Battery Day

We returned to Duet the week of Memorial Day. The primary mission was to change out the house batteries. Nancy’s Mom, however, was visiting her brother Tom and his girlfriend Jill, so there was to be plenty of family activity as well.


As our regular readers may recall, on our last journey we had tested the house batteries and found them wanting. Nancy, in her role as provisioner in chief, had ordered 6 new AGM 8D batteries, each capable of holding 255 amp hours at 12V, and weighing approximately 160 pounds. Captain Ron weighs significantly less than that, so mechanical advantage and local assistance would be key to removing the old batteries and installing the new.


The first place Nancy checked for batteries was PAE. Nordhavn sells a lot of parts to owners, and batteries are no exception. Their pricing, including shipping, was excellent, but we would have to recycle the old batteries locally. That required loading them into a vehicle capable of carrying 900 pounds and transporting them to the Portland battery recycling yard, which was some distance from Duet. Once we got there, we would need to unload them again. Our SUV has a total load limit of 900 pounds and is not yet equipped with Google’s self driving technology. So we would probably have to make at least two trips.


Given these complexities, Nancy decided to purchase the batteries locally, from Sexton’s Chandlery. Sexton’s provided a competitive price and was willing to recycle the batteries on site, so all we had to do was get them a short block to their front door. So the batteries were ordered from Sextons.


Next, Nancy started on finding local help for Ron. Obviously he wasn’t going to manhandle these batteries around by himself. Unfortunately, while Nancy found a great local guy, he broke a rib the week prior to B-Day and, when we arrived, we found that he was no longer available. Nancy began searching for a replacement, while Ron descended into the lazarette, home of the batteries.


Ron had several jobs. First, he had to disconnect the old batteries. Second, he had redesigned the way the batteries were connected, so he needed to sort all that out. Basically, rather than connecting the incoming wires at one end of the bank and the outgoing wires at the other, he changed things around to improve the overall balance. So, when the system is charging or discharging, all the batteries are doing so at a similar percentage.


As our regular readers probably realize, this is Nancy’s explanation of how the new design works. Ron will be writing a more detailed description one of these days, but in the meantime at least this blog will get published the same year it occurred.


All the necessary wire, battery lugs, etc., had already been delivered, so Ron was on a mission to get it all straightened out before B-Day, 48 hours after we arrived. He ignored the issue of who was going to help him, that was Nancy’s department.


After some conversation with Ashley and her husband, also conveniently named Captain Ron, Nancy figured out that local help was going to be hard to find, unless she got it, as we often do, from her family. Nancy’s brother Tom is a big strong guy who spends his days manhandling trees. He has often volunteered to help with the boat.

Unfortunately for him, this time we were going to take him up on it. Fortunately for us, he not only was on vacation on B Day (because he was supposed to be spending it with his Mom) but he also has a large truck, which is perfectly capable of transporting 900 pounds of batteries wherever they need to go. So Nancy called Tom.


At this point it is important to remember that Nancy’s Mom, now aged 83 and going strong, was due to arrive Sunday night. Spending a day supervising her offspring (and Ron and Jill) installing boat batteries was right up her alley. So a plan was made. Tom and Ron would handle the heavy lifting, Nancy, her Mom and Jill would handle the supervising and the food. Tom and Ron had little to say when this plan was reviewed with them, but Ron, at least, was happy that he didn’t have to handle the batteries all by himself.


In the meantime, Ron had done some more sleuthing in the lazarette. At first he had assumed that the batteries needed to be manhandled out of their individual battery boxes. That would mean that Tom would need to dead lift 160 pounds straight up and then onto the edge of the box, where Ron could attach a line to Duet’s crane. The crane would pull the battery off the box, lift it out of the lazarette and deposit it on the dock in a dock box.

Tom and Ron would then push each individual battery up the ramp off the dock, load it into the Tom’s truck and, once all were loaded, take the batteries to Sextons. There, they would offload the old batteries and load the new ones. The new ones then needed to be brought back down the dock, hoisted into the lazarette via the crane, and placed in their individual boxes.


It’s a good thing that Tom and Ron are made of stern stuff, as this program sounded truly horrendous. Nancy, however, in one of her “this might be a stupid question but” moments, noticed that the large wooden box, in which the individual battery boxes were secured, had screws in the side facing onto the center of the lazarette. What are those for, she wondered?


It turns out that PAE was way ahead of us. Removing the screws let Tom and Ron take off the side of the big box and slide each battery box into the center of the lazarette, where the crane could do all the work.

By Monday night the team was feeling pretty good, having reviewed the plan in extensive detail during an excellent dinner prepared by Jill and served at Tom and Jill’s house in Portland.


B-Day dawned bright and clear. The team showed up at 9AM, as planned. Actually, the whole day, believe it or not, went as planned. For those of you who aren’t boaters, this doesn’t often happen when boats are involved. The batteries came off, went up the ramp, the new ones came down, and went neatly in their boxes. Ron managed to get half of them wired up Tuesday night and the rest on Wednesday. Subsequent tests showed that he had achieved his goal, namely a more efficient bank.


The following pictures show the process. First, rig a lifting harness for the battery, so the crane can pick it up. 

Then, lift it up and out


Safely onto the dock. In the first picture you can see Ron using the control for the crane. The crane really paid it’s dues on this project.

Now comes the hard part. The battery has to travel from the boat to Tom’s truck.

There is the minor matter of the ramp before arriving at the parking lot. 

Ron actually did pull some batteries up the ramp himself, although we don’t have a photo to prove it. 

This was hard work, given there were at total of 12 batteries which had to be lifted in and out of the truck.

Not only do the batteries have to be lifted, but they have to travel a long way to and from the boat.

Now we have to take them all out again?

Finally, it was all done.

Jill helping Ron in the lazarette, as he spent the next several hours hooking things up.

Mom providing moral support

After the battery excitement the rest of the week was pretty quiet. Nancy’s Mom left on Wednesday, and Nancy and Ron spent the rest of the short week working through provisioning lists (Nancy) and finishing various small outstanding projects (Ron).


In addition, we visited Sean, Celia and Elizabeth. Rob joined us and we got a great tour of the fire boat. Sean and Lionel, a Nordhavn 40 owner from Vancouver, BC, are departing in mid June aboard Orca for Port Angeles, WA. Rob, Celia, Elizabeth and Orca’s dinghy are journeying in Sean’s truck to meet them there. Rob will then drive the truck and trailer back to their home, where it will await their return.


We later learned that this journey had gone as planned, and Orca is now cruising Desolation Sound. She will be returning in mid August. Since Duet will be leaving Portland just after that, we won’t see Sean, Elizabeth or Celia again until this winter, when we will stop by on our way to or from British Columbia.


Our next trip will be the last one where we have the opportunity to bring items from home. On our final trip to Portland we will fly, rather than drive, as we will be departing aboard Duet to British Columbia. Prior to that we will finish the provisioning, and either postpone or complete various projects. Fortunately, that is a two week trip, at the end of July, so it will give us enough time to sort out most things.


In the meantime, we returned to Tahoe, looking forward to house guests over the July 4th weekend. Our home town, Incline Village, puts on quite a celebration of our nation’s birth, over three days, which includes impressive fireworks over Lake Tahoe. Our friends enjoy visiting during this bacchanal, so we were expecting a full house.



Nordhavn Dana Point Rendezvous


In March we made plans to attend the Nordhavn Rendezvous in Dana Point, California, which promised to be an extravaganza of considerable proportions. This was our first Rendezvous, as there were too few Nordhavns around to have such gatherings when we owned our 46, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect.

It turned out to be a fantastic fun, we met folks, like Eric and Christi Grab, of the Nordhavn 43, Kosmos, with whom we had corresponded since before they began their circumnavigation, but had ever met face to face. We also met their new crew, Kevin, who was boating before he could walk. Nancy was extremely touched to find that Christi dedicated her books to Nancy, along with other folks who are far more knowledgable. Needless to say, it’s a great book, and can purchase it at their web site

We also met Sue and Larry, of the Nordhavn 46 Beverly S. It turns out they were readers of our 46’s blog, and recognized us from our pictures. We are always concerned when we find out readers might believe some of the things we say. Fortunately, they usually turn out to be pretty savvy and take all our advice with a serious grain of salt. Moreover, when we meet, it often turns out they have done far more than we have and we learn more from them than they do from us. This turned out to be absolutely true of Sue and Larry, who have cruised from southern California to the Pacific Northwest and back many times, and promised to forward their favorite anchorages.

We spent time with Margaret and Bob, the previous owners of N46 Suprr, who have cruised over 50,000 nautical miles, from Europe to their home in Australia. They had much wonderful information on New Zealand and Australia to share, hopefully we didn’t bore them to tears with our endless questions about the area, as it is definitely on our list to visit.

We finally caught up with Lionel, who bought the Nordhavn 40 Chinook last year and is now living aboard just north of Vancouver BC. Lionel was a Nordhavn Dreamer, whom Nancy met on line about 18 months ago. He recently crewed aboard Sean’s trawler Orca on an offshore journey from Portland, Oregon to Port Angeles, Washington.

In case you are wondering how Lionel ended up on Sean’s boat, Nancy tries, when she can, to perform introductions that help both sides. So she introduced Sean to Lionel. Sean got a capable crew member, and Lionel got some offshore experience on a well prepared trawler with a good Captain, so hopefully it was worth it for both of them.

Lionel is shown at left in the photo below, chatting with Bob and Margaret.



We spent time with N50 Tivoli owners Clayton and Deanna, with whom we have corresponded, as well as Peter and Laurie, who are expecting their new Nordhavn 60 at the end of June. Peter is potentially even more technical than Ron, which is a scary thought. Peter and Ron have exchanged a series of emails, which, at least to Nancy, have been completely incomprehensible, but seem to be useful for both of them.



Ron spent several enjoyable hours in engine rooms with Bob Senter, and attended every seminar. While he’s not as social as Nancy, he did manage to talk to several folks without Nancy having to introduce him.



In the picture below is Robert Kinney of Alcom Electronics, who did a great talk on autopilots. Believe it or not, Alcom did the electronics installation on Duet, 14 years ago. Robert was with Alcom then, although we didn’t task him with recalling Duet in particular, among all the Nordhavn installations he has overseen.



We even caught up with our Nordhavn uber salesman, Larry Gieselman, who, needless to say, was selling boats.



On the small world front, the son of good friends of ours from Tahoe, Devin Zwick, has recently joined PAE as a salesman. Previously, Devin was a boat captain and made a number of long journeys in Nordhavns, including trips to Hawaii and across the South Pacific. We plan to pick his brain when our time comes in those waters.



During a conversation with Dan Streech about the various offices PAE has inhabited, we figured out that our first visit was nearly 20 years ago. That is when we saw our first 46, and the rest, as they say, is history. Since then, PAE’s digs have gone decided upscale, the new office is quite something and provides a great venue for this kind of occasion.


As is often the case, serendipity also played a role in our visit. We bumped into some Nordhavn 43 owners, from Seattle, who happened to mention that close friends of theirs had just acquired a Nordhavn 46 on the East Coast. Nancy, never shy, asked which 46? Sure enough, it turned out to be our 46, which had been for sale for about a year, as her owners weren’t using her enough. So Phantom, previously Duet, and now named Salish Aire, is on her way to Seattle. She boarded a freighter in Fort Lauderdale and arrived in Vancouver, BC, about three weeks later, apparently none the worse for wear.



Her new owners, Norman and Clarice, spent their first night aboard her in late June. We hope to catch up with them, and Salish Aire, during our trip to BC this fall. Salish Aire even has a new website, the third for this 46.

During this trip, we discussed taking Duet to Southern California, most probably San Diego, this winter, after spending a couple of months in British Columbia. After much evaluation, and gathering extensive local knowledge from various folks, we decided that cost and effort of the 2,000 mile roundtrip would not be outweighed by the better weather. California is also not a boat friendly state, so there are tax consequences connected to bringing in an out of state boat. In the end, after much discussion, we decided to remain in BC this winter.

As an aside, we visited a nice marina, Kona Kai in San Diego while we were there. A number of Nordhavn owners, including Eric and Christi, keep their boats there, as does Bob Senter. It’s a beautiful facility and would have made a great home for Duet, so we shall keep it on our go to one day list.

There are advantages, believe it or not, to wintering in British Columbia. We will be able to take Duet out in less than perfect weather to see how she does. While this sounds more than a little nuts, namely why go out and get bashed around if you can stay home, we find that the best time to experience new things, particularly challenging things, is not when the pressure is on. We are happier to get bashed around within easy reach of a safe anchorage, than wait to find out how the boat (and we) do in difficult conditions 24 hours from somewhere safe and comfortable.

In addition, BC is a spectacular cruising ground. In the winter there are fewer boaters, and Duet is well equipped for winter cruising. Nordhavn 52 Dirona owners James and Jennifer Hamilton have cruised extensively, both aboard Dirona and their previous boat, in this area in the winter. They have a great web site and have also written an excellent book, Cruising the Secret Coast,on the area.

By Sunday, even Nancy was finally talked out and we flew home to Reno, with a large bag of goodies, including two Rendezvous t-shirts, which will join our large collection of “we were there” clothing.