in 2003 and shown at boat shows, then launched in 2005 and used lightly before I bought her. I thought this was a good thing and perhaps it is but it meant that the boat had never been tested and very little maintenance had been done between 2005 and 2009 when I took possesion. So on my first long voyage in rough conditions, I managed to break the self steering because the pin holding the piston to the quadrant was loose and broke at 23:00 in the middle of the Moray Firth about 40 miles from shore (and I was singlehanded...). The vang was also incorrectly mounted and broke when waves rocked the boat in a force 1 (yes one).

I enjoy maintenance but have been astounded by the time it takes to fix apparently simple things such as replacing a LED panel indicator which does not have a part number visible - a google search gives millions of hits and finding a replacement with the same size and specification took hours. Similarly, the time to go to the boat, perform tasks on the boat and then visit a (web)chandelry to acquire parts and then return and mount them is considerable. If you also have a family life, job and a house which also requires attention then careful planning is a real necessity.

At the end of day, I want my boat to perform when I go on a long trip e.g. along the west coast of Norway and I most certainly want to avoid discovering problems out at sea, at night, with bad weather coming, particulalry if these problems could have been avoided before I cast off through better maintenance.

I have set up my boat and run my maintenance plan in YACHTONUS and will soon add a feature to enable other boat owners to see this. I have included a cost feature to enable maintenance costs to be calculated and I seem to be proving the rule that annual costs are between 5 and 10% of purchase price - I hope YACHTONUS can help us all bring that cost down!

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