When you’re talking about hydraulic systems, land-based equipment such as industrial shredders or construction equipment is most likely to be the first thing that comes to mind. However, many boats, especially commercial marine vessels and large yachts, depend on hydraulic systems to perform various critical functions.
The systems relying on hydraulic equipment will vary based on the boat, but the steering apparatus is the most common hydraulic system found on these vessels. Other hydraulic systems on boats may include a davit crane to lift a dinghy from the yacht into the water, bow thrusters for maneuvering during docking, a windlass raising the anchor to set sail, or a capstan to tighten the rope used to moor the boat to the dock.
Hydraulic systems on commercial vessels and large yachts must be robust and dependable to move freight and support vessel functions while withstanding the stress of daily use in a marine environment. If any of these systems fail, it could put workloads behind schedule or even jeopardize passengers and crew safety. A dedicated company specializing in hydraulic maintenance for boats and yachts of all sizes performing frequent preventative maintenance is the key to smooth and successful operation.
At DHI, we perform hydraulic repair on a variety of boats and marine equipment. Recently, a boatyard referred a yacht charter company to Devine Hydraulics concerning a problem with their hydraulic systems. While inspecting the yacht in preparation for the busy season they discovered critical issues with their hydraulic systems that could have forced them to put charter services on hold, had they gone unnoticed.
Hydraulic Systems Failure Threatens Charter Yacht Operations
Hydraulic systems on large yachts must undergo routine inspection and maintenance throughout the year to ensure safe and reliable operation. These critical systems should be inspected and serviced by an experienced professional, so finding a hydraulic repair partner that has worked on different boats such as fishing boats, tugboats, and commercial vessels is vital. When a routine inspection revealed issues with the hydraulic systems operating their davit, bow thruster, and forward hatch, the 120-foot luxury yacht’s captain reached out to DHI for help to return this vessel to seaworthy condition.
The enormous yacht hosted a 15ft support boat, known as a tender, which was stored on the top deck. The weight of the tender made it difficult for the davit system to lift the boat to and from the yacht. The owner had recently switched from a 17ft tender and had assumed that a smaller boat would be lighter and easier to lift. But the 15ft dinghy was comprised of different materials and the new, shorter tender’s heavier construction caused the davit to struggle as the weight of the new boat approached near-max capacity for the hydraulic crane.
Since the hydraulic pressure could not be increased as it would overrate the davit, Devine Hydraulics advised the customer on adjusting the way the system was being used and devised a routine maintenance schedule for services that would address the stress on the davit hydraulic system.
Another issue had to do with the bow thruster. The bow thruster plays a critical role in docking the vessel and must perform at optimal efficiency to maneuver the boat safely, especially during high winds. After some testing and troubleshooting, adjustments to the bow thrusters were recommended and implemented to improve the maneuverability of the yacht during docking procedures.
The final problem was found with the forward hatch, which operated using a hydraulic cylinder to open the hatch. Upon inspection and testing of the hydraulic system, it was determined that the compact pump system was worn out and could no longer provide the pressure required to lift the hatch. To remedy this issue, a new power unit was installed that would allow the charter company to open the hatch even with the additional weight of an attached ladder.
Unknown Specs Create Unique Challenges for Hydraulic Boat Maintenance
Maintaining records of manufacturing specs regarding hydraulic settings and flows for all systems and components is a best-practice when it comes to any hydraulic equipment, as this allows repair professionals to accurately assess performance and avoid overloading any individual system. Unfortunately, the boat owner did not have component specs available. Instead, our hydraulic repair team contacted the manufacturers to obtain as much information as we could, and applied expertise gained over decades of hydraulic boat maintenance where manufacturer information could not be ascertained. As a final layer of security, the yacht’s captain worked with DHI to establish an annual maintenance schedule that would secure the readiness of their vessel for future voyages. This extra level of service and expertise allowed the charter company to return all systems to optimal operating status, ready to take on the busy charter season.
Contact Devine Hydraulics to discuss a preventative maintenance schedule that will keep your fleet in ship shape year-round.