A Perfectly Executed Boat Project


Last Updated on September 22, 2019 by Amy

Our fridge never looks this pretty.

Our first issue with our cockpit fridge was that it wouldn’t turn off.  Despite the fact that the switch was turned to off, we could still hear the compressor switching on to cool down the fridge. Our solution was to pull out the fuse so the fridge stopped receiving power.

We didn’t realize it at the time. It this was the leading indicator for a bigger issue – our cockpit fridge stopped working entirely in Fiji.

We hardly use the fridge. There are two reasons we turn it on:

1) If we have a small amount of food, it takes less power to run the cockpit fridge than it does to run the big fridge. With the cockpit fridge also having a small freezer section, if we are really bare-bones with food (like now) then we don’t have to run either the galley fridge or freezer.

2) We have four or more guests. Having that many guests means we’ve got a lot of food and drinks on board. Guests visiting tend to drink more than we do anyway, so the cockpit fridge becomes the beverage fridge and the food goes in the galley fridge.

We didn’t feel the need to worry about the cockpit fridge right away, so we left it and put it on the “to-do in New Zealand” list, which was growing quite a bit.

Not knowing anything about the fridge, we put it under the “hire a contractor” column.  But I started poking around….seeing what’s what…..reading manuals.  I reached out to the manufacturer, plus recommended refrigerator repair companies in Whangarei.  And at the last minute, I posted up on Cruiser’s Forum.

Sadly, most often manufacturers are absolutely worthless for technical support.  Two examples:  that time we waited an extra week in the USVI to get a part only to find it didn’t fix our problem, and the time when Raymarine told me I needed to remove the chartplotter system and mail it to them when in reality I just needed to clean our transducer.  I do have two really good examples of customer support though – we’ve always been incredibly happy with the support provided by Cruise RO and Mantus.  Thank goodness some people understand how to help cruisers!

Predictably, I got shuffled around by the manufacturer.  The repair company said the service manager would get back to me and never did.  But then, the clouds parted on Cruiser’s Forum and thanks to Captain Jay from CYOA Charters we had at least a starting point.  Jay recommended to jump the thermostat and see if that was the issue.

We didn’t know how to do that, but David figured it out and it worked!  Now we knew that our thermostat was bad.  I went online, found an exact match in Auckland that wouldn’t get to us for a week.  Then, by sending a picture to the local repair place, I found that they had a non-exact but similar part in stock and at few dollars less.

The offending part.

I’ve never replaced a thermostat before but I sat down and figured it out.  Voila!  Our cockpit fridge is now back in perfect working condition.

Why was this such a perfectly executed boat project?

  1.  It was a success.
  2. We had zero ideas on how to fix the issue, and essentially zero knowledge about the system.  We’ve learned a lot about a part of our boat we knew nothing about before the project.  This is such an important part of cruising.  We approach so many projects knowing nothing, but we get a learning opportunity to figure things out.
  3. We worked on it together.  It was a team effort to figure it out.
  4. We saved money by doing the work ourselves.  It would have been the easy route out to hire someone, but then we wouldn’t have learned as much.

In fact, most of our projects are shaping out pretty well right now.  Our list of projects includes a lot of things we are doing ourselves and figuring out along the way.  We did our own labor painting the bottom of our boat, I’ve learned how to service our winches, David’s replacing the sat phone cable, and he’s also replacing our tricolor lights.  All of those (except the winches) are things we hired people to do in the past.  Now, some of these projects we won’t know the quality of our success until some time passes (what will that bottom job look like in a year and a half?) but we’re feeling pretty good about everything!

In fact, so good we are on the schedule to launch on Wednesday.


  1. Great job! Boat projects remind me a lot of our different building projects. Definitely doing it yourself is the way to go. Excited for y’all to be launching soon! Congrats on all the hard work!!

  2. Hey Amy,
    Wish we had known your problem so we could offer our experience. We have had t replace our thermostat twice on our cockpit fridge.
    The second time it happened Frank bypassed the thermostat and put in a toggle switch that we turned off and in manually until we were in a place where we could order another thermostat.
    Congrats on figuring it out.
    I’m impressed with your bottom paint job. Might be what we have to do next time. I’m sure you were more thorough than anyone you could hire.
    Still owe you lifeline pics. Will text them today!

    1. Thanks for the pics! We will see how the bottom paint holds up. I hope it turns out well. It was a lot of work!

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