Shelter Island Boatyard

We arrived at the boatyard in good order and Duet was pushed under the crane, so the transmission could be removed. This would be done before she is hauled out, so we would be spending a night or two on the docks before she came out of the water. At this point, we moved into a hotel, as we don’t stay aboard the boat when she is out of the water and we weren’t exactly sure when she was going to come out.

Pushing Duet under the crane was harder than it sounds, as the fairway was too tight for us to manuever under power, so we used the old fashioned muscle method.

Removing the transmission was an interesting exercise. We’ve not seen it done before, but it was our sense that our provider did a pretty good job. Nothing was damaged, including the inside of the boat. Given the size of the transmission, this was an achievement. Further, the unit came off pretty easily, with smaller hammers and less pounding than we expected. Off it went to ZF in Seattle to be evaluated and either rebuilt or replaced.

The actual removal process is detailed below. Prior to anything happening, however, we prepared the boat.

Paper the floors

Number the floor joists, so we can put them back in the right order

Testing with all the joists out, just to be sure the transmission will make it out.

Then, the team arrived to remove the transmission. First, though, we needed to set up an A frame to hoist it out of the engine room.

Pool noodles to the rescue

Once the A frame was set up, the transmission was removed. This was easier than it sounds. Then it was hooked up to the chain hoist, raised and put on the salon floor.

Once the transmission is out, it is moved, by several strong men on the moving pad, into the cockpit. The crane operator is tracked down, fires up the crane, and off it goes.

Ready to be crated for shipment

Once the transmission reached Seattle, we thought, it would be a pretty simple decision. ZF’s Seattle shop does this all the time, we already had a quote for a basic rebuild and a general idea of what a new transmission cost. Our local guy also advised us that, if the old one needed new bearings, rather than just clutch plates, it would probably make more sense to buy a new one, based on the costs of the parts alone. He said that the warranty on the rebuild and the new one were the same, so that would have no impact on our decision. So we waved goodbye to the transmission and waited for information to be forthcoming from Seattle.

This is where the process broke down, completely. We patiently waited a week, while other work was getting done on the boat. We knew the transmission had arrived in Seattle, but we were told that we couldn’t talk to the ZF Seattle folks directly, at their request, instead we had to wait for all the information to be filtered through our local ZF guy. We were not happy with that and Ron pushed back, hard, but got nowhere. Not only does a secondary filter take time to pass information back and forth, it makes it more difficult for Ron to make technical decisions, as he can’t bounce questions in real time off the guy with his hands in the unit.

It was also a bit like the old game of telephone, we would ask a question with several parts, e.g. for example, does it need new clutch plates, does it need new bearings, etc. The answer would come back, it needs new bearings. We then said well what about the clutch plates? Surely we should replace those if we have it apart? Then we would wait another 3 days for the other side to be heard from. So we were out two weeks before we knew it and still no decisions about what to do had been made. We can make decisions quite fast, but we need information to make them and we didn’t have much to go on.

Then it got murkier. Since we were told to replace the transmission if it needed new bearings, as a new one would cost the same, we started asking for a quoted cost for a new transmission. Then we were told that the parts for a rebuild would take several weeks to arrive, while a new transmission (price still unspecified) could take more than a month. All of this communicating took another week, so by this time Duet was back in the water and taking up space the yard could ill afford to spare, on a small dock.

At this point, three weeks after the transmission had left San Diego, we decided to cut out the middleman, at least until we could get some hard information. As it happened, we were home at Tahoe for a week, to see the dentist, etc., as we were supposed to be leaving for Mexico the following week. Since Duet couldn’t proceed without her main transmission, despite having a wing engine (more on how we definitely proved that later) we weren’t going anywhere. Nor did we have any confidence that the information we were getting from our local guy was accurate, as it kept changing and none of it was in writing. Ron was working, which left Nancy making some calls.

By now we had figured out that Hatton Marine, in Seattle, was a distributor for ZF transmissions and related parts. So Nancy called our man at Hatton, Bill Cordero, and asked for his help. It turned out that Bill knew ZF folks in Seattle who probably had our transmission. He also knew the largest transmission rebuilder in the Pacific Northwest. So he gave Nancy the rebuilder’s cell number and she called Mike Vogt, at Harbor Marine in Everett, WA. Mike turned out to be an extremely helpful guy. He was able to quote prices and delivery dates, and give Nancy a very good idea of what was actually going on and what our options were.

Based on Mike’s information, and consultation with Ron via text, Nancy traded the old transmission to Mike, ordered a new one (at a price the San Diego guy later called amazingly low) and bought a new torque converter. This part had been redesigned and we already knew we needed one from our San Diego service shop. This all took place in one day, with delivery on everything promised in three to four business days.

Overall, including shipping and before the trade in on the old transmission core, we saved more than a boat unit over the cost of the rebuild, never mind weeks waiting for parts while tied up at $50 per day. $50 per day in San Diego for transient space isn’t a bad price at all, but it mounts up over weeks. Since Duet couldn’t move, our only other choice was to tow her somewhere and then tow her back. By the time we paid for the roundtrip tow, we’d spend the same as the daily rate. Further, since we didn’t know when anything was going to get done, we couldn’t commit to a weekly or monthly slip.

Mike had the old transmission picked up and removed all the parts (such as the bell housing and the shaft coupling shown in the picture above) that shouldn’t have been shipped with it. He fit these to the new transmission to make sure we wouldn’t have any problems when we installed it. Mike even talked to Ron after hours about how to the install the new one, and discussed the issues which might have caused the damage to the old one. Gale, on N50 Worknot, was also very helpful during this process, including sending Ron a detailed email on how a transmission should be installed and tested, to be sure it got done right. Gale was, at the time, dodging Hurricane Matthew on the east coast, while delivering a friend’s boat.

Nancy also bought a new transmission oil cooler, which Mike told us needed to be installed or the new ZF transmission warranty would be invalidated. A new oil cooler, and new hoses, makes sense, as the old parts could be heavily contaminated with debris from the old transmission, which would then immediately be transferred to the new one. Unfortunately, our particular oil cooler couldn’t be cleaned, as it’s a one piece casting, so it had to be replaced. It is a Lugger part, so we got it from Bill at Hatton.

Our San Diego team seemed unaware of ZF’s warranty requirement for a new oil cooler. Possibly the bulk of their business is rebuilds or new boats, but in a rebuild one would assume the oil cooler requirement is the same. Whatever, we were going with Mike’s call since he supplied the new transmission. This also jived with Gale’s 30 years in the business and with Bill Cordero’s council. Ron would install the cooler. He had replaced the hoses the previous year and everyone felt that a good flushing was all they needed.

Nancy called the San Diego ZF guy and told him that the new transmission and other parts would be arriving, along with us, before the week was out. She updated the yard on what had taken place and scheduled the crane for the following Monday, so we could get the new transmission into the boat and get out of there. We were comfortable with our San Diego guy doing the new install, as there had been no problems with removing the old one, we only got into trouble after it left the boat.

So we rushed back to San Diego to give Ron time to change out the oil cooler. The new transmission, courtesy of Mike, beat us there by a day, the new oil cooler arrived as we pulled in. Ron spent the weekend installing the cooler, and the new transmission went in without a hitch on Monday morning. We did a sea trial the next day, the oil pressure, which had tested low on the old unit, was normal and we were good to go.

First, remove the old transmission oil cooler

Then flush the new one, which has a surprising amount of debris in it.

Visit the new transmission to make sure it’s really here

Reverse the transmission removal procedure, during which Ron served as an extra hand

New torsion coupler goes down

Torsion coupler installed inside bell housing

New transmission is fitted

Technical readers will note at this point that the words “shaft alignment” have not yet been mentioned. We were told by our San Diego ZF folks that no alignment would be needed, as the engine hadn’t been moved. This turned out to be completely incorrect, according to several industry sources, alignment is required whenever a transmission is removed and replaced. We didn’t know this for sure, and were uncomfortable forcing the issue, so we gave up and left. By the time we reached Turtle Bay, Mexico, several weeks and several hundred miles later, it was patently apparent that alignment was definitely required, so Ron, with a lot of help from Gale, aligned the transmission himself.

Aligning a transmission, once you have done it once, is pretty simple, if a bit time consuming. The first time you approach the job, however, it is rather daunting. Fortunately for us, this was not Gale’s first transmission job, so he was able to provide clear guidance on what tools we needed, what had to be done and, most importantly, how we would know we had won. He also lent us Mary’s bathroom scale, with Mary’s kind permission, so Ron could compensate for the droop of the shaft, due to it’s overhung load. Nancy didn’t understand this at first either, but it’s pretty clear once you have seen it in action.

Finally, Gale spent time with Ron, when needed, to help him through a couple of tough parts of the job. Gale is one of those rare souls who can not only do, but can also teach. Teaching is tricky, it’s much easier just to tell the student what to do, than let him muddle through it, while providing the occasional nudge to ensure that the process not only gets done right, but the student learns at the same time. Gale is a master at the gentle low key nudge.

So, how do you align a propeller shaft to a transmission shaft? Basically, there are three parameters that need attention: vertical, horizontal, and angle. The centers of the two shafts must be perfectly aligned, meaning there can be no up/down or port/starboard misalignment. Achieving this may require moving the entire engine vertically or horizontally on its mounts. Also, the two shafts must be perfectly parallel to each other, meaning they can not meet at an angle. Achieving this may require adjusting only the forward engine mounts, or only the aft engine mounts. Once alignment is accomplished, the two shafts are linked together through their respective flanges.

Anyone who has tried to line up two pencils in a hole in a moving object in mid air can understand how this might be a difficult process. When you add the fact that everything involved is very heavy and the alignment tolerances are measured in thousands of an inch, you begin to get the general idea of what Ron was up against. That said, shafts get aligned all the time, so he set to work.

We needed several key tools. First, the bathroom scale. Duet’s main engine shaft is about 10 feet long. It is two and a quarter inches in diameter and made of solid steel. Over a ten foot distance, the weight of the shaft itself causes it to droop. Before alignment can be achieved, the droop must be precisely removed. How does one do this? By exerting a carefully calibrated upward force on the end of the shaft, thereby canceling the droop. How much force? There are graphs and tables that allow one to figure this out. One very helpful source we found (actually, Gale gave it to us) is the “Caterpillar Marine Engines Application and Installation Guide.” Dave Harlow at PAE helpfully provided us with information about the shaft length (which is required in the calculations).

After all those charts and math, you need a way of actually measuring how much lifting force you are exerting. It is popular to use a fish scale suspended over the shaft. We did not have a fish scale. So Mary very kindly loaned us her digital bathroom scale (see picture). The shaft was suspended from a crossbeam that was lifted on supports placed at either end of the beam. The base of one of those supports was where the bathroom scale was located. We adjusted the supports until the scale read one-half of the desired lifting force (since the force was being shared by two supports).

Below you can see the supports on either side of the crossbar, with the Amsteel line holding up the shaft. Mary’s scale is to the left, on the bottom, the round silver upper leg is visible. 

Moving the engine, which weighs approximately a ton, from side-to-side is easier than it sounds. Actually, it is often too easy. Once the engine mounts are loosened, sometimes all that is needed is to tap on one mount with a hammer. It is helpful to carefully mark the starting location of the mounts, so that one can judge progress.

If the engine won’t move despite authoritative hammer taps, a long pry bar can be handy. Ron had recently purchased a 3 foot pry bar and was happy to put it to immediate use. Simply levering the engine often involves dramatic overshoots. Instead, it is better to apply a levering force that is not quite enough by itself to move the engine, and then carefully add some gentle hammer taps on the mounts.

In the picture below, Gale is managing the pry bar, while Ron does the tapping.

Gale’s special tapping hammer

Aligning the shaft took about three days. We finally got to the point where any additional adjustment just made things worse. The actual alignment was, as far as Ron could tell, about 9/1000 of an inch off, which was more than our target of 5/1000 (1/1000 of alignment error allowed per inch of flange face diameter)but it was the best we could do. It was an enormous improvement over where we started — 1/8″ or 125/1000’s of misalignment.

This picture was taken before any attempt was made to align the transmission. You can see the extent of the problem along the straight edge. The upper flange (transmission) and the lower flange (prop) should be perfectly aligned, which they are not.

We went out for a sea trial with Gale, with all of us holding our breath. She ran as smooth as silk, even at wide open throttle. We think she is running even more smoothly than she did before the new transmission, and Ron learned a new skill, which was to come in handy with the wing engine later on. So it was a good experience, albeit a bit of a stressful one.

During this sea trial, Gale and Ron also evaluated a potential leak in the main engine gasket. The conclusion was to load the spares to repair it, but to watch it and see if it got significantly worse, before going through the substantial project to replace it

Now that this experience is far enough in our wake that we can look at it dispassionately, what can we learn from it? First, our initial experience with ZF’s San Diego service shop was marginal and we should have taken a step back (they had forgotten we were showing up despite multiple phone calls and emails). Not being allowed to talk with the people actually doing the work (ZF in Seattle) should have also been a red flag, and we will never consent to that kind of arrangement again.

Finally, we should have reached out to folks we trusted about what to do when we initially decided to have the work done, before we blindly relied on a local provider we didn’t know anything about (other than he was certified by the manufacturer) to do a job of this magnitude. Essentially, we should have trusted but verified.

Overall, this experience wasn’t a total loss, because most of the actual work was well done. The mechanics were well trained and careful. Gale said they couldn’t be certified by ZF if they weren’t, and they would have to keep up technically to stay certified. He was right. The boat was undamaged and the new transmission ran just fine, except that was significantly out of alignment.

There is no question in our minds that the San Diego ZF shop should have known that a realignment was required, and should have been able to tell that we had some vibration during our sea trial. Looking back, they insisted on doing the trial only at 1500RPM (that is the RPM required to check hydraulic pressure in the transmission), and we didn’t push it higher. Ron picked up the vibration on our first WOT (wide open throttle) run. If we had insisted on WOT during the sea trial, we would have caught the magnitude of the issue and been more comfortable forcing them to align it correctly.

Our guess, and it’s only a guess, is that the San Diego folks wanted to be rid of us as much as we wanted to be rid of them, and figured that the alignment might only be slightly off. So they skipped that part of the job to speed things up. Our problems with this service provider lay entirely with the front office, not the hands on mechanics. Essentially, the front office just wasn’t home when asked to do it’s job of managing our project and make sure it got done right. What we don’t understand is why. The shop has been there for more than 20 years and has a good reputation. Why risk it on a job like ours?

All we can conclude is that we were a relatively small project, and the marine business is booming, so perhaps we just didn’t merit any attention. This idea is borne out by the fact that the owner of the shop never even bothered to visit our boat, even when it was patently apparent that the job was in trouble. This is in sharp contrast to Chris Fonteneau who personally worked on the replacement of our stabilizer bearings, as we were on a tight time schedule. Chris also insisted on having someone aboard when Duet first started up after the stabilizer service, to ensure that all went well. Our ZF team had to be almost threatened into doing a sea trial, the yard manager even went and told them to do it.

They also knew we were just passing through, so we didn’t represent an ongoing stream of revenue, just a one time deal. This assessment does ignore some weird bits of information, such as being told it would take at least a month to get a new transmission, when Mike had four new ones just sitting on a shelf. Or that a new transmission would cost about 50% more than we actually paid for one. We choose to attribute this to ignorance, rather than intent.

Regardless, our project was left to languish until we stepped in and took over. It wasn’t really the end of the world, except it cost us several thousand dollars in additional slip fees, part shipments, etc. and two weeks of time, plus the work Ron (and Gale) had to do to align the transmission later on. Is this bad? It depends on your perspective, many boat owners would be thrilled to get away this easily with a job this big. This is a sad commentary on the state of the marine services industry, but it does jive with our experience in 25 years of working with marine professionals. All this said, the rest of our work during this yard stay was well done and was completed on time, on budget. The yard manager bent over backward to find us somewhere to tie up when our schedule went out the window. So, except for the transmission service, this was a good yard experience.

We did get some pictures of the inside of the old transmission, which was contaminated with debris. The bearing races were scored, presumably from the debris. Since Ron has religiously changed the oil for the last four years, we are not certain how the contaminates got there. Ron is going to flush the transmission case with diesel after removing the old oil in the future, just to make sure that any debris left in bottom of the case is removed. Recently, we have learned that another Nordhavn 50 has had her transmission replaced, which is interesting. In the end, despite the difficulty and cost of this project, we are glad we did it.

Below are the old transmission bearing races

Close up of transmission race showing scoring from debris

Below is an old bearing, showing signs of debris

In addition to the transmission work, we had some other projects to be completed at Shelter Island. All of these were going on in tandem with the transmission, so we had a pretty busy few weeks. First, of course, was hauling the boat out of the water, so the stabilizers could be serviced, the bottom could be painted, the zincs could be changed, etc. Shelter Island expected us to stay on the hard one week, and that is exactly how long we stayed. Nancy had queued up Fonteneau to start on the fins before the bottom was dry from the haul out and they were standing there as she came dripping out of the well. The ABT service guys were right there in the yard, so they started at the same time.

As an aside, Shelter Island is the first boatyard which hauled Duet correctly. Our 50, for reasons unknown, has a rubber rather than stainless steel cap on her lower rail. Every time the boat has been hauled the rubber cap has been damaged by the slings. The Shelter Island yard manager, instead of ignoring our description of the problem like the other yards did, actually thought about it. When Duet was hauled he put a diver in the water to set blocks between the slings and under the rub rail, rather than above the rail, as had been done in the past. This completely protected the rubber strip when the straps tightened, and we had no damage. We shall ensure that this is done by all yards in the future.

The yard guys also pulled the thru hull screens, installed a new thru hull on our manual bilge pump, which has always been problematic, and began cleaning up her underwater hardware so it could be coated with Propspeed. We have seen other boats using Propspeed, which is designed to keep barnacles and other critters from setting up housekeeping on the main propellor, for example, so we thought we would give it a try, as Duet is going to be in warm water until she arrives in New Zealand a year from now.

Bow thruster blades, before and after

Main prop after

Primed thru hull strainers, waiting for bottom paint

New zinc on rudder shoe

Watching Fonteneau service the Naiads was Ron’s number one priority, after the transmission. He expects to have to do this service in remote places and wants to make sure he gets it right. Also, seeing a side rebuilt, while he hopes he never has to do it, is a great learning opportunity.

The first step was to remove both fins, as we were replacing the seals on both sides, as well as replacing the bearings on the starboard side.

Below is the schematic of a Naiad 252 actuator assembly, to get the reader oriented. The entire bearing cavity is filled with a heavy white grease

Fontaneau removes the inner ring, as we have seen done before

But then they remove the outer ring, and pump new grease into the bearing cavity. This causes some of the grease in there to run out. If the grease is contaminated by seawater, it will be a dark color. If it isn’t, it will be white. The photo below is of our port assembly, which was fine.

This photo is of the grease inside the starboard assembly, which was contaminated with seawater and needed to be rebuilt. 

To rebuild the starboard side, the shaft and bearing were removed, which requires disconnecting them from the actuator inside the boat. Ron took this opportunity to clean up the actuator



The new starboard side bearing going in, Chris Fonteneau is shown gooping it up

Once the bearing is in and attached to the assembly, the shaft is installed. This requires coordination with the team inside the boat, which is attached the shaft to the actuator, via the bearing.

After the shaft is aligned and connected, the rest of the parts go back on.

Back goes the fin. This is the port side fin, same process for the starboard

Fontaneau also rebuilt our water maker high pressure pump. Art spent some time with Ron on the spare parts he would carry if he were going to Tahiti, and those were loaded in due course. Both Art and Chris thought about what we should carry for Naiad repairs, and we ordered a new potentiometer, a spare torque arm, a spare rod end, a spare cylinder and assorted hoses. We also carry enough hydraulic oil to completely drain and refill the system.

High pressure pump off to be rebuilt

While Ron was taking a Naiad technical course, Nancy kept an eye on the other folks. Whenever we go into a yard or work with a service provider, Ron is in charge of the technical stuff, while Nancy handles scheduling and bill payment. She also operates Goldberg transport, driving back and forth to Chula Vista almost every day to pick packages, as well as all over San Diego getting provisions, parts, etc., as we were simultaneously loading stuff for the South Pacific journey.

To say this week on the hard was hectic would be somewhat of an understatement. Shelter Island needed us back in the water, no only us but the two 65 foot boats packed in ahead of us, as a 122 footer was arriving for a long haul, with significant interior work and a complete paint job to be done. The new 165 ton lift has really put Shelter Island on the map for larger boats, their biggest problem, similar to the Newport Shipyard, is that in busy season they cannot find space to fit all the boats who want work. This is good for the local economy but is hard on the yard managers, who spend most of their time working to fit boats and projects into a limited space, while keeping customers happy and dealing with folks who overstay their reservation, like us.

Duet is shown below, packed in the back of the row.

Duet went right back in the water on time. The general idea was to have her move, using her wing engine, from the lift well to the outside yard dock, where we could stay tied up until our transmission returned. At this point, we, and the yard manager, thought the transmission would be back the following week, as that was what we were led to believe. We had, at that point, no reason not to believe it, as we had an estimate to rebuild the unit (missing the bearing replacement which we learned about later) and no one had yet told us that it would take 2-3 weeks to get the parts to rebuild it. So, with everyone blissfully ignorant of this, we planned to fire up the wing engine, trundle out into the anchorage, turn around and move over to the dock. The yard guys pushed us off and went to prepare to meet us.

At this point it might be worth mentioning the anatomy in the engine room, when the transmission is removed. The transmission sits between the main engine and the shaft, which passes into the transmission, which turns it by transferring power from the engine. Not too hard to figure out, even Nancy could follow it. So, when our transmission was removed, the transmission guys secured the shaft, and said don’t worry it can’t fall out. They were absolutely right, it can’t, the rudder is in the way. What everyone, except Gale, who we definitely should have listened to, didn’t realize was, while it can’t fall out, it can slide backward. Which is exactly what happened when Ron accelerated to make the turn in the anchorage. Unfortunately, when it slid back it blocked the steering, jamming it over to one side.

Nancy, busy sorting out lines and fenders for our imminent docking, was initially unaware of our predicament until Ron informed her, remarkably calmly through her headset, that we had no steering. Given that the wind was picking up and the wing isn’t really the strongest player on our team, this wasn’t good news. First, Ron had Nancy check the steering in the lazarette to see if anything was visibly stuck. No such luck. So he then, brilliantly as it turned out, decided to drop the anchor.

Nancy took the wheel, gunning the wing while simultaneously running the bow thruster (whose battery was rapidly going flat because it is charged by the main engine, which wasn’t running) to try to keep Duet’s bow into the wind, while Ron released the anchor. Never have we, or the guy tied up on his nice little Grand Banks on the dock behind us, been more grateful that we have such a large primary hook. It held, on about 1.5:1 scope in 20 feet of water. Duet stopped moving backwards. Nancy then called for a tow, SeaTow responded but was 30 minutes away.

As Ron was dropping a little more chain to better secure our hold without landing us on the guy behind us, Nancy chanced to look out the port pilothouse window. There, full steam ahead, came an unmarked rather workboat like vessel, with at least 4 yard guys aboard she recognized. It zoomed up to our port quarter, Nancy tied off it’s stern line, the captain gunned the big single engine, Ron raised the hook, and with some fanfare, but not much, we were deposited on the nearest yard dock. Nancy called SeaTow back and cancelled the tow. This rescue was due to the fact that, when this incident first started, Nancy had yelled to the yard guys to get a tow boat, if they could. This tow boat was at the yard, where it is based, by sheer chance, normally it would be out somewhere, towing.

Once we were tied up and the adrenaline had started to bleed off, we began to wonder who our rescuer was. Highly unpleasant articles about salvage tows surfaced in our memories. The Captain of the tow boat came over and introduced himself as Tom. We thanked him for his assistance, and nervously asked “how much do we owe you?” He said $200. We paid cash. Later that evening he came down for a chat.

We learned a lot about towing, as Tom had spent 32 years in the Navy. We also learned a lot about salvage. When Nancy had taken his line she created a contract. It probably would have been interpreted by a court as a salvage tow, as we were in some danger of dragging and destroying property. That said, we weren’t actually dragging until Tom/Nancy put the full weight of the tow boat on our hook, which then started to slip. So there was some grey there. Regardless, we got seriously lucky and were towed by an honest man.

In the meantime, right after our rather dramatic return, our ABT tech, who also worked on our steering, and the diver who had helped when Duet was hauled, came down to see what had happened. We hadn’t had time to process anything, so we had no idea what had blocked the steering. It rapidly became apparent, however, that the shaft had slid right back in the boat. The big nut on the end of the shaft behind the propeller hit the leading edge of the rudder and jammed it. There was no damage, according to Ian the diver, other than a small nick in our nice new bottom paint. Given what could have happened, this was welcome news indeed.

In the picture below, you can see the shaft pulled back.

This picture show the big nut on the end of the shaft and it’s position vis-a-vis the rudder

Ian pushed from the water, Ron and Boomer (from the ABT shop) using Boomer’s huge pipe wrench (a twin of which Ron later acquired) pulled, and the shaft slid right back in. Ron then did what Gale told us to do in the first place, which was to take Gale’s shaft zinc (lent to us for this very purpose), put it on the shaft and tighten it down in front of the stuffing box, so the shaft cannot move at all. Ron then lashed the shaft in for good measure.

So, in the end, Duet was fine, we were fine and the whole thing cost $220, including $20 for the diver. The entire yard knew what had happened, which we figure didn’t do our transmission shop’s reputation any good, as the shaft wasn’t all that secure when they finished their work. That said, the failure to figure out what might happen was on us, especially when Gale had already told us how to reduce the risk of the shaft sliding out and we didn’t do it.

The professional crews on the two big boats on the yard docks next to us commended us (Ron really) for having the presence of mind to anchor and they paid us the ultimate compliment by assuming that we, too, were professional crew. And, we now recommend Tom to everyone, should they need towing in the San Diego area. He actually towed Duet twice more, into a small area out of the way while we waited another three weeks for the transmission kerfuffle to be straightened out, and then out of it again and into the crane well. Watching him pull/push and generally muscle Duet’s 40 tons around in tight quarters with a single engine 30 foot work boat was a humbling experience.

We had a few other things done while we waited for the transmission. Fonteneau rebuilt the high pressure pump on the water maker and Ron installed a new VHF antenna, after working with a radio whisperer recommended by Christi on Varnebank. We completed our survey, which we had commissioned as Duet is now 16 and, as boats age, insurance companies tend to want more recent surveys. Duet managed to pass with flying colors, the surveyor noted only two minor items, which is entirely to Ron’s credit and all his hard work since we have owned her. We went out to dinner a lot, we went home for a week, and we loaded an incredible amount of stores, supplies and parts for the South Pacific. That process and Ron’s projects connected with that trip are discussed in a separate blog.

New VHF antenna coming home



Getting Ready to Get Ready for the South Pacific Crossing

While most of our focus this summer was on preparing for our upcoming South Pacific crossing, Ron did have a few of the usual maintenance things to do, which we will cover in this blog. Our preparation for the South Pacific journey will be covered separately, as will our stay at the Shelter Island Boatyard.

As our regular readers will recall, Duet arrived in Ensenada in late May, after a memorable bash up the coast. She remained there for the summer, while we returned home. We visited Duet once during the 16 weeks she was in Ensenada, although we had her washed and her bottom cleaned every 4 weeks. We also had the comforting presence of Gale and Mary, who were spending lots of time on their Nordhavn 50, Worknot, in the next slip over.

Ron and Gale consulting

During our visit we drove down from Tahoe and had a pretty easy trip. Once we arrived, the well known Project X immediately declared itself. As we’ve mentioned before, we always budget some time for the unknown breakdown. In our experience, the longer the boat is left sitting, the bigger the breakdown.

As an aside, Ensenada has the largest Mexican, or actuallly any, flag, we have ever seen. In the photo below it is at half mast for some reason, sometimes it is taken down completely, but when it’s flying, it’s quite a sight.

In this case the breakdown involved our hot water heater, which sprang a terminal leak when we connected Duet to shore water. The contents of said heater immediately flooded out under the master berth. We knew this because, when we first got aboard the boat, the bilge pump cycle counter (the first thing we check after smelling the interior) read “1”. We hooked up the shore water, using our trusty pressure regulator, and started unloading the car. By the time we got that done, the bilge pump cycle counter read “18”.

We had arrived in the early evening, so 20 gallons of water leaking under the master berth was exactly what we needed. That said, this wasn’t our first boat rodeo, so we split up the necessary tasks, namely bail out the area under the bed and plumb around the heater, so we would have water on board. We’ll leave it to our readers to figure out who did what, but suffice it to say that the budget committee rapidly approved a hand held pump for future bailing exercises. In our defense, we thought we had a hand held dinghy pump, but we couldn’t find it.

The two photos below show the bailing area. At the top is a water tank (painted blue) which is covered in a layer of water. All that water gets bailed into the bucket, which is then dumped into the master head sink.

Below you can see the compartment next to the water tank, where some of the heater’s contents drained into the bilge. The white box is a battery box for the 24V bank. 

Ron is shown below taking the hot water heater out of the plumbing circuit

The next morning we took stock. The water heater was original equipment, frankly it’s amazing it lasted this long, particularly since Ron hadn’t changed it’s zinc since we got the boat. We needed a new heater, but we didn’t need it immediately, as the weather was pretty warm in Ensenada in July. So a new heater went on the ordering list for our arrival in San Diego and we moved on to better things, like dinner with Gale and Mary. We could have gotten a heater in Ensenada, if we really wanted it, but it was simpler, and cheaper (or so we thought) to get it when we got back to the US.

We returned home the following week and settled into our summer routine, Ron worked, most of the time, while Nancy did endless paperwork, exercised and caught up with friends. We did get in some nice hikes and managed to attend Camp Dent in Bend, Oregon. Camp Dent was conceived by the energetic owners of Nordhavn 50 Colibri, Christopher and Diana Dent. They invited us, and the crews of Nordhavn 46 Northern Ranger I and Nordhavn 60 Sea Level II, as well as the ex crew of Nordhavn 64 Solana, to visit them and enjoy the many pleasures of Bend.

So we signed up, although we could only attend half of the five day celebration over Labor Day weekend, as Ron had to work some of that time. We roared up the back roads from Reno to Bend and managed to arrive in time for the first dinner. Northern Ranger and Sea Level are from Vancouver, BC, so they drove down in Northern Ranger’s brand new giant diesel truck. Sue from Solana flew to Vancouver from Brisbane, Australia, and caught a ride south.

When we arrived we realized that Christopher’s successful entrepreneurial drive had been applied to organizing this visit. There was a two page agenda of activities, including everything from a mountain hike (which we had conveniently missed the afternoon of the first day) to a beer fueled bicycle ride (with a sober driver in charge of the multi person bicycle), which, much to Ron’s chagrin, we were also going to miss, as we had to go home before it commenced. But we managed to make the lava tube exploration, which Ron much enjoyed, as well as a memorable rafting journey down the Deschutes River. The river was running high, as the damns were open to pass water to the reservoirs so the firefighting helicopters could tank up. Nancy is only glad she brought plenty of dry clothes for that one.

Below is Camp Dent, or most of it, at the end of the lava tube

Christopher and Diana not only have a very nice house, they have a climbing wall. Since it was there, the intrepid Kim from Nordhavn 60 Sea Level II decided to give it a go. We are happy to report she made it all the way to the top!

Too soon our stay at Camp Dent ended, and we were back in Tahoe. Part of this summer was spent preparing for our South Pacific crossing. We can now formally announce that Duet is planning to cross the South Pacific, from Mexico to New Zealand in 2017. We are fortunate to be traveling with the Nordhavn 60 fishing machine Daybreak, and her owners Jerome and Karen. Both boats will leave Barra de Navidad around mid March, arriving in the Marquesas 17-19 days later. We will then make our way from the Marquesas through the Tuamotus to Papeete, Tahiti. Duet and Daybreak will remain in Papeete for the bulk of the summer. Their crews will return home for some time with family and for Ron to do a little work. In late August we will start off again for New Zealand, probably via Suwarrow and Tonga.

This is a big trip, about 9,000 miles from when we leave San Diego in November of 2016. Nancy was in her element, planning, planning and more planning. Ron spent most of his time trying to reduce his list to things that absolutely positively had to be done before we left. These projects were over and above his regular list of things to do, which now included replacing the hot water heater. Obviously something was going to have to give, and Ron was hoping it wasn’t going to be him.

We did spend some time thinking through what we could safely outsource to the marine industry and what Ron was going to do himself. As our regular readers know, we have a somewhat skeptical opinion of marine professionals, as we have met a number that probably should find another line of work. On the other hand, we have also worked with some true artists, so we always hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Once we had narrowed the list down to the “Ron will do it” group and the “someone else is going to have to do it” list, we started looking for a place to get this outside work done. One of the primary things Ron felt we had to do is have the main engine transmission evaluated. Since we’ve owned the boat, we’ve had higher than normal copper counts in the transmission oil. We sample all our oils annually, and this repetitive result had been worrying Ron for some time. He had also noticed that the transmission oil, when he changed it, was dark and burnt smelling. Something was obviously going on. If we weren’t crossing the Pacific he would have adopted an attitude of watchful waiting, but, given our big journey, we needed a more proactive solution.

The second big item for outsourcing was rebuilding our starboard Naiad stabilizer. As readers may recall, when this side was serviced at Newport Harbor Shipyard, we discussed the grease that was being forced out the top of the actuator. At that time, we decided to do some watchful waiting and see how it progressed. The answer, after 2,000 nautical miles, was “not well”. The amount of grease now being extruded was considerable, indicating the continued presence of seawater . Seawater will destroy the bearings over time, so the side needed to be disassembled and the bearings replaced.

We also needed some minor work, servicing of the bow thruster, etc., but the two drivers of our yard selection were the transmission and the Naiad work. Fortunately, Shelter Island Boatyard, in San Diego, was immediately adjacent to a ZF certified service provider for our transmission, and Fonteneau Naiad was just up the road. We know Fonteneau, as they have worked on our water maker in the past. We checked on the boatyard via various friends, and it got a good review. So Ron called both the transmission service shop and the folks at Fonteneau to confirm what we needed done. Nancy got us queued up for a haul out in early October, and we were all set.

One thing Nancy should have done, and didn’t, was find us a slip for our time before and after the yard visit. This had not been a problem during our last trip to San Diego, but it was this time. Long story short, there were no slips on Shelter Island, the closest we could get was Chula Vista Marina, in Chula Vista. This was due to the remodeling of one of Shelter Island’s larger marinas, whose residents had taken up all the remaining slips in the area while their own were off limits.

For readers who aren’t familiar with the San Diego geography, Shelter Island is in Point Loma, right off the entrance to San Diego harbor. Since it is so well located, there are a lot of boats berthed there, and many associated service providers, such as Shelter Island Boatyard. Chula Vista is about 8 miles south of San Diego proper, so it is a much longer run back and forth to the ocean, and to many of the folks we would need to help get Duet ready to go. But, while a bit inconvenient, Chula Vista Marina turned out to be a great place, well run with many helpful live aboards. We would return there and recommend it.

During the summer, when not sorting out who was going to do what, we also started ordering what seemed like an endless list of gear, parts, etc., that we felt were critical to the South Pacific journey. While we realize that folks have safely and enjoyably made this journey in much smaller, less heavily equipped boats than Duet, we added gear that we felt was necessary for our safety and our comfort. Nancy reviewed a lot of web sites, as well as consulted with a number of Nordhavn owners and other boaters who had been this way before us. The boating community, and Nordhavn owners in particular, is extremely helpful when called upon, so she got a lot of useful information. Our actual preparation for the journey will be covered in a separate blog, suffice it to say that we are sure that, while we don’t have everything we might need, we have most of it!

Meanwhile, aside from the South Pacific list, there were a lot of other things for Ron, or somebody, to get done before we departed for La Paz in November. So we saddled up and went back to Ensenada in early September, to bring Duet north to San Diego. While Ron can work in Ensenada, and it is a nice town to spend time in, it’s easier to get shipments of parts in the U.S. So Duet returned to the land of her flag and we set up shop at the Chula Vista Marina.

First up, since it was starting to get a little chilly, was installing a new water heater. Actually, first up was removing the old one. Nordhavn, when they build boats, has to make certain compromises on where they install gear. We understand that. We do occasionally really really dislike it, such as when we are forced to remove or work on things like the washer, the dryer and, now, the water heater.

The heater sits in a custom base under the master berth. It weighs about 65 pounds, so it’s not an easy lift. It is also ¼ inch narrower than our interior doorways, with the doors off, and it has to go up the stairs to the pilothouse and then down the stairs to the salon, since it won’t fit out the pilothouse door or down the companionway. So, with his usual application of brains over brawn, Ron started this project by thinking about how to use leverage and mechanical advantage to get the heater out of the boat. Of course, this would also be useful to get the new heater into the boat.

The water heater is the large black cicular object below

Nancy, in the meantime, acquired a new heater, ordering it from an on line web store we have used in the past. We do try to buy parts locally when we can, but the price differential between the local supplier and an on line source was about 25%. The heater arrived as scheduled. We let it sit at the marina office for a day while Ron worked on getting the old heater out of the boat. We didn’t take the new heater out of it’s box until we got it to the boat, which was to prove an error, but more on that later.

As an aside, we’d like to commend the folks at the Chula Vista Marina office for serving as Duet Package Receiving Central, both when Duet was actually at the marina and while we were at the boat yard. We like to believe that they had already been planning to institute a package storage fee before they met us, although we aren’t so sure. Fortunately, they implemented said fee after we left, so it was all good.

Ron, after some thought and observation, rigged up a hoisting harness for the old heater. He managed to dead lift it straight up out of it’s home and onto the surrounding underpinnings of the master berth, which is an example of the payoff he gets from his daily exercises. He and Nancy then got it up the stairs down the stairs, out of the boat, and into a dock cart, using the crane once it arrived in the cockpit. Even though we were in Southern California, it rained heavily throughout this, and actually most of, the water heater replacement project.

First you hook it up

Then you lift it up

Then you haul it up the stairs

Then you wheel it away

Once we got the old heater deposited at the marina recycling area, we manhandled the new heater, still in it’s box to keep it dry, into the dock cart and down to the boat. The crane cranked it up, still in the box, and we hustled it into our salon. At that point, we removed it from the box. As most readers have probably guessed, the new heater was badly damaged in transit. So we got on the phone to the vendor, sent pictures of the damage and hauled the heater (in it’s wet box) back to the marina office to be collected by UPS and returned to the Raritan factory in New Jersey, who actually shipped it. Frankly, the damage wasn’t UPS’s fault, it was Raritan’s. They had packaged the heavy heater in a light cardboard box, with absolutely minimal styrofoam packing. The TV we bought later had far more protection and was less than a quarter of the weight of the water heater.

The new heater, below, had two injuries, first the crinkled bit shown below, which Ron worried might mean the interior tank was cracked

And second, the crushed zinc, which, while Ron might be able to fix it, could also hide other problems within


While we were assured of a replacement heater being forthcoming from Raritan By the on line vendor, the timeline didn’t work for us. It would take at least 5 and probably closer to 10 business days before the new heater arrived. Cold showers in San Diego for that long didn’t seem all that appealing, not to mention we were supposed to be in the boatyard by the time the heater actually showed up. So we cancelled the order, took a refund (which took 3 weeks to sort out) and trundled over to Downwind Marine, which fortunately had the right heater in stock. Admittedly they had it at several hundred dollars more than we had paid on line (even with a “we feel sorry for you guys” discount) but it was a hot water heater and it worked. Of course we had to get it down the dock, onto the boat, into its little home under the master berth and hooked up. Then it leaked, incessantly, until Ron replaced all the fittings that had been used on the old heater. However, it did heat the water, so all was well.

For those who may want to try this at home, remember that, at least aboard Duet, commissioning the water heater means you also get to drain and recommission the diesel heater system. The diesel heater interfaces with the water heater, so it, rather than electric power, can heat the water. This is a great feature, except when you are replacing the water heater. Once the diesel heater is drained, the water heater is hooked up and the diesel heater system refilled and bled of errant air bubbles.

Below is the diesel heater draining, via a hose attached to a pump which pumps the coolant into the bucket. Refilling it requires reversing the process. 


Having subdued the water heater, Ron then moved on to, hopefully, easier projects. These included all the usual oil changes, coolant changes, etc. He did try to get as much of this done as he could before we went to the boat yard, as, in our experience, when we are in the boat yard, Ron doesn’t get much done other than minding the boat yard.

The largest of Ron’s “maintenance” projects was probably the replacement of the main engine circulation pump, which moves coolant through the engine. We had this pump rebuilt in Seattle just before we left for Portland in 2013, because Bob Senter had noted it was leaking more coolant than he judged advisable at survey. Unfortunately, after the rebuild and a few thousand miles of service, it was again leaking coolant. Gale, on N50 Worknot, helpfully clued us in to the fact the the pump is a Komatsu part, private labeled by Lugger for resale. This little bit of info saved us several hundred dollars on a new pump. Said pump, along with a truly astounding number of other things, traveled from Reno to San Diego aboard our long suffering SUV, which was even equipped with a roof suitcase to let it carry yet more stuff.


As part of the circulation pump swap, Ron also changed the main engine coolant, checked the valve clearances (since the top of the engine was off anyway) and painted the pump, which came in standard Komatsu yellow. He even painted the front of the engine. So, while all he was really doing was swapping the pump, it took a little while to complete the entire exercise.

First, drain the coolant and remove the coolant tank


Then remove the old pump

While everything is apart, check the valve clearances

Install new circulation pump and new hoses

Put it back together, refill it with new coolant 

Paint it

Then put the alternator belts back on, put on the belt guard, and start it up to check for leaks. Also, install new mount for the coolant bottle, that you made at home.

Since you are thinking about it, check the valve clearances on the generator

During this period, the saltwater air conditioning pump, possibly feeling left out, decided to leak. So Ron tore it down, ordered and replaced the shaft seals. This included some careful polishing of the shaft, which had some surface corrosion. We think that The corrosion caused the leak, as the seals couldn’t sit well anymore. While sometimes it can be difficult to get a good seal after polishing the shaft, particularly with a bad case of corrosion, we were lucky and it all came back together perfectly. This was a good thing, as a new gasket was $30 and a new motor for the pump nearly $1,000.

This is one half of the saltwater pump. The shaft is still installed, in the center

This is the impeller

Corrosion on the shaft before being sanded is shown below


Here’s the shaft after sanding

Also on the leaking front, both round portholes in the guest stateroom, which open into the Portuguese bridge, were letting in small amounts of water. We removed them, cleaned them and rebedded them. We have done this endless times on various boats, this Duet is no exception. Now they do not leak and are nice and shiny, as we took the opportunity to give them a little polish while they were out.

Below is a porthole gasket, which also needed cleaning


Here’s one half of the porthole, with the gasket on, ready to be installed

Ron also began to replace leaking fuel valves. Duet has two major fuel manifolds, the Supply and the Return. The Supply is pretty self explanatory, the Return is a result of the way diesel engines work. When a diesel takes fuel from the Supply side, it returns most of it unused, hence the Return side. Our main engine, for example, draws 50 gallons per hour wide open throttle, but burns only 15. So the remaining 35 gallons need to go somewhere as they exit the engine. Each piece of diesel equipment, namely the main engine, the wing engine, the generator and the diesel heater, has it’s own Supply and Return valve. There are also valves to control which of our four fuel tanks we are drawing from, and which we are returning to. There are 18 valves in all, 9 on each manifold.

Below is the supply manifold. 

Every valve is original equipment and is made of stainless steel, as are the manifolds themselves and the plumbing adapters that connect the tapered threads of the valves and the flared hydraulic fittings on our fuel hoses. Lots of stainless. While stainless steel plumbing fittings are pretty to look at, they have a greater tendency to ‘gall’ when tightened hard, as occurs with tapered threads. Galling welds the threads together in spots.

We think this explains why so many of the valves leaked even more severely after they had been disassembled, cleaned and reinstalled. Thread sealant (we tried both Loctite 567 and 545) did not help. The solution was to replace most of the stainless valves. To prevent future problems we switched to valves made from nickel plates brass. Still pretty to look at, but less tendency for thread galling (we hope).

Below you can see both the Supply and the Return manifolds. One valve is undergoing repair on the Supply side in this picture.


Ron has also designed a new set of labels for the manifolds, as well as installed new valve handle covers and locking valves. Unfortunately, we forget to take a picture of the end result of all this, but take it from us, it’s sharp looking. It also works better. The key to the fuel valves is to make sure you have them all set the right way. This is critically important with the Return valves. While it can be somewhat disconcerting to set the Supply valves wrong, the worst you can do is starve the equipment, so it quits. That is relatively easy and inexpensive to fix.

Getting the Return valves wrong is a whole different story. Returning fuel to a full tank, for example, produces a close encounter with the local environmental authorities. Having the Return valve closed on the main engine when the main engine is running is the stuff of Ron’s nightmares, as the engine will try to put the 35 odd gallons of diesel it hasn’t used (at WOT) through the valve anyway. The resulting blowback causes extensive and expensive engine damage. So Ron spent some time thinking through the truly awful valve combinations and has installed locking valves on those, so you have to really work at it to cause a disaster. 

Since Ron was already working, admittedly peripherally, on the fuel system, he decided to also install new fuel tank gauges on our main fuel tanks. We had calibrated both of these tanks when fueling, so it was relatively easy to order new gauges. The only problem was that one of the sight gauges decided to leak when removed. Justin Brown at PAE parts saved our bacon by coming through with a new set of gaskets and sight gauges. Justin has saved our bacon more than once, by tracking down various parts from China and Taiwan. Ron installed the new gauges and, presto, we suddenly have a lot more fuel in the tanks. Actually, there isn’t any more fuel, we now just know that’s it there and can see how much we are actually carrying.

Below are the original gaskets and sign gauge


Before putting on the new gauges and labels, Ron painted the boxes

New fuel sight gauge and label installed

Duet carries approximately 1,440 gallons of fuel, 600 gallons in each of the big saddle tanks, the ones with the sight gauges, and about 120 in each of the aft tanks, which have no sight gauges. We think that we could probably get another 5-10 gallons in each of the aft tanks, and some more in the saddles, if we really pushed it. We are going to really push it when we fuel for the Mexico to Marquesas leg of our South Pacific journey, as we will need all the fuel we can get.

As Duet gets older, Ron worries more about the parts he can’t see. Recently, he’s been focused on the main engine exhaust elbow and the spray ring. Duet is a wet exhaust, which means that, about 10 feet after the hot exhaust gas exits the engine, it is mixed with seawater to cool it down before it is ejected out the stern. So there is a spray ring which sprays seawater into the exhaust and a mixing elbow where it all comes together. These parts are metal and exposed to seawater, so, over time, they will corrode.

Unfortunately, to examine these two bits, you have to remove a large unwieldy exhaust hose that connects the exhaust pipe to the muffler. Ron, after some thought, decided to replace this hose with a silicone high temp hose, which is easy to remove and replace. Said hose is expensive, but it’s worth it to be able to pull it off to check these key parts and then slip it right back on. We first learned about this hose from Robin at Philbrooks, when he installed it as a replacement for a leaking hose further down the exhaust system. 

Said expensive hose was ordered, duly arrived, and was carted to San Diego. Ron, with some trepidation, cut off the old hose and examined the exhaust mixing elbow and the spray ring. Both were, thank goodness, in excellent condition. The new hose was then installed, and, as we will discuss in our blog on preparing for our South Pacific journey, came in useful right off the bat.

Hose arrives


The join where the hose will go. The muffler is on the bottom and the exhaust is on top. As you can see, Ron did have to cut off part of the muffler inlet pipe to get the hose to fit. 

The water injection elbow. The round gold bits are the injection points

Here’s the new hose installed. You can see the exhaust temp probe on the side

Ron also installed, in his spare time, a new TV. Duet came equipped with a nice 19 inch Sharp TV, mounted on the port settee side table. We figured, however, given the age of the TV, is would probably quit at some point. While this isn’t a big deal in the Americas, it is in New Zealand or Australia, as they use 50hz power. Any TV we could buy there would not plug into Duet. So a prophylactic replacement was made. We bought a nice new 40 inch Smart TV on sale at CostCo, which of course can’t connect to the internet, but does have a really nice picture and is much easier for our aging eyes to see.

Prior to buying the new TV, we did some careful modeling to be sure it would fit

It did

Right now, actually, it’s picture quality is a bit limited, as Ron hasn’t had time to run the new HDMI cable for it, but it will have a really nice picture once it gets hooked up. While aboard Duet we don’t actually watch TV, we watch movies and TV shows that Nancy has recorded at home, using a software VCR. We have several hundred films and lots of TV, ranging from Downtown Abbey to The Walking Dead, so we always have something to see, if we can spare the time from cruising activities.

In the classic example of one project begets another, when the TV was swapped out it left a gap on the side table where the old TV had been installed. Duet’s previous owners came to our rescue with the twin of our other salon surface lamp. Ron installed that too, which required some wiring, some drilling and the usual fiddling around with things that got in the way.


Ron also did a Mr. Science project. Whenever we leave the boat for a period of time, he flushes SaltAway, a product which is supposed to reduce salt residue, through all our freshwater units, namely the wing engine, the main engine, the generator and the A/C pump. He has discussed this with other Nordhavn owners and some have expressed doubt that this actually helps. So Ron figured he’d test it, since SaltAway isn’t cheap. When we left Duet mid summer he placed two identical brass wing nuts in glasses of salt water, one with SaltAway added at the dilution of SaltAway in equipment when it has been run through a strainer (the way Ron does it), and one without. After 7 weeks in salt water, the end results were pretty impressive.. So we will continue to flush SaltAway through our gear.

The lab bench


Soon enough, it was time to go to the boat yard. Immediately following our arrival in San Diego, we had visited the yard, the transmission shop and Fonteneau. The yard manager gave us a tour, the yard was clean, appeared to be well run and had some of the coolest lifts we’ve seen. They have two, a 165 ton one and a slightly smaller one, both remotely controlled. This saves a laborer, as with a “driven” lift, you need at least one other person to tell the driver where the lift is going. With a remote the driver just walks around looking at where the lift is going. We gather that the yard spent over $1M on the new lifts, as well as a remote controlled boat trailer than can turn all four wheels. Having seen the gear we believe it. 

Our visit to the transmission shop was less confidence inspiring. First, they had no record of our multiple calls to schedule service. Second, we found out that they didn’t actually rebuild the transmission on site, they shipped it to the manufacturer in Seattle. This process could take a month or more. Since we were hoping to leave for Mexico in about three weeks, this wasn’t good news and we weren’t really happy that they hadn’t told us this during our calls to discuss our situation.

At this point, we had already decided to rebuild the transmission, after consultation with Gale, among others, about the level of our copper counts, the state of the oil and the distance of the journey we were about to undertake. We were given the same advice by the shop owner. Some months later, we have found that we are at least the second Nordhavn 50 of our vintage to replace the main transmission. Of course we didn’t know this when we decided to do this job, so it was a bit of a leap.

We were assured by the shop owner that he would do his best to speed up our job. We also assumed, that, since he had managed to get certified by ZF as the only service provider in Southern California and had been doing it for many years, that he and his mechanics must know they are doing and provide good service. Of course, assumptions are just that, assumptions, as we were to later find out.

So, off we went to the yard, complete with a transmission shop mechanic on board to test the oil pressure in the transmission, which we believe has been low since the boat was commissioned and a Fonteneau yacht tech to run some tests on the stabilizers. 

Our experiences at the yard will be covered in the next blog.