What’s Broken On Sava

Brian and Sava

You may be under the illusion that everything works fine onboard Sava. Not true. While our autopilot is still going strong, a lot of other boat parts don’t work. Below, a comprehensive accounting of what’s broken on Sava, and some things that broke and got fixed.

Also, I am not a handy person so my explanations are very basic because that’s my level of understanding. Thankfully Brian is at a much higher level than me. If he wasn’t so handy, we wouldn’t have made it out of Florida. Brian also recommends a good resource for these jobs, the Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual.


We thought we got this fixed after the engine debacle, but this freezer is finicky. A couple of times we noticed it was off and we are now very vigilant about ensuring the freezer is plugged in. We also keep the vents clean – got to get rid of the cat hair.

Yet still the temperature regularly creeps above freezing. This is understandable when we haven’t been under power or it’s cloudy, but we don’t know why the freezer doesn’t work when the solar charge is full and we run the engine.

This freezer is driving me crazy. I obsessively check the temperature, which is not easy to do. Because the freezer is strapped into our salon sofa, we have to peek under the table to see the power and temperature indicators.

A view under the salon table of our freezer indicators

For now, we don’t have ice – forget about ice cream! – and we are just working our way through what’s in there. A freezer on a boat is a luxury. Many cruisers just don’t have them and make do with a refrigerator and buying meat every few days. We may do without soon too.

STATUS: Still trouble-shooting


You remember we got stuck in The Bahamas because we couldn’t move our anchor? After many tests, trial and error and help from other cruisers, Brian determined the problem. It was simple: the controller was broken. A new one was mailed to a friend in Toronto and Traci brought it with her when she came to the Dominican Republic.

A working windlass makes my life much easier. If I let out too much chain I can bring it back up! The up and down buttons both work! And I don’t have to press the button through my shirt to avoid electric shock (yes that was really happening near the end).

Our new windlass controller


Water Pump

One day in Puerto Rico we came back to the boat from shore and stepped into a giant puddle downstairs. The engine is right under the stairs so I thought that was the problem.

Fortunately Brian is smarter than me at diagnosing the boat. He started cleaning, tasted the water and realized it was fresh water likely coming from our tanks. He found the leak: a break in the Pex pipe, which is plastic. Our cruiser friend John of 5 Knots had a pex cutter and he and Brian cut out the broken piece and shortened the line.

pex pipe hot water pump
Pex pipe in our hot water pump

John also recommended that we always turn off the water pump when we leave the boat and go to sleep. If the pump isn’t on, water doesn’t move through the hose. Since there was a hole, the pump drained our entire tank that afternoon. I am about as obsessed at turning off that switch as I am checking the freezer temperature.



She isn’t broken but Domino isn’t always happy. When Domino isn’t happy she lets us know. Her main method of communicating displeasure is shitting in our cabin: on the bed or the floor. She has done this 3 times in the last month.

I do not lock her out of our room because that caused this reaction once. We think the long rough sails are what make Domino unhappy, and I can relate.

We are showing Domino love and support. This is a stressful life and she didn’t choose it. We are now in the US Virgin Islands which brings shorter sailing days. Hopefully that will make Domino happier.

Domino looking comfy

STATUS: To be determined but Domino is happy today.


We have two heads on the boat. One of them is broken. The good news is mechanically it works fine: it flushes! The bad news is it is only partially attached. A bolt or something came off and Brian says the whole thing has to be removed and reattached. I don’t know when that will happen. Until then, we use it gently.

STATUS: Still broken.


This is going to be essential if we decide to cross an ocean. Our watermaker, which desalinates the ocean water so we can drink it, hasn’t worked since we got the boat.

Brian has gotten it working for short periods and then not. Since so many other things have broken that are more urgent, we haven’t tried the watermaker in months.

STATUS: Still broken


We thought we had this fixed in Turks and Caicos! But no, something else is wrong with our engine. The overheat light flashes sometimes, even when we are only at 1200 RPMs. Water is not cooling the engine. We need an engine! Sailing is slow upwind without some power.

Sava's engine
Sava’s engine

Next week, in Tortola, a mechanic is coming to look at our engine.

STATUS: Getting professional help

Still think it’s all dolphins and beautiful views of nature? I wish!

Puerto Rico sunset
Beautiful sky over Sava

For all of you who envy our lives of leisure, this is our reality. Breakdowns and messes. Everybody told us a boat is full of problems. Now we believe it.

The saving grace, besides the beauty around us and the travel to fun places, is the cruising community. Everyone we’ve met has been through it, they’re all happy to share advice and tools, and even have a look at the broken bits and help.

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Author: Mel

Living aboard a sailboat, blogging about the places we visit and the adventures we have. Love hiking, cycling, scuba, animals and adventure.

2 thoughts on “What’s Broken On Sava”

  1. Sounds just like every sailing trip I’ve made and every boat I’ve been on . Just is part of the experience I guess! All the luxuries aboard a boat come at a cost … keep going , besides if you weren’t fixing the boat it might get boring. Besides all this makes for an interesting blog.

    1. Oh yea all the boaters know this is the norm! Just giving everyone else a glimpse into that reality.

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