A Rescue

After what seemed like a very short time, we were back aboard Duet for Memorial Day week. This trip was focused on testing everything we hadn’t tested yet, which included yet another version of anchor chain. It turns out that G43 chain is “transport” chain and doesn’t play well with Maxwell windlasses. This was news to us and is now filed away in Captain Ron’s boat memory. Fortunately, Jeff’s chain supplier acknowledged the error and replaced the G43 with G40 at no charge. Jeff, to his credit, did all the removal and replacement work gratis as well. Some yards don’t approach the business that way, but Jeff does and we are grateful.

So we had new chain to test. We also had to work out the kinks in Duet’s entertaining mode, as very few people, other than workman, had actually been aboard her since we bought her. We did have a little cocktail party in January, when a lot of folks were in Seattle for the Boat Show. It went well and we made new friends, Christopher and Diana of the N50 Colibri and Colin, recently of the N40 Open Time, but now the proud new owner of N47#46, previously named Albatross. A great time was had by all. Diana brought tea and chocolate, a traditional Russian house gift, while Colin brought genuine Scottish shortbread. It was even an international gathering, as Diana is Russian, while Colin lives in Spain, although he is originally from Scotland, and gets around a bit as a pilot for British Air.

Nancy, in particular, was anxious to test Duet’s entertaining capacity further and wanted to try having folks over for dinner, rather than just drinks. Fortunately we had volunteers, new Nordhavn owners, Scott and Diane, of the beautiful 47 Sea Eagle. They had purchased Sea Eagle in San Francisco about a month earlier and had been corresponding with Nancy. Nancy often corresponds with new Nordhavn owners, or Nordhavn Dreamers, as she loves to talk about the boats. We have made many friends this way, and Scott and Diane were to prove no different.

As an aside, advances in the internet world have really improved the connections among Nordhavn folks. When we temporarily went ashore in ’07, the Nordhavn Owners site had only just begun. Now, not only is there an Owners site with nearly 500 members, there are sites for various models, including the 43, the 47 and the Big Boats, namely the 55’s and up. Nancy has even pulled together an N50 Owners list, which is gradually getting sorted out. 

There is also a great site for folks who want, but don’t yet have, a Nordhavn, Nordhavn Dreamers. Unlike the Owner’s site, you don’t need a Nordhavn to join, you just need to want to learn about them. Many Nordhavn Owners, like Nancy, participate on Dreamers, and it’s a great place to get to know more about not only Nordhavns, but the trawler world in general.

Anyway, Scott and Diane were brave enough to accept an invitation to dinner on Duet, even though they were informed that they would be beta testers. They arrived from their home in Olympia, WA, bearing gifts in the form of a beer “growler” and white chocolate mousse. Both were most welcome, as Captain Ron loves beer, and not incidentally, mousse, and Nancy loves anything that looks like food. A growler, for those not in the know, is a glass bottle of about a half gallon which contains beer directly from the brewery. Both the beer and the mousse were great, as was the company.

Scott and Janet are experienced divers, see www.boydski.com for some of the great dives, and pictures, they have taken. They have also started a site for Sea Eagle, www.nordheaven.com, which is super reading. We look forward to seeing them again. Their inaugural trip from San Francisco to Seattle on Sea Eagle went well and they are now cruising the PNW.

After partying, it was time to get going. We wanted to give Duet a bit of a test but we didn’t really have time to head back to the San Juan Islands. So we picked a place south of Seattle, a sheltered anchorage where we could spend some time, but still return easily in a day. Duet ran beautifully on the way south, despite a bit of head wind and sea.

Despite our years aboard pilothouse trawlers in general and Nordhavns in particular, we are still surprised by how calm it seems from inside the pilothouse and how windy it can be outside. In the case of a boat the size and heft of a Nordhavn 50, there is little noise in winds of less 25 or 30 knots. Above those speeds on our 46 there was whistling through the paravane and mast rigging. In the new Duet’s case, there is an interesting intermittent wailing from the top of the twin stacks, which we believe is the wind blowing over the openings at the top of the stacks, rather like a pipe organ. It seems to start at lower wind speeds than the 46’s symphony did. 

Seas are usually only noticeable if they are on the nose and close together. If they are behind us, they have to get pretty big before we pay much attention. Seas on the beam do get noticed, but with Duet’s Datum managing the stabilizers we have little sense of motion in seas less than 6-8 feet, unless they are short and choppy. Even then, she is heavy enough that the whacking noise they make as they hit the hull is more disconcerting than the actual motion.

On this trip we had steady winds in the high teens on the nose, gusting to the low 20’s, we’d guess, although the wind meter is still on the to be repaired list. Our wind speed estimates are based on the water state, like spume on the water, water blowing off the tops of the waves, etc. The Beaufort Scale describes these conditions in more detail.

We also had wind against current, which caused a bit of a choppy head sea to build up, but Duet rumbled serenely on at about 8 knots. Stepping outside gave one a sense of the weather, the wind was blowing hard enough to hear and there was a steady slap as the waves hit the hull. Inside, there was only the hum of the motor, the low chatter of the radio and an occasional faraway thump of a larger than usual wave. We had spray over the pilothouse windows and Captain Ron had to go outside to reattach an errant window wiper when it came adrift, but that was the sum total of our problems.

We anchored with little fanfare towards the north eastern end of Quartermaster Harbor on Vashon Island. The harbor is large, and there were few boats there, it was mid week and the weather was windy, cold and intermittently raining. We fired up the diesel heater, and settled Duet for the night.

By this time it was around 6PM, so Nancy showered and then started sorting out something for Ron to grill for dinner. While Ron was showering, Nancy, heard a voice shouting “help, help”. Figuring that Ron had somehow become entangled in the shower, or, more likely, needed more soap, she started out of the galley for the stairs belowdecks. Fortunately, she happened to look out the starboard salon window as she passed it. Floating by Duet, about 20 feet away, was a small sailboat, upside down, with a man clinging to the hull. He was in his early 70’s, wearing a t-shirt, shorts, boots and no life jacket. The hull was drifting slowly with the current and the wind towards shore.

Nancy went to fetch Ron, who, thankfully, was through the soap cycle and thus able to rinse and dress immediately. By the time he got into the salon, the sailboat had come to an abrupt halt about 200 feet from shore, aft of Duet, as the mast jammed into the shallow bottom beneath the boat. The man was still clinging to the hull and calling for help. There was no one around, and it was near dusk, windy and cold. So off went Duet’s crew on a rescue. First though, we needed to launch the tender, which was still secured to the boat deck. Here the new Steelhead davit really paid it’s dues. The tender was launched rapidly and safely, despite a building breeze and Duet’s rocking back and forth in the chop. It even started at the first turn of the key. 

We reached the sailboat with little drama, but then faced a problem. The man, probably suffering from shock, refused to disembark into the Duet’s nice dry dinghy. He wanted us to tow him and the sailboat to the beach, about ½ a mile to our west. We declined, as we have no towing experience and, even if we did, the chances were good we would rip the mast off the boat in the process. It was also Captain Ron’s judgement, as Dr. Ron, that this gentleman needed to get off the hull and get warm, pronto. He had the shakes, was white in the face, was soaked through and the temperature was continuing to drop as the sun set. So we coaxed him into the dinghy, using a combination of encouragement from Nancy and Captain Ron as bad cop.

We then ferried him ashore to the beach where his car was located. He had car keys and a phone in the car, so he was able to phone his wife to come get him. We didn’t stay for the reunion, we wanted to get back to Duet before it got too dark. We did find out that, unfortunately, this was his first sail on the vessel, as she was brand new. She was a beautiful little thing, a pram in sailor talk, with a blunt stern, a wooden hull and a full sailing rig, similar to the one shown below. Her owner hoped to get her towed that evening or the next day. She was still astern of Duet when we went to sleep but she was gone by the next morning, so hopefully his plans came to fruition.

After returning to our vessel in good order, we talked about the rescue. It was a first for us, and we wanted to learn as much as we could. We made several mistakes that we could identify. First, we didn’t bring a life jacket for the sailor. Second, we didn’t bring a cell phone, so if he hadn’t had one we would have had trouble summoning his wife. Third, we didn’t bring a blanket or a towel to warm him up, although he looked a lot better once he was out of the water and on the dock. So we learned a few things and we assume he did too.

After all that excitement moving Duet to Poulsbo the next day was a bit of an anticlimax. She ran as usual with little fanfare and rapid progress. We spent several days at Poulsbo, which was turning out to be our go to anchorage near Seattle, and then returned to Jeff’s dock the day before we were due to go home.

During this time, we did test the new anchor chain. It worked like a charm, no more problems with hanging up on the gypsy. It does still tend to hockle, or pile up, a bit in the chain locker, so Ron is thinking about what to do about that. The 50’s chain locker is much shallower than the 46’s, because of the machinery space in the bulbous bow underneath it.

The only other issue that surfaced was the leak on Duet’s main engine coolant pump, which had been identified on survey, worsened. Ron wasn’t happy with taking it on our offshore journey to Portland, so we arranged for Jeff’s mechanic to remove the pump and take it to Hatton Marine (www.hattonmarine.com) for rebuilding.

Ron also spent some time with Duet’s raw water pump. Unlike many Nordhavns, Duet is a “wet exhaust”, which means that she brings water in from outside the boat to cool her engine exhaust, before it is discharged at the stern. Other Nordhavns are “keel cooled” and use a system more like a Mack truck, namely a radiator under the boat (the keel cooler) and a dry stack running to the top deck, where exhaust gases are vented.

There are pros and cons to both wet and dry exhausts, which we won’t bore you with here. Suffice it to say, Captain Ron is happy with his wet exhaust, after much study. Said wet exhaust, however, gives Duet an extra pump over our 46, namely the pump that brings in the cool water from under the boat, pumps it through the heat exchanger (thereby cooling the hot exhaust gases so they can be safely pumped outside) and returns warm water to whatever body of water Duet is floating in.

It is an efficient system. Exhaust gases leave the main engine at about 600 degrees Fahrenheit, but by the time they have been mixed with the water, they have cooled enough not to melt the rubber hose they are traveling through and the water is cool enough to touch. The pump which makes this possible, known as the “raw” water pump, is key to Duet’s continued progress; if it stops we stop.

Captain Ron wanted to make sure he knew how to change the impeller on this pump before we traveled any great distance. The impeller is a rubber unit which spins inside the pump and keeps the water going. They fail, usually when you least expect it, so you need spares. As an aside, the rest of Duet’s engines, namely the generator and the wing engine, also have wet exhausts and raw water pumps, so Captain Ron has worked on these systems many times before.

The raw water pump on Duet’s main engine, however, was to prove a little different. First, it is huge, compared to the other motors. Second, it is impossible to remove the impeller, or at least it seemed so to Ron when he first tried it. After much struggle, he consulted Duet’s previous owner, who confirmed that Ron’s instincts were right, it is easier to remove the entire pump and either replace the impeller and put the pump back, or, more easily, put in a spare pump with the impeller already loaded. Unfortunately, it took Ron a day of effort and several sacrificed impellers before this approach occurred to him. Fortunately, he carried out these activities at the dock, not offshore.

So Duet’s raw water pump was subdued, removed, cleaned and replaced with the spare the previous owner had handy. Ron also replaced the impeller in the now spare original pump, so that he was ready for a quick replacement in the event of a catastrophic failure. Nancy, meanwhile, was just happy to get her sink back after much cleaning and fiddling with said pump in the galley.

We also took some time to install Duet’s storm plates for our journey south. For this trip we only installed them on the port side salon windows, as we weren’t expecting any weather.

Finally, Ron found the boat he’s been looking for all along. Unfortunately, she already belonged to someone else, so he was forced to admire her from afar. These boats, which are used by the US Coast Guard, as well as other nation’s sea going services, are built in Washington state. This one is a support vessel for the yachtbuilder Westport, whose west coast delivery dock is located next to Pacific Yacht Management. We have seen several brand new Westports close up, but this vessel definitely rose to the top of Ron’s list. 

Too soon we were back aboard Southwest Air bound for Reno. We would be returning for a quick 4 day weekend prior to our scheduled two week trip from Seattle to Portland. The short trip was specifically so that Ron could reinstall the main coolant pump and sort out some of our other gear, before our departure.



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