Newport Harbor Shipyard

We arrived at the shipyard in good order, after picking our way through Newport Beach Harbor, which is one of the most crowded places we have been. There are docks, moorings, and, occasionally, a small marked anchorage area, where boats are shoehorned in. The moorings, to save space, have both a bow and stern tie, so all the boats are in neat rows. The channels are carefully marked and we had plenty of depth, so it was all good. Jim, the operations manager for the shipyard, found us a slip and we settled down for the weekend.

And what a weekend it was, we were stern to what amounted to a US version of Venice, with small vessels plying the waters at all hours, journeying to restaurants and bars, surrounded by paddle boarders, kayakers and quite large boats, all jockeying for position a few feet off Duet’s stern. We got little done, spending most of our time watching boats back into the slips of the bar opposite us, usually with the stereo blaring, the requisite blondes in bikinis draped over the bow and lines dragging in the water. We didn’t see any accidents, but Jim later told us that this was considered a slow weekend, as the summer was over. A number of inebriated paddle boarders did fall in, but everyone made it home alive, as far as we know.

We were next to the dry stack portion of the Newport Harbor Shipyard, and that was a new experience for us. The dry stack holds smaller boats, which are lifted into the water when their owners want to use them, and then lifted out to be stored on tall scaffolds. Duet was tied up next to the slip ways for this process, so we got to see all sorts of exciting docking maneuvers, as well as preparations for water borne parties. We even saw an actual party, as one boat never left the dock, but stayed there through most of the Friday night, with folks coming and going. The appetizers looked really tasty, we must admit. Apparently this practice is common with that particular boat, which doesn’t leave the dock much, if at all.

Prior to the weekend, we had a chance to meet with Jesse, the Shipyard manager, and Debbie, the office boss, as well as Lobo, Shipyard dog. We like dogs, and, although Lobo was quite shy, we did manage to get to know him well enough that we think he might have even recognized us after we had been there several weeks.

Lobo waiting for instructions



Anyway, we went over our list with Jesse, and discussed estimates for all the projects. We like to have a clearly defined scope and cost for each project we undertake, and this case was no exception. There were several projects, such as pulling the Yanmar shaft and fixing the transmission, which were difficult to estimate in advance. We understand that issue, and have no problem with it, as long as we are comfortable that the work is being done right. We were impressed that Jesse had read our blog. Newport Harbor used to be the commissioning yard for Nordhavn, so they have a lot of experience with boats like ours, which further increased our confidence. Jesse treated us very well, despite the fact we were a pretty small job for his yard, and we enjoyed the time we spent with him and Debbie, who kept the paperwork trains running on time.

Our work list, in no specific order, was as follows:

  1. Blast the bottom down to gel coat and install a new barrier coat and bottom paint

  2. Pull the Yanmar shaft, evaluate it and replace the cutlass bearing

  3. Repair the Yanmar transmission

  4. Pull the Naiad fins and replace the seals

  5. Remove the main engine heat exchangers, clean and repaint

  1. Install screens on two hatches

  2. New carpet and upholstery

  3. Repair fiberglass damage done by the fishing boat

  4. Repair wind instruments and evaluate the radars for new magnetrons

  5. Figure out how to deal with the inverter/reverse cycle issue

  6. Replace bimini canvas and make new window covers

  7. Replace salt water wash down thru hull

  8. Replace both heads

We had developed this list over time, and there were several items that were postponed, after we got estimates for everything else. The largest of these were adding an awning over the cockpit and replacing the salon table. Funding for these two projects was transferred to the Yanmar, which required a more significant redo than we had expected.

We always have a specific budget for the boat, which we adhere to. Otherwise, we have found, the amount of money that gets spent is truly astounding, as there is no limit to the number of things one can do to a boat. We found Jesse to be quite cooperative with our process, although we think that we may be one of the few who work with them this way. Many of their clients are large, captain run boats, which have almost unlimited budgets.

We also found everyone to be happy to let Ron watch or help with anything they were doing. This is the sign of a confident team, we have found folks who literally do not want us on the boat when they are working on it. Those folks, needless to say, do not get our business. So we spent every day, plus at least one day on the weekends, at the yard, watching, photographing and working, alongside the team, whom we got to know pretty well. We were even invited to an employee BBQ, which featured the best carne asada we have ever had.

The plan was to haul us on the Monday after we arrived, but a significant rainstorm flooded the yard and delayed us until Tuesday. This shipyard has some of the most sophisticated water reclamation technology we’ve ever seen. The rain was captured in drains, then fed into a series of tanks, where it is filtered, sifted and then reused in the shipyard for boat washing, etc. Several hundred thousand dollars were spent on this equipment, to meet the local environmental regulations.

During that Monday, after the water was cleared away, we watched Jim run the travel lift, hauling out various boats which were scheduled for work. He wanted to clear a specific spot for Duet, as she was to spend several weeks on the hard. This required some thought as to where to put boats that were in the way. The shipyard is very busy, and has limited space for boats on the hard, so Jim spends a lot of time moving them around. He handled the travel lift well, so we were comfortable that he could be trusted with Duet. We moved into a hotel on Sunday night, which is something we always do when the boat is on the hard. It increases our expenses, but living aboard the boat on the hard is too difficult for us, particularly when we are working on her every day.

On Tuesday, the day dawned clear, if a bit hot. Our entire time in Newport Beach, some five weeks, there was a heat wave, so the daily temps climbed into the 90s and even to100 several times. The area isn’t used to this, there is no A/C in most buildings (although our hotel was air conditioned, thank goodness) and it is much hotter on the concrete of the boat yard, so we were careful to stay well hydrated. That said, we sweated our way through endless white work t shirts, which Nancy sources at CostCo. Our hotel, the Marriott Residence Inn, had a laundry, so we were able to keep up with the endless piles of dirty clothes which result from spending 12 hours days working on the boat in a boat yard. Boat yards are dusty, dirty places, no matter how hard the crew tries to keep them clean, and Newport Harbor was no exception to this rule.

Following Jim’s directions, Ron carefully backed Duet into the travel lift well, the straps were placed under her and up she came. Her bottom actually looked pretty good, the team at Delta had done a good job of getting the paint to adhere, so there were only a few small areas that it had come adrift. Jim expertly moved her to her chosen spot, and real work began in earnest.

Duet comes out of the water





Her new home for 5 weeks

First look at the bottom paint



The largest project the shipyard was to do was blasting off 15 years of accumulated bottom paint to put on a new barrier coat and new bottom paint. The need for this had been established 3 years previously, when Duet was painted at Delta. We had carefully researched methods, and concluded that the blasting, while more expensive than having her hand sanded in Mexico, was a less destructive process, so we decided to go that way. Newport Harbor blasts 12-15 boats a year, so they have the equipment and the experience. As Nordhavn’s commissioning yard in the early years, they have seen hulls like ours before. There is some possibility that Duet had even been there before, although no one can remember.

The first thing to do when blasting the bottom is to tent the boat, rather like a termite removal. A day or so was spent erecting a scaffold and rigging the tenting, before the blasting began. In the meantime, we sorted out other workers and Ron began on his list of projects. Once we have established the scope of a project, and Ron is happy with the workers’ skill level, Nancy manages the rest, namely timeframe, dollars, schedules, required parts, etc., which frees Ron up to do his own project work or assist with whatever is going on.

Lots of tenting to do



Tenting almost done


And there was a lot going on. Fortunately, we could still access the boat during the blasting process, as the tenting was only around her hull. Jesse got his guys going on pulling the Yanmar shaft and cutlass bearing, before the blasting started. If we needed a new shaft, which it turned out we did, then it would take time to get it, so Jesse figured the sooner it came off the better, and he was right. We waited on pulling the Naiad fins, as we didn’t want their shafts exposed to the blasting process.

Removing the wing engine folding prop



Wing engine folding prop
 


Wing engine stuffing box

Crevice corrosion on wing engine shaft




The Yanmar transmission folks arrived next, removed the old transmission and took it off for evaluation. It arrived in the shop, the expert took one look and concurred with the mechanic, it was shot. 15 years of salt water from the stuffing box spraying on it had corroded some of the gears. The cost to repair it would be as much or more than a new transmission. Fortunately, the mechanic thought ahead and had already reserved a new transmission that happened to be in stock, so we didn’t have to wait for that.

Old transmission off the shop

 



Shaft log for wing engine

The folks from the Lugger shop also showed up about this time. Their mission was to remove the main engine’s heat exchangers (it has two external heat exchangers) and service them. It turned out that one was fine, but since they come off as as unit, it was cleaned and repainted anyway. It takes time to clean them and repaint, so this job started early, as Duet can’t really go back in the water without her main engine. Also, they need to test, once she is back in the water, as did the Yanmar team. Finally, the boat needed to be in the water to replace the heads, so there was considerable pressure on the schedule to get the land work done and get her back in her natural element. Keeping to the schedule would also give us a little time to get organized for the CUBAR. As it turned out, we ended up with about two weeks before the CUBAR left, which, while a little tight, did work out fine.

Removing the heat exchangers

Anyway, back to the work. The blasting started about 3 days after she went on the hard. It took about two days to complete and was done by the yard expert, Jaime. Jaime has had some experience with Nordhavns, as PAE flew him to China to paint the first 86. The China yard turned out to be too dirty to paint in, so the 86 was brought to Newport, where he painted her in the water. That is something we would have loved to see. Jaime brought all his nearly 30 years of experience to bear on Duet’s hull and did a great job of getting her back to gelcoat without any damage.

Jaime suited up and ready to go

 



Airless hot environment inside the tent

Once the paint was off, then Jesse appeared with his moisture meter. Some hulls have water penetration, so the standard approach is to let the hull dry out for several days to a week before applying the new bottom. Duet’s hull was essentially dry, with little to no difference in moisture measurements above and below the waterline. Jesse wanted to let her sit anyway, just to be on the safe side. The bottom was pristine, and the gel coat in perfect shape. Jaime, who has seen a lot of fiberglass bottoms, said that Nordhavn builds some of the thickest hulls in the business.

Blasted right down to the gel coat


 



You can see the join where the two halves of the bulbous bow and the hull itself were mated together when Duet was built


In the photo below you can see the “maintenance strakes” or bulges which allow standing room around Duet’s engine.


Interestingly there were various gel coat colors on her hull. This is apparently quite common. 

As an aside, Nordhavns are built without a barrier coat to keep the water out, as the outer-most laminations of fiberglass consist of vinylester rather than polyester. Unlike polyester, vinylester is not susceptible to blistering. So we didn’t really need a barrier coat, but we put it on anyway, figured extra insurance never hurt.

Before the team started putting the new bottom on, we removed all the thru hull screens. We later replace them, after the bottom was finished. So far, these screens have worked very well, we have yet to ingest anything that has jammed up the workings. We also took this opportunity to check all the thru hulls and clean them where necessary. We did try to grease them, but that wasn’t a huge success. Ron exercises all our thru hulls regularly anyway, so we gave up on the greasing and just gave them all a full turn for good luck.

Ron removing a thru hull screen
 



Cleaning the screen


Examining a thru hull


Ball valve thru hull


Checking main prop


The Shipyard team also removed all the paint removed by the blasting process. This is considered hazardous waste and so was carefully loaded into drums to be sent off to be recycled. The whole process was extremely messy, as the paint comes off in tiny flakes or actual dust. The workers all wear protective gear when working with it and we tried to avoid it all together.

The clean up team
 

In the meantime, Nancy was chasing down various vendors, such as Jeddys, to do the new upholstery and carpet. This meant we had to visit their showroom to choose materials. This was a fun trip, Jeddy and his granddaughter Nicole, are fun to spend time with and really know their business. Jeddy has been working on Nordhavns since the first one hit the water and probably did the original upholstery and carpet on Duet.

The timing on this work was complex, as, first, we had to order larger fabric samples of potential candidates to make our final selection. This takes a week or so, then the final selection has to be ordered, which in the case of the carpet takes 3 weeks to arrive, and then everything had to be made up. In the end, the upholstery arrived before we left the Shipyard, while the carpet caught up with us in San Diego. Jeddys also removed the old carpet, which was getting truly filthy during the bottom blasting process, despite our best efforts to keep it clean, and the old upholstery. Even the office stool went off to be recovered!

Patterning the carpet
Pa

 

And the cushions


After Jeddys came the canvas folks, followed by the screening guy. Unfortunately, after much measuring, it became apparent that retrofitting Ocean Aire screens was a nonstarter. On newer Nordhavns, these are standard equipment and are fitted at the factory. Duet has standard size hatches, but she doesn’t have standard size trim around the hatch openings. So the screens would have to be custom made, and that would take months, which we didn’t have. What to do? After some thought, and consultation with Jesse, we brought in his recommended woodworker to make screens. That saved the day, although we didn’t have time to varnish them before we left, that was done in San Diego.

In the photo below, the wooden supports are holding the new hatch screen in place while it is fitted. 

As part of our canvas work, we got a new white bimini top. 

 

Sometime during all this, Alcom came by, removed the wind instrument and the radars and sent them off for evaluation. The wind instrument was an easy fix, which was good news. If it couldn’t be fixed we would be faced with replacing 5 small monitors throughout the boat, which display wind speed, direction, etc. The news on the radars was also good, the smaller one needed a new magnetron (which we suspected was the case) while the larger one needed a new pulse emitter. They returned, good as new, and ready for another 15 years of service.

Alcom did the original electronics installation on Duet and still does commissioning work for Nordhavn, so it was interesting to talk to them about what they install now, versus what we have on Duet. The wind instrument, from B&G, is completely obsolete, so if it fails again we will need to replace the entire thing, something we are not looking forward to.

Around this time, Nordhavn 46 Patience appeared off our stern. She had recently been sold and came to the yard for some work, prior to moving to her new home near San Francisco. It was very interesting to see the two hulls, the 46 and the 50, out of the water at the same time.

Patience in the lift

After the bottom blasting was completed and Duet was resting before her new bottom was applied , Ron and Chris from the shipyard replaced the salt water wash down thru hull that had been installed a few years ago in Seattle. Ron was suspicious that the thru-hull was too short for the thickness of the hull. Once we removed the ball valve, his suspicions were confirmed. The ball valve was hanging on to the thru hull by only a few threads. The old thru-hull was replaced with a longer one, allowing the ball valve to be more securely attached.

Ron and Chris also removed the Naiad fins. Ron wanted to learn how to do this, and acquire the special tools, as we may be far from expert help when the seals need changing. Our guess is we can always find somewhere to haul the boat, but experienced Naiad guys aren’t found in every port, so we needed to bring our own. Jesse helped us order the special tool that is used to pop the fins off their tapered shafts. Ron used this maintenance requirement as an excuse to purchase his own really giant torque wrench. We also ordered an extra set of outer seals, which will travel with us. The process of changing the seals isn’t difficult, but it does require some strong help to lift the fins. Chris and Jaime (the mechanic Jaime, not the fiberglass expert Jaime) carefully taught Ron how it was done and he will do it next time.


Loosening the retaining bolt

Notice the blocks under the fin. They keep it from falling off once the retaining bolt is removed



 


Fin shaft after fin removed



Unfortunately, during this process, we found some water in the starboard fin, above the seal. This means that there has been seawater penetration into the bearing assembly. The water was clear and there was no sign of rust. After extensive consultation with Jesse, we decided on a watchful waiting process for this, rather than pulling the bearings. Pulling the bearings means removing the top of the actuator and dropping the lower assembly. The bearings are packing in 5 pounds of grease, which is then washed out and replaced. This is a substantial project, and not inexpensive, so Jesse’s counsel was to wait until we have actual signs of bearing malfunction. The hope is that the amount of water penetration was small and whatever was there has drained out.

The key to this decision is that the bearings are large commercial grade units and do not fail catastrophically. Instead, they rust over time and that process is usually quite obvious. For example, lots of rusty water runs out when you pull the seals, or water starts coming out the top of the actuator. Duet had neither of these symptoms. She does have some grease working its way out of the top of the starboard actuator, which means it was being pushed out by water. Since the water has now drained, the grease should stop coming out. If, over the next year or so, the grease doesn’t stop coming out, we shall replace the bearings on that side. In the meantime, we shall hope that all the water is now gone, so the grease will stay where it belongs.

Partial diagram of the Naiad 252 

 


While this discussion was going on, the process of painting the freshly blasted bottom started. First, a coat of grey epoxy barrier was applied. Then the hull is faired with grey epoxy and hand sanded smooth. Another coat of epoxy barrier is applied, and then two coats of bottom paint. We decided to go with green bottom paint, instead of black, to match Duet’s boot stripe. We think it looks great. The guys in the yard started calling Duet the Hulk, as she is truly huge out of the water, and very green!

First layer of epoxy barrier coat

Epoxy putty for fairing the hull



Sanding the fairing compound down smooth


Fairing compound everywhere


More sanding on the hull, the stern has already had it’s next barrier coat



First coat of bottom paint after last coat of epoxy barrier over fairing


Replacing the thru hull screens


Screens painted after replacement

While the new bottom paint was going on, the new Yanmar shaft arrived, just after the new transmission was installed. We also replaced the Yanmar’s stuffing box, engine mounts, and sea water pump. So, in the end, we had an almost new wing engine.

Josh cradling the new wing engine transmission
 

Brand new wing engine shaft and cutlass bearing



Ron crafted a cover for the Yanmar stuffing box, so that it no longer sprays water anywhere.




The main engine heat exchangers came back, all clean and white. Before they returned, Ron cleaned up and repainted that side of the main engine, which isn’t accessibly when the heat exchangers are on. He also fixed a solenoid and did a few other small related projects. Ron was quite busy, actually, what with all the workers on the boat, plus his projects.

Ron working on the main



Painting the main


Repainted heat exchanger parts

Repainted heat exchanger



Installing the new heat exchanger

In the meantime, Nancy wasn’t exactly idle either. She made several trips to Dana Point, and elsewhere, for parts, in between managing various contractors coming on and off the boat. She also kept track of the estimates, and paid everyone. Frankly, we didn’t have much time for anything but boat work, by the time we got to our hotel at night we were exhausted, usually we had some take out and crashed. We did take one day off a week, and we exercised as much as we could, just to clear our heads. Our approach to being in the boatyard isn’t for everyone, but we find it rewarding to be a part of the process. We have to compliment all the folks we worked with in Newport, as they tolerated us very well.

The original drawing of the Nordhavn 50, hanging in Dana Point



Fun and games in the engine room

 

Ron after a long day


Duet resting under a full moon

Finally, it was time to go back in the water. The new heads had arrived, and the head master, so to speak, had us on his packed schedule for the following week. Several things remained undone, particularly repairing the hull damage from the fishing boat, but we were confident that if Jaime could paint a Nordhavn 86 in in the water, he could probably manage our little ding as well.

Last, but not least, paint the support pads

So the big day dawned and Duet went back into her natural element. The main engine fired up just fine, as did the Yanmar, so those were declared completed. The new thru hull didn’t leak, so it was also checked off. Duet’s new green bulbous bow looked great. Jeddys came and removed all the old carpet, and Nancy scrubbed all the floors.

We splashed on a Friday, which gave Ron time to make sure everything was ready for the head install the following week. While the head master was doing the removal of the old Vacuflush units (which is the hardest part of the whole thing) and plumbing the new units, Ron did all the wiring. Our new Tecma heads require more power than the Vacuflushes they replaced, so Ron installed new wire and breakers for them.

 



Fetching the new heads from the Shipyard shop

Ron had also, in his spare time, been focusing on our problem with the generator, the inverter and the A/C. We have described this problem before, essentially, when the generator is providing power and one of the A/C units switches on, the Victron inverter-charger interprets the transient voltage sag as ‘bad power’, stops charging, and starts inverting. After 20 seconds, the Victron is satisfied that the power is ok, so it stops inverting and starts charging again. Under normal conditions, the A/C units do cycle on and off, so the inverter-charger is forced to cycle on and off as well. Victron informed us that this frequent cycling will shorten the life of the inverter-charger, so we were anxious to find a fix.

Ron consulted lots of folks, other 50 owners, Mike Tellaria, who is the PAE electrical guru and Bob Senter (both for his generator expertise and because Northern Lights also manufactures marine air conditioning through their Technicold division). We tried increasing the voltage output of the generator, but it didn’t solve the problem. We also considered installation of a transformer to balance the two legs of our split phase system. In the end, after discussions with Clive Cox (an engineer with ADE’s Technicold) we settled on soft start devices. These devices buffer the power draw spike that typically occurs when large electrical motors (like compressors) start up. We considered two brands. Dometic (who manufactures our air conditioning units) markets their SmartStart, and Technicold markets their Easy Start. Technicold’s device is more sophisticated in that it ‘learns’ the unique start-up characteristics of the motor it is wired to, and tailors its power buffering algorithm accordingly. We decided on the Easy Starts.

 Installing the Easy Starts was a bit of a faith leap. There was no guarantee they would solve our particular problem. So we started out with just one Easy Start wired to one air conditioning unit. Nancy was dispatched to fetch said unit, and, as soon as Duet went into the water, we tested it. It worked like a charm, when that unit fired up the inverter didn’t even notice it. So more units were ordered for the other A/Cs. We also ordered sound shields for all 5 A/Cs, as the compressors are very noisy. Again, Nancy was sent to pick them up, and they were added to Ron’s installation list.

Getting ready to work on the salon A/C



Installing a soft start on the pilothouse A/C 


Editing the A/C documentation



Monday dawned bright and clear, and Jeff, the head master, showed up right on time. It took him a little over a day to remove the old heads, plus about 80 feet of hose. The Vacuflush architecture requires an intervening tank to create the vacuum, whereas the Tecmas do not. The Tecma has a macerating pump in it’s base, so it reduces all contributions to a watery slurry, which is then pumped, actually pushed, down the pipe either to the holding tank or overboard, depending on where we are.

That requires very little plumbing and Jeff was able to reuse the hose already in place beyond our Y valves. The Y valve is put one way for the holding tank and the other way for overboard, so there were no changes downstream of it, just between it and the head itself. Since both Y valves are within a couple of feet of the heads they serve, the plumbing was pretty simple.

We gained a large new storage area under the guest bunk when the Vacuflush pump and vacuum tank were removed. Ron kept the pumps, as they can be adapted to other uses, but the rest of the old head system was carted off to the junkyard. We do still have a number of Vacuflush parts, which we shall have to find a good home for somewhere along the way.

Old VacuFlush parts
 



Guest head Vacuflush vacuum pump before removal

The tricky part of the install was getting the Tecmas to fit. We had done extensive measuring, and built small mockups, so we knew the heads would fit, but the bases they sit on had to be reengineered to attach them. This process took another couple of days, but soon we were in business. We must say that the Tecmas are the best marine head we have ever used and we wouldn’t have a boat without them. They do use more water and power than the Vacuflushes did, but that is a small price to pay for their performance. They also dim the lights in the engine room when they are flushed, which is an entertaining side effect.

First, read the directions
 



Then try to figure out what the directions actually mean


Guest head base before reworking

In the meantime, Jaime and his team were working on the starboard hull damage. First, they had to match the paint, which is done using a high definition camera to take a picture of the hull. That picture is then matched by the paint shop and the paint is made up. Jesse had warned us that our hull color, known as putty, would be hard to match as it is a “non color”, e.g. a sort of tan, which is hard to match. So it proved, when the paint went on it wasn’t a perfect match. It will wear in over time, however, and the repair itself was perfect.

Repairing the fiberglass

 

Jaime on the scene


Preparing to paint around porthole

It was hard to believe, but we were almost done. There was one thing left though. We needed fuel. Nancy consulted Jim, who advised calling the Newport Beach fuel barge, which delivers directly to the boat. We have never fueled from a barge before, but the simplicity of it appealed, even though there was a small surcharge per gallon for delivery. At the appointed hour the barge appeared, tied up to our stern and we loaded about 800 gallons on diesel. It was the easiest fueling we have ever done and we shall definitely keep fuel barges in mind for our future needs.

Fuel barge arriving

 

We settled all our bills, and about 5 weeks after we arrived, we departed Newport Beach very early in the morning, bound for San Diego. Nancy called up Kona Kai, the marina in San Diego where we planned to stay. Given we were a month late on our arrival date, they would have been perfectly within their rights to say they had no space, as both the CUBAR and the Baja HaHa (which involves nearly 200 sailboats) were crammed into town awaiting their respective departures. But Kona Kai, despite being 100% occupied, came thru for us and we settled into a palatial 80 foot slip for 3 weeks until the CUBAR left.

 Those three weeks were filled with parties, new friends, the occasional disaster and, as always, boat work. They will be covered in our next blog, which will also include our trip with the CUBAR to La Paz, Mexico.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

With all apologies to The Grateful Dead (one of Nancy’s favorite bands) and Robert Hunter, these lyrics definitely describe our journey south. 

On August 25
th we departed Sidney for Port Angeles, WA. It was a short, easy trip, although on arrival we had winds in the 20’s, naturally blowing the wrong way, so Captain Ron had to do some fancy footwork to get us tied up at the US Customs dock. We cleared back into the US without fanfare. About an hour later good friends Stan and Diane, aboard the beautiful Nordhavn 57 Crossroads, tied up behind us. All of us were departing at dawn the next day, so we said our Hellos, exchanged plans to join up at the next stop and went to sleep.

Crossroads departed about an hour before we did, as her crew is made of sterner stuff. She travels at about 1-1.5 knots faster than we do, so she gradually pulled away in the Strait of Juan de Fuca as we both traveled west. It took us until mid afternoon to exit the Strait. When we did, we stumbled into a search and rescue operation, for a woman diver who had disappeared while diving the islands at the mouth of the Strait. The current is strong there, but she was experienced, so early on there was hope that she would be found. We kept track of the search as we traveled south, unfortunately she was never recovered.

The trip south to Coos Bay, OR, was uneventful. The weather was calm, Duet cruised serenely on, doing about 7.5 knots with a following current at 1510RPM. As we have noted before, she has a rather dirty bottom, which slows her down. Nancy and Ron tested the new seasickness medication routine, which worked very well. Of course there was no weather to speak of, so it was hard to tell if it was working or we just weren’t sick.

We did take some pictures (and some video, which will be put on YouTube eventually) of Duet’s pilothouse at night. We do not have any red lights in the pilothouse and we have more glare on the windshield than we like. We may add some red light, although we don’t have any visibiilty issues. We are going to make better glare shields than we currently have.

In the picture below you can see, on the left, the main navigation computer. To it’s right are the engine instruments, the larger radar and the laptop, which is also running, using a different chart. The main navigation PC is driving the boat, the laptop is tracking it. The charts on the two computers are set at different magnifications, so you can see AIS targets further away on one than the other, for example. Both the main PC and the laptop are receiving data from most of other instruments, so they display boat speed, GPS location, water depth and course, as well as AIS targets and chart data. When this photo was taken we only had one radar running as there wasn’t much going on. If it is busy, we usually have two running, on different ranges. The second radar is just to the right of the large one. 

Above the windscreen are the two red B&G instruments, which, once we get them fixed, can track wind speed, wind direction, depth and boat speed. To their right is a round monitor showing wind direction on a boat shaped diagram. After that comes the color Furuno fish finder, which is showing depth. Further to the right is one of the two GPS units (it was off), the Naiad Datum head and the Victron inverter/charger monitor. At the very left edge of the picture, up top, is the second GPS unit, which is on. Our radios and satellite communication gear is out of the picture to the left. 

After some 50 hours, we crossed the Coos Bay Bar and pulled into the Charleston Municipal Marina, just off the entrance. We checked in and settled down to wait out a rather significant storm system that was passing through. Stan and Diane stopped one bar north of us, in Newport, OR, to pick up new house batteries. We were going to stop at Newport, but we were making such good time that we decided to continue. In retrospect, we could have made the next bar south, as the weather didn’t turn bad until about 48 hours after we arrived in Coos Bay. That said, we would rather stop too soon than too late.

We spent about 4 days in Coos Bay. During that time we took on 750 gallons of fuel, which meant moving Duet across the channel from the dock to the fuel station. During that move we discovered that the bow thruster was so overgrown with barnacles that it had stopped working. So we hired a local diver to clean it, and the main running gear, which we hoped would speed us up on the rest of our trip south.

Once the weather settled down, relatively speaking, we decided to continue our journey. At this point, we were looking at a two day window, give or take, as rough weather was predicted off the notorious Cape Mendocino to Point Arenas section of the California coast. Our plan was to run south to Eureka, CA, and, then, if the weather hadn’t improved, pull in. Or, if we had a window, continue on.

Our departure from Coos Bay was uneventful. The bar was still closed to vessels under 28 feet, but we watched a big fishing boat pound her way out and figured Duet would be fine, which she was. We did a little bulbous bow slapping for the audience on the jetty and then turned south, putting the bigger swells behind us. Conditions were rougher than our trip down from Port Angeles, namely there were actually waves and wind. Our new seasickness medications dealt with this extremely well, both Nancy and Ron felt fine. So far this new regime was showing promise.

When we reached Eureka, at midmorning, 24 hours after we left Coos Bay, conditions were poor. Ron checked with the Coast Guard station at the bar and they reported 8 foot breaking seas in the channel, two hours after the flood current had started. When entering or exiting these bars you want to do it on the flood, when the incoming current negates the impact of the outflowing river. Breaking seas are not conditions in which we want to cross a bar, unless we have absolutely no choice.

In this case we had a choice, continue on to San Francisco, which was the next reasonable stop. This meant going around Cape Mendocino and through the washing machine that was currently cycling between the Cape and Point Arenas. Prior to our departure from Coos Bay we had discussed this possibility. We could have stayed longer at Coos Bay, but the longer term weather outlook showed no window for at least another week, possibly 10 days, and we wanted to reach the Newport Harbor Shipyard in time to get our work done.

This is a classic example of what we try not to do, namely make decisions under the pressure of a schedule. We have done more of this this year than we like. Fortunately, like all Nordhavns, Duet is a tough boat, so she gives us the option of going in less than ideal conditions. We had discussed the types of conditions we would be facing at Cape Mendocino, with Gale on the Nordhavn 50 Worknot, and with Stan, who owned two 50s before he bought his 57. Both said the boat would have no problems, particularly because the worst of the weather would be behind us.

So off we went, past Eureka and onward to Cape Mendocino and points south. The weather gradually worsened, as expected. Most of our time in the boisterous section would be in daylight, which makes it easier, as you can see what’s going on. We find rough conditions harder to tolerate at night, as the motion is more difficult to anticipate.

Throughout the majority of this trip we had cell phone and internet connectivity, so we were able to get buoy reports. This was helpful, as it told us what was going on before we got there. Ron was also getting weather maps and updates. The main decision we made was to stay less than 10 miles offshore, as conditions appeared to be milder there than further out. Obviously, there is no line in the water that defines where conditions get rougher, but the reports from the buoys were consistent with the forecasts.

During this trip, Ron plotted a course along the 100 fathom (600 feet) depth contour. This kept us out of any traps or fishing nets, although we did see one long line set up, luckily it was daylight. It had radar reflectors on both ends, but even our big radar couldn’t pick them out of the sea clutter. Ron’s course was also handy for us to set waypoints, as it kept us inside the 10 mile weather line as well, most of the time.

When we reached Cape Mendocino, we had 25 knots of wind out of the NW with gusts into the 30’s, off our starboard stern quarter. We don’t have a working wind gauge, but this is what the local buoy was reporting. The buoy also reported significant swell height of 8 feet, with 2-4 foot wind waves. Significant swell height means that the average height of the highest 1/3rd of waves was 8 feet, but you can’t necessarily add swell and wind wave to arrive at an overall wave height.

The statistical distribution of wave heights shows that a significant wave height of 8 feet means that, if you are out there long enough, you should expect to encounter waves of twice that height, or 16 feet. We were out there for about 12 hours, as we worked out way down the coast. We don’t know how big the largest waves were that we encountered, though we did see waves that trough to peak were at least as tall as the top of our pilot house, which is 13 feet off the water.

Most of the wave energy arrived as fully developed ocean swell, so the period was long relative to the height, making it quite manageable and comfortable. The wind waves have a much shorter period. So we often saw several wind waves barreling along with one ocean swell. This can make for confused conditions, but we were lucky, everything was going in the same direction.

We know Nordhavn owners who regularly venture out in conditions considerably more demanding than what we were in. For us, these were the biggest seas we have experienced. Most of our prior boating has been along the east coast of the U.S. There is a reason why surfing is such a popular sport on the west coast, but not on the east coast. The waves! Because of prevailing wind direction, ocean fetch, and the shape of the continental shelves, typical waves along the west coast are larger. Changing coasts has allowed us to expand our comfort zone.

When this started, we slowed Duet down from about 8 knots to 7, which slowed her surfing down to a more controllable behavior, namely the waves passed under the boat, rather than Duet rushing down the face. The autopilot steered without strain throughout this, and there were no signs of broaching (where the stern starts turning sideways) or loss of control.

We only had one memorable incident, where we were hit by two very large waves in rapid succession from different directions, both waves came from astern of us. The boat rocked rapidly from side to side, about 15 degrees or so, and the stabilizer fins whipped quickly back and forth and pinned at their stops at both sides. We can tell where the fins are in their arc from the Naiad monitoring screen in the pilothouse.

Nothing flew around and there were no loud noises. Nancy was on watch, she remained seated in the big chair. Ron was in the engine room doing a check and didn’t even notice. Other than this, the motion was relatively predictable. The stabilizers were working hard, based on the monitoring screen, but remained at normal operating temps and showed no signs of stress. As our regular readers may recall, we upsized Duet’s stabilizers right after we bought her, and this trip showed that to be a good decision.

Once we got used to the conditions, it was a pretty cool experience. A big contributor to this was the fact that our new seasickness routine (available in detail from Captain Ron via private email) was working perfectly. Even Nancy felt just fine and was able to read and do detail work. Too much detail work still wasn’t a good idea, but this was light years better than she normally feels in conditions far milder than this. We tentatively chalked up a success for Dr. Ron (final verdict will await big head seas, which are the most reliable at producing mal de mer, at least for us).

We did take some video of the weather, before it peaked. Video and pictures doesn’t really show the motion, but it gives a general idea of the conditions early on. By nightfall things were calming down as we began to round Point Arenas. During this part of the trip the only other boat we saw was a 100 foot mega yacht, which passed us during the night. We remained at slow speed throughout the night, to keep the motion more comfortable. Duet ran serenely on, doing what she was built to do, namely convey us safely wherever we wish to go.

We had a number of humpback whales migrating south with us. This wasn’t a big deal in the calm weather, but it was a little disconcerting to see a spout at some distance in the big seas, and then nothing else. The whales appear almost randomly. We did have one close call, where two whales went right under Duet. Nancy was looking at the first one, coming up on the port side after diving under us. Ron happened to be looking to starboard and right down the blowhole of the second whale. He said it was the size of a medium trash can. Unfortunately, that whale spouted all over Duet, fortunately all the windows and hatches were closed. Poor Duet was also sooted by a fishing boat in Coos Bay, so she was looking rather dirty at this point.

By dawn we were just north of San Francisco. Conditions were still gusty, but calmer, so we speeded up again. We thought about going into San Francisco, but, much as we wanted to go under the Golden Gate, we decided it would be quicker to enter Half Moon Bay, just south of the city, and anchor. This decision later proved to be a poor one, but there was no way to know this at the time.

We arrived in Half Moon around 6PM, after about 56 hours of running, dropped the hook and settled in for a quiet night. Half Moon Bay harbor is a sheltered anchorage, inside a breakwater. We were expecting more wind over the next couple of days, so we wanted a place we could hunker down and recover from the journey while the weather passed. We weren’t the only folks with this idea, the anchorage was relatively crowded when we arrived.

Half Moon is shallow, and we anchored at the back of the pack, almost level with a 70 foot aluminum fishing boat and two sailboats. We were between the marina entrance and the exit from the breakwater, but there are no channel markers and the bay is marked as an anchorage throughout on all the charts. We wanted deeper water, so we could lay down sufficient scope (length) of chain to ensure that we had no problems during the coming blow. We also wanted to be clear of the many buoys set throughout the harbor. We set the hook well, had dinner and went to sleep, secure in the knowledge that we were well anchored in a safe harbor.

At 5AM we were awakened by a massive crash, scraping noises and Duet rocking back and forth. Neither of us could imagine what had happened. Nancy thought we had dragged onto the breakwater, although there was no wind. Ron was sure we were home in Tahoe and there had been an earthquake. Both of us were completely wrong.

Nancy was first onto to the deck, as she sleeps in pajamas. When she looked over the starboard side, she found an approximately 40 foot long fishing boat drifting back from where it had hit Duet’s starboard side, level with the master head. There was one man on deck. Nancy said good morning. He said nothing initially, then another man, the Captain apparently, appeared. The first man said to the Captain I thought you were on the wheel. The Captain said no, you were. Obviously the process had gone sadly wrong aboard this vessel.

At this point, Ron arrived on deck. It was still dark, so we switched on our big deck lights. Several other fishing boats were clustered off our stern, wanting to make sure no one was hurt. Once they established that we were all fine, they continued on their way out the breakwater. Our personal fishing boat remained floating nearby. They dug out their spotlight to supplement our deck lights. What we could see at this stage was a scar down her starboard side, about 6 feet long, as well as some chipping of the fiberglass around the master head porthole.

We exchanged information with the Captain, who revealed that he had no insurance. He also said he was responsible and would make good on the damages. We said fine. There was no point in going back to bed, so we had an early breakfast. We then put the dinghy in the water to see what the real extent of the damage was.

The fishing boat’s anchor had hit the outer steel ring of the master porthole. Amazingly, the glass was intact, probably because it is deeply recessed in the hull. The porthole opened and closed just fine. We couldn’t really tell if it was watertight, but we did spray as best we could with a hose over the side and no water came in. The outer ring, however, was bent.



While the fisherman didn’t have insurance, we do. So we also called our insurance agent and explained the situation. Their advice was to report it, as an incident, not a claim, until we knew what the cost of repairs would be and how much the fisherman would contribute. That way we wouldn’t be faced with making a late claim further down the road, if the damage turned out to be more than our deductible. So we filed various forms.

We spent another couple of days at Half Moon Bay. More boats came in as the weather worsened. We did some kayaking and various boat projects, while waiting for things to settle down. We had about 25 knots blowing through each evening, but Duet did just fine.

The large aluminum fishing boat, however, dragged its anchor on the second day of the wind. No one was aboard, and it took us some time to notice that she had traveled about halfway across the anchorage. We confirmed that she was indeed moving with our radar and called the harbormaster. Fortunately, he was able to find the crew, who rushed out and moved her back to her spot. She got within about 200 feet of the stone breakwater before they arrived, but we couldn’t figure out any way to help. Boarding her wouldn’t do us any good, we didn’t know how to work her gear and she was probably locked anyway. We were just glad to see the crew arrive, as a boat that size hitting the breakwater would have been a significant mess.

Other than our fishing boat incident and the dragging boat, our stay in Half Moon Bay was uneventful. We departed early one morning, into calm weather, bound for Monterey. It was a peaceful trip, with good weather. We arrived around 5PM, only to be confronted by a scene of complete pandemonium. We had made a reservation at the commercial marina, as the municipal marina in Monterey does not take reservations. We didn’t want to have to anchor, as the anchorage looked rather tight to us. This turned out to be the understatement of the year, the anchorage appeared to be nonexistent, the entire harbor was covered in moorings, every one of which was occupied.

So we rounded the turn at the seawall and began our journey up the channel between the moorings and the seawall. The seawall was covered in sea lions, barking for all they were worth. They were surrounded by gulls and pelicans, also carrying on in loud voices. The channel was narrow, only slightly wider than Duet, with slips on both sides. Occupants included the Coast Guard, which keeps several small boats and one large one in Monterey. All the Coast Guard vessels were in, so there was plenty of help nearby in case anything went wrong. In addition, there were numerous kayakers, including one guided tour which was slowly making it’s way along the seawall observing the local wildlife. They seemed completely oblivious to 40 plus tons of boat maneuvering in their vicinity.

Ron was steering from the fly bridge, and, after looking at the side tie assigned to us, decided to turn Duet around in the wider part at the end of the channel, at the fuel dock. This way he could bring her in on her starboard side, which is easier for Nancy to manage. The turn was accomplished without fanfare, we managed to avoid running over any kayakers and finally tied up just across from the loudest sea lion. We were surrounded by large fishing boats. One of the captains stopped by to admire Duet and helpfully explained to us that his huge downward pointing lights were used to attract squid, it being squid fishing season.

We had dinner, managed to sleep despite the never ending din from the sea lions, and set off early the next morning for a short overnight to Ventura. The weather remained fine, we had an easy trip and arrived in Ventura 24 hours later none the worse for wear. We did start to see oil rigs, which were a new experience for us. They look like huge UFOs at night, as they are lit up from end to end. The key is they don’t move, so they are pretty easy to navigate around.

In the picture below, the oil rig is the object at the top right of the radar, which is set on a range of 3 miles. If you look closely at the bottom of the radar screen, you can see that the rig is moving at .3 knots, which is an artifact, as often when the radar acquires a target it takes some time to sort it out. Also, this number changes over time with a fixed object, so in the end you figure out it’s not moving at all. You can also see that our Closest Point of Approach (CPA) is .33 miles, and it will occur in 20.28 minutes (TCPA, or time to closest point of approach).



The rig below is burning off some sort of gas out of the scaffold on the left. You can also see the service boat, backing under the rig to deliver supplies. 




We also saw what we are sure wasn’t the real Brooklyn Bridge traveling down the channel, as well as a number of sea lions taking a well deserved break on the surface.






We had another beautiful sunset, it never ceases to amaze us how spectacular this event, and sunrise, are at sea.

After a nice two day stay in Ventura, which included a friendly dock visitor, we moved on to Marina del Rey, where we remained one night and then journeyed on to Newport Beach.



In the picture below, you can see some of the coast of California, north and south of Point Conception. The blue circles are potential harbors (the top one is Monterey and the bottom Newport Beach) and the red ones are the boundaries of the weather forecasts. This way we can tell where we are vis-a-vis the forecast. When you cruise one area for any length of time, you get to know these points, but when you are just passing through it’s helpful to have some visual cues to figure out which area you are in.



We tied up at Newport Harbor Shipyard in mid afternoon. Our journey of over 1,200 miles was completed. We had hoped to do it all in one hop, but the weather, as usual, wasn’t cooperating. We were glad we had ventured out around Mendocino when we did. Not only did we push our personal boating envelope, but our friends on Crossroads ended up waiting another 10 days to depart Newport, OR. They missed the short window we managed to catch, as they were still sorting out their batteries.

During this journey we changed our watch schedule a bit. Two handed crews are confronted with some difficult decisions about watch keeping. The key, in our experience, is to try to get the watches to conform to each person’s normal “sleep” schedule, if possible. On the 46, and during the first leg of this journey south, we had kept to a pretty standard 3-4 hours on, 3-4 hours off at night, and split up the day so that each of us could nap if we wanted. This trip this setup wasn’t working for Ron. He wasn’t able to sleep during his normal afternoon off time, whereas Nancy was sleeping fine whenever.

After some discussion, we jiggered our watches around. Nancy went to bed around 9PM and woke at midnight or so. Ron then slept from midnight to around 5AM. Nancy went back to bed at 5AM and woke around 9AM. Ron, funnily enough, was then able to sleep from around 10AM to 1PM, provided he didn’t have too much coffee. We know several couples who, when running their boats with just the two of them aboard, follow a similar schedule, with one person taking the bulk of the night watch, so we shall have to see how this works for us. The CUBAR has 3 legs of about 50 hours each, so that will give a chance to test this more thoroughly than we did on this journey.

We did some calculations and determined that we had traveled over 4,000 miles since we left Sidney in April. Distances on the west coast are much larger than the east coast, in 8 years of cruising our 46 we covered some 10,000 miles. This Duet has managed half of that in 3 years, and isn’t done yet, we will travel another 1,200 miles before we rest at La Paz.

Our next blog will focus on the time we spent in the Shipyard.