Used but good… Almost never !

What makes you think I have
more time to sort your shit out?

My father in law is nearly in his nineties, having lived a full life, but with many hardships. They grew up in the time of the great depression, where all things were precious and should not be “thrown out”. I don’t entirely disagree with this philosophies, but one must come to grips with the realities of the usefulness of a particular piece, versus the ability to find it in a timely manner, within the tight confines of an engine room, and its less than ideal storage environment.

Now, I dive into this topic, after seeing my latest handiwork on my last ship, the hold, full of buckets of scrap metal, and garbage bags full of used orings, gaskets, many two feet chunks of hard rubber hoses that would make a cop smile.

Now there is some merit of keeping certain items that are in “ready to use” condition, I am a firm believer in the reduce, reuse, recycle mentality. Some items are worthy of the “used but good” label, however I find this label to be the most common and misused label in the engine room. If it was good, why was it taken off in the first place?

Some pointers: main engine exhaust valves missing chunks, used gaskets, large collections of orings removed for the last 15 years, shafts with missing splines, six pump housings with missing guts, gaskets that shatter like glass, etc, are all good examples of things that are used, and NOT good. Its okay to recycle these things, really it is. Hey, I’m all for keeping a used cylinder liner if it is within specs, but what use is it if you don’t have a hone on board, are you really going to use it? Is it properly stored for corrosion?

Leave your hoarding ambition off the boat!

My rule of thumb for general stuff, is if I don’t foresee the need for a particular used item in the upcoming 12 months, then it does not belong in the engine room. If it special, very special, it gets a label as to what it is, it’s condition, date, signature, and placed in the appropriate spot – where you would expect to find associated parts.

The problem of hoarding is not new, just have a look at the “reality” shows on cable tv; hoarding is a problem, one that affects sailors too. I find it to be a problems, not just because of the obvious clutter and it’s safety consequences, but because it gives you a false sense of security… and at sea, there is nothing worse than that.

You get on board, you look around, and you say to yourself, okay she’s and old girl, but looks like we have spares to handle a fair bit of trouble. Then trouble hits and your left searching aimlessly through a pile of garbage that is disorganized, to find something that resembles what you are looking for, but once you put it in, realize, hey, its leaking at exactly the same spot as the unit you trying to replace.

Used but good, my ass!

If this looks like your ship spare’s
locker, its time to move on

Now you have wasted your time, which could be in a very awkward navigation area, say, in the middle of the English channel (been there, done that). Probably made the leak worse, due to monkeying around with it in the first place; stripped the bolts tightening it up “a little more”. Now you have a much bigger problem, its worse, and you’ve wasted allot of time – up shit creek without a paddle.

Now I understand our need for back up and security. Its a great idea, but keeping junk around is not that useful. Building buckets and buckets of scrap and disorganized nuts and bolts are, in my experience, is of not much use – just landed it, and save the company time and money, and perhaps your life.

Most companies have detailed purchasing procedures, they are there to help you, learn them, and if you need an item, order it. I find many engineers are afraid of these procedures and / or actually fear asking for stuff. If the office deems that order not be necessary, then it is not your fault if downtime accumulates. Keeping junk on board will probably cost more in fuel over the life of the vessel, carrying that ballast around, than it would buying the right part, and having a system to find it.

By the way, if you are finding yourself overwhelmed by hoarding… huh, used but good enthusiast, my sister runs a cleaning company to help you. Shes is much more diplomatic than I. My cleaning usually involves three bins… garbage, metal recycling and very small potential keeper bin – second look before tossing.

All images from various internet sources.

This article has 4 Comments

  1. I was once 2nd on a ship that I "thought" had plenty of main engine parts. What it did have was plenty of parts for an engine not like hers.WTF???

    And right up there is the 2nd who keeps tools under his bunk so when you need them in the middle of the night he will get OT.

    Cripes, I'm not a robot and it still takes half a dozen tries to post!

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