I recently blogged about being out on the gulf with my wife on our 23’ sport boat and having a problem with the battery. Following that event, I contacted my marine mechanic and asked him to do two things: First, see if he could find a source for the battery losing charge so quickly, and second, determine whether a second battery could be added to the boat as a backup.
Those of you that have read Grounded, know that I advocate determining mission critical elements of your business and ensuring that you have a backup for those things.
On our Proline 23, a critical element is the battery. Without it, there is no engine, no navigational instruments, and no lights. Since we had just experienced being stranded, I wanted to see whether it would be feasible to add a backup battery.
A couple of days after my request, I got a call from the mechanic. He detailed how he had examined all of the systems that would draw on the battery and through his testing, could not determine any element that was shorting or otherwise drawing undue power from the battery. He suggested that a battery test be performed to see if there was a dead cell or a problem with the battery itself. I asked him about adding the second battery. He paused for an abnormal amount of time and teasingly asked, “David, have you ever actually opened the hatch on the port side of your boat?”
I quickly visualized what he was referring to. There are two hatches in the stern of the boat. The one on the starboard (right) side provides access to the battery, gas lines and other important operational parts of the boat. The port (left) side … is there a hatch there? You bet. He went on to tell me that when he examined where a second battery would go, he opened that hatch and found a second battery!
Did I mention that I know a lot more about sailboats than power boats? I felt really dumb at that moment. I had owned this boat for over three years and never examined that hatch. Furthermore, he explained to me that the mechanism that controls the battery already had a switch with a setting to run on battery 1, or battery 2, or both.
The switch had a setting for “1,” “2,” and “All.” I had always set the switch to All. That’s what the man from whom I purchased the boat said to do. Turns out, you can turn the switch to 1 and the boat operates on battery 1, or turn the switch to 2 and the boat runs on battery 2.
I had moved that switch from Off to All dozens of times, never wondering what the 1 and 2 settings were. In fact, I can’t recall ever even being curious about what those settings were for.
I could have consulted the boat manual. I could have asked the broker who sold me the boat. I could have asked the mechanic. Heck, I could have asked a dockhand and he would have known. But I didn’t ask. What is worse, not having a backup plan in place or having a backup plan and completely failing to use it or even recognize it exists?
The fix was simple: the second battery was very old and since I was using the All switch, it was draining both batteries. Replacing both batteries was all that was needed. Although nothing serious happened when we were stranded in November, something bad COULD have happened. There is no excuse for my not being more knowledgeable about my boat and its operation, especially in a situation where my wife’s well-being was in the balance.
In what elements of your business or personal life are you unprepared to engage backup plans? Have you “opened every hatch?” Read the manual through and through and know how every mission critical element works? Don’t leave these elements up to chance.
Oh, and in addition to a second battery, I now have a portable jump-start device on my boat. Nothing wrong with a backup for my backup…
David is an international speaker, executive coach, serial entrepreneur, and shipwreck survivor. He is the bestselling author of Grounded (Little River, 2016) . If you’re interested in David’s expertise in the areas of leadership, finance, and public speaking, please get in touch here.