2014 Winter Projects Part One

Once we got settled in our winter slip at Van Isle, we started on the project list. As our regular readers know, the project list is a living document, which is discussed, or more accurately, negotiated, on a regular basis. This winter’s list had been refined while we were out cruising, and we had estimated the work, so we had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done. We had also identified the projects we wanted to get done before we left in mid November, and others that we needed to order parts or that we wanted done by a boatyard.


It’s not often that we have work done by boatyards, as we prefer to do the work ourselves, if we have the time. During our 20 plus years of boating we have found that Ron can do the work as well, although it usually takes him longer. The big plus of having him do it is he knows what was done and how to fix it. Work done by boatyards does not always get done the way we would prefer. Sometimes this is related to us not providing adequate oversight, and other times it reflects the need for a yard to complete work within budget.


By way of example, we removed the overhead panels in the master stateroom, as part of the new inverter/charger installation. The wires for the new unit need to make their way from the lazarette, where the unit is installed, to the pilothouse, where the electric panels are. When we removed the panels, we noticed that whoever had installed the pilothouse A/C had made room for the A/C hoses by cutting our SSB ground. The 3 inch wide copper foil was cut back to half an inch. Obviously, this degrades the quality of the radio ground. It was a short cut for the installer, though not one we would have approved of had we seen him doing it.


There are endless examples of this kind of thing in the boating world. We understand why this is often how it is done, but we try not to do it ourselves. When we do work with a boatyard, we are not an easy customer, as Ron has strong opinions about how our work should be completed. We are willing to pay to do it our way, but some yards are not comfortable with working to our direction.


We did, however, have several projects which we felt confident a good boatyard could complete, under Ron’s watchful eye. The first of these was to repair or replace the Naiad overhung adapter. When we had the Naiad system upgraded in Seattle, we thought we had fixed and/or replaced every component. This proved, however, not to be the case, as we didn’t do anything to the overhung load adapter, as it was working fine.


The job of the overhung load adapter is to take a pump that is designed to be driven by a motor and, instead, drive it using a belt. In Duet’s case, the pump is the Naiad’s hydraulic pump and the motor is the main engine. Energy transfer is accomplished using a belt, with one end around a pulley on the front of the main engine and the other end around a pulley on the overhung load adapter. Inside the adapter is a bearing, one side of which is attached to the pulley, while the other side is linked to the drive shaft of the Naiad hydraulic pump. The belt spins the pulley, which spins the bearing, which spins the pump drive shaft. The end result is pressurized hydraulic oil to run the Naiads and keep us on an even keel.


We knew the bearing was slowly going, as it started to leak small, and then larger amounts of grease, during our cruise. The bearing is packed in grease and, when it’s doing fine, the grease should stay put. Ron sent some pictures to our Naiad guru, Dick McGrew, once the leak became noticeable. Dick diagnosed a failing bearing. After discussion with Dick, Ron felt that it wouldn’t fail catastrophically, and, even if it did, we could pin the fins and continue to cruise, as we weren’t offshore. So we just kept the leak cleaned up, and planned a repair once we reached Sidney.


The second item which we planned to outsource was repairing a leak in our wet exhaust. Duet, unlike the majority of Nordhavns, hass a wet, rather than a dry, exhaust, on her main engine. Approximately half the 50’s were built this way. Both systems have advantages and disadvantages. For example, dry systems rust, while wet systems leak. Our particular leak was under the aft section of the port settee in the main salon. Fortunately, this is an easily accessible area. The leak was occurring at both ends of a large flexible hose connecting two rigid section of the exhaust.


For those not familiar with the anatomy of exhaust systems, the key issue is cooling down hot engine exhaust gas. This gas exits the engine at about 650 degrees Fahrenheit. In a marine wet exhaust, cold sea water is injected into the exhaust pipe, to cool the gas. The sea water and the exhaust then exit Duet through a very large pipe at the port stern, just above the waterline. In a dry exhaust, the hot gases run through an insulated pipe through the boat and exit high above the deck, like a truck.


The exhaust is a long pipe. It runs from the back end of the main engine to the port aft corner of the engine room, which is about 10 feet. It then goes up, under the settee in the salon, and back down to exit at the port stern. This siphon loop is introduced in the system to prevent sea water from coming back in the exhaust pipe and flooding the engine. Duet’s exhaust pipe is approximately 6 inches in diameter throughout it’s length, so it’s pretty sizable. You can see the dry section of the exhaust in the picture below.


Fixing this leak meant replacing the section of hose that bridges the two rigid exhaust components. The hose would need to be cut off. It is tough hose, made of heavy rubber reinforced with metal. Then a replacement hose would be fitted. It might also be necessary to fit a crush prevention sleeve, made of stainless steel, at the joins with the rigid elements to reinforce the connection.


Ron can do this kind of work, he had replaced sections of the wet exhaust on the 46’s generator, so this wasn’t a new project. It would, however, represent a significant time commitment on his part, as there would be a considerable struggle associated with removing and fitting new exhaust hose of this size. This project is not rocket science, boat yards do it every day, so we had confidence that it could be done right if we outsourced it. So this was project two for our yard.


The third project was replacing the wrap which shrouds the dry section of the exhaust in the engine room. This wrap is original equipment. As our regular readers know, we have been slowly reducing Duet’s engine room temperature, but it is still too high. Ron had taken temperature readings on the surface of this wrap while we were cruising. In the perfect world, the wrap should be cool enough to touch, but ours was between 160 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit.


Again, while Ron can do this replacement, it would require a lot of time. Also, he would have to order the wrap based on his own measurements, which is rather like ordering custom fit window blinds, namely you measure it, you keep it, whether it fits or not. Finally, we were suspicious that our wrap, given it’s age and origin, might contain nasty materials like asbestos. We try to avoid working with this kind of thing if we can. So the wrap went on the outsource list, as project number three.


Finally, we have a section of the foredeck, just aft of the anchor roller, which Ron had repaired. It had leaked when bedding for the aft bolts securing the roller had given way. The leak had been stopped over a year ago, when Ron over drilled and refilled the holes with epoxy, but the deck needs rebuilding. This is done by cutting away the rotten bits from underneath and gluing in new end grain balsa or packing the area with epoxy. This is work Ron has done many times. He would need to work in a cramped space for days, and get covered in fiberglass, which cuts your skin and gets into your lungs. This is something boat yards do all day long, so it was added as project four.


So we had four projects for the boatyard. The big question was which boatyard? There are a number well known shops near Van Isle. We interviewed several and chose Philbrooks, which has done a lot of Nordhavn work over the years. Emails went back and forth, bids were approved and Ron began reviewing the technical specs for the exhaust wrap to be used.


In addition to the yard projects, Ron had many things to do. When we prepare a project list, we not only estimate the time it will take (Ron always bids high, as he knows Nancy will push back) we list all the parts required, and we prioritize, as we know from experience that not all projects get done. Our list at this point included lots of things, but first up was an issue with new Lifeline batteries.


Electricity is Chief Engineer Ron’s favorite subject. He reads about it for recreation. So, after we installed our new batteries in Portland, he spent many a happy hour measuring their output, charting their discharge rates and generally keeping them company in the laz. Unfortunately, as a result of all this communing, he found that they weren’t functioning up to par. He narrowed it down to two of the batteries, which, interestingly enough, had low open circuit voltages when we got them. In retrospect, we should have done something about it then, but we were in a rush and figured that they would recover. They didn’t.


So the first thing we did upon arriving in Sidney was get in touch with Lifeline. After some back and forth, we found the right person and determined that these two batteries were over a year old when they reached Duet. Batteries should be 3-4 months old maximum when they are installed. Lifeline stepped up to replace them. Fisheries Supply, who was the wholesaler, and Sextons, who sold them to us, also helped out. Waypoint Marine in Sidney agreed to act as receiving agent for us. All of this, including shipping the new batteries in and the old batteries out, was accomplished at no cost to us. As an aside, we paid about $700 USD per battery in Portland, if we had to buy them in Sidney they would be about $900 USD each.


This time there was no helpful large brother Tom to manhandle the batteries. The crane lifted them off, but it was up to Ron to get them up the dock, along the road and into Waypoint Marine. Then he had to push the new ones back, but that trip was mostly downhill. After a day of donkey duty, we had nice new batteries and all was well in the Lifeline bank.

As you will notice in the picture below, the batteries are tied to the handle of the dock cart. This modification was added after the batteries slid forward and the dock cart lifted Captain Ron up in the air. Since the batteries, individually, outweigh Captain Ron, we were forced to rely on the kindness of passing strangers to get the dock cart back level again, and the batteries secured. After this reengineering, all went well.


After the batteries, Ron started in on the inverter/charger. The first step was to find a place to put it. This is harder than it sounds. The laz is crowded and the unit is electrical, so you can’t just put it anywhere in case it gets wet. The laz doesn’t leak, but it might, so Ron tries to put anything electrical above the floor. In the end, he put it where the old unit was, on the starboard forward wall of the laz. The old unit was relocated to the other side of the laz, taking the place previously occupied by an automatic fire extinguishing system, which was relocated above it.


The next, more difficult step, was to find a way to run the multiple cables and the control wire from the laz to the pilothouse. The cables carry power to and from the unit to the controlling breakers in the pilothouse, while the control cable links the new inverter-charger to it’s digital control panel in the pilothouse. This Duet already has lots and lots of cabling going every which way, and there wasn’t a lot of room for new runs. To find room, we removed almost all of the overhead panels. This is easier than it was on the 46, where the panels were screwed in place. The 50’s panels are held on by velcro, so they can be popped right off and then pressed back on.


Unfortunately, as part of this exploring, we found a major leak above the master berth. After some research, it became apparent that this leak was also the source of a leak in the forward master hanging locker. We, and Duet’s previous owner, thought that leak was repaired years ago,. It turned out that, when the port sliding pilothouse door was installed, someone wasn’t paying attention. Said door slides on a stainless steel track, which is screwed into the door step. When this track was installed, the installer obviously had trouble getting it to line up, and drilled about 15 holes in the step He did not, however, fill the holes, nor did he seal the screws he eventually did install. So this had been leaking steadily into the overhead above the master berth since Duet was built.

You can see the leak into the forward master hanging locker below.


We’ve not seen this kind of slipshod installation on a Nordhavn before. We can only assume that it was an infrequent occurrence, which we have unfortunately inherited. We know how to fix it, Ron over drilled, cored out and filled all the holes. It takes time for the epoxy to dry, so he did the door in two parts, by fixing half the screws one day and the other half the next. This also means the door can stay closed, which is handy in Sidney where it rains nearly every day in winter.


We also spent some time figuring out where the water went. We wicked out the overhead, which took about a dozen small towels and several weeks to dry. So far, while we were there, it had stopped leaking. We left it open while we went home to Tahoe, so we will get a good sense of what is going on up there when we return. Hopefully it is now drained and can dry out.


In the meantime, a careful study of the anatomy behind the pilothouse door showed us that we can hope that the leak didn’t damage much other than the overhead in the master stateroom. The side of the pilothouse is made of impermeable material, while the deck below is end grain balsa, sandwiched between two layers of glass. When Ron drilled into the master stateroom ceiling he was drilling into the deck above. Water literally ran out, so there was quite a bit in there.


Once we have determined that the leak is definitely fixed, we will have the deck area repaired. We are hoping that it can be cut out from below, thereby avoiding an expensive cosmetic repair to the deck surface and possibly the side of the house. We won’t know what this will take until we reach our next yard stop in southern California, as we want to be sure this area is dry and no longer leaking before we repair it.


Having seen this leak, we decided to check the other doors. Ron removed each door and checked the screws on the sliders. The starboard pilothouse door was relatively OK, except for the bolt hole, which needed to be complete cut out and refilled. It will also need some gel coat repair, which Ron will do. The salon door was in pretty good shape. As part of this review, Ron over drilled and cored every hole and rebedded all the hardware. We will eventually do this for all of Duet’s hardware, as it is all aging and the original sealant will give way, if it hasn’t already.

In the picture below, you can see our improvised door securing method for the salon door. This prevented the door from closing on Ron while he was working on it’s sliding track. While Duet is tied up in a marina, we do occasionally get the odd wake, so this was a prudent precaution.

Since we were on a leak hunt, we also decided to take a look at the deck fittings and hoses which provide drainage from the decks. The 50 has hoses leading from deck drains down to thru-hulls just above the waterline. This reduces unsightly streaking on the sides of the hull. She also has huge scuppers for rapid drainage; these hoses are intended for rain and boat wash drainage.


Anyway, said thru-hulls are installed without ball-valves. This is interesting, in that if one of them gives way, we will take on some water, though hopefully not catastrophically as they are above the waterline. The thru-hulls for these deck drains are in some pretty tight locations, with no space to fit a ball-valve. It is a ‘little idiosyncrasy’ one needs to be aware of. In the photo below, you can see the thru-hull exiting the hull behind the starboard wall in the guest cabin.

One of these deck drains was leaking (at the fitting) because it had been re-grouted with one of it’s screws missing, which left a nice large entry hole for water. Ron replaced the screw and re-grouted the fitting, taking care of the leak. This problem seemed to be of recent origin, since the surrounding under deck area was dry.


All the other hoses were doing fine. We would guess that the one drain that had been redone was identified as the source of the leak in the guest stateroom hanging locker, as it is directly above it. Obviously, that repair didn’t fix the leak, but it was hard to tell this, as the leak from the overhead is intermittent, so it would have looked fixed. We had measured the water stains in that locker and tracked them pretty carefully, and still didn’t figure out that it was still leaking. It turns out that this leak is actually from the A/C unit tray in the top of the locker, which leaks when Duet is slightly bow down and port heavy. Ron will repair this as he has all the other leaking A/C unit trays, by installing more hoses to catch condensate regardless of the boat’s trim.


As part of this exercise, Nancy did a diagram of all thru hulls, the deck drains, the water and fuel fills and the black water pump out. Ron has digitized this and it will be laminated and installed in various areas of the boat. That way, if water comes flooding in, we have a shot at figuring out where it is coming from.


As part of our leak detection sidebar, we decided to check underneath the crane. We do this every 6 months. The crane had seen a lot of use during our cruising, and we wanted to see if it had worked anything loose underneath. Everything looked fine, except for a very minor leak coming down one of the hydraulic hoses. Backtracking into the crane provided some more information, as did several chats with Steelhead support.


It turns out that one of hoses is not completely seated in the gasket at the aft end of the crane arm. On our next visit, Ron will do some serious yanking on the hose, and silicone the area where it passes through the gasket, to see if that stops the weeping. If not, we will have a canvas cover made for the aft end of the crane. Until then, as you can see in the second picture, we are going with the tried and true bungee cords and plastic bag method.


Dismantling the crane and talking to Steelhead also clarified an error on Nancy’s part. As crane operator, part of her job is to release the brake on the crane drum before using it. The brake is a little bronze nub which drops into place between the teeth of crane gearing, shown in the photo below. If you don’t release it before operating the crane, the gears wear it down. The brake was now slipping, so she had obviously skipped that step once or twice. Fortunately, it is an easy fix, so we ordered parts for Ron to install a new brake when we return.


So we did a lot of leak detection during our stay in Sidney. This took some time, but it was worth it, if only for the peace of mind. The boat is solidly built, but the continuous rain and cold weather of the PNW is tough environment. That said, the hot humid tropics aren’t much better. Keeping a boat in good shape is a never-ending struggle against the elements.


Once we finished the leak related projects, Ron moved forward with the inverter/charger. After some thought, he decided to wire the new unit into the older unit’s wiring. That got it up and running fast, and the wiring would have been the same for it, just newer. So the old unit is now up on blocks, waiting for new wiring, and the new unit is running the boat. The new unit is a 12V 3000 watt 120 amp Victron inverter/charger. It will handle all the boat’s inverter needs in the future, the old unit will only be charging.


This solves two problems, first we now have pure sine wave electricity, which the dishwasher will play well with. Pure sine wave is also better for rechargeable items, such as phones, tablets, etc. Second, keeping the old unit doubles our battery charging capacity, which means less generator run time. Victron is now OEM gear on all Nordhavns, and so far we have been pleased with it.


It did come out of the box with a minor problem, namely it was quite noisy. After listening to it, Ron got in touch with Victron technical support, who was very helpful. After an exchange of pictures, and holding the phone next to the unit so support could hear the noise for themselves, the diagnosis was a loose wire banging into the fan blades. Ron dismantled the back of the unit, and, with some direction from support, fixed it. Now it runs silently.


The new unit has its own brains, so to speak. This is a remote monitoring panel that tells us what it’s doing, namely charging and inverting, charging only, inverting only, etc. It is not a battery monitor, just an inverter/charger controller. We already have a battery monitor which works perfectly well, so we didn’t replace it. The coolest thing about the new inverter, at least to Nancy, is it’s color. It is bright blue, with orange stripes. It’s monitor has a blue LED panel. So it’s introduced some nice color into the equipment palette.


This inverter/charger project will be continued on our next trip to the boat in December. In the meantime, Ron has done a lot of measuring for the new wire. Given the cost of these cables, getting the measurements right is key, or you either have too much, or have to add a junction box to add more. Neither alternative is welcomed by the budget committee. 


The last large project we undertook before departure was to repair the dryer. During our cruise the dryer was used a lot, more than we had ever used it before. Over time, it began to sound more and more like a cement mixer, until we were afraid to turn it on, for fear that it would shake itself to bits.

On our journey Ron had spent a day sorting out the washer, which drained poorly. That repair was pretty simple: he removed the siphon loop that had been installed in the drain hose. Siphon loops are designed to prevent sea water from coming back into a hose which exits the hull. The washer, however, is located well above the water line and the thru-hull it drains through is also above the water line. Therefore, it did not need a siphon loop. The installation specifications for the dryer specifically caution against installing a high loop. It drained beautifully once this small installation error was corrected.


The dryer repair was to prove far more challenging than the washer. First, we had to find a dryer manual. The internet came to our rescue after some extensive searching. Once we had the manual we did some research about dryer problems on the Nordhavn Owners site. Many Nordhavns have the same Asko dryer we have, and a number have had the same problem. The news, however, was mixed. The problem was easy, the rollers upon which the forward edge of the drum turns wear out. Getting new ones was easy, we ordered them from a wholesaler in Vancouver and they arrived in two days.


Getting the old rollers out of the dryer and the new ones in was to prove far more difficult. Several Nordhavn owners had pulled this off, and provided instructions on how to do it. Others said it was impossible and had purchased new dryers. Our good friend Clayton, owner of N50 Tivoli, recently had to replace his dryer because not only had the rollers failed, but the motor was in poor shape, too. Dryer replacement was not straight forward, to say the least. Finding a model which would fit in the same footprint was not easy, but Clayton had already taken care of that research project. Getting the old one out required removing the stair rail. Clayton got to practice this step three times since it took that number of new dryers before one that worked was delivered. This saga did not make us anxious to pursue dryer replacement as a solution.


So we started at the beginning. Since the dryer was already broken, dismantling it in situ to see if we could get to the rollers was worth doing. If we succeeded, great, no new dryer. If we didn’t, the situation wasn’t any worse, the dryer would still be broken. Dismantling enough of the dryer to get the rollers out took nearly two full days.


Action photos are provided below, suffice it to say that Ron spent all that time in a contorted position doing the tricky stuff, such as getting the back and top off, while Nancy served as deadweight to keep the dryer from falling out of it’s closet. In the end, we got the rollers out. Basically, to get at the rollers, the back of the enclosure, which supports the drum, is detached and moved back. Then the front of the enclosure is pulled forward, and the top is shoved off. The lower front panel is removed entirely, as is the door. This allows access to under the front of the drum, where the rollers are.

Finally, after great struggle, we removed the rollers, one of which is shown below. If you look closely, you can see that it is completely chewed up, it’s amazing the drum was going around at all.

We now know far more about dryer anatomy than we ever wished to, so our readers get to learn too. Basically, the dryer is enclosed in a sheet metal box, with a large drum, driven by a belt, which is driven by an electric motor. The drum sits on plastic rollers in front and is supported by a bearing which is attached to the back of the box. It is carefully leveled and balanced, so that it will spin without wobbling. There is also a fan which moves heated air into the drum and out the back. We were only focused on the drum, not on the heating process, so we ignored the fan.

Our dryer motor, belt and other peripherals were in good shape, so we decided, once we got the dryer apart, we would make a serious effort to get it back together with the new rollers. The big trick was keeping the drum level and not stretching or displacing the belt which turns it. The drum is heavy and it’s difficult to persuade it to line up right. First, we put a bunch of boating books under the front of the drum to keep it level. Unfortunately, it still sagged at the back, and we couldn’t raise it high enough to get it to line up with the back of the box and thereby slide onto it’s rear supports. We also couldn’t reach the back to shove more books in, which left us at a standstill.


So Ron read the service manual again. It made mention of a special tool to hold the drum up when the back of the unit is removed. It is important to realize that the manual assumes that the dryer is sitting in the middle of a room with 360 degree access, not crammed into a tight closet, halfway down a set of stairs, with the only access being via a 2 foot by 2 foot hatch to the rear and around the edges from the front. So, after some thought, Ron came up with a jury rigged version of said tool, shown in the photo below, which worked perfectly.


Installing the new wheels actually went quite quickly, once we got the drum level. We also rejiggered the belt a bit to make sure it was straight. Then we had to put the dryer back together. This was not easy. It took another entire day, of struggling, cursing, being absolutely certain we would never get it to work, and finally, success! The dryer is now running almost silently, and is actually working better than when we bought the boat.


Although this litany of projects sounds like we did nothing but work the entire time we were in Sidney, this wasn’t actually true. We, especially Ron, worked a lot, but not all the time. We did do some socializing, first with Lawrence and Penny, owners of the N46 Northern Ranger I. They toured Duet, we toured Northern Ranger I (it was wonderful to be aboard a 46 again) and then we all toured a pub. We also had dinner with Lionel, of the N40 Chinook, when he passed through town.

Ron cleans up quite nicely for a night out. The picture below was taken at the Sidney Marina. 

We even attended a Nordhavn bash aboard the beautiful N56 motorsailor, Lolani, hosted by her Canadian owners Ian and Barb. Attendees included Deborah, who lives aboard a sailboat nearby and is on the faculty of the Royal Roads University in Victoria, Australian mining engineers and live aboards Martin and Elzane of the N55 Enterprise III, and Canadians Dave and Kaye of the N47 Segue II, recently returned from several years of cruising in Europe. Nancy and Ron did their best to keep up with the widely dispersed destinations being bandied about. Most folks are headed to Alaska next summer, and we were able to get some good local info. We were also fortunate enough to run into Jerome and Karen from the N60 Daybreak, who are experienced fishermen and have cruised Alaska and BC extensively. Nancy hopes to pick their brains on fishing when we return in the spring.


We contracted with Peggy of The Boat Butler, to wash Duet and keep an eye on her when we were not aboard. We also spent quite a bit of time working through the issues of how to tie her up and protect her lines from chafe. The wind can get quite gusty even inside the marina, during our stay several fronts bashed their way through and we got a good sense of which direction was the most problematic.


Ron dug out our fire hose, thank you good sailing friend Alan, and began to sort out various types of knots and angles of pull. While tying the boat up sounds pretty simple, it’s not, particularly on Van Isle’s docks. These docks are old and have long wooden bars running lengthwise, rather than the cleats Duet’s crew is used to. These bars are known as bull rails. Duet is a heavy boat, and could easily chafe right through one in a good blow. Some of the rails on our finger pier already showed signs of chafe and we weren’t too happy entrusting her to them to begin with.


So we chatted with various folks, including Peggy, and studied other boats. Ron dug out his knot book and eventually decided on a constrictor knot, which would keep the lines from moving and thereby chaffing the rails. He also installed fire hose chafe gear on every line. As you can see from the photo above, we use the outside lining of the fire hose, not the entire hose, which includes an rubber interior lining, for chafe gear. Finally, we ran two lines to each hawse on Duet, fore and aft, and backups for those lines. Each line went to different section of the rail, so that if the rail broke, there would still be a line holding Duet in that direction, via a different rail. It took a lot of line and lot of firehose, but we tested it pretty well, sorted out her fenders, and departed feeling she was as well protected as we could make her.


Last, but not least, was hooking up our Siren monitoring system. There we made a mistake, and left it until the day of departure. Needless to say, it refused to function, as it’s battery was completely dead. We had not left it plugged in, as our old modified sine wave inverter tends to kill rechargeable batteries, but obviously leaving it unplugged wasn’t a great idea either. So we hooked it up and hoped for the best, namely that the battery would recover.


It did, but the unit hasn’t proved to be of much use, as the response time between it and a US based phone is measured in hours, not seconds or minutes, so we can’t use it to flush the water maker. It managed to do it once or twice, but it is now responding so slowly that Ron has given up and will pickle the water maker after our next visit, unless there is something obvious that can be fixed on the Siren.


This is disappointing, frankly, as we were told that the unit could operate in foreign countries. Perhaps Canada isn’t foreign enough. Siren technical support is unable to figure out what is wrong with it, and blames the Canadian phone system, although our phones work just fine there. This has been a good learning experience in a situation where the downside is limited. We don’t expect the water maker membranes to fail, it is cold in Sidney now and they have been flushed at least three times since we left. Normally we flush every week, but we have averaged every two weeks or so, and hope that will keep them in good shape until they can be pickled.


So our departure was a little frantic, given we were trying to reboot the Siren while simultaneously catching a plane. To make matters worse, our flight from Seattle to Reno was cancelled, thereby stranding us in Seattle for 6 hours until the late evening flight departed. We made the best of it by having what passes for a pretty good meal in the airport and arrive home around 1AM. The house was fine, and Tahoe looked great, it was good to be home.


The next morning we discovered that things weren’t exactly perfect, one of our under counter wine fridges had given up the ghost. This brings up an interesting point. Years ago, before we got the 46, we would have just called an appliance repairman. Now, based on extensive experience troubleshooting boat systems in remote places, Ron dug out his home electric meter and diagnosed a faulty relay. One $10 part later and the fridge was back in business.


Nancy must also report a technical breakthrough, which doesn’t often happen to her. On the boat we watch DVDs, we have no TV reception, although we could hook up the KVH dish to some kind of commercial TV service. We haven’t done so, as we do not watch commercial TV at home, we stream everything. On the boat the budget committee won’t approve a fast enough internet connection to stream anything, hence the DVDs. DVDs take up space, not to mention it is annoying to have to buy entertainment content twice, for example on Amazon On Demand and then again on DVD. So Nancy has been casting about for a way to do what everyone talks about, namely download TV shows and movies onto a hard drive and show it on the boat’s TV.


After much research, she stumbled over a solution, a software called PlayLater. It allows you to record a streamed movie as an MP4 file, which is stored on an external hard drive. This is legal, in the same way that taping a show with a VCR is legal. The only other problem to solve was finding an MP4 player that could plus into Duet’s somewhat archaic A/V system. Our system does not have an HDMI input, like modern units, which limits what it can talk to.


It turns out that the Western Digital Media Player (which plays MP4 files) has a variety of outputs including HDMI, optical audio, RCA audio, and RCA composite (yellow RCA plug) This met our needs for interfacing to our Bose A/V system. Since we figured this out, Nancy has been recording 24/7 off our Netflix and Amazon content libraries! Unfortunately, PlayLater will only run under Windows, so she has been monopolizing the boat laptop.


As we have mentioned previously, we have had some problems with Nobeltec Time Zero. We are long time Nobeltec users, but we have found this new system to be more difficult than we remembered. It is not very stable, and it took us about 6 months to get the drivers working so that it would not crash every 15-30 minutes. Further, the charges for the special charts it requires cost considerably more than charts for other navigation software. Given that we are planning to travel far and wide, this represents a considerable sum of money. So we have been casting about for alternatives, and have been talking to other Nordhavn owners. The leading software candidate is Coastal Explorer, which seems to be gaining traction among the long distance cruising trawler owners we talk to.


When we first got Duet, the previous owner left a copy of Coastal Explorer aboard, while warning us that it ran poorly on the boat’s very slow computer. Stupidly, we didn’t keep the software, as we knew we were going to use Nobeltec. So, as penance, we have had to purchase a new copy, and are going to transition Duet to Coastal Explorer or CE for short, during our cruising next year. We may run Nobeltec in tandem initially, although so far in testing at home CE has proved very easy to use. We will report back after we have some miles with it, but so far we are pleased.


Ron is also sorting out his weather system. On the 46 we used Ocens WeatherNet software, and we shall do so again. There are some questions, like whether we need a Grib reader or not, as both Nobeltec and CE have Grib readers built in. Ron will be comparing them to Ocens Grib reader, which, at $200 retail, isn’t a cheap decision.


In the meantime, Nancy is evaluating satellite communication solutions. This area is changing quickly, so it is easy to make an expensive mistake. At this time, it looks like we are going to purchase an Iridium Go!, which uses the same technology as our Iridium phone on the 46. The big difference is it can be paired with an unlimited data and text plan at a reasonable cost, whereas the phone plans still charge by the minute. This unit also creates a wifi hotspot which makes it easier for both Ron and Nancy to use it at the same time. It is just as slow as the old phone, at 2400 baud, but it can be speeded up with compression software.


The Go is new, and there is quite a bit of confusion over what it can and can’t do. Fortunately for Nancy, as often happens in the Nordhavn family, several folks are going before us. One of these is our good friend Clayton, on the N50 Tivoli. So far his experience with the unit has been good, so we will probably purchase one on our trip to the Miami Boat show in February.


Nancy also sorted out a new wifi router for the boat. Duet already has a wifi booster, which may or may not work, so it is on the list for testing, repair or replacement on our next trip. In the meantime, after reviewing other Nordhavn owners’ experience on the Nordhavn Owner board, Nancy selected a Peplink SOHO router. It can accept signals from cell phones, satellite phones, external wifi networks, wifi boosters and hardwired networks. It can also create a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which is a very secure way to keep folks from reading your mail. Ron has tested it at home and it works just fine, so we shall set it up on our next trip.


So there we were, back home again, with a long list of parts to order, software to test, movies to record, and friends wanting to catch up and hear about the trip. Ron also went back to work immediately, thereby casting some doubt on the concept of his now being retired, but he loves what he does, so Nancy finds it hard to stand in his way.


While he is home, however, he does manage to order what seems like an endless stream of parts, including wire for the inverter project, a buoy for our anchor trip line, diesel diapers, another large electrical bus, etc. Our UPS man is now backing his truck up the driveway, rather than carrying the packages, as there are so many.


Ron also is getting quite a bit done in the home shop. We are replacing Duet’s exterior lights with lights we had bought for the 46 but never installed. The ones for the fly bridge don’t fit exactly, and we were stymied until we talked to our good friend Clayton. We weren’t actually discussing fly bridge lights, we were talking about exterior courtesy lights, but Clayton had the solution, regardless. He replaced all his exterior courtesy lights with LED units, but, like the fly bridge lights, they didn’t fit precisely into the old holes. So he had bases made for them, with the new holes predrilled, so the new lights fit nicely into the old apertures.


This gave us an idea, namely why not use bases for the fly bridge lights? Problem solved. Ron made the bases out of garalite, which is a fiberglass like material that can be cut, beveled and painted. Ron also made wooden bases for new lights for the laz and a new base for the the fire extinguisher, which is being moved to a new spot. All of these are also painted.


Talking to Clayton turned out to be a rather expensive conversation, as we also decided to upgrade our courtesy lights to LEDs. We only bought one this time, so we can test it for fit, before we buy the dozen or so we need.


We are headed back to Duet on Xmas day and will update this log after our next trip. We wish all our readers happy holidays and a great 2015.


2 thoughts on “2014 Winter Projects Part One”

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