A Rescue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Cruise to Spencer Spit


After what seemed like an endless refit, but was really only about the half way point, based on Captain Ron’s list for Duet, we decided we should actually take her somewhere to try out all this new gear. So we returned to Seattle in early April and set off for the San Juan Islands. The trip north was uneventful, we left on a weekday so there was little traffic and the weather was calm. While we will probably never say locks aren’t a big deal, we are comfortable enough with the Ballard Lock now that we approach it with caution, as opposed to trepidation, which makes for a much easier journey. During the trip Ron spent some time communing with Duet’s main engine, although Nancy thinks it looks more like he’s reading it a bedtime story.

Ron and the main engine


We anchored at Spencer’s Spit, which, funnily enough, is the first place we anchored with a chartered Krogen 42 back in 1997. We had just bought our first boat, a Monk 36, after years of chartering sailboats. We had chartered a Monk on the Chesapeake Bay, our home cruising grounds at the time, and decided that trawlers were for us. The Krogen charter, as is often the case with boats, immediately convinced us that we needed a larger boat, even though we had only had the Monk for about 6 months.

Part of this power versus sail decision was based on Tristan and Maggie, our two Labrador retrievers, who didn’t do well with life on a sailboat slant. Also, frankly, we like our creature comforts, and after figuring out that we would need at least a 50 foot sailboat to manage A/C, a generator, etc., we decided that trawlers were a better answer. Nordhavn was part of our lives, even then, as we had seen a 46 in Dana Point the previous year. Our salesman, Dennis Lawrence (now with Kady Krogen in Seattle) advised us to purchase a small trawler and learn more about boating, before embarking on the purchase of a 46. So we did. 

Anyway, anchoring at Spencer’s Spit brought back memories, and we spent a pleasant evening reminiscing. We deployed the new flopper stopper, which worked like a charm, fending off ferry wakes and other motion with ease. The new hook also worked beautifully, setting like a rock on the first try and holding despite our increasing efforts to pull it out.

Duet at Spencer Spit


Our anchoring process hasn’t changed since we started boating, we set the hook slowly (creeping up on it, as Captain Ron likes to say) and, once all the chain has been laid out, we pull harder and harder in reverse. Ron monitors our position using binoculars and anything he can use as a range ashore, while Nancy stands ready to shove the shifter into forward if things don’t work out as planned.

On the 46, we would back down on the anchor at engine RPMs that replicated the forces of particular wind speeds. Ron had constructed a useful table of wind speeds versus engine RPM. In this way, we could reassure ourselves that the hook would hold in the highest wind that was expected. We have not yet constructed such a table for the 50. The engine on the 50 is so much larger, and it seems to develop awesome thrust at relatively low RPM. So far the big Rocna has been up to anything we have thrown at it, but we have never backed down at more than 1150 RPM. Cruising RPM on this boat is about 1650.

Ron still wasn’t happy with the way the chain and the windlass were interacting. Nancy, who watches from the pilothouse while Ron deals with the anchor, has seen literally miles of chain pass across windlass gypsies over the years, and she was sure something wasn’t right. One for the punch list on our return. Ron still hadn’t installed the new aft chain roller, but since we were putting chain out, rather than pulling it in, we had no issues with the anchor coming up over the nose, just with the way the chain ran off the gypsy.

 The next morning we considered going ashore. Unfortunately, it appeared that our dinghy, while it had nearly everything else, did not have an anchor. Or, if it did, we couldn’t find it. This sounds funny, but in the year we have had Duet, we had found several compartments we didn’t know existed, full of exciting gear. Most of it has been parts, but we also found several nice salon cushions in a storage area, which was under a storage area, which was under the pilothouse bench seat. They appeared to have never been used, so it is possible that Duet’s previous owner never found that compartment either.

Taking the dinghy ashore without an anchor was a nonstarter. The PNW has considerable tidal range. The dinghy is heavy. Once we got it ashore, we weren’t sure we could launch it again, if it ended up too far up the beach during a falling tide. Conversely, during a rising tide, it stood a good chance of floating away, and Nancy wasn’t in the mood to swim after it. So we stayed on the boat, doing various tasks and getting used to being out on the hook again.

After several nice days at Spencer Spit, we decided to return to Seattle, albeit a few days before our original plan, to avoid a weather front working it’s way down from the Gulf of Alaska. We departed early in the morning, having used Nobeltec’s new (to us anyway) route planning tool to calculate our departure and arrival times, incorporating the current.

We have found this tool, after some testing, to be relatively accurate. Unlike some cruisers, we enter waypoints along the way, rather than prior to departure, although we do put together a rough idea of how the trip will look in the route planner. This rough analysis gives us approximate distances and an estimate of the overall trip time, which is useful for planning.

In our experience, things tend to intrude on carefully planned routes. These things include, but are not limited to, other boats, dredges, buoys which have moved or are temporary, etc. In one memorable instance, we arrived at the Cape Fear outer buoy at around 3AM, to find that the entire channel had been moved while we were in the Bahamas. In this case, the intrusion was to be the US Coast Guard, who decided to board us.

We have never, in all our years of cruising, been boarded by the Coast Guard. We have no idea why, as we have traveled in areas known for boarding and many of our friends have been boarded on the same routes we took. Finally, however, it was our turn.

Duet was southbound, just outside the channel in Admiralty Inlet. For those not familiar with the geography of the PNW, the San Juans are north of the Straight of Juan de Fuca, while Seattle is south. The inbound Straight ends at the northern end of the Puget Sound, on which Seattle is located. So, to return to Seattle from the San Juans, one must cross the busy shipping lanes of Juan de Fuca. There are traffic schemes which define which vessels go where in this crowded area. Admiralty Inlet, where the channels all come together, is similar to a traffic circle used by automobiles. In the chart below the center of each traffic scheme is shown in purple. All traffic keeps to the right, respectively.

Admiralty Inlet

While traveling in crowded areas with a lot of commercial shipping, we make a point of staying out of the traffic lanes whenever we can. Ships, tugs and other large vessels remain in the traffic lanes and are limited by their draft. Duet, while considered a relatively deep draft boat by some, nevertheless is able to operate in water depths of about 10 feet without undue concern. We are big believers in the rule of gross tonnage, namely the bigger guy is always right, so we always get out of the way.

So there we were, chugging along southbound just outside the southbound traffic lane, rather like a bicycle on the side of the road. Ahead was a Coast Guard vessel, moving slowly, even further off the lane than we were. In the water just ahead of it, was a small fast moving inflatable, chasing a large motor yacht. Nancy, who watches these interactions with great interest, said to Ron “look it’s the Coast Guard and they are going to board that motor yacht”. Ron, having listened to Nancy’s theories about what’s going on out there, which sometimes are right, but can also be wrong, made a noncommittal noise and kept Duet trucking on her course to Seattle.


Coast Guard mothership

After watching the inflatable catch the motor yacht, and the Coast Guard personnel board the yacht, and getting Ron to watch said boarding, Nancy proposed another idea “they are going to board us next”. Ron, again relying on years of experience with Nancy’s theories, and what he regards as almost a paranoia about authority, replied “no way”. The Coast Guard personnel then departed the yacht and returned to the mother ship, which had been keeping pace with us and the motor yacht. Ron, having been married a long time, carefully said nothing. Nancy said “ they are going to have lunch and then will board us”. Ron again said nothing. Since it was lunch time, we had lunch.

In the meantime, we continued south, at about 8 knots. The Coast Guard vessel, now with it’s inflatable back aboard, kept station with us at a similar speed about ½ mile off our starboard side. Once we (and presumably they) finished lunch the inflatable went back in the water. Nancy refrained from commenting on this. Ron, comfortable in the knowledge that the Coast Guard would definitely call us on the radio before boarding, sat in the helm seat watching our course.

Within about 5 minutes, without a radio call, the inflatable came alongside the pilothouse door. Nancy stepped outside, without making any comments to Ron (although she was sorely tempted) to see what they wanted. The personnel on the inflatable had two questions, first, how many people aboard, and, second, did we have any weapons? The answers, two, whom you can see in the pilothouse and no, made them comfortable enough to say we are going to board you.

Coast Guard inflatable


Since this was a new experience, Ron and Nancy weren’t sure how to proceed. We asked if we should slow down, they said no, maintain speed and course. So Ron stayed in the pilothouse and Nancy went aft to greet them, while keeping her hands in plain sight. Two members of the three member team came aboard, a female officer and a male crewman, while the inflatable driver remained with his vessel. 

Boarding was somewhat precarious, as Duet throws a wake at the transom, we were moving at 8 knots, there was a slight sea running and our swim step is about 6 inches wide where they chose to board. Also, it was raining, so everything was slippery. Nevertheless, the two made it on board safely. They were wearing foul weather gear, lifejackets and boots, and carrying radios, hand guns, cell phones, handcuffs and a clip board. Rather like the Nevada Highway Patrol, but without the Taser, and with the lifejackets, foul weather gear, boots and clip board.

Nancy fetched Duet’s documents binder, which was given to the junior crew member to review and complete the paperwork. The female officer wanted to see our bilges, our heads and our engine room. That being Captain Ron’s domain, Nancy took the wheel and Ron set off for the tour. In addition, Nancy also explained that all our fire extinguishers had recently been inspected (thank you Jeff for insisting on that) and that we had two automatic systems (one in the engine room and one in the lazarette), as well as at least 5 extinguishers in the various compartments of the vessel. This seemed to satisfy the fire extinguisher review.

Ron took the officer below, showed her our holding tank overboard valve with it’s cable tie, which was satisfactory. We did not, however, have Waste Management placards affixed near each head. This was a new requirement for Nancy, she didn’t recall seeing it anywhere, but, whatever, we didn’t have the placards. We did have a Waste Management Plan (namely how we manage our trash) as well as a Waste Management placard affixed to the side of the trash compactor. We also have a ‘No Oil Discharge’ placard in the engine room.

Fortunately, the officer was nice about it, and wrote us a warning about the placards. She did inform us if we were boarded again without them we would get a ticket, so they went on Nancy’s immediate buy list. It turns out, for those interested, that West Marine has free Waste Management placards, which we taped to the inside of the locker doors where the head valves are located in both heads.

The officer then asked to see the engine room. Since the engine was running, Ron brought up the subject of ear protection, as he doesn’t like folks going into the engine room without it and we have only one set of ear muffs. She had no ear protection, so we satisfied the engine room inspection by showing it on our engine room camera, which fortunately can zoom and pan.

Meanwhile the junior crew member copied down all our information, and checked us with the mother ship via radio. Duet is a Coast Guard documented vessel, so she has a Coast Guard number, as well as a MMSI (Marine Mobile Service Identity) for emergencies. She also has licenses for her SSB radio and for Captain Ron to operate it. These are not required in the US, but since we plan to visit foreign countries, we figured we would get them now. Our documentation was in good order.

Funnily enough, they didn’t inspect our flares or life raft, just our life jackets. Nancy, who had carefully sorted out all the flares, as we keep them all, even if they are expired, was disappointed, but apparently we were “inshore” and so did not need flares. They did count life jackets, but since there were only the two of us aboard and we had our Mustang Survival auto inflating jackets hanging in the pilothouse locker, we were OK there.

The Coast Guard departed on good terms, after about 20 minutes. The boarding of the inflatable was even more hair raising than the boarding of Duet, Nancy was only hoping their mother ship was able to assist, as she really didn’t want to go in the water if one of them fell in. Nancy did consult a retired Coast Guardsman, whom she swims with back home, about this practice. He said that boarding vessels underway is a macho thing, and he wasn’t at all surprised that they did it this way.

Fortunately, this experience didn’t slow us down much, although it did give Nancy a great opportunity to say “I told you so”. Having been married for many years, she didn’t and got Captain Ron tea and a cookie instead. Duet rumbled on, and we arrived in Poulsboro without further incident. There we offloaded the dinghy, with no fanfare thanks to the new davit, and went ashore for ice cream, which we felt we deserved after all this excitement.

During our stay at Poulsboro, Ron installed the new aft anchor roller. We held our breaths during testing, but it worked like a charm. The hook came up, the aft end of it tried to lift, the aft roller kept the chain down, and the hook, with a loud thump, came up onto the roller without further ado. We tested it multiple times, same result. So Ron judged it fixed, but kept it on the watch list.

New anchor system

The chain, in the meantime, still wasn’t playing well with the gypsy. A close examination of the chain noted that it was stamped G43, which according to the research materials we had access to, is the same as G40, which is what we thought we had. So we decided to discuss this with Jeff on our return.

We returned to Seattle several days later. Again, our time on Duet was far too short, but we were pleased with the results of our new gear installations, and were much looking forward to returning Memorial Day week.

The Refit Part 2

Once Duet returned from Delta, more work began. Jeff’s team was busy working on several things at once, fortunately they are not all in the same place on the boat. We visited periodically during this time, and were able to watch Duet on Salmon Bay Marine Center’s web cam number 6. Many friends watched her too, and Nancy and Ron felt a bit like the pandas at the zoo, as they were getting texts saying “we can see you, what are you doing?” etc.

Duet on the web camera at Salmon Bay Marine

 Installing the new crane was the largest project we asked Jeff to undertake. First, however, the old one had to come off. This is always easier said than done. Bits which have been sealed to a boat for a long time, if it was done correctly initially, tend to seriously resist being removed. To keep them attached in the first place, boat builders use a long acting sealant, usually something known as “5200”. 5200 is short for 5200 Polyurathane Adhesive Sealant. Adhesive is the key point. Done right, a good 5200 job will hold and, as importantly, keep water out, for literally years.

So, first the old crane had to be cut, pried and generally pulled off its base. Nancy, having removed many items which had been 5200ed to our 46, sympathized with the team. The trick is to get the sealant to let go, or, when you pry the item up, you bring part of whatever it’s attached to with it. Since we needed to install the new crane in the same place as the old one, we wanted all the deck to remain intact. Fortunately, this wasn’t the first crane rodeo for Jeff’s team, so all went relatively well.

After a solid day of cutting, prying, heating (to loosen the 5200), pulling, pushing and general coaxing, the old crane came off. It was gently lowered onto the dock, put into a truck and taken to Second Wave, a local marine consignment store. Ron and Nancy are big patrons of marine consignment stores, we have bought and sold many items on the second hand market over the years. So the crane went off to find a new home, which it did within just a few weeks. It was a great deal for someone who didn’t need power rotation, as it worked just fine. 

As the picture below illustrates, the old crane base was square, see the filled holes all around, but the team managed to get it off the deck without taking pieces of the deck with it. The pipe in the middle is new, for the hydraulic hose run for the new crane. The old pipe is below it to the right. For readers who are wondering why the sun in Seattle has suddenly turned blue, the area where the crane team was working was covered by a large blue tarp throughout the project to prevent Seattle’s endless precipitation from getting the project, or the team, wet. 

Even on sunny days, or what passes for sunny in Seattle, the work site was carefully protected, as the picture below illustrates.



A unit the size of the old crane, which is intended to handle significant loads, will not only be sealed on, it will be bolted as well. Hopefully, those bolts will go right through the deck and out the other side, with backing plates or large washers on each bolt to spread out the loads and more 5200 to keep them dry.

On Duet, however, out the other side is an approximation, as the base of the crane straddles the bulkhead on the starboard side of the salon. Getting at the underside of the deck in the salon is pretty easy, as the roofing panels are velcroed in place. But the half of the base over the starboard outside walkway was inaccessible. To get to the those bolts, Jeff’s team had to cut a rather sizable hole in the fiberglass roof of the companionway.

This is not as bad as it sounds, because we needed an access panel anyway to inspect the new bolts on a regular basis. Captain Ron is not a believer in having vital items, like the bolts which secure the crane, in inaccessible places. So cut they did. Not only cut, but also remove an outside light which happened to be in the way.

The picture below illustrates the hole over the starboard companionway, where about half the new bolts can be seen coming through. Just to add to the complexity, the new crane has a round base, while the old one had a square one, as illustrated by the blue taped holes. 


This second photo shows the inside of the crane base, which is over the starboard sofa in the salon. You can see the new hose chase, the old wiring and some of the new bolts, as well as the old bolt holes, covered by blue tape while the filler in them dries. 


Now came some important decisions. Fitting a full backing plate under the deck, through which all the bolts were attached, would be nigh on impossible, because the bulkhead was in the way. Creativity was required. After much thought, Jeff’s team came up with an elegant and practical design. They bolted a stainless steel plate through the deck and then bolted the crane to the plate anywhere the crane could not be thru bolted directly, namely over the bulkhead. Anywhere the crane could be bolted directly through the deck, it also went through the plate, giving it another level of support. The plate was thru bolted over the salon side of the bulkhead, as fewer of the crane bolts go through the deck on that side.

The new crane, a beautiful white Steelhead 1000, has a round base with 16 bolts. Of the 16, 4 were tapped into the plate, which had 4 bolts of its own thru the deck. The remaining 12 crane bolts went through the plate and then thru the deck. So the crane base and the plate both have 16 bolts. The deck is solid fiberglass over two inches thick. The new bolts all had the biggest backing plates that would fit on the uneven surface under the deck. All in all, a solid installation.Below is a photo of the steel plate before installation. You can see the 16 holes for the round crane base, as well as the 4 additional holes in a straight line above the central hole (for the hydraulic hoses).



The photo below shows the steel plate in place, with the hose conduit through the middle to prevent chafe. Chafe is a real problem on a boat. Everything moves, all the time. Anything that can rub against anything else inevitably will. So not only were the hoses run through a protective pipe, they were also carefully protected everywhere they passed through something, to prevent any chafe and related leaking issues later on. The white goop, visible in this picture as well as others, is the infamous 5200.



Once the engineering challenges were met, then came the cosmetic issue. How to make it beautiful, as well as functional? In this case, Kevin, a master cabinetmaker, came to the rescue. He proposed using a material called Paper Stone, which is very strong, can be cut into almost any shape and is easily painted.

Kevin built another base, square rather than round, which sits between the round crane base and the square steel plate, out of Paper Stone. The steel plate fits neatly under the Paper Stone base and is invisible from the outside. The Paper Stone base allowed to the crane to be leveled, as the slight outboard camber of the deck was absorbed in the fit of the Paper Stone. It also helped spread the load out. The crane was bolted through the Paper Stone, the steel plate, and, finally, the deck. In the photo below, you can see the Paper Stone base, under the crane base. The steel plate has disappeared under the Paper Stone base.


So, after much preparation, the crane was ready to be hooked up. But what about power? The new crane is a 24V electric hydraulic model, with a beautiful little electric motor driving it’s hydraulics. The initial idea was to install the motor in the lazarette, but getting the hydraulic hoses down the back inside of the house proved difficult. So the unit was installed in the starboard stack, on a raised base to keep it above any water which might penetrate the area.


The hydraulic hoses to power the crane ran from the crane base, through the boat deck, forward under the salon roof and up into the stack. The power wires to power the crane motor then ran from the motor down the stack into the engine room and under the floor to the 24V battery bank, which is under the master bedroom floor. Eric and Ron carefully calculated the voltage drop across the wire length and were satisfied that no undue reduction of power would occur.

The crane was wired into a separate 24V breaker next to the bow thruster breaker, at the base of the master berth. Nancy finds it interesting that, on boats, critical gear is installed all over the place, so you can easily find yourself gazing up at the primary bow thruster and crane breakers while doing your morning stretching on the floor. These breakers are critical, however, to ensure that things that are supposed to be off are really off. We don’t need the crane deciding to move around while we are offshore. This is more likely than it sounds, while it never happened to us, several 46’s have had “phantom” winch problems with the winches that lift their tenders.

Finally all was sorted out, the old holes in the deck were filled, the new holes were drilled, 5200 spread around in large quantities (Jeff says, and Ron and Nancy agree, if you don’t have it in your hair by the time you are done, you didn’t do it right). Last, but not least, the crane itself was installed on the base.



It looked magnificent.


But does it work? As an aside, folks may be aware of the story of another trawler, whose builder shall remain nameless, where, during the first test of the new crane and dinghy, the entire assembly fell gracefully over the side, fortunately without injuring anyone. This was not something anyone aboard Duet ever wanted to see. 

Everyone crowded round, Chris did the honors, lifting the dinghy easily (and amazingly quietly) straight up in the air and neatly over the side. The first question on everyone’s mind was did the base creak, or, heaven forbid, crack? Brent, who had his ear to the base during the initial lift, heard a groan as things settled, but there were no signs of cracking or other strain on the unit.


Over time, as we use the crane, Ron will be keeping a close eye on this installation. We even ran a hose on the base for hours to see if it leaked. It didn’t. Keeping the boat in Seattle also provides commercial strength leak testing, as eventually the relentless rain will find any weak spot.

Then we had lessons. Chris and Ron retrieved the dingy and then put back it in the water several times, started it up and Ron went for a ride. For those readers who haven’t met Captain Ron in person, he is in blue below and Chris is in red. 



As often happens with boat activities, something immediately broke, namely the dinghy set off an engine temperature alarm, so Ron limped back to the mother ship. The problem was easily diagnosed, during the winter gunk got in the cooling pipe which brings water in to cool the engine. A couple of rev ups later she was running like a champ.



Last, but definitely not least, we replaced, at Chris’s suggestion, the dinghy lifting harness. The new one could potentially be used to lift the entire boat in a pinch, and we are very happy with the way it works.



Next, in the order of project magnitude, was the installation of the at anchor flopper stopper. Our Nordhavn 46 had paravanes, which allowed us to deploy a “flopper” at anchor to keep her stable. There was no question that our next boat needed one, but installing it proved to be an interesting challenge. Completing this project was rather like an Amish barn raising, everyone from the “neighborhood”, including all of Jeff’s team, Ron and Nancy, PAE, and several Nordhavns both near and far, participated in the process. 

First, we needed the gear. That wasn’t too hard, as is common with many pursuits, buying the stuff isn’t difficult, it’s getting it to work that takes the time and effort. Unfortunately, due to a series of problems along the line, the flopper stopper kit was delayed, so this part of the refit didn’t really start until pretty late in the game. Once the pieces all showed up, attention focused on how to install this gear so it wouldn’t come off when it was put under load.

Nordhavn provided a useful instruction sheet on how to use the gear. Ron has a lot of experience from installing the paravanes on our 46. Jeff had worked with the flopper stopper rig on San Souci, a beautiful Nordhavn 68 belonging to one of his customers. Finally, the Nordhavn 76, Eliana, was tied up two slips away. She conveniently has flopper stoppers, so whenever our creativity flagged we could go look at her.

There were several issues. First, engineering the pole mount. The inboard end of the flopper pole attaches permanently to the side of the boat, in most cases the port side, as there is no walkway there. Some boats have them on both sides, but we think one will do. Worst case, we will install another later on if we need it.

 On most Nordhavn 50s, the base of the pole is attached just above the forward galley window under the eyebrow, on the port side, so it is thru bolted into the house. The pole then runs aft, when not deployed, terminating at the end of the house, as shown here on the N50 Twins. Readers will note that Twins does not have the big galley window Duet has, it is an optional feature.


In Duet’s case, however, we will install storm plates over these windows when traveling offshore. After much measuring, it was determined that there wasn’t enough room to install the pole above the windows but still under the eyebrow, without conflicting with the storm plates.

Now what? Our brain trust stood around contemplating for a bit and then decided that if it wouldn’t work on the house, the pole would need to be attached to the eyebrow of the boat deck, just above the galley window and be stowed along the eyebrow, instead. The eyebrow is solid fiberglass until about halfway up, then it is hollow. So we needed to engineer something that would take the compression load of the pole when it was in use.

The members of the team shown below include Kevin at the foremost end of the pole in black, Jeff in the middle in red, and Brent in plaid. Ron is still in blue, it’s his favorite color.


Several people came up with the same idea at the same time, demonstrating that either this is a very bright team or we suffer from group think. Whatever, we decided to use compression blocks between the eyebrow and the house where the pole is attached. The base of the pole rests on a stainless steel plate on the outside of the eyebrow, to spread the load, as the actual base of the pole is rather small.

The pole base is then through bolted through the eyebrow into another steel plate on the other side of the eyebrow, thereby spreading the load on both sides of the eyebrow. The pole base is raised slightly on a base so that it doesn’t touch the eyebrow along it’s length. Duet, like many of us, is wider at the stern than she is in the middle, so the back of the eyebrow is further outboard than the front. 


Two compression blocks, made of our new favorite material, Paper Stone, were crafted by Kevin and Michael to fit tightly between the eyebrow and the side of the house, on either side of the through bolts for the pole base. The picture below shows the blocks before they were mounted, using a bit of plywood to demonstrate how the stainless plate would fit. The angled side of the blocks fits on the outboard inside of the eyebrow, while the straight part is against the house.

These blocks are screwed into the eyebrow through the outboard and inboard steel plates and transfer the compression loads from the steel backing plates to the side of the house. The entire installation was polished and painted so it looks like original equipment. In the picture below you can see the bottom of the flopper pole base, mounted on the outside plate, and the inside plate and compression blocks. 


It is safe to say that this installation is probably over engineered. However, as Captain Ron pointed out, we don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night, hear the pole groaning under the load and worry about it ripping off.

The pole also has three lines which stabilize the pole when in use. First, and most critical, is the topping lift, a term which is familiar to Nancy and Ron from their sailing days. The topping lift attaches from the outboard end of the pole up to the side of the port stack on the boat deck and keeps the pole from being pulled down by the the flopper. This is same way that a topping lift works on a sail boat boom.

Second, there are two lines, the fore guy and the aft guy, which, naturally, run from the end of the pole forward to the port midships hawsehole, and aft, to the hawsehole on port aft deck. These keep the pole from being pulled too far forward or backward.

The only line which required a new attachment point is the topping lift, it clips to a pad eye installed somewhere on the port stack. The somewhere part was a little tricky. We had lots of pictures of where other boats had placed their pad eyes, but they were dry stack boats, which changes the geometry. Duet is a wet exhaust boat, so she has two smaller stacks to provide engine room ventilation, one on each side. You can see the single dry stack in the photo below of Tivoli, Nordhavn 50#5.


The dry stack is in the center of the boat deck and is a more substantial bit of gear than our two individual stacks. Our stacks, although each is smaller than a dry stack, are joined about two thirds of the way up by a fiberglass cross bar, which provides structural stability. A person can climb on the stacks and stand on the crossbar to work on the electronics installed up there, so they are relatively beefy.

In the picture below you can see the folding steps on the starboard stack. The pad eye will be installed just aft of and above the antenna mount on the outside of the stack. You can also see the stack access panel on the starboard side, there is a similar one on the port side, which enabled us to put a large steel backing plate on the pad eye.


Larry Geiselman, our PAE broker, also helpfully connected us with the project manager for the Nordhavn 50, as well as the Nordhavn 57 (which has the same twin stack configuration as Duet), who was comfortable that the pad eye would be fine as long as it was installed below the cross piece.

So we started testing. High school geometry is not Nancy’s forte, fortunately it is Ron’s and, as it turns out, Kevin’s. The general idea is that the topping lift needs to be attached high enough to pull the pole up enough to create a compression load at the base of the pole, causing the pole to push into the boat, rather than just yanking down on the topping lift. But it can’t go too high, because then we run the risk of putting too much strain on the supporting stack.

The pole was held in place by Chris and Bill, while Ron, Jeff, Kevin and Brent assessed where to put the pad eye. Cameron held the pad eye. Nancy stayed, mostly, out of the way and took pictures. Kevin also contributed a really cool app on his smart phone which can calculate the angle of the pole when deployed. It is important that the pole be 25-30 degrees above the horizontal to create the needed compression load.



After much discussion, a location was chosen for the pad eye. A large stainless steel backing plate, to spread the loads on the stack, was chosen and drilled. Everyone took one more look, and then Kevin boldly drilled the stack. Up went the pad eye. In the picture below you can just see the stainless backing plate for the pad eye, on the inside of the port stack.


The resulting assembly was then tested on the dock, although we stopped short of anyone hanging on the end of the pole to simulate the flopper at work. Nancy and Ron will test it in the real world when we take the boat out in March.



As you can see from the above picture, the pole fits nicely against the eyebrow. We are still working on how to secure the aft end of it beyond the clip, as we don’t need it deploying by itself offshore. Unfortunately, the hardware that PAE normally uses for this has been discontinued, but we shall find a solution. In the meantime, when Duet is moving, the end of the pole is tied to the rod holder bracket on the aft eyebrow.

The final part of the installation was the big question of where to put the flopper itself? On our 46 the floppers (we had two since we had paravane poles on both sides, although we never used more than one), were stored on the boat deck, strapped to the rail. The flopper is big and awkward to move, so the closer to the deployment point the better. A rack was built for it behind the cockpit ladder, and a cover was made, so that it is neatly out of site. 


Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, the flopper installation was something that Jeff’s team had not done before (unlike the crane) and uncharted territory is always daunting at the beginning.

The last of the big projects was the samson post installation. On our 46 Ron had installed a single custom stainless steel post. In the 50’s case, placement of a single post was difficult, as the cabin top comes very close to the back of the windlass. Also, the large custom post was quite an expensive bit of gear, so the Budget Committee was anxious to evaluate alternatives. For readers who did not follow the adventures of the first Duet, the post from the 46 is shown below. 

After much searching of web sites and catalogues and looking at other boats, Ron decided to install two smaller posts instead, much to the Budget Committee’s relief. Two looked better than one, and, although we could have done with one, looks are important. Also, sometimes we had more than one line on the 46’s post and, given these posts are smaller, two gives us more flexibility.

The posts are aligned fore and aft with the two rollers on the bow. They are also raised so they are level with the rollers, allowing for a fairlead to each post, rather than having lines foul either the windlass or the anchor pulpit. These posts will be used for the mainly for anchor snubber and other mooring lines.

They will also be used for the parachute storm anchor when we need it. It is our practice to set up a parachute storm anchor for deployment whenever we travel offshore, the idea being that if we break down we can sit to the anchor more comfortably than if we were just rolling about in a seaway, while Ron fixes whatever has broken. 

Installing the posts wasn’t that hard, especially compared to the flopper stopper rig. There was one little trick, however. Our Maxwell windlass has a manual crank, in the unlikely event it should fail. The reality is, cranking up several hundred feet of chain and the 154 pound Rocna is something Ron doesn’t even want to contemplate, but it might happen. Unfortunately, the posts block access to the section of the windlass where the manual crank is inserted. So they needed to be removable.

Jeff’s team came up with a well engineered solution, similar to that used for the crane. They installed a stainless plate, thru bolted to a backing plate in the chain locker. Below is a picture of the plate, with the 8 thru bolt holes and the 8 tapped bolts for the posts themselves.


Then they made a Paper Stone base and bolted it to the plate. Then the posts were bolted to the Paper Stone and tapped to the steel plate. This not only allows Ron to remove the bitts relatively quickly, as they are tapped, not thru bolted, but it spreads the loads more than just bolting directly through the deck to a backing plate. The Paper Stone was cut to fit the camber of the deck so the bitts are level and it was painted to match the deck. All in all, nicely done.



So far the posts have worked very well and we haven’t had to test whether they are removable, as the windlass has worked flawlessly.


Remaining smaller projects included the storm plates, which are heavy plastic (½ Lexan in our case) covers installed over exposed windows while traveling offshore. While Duet’s glass windows are between 3/8 (salon) and ½ (pilothouse) an inch thick, it is prudent to give them a little more protection in the event of a strike by a wave during storm conditions. The most exposed windows are those on the port side of the salon, as they are directly on the water. They will be covered any time we go offshore.

As an aside, Three-at-Sea, a Nordhavn 43 presently cruising off the coast of South America, was hit by a wave on the port side, and her aft most salon window was broken. She did not have her storm plates in place at the time. Her Captain’s theory is that an unfortunate sea turtle was flung into the window, as the weather was quite mild at the time of the incident and there were many turtles in the water. No one was hurt (other than possibly the turtle, if, indeed, a turtle was involved) and the window was replaced at the next stop.


The starboard salon windows will be covered in the event of a more significant storm on the horizon, as will the forward facing pilothouse windows, but these plates can be put on at sea. Nordhavn 50s, like some of the 57s, but unlike other Nordhavn models, have aft, rather than forward, raked pilothouse windows.

The windows are protected by a substantial eyebrow, but could, in a significant storm, be hit directly by a boarding wave. Despite extensive research, Nancy was unable to find any example of such an incident on a Nordhavn, but better safe than sorry, so plates have been made for all the windows. We also consulted Brent about what his father, Don, does on Starr, as she has similar aft raked pilothouse windows. Don is a very experienced mariner and he carries plates for his pilothouse windows, so we shall too.

The 50’s aft raking windows can clearly be seen in this ariel photo of N50#8, La Vagabunda del Mar.


Jeff has made plates before, and suggested we use hardware inserts in the plates to make it easier to install them. Duet already has the matching hardware on the boat side, stainless steel plates at the corner of each window, each with a bolt hole. We also have the bolts, courtesy of the first owner, but we ordered more, as the chances of them going in the water during installation or removal are quite high. The insert is shown below.


The salon plates were made, fitted and then carefully stored in a special rack built of Starboard, forward of the Portuguese bridge. They still have their paper covering on in the photo below. 

The rack was covered in a stamoid cover, to protect the plates, which can scratch. This rack is so unobtrusive that Ron walked right by it without even noticing it. Once the the pilothouse storm plates are completed they will be stored on either side of the center rack (shown below) two to a side, in their own racks with covers.


Duet’s previous owner also visited during the refit and dropped off four custom stainless steel screens for the salon windows, which had come with the boat when he bought her. These are great, as they solve a problem that we never solved very well on the 46, namely how to screen the windows without having to put canvas over the insides.

The team also completed the scupper covers. Nordhavns, as ocean going boats, need big holes in the deck sides, called scuppers, to make sure that any water which comes over the sides or the foredeck goes out fast. Scuppers on the aft and side decks are usually covered by a hinged, one way panel, called a scupper cover. The scupper cover lets water go out, but not come in, as often at sea waves are banging against the sides of boat, above scupper level. If the water gets in, it fills the side decks and cockpit, which is not something we want.

Some of the Nordhavn 50’s were built without scupper covers. The idea seemed to be that the scuppers are high enough up the hull that water will not enter them from the outside. As you can see in the photo below, the Nordhavn 50 has 4 scuppers on the starboard side, mainly to drain the side deck, and she also has one in the port cockpit. This photo is of Duet, in her previous life as Loreley, before the covers were installed. 


Consultation with other Nordhavn 50 owners indicated that water does come in during rough conditions, particularly in the aft deck. Having waves sloshing about in the aft deck is not something we were willing to sign up for, both because of the potential for causing instability and because there is a lot of critical gear in the lazarette.

The lazarette lid is supposed to be water tight, but the Nordhavn 40, Uno Mas, suffered a leak into her lazarette on the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally. Said leak shorted out her inverter, thereby shutting off her stabilizers. This was not a good thing in large Atlantic seas. A work around was implemented, but we would like to reduce the chances of having to figure that kind of thing out while rolling heavily from side to side.

Kevin and Michael patterned the covers, made them in Paper Stone, had them painted on both sides, one side the color of the hull and one the color of the inside of the deck and neatly installed them. Below is a photo of the port cockpit scupper cover from the inside. The following picture is of it from the outside. In the top photo, you can clearly see the retaining mechanism which lets water go out, but not come in. 




The only big issue remaining to be solved was the anchor and the chain. After much soul searching, Ron decided to give up trying to fit 400 feet of ½ inch chain into Duet’s chain locker. A useful formula from Dave Gerr’s Boat Mechanical Systems Handbook demonstrated that no matter how we crammed it in there, no more than 300 feet would fit. After checking with various friends who have anchored in Alaska, we decided that 300 feet was too short for comfort. So the ½ inch chain is now on Craig’s list for some lucky boater to acquire at less than half price.

400 feet of new 3/8 inch G40 chain was ordered and installed. The old 3/8 inch chain was BBB, which isn’t as strong as G40. As we couldn’t have the ½ inch, we wanted as much strength as we could get. It fit into the chain locker like it was made for it, which of course, it was. Funnily enough, the 46’s chain locker was much bigger than the 50’s, as the 46 didn’t have the bulbous bow and machinery space underneath.

The anchor retrieval problem, namely the shank pulling the chain off the windlass, remained an issue. Jeff, Chris, Brent, Ron and Kevin spent much time observing the problem and looking at other boats. Finally, a consensus was reached, we would add a second roller at the aft end of the bow roller. It is designed to go over the top of the chain, rather than under it. It should keep the chain down and flowing onto the windlass when the stock of the anchor comes up. The stainless piece has been made, but Ron hasn’t had time to install it yet, so we will provide a report on how works in the next log.

Last, but definitely not least, steps were installed into the bulbous bow. Getting down there is no joke, and there is equipment which must be maintained. While Nancy has no intention of ever going down there, after seeing the top of Ron’s head below her feet from the access area in the guest head, she realized that an easier method of ingress and egress would be required. Folding steps were installed and now Ron can climb in and out of there to his heart’s content.

Finally, we were getting close to finished. A refit is never truly finished, but the Budget Committee was getting restive, so this refit was declared finished. Kudos to Jeff’s team, who managed to not only do the work, but also keep us happy at the same time, which isn’t easy.

As an aside, we would like to note that, like all good folks, Jeff has a boatyard dog (actually several if you count office dogs, namely Adrienne’s wonderful Boston bulldogs). Sailor visited us several times, providing close supervision from the dock.

We also took advantage of Jeff’s connections to purchase various bits of gear, including safety gear, parts, etc. So endless boxes were carried onto Duet, and every time Ron and Nancy arrived it was rather like Christmas.


Nordhavn Changes Over the Years

While we realize our readers are anxiously awaiting part two of Duet’s refit, in the meantime we thought we would provide some pictures of various Nordhavn models over the years. This gallery was developed during the search for Duet, and focuses on the 50 versus other models, as that is where our search was directed. What is of particular note, at least to us, is that, despite all the changes, the latest Nordhavn is still obviously a Nordhavn, and you can easily identify the common DNA in every model.
When we first started looking for another boat, we discussed, in nauseating detail, what we liked, and didn’t like, about our 46. The 46, along with the 62, are probably the most “famous” Nordhavn models built to date. When we got our 46 in 2000, there were very few on the East Coast, at least where we were. Everywhere we went, someone came by to ask about her. What was she? How far could she go? What were the funny poles on the sides? At least we didn’t get asked, as a PAE delivery team once did on a 62, “what kind of research are you doing?”
So we had some ideas about how we wanted our next boat to look. Many folks have said that a lot of what boating is about is the romance of it, and that starts with how the boat looks. Some folks like the speedy look, others the woody nautical look, still others the tramp steamer. We have often admired a Colin Archer double ender, but wouldn’t own one, due to the maintenance the “look” requires.
Since we acquired our 46, Nordhavn had introduced several generations of new models, first the 50/57, a contemporary depature, which some folks liked and some folks didn’t. Second, the 40, that small tank which went around the world in slightly more than 80 days with scarcely a hiccup. Third, the 47 and 55, which have now evolved into the 47/52 and 55/60/63 series, and are the most successful models introduced so far. Finally, the “big” boats, the 64/68, the 72/76, the 86 and the 120. 
Somewhere in there the 43, a refined version of the 40, and the obvious successor to the 46, appeared. All of these later generation models had one thing in common, they were taller. This allowed more luxurious accomodations, as well as larger tankage and other refinements, but didn’t compromise seaworthiness.
As part of our search for a new boat, we assembled a series of pictures of various models in close proximity to one another, which our readers might find interesting, as they illustrate how things have changed.
Below is the famous 46, Salvation II, which circumnavigated with her intrepid owners, Jim and Susy Sink, shown next to the beautiful 50, Flat Earth. Flat Earth has traveled many miles throughout Alaska and the South Pacific with her owner Phil Eslinger, who took this picture. For us, this is a seminal picture, as it is effectively the old Duet next to the new Duet.
Then we have a photo from what was an impromptu rendevous in Mexico, of the N43 Serenity (whose crew took this picture), the 46 Blue and the 50 Sally G. Sally G was previously owned by Dick and Gail Barnes and was named Ice Dancer. The Barnes have cruised over 80,000 miles on their two Nordhavns, this 50, and the 57 Ice Dancer II.
Like us, the folks who own the 50 Sally G previously owned the 46 Sally G. So we are not alone in owning two Nordhavns. Actually there are quite a few folks who have owned two, some have owned 3 and a very few, 4. We never say never, but we think we will probably stop at two.
Finally, and this picture has occasioned more comment than any other that we have found, below are the N55 Cloudy Bay and the N50 Crossroads. Crossroads is Hull #1 of the 50 series, the picture was taken by Stan Heirshberg, who owned her at the time. The changes in the newer generation are clearly visible. The 55 is 5 feet longer, 2 feet wider and over 15 tons heavier.
As with anything else, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and every Nordhavn is beautiful, not only to her owner, but to all those who see her on the water.

The Refit Part 1


Time passed quickly for Duet’s crew. We left her with Jeff’s team in mid November, and here it was the end of December and we were in Seattle again. Naturally it was raining.

But first a bit on what happened to Duet while we were gone. Our project list included some 29 projects, all neatly laid out in a spreadsheet, with parts suggestions, etc. Some of these projects were substantial, like upgrading the Naiads, others were small, like adding positive locks to the fridges and freezers.

The key to managing project scope, as Nancy knew, having learned at the knee of her project manager many years ago, is not to let new things get on the list. That way lies trouble. So Nancy managed the list and her and Ron’s tendency to add things to the list, while Jeff managed the team and the service providers. A good partnership. 

 The refit was completed in several parts, driven by yet another schedule, namely that of Delta Shipyard, which had been chosen to haul Duet and put her safely on land, where her Naiads could be upgraded, her bottom painted and other items addressed. Delta couldn’t take Duet until after Thanksgiving, so that gave Jeff and the guys some time to get other things going.

 Duet’s refit can be divided into three types of work. First, standard maintenance, like bottom paint. There was little of this, as her previous owner lavished attention on her. Second, older gear which needed to be updated. Third, and this is the most elastic category and one that Nancy and Ron talked about daily, things Ron and Nancy wanted, based on our previous experience with our 46. Of all the money spent during this refit, at least 60% was in the Ron and Nancy want, rather than the Duet needs, category. Since this was also true of our recent house renovation, this revelation didn’t surprise us too much.

 So Jeff et al set to work. First, the dishwasher, a project near and dear to Nancy’s heart. The initial idea was to emulate our solution on the 46, namely remove the stove, replace it with a gas cooktop and recoup the drawer space lost to the dishwasher by adding drawers where the stove used to be. Sounded great in theory. In practice, however, this was a little more complex, mainly due to the lack of a cook top which would fit where the old stove went.

 After the old stove was removed, but fortunately stowed in Jeff’s shop, and much time was spent on evaluating possible cook tops, we decided to put the old stove back and see how things went with less storage space. Duet’s galley is huge compared to the 46, and we figure worst case we will address this again in the future if we need more storage, or not.

 Thus our galley refit was reduced to a new Miele dishwasher. A beautiful new dishwasher, for sure, and Kevin and Michael, Jeff’s cabinetmakers, did a great job making an end grain veneer for the front of said unit. Nancy, having watched her entire kitchen be rebuilt at the Tahoe house, knows a lot more about cabinetmaking than she did before and she can say, without hesitation, that Kevin and Michael are craftsmen. The other plus is the dishwasher actually works, which is always a positive.


In addition to the dishwasher, the other big “house” upgrade was a complete replacement of the head (toilet) hoses. For the non boaters among our readers, toilets are always a topic of interest on a boat. Essentially, Duet has her own municipal sewage system, complete with toilets, tanks and the necessary hoses to transport results from one place to another, until they are either pumped into the land sewage system, or overboard when we are offshore.

Over time, the hoses, which work hard, tend to wear out, which results in smell. Duet, at 12, needed new hoses. This was not a job that Ron was anxious to undertake, so it immediately went onto the refit list.

The objective of this entire exercise was to eliminate the smell aboard, which meant that not only the hoses, but possibly some of the vacuum tanks , needed changing out. Duet has Vacuflush toilets (just like an airplane) and in that design there is a vacuum tank between each head and the holding tank.

The master head vacuum tank had a long and productive life, but it was time for it to move on. Unfortunately, moving it on meant removing it from under the stairs leading from the pilothouse to the staterooms. Fortunately, Jeff’s team had done this type of thing before, so Brent gloved up, put on a mask, fired up the skillsaw and, presto, well not exactly presto, but relatively presto, the job was done. A nice new PVC vacuum tank (sewage odor doesn’t permeate PVC like it does other types of plastics) was installed, along with all new hoses (over 100 feet in all) and Duet smelled sweet again. Actually, it took some time for the old odor to work its way out of the boat, but after a month or two she smelled just like a new boat.

Kudos must go to Brent Stabbert, who spent literally hours upside down under various parts of the boat replacing hoses. This is not an easy or pleasant job, and the tendency is to want do it as quickly as possible, but he hung in there and did it right. He also serviced both heads, replaced the manual overboard pump, and upgraded the automatic overboard pump.

Enough about sewage. On to the something more interesting, the diesel heater. Our 46 also had a diesel heater. Ron spent years doing battle with it, and eventually triumphed, but he is not a fan of these units. Jeff’s team, in the form of Erik, spends a lot of time working on diesel heaters so they knew a few tricks Ron hadn’t learned yet. These units are critical to cruising in the Pacific Northwest, without them life isn’t worth living.

Erik spent some time crawling around our diesel heater, tuning it up and sorting it out. It turns out that the key to any diesel heater is to get the installation right. A diesel heater is very much like hydronic heating in a house: there is a furnace (in Duet’s case installed in the lazarette) which heats up fluid which then travels throughout the boat via hoses.

At particular points, in Duet’s case 5 points (salon, galley, pilothouse, master stateroom, and guest stateroom) the warm fluid enters a heat exchanger with a fan, thereby allowing warm air to flow in to the living spaces. There is also a large expansion tank, rather like the overflow tank on a car radiator, which acts to balance the flow of fluid, which expands as it heats up and then contracts as it cools down.

There are lots of opportunities to get a diesel heater installation wrong. The expansion tank must be placed and sized properly, otherwise it doesn’t do its job well. Too small an expansion tank, for example, allows warmed fluids to expand and spill all over the place. Erik upsized Duet’s tank by quite a bit and relocated it. It had been installed under the pilothouse instrument panel, where there is plenty of room. Unfortunately, if it leaks, there is at least $75,000 of electronic bits for it to leak on. So it was moved to the starboard side of the panel, where there is nothing in harm’s way.

Second, Erik did a standard service on the heater, which it was due for anyway. He also showed Ron how to do this, thereby enabling us to proceed on our own in the future. As an aside, this kind of cooperation is great from a service provider, as, while Ron can read the manual, there is nothing like getting the hands on perspective.

Third, Erik and Ron checked the whole boat for leaks in the system, which are pretty common. Once the new expansion tank was in place, on our next visit, Ron spent much time crawling about looking for hose leaks. As the system pressurizes, the expansion tank gurgles a lot and then should quiet down. It took a number of cycles before the quiet down part was achieved, but now the system runs like a champ.

As an aside, having the diesel heater hoses running throughout the boat has a significant benefit, it keeps all the spaces warm. So, if the heater is set at 50, the engine room (which has no direct blower) stays at least at 50 and often warmer, because of the warm hoses passing through it. Nancy’s favorite though, is that the hoses pass under the master bed, and therefore under the clothing drawers. So all her clothing comes out warm. There’s nothing like a nice warm set of socks on a damp Seattle night.

It turns out that the diesel heater uses quite a bit of fuel, approximately 3 gallons per day, when running to maintain temps in 60’s. When the boat is alone, the heater is set for 45, so it uses far less.

Erik, in addition to his role as diesel heater guru, is also Jeff’s electrician. So he installed a galvanic isolator for us. Boats are their own little electrical world, with shore power when we are tied up and generator power when we are not, as well as power from the main engine when it’s running. To make matters more complicated, this Duet has both 12V and 24V systems. Nancy has learned, over a long period, that she will never understand electricity. Fortunately, Ron not only understands it, but enjoys it.

When we got Duet, she had some corrosion issues. This is not uncommon on an older boat. All boats have a bonding system, which is designed to protect the equipment on boat from the vagaries of electricity. Essentially, and this is Nancy’s explanation, those wanting a more detailed version will need to email Ron, the fact that the boat sits in water enhances the chances of her equipment being eaten up by electricity. So she has wires (the bonding system) which connect every major bit of metal gear (engines, stabilizers, shafts, thru hulls, etc) to a sacrificial piece of metal, known as a zinc. Over time, these zincs are eaten up by the endless appetite of the electricity, so they are replaced on a regular basis. In the meantime, the other pieces, namely expensive engines, etc., are protected.

As you can see from the picture below, Duet’s sacrificial zincs are pretty large, this one is the base for the main hull zinc, of which there are two, this one is just below the waterline on the stern, the other is under the hull.



In addition to reworking Duet’s bonding system, which had gotten a bit threadbare over the years, Ron wanted to add extra protection in the form of a galvanic isolator. This piece of equipment does what it sounds like, it isolates Duet from possible electrical gremlins when she is connected to power on the shore. If you want to know how it does that, apply to Ron.

While Erik was beavering away on the diesel heater and Brent was buried in the head system, a series of other small projects were carried out. Fire extinguishers were inspected (required every year), a small bit of lagging on the main engine exhaust was replaced, and, in between dishwasher work, Kevin and Michael installed fridge bolts, rejiggered a hanging closet into a linen closet in the master stateroom and began the process of “patterning” various things which would be built later. These will be discussed in the next log, but include the scupper covers and the storm plates. They make a pattern in plywood first, fit it, drill it and generally make sure it works, before actually making it in the real material. This saves a lot of time and money later on.

So after two busy weeks at Jeff’s dock at Salmon Bay, Duet was ready to go to Delta. Because of Ron’s schedule, we were not taking her, Jeff was, accompanied by Brent. Moving our boat for Jeff was a non event, he, Chris and the team move boats all the time. It was, however, a big event for us, as we aren’t used to her being moved by other people. The day dawned, and all went well, Duet did fine and so did we. She arrived, was immediately hauled out and carried off to a concrete pad that had been set up for her. Jeff sent plenty of pictures to reassure us that she had arrived safely and was being carefully tended.



A word about Delta Marine. Jeff works with them frequently, as he captains several Deltas for their owners, and has refit at least one (the beautiful Delta 70, Sea Lion). They build truly gorgeous boats, the 136 footer shown next to Duet in the picture of Salmon Bay is a classic example of the quality they produce. Normally, a boat of Duet’s size wouldn’t go to Delta for work, but, both because of Jeff’s confidence in them (and strong relationship) and because of Duet’s rather substantial heft (at 40 plus tons she is at the top end of what other boat yards in Seattle can lift), we made the decision to go to Delta, even though, at first glance, it was more expensive. The lift shown below is capable of lifting 300 tons, or nearly 8 times Duet’s weight. 



Figuring out yard pricing is rather like trying to price medical care. You have the yard itself (the hospital), the various workmen (the doctors), the helpers (the nurses) and the parts, procedures, etc. Everything is priced differently at every yard. Some yards, for example, charge for lay days, namely when the boat is just sitting there, not having work done. Some, like Delta, don’t. Some package bottom paint jobs with haul out fees. Others don’t. So Jeff presented Nancy with various yard choices in Seattle, and recommended two, we chose Delta and are glad we did, they did a very professional job.

Duet spent three weeks on the hard at Delta. Someone from Jeff’s team, usually Brent, was present whenever work was being done, usually participating, so we were confident that she was well taken care of. During her time there she had her bottom painted, which is a biannual boating job.

Jeff, the Delta team and the Seakhawk paint guru all felt that she will need a bottom job sometime in the next 3-4 years. A bottom job means that the outer layer of skin below her waterline needs refreshing. For the ladies in the audience this is rather like a facial skin peel. It is to be expected on a boat of Duet’s age, the new owners of our 46 had one done about two years after they bought her from us. So it is on the list for the next time we visit Delta.



In addition to bottom paint, we installed large intake screens over all Duet’s thru hulls. Thru hulls allow us to draw sea water into the boat. While this sounds counterintuitive (aren’t we supposed to be keeping the water out?) sea water plays a lot of roles in a boat. It is used extensively for cooling equipment, like the main engine. It is what we used for cooling the air for our air conditioning. We use it to wash off the anchor and chain. So we need thru hulls. 

The thru hull shown below is for the new salt water washdown pump, which Ron uses to keep the area around the anchoring platform clean.



For those interested in Nordhavn construction, Duet’s hull is solid fiberglass below the waterline. The balance of her hull, her house and her decks are cored, to reduce weight. Shown below is the hole the team cut for the new salt water washdown pump thru hull. Seeing the thickness of a Nordhavn hull close up like this always makes Nancy and Ron feel better, especially when they remember it just after they have bumped into something.



But, and this is based on a lot of hard won experience, thru hulls not only suck in water, they suck in anything else in the vicinity, such as plastic bags, jelly fish, etc. These items do not play well with Duet’s gear. So we installed large Groco screens, which prevent anything but water from coming in. The strainer in this picture is 7 inches long and over 3 inches wide, as compared to the thru hull it covers, which is 1 1/4 inches in diameter.


These screens also have an opening thru which a diver can service the thru hulls, which need greasing every now and again. For the curious reader, the device to the right of the thru hull strainer in this picture is a speed log. 



Here is a picture of a standard thru hull strainer, which was installed on most of this Duet’s thru hulls, as well as her predecessor’s. As part of this project, any thru hull with this kind of strainer was removed, the thru hull replaced and a new strainer installed. All previously uncovered thru hulls also recieved strainers. 


During her time out of the water, Duet’s Naiad stabilizers were upgraded by Naiad’s Jedi Master, Dick McGrew. Nordhavn 50’s of Duet’s age tended to have either big Naiads or smaller ones. Because we plan to do a lot of long distance cruising, we decided to upgrade to bigger ones. For our technically minded audience, we changed up from Naiad 201s and 6 foot square fins to 252s and 7.5 square foot fins. We also changed out all the hydraulic hoses, a prophylactic move given that many of them were original.

Fortunately Duet already has the latest Datum electronic head for her Naiad system, so with the new fins and related gear we are all set. In the picture below you can see the old fins laying to the left of the boat. The old fins later went to a new home in Nanaimo, Alaska, where we are sure their new owner will get many years of great service from them. 



Also as part of the yard visit, Duet’s main drive shaft was removed for evaluation. The surveyor was concerned about corrosion on the shaft that he could see from the engine room. Given Ron’s worries about her bonding system, pulling the shaft to take a look see was an easy decision. Fortunately a review indicated all was well, the shaft was polished and returned. When it was reinstalled, it was also rebalanced.

When the main shaft is pulled, the main propeller also comes off, so it was sent to be rebalanced and polished. The pictures below show the main prop before and after it’s trip to the beauty parlor. At the end of the shaft you can see the new propeller zinc. As might be obvious by now, Jeff’s team and Delta are giving Duet a good going over.




We also wanted the Spurs serviced. Spurs are cutters mounted on the main shaft and are designed to cut loose anything that might wrap around the shaft, like a fishing net. Unfortunately, when the Spurs were removed, they cracked, probably due to age, so a replacement set was obviously called for. In the picture of the new Spurs below you can also see the new zinc, which protects the spurs from random electrical damage. 





Also as part of this process, we evaluated and decided to replace the main cutlass bearing. The cutlass bearing is installed at the point of entry for the main shaft into the boat. The shaft runs from the transmission through the back of the engine room and into the water. The point where it enters the water is always a concern, because it is a substantial hole and if it leaks we are probably going to sink. The cutlass bearing serves to reduce friction between the shaft and the shaft log (the log is the fiberglass tube in the boat through which the shaft exits). The picture of the old cutlass bearing below shows clearly that a replacement is due.



Finally, we restuffed the stuffing box. The stuffing box is part of the shaft entry to the boat, and keeps the shaft cool while it’s turning. It is literally a brass box, stuffed with some form of wool like material with grease on it. Seawater enters the stuffing box via the cutlass bearing to act as a lubricant while the shaft turns. Stuffing boxes drip very slowly into the bilge.

So, finally all this was put back together. Actually it went extremely quickly and well, as Delta was primed for our arrival and knew what needed to be done. All other providers, like the propeller and shaft shop, also knew we were coming and had worked with Jeff before, so he had confidence they would get the job done right.

We also took advantage of the yard’s lifting gear, to hoist Duet’s new Rocna 70 anchor, at a svelte 154 pounds, aboard and to put her new chain on the boat. Jeff’s folks can do this kind of thing at their dock, but with a little planning we can spare everyone’s back and use a yard truck.



The paint came last, as did the replacement of all her zincs, and then, bingo, she was back in the water and on her way to Salmon Bay. She returned in fine style, the stuffing box remained cool to the touch (a key sign of a happy shaft) and all systems operated normally. She also ran much more smoothly, due to the newly balanced shaft and propeller.

Once she was back at Salmon Bay, Dick from Naiad, Jeff and Brent took her out in Lake Washington on a rough day to test the new Naiads. They performed to spec and Duet returned to her slip, ready for the next phase.

On her return, work on other projects began, to be covered in the next log. We visited for two weeks over Christmas and New Year, just after Duet returned to her slip. We took her out for a few days, to test the new systems, and all worked as advertised, except the new anchor and chain. We did manage to go back and forth through the lock without incident, the fact that we were the only boat in it both times may have helped.

As our prior readers know, we are big believers in installing the largest anchor and chain possible. Most Nordhavn 50’s have a Rocna 55 and 3/8 inch chain. We went a size up, to the Rocna 70 and ½ inch chain. This installation required some tweaking, to put it mildly. Ron is shown here testing the installation at the dock, prior to taking her out. 



First, the Rocna shank is so long that it pulls the chain up and off the windlass while being recovered. This doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens enough to need fixing. Second, the 400 feet of ½ inch chain was so bulky that it kept blocking the chain pipe (the chain pipe directs the chain from the windlass to the chain locker below deck) instead of piling neatly in it’s locker. Obviously, some changes would need to be made. Ron tends to think things through very carefully before doing anything. So does Jeff. After some discussion, the anchor and chain issue was left until our next visit, at the end of January.

Other than this small issue, everything else the team had done worked perfectly. The diesel heater kept us toasty, the toilets flushed beautifully, and the dishwasher rumbled along. The dishwasher does require the generator to be running when in use, as we have an older inverter which doesn’t produce “pure” electricity.

This is similar to our 46, where the use of an older inverter caused the demise of almost every rechargeable item on the boat, including cell phones, razors, and, probably most significantly, toothbrushes. On one memorable occasion in the Southern Bahamas, Ron had to reengineer an old Braun toothbrush charging base to fit a newer toothbrush, as the new base had given up the ghost. Otherwise we would have had to resort to cleaning our teeth with straws. So this issue was not unfamiliar.

We plan to upgrade Duet’s charging system and the inverter in the future, in the meantime, the dishwasher has a great 30 minute express cycle which can be run while the generator is doing something else at the same time, like charging batteries, doing laundry, etc.

So after a wonderful two weeks spent sitting at the dock and taking advantage of Seattle’s great dining, coupled with 4 days out on the hook near Poulsboro, we returned home to Lake Tahoe, leaving Duet in Jeff’s capable hands.

The balance of the refit will be discussed in the next log.



The Move To Seattle

Duet holds her own with the big boys at Salmon Bay Marine
After a month or so in Anacortes, during which, amazingly, everything went fine, it was time to move Duet to Seattle, into the capable hands of Jeff Sanson and his team at Pacific Yacht Management . On our previous boat, we did almost all the work ourselves. We were either living aboard or the boat was nearby. We also supervised haulouts, bottom paint, jobs, etc. This time, what with Ron working and both of us over 1,000 miles away, we needed a surrogate on site, whether we liked it or not.
After checking with various Nordhavn owning friends, we identified Jeff as someone who could probably not only get the job done, but could keep us happy as well. Jeff spent a day aboard Duet with us in Anacortes, we were impressed with his skills and experience and so we retained him to manage and complete a long list of upgrades and maintenance projects. The list wasn’t overely complex, just a lot of items, ranging from large, like upgrading the stabilizer system, to small, like installing a ladder into the bulbous bow area so Ron could inspect the area and work on the bow thruster. That bilge is so deep that if Ron went in, he’d never come out again without a ladder.
We spent much time on our project list, including selecting parts which we thought might work for various jobs. We sent it all to Jeff. That was the easy part. The hard part was getting Duet the 80 odd miles from Anacortes to Seattle within the confines of Captain Ron’s schedule. Fortunately, Veteran’s Day happened along. Prior to that, however, we did spend a rather hectic weekend aboard wiring the new computer to the navigation equipment and testing said equipment. Everything, mostly, worked, so we set off Saturday morning of the Veteran’s Day weekend, south bound. Not having made the trip before, nor having cruised Duet more than about 15 miles, we were a little uncertain as to how things would go.
The trip is a straight shot, south down the various channels, across the terminus of the Straight of Juan de Fuca and into Puget Sound. One of the keys to cruising in the PNW is gaining a good understanding of current, otherwise you spend all your time on the wrong end of it. We got it partially right, we had current on the nose until we hit Juan de Fuca and then we had it on the stern. We managed the 80 miles in just under 10 hours, and anchored safely in Madison Bay, just across Puget Sound from the Ballard Locks. Pacific Yacht Management is based just beyond the locks, at Salmon Bay Marine (shown above)
It was a great trip. The weather was fine, the boat ran perfectly and Nancy only got mildly seasick and perked right up with an application of her magic smelly Odorease. Ron says it makes her smell like a koala bear who has spent too much time munching eucalyptus leaves, Nancy doesn’t care what she smells like as long as she doesn’t feel sick. Ron spent the journey getting more comfortable with the navigation suite, and periodically checking the engine room. The boat, like our 46 before her, took very good care of us on our first journey together. We spent a quiet evening anchored with the sea birds in Madison Bay and slept well.
Jeff’s team had sent us an outline of the Ballard Lock procedure, which was very helpful. Also, the commercial locks were closed for maintenance, so we at least knew that we were headed for the smaller, easier to use, recreational lock. We have some lock experience, having transited Great Lock on the ICW many times. Locks are not our favorite activity, but we set forth determined to do well. We arrived at the lock with little fanfare, holding station just on the far side of the railroad bridge, about 200 yards from the lock entrance. Captain Ron doesn’t like getting into tight spaces if he doesn’t know what is going on in there, as turning Duet around is not as simple as it sounds. The recreational lock is next to a damn, which serves as a spillway from Lake Washington. So there is a bit of a current running outbound to Puget Sound. That works well for us, as we can sit bow to the current and keep control easily.
So there we sat. The lock light on our end was red, meaning we shouldn’t proceed. A number of boats came in and either passed us to loiter in front of the lock, or waited behind. After about 10 minutes, a small procession of boats excited the lock, having come down from the Lake, and the light on our end turned green.
At this point an aside might be educational. On the East Coast, at least wherever we have traveled, the locks (and bridges) monitor VHF Channel 13 and the proceedings are directly by the lock keeper. Normally it is an orderly procession, with the first boats going in first, etc. Sometimes an aggressive or ignorant boater will push through the waiting boats and shove in front. Usually everyone tolerates this, unless the weather is bad, or we have all been waiting a long time. Then the conversation will become rather heated.
At this point at Ballard, we had several boats which had moved in front of us, to tie up temporarily to a small wall in front of the lock, rather than maintain station, as we were doing. So the green light was on and everyone just sat there. Several boats closer to the lock were waving at us, but we tend to ignore that kind of thing, as in our experience it could mean anything, from hello to something less friendly. So several small sailboats headed into the lock. At that point, we decided to move forward beyond the railroad bridge so we could see the inside of the lock better. Once we got a little closer we could hear some helpful people on a large Carver motor yacht, which was tied up along the “waiting” wall, calling “you are next, you were here first”.
In the meantime, the lock remained silent. Apparently Ballard Locks does not talk to recreational boaters. We can see the reasoning, e.g. there are so many boats going through they would do nothing but talk on the radio. It does make the procedure more confusing though, for first timers like us. Fortunately the helpful people on the Carver took pity on us and showed us the way. In our limited experience in the Pacific North West so far we have found boaters to be very helpful. This is not necessarily true of some areas of the ICW.
With the folks signaling us on, we began to slowly approach the lock. We were the largest thing in the area, and most of the sailboats were of the under 25 foot variety, so Ron was very careful with our rather substantial tonnage. Thus far we have been favorable impressed with the handling characterics of the N50, versus our 46. She is less inclined to wander and not as subject to any current from the stern. She is easy to control and easy to steer.
We think all of these improvements are due to several things. First her mass, she tipped the yard scales at 37 tons with about a quarter load of fuel and water aboard and no stores, versus the 46’s fully loaded 30 tons. Second, she has a flatter stern than the 46, which had a rounded stern, so there was more stern in the water on the 46 to get pushed around. Third, she has a huge main propeller and a large rudder, much larger than the 46. Finally, she has a powerful bow thruster, while the 46 had what could only be termed a bow bubbler. 
We made it into the lock with minimal difficulty. When approaching from Puget Sound the boat is locked up to the lake. The recreational lock has floating bollards which move up and down as the lock fills and empties. This makes it easy to loop a bow and stern line and manage the boat as she ascends. We did have a little excitement with the lock wall, as the midships of the N50 at the pilothouse bulges out further than the hull at the waterline, where Nancy had set the fenders. Hence, as she ascended, the bulkward outside the pilothouse got rather close to the lock wall. A lock keeper and Ron sorted that out, while Nancy slacked the stern line to let Duet move slightly to port (she was tied to the starboard side of the lock) and reduce the chances of scraping her starboard side.
This manuver alarmed the small sailboat on our port side, to whom we must have looked like the oncoming Queen Mary. Shouts of careful, watch out, we’re down here, etc., alerted Nancy, who did her best to haul Duet back to starboard. Pulling Duet anywhere, unless you happen to be a tugboat, is not a happening proposition, particularly if you want it to happen fast. She will move, but very, very slowly. Fortunately Nancy had left a ball fender on the port side, so the sailboat was quite safe, even if her crew did feel a little overwhelmed.
Just after this procedure, Nancy realized that the Ballard Lock serves as local entertainment. She walked around the stern and noticed a number of folks, including a large group of what were probably Asian tourists, all waving and filming us with their phones. She waved back, and did not tell Ron about this until later in the evening, when we were safely tied up and he had already had a drink. He was under enough stress in our first lock experience, without knowing that he was on YouTube as well.
Everyone exited the lock intact and we proceeded about 1000 yards down the canal to Jeff’s dock at Salmon Bay Marine. This facility is a interesting redevelopment of old docks, including the shore warehouses, which have been redone into combination commerical and residential space. Each building comes with its own dock. Boats at Salmon Bay are large, as the picture above illustrates. We settled into our dock and enjoyed a nice evening watching the boat traffic parade back and forth to the lock. We also took a walk around to inspect our neighbors, which include the beautiful Nordhavn 76 Eliana. 
The next morning we met with Jeff and his team, all of whom turned out to be specialists in one area or another. We reviewed our detailed spreadsheet and spent time with each expert on their relevent assignment. In the small world category, one of Jeff’s folks turns out to be the son of Don Stabbert, Captain and owner of the beautiful vessel Starr, which has voyaged far and wide. The previous owner of Duet served as crew aboard Starr when she crossed from Tokyo to Hawaii a year or so ago. Don also owns Salmon Bay Marine, so it’s all in the family.
After what seemed like much too short a time, Jeff drove us to airport to return to Lake Tahoe and Duet settled down for an extensive period of pampering. Our next log will cover our return some six weeks later to see how things are going.

Managing a boat long distance

So, after a great two weeks we returned home to Lake Tahoe. Captain Ron went back to work as Dr. Ron and Nancy settled into life at the lake. All went well, for a day or two. Our regular readers know that we are used to having Duet within an easy drive. Unfortunately, West Coast geography prevents this. So we need someone to watch over her when we are not there. The watching part worked out fine. The watchers did their job, they called when something went wrong. Unfortunately, what went wrong took more than a phone call.
Boaters know that leaving a boat requires thinking through all the things that might happen while you are not there. This includes bad weather, tidal changes, etc. What it didn’t include, at least for us the first time around, was strange things that can happen, which no one quite understands. In Duet’s case her electric cord fell into the water. Now this may not sound like a big deal, and it isn’t, provided that all that falls into the water is a bit of the cord. If the connection between two cords falls in, the cord shorts out. That is what happened in Duet’s case. Why it fell in we will probably never know. What we are grateful for is our dock neighbors, Bill and Arlene, who called Frank who called us.
The logistics of this accident are worth some explanation. Duet, as shown in the above picture, sits stern to in her home slip. The boat end of her electric cord plugs into an outlet on her port (left) forward deck. So, when she is in the slip with her stern in, we use two cords, a 50 footer and a 25 footer, connected in the middle, to reach the plug on the dock. That connection is what fell into the water. If you look closely, you will notice that the connection is on the dock, rather than inside the boat. That was our mistake and we paid for it, dearly.
Once cords fall into the water and short out they are often unsafe for future use. Frank, bless his heart, offered to buy us a new cord or cords and install them. Unfortunately, Duet has one single 50 amp 125/240 volt cord, rather than two 50 amp 120 volt cords. This large single cord is hard to get, and there weren’t any available locally.
What to do? The easiest, although not the least expensive course, was to fly up, repair or replace the cords and make sure she was properly settled in her slip. So that’s what we did. It was a short hard working weekend, we arrived late Thursday night and Captain Ron went right to work the next morning. Fortunately the newer longer cord was salvagable. It needed new plugs installed, which took most of the day. The shorter cord was toast.
We had an older cord which had led a hard life. Ron stripped it back to a shorter more reliable length and installed new plugs. Presto, after about 12 hours of hard work, new cords. It sounds easy to put plugs on a cord, but it’s not as easy as it looks. The cords are large, heavy and difficult to cut. They require watertight boots over the actual plug, which are a bear to get on and off. The bigger the cord, the tougher the job but Captain Ron persevered. Budget master Nancy worked out that the trip up had cost about the same as buying new cords, so in the end it was a wash.
We learned a very valuable lesson. Do not leave the connection on the dock as, sure as shooting, it will fall in. So now Duet’s cord connection is safely inside her high bulwarks, so someone would have to actively haul it out and dump it in the water. We’re not saying that this couldn’t happen, stranger things have happened on boats, but we hope it won’t.
Leaving Duet alone isn’t something we like to do. She is among friends, Bill and Arlene, Frank, and our boat watcher Steve, all keep a close eye on her, but we are much happier when we are there. Given our planned lifestyle, however, with several months at our lake home and several on the boat, we are going to have to get used to leaving Duet alone. We will get used to it, but we don’t have to like it.
In our next blog, Duet’s first big trip, southbound to Seattle for a refit.

The First Cruise

 Ron in his element in Duet’s cockpit

So there we were, with a new (to us) boat, all ready to go cruising. Actually not quite. First Nancy had to get through all the logistics of boat paperwork, dockage, insurance, changing the boat name, etc. Not only that, but we needed sheets, towels, galley ware, gear, tools and too many other items to list. Nancy was in her element. Ron, when applied to for direction, selected an enormous number of tools from his shop (as well as ordered some new ones), all of which were mission critical, and therefore outranked lesser items like pots, pans, etc. Then he went to work and left it all in Nancy’s capable hands.

It became apparent that Nancy would need to drive to Seattle. The cost of shipping Ron’s tools alone paid for the trip. Soon enough, our SUV, groaning under the weight of everything that absolutely had to go, departed Incline Village for points north. Fortunately, our neighbor, Linda, who makes the trip to Ashland, Oregon, every year for the Shakespeare Festival, gave Nancy great directions. Unfortunately, several days before departure, a massive forest fire broke out along the route.

One of the things we’ve learned in 5 years of living in the Sierras, is that nothing here is small. Big trees, big trucks, big storms and, big forest fires. So Nancy set off, carefully plotting a route to take her around the fire if need be. But, when she got there, it the fire had been beaten back and she was able to continue directly. Not only that, but she got to see lots of firemen, which our lady readers know is always a good thing.

So Nancy traveled 900 miles, stopping overnight in Eugene, to meet Ron at Seatac airport. Seatac is actually Seattle airport, but is so named to keep the folks who live in Tacoma from feeling left out. After a 48 hour trip, Nancy arrived about an hour early. Ron, at the mercy of the nation’s air transport system, was 60 minutes late on a 90 minute flight.

Duet’s slip, courtesy of Frank Durkenson, is in Cap Sante Marina, about two hours north of Seattle. Having learned our lesson about arriving late to a cold boat many years ago, we spent the first night in a hotel. First thing the next morning we rushed over to see our new acquisition. Already aboard were our detailer and our name changing expert, busy converting her from her old identity to her new one. A small note on name changing. We never did a major ceremony with the 46 and she carried us safely more than 10,000 miles over 8 years. So, we haven’t done anything too exotic with the 50 either. We had a toast to her new name and that was about it.

Anyway, there we were on the first day. Ron immediately set to work crawling around to identify everything, in case something went wrong on our first cruise. Nancy set off to acquire all the items that didn’t fit in the truck on the way up. This included food, various household goods and other things, but not wine, which somehow got a priority assignment and arrived directly from Nevada.

Several happy days were spent in this mode, learning and sorting. The boat was extremely clean, courtesy of her previous owners, so Nancy spent most of her time trying to figure out where to put things and then moving them around when it didn’t work out. Ron remained out of sight somewhere doing technical things which seem to involve wearing his LED headlamp and writing lots of notes.

Finally, we were ready to set off. We didn’t feel ready actually, but on the principle of “its now or never” we figured we’d give it a try. The weather was beautiful, unusual in the PNW, and so there were no more excuses. We even had lots of local knowledge from our slip mates, Bill and Arelene on the N46 Andare, and from N50 Seaclusion owners Doug and Barb. Bill and Arlene previously owned N62 Autumn Wind, and also completed a circumnavigation on a custom built trawler. Doug and Barb have been cruising the PNW and Alaska for many, many years. We are fortunate to have such experienced advisors. 

So morning arrived and we departed. But not so fast, as we had several technical issues. The primary one was that our 46 had a switch marked “stabilizers on/off”. So does the 50. The 50’s switch, however, turns out to be no longer connected. It has been replaced by a sophisticated Datum electronic control head. Ron didn’t have the manual for the Datum. Since we wanted to depart sometime that day, he swallowed his pride and called Dick MacGrew from Naiad. Dick, to his credit, didn’t laugh, at least out loud, and told Ron how to gain control of the Datum. He also sent us the manual, so now Ron is way ahead of it.

After the Datum excitement, we did manage to exit the marina. There was little traffic, possibly local boats had been forewarned. The 50 is ponderous and forgiving, so Ron had little trouble steering her slowly out the narrow channel. She also has a 10HP 24V bow thruster, which makes the bow thruster on our 46 look like a can of shaving cream. 

Once we got out in the main channel we discovered the wonders of AIS. No more peering at large oncoming vessels and trying to figure out what they are up to. The AIS knows. So does the radar, of course, so there is much more redundancy than we are used to. We also discovered that the previous owner wasn’t kidding when he said the computer was slow, it showed us still in the marina when we hit the main channel some miles away. It was immediately added to the replacement list.

We did notice that it seemed very quiet, compared to our experiences on the 46 where the VHF nattered along all day. Actually turning on our VHF solved that problem, and we muddled through the traffic patterns without incident, at least that we know of. We arrived safely at a nice sheltered anchorage in Hunters Bay, some 15 miles from where we started. The new Duet is faster than the old one, even if we were running her slowly, so we got there in about 2 hours, despite lots of current going in various directions.

Team Duet hasn’t forgotten how to anchor, having done it literally hundreds of times on the 46, so that was relatively easy. We settled down to enjoy being out on the boat, which means Ron works on stuff and Nancy sits in the pilothouse watching life go by, in between preparing meals. Life, in the form of enthusiastic local crabbers, was everywhere. All the boats, except us, seemed to have at least one pot deployed and many had several. After a bit, the natural resource police showed up and stopped people to check for licenses and make sure that captives were large enough to keep.

Several days passed in this unique boating way. We did manage to get the dinghy in the water, after much struggle. Getting her in though, was nothing compared to getting her out. Duet has a large, powerful, and comfortable dinghy, which is good. The price for all that, however, is weight. Our best estimates put our new tender at about 700 lbs.

The deck crane is capable of lifting 1,000 pounds, so raising and lowering the dinghy wasn’t an issue. Pushing it outboard wasn’t a problem either, as soon as it came up off the boat deck Duet heeled to starboard. The dink then swung energetically out on it’s own, almost taking Captain Ron, who was hanging onto the control line, with it. Fortunately, he managed to get it under control just before flying over the boat deck rail into the drink.

So we regrouped, rejiggered the previous owner’s block and tackle, and gave it another try. Similar result, but this time we managed to get the dinghy into the water. Figuring that getting it out again was going to be even more fun, we went for a ride instead. The dink zoomed along at 20 MPH, with Nancy at the wheel and Ron sitting comfortably beside her. Definitely a keeper.

But how to tame it? We spent much of the next day working on this issue. During this time we attracted a young seal, who kept surfacing and watching us quizzically. Frankly, we’re not surprised, as we didn’t know quite what we were doing either. We did manage to get the dink back on the boat deck eventually, but it wasn’t pretty.

Duet’s previous owner was a larger gentleman and could presumably outmuscle the dinghy. Given that the dinghy outweighs Ron by a factor of about 6:1, no block and tackle can make us comfortable that we can control it in calm water, never mind in a rolly anchorage. So a power rotating crane was added to the upgrade list.

Finally, it was time to go. We stayed at Hunter Bay for 5 days, each morning we discussed moving on, but we were just enjoying being on the boat. So we stayed, while other boats came and went. Ron tested everything, the generator, the wing engine, the electronics, etc. Nancy stowed and restowed things. The 50 is a larger boat than the 46, and there are lots of places to put stuff. Like the 46, however, it is critical to remember, or write down, where you put everything, otherwise nothing will be found for many a year

The return trip was pretty easy. Some of the electronics were fussing a bit, so some minor rewiring went on Ron’s list, along with a new computer. Rewiring would be required anyway, once the old computer was removed, as some things would be disconnected. On departure we did remember to turn on the radio, and even got the Datum running without having to consult the manual.

Returning to the dock was interesting, which is a boating word for stressful. The new Duet only has a starboard walkway and no gates on the port side. At our home slip the finger pier is to port if you come in bow first, so with the way Duet is set up it is inconvenient, not to mention precarious, to get off. The previous owner had therefore backed her in. Backing the 46 was a process fraught with opportunity for disaster, so we approached backing the 50 with some caution.

This Duet, however, has a control station in the cockpit, where Ron can access the throttle, the bow thruster and the autopilot jog lever to steer. This made all the difference. She backed like a champ. The only problem was that Captain Ron was so excited that he could actually see what was going on (as opposed to having Nancy describe it while he steered blindly on the 46) that he temporarily lost track of the bow. Once the errant bow was redirected, we backed in like old hands.

So now it was time to go home. Tanks were pumped, fridges emptied, lines and fenders checked. The two weeks had flown by, as is typical of our boating experience. But we would be back, actually sooner than we expected, which is a story for the next log.


Finding the new Duet

August 3, 2012 is the day we closed on the boat. The process of finding and purchasing her started much earlier in the year, around March. Initially, we had only one goal, to buy another Nordhavn. So we considered every model our budget committee would approve, namely anything from an N40 to an N50. To find the right boat, we contacted Larry Geiselman at PAE in Dana Point. Larry is Nordhavn’s “oldest” broker, in that he was the first full time broker to join PAE when they built Mason sailing yachts. So he’s built and sold a few Nordhavns in his time, including many of the N50’s.
We flew to Dana Point and wore Larry out visiting different models. We boarded a 40, a 43, a 47, a 50 and, just for fun, a 55. While the 55s are beautiful boats, they are too much boat for us. If we lived aboard full time, like we did on the 46, we would have considered a 55 or, more likely, our dream Nordhavn, the 57. But, since we plan to spend at least half the year at Lake Tahoe, once Captain Ron retires from being Dr. Ron, we wanted something a little more manageable. So the search came down to a 47 or a 50. The 40 and 43 are great boats, but seemed a little small to us after the 46. We did briefly consider another 46, but having owned one, we now wanted something a little different. 
The “newer” style Nordhavns, namely the 47, 52, 55, etc. are beautiful boats. Lots of headroom, state of the art galleys, etc. But we preferred the 50, for several reasons. First, the N50 is arguably the most efficient hull Nordhavn has ever built, for reasons no one quite understands. She is capable of cruising at 8-9 knots without effort, which gives her longer range at higher speeds compared to our 46. She is also able to slow down and cross an ocean. Our future cruising plans included both short jumps and really long hops, namely across the South Pacific, so the 50 gave us more flexibility.
The 50 also has most of what we wanted after selling our 46. Our “perfect” boat list included more speed, similar or greater range (the 50’s range is about equal to the 46), a stand up engine room, a helm chair, a fly bridge and fiberglass fuel tanks. While Captain Ron didn’t get a fully stand up engine room, he is a pretty compact guy, so he can almost stand all around Duet’s engine and is thrilled that he doesn’t have to crawl on the floor all the time. He also got a very large lazarette, which is a good thing, since he was out of space in the 46’s lazarette. The 50 has a helm seat, a fly bridge and fiberglass fuel and water tanks, so no worries there.
N50s have their master stateroom amidships, which is different from the 46, where our stateroom was forward. We liked the forward layout at anchor, as there is excellent ventilation. It is, however, useless in a seaway, unlike the midships stateroom, which is low down and presumably will be comfortable underway. The ventilation issue will either declare itself or not, and we will deal with it then. Right now we are cruising cold climates so the warmer the better, at least as far as Nancy is concerned. 
The only issue with the 50 is that they weren’t built after 2004/05. So we would need to buy an older one. Not only that, but only 26 were built in the first place, so it was a pretty small population. Finally, to make it more complicated, 50s were built in all sorts of configurations, with wide body or walk around decks, fly bridge or no fly bridge, and dry exhaust or wet exhaust, being the primary choices. Prior to hull #16, no dry exhausts were built with a fly bridge. About half of the 50s were built with wet exhausts, and most were wide bodies, so that narrowed things down a bit. Finally, while we weren’t hugely particularly about where the boat was located, it would be a lot easier if she was on the West Coast, since that is where we are.
So Nancy, feeling more information is always good, developed a list of every N50 built, complete with details (where available) on configurations, location, etc. She started with a list another 50 owner kindly sent along. She also reached out to the Nordhavn family, which is incredibly helpful on many issues, including this one. So, by the time we found the 50 that would become Duet, we knew an awful lot about 50s.
We also developed a list of features that we wanted on the boat, some taken from the 46, and others developed over time. These included things like a dishwasher, at anchor stabilization, a davit with power rotation, etc. So we knew that we would be undertaking a refit, the scale of which would depend on which 50 we purchased. In addition, on older boats things wear out, so we expected to replace some gear on any 50 we bought. 
Fortunately for us, N50#15, then named Loreley, came on the market in the spring in Anacortes, WA. She was a very clean boat, with two previous owners, both of whom had kept good records. The most recent owner had upgraded her, including adding a Datum electronic head for her Naiad stabilizers, which is a top shelf (and not incidentally, very expensive) bit of gear. So we flew up to Anacortes to see her. We were the first people aboard once she came on the market, and we made an offer within a week. As they say, the early bird gets the worm, and, after some reasonable negotiation, a deal was struck.
Survey day was exhausting, which is true of all five surveys we have ever done. Aboard during the survey were our broker, Larry, the owner’s broker, Frank Durkson (about whom we have nothing but good things to say), the owner (who was outstanding throughout), Ron and Nancy, the surveyor, Bob Senter (or Lugger Bob as he is known in Nordhavn circles) and Dick McGrew from Naiad. It’s a good thing the 50 has plenty of room, as she was packed!
Everything went very well, and everything worked as it should. The haul out itself had minor glitches, entirely the fault of the yard, which will not be on our go to list in the future. After nearly 12 hours of detailed review, everyone staggered home with completed paperwork and we had ourselves a boat.
So, after about 4 months of searching, we were the proud owners of a 12 year old Nordhavn 50. She is big and complex, but we weren’t daunted, as most of her systems were similar or identical to our 46, except in the 50’s case she has two of everything, where the 46 only had one. Captain Ron downloaded all her manuals onto his iPad, Nancy dug out the charts and we planned a 10 day cruise at the end of August.