Change of Watch

As some of you know, we sold Duet in March.  While it may seem abrupt, this decision has been percolating for some time.  We began, last summer, to talk about what we wanted to do with the boat in ’22.  One of the advantages, or disadvantages, depending on your perspective, to owning a boat like Duet, is you can take her almost anywhere.  We, for example, have traveled more than 20,000 miles aboard her, from Anacortes, WA to Brisbane, Australia, and many points in-between.  We’ve had some amazing experiences, met some marvelous people, and fixed a lot of equipment along the way.  

Cruising a boat like Duet, in remote places, is time consuming and expensive.  It is a truly rewarding experience, but it does tend to suck all the air out of the room, namely you don’t do much else.  Over the decade we’ve owned her, we’ve talked a lot about what else we would like to do, once we had more time when Ron retired in June of ‘20.  

The initial idea was to keep the boat and also do some land travel, we had already scheduled a trip to Kenya in May of ’22.  The big problem with this idea is that it leaves little time to spend at home, or with family and friends.  To visit all the places we want to visit, and can’t take the boat, like the interiors of India and Africa, plus cruise the boat, is more than a full time job. We eventually figured this out by trying to make it all fit on a calendar.  

Something had to give. For the last ten years, it’s been the land travel. Now that we’ve achieved our dream of crossing the Pacific on our own boat, we had some trouble prioritizing the boat versus other dreams.  So we began to talk about selling the boat.  This was not an easy decision.  Duet has been a big part of our lives for a long time, as has the cruising life.  We have, as some readers may remember, made this decision before, with the previous Duet, Nordhavn 46 hull #50, which we cruised from ’00-‘07.  So this wasn’t a new debate.

By the time we arrived in Puerto Vallarta in January of ’22 this topic dominated our conversations.  We did a little cruising, hauled Duet out for her bi-annual bottom paint and fin service and then took a serious step, we called our PAE broker, Larry Gieselman.  We’ve know Larry since around ’93, when we first visited PAE, well before we bought our 46.  We trust his judgement.  He said, if you get the boat to Dana Point, I can probably sell her before she arrives.  

So we called the delivery crew he recommended and off she went.  Actually, it took more time than that, there were long evenings of emotional discussion about giving up cruising, and the changes it would mean for both of us.  But, in the end, we concluded that nothing is irreversible, we’ve sold boats before and never had a problem buying another one, if that fit our goals at the time.  

Prior to the crew’s arrival in Puerto Vallarta, Ron wrote pages of instructions, we fueled her up, and prepared her as if we were going to be aboard.  We paid for an insurance waiver, Larry arranged for a brokerage slip, and we accepted an offer for her, sight unseen, with a backup offer in the wings. Ron also spent time on the phone with OMNI Bob, our weather router, and, fortunately, also the one Captain Colin uses.  A window was identified, the crew grabbed a flight from Los Angeles, and off she went.  Nancy avoided seeing her off, as she cried when the 46 left the dock without us and she didn’t want to go through that again.  Neither did Ron. 

We followed her track anxiously, and Ron spoke with Captain Colin every day.  The crew of three ran nonstop from Puerto Vallarta to Ensenada, with two rough nights, but overall excellent weather, especially for February.  Duet operated flawlessly throughout, which apparently is not the norm for delivery crews.  We hoped she would, although Ron was a little concerned, as she hadn’t done much cruising since the previous summer.  We did do a lot of testing before the crew arrived, and that paid off.  

We flew north to meet her in Dana Point, where the new owners inspected her, surveyed her and closed the deal.  Funnily enough, they are folks that we know and who live about 35 miles from our home.  

The new owners will live aboard most of the time and will be based in Anacortes, WA.  So Duet is going full circle, returning to familiar waters.  They wanted to get her north as soon as they could, so they could begin to get to know her.  The owner, a captain and a mate took her from Dana Point to Seattle, with several brief weather stops, in early April. Duet again performed flawlessly, in rough weather.  She is a superb sea boat, no question, and we will miss her.  As one of our friends once said, however, you are merely a caretaker of these boats, they will long outlast your cruising dreams.  So Duet is off to a new life, initially in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, after that who knows?  

We appreciate our readers’ time and interest.  This blog will be monitored but, now that we are no longer cruising, we will not update it.

Our first day with Duet, August, 2012.

Crossing the Equator, April, 2017.

Starting a new chapter planting a tree in Kenya, May, 2022.

Cruising, finally!

When we last left off, we had been off the boat during the initial Covid outbreak, and returned to her in July of 2020, just after Ron retired.  We then spent the rest of 2020 working on various projects, detailed below, before finally setting off for Mexico in March of 2021.  We returned from Mexico in June of 2021, and Duet is now dozing at Paradise Village Marina, in Puerto Vallarta.  We fly down to visit her every couple of months, and she is well taken care of by a team of locals, not to mention that Patrick and Alexa of the Nordhavn 50 Noeta, who live aboard at Paradise Village, wander by to check on her frequently.

But, back in July, there was still work to be done.  Lots of work, too much work actually, so the first thing we did was take a serious look at the list and pare it down, a bit.  The idea was that, when we could get vaccinated and safely visit Mexico, we didn’t want to be in the middle of some huge rebuild that would prevent us from getting off the dock.  Since Duet hadn’t been off the dock in two years, things were sure to break, especially things we didn’t anticipate, but we anticipated that and figured we wouldn’t be far from help.  

So where to start?  It didn’t really matter much, but projects already underway, like the cockpit awning, got priority.  Also, the salon table.  And, since it was broken and we needed it, replacing the pilothouse freezer moved up the queue.  Then there were the usual things, like updating registrations for the Gprib and the PLBs, and Duet’s USCG registration, and the other endless paperwork that goes with running a cruising boat in several countries.  Then we needed provisions, parts, etc., plus we wanted to be able to keep in touch with home, so the Iridium Go had to come out and be tested.  

First, came the new salon table. It showed up one day, and was installed in about an hour. It took nearly a year to get it, but it was worth the wait!

Table on the deck
Table installed
The master carpenter, who made it, checking it out in it’s new home
Detailing underneath
Table in use

The next item to be finished was the cockpit awning. This too had taken over a year to get done, but was also worth the wait.

But first, naturally, Ron had to do a few things. The stainless steel frame for the canvas was installed, but it needed to be drilled for the fasteners for the sunscreens. Drilling stainless isn’t an easy task, but Ron managed to get it done.

Drilling the stainless
We used hydraulic oil to lubricate the drill bit and the tap which cut the threads
Installed turn button fastener for the sunscreens. The masking tape keeps the drill bit from scratching the steel.
Stretching out the canvas over the awning frame
Finished awning
Awning from another angle
Sunscreens in place

The cockpit awning was one of the most expensive upgrades we’ve made to the boat. You can do it more inexpensively using standard bimini parts, but we didn’t like the look. It has turned out even better than we expected, in hot weather it keeps the salon cooler, and in rain it provides another room. We leave the sunscreens up almost all the time, as they also help keep the heat out.

The next big project was the pilothouse freezer. It had died some months before, and getting a new one during the pandemic took some doing. But, first, we had to get the old one out.

Dismantling the freezer cabinet
So now we have to get it out of the hole
The block and tackle comes to the rescue
And it’s out!
Reconfiguring the base since the new freezer is a different size
Installing tie downs for the new freezer, to keep it from jumping in the air in heavy seas
And here it is, the new freezer.

Over time, while waiting for a vaccine to be developed, we got a lot done.  More, in fact, than we thought we would.  This was despite the failure of the master head Y valve, which, in its defense, has seen a lot of use over the years.  Head projects are ones that Ron really wants to avoid, and, normally, we would have outsourced this, but with Covid we decided not to have workers inside the boat for any period of time, so Ron did this one himself.  

We will spare you pictures of toilets, but we had to include this shot of the right angle bronze discharge fitting. Scary

Nancy also figured out that it had been 5 years since Duet’s last insurance survey.  Our insurance was expiring in March of ’21 and we didn’t want to be somewhere in Mexico trying to find a surveyor and a yard to haul the boat.  So Duet got surveyed. 

She passed with flying colors, as usual, and we had all our paperwork ready to get our policy sorted out.  The insurance turned out to be quite a long story, as the boat insurance market is in a tailspin at the moment, but more on that later.

Getting ready to rebuild the steering
Steering ram in bits
Servicing the big tender engine
Adjusting the valve clearances on the main engine
All’s good
Removing the TV dish, which we haven’t used since we bought the boat
And off it goes

So we chugged along, traveling back and forth between San Diego and Tahoe frequently, and rapidly, in the new family hauler.  This time around Nancy managed to get her own Porsche, instead of just being allowed to occasionally drive Ron’s 911. So she was a happy camper.

We managed to start swimming again, and we both walked and Ron did some running, so we did our best to stay healthy while also staying away from people.  We did see some folks, at a distance, outside, in masks and we did eat take out food, although we stayed away from restaurants, during the brief times that they managed to open.

Loading up
Mono Lake, which we passed on every trip to and from San Diego
Hazards on the journey

We also upgraded our fire safety systems some more.

Smoke hoods, as we may have to go through a smoke filled area to escape our master stateroom
Testing the new escape ladder. The ladder allows us to exit through the forward head, rather than having to go up the stairs to the pilothouse or out through the engine room. In a fire, the more ways out the better.

We spent some time at home, where winter had definitely arrived.

It’s definitely time to go south!
Local exercise

We did some local visiting in San Diego.

Bob Senter, aka Lugger Bob, on his new boat
Ron wishing his engine room was as spic and span as Bob’s

We had visitors, in the form of our Pacific crew, Sean, and his family, over Christmas. Naturally, Sean got pressed into service the day he arrived.

Remounting the salon door
Resetting the door meant the door key had to be reground

In January, we signed up, both in San Diego and in Reno, to give vaccinations.  No one wanted Nancy, but they all wanted Ron, since he can actually give a shot.  But, if you want Ron, you have to take Nancy too.  That worked out pretty well, and she can at least direct traffic.  We ended up working mainly at PetCo Park, home of the San Diego Padres, at a huge drive through vaccination center run by University of California San Diego Health System.  We also worked in Reno at the Livestock Center, which is where they hold the rodeos.  

The differences between how the two vaccine centers were run were interesting, but they both got the job done.  As part of volunteering, we were both vaccinated in February.  It was actually quite moving, as patient volume died down around 7PM, they called on the hand radios for all volunteers needing a vaccine to come to a particular tent.  As we all walked across the huge PetCo parking lot, the rest of the volunteers cheered us.  We continued to volunteer at both sites until we departed for Mexico in mid March.  Now we have returned, while the PetCo Park center is closed, we still volunteer for Washoe County, where we live.  It was a rewarding experience and one we would recommend.  

The San Diego Mega Vaccine center, giving 5,000 vaccines a day
A vaccine lane, processing 24-30 cars every 20 minutes
Ron giving shots

After we got our second shot, Ron was comfortable that we could travel safely in Mexico, provided we followed masking and social isolation protocols.  So, weather charts were studied, marinas were contacted and, finally, two years almost to the day she arrived back in Ensenada on the ship from Australia, Duet returned there, as her first port of call. 

Out come the guides
Up goes the Iridium GO satellite connection
Provisioning begins
You can never have too much oil
New BBQ grill
New grill means new regulator, the old one turned out to be leaking
Repairing the fishing gear
On goes a new fish table
All set, now we just need a fish

On this trip Nancy caught fish, lots of fish. Unfortunately, they were all bonito, which we don’t eat. The fishing in the Sea of Cortez this year was poor, even the locals were complaining. So, after several weeks of hauling in and releasing bonito after bonito Nancy stopped fishing and will try again next year.

The plates are on, now we we’ve got to leave!
Leaving San Diego we met the Navy
Surge in Coral

The weather immediately tanked and we were stuck, but at least we were cruising.  Of course the first thing that happened was something broke, but in this case it was a self inflicted injury in the form of a foreign object getting swallowed by the master head.  Yes, the same head that Ron had just rebuilt.  The first rebuild  had taken a lot out of his back and neck, which after years of bending over operating tables, are not as strong as they should be.  But, after much thought, we figured out a way to lever the head off its mount, without doing any heavy lifting, and the offending item was extracted.  All was well!  Not only that, but the weather decided to behave, and off we went.

The offending item that blocked the head

Our trip down the Cabo Peninsula was relatively uneventful.  We left Ensenada bound for as far south as we could get, which turned out to be Magdalena Bay, about 500 miles south of Ensenada.  For once our stop was not due to weather but to circumstances along the way.  We hit heavy fog the night we were approaching the Bay and there were a lot of pangas fishing offshore.  Nancy was forced to wake Ron almost immediately and both of us stayed up all night conning Duet along the coast without running over anything important.  So we found ourselves exhausted at dawn and we figured stopping was the safe move.  We pulled out a couple days later, well rested and whipped around the corner to the marina at Puerto Los Cabos, which is where we normally stop to wait for a window to turn north again to the Sea of Cortez.

During the trip Duet ran perfectly.  We were however, set up on by a flock of seagulls, who absolutely refused to move.  They shit all over the boat, and it took both of us hours to clean her.  We then hired a team to really clean her up when we arrived at Puerto Los Cabos.  After this episode, we decided to add a power washer to Duet’s inventory of tools.

Where’s a shotgun when you need one?

Our trip to the Sea of Cortez was bumpy.  This route is, at least every time we’ve traveled it, bumpy. 

Duet pounding her way to the Sea of Cortez in 2015, it hadn’t changed at all (photo courtesy of Kim Kemp, of the Nordhavn 60 Sea level II)

So we bumped along and, after two days, arrived back at one of the first anchorages we ever visited in the Sea of Cortez in 2015, which seems like a long time ago.  Many miles have passed under Duet’s keel since then and we have greyed a bit, but to us it seemed like just yesterday that we had last visited.

Lots of company in Isla San Francisco. The little dots around the cross in the middle (which is Duet) are all boats. The more solid shapes are land.
Some of it pretty big, this is the 350 foot mega yacht Ulysses
Nancy at Isla San Francisco

Our time in the Sea was spent pretty much the way our last two seasons were spent there, finding a nice anchorage, staying there for a bit and then moving on.  The weather was a little cranky, despite the fact it was nearly April the northers were still howling along, so we avoided those as best we could.  By mid April, the weather had switched mainly to the south, which provides its own set of problems in this area.  The biggest issue is that there are few anchorages which provide protection from all directions, or even from 3 directions.  So, you either pick a place you like and roll all over, or you pick a place with shelter from whatever you think is coming that day, and hope for the best.  

The Sea of Cortez has some truly beautiful sights…

Sunset off the bow
Moonrise off the stern at the same time

During the spring and into the summer in the Sea there is a phenomenon known as the Corumuel. It is a strong westerly wind, that builds up in the early evening and can blow all night.  Most of the anchorages are not sheltered from the south and the west at the same time.  So you find yourself guessing at the chance of a Corumuel, while also trying to anchor for the prevailing southerlies.  This anchorage dance is something we are quite accustomed to, having spent years doing in the Bahamas.  So Ron got it mostly right, and wrong once or twice, which is a pretty good performance actually.  We were using some new weather products, some of which worked and some of which didn’t. Ron also discovered a bug in the widely popular PredictWind product, and spent some time working with their tech support to fix it.  We aren’t sure it’s fixed yet, but we will find out this fall when we start planning journeys again.

While we were cruising we did a few projects, naturally.

Wiring the new cockpit lights
Putting in a new propane sniffer
Getting to know the new Airmar weather unit. It’s not installed yet but
we figured out how to do it.

In contrast to our previous visits, this time we cruised in company, on and off, for several weeks with Nordhavn 50 Miss Miranda.

Gwen and Larry had been in the Sea most of the winter, and had found several neat anchorages which we took close note on.  We also visited Puerto Escondido, where a new marina has been established since we were last here.  A number of Nordhavns were there already, including the well known N55 Red Rover, and N76 Secret, whose owners we had met in San Diego. We rented a car and toured Loreto, which is small tourist town suffering hard times due to the pandemic.

Miss Miranda arrives

Around the end of April Miss Miranda returned to Costa Baja Marina in La Paz for some yard work and we chugged off north to visit Bahia Conception, one of our favorite places.  After several weeks there, we kicked back in Agua Verde for about 10 days and finally worked our way south to Costa Baja to link up with Miss Miranda for the bash back to San Diego.  The idea was to hang out at Puerto Los Cabos and then whip around the corner northbound when our weather router, the esteemed OMNI Bob, gave us the go ahead.

Duet anchored at Agua Verde
Vultures at Agua Verde

Unfortunately, the go ahead was not forthcoming.  The weather continued to howl down out of the north, and, while there were windows, they would only get us as far as Magdalena Bay, where we would be stuck for the foreseeable future.  We decided being stuck in Puerto Los Cabos, with it’s restaurants and beaches, was preferable, so we stayed put.


At this point, our boat insurance reared its ugly head.  We had insurance which covered us in Mexico until June 1, at which point we were supposed to be north of 27N, or around Ensenada.  The weather wasn’t cooperating, however, so we called our agent and asked for a navigation exception, until we could get north.  This hasn’t been a problem in the past, but this time it was a nonstarter. 

Apparently, the insurance company would prefer that we head out into weather that we, with a short handed crew, and 30,000 miles of ocean experience, were not comfortable with, rather than wait.  We even offered to increase our deductible for named storms, on the off chance that an early season tropical storm or hurricane hit while we were waiting.  No dice.

Captain Ron wasn’t willing to get us beat up, and possibly have a problem if one of us became sick or injured, or we had a mechanical issue, just to meet the insurance company’s requirements.  So we shopped for new insurance.  This was not a fun process.  The quotes we got were truly ridiculous, not only were the rates triple to quadruple what we had been paying, but the deductibles were in the 10% range, which is unheard of, or at least we hadn’t heard of it.  Further, the conditions of coverage included things like hauling the boat out of the water every time there was a named storm.  This is not possibly in many places in Mexico, and can actually be worse than leaving her in the water, as, with high winds boats often fall over when they are on land.  

Finally, after much phoning and quite a bit of stress over whether to go anyway or let the insurance lapse (including our liability coverage, which we weren’t willing to go without) we found another agent, who got us OK, not perfect, but OK, coverage to stay in Mexico.  Our premiums went up by a factor of 3, and we had a 10% named storm damage deductible, which was a new high for us, but it was a US based company, which would adjudicate in the US, unlike a number of other choices, like the one in South America, which would adjudicate in Costa Rica…so we signed on.

During this process, we rethought our cruising agenda a bit.  We do this quite often, as Duet is capable of taking us pretty much anywhere we want to go.  By this time it was early June, and we had planned to return to Mexico in November.  So we were going to bash 1,000 miles north and then, in four months, turn around and travel 1,000 miles south.  We’re slow, but even we figured out that this wasn’t the most efficient way to spend our time.  So we asked around and found that Paradise Village Marina, in Puerto Vallarta, had a nice sheltered 60 foot slip for us.  Paradise Village is a well known hurricane hole, and, to seal the deal, our friends Alexa and Patrick live there aboard their Nordhavn 50, Noeta.  So off to Puerto Vallarta we went.  

It was a pretty easy journey, if bit bumpy out of the gate.  OMNI Bob provided his usual good advice, which included encouraging us to go as a tropical storm/hurricane was forming south of PV.  This was not something we would normally have done, but he was confident it would turn out to be nothing and we would be better off getting going than waiting, in case a real storm threat appeared.  He was right, and we rumbled south, arriving at dawn, after an easy 36 hour run, at the Nuevo Vallarta breakwater just north of the Puerto Vallarta harbor.  We had great directions and tidal info from Alexa and Patrick, so we negotiated the shallow entrance with aplomb and carefully docked Duet in her new home.  

Dolphins offshore on the way to Puerto Vallarta

The next week was a blur of finding boat watchers and divers, sorting our double lines, writing a hurricane plan for our new insurance company and getting to know the neighbors.  Like many of our Nordhavn friends, we’d never actually met Alexa and Patrick in the flesh before, so it was fun getting to know them in person.  We sorted out a flight home, ordered some new canvas for Duet’s windows, and, about a month after we originally planned, we flew out of Mexico, arriving back at Lake Tahoe in mid June.

The big fenders
Dock neighbors
Fenders, more fenders, you can never have too many fenders

The house was still standing, and our little town, which had been discovered by the Covid relocation crowd, was still jammed.  We took the cars off their blocks, got some fresh food, and rejoined the land bound.  Duet dozed peacefully, we had installed 3 wifi motion activated cameras aboard, which gave Ron lots of info on what was going on.  Unfortunately, the salon camera appears to be afraid of lightening, and sends us a message every time a bolt strikes anywhere nearby.  This usually happens in the middle of the night, but it’s a small price to pay for being able to keep an eye on the boat remotely.

Our boat watcher has been opening the boat twice a week to air her out (it’s very hot and humid there), and provides a verbal report via the pilothouse camera.  She is washed every two weeks and her bottom is cleaned at the same time.  Both Alexa and Patrick and Richard and Olive on the N55 Chinatsu (which is three slips down from Duet) send us updates every now and again.  So all is well.  We will be flying down to see her for a week in mid August, and again for several months starting in mid October.  She does need a brief yard visit, and we hope to get in some cruising of the Pacific coast of Mexico, which is not a place we have previously visited.

We wish all our readers a happy and safe summer.

It’s been a long time….

It’s been a long time since we have posted.  A lot has happened, to us and to the world, since we brought Duet to San Diego in March of 2019.  But big news first, Ron has finally retired.  Yes really.  For those who have known us for some time, well they’ve heard this story before, three times to be exact.  But this time we mean it.  No interim duty, no temporary work, nothing.  He’s done.  Really.  He means it this time.

But back to March, 2019.  We left Duet happily ensconced in her slip at Cabrillo Isle Marina, which is one of the best managed marinas we’ve ever stayed in.  Tom from Blue Moon Yachts kept an eye on her for us, while his guys washed her every two weeks, as she is way too near the airport and jet engine fumes. They waxed her, which made her look like new. They also filled her water tank to flush the water maker, every time they washed her.  The folks from Dockside Diving cleaned her bottom every three weeks, scrubbed her bulbous bow and changed her zincs. Her new paint looks untouched.

Clean bulbous bow

She was empty, of food, fuel, beer, parts, you name it, we didn’t have it.  But she was safe enough, with good friends in town if we needed help.

Dynamic Duo Jeff Merrill and Bob Senter visit Duet

Back in Tahoe, Ron suited up and went back to the world of operating rooms, call schedules, paperwork and all the things that go with being a full time anesthesiologist.  Since August 2014 he had worked only a part-time schedule and had not taken night call. Re-entry to full-time was a bit of a shock. No afternoon naps, no broken boat bits, just patients, phone calls in the middle of the night and the very occasional day off.  He enjoys working at the VA though, and it was good to see friends again.

Nancy got back into the general swing of things, swimming, hiking, helping her Mom (now 89) relocate to an apartment that wasn’t a climb up a hill, getting the house sorted out, keeping an eye on Duet and catching up with good friends.  It was nice to be home.

This being Tahoe, we had winter, here is our driveway being plowed out

We visited Duet every 8-10 weeks, for a week, which meant we didn’t really do much.  She didn’t move, although Ron started up all the gear and did a few small projects.  It was supposed to be a vacation and we tried, we tried really hard, to keep it that way.

Then came Covid 19.  We left the boat in February of 2020, with plans to return in April.  We finally made it back in July.  Ron worked in the new virus environment for 5 months.  As an anesthesiologist, he is heavily exposed, because every time he intubates or extubates a patient, respiratory droplets go literally everywhere.  So it was stressful, but also rewarding, to take care of patients who needed surgery during this difficult period.  Unfortunately, three of his colleagues at the Reno VA died of the virus early on before we knew how contagious it really was. One was a good friend.

Ron at work in full Personal Protective Equipment

Ron had already made plans, in 2019, to retire on June 30, 2020. It was a difficult transition while the pandemic continued, however the VA was ready to fill his slot.  A good friend, who previously worked at a private practice in Reno, took Ron’s space and he is leaving the department in excellent hands.   

In March, Nancy managed to rupture a lumbar disc.  This is not something that she recommends you try at home.  Because of the pandemic, she was unable to access treatment on a timely basis, and ended up with some nerve damage in her left foot.  She had a repair done in early May and is now recovering well.  The damage to the nerves will take about a year to heal, but she can swim and walk and is slowly coming back to full strength.  If this had to happen, it wasn’t a bad time for it, as we can’t cruise anywhere anyway.

So why aren’t we cruising, you ask? Duet can keep us isolated easily enough.  The problem isn’t being isolated, the problem is, if you slip up and get sick, you need care.  This is difficult to access in places like Mexico.  So why don’t we go north?  We talked about that, but we think we want to return to the South Pacific in the spring of 2022, so going two thousand miles north is definitely the wrong direction.  Besides, before she can go anywhere, Duet needs some TLC after her long Pacific crossing.  She’s also been sitting, and that’s bad for boats.  So, all in all, San Diego made sense for the time being.

Ron has a list of projects, as usual, some of which are pretty important.  We’d had started a series of things, like a new cockpit awning and a replacement for the salon table, which had ground to a halt while we weren’t aboard, so those needed to be completed.  So we decided to stay put until we can either head for Mexico this winter, or until the spring/summer of 2021.  At that time, we will have to decide whether another Pacific crossing is still something we want to do and is feasible.  If so, we’ll get started on the process of getting ready to go.  

If not, we’ll probably head north to the Pacific NorthWest, British Columbia (whenever they will let us in again) and Alaska.  Never say never though, because recently we’ve also been talking about shipping Duet to Florida instead, doing the East Coast again and then crossing the Atlantic to cruise Scandinavia.  Anyone who cruises will be familiar with these plans written in sand at low tide.  Regardless, Duet will be moving again in the next year or so, assuming the pandemic resolves enough that Dr. Ron gives the OK for us to set off.  

In the meantime, there’s lots to do.  Some projects are pretty small, like installing a new compressor on our air horn and some, like plumbing the wing into the Reverso oil change system, are much larger. We’ve also got everything in between, including actually getting Duet off the dock for some sea time to determine what’s still working and what’s not.  Suffice it to say, Chief Engineer Ron has got his hands full.

Installing drain in cockpit drawer to prevent it leaking into cabinet below
Drain hose to bilge

Like many older Nordhavns, the rollers for Duet’s sliding doors had failed.

Engineering a solution for the worn out wheels under the sliding doors

Ron’s initial solution is a block, not a wheel. It is composed of Delrin, which is a strong plastic. Nancy was skeptical, but it works well on the port pilothouse door . We’ll see how it lasts.

Delrin block to replace wheel
Routered track in block
Replacing the propane bottle restraints, both bottles also needed re-certifying
Fixing the hinges on the cockpit locker
Replacing the A/C pan mounts
New main engine coolant bottle
Expensive new hose for coolant bottle

Ron would like to note here that, while it was an expensive hose for the coolant recovery bottle, it has also fixed the ongoing problem. The previous hose collapsed under vacuum when the engine cooled, so it didn’t return the coolant, which had overflowed into the reservoir when the engine was hot, back to the main coolant tank. The new hose doesn’t collapse.

Ron also solved a problem that had been worrying him for some time, namely protecting the boat’s 24V battery bank from his aging memory. Duet’s engine room fans are 24V. They draw a lot of power, so something needs to be feeding the 24V batteries whenever they are running, either the 24V alternator (off the main engine) or the 24V charger (with the generator). When we shut down the main engine at the end of a cruise, or shut down the 24V charger, someone, namely Ron, has to remember to shut the fans off, or they will rapidly drain the 24V bank. Duet’s crane, windlass, bow thruster and main engine starter also use that bank, so having it out of service would be unfortunate. To prevent senior moments with this, Ron installed a voltage-sensing relay, which shuts the fans down automatically once the voltage on the batteries drops below their float charge set point.

Voltage sensing relay installed under the master berth near the 24V battery bank
Voltage sensing relay in operation. It has detected that 24 volt bank is not being charged, so power to fans has been cut off.

Nancy, in the meantime, is spending a good part of her time on her recovery, rebuilding muscle tone by swimming and walking and religiously doing her physical therapy.  She was laid up for three months and everything went slack, rather like on Duet!  Now that her back architecture is a bit compromised, she will no longer be handling lines and fenders, so she is going to need to learn how to drive Duet in marinas.  She can drive her in the dark in a crowded anchorage, that’s not a big deal, but driving in a marina is, for some reason, an entirely different proposition. 

Captain Ron, who is an expert at Duet driving, will be teaching her the trick of getting Duet to lumber in and out of her rather tight slip here in San Diego.  Fortunately, Nancy’s got plenty of time to learn before we set off again. On her first try she managed to take Duet out of her slip and down the narrow fairway without incident, during a short testing trip around San Diego harbor. When we returned she backed her right in, no problem. So far, so good.

Nancy has also been clearing out Duet’s cabinets.  Since we are now close enough to home to drive back and forth, we are hauling everything that we haven’t used, or don’t think we need anymore, to the house.  Then we order a bunch of new stuff and haul all that back to the marina.  We are replacing worn sheets and towels, aging kitchen appliances, etc. 

Jeddys, Duet’s upholsterer of choice, redid the salon and pilothouse overheads, and re-upholstered the pilothouse settee.  The canvas maker redid the bimini cover and the forward window covers.  We will be getting a new pilothouse freezer, as the old one is not responding to bells.  So Duet is having a pretty serious makeover to get her ready for wherever it turns out we go next.

New black pilothouse overheads – pretty spiffy

The biggest project we have undertaken so far is the cockpit awning.  During our last four years or so of cruising, we’ve been in southern climates.  It’s hot.  The cockpit is really hot.  Our solution, a large plastic tarp, really didn’t cut it.  So we swore that, when we got somewhere we could find some talented people to do it, we would put on a proper cockpit awning. Stainless steel, canvas, the works.  

San Diego is a good place to get boat work done.  There are a lot of talented tradespeople here.  Ramon, from Chingon Custom Metal Fabrication, is one of the best.  He’s known throughout the area for his stainless work.  We visited his shop, chatted with him and chose Chingon to design and fabricate our new awning structure. 

Ramon getting ready to weld a bleed nipple on the main fuel transfer manifold. This nipple will let Ron bleed the air out of the manifold. Hopefully this will stop the tiny air bubbles in the Racor filters. We will report on this fix after we get some hours on it.
Designing the generator guard, now the generator has no sound shield we needed a way to keep folks from stumbling into it while Duet is underway.
Tool storage at Chingon. Almost everything is turquoise blue!

Given our schedule, and Ramon’s, the design and fabrication process took months, but, finally, we had it.  A truly beautiful bit of work, it stops traffic regularly on the dock. 

New cockpit awning before fitting
Tools to fit the awning
Fitting the new awning, note all the welds were polished after the fit.
Custom can for new awning lights
Awning in place after first fitting
Starboard support leg for awning. One of these was added to each side of the cockpit for more support, as we didn’t want the awning to vibrate offshore.

Once we had the awning, then it needed canvas.  Dave, from Ocean Beach Boat and Auto Upholstery, came highly recommended.  He, Ron and Nancy spent hours discussing various ways to mount the canvas so it melded cleanly with Ramon’s structure.  Dave and Ramon work together a lot, so they both contributed to this thought process.  

Ron and Nancy installed the track for the canvas. The track is screwed onto the boat every 4 inches, so about 60 holes had to be drilled in Duet’s boat deck edge. Fortunately, it uses very small screws. It also had to be bent around the corners, which required a heat gun and, more importantly, an oven mitt to avoid Ron burning his fingers.

Toasting the track
Bent track
Canvas template, the actual material will be white Stamoid, which is a heavy UV and mold resistant marine vinyl. All of Duet’s outside covers are being transitioned to Stamoid, we have had good luck with it.

The new salon table was also progressing. We had visited Ian and his Dad, Wilson, several times at their shop at Shelter Island Boatyard, to discuss wood and see samples. They had visited Duet to take measurements. Then, lo and behold, a table started taking shape.

Wilson McDonald, who is making the table, showing off the first glue up. The main part of the table is teak veneer, glued over plywood, which withstands the temperature and humidity changes well.
A piece of the wenge wood which will be used for an inlay around the edge of the table.
The single teak board that the veneer was made from. The outer rim of the table, beyond the wenge inlay, will also be made from this board. The new table will not have fiddles, which are hard on the elbows. We use silicon mats on the table, so things tend not to move when underway.

Once the table is completed, it will go to the finisher for several weeks. Then it will be installed on Duet, where it will serve as the basis for many happy meals, social gatherings and project team reviews.

In the meantime, Ron chugged along, changing the oil and filters on all the engines, which, while they had been changed before the boat was put up, should be changed again, because she’s been sitting.  So that took some time, but everything fired up normally. 

Oils arrive at the marina.

He also swapped out the Vickers hydraulic pump and the overhung load adapter on the Naiads, installing a new overhung adapter and a rebuilt pump, while rebuilding the old ones to serve as spares.  He changed the hydraulic oil on the system and also changed the filter, which required removing the entire housing (and all the hoses attached to it) turning it upside down to screw it all together again, and then putting it back. 

Dismantling the old Naiad overhung load adapter and pump
Working on the Vickers pump
New overhung load adapter
New strainer for the Naiad heat exchanger, to keep out debris from the main engine pencil zincs. When these get into the exchanger the stabilizers overheat and the exchanger has to be cleaned out. This has happened enough that Ron was tired of cleaning it and designed a permanent fix.

Ron also plumbed the Yanmar wing engine into the Reverso oil change system. Our Reverso System is permanently plumbed to the main engine (lube oil and gear oil), and generator. It had not been plumbed to the Yanmar, so draining gear and lube oil meant using temporary hoses to drain through the dipstick tubes. It worked but Ron thought it was messy and inconvenient.

To access the lube oil sump, Ron converted the single banjo bolt that joins the dipstick tube to the sump to a double length banjo bolt. This allowed him to install a drain hose at the bottom of the dipstick. The gear oil sump already had a threaded drain plug, and Ron converted that to a flare fitting to which he could attach hydraulic hose. Oil change for the Yanmar is now easy and neat.

Wing engine Reverso manifold
Gear oil transfer hose
Double banjo bolt, the dipstick is at the top of the picture and the new Reverso hose is at the bottom.

Nancy had Duet’s fire extinguishers inspected by Aztec Fire and Safety.  All the small handhelds were replaced, while the larger handhelds were re-certified.  The engine room automatic system passed, the lazarette system did not.  So Nancy ordered a new one, which Ron installed.  Needless to say, it was taller than the old one, so the mount had to be re-engineered to fit.  We also figured out how to use a rope ladder to get out of the forward head, in case we are trapped below by fire.  The awful dive boat fire at Catalina in 2019 got us thinking a lot about what would happen aboard Duet, particularly at night, if fire broke out.

Extinguishers awaiting inspection, note the one from the dinghy is missing. It was also replaced.
New lazarette automatic fire extinguisher
Making mount for new lazarette automatic extinguisher

Nancy was tasked to send our Steiner binoculars back to the mothership for repair. The compass had been sticking while we were in Australia. Imagine our surprise when we found out they weren’t broken, they were just lost.

According to Steiner:

In order to get an accurate compass-heading reading from a compass, the magnetic needle in the compass must be able to move freely inside the compass capsule. The needle must be balanced to make sure it can move freely, without touching and dragging along the top or bottom of the capsule; while consistently and precisely point to a compass-heading.

The compass industry has divided the earth into 5 zones. Your compass is pre-set for the magnetic field in the northern hemisphere (Zone 2). If you sail too far outside of the pre-set zone, the compass needle might stick or not work at all. Many trans-oceanic sailors will take 2 or 3 binoculars with different zones.

We took the binoculars from Zone 2 to Zone 5, which was definitely outside their magnetic home. Now that we are back in Zone 2, they are behaving just fine. So repair averted, but new problem created, namely what do we do when we go next time? Steiner sells a “global” version of our excellent Commander binoculars, the Commander Global. It is, however, priced like the top of the line at about $2,500 USD. So we’ll see how that works out when we get organized to go again.

Now that Duet is 20 years of age, we are beginning to remove and re-caulk all her fittings. This includes things like the boat deck and fore deck rails, which were weeping rust during the last part of our Pacific crossing. There is nothing wrong with them, but the caulk that seals them is now worn out, so they are letting water. Removing them and re-caulking is not a complex task, but it takes time and attention to detail.

For this one we retained Morton Marine Services, rather than have Nancy do it. One of Ken’s competent guys showed up, right on time, and removed all the rails in less than a day. The bases went to the shop to be acid washed and he cleaned up all the rails aboard the boat. During the removal process, he wrote off our rubber mallet, but he replaced it with a much nicer one, so it’s all good. They did a great job and we will be working with them again to remove Duet’s rub rail next time she is in the yard.

Not only did they do a great job, but Ron managed to justify a new tool after Nancy watched how useful it was to remove and install the rails. He is now the proud owner of a Dewalt electric screwdriver.

New screwdriver and bits

We will do some of this caulking work ourselves, Ron will be upsizing the dinghy tie downs, so they will be done when they are replaced, and Nancy will do the screws around the base of the flybridge. This work is an ongoing effort, we did the same thing on our 46. We also redo everything we work on, so when Ron replaces our second GPS unit with a new one he will re-caulk the antenna.

Removing base of fore deck rail, note failed caulk underneath.
Numbered pole bases set to go to the shop for cleaning, our rubber mallet looks OK here but by the end of the day it was bent at a 45 degree angle.
Rails on boat deck ready to be cleaned
Replacing the rails
Replacing the rails is a two man job, they are made in sections and have to be lined up exactly to get them back into the bases

The port side portholes need removal and caulking, they will also be done at the boat yard. They were on the weather side of the boat for 9,000 miles, so they took a lot of water. Ron caulked them from the outside in Fiji, which worked but isn’t a long term answer.

Ron’s porthole leak repair, cosmetic it’s not.

Ron has spent a lot of time thinking about what he wants to do if we set off across the Pacific again.  There were really only two single points of failure that worried him on the first trip, the generator and the water maker.  We did have a generator failure, it needed a new rear seal and that was a tough enough situation that Ron wants to have a backup in case something like that happens again.  In the perfect world, we’d install a small generator in the lazarette, but Duet’s lazarette is packed with electrical gear and there is no room.  Instead, Ron is thinking about how much power we can generate from the main engine, running at idle, with a larger alternator. The concern about a water maker failure will be addressed by adding a second water maker.

Some folks would suggest, at this juncture, that we add solar panels.  We had them on our 46 and they did a great job.  This Duet, however, has a limited amount of real estate to install panels.  We do not have a rigid bimini on top of the fly bridge, we fold it down for passages.  There is little room on the roof of the pilothouse without relocating antennas.  We could put them on our new cockpit awning, as it is a rigid structure, but that would require making some changes to the awning itself, which we are loathe to undertake, having just finished it.  Also, regardless, we would still need additional charging power to keep up with this Duet’s power needs, so, while solar panels are a possibility in the future, they aren’t on the current list.

One of the things we are often asked is “why don’t you just get parts if something breaks?”.  This is a good question.  The answer lies in where we take the boat.  The more remote the cruising, the harder it is to get parts on a timely basis or, sometimes, at all.  One of the places we would like to visit is the Gambier Archipelago, which is about 1,000 miles SE of Tahiti, near Pitcairn and Easter Islands.  Getting parts is possible, but could take weeks.  Not being able to keep our batteries charged or make water while we waited for parts would make life difficult, if not impossible, aboard Duet. 

So we are back aboard, at least some of the time. We spend a few weeks at home, then drive to San Diego to spend a few weeks aboard. This schedule will continue until we decide to go somewhere. Normally, we would invite readers to visit, but, in this environment, it’ll have to be a virtual fly by. We look forward to the return of better times and we hope everyone stays safe.

Cruising in Australia



Once we arrived in Australia, we had about four weeks until the third week of January, when we were due to meet the Yacht Express ship in Brisbane, so Duet could travel safely home.  Our actual sailing date wouldn't be available until about a week before, so we targeted mid January as a good time to arrive. The Yacht Express loads at the commercial docks in Brisbane, so we made a reservation at Rivergate Marina, just upriver.

But, right then, Duet was still some 250 miles north of Brisbane, in Bundaberg. So, much as we enjoyed Bundaberg, we needed to get going. 

Ron, of course, did a little work while were in Bundaberg.  We also took some walks and attended functions at the cruisers' yacht club area.

Cleaning windlass parts

Rebuilding the gearbox

Removing the offending windlass switch on the flybridge, so Nancy can't hit the on switch while the windlass is locked, which, the last time she did it, caused a significant oil leak.  In her defense, the switch is easy to bump, even Ron has done it on occasion.  

 The walk along the headland from the marina into town

Bundaberg Yacht Club

The Bundaberg fishing fleet in port

First, though, we had a close encounter with Australia's unique ecosystem, via some dock neighbors who appeared late one evening. Actually, it all started with the late afternoon arrival of an Australian Coast Guard helicopter, which flew over the marina, very low, several times.

Helicopters at that altitude are extremely loud, so even Ron came up out of the engine room to see what was going on. Eventually, said helicopter landed at the head of our dock and a serious looking group of Coast Guard folks came down the dock. The leader was carrying what looked like a detector from the movie Ghostbusters, namely a TV antenna connected to a small box. They walked up to each boat, while the box beeped.

Ron figured it out first, "they are looking for an EPIRB (emergency signaling device) going off". Right he was, they eventually found it on a large tourist vessel at the end of the dock. The captain was summoned, the offending unit located and all quieted down. On their way back down the dock, however, the entire team stopped to chat with the crew of the boat next to us, which had pulled in about an hour earlier.

Nancy, as usual, was hanging out on the back deck and started talking to a teenager who had just disembarked. The teenager said, rather offhandedly, "yes, you've just seen us on television". Nancy, unexpectedly, said "no, we don't watch TV". So she got the whole story, the short version is that this vessel and it's companion, also docked near us, had run into the first box jellyfish of the season, just around the corner, on Fraser Island. Nine people went into the water, all were stung and all were evacuated by the same helicopter which had just noisily taken off from our dock. Two of the older adults died of shock, but the seven younger folks, including Nancy's informant, had survived.

Ron, when told about all this, morosely noted that he knew something in Australia was going to kill him, he just didn't know it would be so soon. He was actually not far off, conceptually, as we were pulling out for Fraser Island the next morning. Swimming, or even dipping a toe in the water, was definitely off the program.

So the next morning, Duet set off bravely for Fraser Island, some 20 miles to the East. This route had been chosen, after much debate, as the shorter of the two routes to Brisbane. It also allowed us to travel "inside" rather than do another overnight offshore run, but it did mean we would have to pick our way through the Great Sandy Straight, which is a challenging area for navigation, as it is prone to shoaling. To complicate matters further, once we survived the transit of the Straight, we would need to exit into the ocean via the Wide Bay Bar, where our sister ship, the Nordhavn 52 Dirona, had almost come to grief several years earlier.  Dirona was entering the Bar, which is more difficult than exiting, as you can't see the conditions well, and the weather was bad, which it wouldn't be on our journey.  Still, it was sobering to read about their experience. 

Nancy, needless to say, had not been a proponent of this route. Ron, on the other hand, thought it would be easier on our tired persons than going outside, and had spent quite a bit of time chatting up local captains to get the best information on how to make the trip. He was confident we could do it, and, since we departed on New Year's Eve, going through the Great Sandy Straight also meant we could spent New Year anchored with a nice bottle of wine and a decent meal, rather than crashing along in the ocean. Nancy was sold.

 The chosen route behind Fraser Island

So off we went, at the crack of dawn, back out the Bundaberg River entrance, and south across Hervey Bay to the entrance to the Great Sandy Straight. Unlike most other shallow places we have cruised, you can't see the bottom in the Straight, you just have a general feel, based on the color of the water, for how shallow it really is. Overall, the water is cloudy, as there is a lot of current whooshing in and out, which stirs up the sandy bottom.

Our initial challenge was the entrance buoys weren't on our charts. This was our first experience with Automated Identification System (AIS) buoys, which are small radio buoys which broadcast their GPS coordinates, just like Duet does with her AIS. The buoys are physically there and they are red and green, they just aren't charted, as it's a lot easier to change the radio signal than update a chart, every time you move a buoy.  These are used in many places along the Australian coast, where the channels change frequently due to shoaling. The buoys showed up just fine on our electronic chart, once Duet was near enough to receive their signals, but it took us a little time to get used to the whole concept.

Once we maneuvered past that, the trip was pretty uneventful, we anchored after a long day in the lee of Fraser Island, just off a local resort. The standard anchorage was crowded, it being New Year, so we went a little further north and found a spot all to ourselves. It was a beautiful sunset, and we saw a new kind of sea creature, at least for us. It was a dudong.  This picture was taken by Odyssea Dive, but it looks exactly like what we saw.  The dudong is native to Australia and the Indian Ocean. It looks like a manatee but has a forked tail. We toasted the success of our long journey, now almost over, and slept well.

The next day we set off with the rising tide to pick our way through the shallow section of the channel. We needed almost high tide or Duet would find herself stuck until the next high tide rolled around. This is not the first time we have cruised skinny waters, we often took our Nordhavn 46, with her 6 foot draft, into 8 foot waters in the Bahamas, but there, at least, you could see the bottom. Not so here, the bottom lurked somewhere down there, invisible, but hopefully at least sandy and forgiving, unlike the rocky reefs in Fiji.

Below is a sailboat that misjudged the tides.  This was New Year's Day, so possibly he started his celebration early. 

The best time to transit shallow areas is on mid tide rising, because then, if you run aground, the high tide soon comes around to lift you off. Also, if you are in an area with big tides, you don't run the risk of the boat tipping over when she is completely out of the water at low tide. The problem with this transit, though, was we needed all the water nature made available to shimmy Duet through, so we had to postpone our departure until later in the tide cycle than we would have liked.

Worse, everyone else had the same plan, so not only were we trying to find water in a skinny channel, we were trying to find it in a narrow passage full of other boats trying to do the same thing. We shoehorned Duet into the parade and we all chugged sedately south down the channel, which was growing ever narrower and shallower, until we hit the "really tricky part" as our friend Mark on N50 Panacea puts it, where depths at high tide are only about 2 feet deeper than Duet's heavy keel. Tidal swings in this area are about 12 feet. The channel at that point is about 100 feet wide, so there's not much room for error.

All went relatively well until we turned the key corner and saw the shallowest "S" bends laid out before us. Four sailboats were sailing serenely towards us, completely blocking the way. We couldn't go back, and, as one of Nancy's favorite mentors (Yoda) says, "there is no try", so forward we went. One of the major problems with sailboats sailing towards you is they often can't see you around their sails. So it was with our four companions, who glided gracefully onward, blissfully unaware of Duet's bulk bearing down on them. They all also seem to have chosen not to interrupt the magnificent silence of the occasion by turning on their radios, so none answered our hails.

The shallow section is shown inside the circle

Ron has seen this movie before, in the shallow waters of Florida's west coast, so he just continued straight down the middle. It helped to know that all the sailboats were catamarans, which have much shallower drafts than Duet, so we weren't forcing anyone into a difficult situation. Also, they were Australians, so they tended to be laid back anyway. They parted for us, no one yelled, and no one ran aground. All in all, it was the best outcome we could have hoped for, although it didn't do our blood pressures any good.

Once we cleared the "tricky bit" it was smooth sailing, so to speak, to Tin Can Inlet, where we sought refuge for the night. Again, Duet's draft dictated our behavior, we needed to exit the Wide Bay Bar around 05:30 the next morning, to travel outward on the end of the incoming tide. The Bar is shallow, so we needed all the water we could get, and we needed the calming influence of the incoming tide against the river current. Exiting river bars with an ebb tide isn't recommended, especially a narrow one with heavy swell like Wide Bay.

To quote the Tin Can Inlet Coast Guard "Coastal bars are dynamic in nature, and the Wide Bay Bar has a reputation for being one of the most dangerous on the Queensland coast because of the length of the crossing (over 3nm), its distance offshore, the length of time it takes for our rescue crews to reach the bar (up to 1 hour depending on conditions) and the effects weather conditions have on the seas thereabouts.”

The Tin Can Bay Coastguard recommend that vessels with drafts exceeding 1m (which is 3 foot 4 inches, Duet's draft is about 5 feet 6 inches) should cross the bar in the last two hours of the incoming tide, preferably at high tide

So, to exit the Bar at 05:30, we needed to start out from Tin Can Inlet around 0400, as Duet would be slow into the incoming current. That meant we didn't want to anchor inside Pelican Bay, which is the most sheltered anchorage near the exit, as it has a shallow entrance channel. We didn't want to run the risk of trying to get out of there in the dark, even with high water, as there are anchored boats and other local hazards. The plan, then, was to anchor right at the entrance to Tin Can Inlet, which is right next to Pelican Bay. Easy entrance, easy exit, how hard could it be?

Not too hard, actually, as long as you don't anchor on the river range. A range is a set of carefully aligned lights, designed to guide boats into or out of a channel after dark. There are two usually lighted markers, a short one in front and a taller one in back, when they align you are in the channel. Ranges can be used coming or going, when they are behind you a crew member looks backwards and tells the pilot which way to steer to stay on the range. We have done this many times on the Intercoastal Waterway, it's disorienting at first, but you get the hang of it.

Nautical range, courtesy of Wikipedia

Solar powered range, Finnish Archipelago, courtesy Wikipedia

Anyway, Nancy somehow missed the range when she carefully chose our anchoring spot, where we got settled just as the sun was setting. It had been a long, tiring day, and the next day was going to be even longer, so we just wanted to get the hook down and rest. We did figure out our mistake, however, when a fishing boat, exiting the river to fish for the night, made an abrupt course change about 200 yards astern of Duet, sitting serenely in the river. Obviously this wasn't going to work, so we hauled up the anchor again, in the gathering dark, and moved a little further downriver, and off the range. Fortunately, our big Rocna set on the first try and we settled down for dinner.

In the image below (aligned North up), the green line is the range, the red dot furthest south is where we first anchored and the red dot just above it is where we spent the night.  Pelican Bay is the bay just below the channel to the Wide Bay Bar, which sets off to the right.

Ron, before we went to bed, also decided to leave our all big deck lights on all night, to ensure that any other exiting or entering boats could see us clearly. We had the generator running anyway, for air conditioning, as it was hot and we wanted to get a decent night's sleep, so the power draw of the lights wasn't an issue. Off to sleep we went, with Duet lit up like a carnival.

Around 2AM Nancy woke up. This isn't uncommon, she often wakes in the middle of the night, visits the head, and then goes back to sleep. This time, however, she went up on deck to see how things were going. Duet was hanging peacefully on her hook and the stars were out.  Her deck lights had attracted a lot of little baitfish, which were schooling noisily all around her. In the middle of all this commotion was a large mother dolphin, accompanied by her baby, zooming around feeding. The mother saw Nancy on the deck, came up alongside, rolled over on her back and made a series of squeaking noises. The baby, learning from Mum, did the same.  

Nancy thought about waking Ron, as these moments don't happen often, but he had to get us safely out of the Bar in a few hours, so she let him sleep. She did try to take some pictures, which didn't come out. She also spent quite a bit of time just gazing over the side in wonder, while the mother and baby fed, splashed, sang and generally enjoyed themselves.

Too soon it was time to leave. The hook came up about 0400 and off we went. The tide was still coming in quite strongly, so Ron increased the throttle setting on Duet's big 300HP Lugger motor. Nordhavn 50s have a large (for Nordhavns) main engine, but one of the advantages is you can call on it in this type of situation. Duet's motor is continuous duty rated, which means we can run it at wide open throttle indefinitely, so there are no worries about working it hard when you need to.

Duet clawed her way to 6 knots to pass a sailboat doing about 4.5. Conditions then got really bumpy, even though we had wind and current running together, which usually means pretty calm conditions. This bar, however, has a reputation for swell and sure enough, we got swell. Seas were about 5 feet, climbing to 6-7 as we got closer to the exit, and very close together, so we were banging up and down quite a bit.

In these bumpy rides we usually slow down to soften the motion, but it's about 4.5 nautical miles from where we were anchored to the exit of the Wide Bay Bar, and Ron wanted to maintain enough speed to clear the inlet before the tide turned. The main was turning 1800-1900RPM, our normal cruising RPM is about 1700, which in calm conditions delivers 7.5-8 knots, so the combination of swell and incoming tide was slowing us down quite a bit. After about 5 minutes at this RPM, the main started to heat up. It wasn't overheating but it was definitely running hotter than it normally does at these RPM.

Given our situation, there wasn't much we could do about this, except hope the main didn't actually overheat while we were exiting, as there was no way our back up wing engine could keep us going in this situation. Ron's theory was that the rough sea conditions were overloading the propellor for that RPM. While we can't prove this, it seems a reasonable hypothesis, given the main cooled right down to normal, at the higher RPM, as soon as we got into the calmer waters beyond the bar.  We also ran it up to wide open throttle later in the day and it behaved normally. 

So there we were chugging along, getting closer and closer to the exit. The Wide Bay Bar has a lot of changing shoaling, so we had GPS coordinates of where to turn to cross it safely. Ron had entered these coordinates on both our PC navigation systems, the fixed Dell that serves as our main computer and our backup laptop, both of which are always running when we travel (this turned out to be a good thing later). Our local sources told us to ignore the range, as shoaling had made it inoperative.

To cross the Bar you make a hard starboard turn, between 6-8 foot seas breaking on the shoals to either side. It's almost impossible to see the turn until you are right on top of it. We were doing just fine, although conditions were worsening as we got closer to the exit, the main engine temperature was steady at about 8 degrees over normal and we were pretty comfortable. Nothing had come loose, and the boat was running quietly, except for the crashing as the bulbous bow hammered through the short seas. We hung on and trusted Duet to get us there.

Ron made the turn perfectly, and lined up between the shoals, where depths were about 11 feet, as expected. We could see the calm water beyond the exit and the shoaling. At that point the main navigation computer crashed, so the screen in front of him went blank. We could see outside, but it is easy to get disoriented when making a turn like this, as the channel is not really visible in all the sloshing water from the shoaling all around the exit.  There are no buoys on this Bar, the shoaling makes it impractical to use them. 

Ron was hand steering Duet at this point. Normally we let the autopilot handle the boat, as it can steer much straighter than we can (it takes into account currents which push the boat off course), but this was a tight, rolly, confused exit and the autopilot doesn't do so well with those, especially if the set course is very short, which this one was. It takes the autopilot some time to figure out it's not on track, and there wasn't enough time to allow it to do that here. 

Duet hand steers pretty well, once you get used to her, but it takes some practice to keep her going straight. Fortunately the seas were ahead and on her beam, rather than behind her, as stern seas make her harder to control.  Also, Ron has had a lot of practice guiding her in and out of tight entrances during our last two years, so he is pretty dialed into how she will behave in a given situation. 

Ron kept steering the compass course he had before the computer crashed, while Nancy rebooted the balky system and confirmed he was doing OK by following our course on the laptop, which was to his right. It's hard to steer straight while looking right, so he stuck with the compass (which is right in front of him) while Nancy watched our progress on the laptop. Thanks to Ron's forethought, the laptop also had the key GPS waypoints for the Bar on it, so Nancy could see that we were right where we were supposed to be. Duet only has one main screen in front of the wheel, which is something we would like to remedy one day, but now was not the time to be thinking about that.

The navigation PC failed inside the red circle, our approximate course is show by the red line.  The bigger shoal was to our starboard, but there wasn't much room for error on the port side either, although it did get deeper as we traveled further out of the Bar.

In the picture below, you can see the big screen of the system which failed, in front of the helm seat.  The laptop sits on the shelf in front of the two radars to the right, with it's screen facing the helm seat.  Ron normally stands when hand steering, he can see better.

The main system came back up relatively quickly, Ron confirmed we were still going the right way, and out we bashed, into calm waters off the Australia coast. This is the first time that this computer had crashed on our entire trip, it will be replaced when we return home. It is getting older and we don't need another experience like that. As previously noted, the main engine cooled right down as soon as we cleared the confused conditions, we had a big hug, and set a course for Mooloolaba.

The rest of our trip to Mooloolaba was, relatively speaking, uneventful. The entrance to Mooloolaba (and no Nancy still can't pronounce it, much to the amusement of our Australian friends) is a tight one, and shallow. Our friend Mark, on the Nordhavn 50 Panacea, came to our rescue again, as it is his home harbor, so he clued us in on how to approach it. Essentially, you approach it with the seas behind you, and, at the right moment, you make a turn across the swell and into the breakwater.

The direction of the swell is shown by the red arrow in the image below.  Obviously, the trick here is timing, too soon and you will be shoved off course by the swell, too late and you will bang into the entrance.  

There is significant shoaling to port when entering, so you need to hug the starboard breakwater. Of course, anyone coming out is trying to do the same thing, and there is limited visibility into the channel itself. Fortunately, Duet was the largest vessel in the vicinity, so we were able to enter as we wished, based on our sheer mass and limited maneuverability. Conditions were calm on our arrival and we slowly made our way through Mooloolaba Harbor, which was packed with boats of every description, to our slip at Mooloolaba Marina. Panacea was also there, but Mark and Carol were visiting family in New Zealand, so we didn't catch up with them until several weeks later.

We had a quiet evening, ate out at one of Mooloolaba's many fine dining establishments and slept late the next morning. At that point we found out that not only is Panacea based in Mooloolaba Marina, but so is the Nordhavn 46 Kanaloa. She is a bit of a legend in Nordhavn circles, she and her owners Heidi and Wolfgang have circumnavigated the world three and half times aboard Kanaloa, traveling over 100,00 nautical miles. 

Wolfgang stopped by to say hello, we dug out a decent bottle of wine and trotted over that evening to hear some incredible stories told by an incredible couple. Kanaloa looks showroom new, and Heidi and Wolfgang did their best to convince us to follow in their footsteps across the Indian Ocean. Not something we want to do, but it was fun to talk about.

We spent about a week in Mooloolaba and enjoyed it very much. We found we like Australia and Australians a lot, and look forward to spending more time there, although we shall probably arrive by plane, rather than aboard Duet, next time. Nancy summed it up in an email to a friend entitled "Just like Canada, but in a thong". She stole this headline from a timely New York Times opinion piece of the same name.

We walked a lot in Mooloolaba, there is a nice boardwalk right by the beach.  The scenery can't be beat and the people watching (one of Nancy's favorite activities) is superb.

This being Australia, there are also some interesting local animals, these Brush Turkeys were everywhere.  Apparently, they, like everyone else, like to spend winter at the beach, where it is warmer.

Soon enough the time came to move south to Brisbane. Our friends on Daybreak were in Auckland, New Zealand, and had been keeping us updated on when the Yacht Express was due to reach them, which meant it would reach us a week later. Once they had a confirmed loading date, we set off for Brisbane.

Exiting Mooloolaba, while not as exciting as the Wide Bay Bar, was an exercise in patience. When we were ready to leave, naturally, a tropical cyclone up north had generated significant swell, which found its way south to us. This meant that local surfers were hanging ten on the breaking waves in the inlet. While Duet is a good sea boat, she doesn't do breaking surf, so we spent a few more days eating out and generally enjoying ourselves in Mooloolaba, until things calmed down a bit. In a miracle of timing, we managed to leave at 7AM one morning, just before the yearly Mooloolaba Harbor dredging project started at 9AM. Dredges, as our regular readers know, aren't one of Team Duet's favorite things, so we were glad to just see this one on AIS, rather than in person.

The final leg of our long journey was uneventful, the weather was beautiful and conditions nearly flat calm. Brisbane is a busy harbor, so we picked our way carefully past the loading docks, passing where the Yacht Express would tie up, and trundled slowly upriver to our chosen marina. The competent team at Rivergate Marina got us all settled in record time, in a nice berth which would be easy to get out of when the time came. They also gave us the goody bag to end all goody bags, as it turns out the manager is a bit of a Nordhavn fan. They even provided shuttle service to the nearby markets and we stocked up with a few essentials.

Our neighbors at Rivergate.  We really enjoy watching tugs work, and there was plenty to watch on the Brisbane River. 

Cruise ship passing in the river

After several days aboard Duet at Rivergate, Nancy and Ron moved to downtown Brisbane. The boat was ready to be loaded and we wanted to see a little of the area before we flew home, which was scheduled about a week after the ship arrived, assuming it arrived generally when it was supposed to. Brisbane is a beautiful, livable, walkable city, with great dining.

Nancy studying a little Brisbane history during one of our walks.

Brisbane has an artificial beach with a large swimming area.  It's the first time we've seen such a thing in a city, we really liked it.

We stayed in a small apartment right in the center of town, with a kitchen and a washer/dryer, so Nancy chugged through endless loads of Duet laundry, rather than doing it on the boat. We ate out every night, walked all over town, Ubered to visit Duet and generally had a great time. 

Ron even managed to drive on the left hand side of the road for several days, when we went to visit Mark and Carol on Panacea, and made a memorable trip to the Australia Zoo, founded by Steve Irwin and home to a number of salt water crocodiles, which are Australia's apex predator. We learned a lot about the crocs, as the Zoo runs an extensive research program as well as has several dozen adult specimens on site, some of whom participate (using the word loosely) in educational programs at the zoo.

We watched several shows, during which time is spent explaining why the crocs do as they do, and why it is so important to learn to live among them.  The problems Australia has with the crocs are similar to issues we have with black bears in our home town, in any interaction with people the animal usually loses.

Pictures below are courtesy of the Australia Zoo

The crocs are amazingly fast, even when they know the chicken isn't going to run away.

Local volunteer at feeding time.

The picture below was taken during an annual Zoo research trip.

The Zoo also tracks crocodiles, it was fascinating to see where they have been and how far they travel.

Ron, getting to know a more friendly Australian creature, the Koala

Last, but definitely not least, we finally met face to face with Robbie and Jo, previous owners of Nordhavn 47 Southern Star.  They bought Southern Star in New Zealand, cruised her to Thailand, shipped her to Turkey, cruised the Med, crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean and finally sold her in Florida.  We've corresponded with them for years, it was wonderful to finally meet them. 

Ron and Robbie discussing boats, with beverages.

Soon enough, the Yacht Express showed up and Duet headed home. We will cover shipping her in our next blog.








Duet Completes Her Pacific Crossing

Duet’s Journey So Far
Duet has arrived safely in Australia, thereby completing her crossing of the Pacific Ocean, which began almost two years ago in Mexico.  The planning began long before that, but we actually left terra firma on March 17th, 2017.  We arrived in Brisbane January 9, 2019, having traveled some 8,492 nautical miles (10,200 statute miles) from our departure port in Mexico.  During this journey we spent 46 nights at sea, the longest leg was from Mexico to the Marquesas, which took 17 days.  

We added 1,402 hours to Duet’s mighty Lugger 6108 main engine, and 3,142 hours to her resolute Northern Lights generator.  The generator provided us with water, air conditioning, laundry and other comforts of home in many remote anchorages during our journey.  It also gave us power at the dock, when we needed more juice than Ron’s carefully designed foreign shore power system could deliver.  During this journey we burned 7,570 gallons of diesel, of which about 2,350 went into the generator and the remaining 5,220 kept the main chugging reliably along.  Overall, the main averaged 1.63NMPG or 3.72GPH.  The generator averages .75GPH.  

We spent about two thirds of our time on the anchor and the balance in marinas. The marinas made a nice break from the hook, and visa versa.  We didn’t do as much land touring as we would have liked, and there were plenty of places we bypassed that we wished we’d had time to visit.  The Pacific is vast, so getting from one place to another takes time.  There is also the cyclone season to consider.  Once west of French Polynesia, leaving the danger zone requires a journey of at least 1,000 miles each way.  There are areas to shelter inside the cyclone belt, but none is perfect, so it’s a personal call on what to do.  

To further complicate matters, we were only aboard the boat part time, as Ron is still working. The best way to do this trip is to live aboard and have unlimited time to complete the journey.  We chose not to do it that way, knowing there would be additional costs and logistical issues associated with leaving the boat alone while we returned home for periods of time.  Despite all the complexity, this was an incredible adventure and we are so very glad that we went when we did.  

The best decision we made was to spend a year in French Polynesia.  The plan had been to continue to New Zealand in the fall of 2017, but we nixed that almost as soon as we arrived in the Marquesas.  There were some difficulties to remaining, most notably getting a long stay visa, but it was definitely worth it.

We also changed our western destination to Australia, rather than New Zealand.  This decision was rooted in a desire to avoid the difficult weather on the NZ run, but it turned out that getting to Australia wasn’t as easy as it looked.  We had hoped for a year of cruising once we arrived here, but work commitments have prevented that.  Duet will ship home from Brisbane in the next few weeks.  She will rest in San Diego, getting some well deserved TLC, before our next adventure.

We wish everyone a healthy and happy 2019.

Nancy and Ron
Duet, Nordhavn 50#15
Lying Brisbane, Australia

Duet Arrives In Australia

Duet’s Journey So Far
Duet arrived safely in Bundaberg, Australia on December 22nd, traveling directly from Fiji, with a brief stop in New Caledonia to avoid some weather. The trip from Fiji to New Caledonia took approximately 4.5 days, including 8 hours keeping station overnight outside the entrance to the New Caledonia lagoon, which we weren’t comfortable entering in the dark. The journey was 745 miles, Duet averaged 7.1 knots and delivered 1.79NMPG. Conditions were bumpy on departure from Fiji, with SE winds to 25 knots and seas to 10 feet. Things quieted down by the end of the 2nd day and we had an easy ride thereafter.

We departed New Caledonia some 60 hours later on the next weather window, which arrived so quickly that our agent literally checked us into and out of New Caledonia on the same day. This journey took just over 5 days, we traveled 813 miles, averaging 7.5 knots and 1.62NMPG. Duet pulled into Bundaberg Port Marina just ahead of a significant front; our first night at the dock we had lightening, thunder and torrential rain as the front passed. The high then built in strongly from the SE, with winds to 40 knots offshore.

Both these trips were accomplished with just Nancy and Ron aboard, and Duet ran perfectly throughout. We did not refuel in New Caledonia, as we wanted to save time on our turnaround there. Nevertheless, we arrived in Bundaberg with 362 gallons on board, or a 25% reserve on total tankage, courtesy of Duet’s slippery hull and some favorable currents. We even were able to maintain speed during a period of adverse current near the end of our run to Bundaberg (an eddy from the East Australia Current); Ron increased our RPMs to 1790 (versus our normal cruise of 1550-1650RPM) to enable us to arrive before the bad weather. Conditions slowly worsened towards the end of the journey, as wind and seas that started abaft the beam came around to the bow. During the final 24 hours, the wind was NW at 20 knots on the starboard bow, but the swell remained aft, from the SE. Duet just soldiered on, with spray flying over the top of the pilothouse.

Checking in to Australia was very professional and quick, we arrived at noon and by 4PM (on a Saturday no less) we hoisted our Australian courtesy flag. Bundaberg Port Marina is some distance from Bundaberg itself, but walking distance to the small town of Burnett Heads, which has an IGA supermarket. We walked into town the next day to provision, as we arrived with almost no food, per Australian regulations. The IGA kindly gave us a lift back to the marina in their van, as we were loaded down with local fruit and vegetables and some Aussie beer.

So far we have enjoyed Australia very much. Everyone is friendly, it is amazingly clean and we’ve seen our first kangaroo, complete with a baby, known as a joey. We expect to leave for Brisbane sometime in the next week. It is a relatively short journey of about 200 miles. Duet will be berthed at Rivergate Marina in the Brisbane River, where we will await the arrival of the ship to take Duet home.

We wish all our readers a safe and happy holiday season.

Ron and Nancy

Duet, Nordhavn 50#15

Cruising in Fiji – Part Two

We returned to Fiji on September 7th, having left Tahoe on September 5th. The complexities of the international date line still cause Nancy some confusion, so it was a few days before she knew what day it was, never mind what time. Regardless, the mission was clear, to get Duet off the dock and go cruising.

Duet herself looked great. Jo’s folks had taken good care of her, with weekly checks and monthly washes and bottom cleanings. Jamie, Captain of the Nordhavn 75EYF Lady Grey, was docked just across the way, so he kept a professional eye on her for us. Jamie was also helpful when Fiji had a substantial earthquake and we were concerned about damage.  It turned out the event was so deep underground that the impact was limited to a little shaking in Suva. Lady Grey is a beautiful vessel, it’s a pity so few of this model have been built.

Once we recovered from the jet lag, Ron started in on some basic maintenance, while Nancy went provisioning. Jo provided her with a driver in a spotless air conditioned van.  Fiji is left hand drive and everyone figured Fiji would be much safer if Nancy wasn’t behind the wheel. She spent a nice day in the company of a young local gentleman, who drove her to all the selected purveyors, carried the packages and even pushed the grocery cart. Personal service is a respectable job in Fiji, and, while it took Nancy a little time to adjust to this level of attention, it is common here.

First we visited Flavios, which is a local Italian provider of fine foods. Nancy tasted and selected a broad range of items, including cheeses, salamis, hams, etc. An estimated bill of close to $2,000 USD was presented. So a number of items were dropped, to get the bill more into Duet’s range, not that of a mega yacht. It is common for the mega yacht chefs to spend many thousands per order at Flavios, but Nancy, despite her much smaller budget, was treated with the same respect and care as the chef of Senses, Google Co-Founder Larry Page’s vessel, which was also docked in Denarau.

Flavios delivered the goods to Duet several days later and the package included a number of “promotional” items, which did not appear on the bill. Both Nancy and Ron protested but apparently they do this for all the smaller vessels, so all of us continue to shop there. The quality of the goods is outstanding, Ron spent weeks working his way through Italian cheeses and salamis, which were as good or better than we can get at home.

We then continued on to South Pacific Butchering Company, which is exactly what it sounds like, meat, meat, and more meat. Almost all locally sourced in Fiji, although there were a few Australian steaks. Nancy ordered chicken, lamb, steak, mince (hamburger in the US), etc. All would be packaged up for her by the time we returned from the rest of our stops. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of what we got, it was all excellent.

Meat, meat and more meat

Next we went to the Farmers Market. This was a larger version of what Sean and Nancy visited in Savusavu, consisting of many stalls under a large roof. Nancy’s minder, however, pointed her right at Farm Boy, which not only selects products from a list you give them, but also delivers it to the boat whenever you want. Nancy walked through the aisles with a Farm Boy representative, made a list of items and arranged for delivery several days hence, so it would all be fresh for departure.

Finally, the Duet team arrived at a grocery store. This was a modern supermarket, with plenty of choices. Nancy consulted her driver on local foods as they traveled through the isles. She selected a number of curries, chutneys and other Indian food for Ron. Fiji’s population is almost 40% Indian, so the selection was outstanding.

The only thing the supermarket didn’t have was Fiji Gold beer in cans, most people buy it in bottles. Nancy’s driver saved the day by delivering her to the local liquor provider, and loaded several cases of what the locals call “medicine” into the van. A brief stop at South Pacific Meats on the way back to pick up our order, and we were back on the boat inside four hours. This was the most efficient provisioning Nancy had ever done, she could easily get used to it.

Fijian Medicine

Several days later we pulled off the dock. We planned to travel through the Mamanucas and the Yasawas, which are a contiguous island chain between Viti Levu and the outer reef. These islands are quite close to the marina, and are about 100 miles long from end to end.

First we stopped at the famous Musket Cove Resort, where the annual Fiji Regatta is held. Like Papeete, Musket Cove is a gathering spot for boats from all over the world, so we saw a lot of different home country flags. The Regatta was the week before we returned and Musket Cove was still pretty crowded, although the anchorage is quite large.

We anchored Duet some way from the primary anchorage, in deep water, and off loaded the dinghy. Our first step was to join the Musket Cove Yacht Club for $10 Fijian ($5 US) dollars, which gave us the run of the property. And a nice property it was, with multiple restaurants, a pool with a great bar and miles of hiking trails on the island. A number of high end houses are being built at Musket Cove and it has the feel of a resort on the way up.

Musket Cove pool and dining

We arranged to do some scuba diving with Subsurface Fiji. Since we’ve come to the South Pacific we’re rekindled our interest in diving, which we hadn’t really done since the Caribbean some twenty years ago. We did a check out dive at the Plantation Pinnacles, which was a fascinating rock formation in the middle of the sand.

The Pinnacles were surrounded by colorful fish, and, at the bottom at a depth of about 80 feet was a tunnel, through which we all swam, several times. That was a first for us and we really enjoyed it. The highlight of this dive, however, was the schooling behavior of the local amber jacks, which love the diver’s bubbles. A hundred or more of them traveled in a tight clockwise funnel just above our heads while we lay on our backs looking up.

Nancy on the dive boat

Ron at the end of a day of diving

This experience of Fiji’s world famous diving kept us at Musket Cove for several days, while we dove local sites like the Supermarket, known for it’s sharks, and the Malolu Wall, which had some amazing fish. Soon enough, however, we felt we should move on and see something of the Yasawas. So we raised the anchor one morning and trundled north, bound for one of the many anchorages in the Yasawa chain.

Somosomo Bay, the classic South Pacific deserted beach

Dinghy at Somosomo

Other people getting to experience the classic deserted South Pacific beach. They stayed an afternoon, we stayed a week.

When visiting one of the outlying islands it is common to go ashore to the nearest village and perform sevusevu, a ceremony during which the village chief grants you permission to visit the island, fish the waters and anchor.  In return you gift the chief with something, often kava root, a local delicacy which is made into a mildly intoxicating drink.  

We didn’t actually visit a village, as we didn’t anchor near any, but the village in Somosomo came out to us.  We bought fruit from them and Ron gave them some line and tubing to fix a spear.  Everyone was quite happy with the exchange.  

Visit from the villagers

Technical consultation

It looked easier when the chief did it


Over the next couple of weeks we visited various places, including the Blue Lagoon which Brooke Shields made so famous years ago in the film of the same name. We didn’t do any more diving, but we did a lot of snorkeling and general hanging out on the hook. We even tried, twice, to find the sunken airplane snorkeling site that everyone talked about, but that was not to be. The path across the island from the Somosomo anchorage was so overgrown that we got lost every time we tried to get anywhere, but we did get some really good exercise bushwhacking our way in and out of the center of the island.

Ready to find the plane

Bushwhacking a trail

While we’ve been in Fiji there have been a number of serious fires back home.  During our stay at Somosomo, the island caught fire, which is apparently a pretty common occurrence here during the winter dry season.  According to our local sources, the fires are caused by human carelessness and burn unchecked until they burn out.

Brush fire off Duet’s bow

While we were cruising the Yasawas, a true miracle occurred, Nancy caught a fish. Actually she caught several, proving it wasn’t a fluke. For some reason, fishing on this Duet has not been successful thus far, even though we hauled in many a mahi mahi aboard Duet the Nordhavn 46. Nancy, as usual, consulted the local fisherman before we departed for the Yasawas and was told “Spanish mackerel are biting on the red/white Rapala lures”. So in went our red/white Rapala lure and, bingo, out came a Spanish mackerel.


Enough fish already

Ron was astounded, Nancy was vindicated and we had several great meals. Then, perchance, we happened to research the incidence of ciguatera in Fiji.  Ciguatera is a type of nerve poisoning caused by eating certain reef fish. Turns out that larger Spanish mackerel have been implicated in cases of ciguatera in Fiji.  Ron banned all Spanish mackerel aboard Duet immediately. But the jinx was broken and Nancy expects to catch many fish on this Duet in the future. In the meantime, she enjoyed herself running various lure combinations in search of a tuna, while returning all Spanish mackerel unharmed to the deep.

Eventually we ran out of fresh fruit and veggies, so we returned to Musket Cove. They have a small market there, which has everything a cruiser could want, provided you don’t have to ask how much it costs. By this time, it had also become apparent to Ron that our stabilizers weren’t operating quite up to spec. We also noted that several of our portholes were leaking after the rough passage from Bora Bora and the low pressure booster pump on the water maker was leaking. Actually, several pumps were leaking, as the generator’s raw water pump was also misbehaving. So it was time for a little Duet TLC.

Musket Cove is the perfect place to do projects, we had plenty of hiking to ensure we got exercise, we could eat out for a change of pace, there were provisions to be had and the snorkeling was excellent. The anchorage is also completely sheltered with no swell, unlike almost all the other anchorages in the Mamanucas and the Yasawas, so it is a great place to spend time. A number of mega yachts, including the 90 foot catamaran Orion, spend weeks on the hook there, between guest visits. The Google yacht Senses tended to hang out at a small island near Cloudbreak, the famous surfing location, instead, but each to their own.

So Ron started on boat work. We did the easy stuff first, rebedding the portholes is something we have done before, both on this boat and on the 46. Nancy removes them and Ron caulks them. So we did two in the master stateroom, but, when we tested the fixes on the master units, unlike the previous fixes on the starboard side portholes, they still leaked.

It looked like enough caulk

The conclusion, after much study of the situation, was that the caulking between the outer collar and the hull, in which the collar is set, had failed. This causes the porthole to leak down behind the paneling, and is a more difficult fix, as we have to remove the outer collar from the hull. So Ron caulked the collars from the outside, which, while it looks terrible, seems to have stopped the leaks, although the acid test will be our passage to New Caledonia.

These leaks, btw, do not indicate a build quality problem with Duet. They are, instead, a result of her age. She is now 18 and has worked quite hard in the last four years or so. Caulk wears out. Once it is replaced, she will be leak free for another 18 years.

Ron then fixed the water maker and started on the generator. Both raw water pumps needed new seals. Replacing the seals on the watermaker’s low pressure boost pump was easy and he’s done it before. It all came apart and went back together as planned, and took less than a day to do.  

He had not previously tried to rebuild the generator’s raw water pump, since it requires quite a bit more disassembly, including removing the shaft and bearings, to get at the seals. When we last had a seawater leak from the pump’s weep hole, we simply installed a brand new pump we had as a spare.

That was only a year (and 1600 hours) ago, and already the pump was leaking again. We did have a seal kit, and fortunately Ron had purchased a bearing puller for just this sort of job.  He was actually using it backwards to push the bearings out, but, whatever, it worked.

Bearing pusher

Old seal

Much to our chagrin, when he got the first generator pump apart it was obvious that not only were the seals in need of replacement, one of the two bearings that the shaft spins on was bad. This seemed very surprising for only 1600 hours of use. There was some evidence of corrosion on the bearing and we suspect that the leaking water seal allowed some seawater to get past the oil seal and on to the bearing. Normally, the weep hole should prevent this from happening, but for unknown reasons it did not.

We didn’t have any spare bearings, only spare seals. So Ron ended up rebuilding two older pumps that had serviceable bearings and just needed new seals. One lesson we learned is that these pumps need to be pulled out of service at the first sign of seawater leakage, lest one run the risk of more significant internal damage.

Another important maneuver is to not let these pumps sit with seawater in them during prolonged periods of disuse, especially in hot climates. Whenever Duet is left idle while we return to the U.S., all raw water pumps are opened up, their impellers removed, and the impeller housing thoroughly flushed with SaltAway followed by fresh water. This includes the raw water pumps on the generator, main engine, reverse cycle, and watermaker booster pump.

Once new seals have been installed on the pump shaft, the bearings need to go back into the pump body.  They are a very tight fit, so the pump body was heated in the oven to expand it, and the bearings were frozen in the freezer, to contract them.  Then the bearings were gently hammered back into place.  The key is not to hammer too hard, or they get damaged.

Heating up the pump body

Fitting in the cold bearings

Gentle hammering

All done

Repairing the stabilizers was a much more challenging undertaking. The fins had worked very hard on the Bora Bora to Fiji trip, and it had been 5 years since they were upgraded. Both were making knocking noises and the port one had a pronounced squeak.

More importantly, Ron could clearly see excessive play in the attachment of the torque arm pin to the rod end assembly.  This is the component at the end of the hydraulic cylinder shaft, which allows the cylinder to move the torque arm, which then rotates the fin. When the fins work hard, this component takes a lot of strain.  

There was excessive play in this attachment on both sides, which meant that the rod end assemblies and torque arm pins needed to be replaced. We also replaced a cylinder on one side, we would have done both but we only had one spare.

General anatomy where the repair took place

New pins and rod ends

Unfortunately, replacing the cylinder meant replacing the bushings as well and we didn’t have any of those. $500 worth of air freight later, we had four sets of $8 bushings, just in case we needed more than one. This part supply process was “overnight” but took 7 days to make to Fiji and another day to be brought to Musket Cove by Captain Steve. The mega yacht Hope is also a client of Jo’s, so she handed the package off to him as he left Denarau and we picked it up when he arrived at Musket Cove.

Naiad doesn’t make it easy for owners to work on their systems and their factory support is nonexistent. This is one of their big weaknesses in comparison to ABT, which has superb end user support. We have been lucky in that Chris Fonteneau, owner of Fonteneau Yacht Repair, is very knowledgable about Naiad systems.  He has taken Ron under his wing and provided him with technical information, including pictures, instructions and phone calls, while we are in remote areas of the world.

Chris came through again this time. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for him and his lovely wife Wendy, he has since sold the business and retired. We haven’t met the new owners yet, but will make a point of it next time we are in San Diego.

Before we left the boat in June Ron knew that he was probably going to be replacing at least the pins and the rod ends, so he brought the special $500 Naiad pin puller with him on the plane. It worked beautifully on the starboard side.

Pin still in place in yellow torque arm head

Expensive Naiad pin puller in place

Happy engineer

New pin on the left, old on the right

Unfortunately, after more than a day of effort, the pin puller failed on the port side.  The pin was completely seized into the rod end, so it needed to be cut through, twice, once on either side of the rod end.  The pin is stainless steel, which doesn’t cut easily with the small hand tools we keep aboard.  Initial tries with a hand saw made no progress at all, so Ron dug out his Rotozip saw, which isn’t really man enough for this, but was all we had.  

Before Ron could cut the pin, the Rotozip saw shaft had to be extended so that the body of the saw wouldn’t interfere with getting the cutting wheel close to the area of surgery.  This took some ingenuity and several iterations.  Then Ron wrote off our entire collection of Rotozip cutting wheels, which wear out fast on the stainless steel of the pin.  

Still the pin resisted. Finally he resorted to a hammer and chisel, which cracked the last sliver of metal holding the pin together.  Cutting the pin took several days of effort, not to mention several false starts before we had a method that worked.

Altered Roto Zip saw

Cut pin

Center of pin seized in rod end bearing

Once the pins were out, the rod ends off and the cylinder on one side removed, then everything had to go back together with new parts.  This was slightly easier than taking it apart, but required considerable attention to detail to get it all right.  Ron actually did the work on the fins one at a time, to try to ensure that we had at least one working fin at the end of the project.  

We only had two pins, so getting one stuck halfway back into position wasn’t really an option. Too much pounding to get the pin fully seated, on the other hand, could damage the cylinder and/or the rod end. Our single spare cylinder was installed on the starboard side, since it looked in worse shape than the port one.  

New rod end goes on

Carefully measuring the cylinder extension to ensure it is correctly positioned

Finally, Ron managed to get both of the fins back together and now they work properly with no play, knocking or squeaking.  We have also learned a lot about the Naiad system, and the maintenance it requires when worked as hard as we work ours.  Should we do a trip of this magnitude again, we would replace the pins, rod ends and cylinders prophylactically, to avoid having to do a repair of this magnitude in such a remote place.  

The entire Naiad repair took nearly two weeks in a hot engine room, and we missed at least one weather window for Australia during that time. It had to be done, however, or there was a better than even chance the fins would fail on the trip. Given that the sea conditions would be similar to our trip from Bora Bora, namely on the beam most of the way, neither Ron nor Nancy wanted to deal with that eventuality.

Once the Naiads were fixed we started looking seriously for a weather window, as it was already late October. Cyclone season officially starts in Fiji on November first, so we wanted to depart post haste. We moved into the Port Denarau Marina to simplify our departure, as Customs and Immigration require 24 hours notice to come check us out.

The weather, however, just wasn’t cooperating, so far we have spent a month waiting in the marina while low after low stormed up from the Tasman Sea and pounded our route between Fiji and Australia. Some boats left for NZ, but had tough journeys.

Others remained with us, waiting for inevitable summer weather pattern to assert itself. Even our weather router was surprised by the continued winter like weather, which brought unseasonable cold and rainy conditions to NZ. Apparently, this delayed weather transition may be a side effect of the transition to a weak El Nino condition. Whatever the cause, we were stuck until it ended.

Port Denarau Marina caters to mega yachts, and, since everyone was getting ready to leave for NZ, Australia or, in one case, Hawaii, there were a number of very large boats docked there.  During a previous stay, we had made friends with Sue and Brian, the wonderful crew of the 90 foot Benetti, Haven. They were from Australia, and had lots of local knowledge. When they left early, they gifted us their slip, so Duet ended up right in the middle of the mega yacht action.

Haven before her departure to New Caledonia

The view from Duet’s stern. To the left is the 200 footer Calypso, to the right is the 200 footer Dream

The view from our Portuguese bridge, across Dream’s stern is the helicopter on Senses, a 195 foot expedition vessel

Senses loading one of her 4 tenders

During our stay, we had one of those great “immediate community” experiences that one often has while cruising. There were five boats on the dock waiting to go, three to NZ, one to the Marshalls, and Duet, bound for Australia. So we had dinners out and boat get togethers to pass the time. Duet hosted six sailors one night, most of the visit was spent in the engine room. There was even a breakfast for boat crew members who “do” the weather, which Ron actually said was too geeky for him. Nancy was amazed, as usually Ron is too geeky for the company, not the other way around.

Weather geeks, from the left Ron, Randy from SV Velic, Vandy from SV Scoots and Douglas from SV Tumbleweed

A good time was had by all, and we made some fast friends. Funnily enough, all the boats were from the U.S., which was the most U.S. flagged vessels we’d seen in one place since we left Mexico. All this made the time pass relatively quickly, although everyone was feeling some time pressure. All of us are experienced cruisers, used to waiting for weather windows, but the advancing cyclone season and various family commitments made everyone a bit antsy.

We, and Vandy and Eric from Scoots, attended the marina’s cyclone preparation meeting, which was held in the Rhum Ba bar. The marina has a very organized approach to storms, all boats are evacuated in the event of a cyclone greater than Category 3. There is a mangrove “river”, it’s more of a stream really, that abuts the marina entrance channel. The marina has cut a deal with the village that controls that river, so that all marina boats are allowed to seek shelter there in the event of a storm.

The marina operations manager explained the process in some detail. He assigns a spot in the river to each boat, based on draft. The catamarans are first, and go as far in as their draft will permit. Some sit on the bottom, which is pretty easy with two hulls. Then the mono hulls, which would include Duet, follow. All of this is done at high tide. There are a number of deep “holes” in the curves of the river, where the monohulls go.

Once you reach your “spot” you anchor fore and aft. Then you tie the boat to the mangroves, on whichever side of the river you happen to be assigned. That leaves the rest of the river clear for other boats to proceed, although they try to do this process in order, so no one gets blocked.

Boats getting set in the mangrove river

During the biggest tropical cyclone to hit the marina, winds topped out at 225 kilometers per hour (about 140MPH) at the breakwater. The marina was essentially destroyed. They measured 120KPH at the tallest sailboat masthead in the mangrove river and 40KPH on the decks of the boats. There was almost no damage to the sheltered vessels, a few solar panels and bits of canvas went flying but that was it. No one aboard was hurt. So the process works. It also depends completely on community cooperation, which was definitely in evidence at the cyclone meeting.

We do not expect to be in Fiji much longer, but participating in the cyclone scheme gave us confidence that there is an option should a storm arrive while we are still in the area. The marina maintains a weather watch, and everyone is on an email list, so we are kept informed of any weather feature that the marina weather person is tracking and which might become a problem. On average, they begin tracking something 7-10 days before it becomes an issue, so there is plenty of warning.

When we leave Fiji, we will depart for Australia.  We may, or may not, stop in New Caledonia on the way, it depends the weather conditions and how we feel.  It is about 640 miles to the entrance to the New Caledonia lagoon, and another 40 miles or so to Noumea, where we check in with the local authorities. The journey should take about 4 days.  

It is about 800 miles, or another 5 days, beyond New Caledonia to Bundaberg.  As part of the Go West Rally, we registered with the Australian Border Force, which checks boats into Australia. They have kept in close touch with us as our arrival date has slipped.  Nancy even got a message from the Bundaberg District Commander to let us know the station is closed December first and second, in case we planned to arrive then. If so, he would contact his opposite number somewhere else on the coast, to ensure that we were taken care of when we arrived. We’ve been very impressed with their professionalism.

Initially, we were going to cruise Australia for a year before returning Duet to the U.S.  We have instead decided to ship Duet home in early 2019. For a variety of reasons, this is a good time for us to bring our South Pacific adventure to a close. We are looking forward to some time in the mountains at home and to giving Duet some serious TLC.  She deserves it, she has taken great care of us throughout this amazing journey.

Duet will be shipped home on DYT Yacht Transport from Brisbane to Ensenada, Mexico, a trip which will take approximately 3 weeks. Funnily enough, the Nordhavn 60 Daybreak, with whom we crossed the Pacific over a year ago, will also be on the ship, boarding in Auckland, New Zealand.

Shipping with DYT is an interesting process.  First, the ship sinks into the water until her cargo area is submerged.  Then we drive Duet aboard and position her over the keel blocks made for her.  Divers put supports around her hull, just like when she is put on land. Once all the boats are aboard, the water is pumped out and she is strapped into her “berth” for the journey. The process is repeated in reverse, when she arrives at her destination.  While shipping this way isn’t cheap, everyone we have spoken to has had good experience with DYT, except that the ship is often late arriving.

We will write another blog once we reach Australia, or when we get home in January.  In the meantime, we wish all our readers happy holidays.

Cruising in Fiji – Part One

Our time in Fiji was to be divided into two parts, first, the four weeks or so after our arrival in Savusavu, before we flew home for the summer, and, second, the several months after we returned in mid September, before we departed for New Caledonia and Australia. This blog covers our initial visit.

Duet in Savusavu

Upon arrival in Savusavu, our plans immediately underwent a change, because Ron got the local Savusavu flu bug. We’ve found that we are more susceptible to microbes in other countries, and our US flu shot obviously didn’t work here. He got pretty sick, 4-5 days of temps to 102F and at least 10 days of coughing after that. Nancy, fortunately, only got the cough and Sean didn’t get anything, since he was still recovering from whatever he caught on the plane flight to Bora Bora.

The check-in process in Fiji is rather drawn out, especially as we were out of the reach of our agent. She was able, however, to prevent a bit of a mess with Customs when we first arrived, thank goodness. Fijian Customs requires you to send your 9 page form at least several days in advance of your arrival. Nancy had sent ours to our agent at least a month in advance and she had forwarded them to Savusavu. So far, so good.

When we arrived, however, said form was nowhere to be found, or at least nowhere that our local Customs official was looking for it. Significant fines were mentioned, but we were able to get our agent on the phone and she got it straightened out. After that, it was relatively smooth sailing.

There are four departments which require forms and information from boats arriving in Fiji. First, the Health department. The Health Inspector boards the boat alone to confirm there is no communicable disease aboard, before the other three departments make an appearance. This seems like a high risk job to us, but the service was free, unlike several other departments.  Our Health Inspector was a nice guy, he looked us over, walked around the exterior of the boat and then issued our “Pratique” which is our health clearance, with the minimum of fanfare.

Once he gave Duet the thumbs up, on came Customs (with the immediate missing paperwork problem), BioSecurity and Immigration. All three officials were uniformed, friendly and polite. They ignored all our typed paperwork (except for Health who took it) and completed everything again, which gave them a chance to all ask Ron questions at once while stamping everything they put under his nose to sign. During this they also spoke rapid Fijian to one another, which made for complex communications.

The entire process took about an hour, and we were cleared in. But we weren’t done, far from it. Two departments required that a fee be paid, but the officials on the boat aren’t allowed to collect it. Fortunately, this didn’t require Ron as Captain, it just required cash. So Nancy and Sean went out the next day, got lost several times, and finally managed, after about three hours, to find the appropriate buildings and pay the fees. When we leave the country, we need to produce the reciepts for these payments, as apparently some boats try to dodge paying up.

Copra Shed Marina from Duet’s slip

The Savusavu Yacht Club

Before Sean left, a few days later, Ron staggered down the street to Immigration to sign him off the boat, thereby removing him from our crew list. This means that Fiji Immigration won’t be looking for him when we check out in a few months. Nancy also went to Customs about a week later to get our local cruising permit, which is not issued by Customs until all the paperwork is processed.

In the meantime, Nancy stocked up on local fruits and veg, we got caught up on email and news (Fiji has very cheap good local internet access), Nancy and Sean saw a few local sights and tested the local milkshakes, while Ron recovered from his brush with the local pneumonia. The weather really went to pot, as expected. It rained, it blew and conditions were not amenable to Duet going anywhere, even if her Captain was feeling up to it.

We had some local dock excitement when a boat from NZ checked in, was searched and found to be carrying several thousand rounds of ammunition. No guns, but lots of bullets. Armed police in flak jackets appeared (an unusual sight here, no police are armed), the ship’s master was imprisoned in the local jail, that section of the dock was taped off with yellow police crime scene tape, and rumors flew. In the end, from what we heard about three months later in Port Denarau, the captain got out of prison pretty quickly and we saw the boat anchored at Musket Cove in October.

Fiji takes guns and drugs very, very seriously (as do all the other countries we’ve visited) and, in our time there, caught at least one other vessel smuggling in large quantities of cocaine. That case didn’t go well, the captain tried to commit suicide when discovered (he was unsuccessful and, last we heard in October, still in jail) and the boat was impounded.

We never cease to be amazed by the number of people who seem to think either the rules don’t apply to them (such as the boat on the round the world ARC rally which refused to check in as required, and, consequently, was not allowed to check out until after Customs had searched it for two days) or that, because Fiji is a little far from anywhere, it’s Customs, Police or other officials are asleep at the wheel.

We had one other incident in Savusavu that affected Duet more closely than the ammo uproar. As a result of the weather, several boats had tied up on the end of our dock. They were aluminum dive boats, with a lot of windage. Duet is also a heavy boat, and was taking up an entire double slip, due to her rather substantial girth. The dock itself was floating, sort of, in that it was a series of wooden planks screwed to some floating supports, which were, in turn, chained or tied to the bottom or the shore.

Anyway, on Sunday morning about a week after Sean left and Ron was slowly coming back to life, Nancy happened to look out the aft door and noticed that Duet was no long perpendicular to the land. Nor was the dock. It had cracked in half just prior to Duet’s slip, and her end of the dock, with Duet, the two dive boats and a couple of small sailboats, was slowly turning out into the bay in front of Savusavu.

Duet and one of the dive boats

The broken dock

This definitely wasn’t good. It could even possibly qualify as bad. One marina guy arrived pretty quickly, followed by the waitress from the yacht club and the lady who did the laundry. With Nancy and Ron, that gave us a team of 5 and a few lines to fix the problem. The dock guy got a line on the end of the dock, the team pulled on it and he snugged it around a palm tree. That helped, but not much. With the wind blowing at about 25 knots and Duet’s 40 plus tons, not to mention the other boats, pulling on it, the tree was looked a bit outgunned. Ron dug out some of our longer dock lines and we started putting backup lines on other trees.

In about an hour the marina owner and several other folks appeared. Gradually a series of lines at appropriate angles were tightened up and order was generally restored. We ran a shot of our sea anchor line from Duet’s samson post out to the commercial buoy in the middle of the channel to windward, to take some of the strain off the dock. The marina owner evicted both dive boats, which, it turned out, were supposed to be on buoys in the first place. He then restored the underwater line from the far end of the dock to the buoy upwind of it, somehow it had become mysteriously detached when the dive boats arrived.

More help

Tightening things up

Tied off to the big buoy

Missing dock line to windward restored

Then the owner then did an inspection of the rest of the dock. The finger piers were a little shaky, particularly one with a 60 foot sailboat from Marina Del Ray, CA, attached to it. They ran a bow line out to share the commercial buoy with Duet, to take the strain off that. The next morning a dock repair man appeared and added more chains underwater and nailed a couple of planks over the hole. We gather, from folks we met several months later, that the dock is still a little shaky but remains a coherent whole.

Sorting out a bow line to the buoy for our neighbor

Soon after this, the weather moderated, Duet unwound herself from the commercial buoy, we recovered our dock lines from their roles as dock tethers and we set off for Port Denarau. The weather hadn’t moderated much, honestly, we saw winds in the mid 30s all way across the pass to the northern end of Vitu Levu, which is the main large island of Fiji. Duet chugged happily along, with conditions reminiscent of our 11 day trip from Bora Bora, but at least they only lasted about 10 hours this time.

We had one of our rare anchor incidents on this part of the trip. Normally our big Rocna hook (all 154 pounds of it) sets with little fanfare, but this time it was obvious that it wasn’t doing it’s usual competent job. Duet was slowly but surely dragging backwards as Nancy throttled up in reverse to test the set. So up came the chain and hook. The culprit was immediately obvious, a large ball of coral was jammed tight into one of the flukes. Several minutes later, after much pushing, pulling and general threatening with the boat hook, the coral returned to it’s natural habitat, and we reset the hook in a slightly different place. All was well thereafter, and we had a quiet night.

The following morning we set off through the Makogai Channel towards Nagani Island. Just north east of Nagani we crossed to the channel behind the reef that surrounds Viti Levu, and began picking our way around to Port Denarau, which was about 85 miles away. The easiest way to reach Port Denarau from Savusavu is to continue up Broad Passage, through the Vatu-I-Ra Channel and along Bligh Water, but the Ra Channel acts as a serious wind funnel. Winds were already in the high 20s early in the morning, which meant they could hit 40 knots in the Ra, so we gave it a pass and started along the rather opaque and poorly marked inside channel towards Nananu-I-Thake Island.

The water in Fiji isn’t as clear as the lagoons of French Polynesia and the charting is quite poor on both C Maps and Navionics. Much of the reef in Fiji is submerged, so the radar doesn’t help, and many of the physical buoys and other markers have been destroyed by the storms that pass through the area.  We relied heavily on Google Earth satellite photos, which had been geo synchronized so that they could be displayed on our PC navigation software. Given that the weather was overcast and raining throughout our three day journey to Port Denarau, using water visibility, other than intermittently, was a nonstarter.

The four pictures below were taken at approximately the same time.  All charts are north up, while the radar is course up.  Hardware in use includes the boat PC, the laptop, the radar and two iPads.  The second iPad (not pictured) was running the SailFiji app, which cannot be used for navigation directly, but provides good waypoints, which we entered on our main PC navigation software.  The SailFiji app also has pictures of anchorages, marinas, etc. which helped orient us.  

Finally, we had paper charts with excellent waypoints and extensive information, which we purchased from Carol Dunlap, who is part of our agent team.  Carol captained a 125 foot mega yacht in Fiji for 20 years and her local knowledge was definitely worth it.

C Maps charts

Navionics charts


Google earth

We traveled slowly and carefully to the anchorage off Nananu-I-Thake the first day. It turned out to be a kite surfers paradise, at least half a dozen kites were in the air as we came around the corner, with more poised to take off. Duet rumbled serenely through them, although one rider did manage to fall off right in front of her.  Ron maneuvered carefully around him, we dropped the hook and spent a pleasant night. It was a beautiful anchorage, we wish we had more time to spend there.

Nananu-I-Thake Anchorage

“We wish we had more time” was the story of our first month in Fiji, between the delays in Savusavu and the need to reach Port Denarau and get Duet settled before we flew home, we didn’t see much. What we saw though, made us want to see more when we returned in September.

Our arrival in Port Denarau was relatively easy, as we arrived early in the day from a nearby anchorage. Our slip neighbor, who came later in the day, fell afoul of the brisk afternoon land breeze and had a rather eventful docking, getting a line tangled in his bow thruster and subsequently losing control of his bow, which then headed straight for Duet. No one was injured and Duet was not harmed, as the captain’s wife, at much risk to herself, fended off their bow pulpit as it slid down Duet’s port side.

Duet’s red kayak is just visible in the right of the picture.Port Denarau is definitely a mega yacht destination.

Once all that excitement was over, we met with our agent Jo, set up various services, including having Duet washed and hiring a diver to change her zincs. Ron had injured his ear diving in Tahiti and so hadn’t changed them. It turned out that our diver had never changed a zinc before, but, as he said when he arrived “No worries, I watched it on YouTube, so it’s all good”. We generally found all our Fijians workers to be like that, willing, friendly, and anxious to learn. Several even came down to see Duet’s dive hookah in use, as they had not seen one before.

Ron and our diver, after the zincs were installed

We’ve gotten pretty good at getting Duet settled to be left, so after a few days we had a little time to go out to dinner and explore Port Denarau on foot. It is a large gated resort with half a dozen hotels, and multiple low rise housing developments. It’s beautifully kept and has many flame trees, some of which were in bloom. It is not, however, as one of our dinner waitresses said “the real Fiji” so we were glad we’d had a chance to see that in Savusavu. Soon enough, our airplane arrived and off we went, back home for Captain Ron to spend some time as Dr. Ron and to catch up with family and friends. We were to return in early September and begin the process of moving Duet to Australia. This will be covered in the next blog.

Bora Bora to Fiji

Ron began looking for weather windows to Fiji in late May, before Sean and Celia even arrived. Weather patterns can be glimpsed, if not solidified, as much as two weeks in advance. Often the details don’t pan out, but the general trend is useful. Given that we planned to leave as soon as we could after Celia’s departure, Ron wanted a good understanding of what was going on out there.

Unfortunately, what he found wasn’t great. During the Southern Hemisphere Fall, the weather between French Polynesia and Tonga/Fiji can be boisterous. This is because winter is beginning in the Southern Ocean, and those systems make themselves felt as far north as Samoa. This pattern is similar to September in the Northeastern US or the Pacific Northwest, as the winter patterns get established. So, it was bumpy out there and didn’t look like it was getting any better.

According to James and Jennifer on the Nordhavn 52, Dirona, “The waters between French Polynesia and Tonga are known as “”The Dangerous Middle Ground”” because the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) is particularly active here. The SPCZ is where the equatorial easterly winds and the southeast trade winds converge, producing sudden, intense squalls with winds reaching 30 to 40 knots.”  That name definitely got our attention, and like Dirona, we would be chugging right across the middle of it.

At this point, Ron got our weather router, OMNI Bob, involved. Bob’s take was similar to Ron’s, it’s bumpy out there. But he has the advantage of knowing the patterns better and said “it’s going to get worse as June advances, not better”. This, while not really what we wanted to hear, helped us sort through the choices we faced, namely go now, or wait until September, if we wanted better weather.  

We wanted to spend some time at home over the summer and also reach Australia this season, which meant we needed to get Duet further west in June.  We had Sean aboard, which gives us more flexibility in difficult weather, so we figured we would get as far as we could with him and then see what to do next.  This is a classic example of why we don’t like schedules when we are cruising.  That said, we live with them, as we have to make some accommodations for our part time boating lifestyle.  

The general plan was to get as far as American Samoa, at a minimum, with Sean.  How he would get home from there was a bit of a puzzle, but Nancy, as our logistics maven, figured she could solve it if necessary.  American Samoa was about 600 miles or 4 to 5 days closer than Fiji, and Ron and Nancy could do the rest of the trip from there without Sean, if necessary.  A course to American Samoa also put us on a more northerly track and kept us out of the worst of the wind and wave.

Prior to our departure, however, a few things needed to get done.  First, of course, was installing the storm plates, which always go on her port side before we make a long ocean voyage.  We have gotten pretty good at putting these on while on the anchor, as that means we can keep the port windows open until the last minute.

Ron and Sean putting on the plates

We keep things simple on a passage, everyone has one cup for the duration
Once a departure date was set, we checked out of French Polynesia, which was a bit of kerfuffle, and took longer than we had planned.  It turned out that, like the Hotel California, you can check out of Bora Bora but you can never leave. Duet needed a Port Clearance, which tells the next country she arrives in that she left the last one without any outstanding debts or warrants. Her crew needs their passports stamped, to show that they too left in good standing.  The trick is that Papeete checks out Duet, while Bora Bora checks out the crew.  Fortunately, although this isn’t clear anywhere, you don’t have to complete all this in 24 hours, but you do have to leave within 24 hours after it is done.

We tried to check out twice, first unsuccessfully with Papeete (when we sent Duet’s paperwork directly to them), then successfully with Bora Bora (who is supposed to send Duet’s paperwork to Papeete), followed by Papeete (again), followed by Bora Bora (again, to stamp our passports). The gendarmes in Bora Bora were extremely helpful and we should have consulted them first, as they seemed to be the only folks who actually knew how the process worked.

Eventually we had the right paperwork and were able to fuel duty free one last time.  The dock in Bora Bora is quite small, Nancy paced it off and guessed it was about 25 feet long.  It was definitely the smallest dock we had ever tied Duet to, never mind fueled on.  Ron did a masterly job of parallel parking in a narrow space surrounded by moorings.  Once we got there, various boats came and went, one even tied off across Duet’s stern to take on fuel, which was interesting, but we managed to load the fuel we needed.  

Duet’s front sticking off the dock

Duet’s stern fuel fills close to the hose

Once we got off the dock, Sean did some driving, while Ron helped Nancy recover fenders, lines, etc., which needed to be carefully stowed for the journey.  Nancy has many strengths, but knot tying is not one of them, and we didn’t want anything going airborne while we were underway.

Careful not to back over anything

We did take the clothes line downbefore we went to sea

Finally we were off, at 4PM instead of 8AM, but at least it was the same day!  Everyone was tired, which was good, as it meant they slept sooner than usual on an overnight trip.  The weather the first couple of days was quite benign. Nancy and Ron slowly adjusted, while Sean went through his usual 24-36 hours of feeling somewhat out of sorts. He is then fine, while Nancy and Ron, even though they feel better, are still on medication 24/7 and feel a bit under the weather. Our sea sickness is an ongoing issue for us on ocean passages. It makes the journey, particularly the first 3 days or so, much less enjoyable. Unfortunately, no matter how many ocean miles we do, we do not seem able to shake it. We have learned to tolerate it, but we don’t like it, that’s for sure.

Duet chugged along, at a relatively slow speed to conserve fuel in case the weather improved and we were able to continue on to Fiji. If we were to head to Fiji it would be about 1,800 nautical miles, so our RPM was set to deliver in excess of 1.75 nautical miles per gallon (NMPG) to ensure that we had enough fuel to get there. Filling the fuel bladder gave us an extra 300 gallons, which not only let us increase our speed, but also run the generator 24/7 for air conditioning.

Air conditioning makes it much easier to sleep, especially in the master stateroom, which is right next to the engine room. Duet’s engine room runs remarkably cool in the tropics, but it is still at about 105F with the main and generator running and hot fuel in the big tanks. The main engine burns about 25% of the fuel it draws, so 75% goes through the engine, which is around 185F, and back to the tank from whence it came.  This causes the fuel in the tanks to heat up over time.

Sean didn’t run his A/C in his stateroom, and, like Nancy, wore a hoody through much of the trip.  He and Nancy both like warm environments, whereas Ron, who is in charge, likes the cold. Ron also wants the generator to run fully loaded, so he turns all the A/C way down. Regardless, it was much more comfortable than the trip from Mexico.

Vegetables, always vegetables…

After about 3 days of relatively comfortable cruising, the winds, as predicted by OMNI Bob, picked up, as did the seas. Throughout most of this trip, we saw winds in the mid teens to mid 20’s and seas in the 6-10 foot range on a relatively long period, most of the time. Big waves aren’t, in themselves, uncomfortable, the key is how far apart they are (called the “period”) and where they are coming from vis-a-vis which way the boat is going.  Also, if the prevailing swell and the waves generated by the wind are from different directions, it can get bumpy.  

Wave height is hard to judge at sea, so we don’t try, we just assume Bob is right, so the seas we saw were 6-10 feet, maybe a bit more.  The conditions on this trip weren’t that different than the rougher days on the trip from Mexico, except that the wind and seas were more on Duet’s beam.  On the trip from Mexico all the seas, including the big ones, were from astern, which is more comfortable. The other difference was we didn’t have many really calm days, whereas on the Mexico run we had more calm days than rough ones.  We also had some times where the swell and the wind wave were from different points of the compass, which tends to roll her around a bit.

At any time you may see a wave up to twice the so called significant wave height, which in our case was 6-10 feet.   Fortunately we didn’t, as far as we know, see anything in the 20 foot range.  We did have some pretty good rolls, mostly at night, which is when this always happens. There was no question that Duet’s motion was more pronounced on this trip, even though the stabilizers were working hard, whereas on the Mexico leg the stabilizers were off. When things were really cranking, it took two people to get dinner out of the microwave, one to hold the door with one hand and hold on with the other, and one to grab the dinner, before it slid out onto the floor, and hold on.  We used rubber and silicone matting everywhere, which helped keep things anchored.

We also had cabinets open that have never opened before. This time though, we had stowed all the contents of the galley that don’t live in a cabinet, namely the coffepot, the salt and pepper shakers, etc., which did reduce the number of flying objects. Actually, it wasn’t too bad, the worst was probably when the cabinet under the sink let go, despite being locked, and distributed it’s contents all over the galley floor. Fortunately, nothing broke, although Nancy was none too thrilled, as she truly hates stuff flying around.  As part of the learning experiences from this trip, we will be adding about half a dozen airplane latches to various cabinets and drawers.  

During the roughest weather, the fuel bladder, which weighs 2,400 pounds when full, started moving to starboard.  This made sense as the seas were hitting Duet’s port side, so she was rolling hard to starboard pretty frequently.  Unfortunately, it also put an unacceptable strain on the bladder’s fuel fill neck, where it’s tie downs connect.  We were keeping a close eye on the bladder just in case, and caught the move pretty quickly on the exterior camera.  Naturally, this happened just before dark, and the seas were considerable.  

Ron decided to turn Duet’s stern to the majority of the weather, which is her calmest point of sail, so we could pump the bladder out before it moved anymore and/or the fuel fill broke. We also slowed her down as much as possible, to reduce the miles we traveled in the wrong direction while the pump out was going on. Ron wasn’t sure all the fuel would fit into the integral tanks, but fortunately it did.  Emptying the bladder took until just after 1AM and Ron remained awake to supervise it.  Nancy and Sean reorganized their watches that night so Ron could get a little extra sleep the next morning.  

Strain on the fuel fill

The day after the fuel bladder event, the big dinghy shifted a bit on it’s mounts, which has not happened before. Ron and Sean tightened up it’s tie downs, and that was that.  This happened in daytime, so it was all good.

We had some beautiful rainbows on this trip, as there was a lot of squally weather but not much rain.  This is to be expected in this area of the Pacific, as we were crossing the Southern Tropical Convergence Zone (SPCZ).  

Rainbow off the stern

Rainbow off the bow

Ron spent quite a bit time working through and then reworking various courses as we progressed and the weather developed.  Bob was spot on with the conditions and provided excellent advice.  Nancy, in particular, is much happier if she knows what to expect, than if she is surprised by rough conditions.  We also adjusted to the rougher weather, which enabled us to better judge how we would do if we continued on to Fiji, versus stopping in American Samoa.  

Below is OMNI Bob’s forecast for June 9.  We left Bora Bora on June 7, so this was early in the journey.  Our course was mainly West, so anything East is behind us, but South and Southwesterly weather was on the beam or forward of it.  The stabilizers do reduce the impact, and they were working pretty hard for a good part of the trip.

 To: Captain Ron – M/Y DUET Fm: Ocean Marine Nav Inc. O.M.N.I./USA  Tel:302-535-0143 1608UTC   09 JUNE   2018

Thanks for your 12/hr reports. Very helpful.

Weak high pressure ridging to your south will slowly weaken over the next 24hrs as a cold front moves north across 20S160W over the next 8hrs or so, then weakens further as it nears your location. The front is not expected to cross you like a classic cold front, but once it nears/falls apart (or even passes you), increasing S-SE winds will develop around Sun/1200UTC and continue for the next 24-48hrs as high pressure ridging extends north across 20S 165W-160W through Tue/14 0000UTC. Even as the ridge weakens and moves eastward, mostly aft of the beam winds continue through Wed/1200UTC.

A new high ridge develops between 20S-30S/170E-170W through Wed/0600UTC-1200UTC and the high should slowly broad into one broad high center near 28S170W through Sat/1200UTC. The high should remain on the weaker side, which should help keep the winds on the more tenable side to Pago Pago and from Pago Pago toward Fiji through Fri/15-Sat/16 and even during Sun/17

Along the direct route toward Pago Pago (then onward toward Fiji?), at/around 7.0kt, expect:

Sat/09Wind:  ESE-E to ENE 08-15kt. Sea:  0.5-1.0mtr Swell:   SSW-SW 1.0-1.5mtrs, 11-13sec

Sun/10Wind: Tend to freshen SSE-SE 08-15kts to 12-20kt to as much as 25kt with locally higher gusts possible

Sea:  1.0-1.5mtrs, upto 2.0mtrs possible in the strongest winds. Swell:  SW-SSW 1.5-2.0mtrs, Combined sea/swells could reach upto 2.5mtrs late in the day, 11-14sec Highest sea/swells after Sun/1200UTC

Mon/11Wind:  SE-ESE 12-20kt, to 25kt/gusty at times. Sea:   1.5-2.0mtrsSwell:  SW-S 1.5-2.5mtrs.  Combined upto 3.0mtrs at times.  11-14sec.

Tue/12Wind: ESE-ly 15-20kt to as much as 25kts at times. Sea:   1.0-1.5mtrs, as much as 2.0mtrs at times in the strongest winds. Swell:  SSW-SSE 1.5-2.5mtrs 10-13sec.

Wed/13Wind: ESE-ly 12-20kts, gusty at times. Sea:  1.0-1.5mtrs,  combined sea/swells of 2.5mtrs still possible. Swell:  S-SE 1.5-2.0mtr. 11-14sec.

Thur/14-Pago PagoWind: SE-ESE 10-18kt, still the chance of 20-25kts at times during Thur/am-aftn.   Sea:  1.0-1.5mtrs, upto 2.0mtrs still possible early in the day. Swell:  S-SSE 1.5-2.0mtr. 12-14sec.  Combined sea/swells of 2.5mtrs possible

Fri/15-Pago Pago toward FijiWind: SE-ESE 12-18kts, upto 20kts at times with locally higher gusts possible.Sea:  1.0-1.5mtrsSwell:  SSE-SE 1.0-2.0mtrs, 12-14sec.  Highest sea/swell combinations tending over the more open waters.

Sat/16-Pago Pago toward FijiWind: ESE-SE 10-18kts, as high as 20kts possible at times. Sea:  0.5-1.0mtrs upto 1.5mtrs at times.  Swell:  SSE-SE 1.0-2.0mtr. 12-14sec.  Highest sea/swell combinations tending over the more open waters.

We got within a couple of hundred miles of American Samoa before Ron decided to continue.  At that point the remaining journey was about 700 miles or 4-5 days, so we had an idea of what the weather was going to do.  There was a low predicted to materialize to the west of Fiji about 5 days out, but Ron was comfortable we could reach Fijian waters before it arrived.  Worst case we were expecting some rough seas as we entered the area, but we would be sheltered by the local islands, so we didn’t expect conditions to be much worse than what we already had.

We decided to make landfall in Savusavu, rather than continuing to Port Denarau, as our original planned called for.  Not only was Port Denarau further, but it required traveling through several tight passages at night.  The charting in Fiji is not the best and Ron felt that this was too risky at the end of a long tiring journey, with the weather worsening.  

Our agent in Fiji, Josephine Morris of Yacht Partners Fiji, did a great job sorting out our new arrival port and getting our paperwork to the right place in time.  Fiji Customs requires all paperwork to be filed prior to arrival, which wasn’t possible for us using our very slow Iridium Go satellite connection.  Jo also got us a marina slip, which was nice given we expected the weather to be windy and Duet was too heavy for the local moorings, so we would have ended up in the anchorage, which is less sheltered.

Various possible routes to American Samoaand/or Fiji at one point in time

Onward to Fiji

Carefully traversing the top of the northern islands of Tonga at night on Nancy’s watch

Ron’s hazard warning on our entrance to the Koro Sea

Upon reaching Fiji, we had traveled 1,766 nautical miles over 11 days at an average of 6.8 knots.  Duet delivered 1.7 nautical miles per gallon, and we burned 1,230 gallons of diesel, including fuel for the generator.  Interestingly, our speed was very similar to our trip from Cabo San Lucas to Nuka Hiva, but our fuel burn rate was higher and, consequentially, our mileage lower.  This was due to higher RPMs to maintain speed in more difficult conditions, and the fact that our stabilizers (which cause drag) were working hard most of the time.  Duet performed, as usual, perfectly throughout the journey.  We made a video of our passage which provides some sense of the trip.  

The final route

Sean flew home a few days after we arrived in Savusavu.  It was great to have him aboard again, we couldn’t have done this trip without him.  Nancy and Ron continued on to Port Denarau, where Duet will spend about 7 weeks dozing while we go home to Lake Tahoe for a bit.  

We will include our experiences in Savusavu and the rest of Fiji in the next blog.  The photo below was taken on our way to Port Denarau about two weeks after we arrived.

Fijian anchorage

Right now we are home getting ready to return to Fiji, where we will cruise for a few weeks.  We’ll then move on to New Caledonia, which is about a 3 day passage.  From New Caledonia we will continue to Bundaberg, Australia, arriving sometime in early November, 2018.  The trip to Bundaberg is about 5 days.  On the Bundaberg leg, Duet will be participating in the Go West Rally, which is composed of about 35 boats going to Australia from New Caledonia or Vanuatu.

Guests and Generators

We returned to Papeete on April 12th, with a relatively short list of things to do before Barbara and Ken joined us in Bora Bora. Most of Ron’s work was done, so he could help Nancy, which was not something he would necessarily volunteer for, but it definitely speeded things up. Nancy can only manage so many provisions at a time, whereas, with Ron’s help, she can do several carts, all in the same day! Fortunately for Ron, his assistance was limited to one day of hauling heavy items, such as beer, wine, and cans of fruits and vegetables. Nancy did the tricky stuff, like croissants, meat, fish, exotic sauces, etc.

Beer, beer, everwhere!

Chocolate and butter croissants, the food of champions

The best tuna we’ve ever had, caught locally the same day

While Nancy and Ron were plundering the local markets, the Tahiti Crew team swung into action to get Duet ready for guests. The interior was cleaned, and the guest stateroom made up. The exterior was washed and waxed. We fueled up. Gear was tested, most of it even worked. It was time to go.

A creative new way to use Duet’s bulbous bow

The trip north to Bora Bora was relatively easy, as the prevailing weather is behind you on that going in that direction. We stopped in Moorea for the first night, to check gear at anchor. After a day of testing the dink (working, thank goodness), the crane (ditto) and generally getting used to being afloat again, we departed Cook’s Bay at 3AM bound for eastern Huahine. We had hoped that this would be easier than leaving on an overnight journey in the late afternoon, but we found it just as, if not more, tiring. It’s harder, at least for us, to go back to sleep after getting up at 3AM, than it is to go to sleep at a normal hour of 9PM. Live and learn.

Rainbow over Moorea

During this trip Nancy got a great demonstration of the difference in power between our large and small radars.  The large radar, on the left in the picture below, is putting out 12 kilowatts directed by a 6 foot wide open array.  The small radar has 4 kilowatts directed by a 2 foot wide closed array.   The large radar is set at 6 miles and the small one at 3, giving the small one an inherent advantage, which doesn’t help it to locate the buoy seen passing two miles to the starboard of Duet’s bow, on the big screen.

Bora Bora was right where we left it. We managed to arrive several days before Barbara and Ken, and settled Duet in her usual spot in the western lagoon. Tourist boats swarmed during the day, but the crowds died down in the late afternoon. By dusk, it was just us and a few other cruising boats, plus the occasional visit by the “love boat” which is run by an enterprising local. He brings a couple, plus a bottle of wine, to see the sunset, while he serenades them on a ukulele.

Soon enough, the day of Barbara and Ken’s arrival dawned. We actually saw their plane fly over, which was a good thing, as we were still having breakfast and hadn’t realized what time it was. We leapt in to the dink and zoomed to meet them, as planned, at the town dock around 9AM. We had a moment of panic just before the ferry arrived, when we realized that we had no way of contacting them, or they us, should something have befallen them. Fortunately there they were, walking down the gangplank just as we had planned.

Ken and Barbara are good friends from our home town. Nancy and Barbara met, some years ago, at our local swimming pool. They now spend every Monday together (when they both are in town) swimming, shopping and generally enjoying themselves. Barbara is blind, and while she does have an excellent (and very handsome) German Shepard guide dog, Rebel, he didn’t come on this trip, so she was using her cane instead.

We had figured out a drill for guest arrivals, after some experimentation on Allan and Linda the previous fall. Our dinghy is too small to hold four adults and luggage comfortably, because of it’s large center console. So the plan was for Ron and Ken to take the luggage back to Duet, while Barbara and Nancy did a little food shopping in town. This worked out well, Ken got a chance to see Duet and he and Ron got the luggage on board. Nancy and Barbara picked up various items, including a huge paper bag of a leafy green lettuce like item, which we believe was bok choy.

In due time, Ron and Ken returned to the dock, collected Nancy and Barbara and we all set off for Duet. Ken and Barbara had not seen her before, so this was a great chance to show her off. She is much more imposing in person than she is in pictures, and we hope she provided a safe, comfortable platform for them to enjoy their week in paradise.

Duet on approach from the dinghy

Once everyone was aboard, Ken and Barbara spent some time getting Barbara accustomed to Duet’s layout. We must admit we were a little worried about whether Barbara, and, by extension, Ken, would be able to enjoy their time on Duet. Moving around a boat is a complex business, there are lots of things to trip over or get tangled in, and a set of steep stairs.

Watching Barbara “pattern” to the boat was an educational experience for us. Within 36 hours she was moving around without hesitation and without her cane. She did occasionally get turned around, but always figured it out and either asked the nearest person for directions or sorted it out on her own. Our anxieties melted away within 24 hours and we all settled down to have a good time.

Barbara and Nancy getting set for water activities

Essentially, we spent our time swimming, paddle boarding, beach walking, talking, resting, and feasting. Boredom was not a problem. 

Breakfast on the flybridge

Barbara channeling Katherine Hepburn

Ken enjoying a quiet morning

We spent the first night on the western side of the lagoon, and the next day we moved Duet around Bora Bora to the eastern lagoon. Ken did an outstanding job of describing the scenery to Barbara, while Nancy and Ron managed not to bump Duet into anything. The weather was outstanding, sunny and warm, but cool in the evenings. Once we got to the eastern side, there was very little boat traffic.

So where’s the entrance anyway?

Navigating around to the eastern side of the lagoon

Past the tricky bit

Food is always a good idea

Barbara pitching in

Ron’s turn

We all spent a lot of time in the water. Ken is almost all solid muscle so he sinks like a rock, just like Ron. He started off with a float belt to make sure he came up again, but after some time he ditched the the belt and chugged around on his own. Everyone floated around, some folks actually did some aerobic exercises and swam laps around Duet, and Barbara taught Ron to paddle board. We did get a lot of sun, Barbara is much more careful than Nancy and protects her face with hats, glasses, etc. Nancy is now sort of doing the same, although she isn’t a big fan of hats.

Ken and Ron floating around

Barbara, Ken and Ron

Ron having lessons

Ken and Barbara setting off

Barbara doing paddle board yoga

Barbara doing a few water aerobics

Nancy, on a break

Late one afternoon we took a walk on the beach. We anchored the dink in very shallow water, using our anchor buddy, which we haven’t used since Alaska. In French Polynesia, people build houses right on the beach, so we were walking through folks’ back yards. The sun was setting, children were playing in the water and everyone was very friendly. We saw lots of happy dogs, and one very large sow, who advanced rather enthusiastically in our direction, until brought up short by her leash, which was attached to a tree.

Captain Ron sorting out the anchor

Gassing up the dink

Ken requested an engine room tour. He got the deluxe version.

Too soon, it was time for Ken and Barbara to leave. They were flying back to Papeete to join the Aranui V, the local supply ship, which also has cabins for cruise passengers, on a two week tour of the Tuamotus and the Marquesas. Barbara was also planning to get a tattoo from Hermann, who worked on Nancy and Ron. We dropped them off at the ferry, and off they went for their next adventure. They were wonderful guests, Barbara is an excellent fruit and veggie chopper, while Ken is game for anything. We look forward to seeing them again at home later in the summer.

A group picture, taken by Dilbert the drone

Barbara and Ken had a great time aboard the Aranui V.  It visits places not on standard cruise ship itineraries, and is a working vessel.  So not only did they get to do the usual cruise ship tours, but they also got to participate in the real activities of island life.
The Aranui V itinerary

The Aranui V offloading

Barbara and the ship’s chief of the deck

End of a 10 mile cross island hike

Just before Ken and Barbara arrived, the generator had begun to spray oil out it’s ventilation slots. This was not a good thing. The amount of oil was increasing and Ron wasn’t happy. Much consultation with experts indicated that the most likely cause was the rear oil seal on the “prime mover” was failing. 

Generator sets have two parts, the prime mover, which is a standard diesel engine, and the generator, which creates electricity from the energy provided by the prime mover. Changing the oil seal meant removing the generator from the prime mover. This is not an easy task and probably not one Ron could do alone, or with just Nancy’s help. The biggest issue was the sheer bulk and weight of the generator end and the limited working room.

Some advisors recommended just letting it leak until we got to Australia, where expert help (Northern Lights certified technicians) was available. Others were in favor of fixing it now, before it failed completely. There is also a theoretical fire risk from oil spray contacting very hot engine parts. 

The generator is critical to Duet because it runs our water maker. Without it, we would have to make water by hand. Our hand held water maker can only produce enough water for 4 people’s drinking needs per day, so it’s obviously not a long term solution. Given this, Ron decided to change the seal, rather than run the risk that the generator would quit sometime in the next 8 weeks while we were moving the boat to Fiji.

Our good friend Gale, on the Nordhavn 57 Worknot, had just changed the rear seals on both his gen sets, and sent Ron a great guide on how to do it. Unfortunately, Northern Lights doesn’t provide much technical documentation on this process. They build the prime mover and bolt the generator end on, so there was plenty of info on how to change the seal but not much on how to get the generator end safely out of the way so you can accomplish this task.

The trickiest part of all this was figuring out exactly how to move the generator end out of the way to get at the prime mover. On Gale’s boat, he was able to slide the generator end away from the prime mover on a temporary rail he constructed. This was not possible on Duet, because the pan that the gen set sits in has a high lip that obstructs movement of the generator end. We clearly needed to lift the generator end to move it away from the prime mover. It weighs several hundred pounds and can easily be damaged if mishandled, so this effort isn’t to be undertaken lightly.

Given the complexity of all this, Ron decided to return to Papeete and work with a local mechanic there, whom we had met and been impressed with. Adrian had done this job on other generators, although not on one as big as ours. Adrian also had a 10 ton chain hoist that was essential for accomplishing the project. We could even get a Northern Lights replacement oil seal from the local parts supplier, which clinched the deal.

So off we went, back to Papeete. This is a journey against the weather, and so requires careful timing. Time, however, was not something we had, as Sean and Celia were arriving in three weeks. It took us a week of dodging various systems to make it back to Moorea. In the meantime, Tehani had been moving heaven and earth to find us a place at the marina, since we required dock power to operate while the generator was in bits. She also coordinated ordering the parts we needed. Adrian promised to be available when we arrived. All we had to do was arrive.

We broke the journey down into short runs, first from Bora Bora to Raitea, then Raitea to the western side of Huahine, then onward to eastern Huahine, and, finally, a long bumpy day to Moorea. Duet did her usual competent job, while Nancy and Ron gritted their teeth and hung on. Most of the trip was uphill, namely into wind and sea, neither of which was cooperating in the slightest, so it was a rather bumpy experience.

Getting into the marina was also a bit of a challenge. Nancy called Philippe, the manager, as we were crossing from Moorea to the pass just south of the marina entrance. The conversation went something like this:

Bonjour Philippe, this is Duet
Bonjour Duet
Did Tehani tell you we were coming?
Do you have anywhere to put us?
Can you find somewhere in 45 minutes?
Will it be a side tie?
No, it will be a med moor, watch for the chase boat and call me on channel 9 when you see it

For those not in the know, a med moor means that we back Duet down onto the dock stern first between two other boats. We have never done this. The space Philippe had was very tight, on one of the smaller docks, for boats of about 45 feet or less. There were lines in the water everywhere, as all the moored boats have bow lines, from both sides, going down to concrete blocks underwater in the fairway. The wind was on our beam, as was the current.

Med moor map

Bow lines

Ron did a masterly job of getting Duet lined up, but he couldn’t keep her straight enough to back her stern in the narrow opening planned for her, given the wind and current pushing him sideways. He could possibly have gunned her into the opening, but gunning Duet’s 40 plus tons isn’t something we do in close quarters, regardless of the situation. The results are much too unpredictable, as she is very difficult to stop quickly, once she gets going.

To make matters worse, the fairway was narrow, with bow lines in the water on both sides, so we had to be sure to keep her bulbous bow out of the ones in front of her and her stern out of the lines behind her. Philippe was on the dock and called to Nancy “use your stern thruster”, Nancy called back “we don’t have one”, Philippe yelled “merde” and started shouting in French to the chase boat, which rapidly maneuvered around to Duet’s downwind side to give her a timely shove into the opening.

We then got her main prop tangled, twice, in the bow line of the boat downwind while getting her backed into the opening. Fortunately, it wasn’t turning at the time, as the chase boat was doing the pushing, so we were able to float her off. Finally, after much shoving, helpful advice in French and general uproar, we got her settled safely. How we were going to get her out again was a problem for another day. We had med moored!

Honestly, if we had been able to refuse the slip we would have. But we needed dock power, we couldn’t do this repair on the hook. The downtown marina had space, but there had been some problems with thieving and boardings, so we wanted to avoid it. Also, Adrian was based at our marina, he lives aboard a sailboat on a mooring there. So we moored her, and learned some useful lessons for the next time.

Packing into her spot

Getting on and off meant extending our plank

Just a few lines scattered around

The next morning, Adrian and Ron laid out the strategy. Ron would ready the gen set for work, namely remove the sound shield and all the peripherals that were in the way, like the wiring harness, the exterior control panel, fuel hoses, etc. We would also find, somewhere, a good sized piece of timber to span the opening in the salon floor where Adrian would mount his chain hoist. The chain hoist is critical, as it will lift the generator end out of the way, as it is much too heavy to move by hand. Then Adrian and his helper would come, hopefully just for a day, remove the generator end, change the oil seal, put it all back together and, voila, a working, non leaking generator. That was the plan.

Removing wiring

Actually, things went relatively according to plan, which is, as our regular readers know, not the usual outcome of this kind of thing. Ron removed all the extraneous bits and consigned the sound shield to the dumpster, where it was went to a new home with some enterprising boater within minutes. Ron has been on the fence about the sound shield for years, as we have sailed further and further into the tropics.

The temperatures inside it have reached 140-145F, using an IR temp gun on the black inside sound shield material. This is way way too hot and very bad for the gen set. Ron believes that a number of the problems with the gen set, such as the failure of the high pressure pump o-rings, possibly the failure of the fuel lift pump and probably this problem of the rear oil seal, which failed in less than half the time it’s supposed to last, are due to excessive heat inside the shield. He’s now waiting for the voltage regulator to fail, and we are carrying a spare against that eventuality. So off went the sound shield.

One sound shield on it’s way to a new home

Dismantling the wet exhaust

Adrian and his helper, whose name we rudely can’t remember, showed up right on time, at 8AM and work commenced. The first part went relatively easily, until it came time to pull the two sections of the gen set apart. Adrian’s experience to date had involved literally pulling the generator end off the flywheel housing, after the bell housing bolts were removed. Ron’s info from Gale indicated that there was another set of bolts, between the generator rotor and the prime mover flywheel, that needed to be removed first.

At the beginning it looked like this

Setting up the chain hoist

Chain hoist support beam

Adrian’s tools

Setting up the chain hoist

Initial try at pulling on the generator end

So, after a try at pulling the generator end off, a confab was held and a new direction set, namely to remove the flywheel bolts first. These are very tricky to get at and took some creativity on Adrian’s part, plus some significant support from his helper, who ended up almost literally holding the generator end up while the final bolts were removed. This was all very hot work, even with all the floor hatches and both the engine room and laz doors open, so everyone made a major effort to stay hydrated and take frequent breaks.

Finally, the units came apart. This was a high stress moment, as the generator end is fragile. It consists of a rotor which spins inside a stator. Normally, the rotor is supported by its attachment to the flywheel on one end, and by a bearing on the other end. Once unbolted from the flywheel, the rotor loses part of its support. If it falls out of position, it damages the stator and you get to buy a whole new generator. Needless to say, Adrian and Ron carefully placed shims between the the rotor and the generator housing to prevent this mishap from occurring.

Two units coming apart

The generator end

Prime mover end

Once the generator end was safely out of the way, changing the seal was a relatively simple matter. Getting the flywheel off took a little doing, but it surrendered eventually, and the old seal was removed. It was in poor shape, a replacement was definitely called for.

Working on the prime mover

Old damaged seal

Reassembly commenced around 2PM, and went slightly more easily than disassembly, although getting the flywheel bolts back in took some doing. The biggest problem is with access to the bolts that hold the rotor to the flywheel. Gale had warned Ron about this and those warnings were well justified. Eventually, the bolts were in and torqued back to spec, allowing everyone to relax. Adrian and his helper went home and Nancy and Ron had a well-deserved drink.

The next day Ron put all the peripherals back on. The big moment came, the generator started up without a blink, and has continued to run. It did need new engine mounts, but that was something we could do further down the road, on the hook.

Generator mostly back together

Amazingly, a new oil leak presented itself some weeks later, but this time from a different source. Ron was initially quite disappointed to once again see oil spraying out of the generator ventilation slots, but our able crewman Sean suggested that the rocker arm cover could be the culprit (he had had a similar problem on his own boat). In fact, he was absolutely correct. The cover gasket was worn out, allowing a thin stream of oil to drip down between the prime mover and the generator. Once inside the generator, the spinning flywheel and rotor sprayed the oil out the ventilation slots, mimicking a worn rear seal. As luck would have it, we were carrying a spare gasket. Since the rocker arm gasket change, the generator has not leaked.

So was the original oil spray problem just the rocker arm cover gasket, not the rear seal? We’ll never know for sure. What we do know is the rear seal had hardened and cracked, and if it wasn’t leaking, it would be soon. A hardened rear seal can also score the flywheel shaft, but fortunately this had not yet happened. One way or the other, the oil spray problem seems to be solved.

Anyway, back to Papeete. Now that we were ready to go back to Bora Bora, the weather wasn’t. We remained at the marina for another 5 days waiting for the wind to settle down, before we pulled out, fueled again, and took off for Bora Bora directly overnight.

During that time we got the chance to spend some real quality time with the crew of the Nordhavn 76, Sirius. We had seen them in Bora Bora, but they had their owners aboard. When owners are aboard we don’t intrude, the crew is working. Due to our generator issue, we had to turn down a post owner party invitation, which we much regretted, so it was great to see them again when they arrived in Papeete a few days after we did. They really rolled out the red carpet for us, we ate dinner on Sirius, at the outside dining table, which is usually reserved for owners. Judy is a superb cook, we had some great wines, and a wonderful time was had by all.

Sirius from the stern

Sirius waiting to be shipped from the factory

We also took a shot at fixing some air conditioning problems. Duet has 5 standalone A/C units and two were broken, the one in the guest stateroom and the one in the galley. Both appeared to have the same problem, namely poor coolant water flow. At least that was the diagnosis of the local A/C expert. So we retained his technicians to flush the coolant loops with a weak acidic solution, to clear out any debris. The first unit, the guest stateroom, did just fine and has worked well ever since. Unfortunately, the second unit, the master stateroom didn’t go so well.

Nancy was supervising these technicians, as Ron was working on the generator. She went down to see how things were going, and found the master stateroom floor and carpet soaked with the cleaning solution, as the hookups to the flushing system were leaking like sieves. The technicians spoke no English, but they understood Ron’s “STOP”, although they didn’t seem to get the same message from Nancy when she tried to shut them down prior to fetching Ron.

Regardless, we got them stopped and off the boat. The flushing system was consigned to the master shower and the carpet dragged onto the dock. Ron rinsed it while Nancy mopped the stateroom floor. Fortunately there was no damage to the teak floor, but the carpet turned a rather interesting shade of purple where it was soaked by the acid solution. Extensive rinsing reduced the staining to the point where you can only see it in certain light.

Rinsed carpet

Drying carpet

The A/C company was fired, and Nancy and Ron flushed the units themselves while waiting for the weather to improve. The galley unit still refused to work and resisted all attempts by another, much more competent A/C company, in Fiji to fix it, so it may need to be replaced in Australia. In the meantime, the saloon unit does pretty well cooling the space, except in very hot weather.

Nancy flushing salon A/C

Ron servicing the windlass

Cleaning up at the end of a long day

While we were waiting, Barbara and Ken returned, as their cruise docked in Papeete. Nancy met them at the tattoo parlor, where Herman was just putting the finishing touches on a beautiful design for Barbara. He was pleased to see Nancy and asked after Ron, who was, naturally, working on the boat. Nancy stay for an hour or so, until Barbara had made it through the first few minutes of actual tattooing and then she headed off to pick up more croissants. Barbara and Ken flew out that night and arrived home safely the next day, tattoo and all.

Drawing for Barbara’s tattoo

Ron evenfound a little time for some personal maintenance.  We had bought a new hair clipper, which is very powerful.  We found this out when Ron did Nancy’s hair, fortunately, her hair is very thick and grows fast.  

Finally, Ron gave us the office to start off again. First, though, we needed to fuel. It’s easier to fuel in Papeete than Bora Bora, so we decided we would fill the fuel bladder before we left. We made a reservation, as the dock was very busy, this being prime season with many boats arriving from the Americas.

We got out of the slip much more easily than we got into it, the guys in the chase boat removed all the blocking bow lines, so we just slid out, turned and were on our way. Sirius blew her mighty horns in farewell as we passed, deafening all in earshot, including us. We waited our turn on the fuel dock, tied up and began the long process of tanking up. Nancy stands on the dock during fueling, so she can see the total on the fuel meter and let Ron know when he is nearing the top of a tank. During her stay this time, her tattoo caused some comment, including a spirited debate over what one of the symbols actually meant.

The fuel dock only has two diesel hoses. One side had a mega yacht taking on 20,000 liters, which would take all day. We took the other hose to tank about 2,500 liters, but gave it up to the local fishing boats whenever they arrived, as they only needed a few liters. This meant our fueling took longer, but it also made us popular.

About halfway through our fueling, we were accosted by a sailboat hovering off the fuel dock, whose captain kept shouting “when will you be done?”, or, once, “why didn’t you get a sailboat”. After a few minutes of this, which Ron ignored completely and Nancy tried to ignore mostly, one of our fishing friends, a substantial French Polynesian gentleman, shouted “this is French Polynesia, lighten up”, which effectively silenced the sailboat. The fuel dock is very busy at this time of the year, and reservations are required, which our sailboater obviously didn’t know.

Eventually, we finished fueling, thereby cheering up the sailboat. We said goodbye to our friends on the fuel dock, which included one of the guys who had cleaned Duet’s bottom for the last year, and set off, again, nonstop for Bora Bora. This trip was long, but uneventful, with calm weather. We arrived about 24 hours later, and got set for Sean and Celia’s arrival.

Nancy, planning meals

We followed the same pick up drill with Sean and Celia that we did with Barbara and Ken. They did, however, have a lot less baggage, since Celia was only staying 5 days, whereas Barbara and Ken needed gear for over 3 weeks, including their cruise. Celia actually made it with one small carry on bag.  We were most impressed.  Sean, on the other hand, was not only carrying enough stuff for 3 weeks aboard, but also several parts for Ron, so he had a large duffle. 

We did manage to fit everyone into the tender on the first try. We had a similar first day, some swimming, a nap, early dinner and early to sleep for everyone to recover from the trip.  It was great to see Sean again and wonderful to get to know Celia better. 

Sean, happy to be back on Duet andeven happier to have Celia aboard too

We also followed the same itinerary. We moved Duet to the western side of Bora Bora for a few days, and spent our time snorkeling, swimming, paddle boarding, napping, talking, and eating. Celia even volunteered to clean Duet’s boot stripe, since Nancy tweaked her neck doing something somewhere along the line, so things were looking a bit neglected. This was the first time that Sean and Celia had been away together without the children since their daughter, who is 8, was born, so we also tried to give them some time alone.

Sean and Celia making breakfast

Nancy and Ron, ready for breakfast

Dilbert flying lessons

Duet on the eastern side of Bora Bora

Far too soon, the time arrived for Celia to fly home. Sean took her to the ferry dock, she made all her connections and the family was very pleased to see her. Duet, on the other hand, was sorry to see her go. She was a great guest, she cooked, cleaned, told funny stories, and, even better, listened attentively to other people’s (read Nancy’s) funny stories. We missed her immediately.

Another group photo, courtesy of Dilbert

Soon after Celia’s departure, Duet set off westward for somewhere. This journey will be detailed in the next blog.

Cruise ship departing Bora Bora for somewhere