While most of our focus this summer was on preparing for our upcoming South Pacific crossing, Ron did have a few of the usual maintenance things to do, which we will cover in this blog. Our preparation for the South Pacific journey will be covered separately, as will our stay at the Shelter Island Boatyard.
As our regular readers will recall, Duet arrived in Ensenada in late May, after a memorable bash up the coast. She remained there for the summer, while we returned home. We visited Duet once during the 16 weeks she was in Ensenada, although we had her washed and her bottom cleaned every 4 weeks. We also had the comforting presence of Gale and Mary, who were spending lots of time on their Nordhavn 50, Worknot, in the next slip over.
Ron and Gale consulting
During our visit we drove down from Tahoe and had a pretty easy trip. Once we arrived, the well known Project X immediately declared itself. As we’ve mentioned before, we always budget some time for the unknown breakdown. In our experience, the longer the boat is left sitting, the bigger the breakdown.
As an aside, Ensenada has the largest Mexican, or actuallly any, flag, we have ever seen. In the photo below it is at half mast for some reason, sometimes it is taken down completely, but when it’s flying, it’s quite a sight.
In this case the breakdown involved our hot water heater, which sprang a terminal leak when we connected Duet to shore water. The contents of said heater immediately flooded out under the master berth. We knew this because, when we first got aboard the boat, the bilge pump cycle counter (the first thing we check after smelling the interior) read “1”. We hooked up the shore water, using our trusty pressure regulator, and started unloading the car. By the time we got that done, the bilge pump cycle counter read “18”.
We had arrived in the early evening, so 20 gallons of water leaking under the master berth was exactly what we needed. That said, this wasn’t our first boat rodeo, so we split up the necessary tasks, namely bail out the area under the bed and plumb around the heater, so we would have water on board. We’ll leave it to our readers to figure out who did what, but suffice it to say that the budget committee rapidly approved a hand held pump for future bailing exercises. In our defense, we thought we had a hand held dinghy pump, but we couldn’t find it.
The two photos below show the bailing area. At the top is a water tank (painted blue) which is covered in a layer of water. All that water gets bailed into the bucket, which is then dumped into the master head sink.
Below you can see the compartment next to the water tank, where some of the heater’s contents drained into the bilge. The white box is a battery box for the 24V bank.
Ron is shown below taking the hot water heater out of the plumbing circuit
The next morning we took stock. The water heater was original equipment, frankly it’s amazing it lasted this long, particularly since Ron hadn’t changed it’s zinc since we got the boat. We needed a new heater, but we didn’t need it immediately, as the weather was pretty warm in Ensenada in July. So a new heater went on the ordering list for our arrival in San Diego and we moved on to better things, like dinner with Gale and Mary. We could have gotten a heater in Ensenada, if we really wanted it, but it was simpler, and cheaper (or so we thought) to get it when we got back to the US.
We returned home the following week and settled into our summer routine, Ron worked, most of the time, while Nancy did endless paperwork, exercised and caught up with friends. We did get in some nice hikes and managed to attend Camp Dent in Bend, Oregon. Camp Dent was conceived by the energetic owners of Nordhavn 50 Colibri, Christopher and Diana Dent. They invited us, and the crews of Nordhavn 46 Northern Ranger I and Nordhavn 60 Sea Level II, as well as the ex crew of Nordhavn 64 Solana, to visit them and enjoy the many pleasures of Bend.
So we signed up, although we could only attend half of the five day celebration over Labor Day weekend, as Ron had to work some of that time. We roared up the back roads from Reno to Bend and managed to arrive in time for the first dinner. Northern Ranger and Sea Level are from Vancouver, BC, so they drove down in Northern Ranger’s brand new giant diesel truck. Sue from Solana flew to Vancouver from Brisbane, Australia, and caught a ride south.
When we arrived we realized that Christopher’s successful entrepreneurial drive had been applied to organizing this visit. There was a two page agenda of activities, including everything from a mountain hike (which we had conveniently missed the afternoon of the first day) to a beer fueled bicycle ride (with a sober driver in charge of the multi person bicycle), which, much to Ron’s chagrin, we were also going to miss, as we had to go home before it commenced. But we managed to make the lava tube exploration, which Ron much enjoyed, as well as a memorable rafting journey down the Deschutes River. The river was running high, as the damns were open to pass water to the reservoirs so the firefighting helicopters could tank up. Nancy is only glad she brought plenty of dry clothes for that one.
Below is Camp Dent, or most of it, at the end of the lava tube
Christopher and Diana not only have a very nice house, they have a climbing wall. Since it was there, the intrepid Kim from Nordhavn 60 Sea Level II decided to give it a go. We are happy to report she made it all the way to the top!
Too soon our stay at Camp Dent ended, and we were back in Tahoe. Part of this summer was spent preparing for our South Pacific crossing. We can now formally announce that Duet is planning to cross the South Pacific, from Mexico to New Zealand in 2017. We are fortunate to be traveling with the Nordhavn 60 fishing machine Daybreak, and her owners Jerome and Karen. Both boats will leave Barra de Navidad around mid March, arriving in the Marquesas 17-19 days later. We will then make our way from the Marquesas through the Tuamotus to Papeete, Tahiti. Duet and Daybreak will remain in Papeete for the bulk of the summer. Their crews will return home for some time with family and for Ron to do a little work. In late August we will start off again for New Zealand, probably via Suwarrow and Tonga.
This is a big trip, about 9,000 miles from when we leave San Diego in November of 2016. Nancy was in her element, planning, planning and more planning. Ron spent most of his time trying to reduce his list to things that absolutely positively had to be done before we left. These projects were over and above his regular list of things to do, which now included replacing the hot water heater. Obviously something was going to have to give, and Ron was hoping it wasn’t going to be him.
We did spend some time thinking through what we could safely outsource to the marine industry and what Ron was going to do himself. As our regular readers know, we have a somewhat skeptical opinion of marine professionals, as we have met a number that probably should find another line of work. On the other hand, we have also worked with some true artists, so we always hope for the best and plan for the worst.
Once we had narrowed the list down to the “Ron will do it” group and the “someone else is going to have to do it” list, we started looking for a place to get this outside work done. One of the primary things Ron felt we had to do is have the main engine transmission evaluated. Since we’ve owned the boat, we’ve had higher than normal copper counts in the transmission oil. We sample all our oils annually, and this repetitive result had been worrying Ron for some time. He had also noticed that the transmission oil, when he changed it, was dark and burnt smelling. Something was obviously going on. If we weren’t crossing the Pacific he would have adopted an attitude of watchful waiting, but, given our big journey, we needed a more proactive solution.
The second big item for outsourcing was rebuilding our starboard Naiad stabilizer. As readers may recall, when this side was serviced at Newport Harbor Shipyard, we discussed the grease that was being forced out the top of the actuator. At that time, we decided to do some watchful waiting and see how it progressed. The answer, after 2,000 nautical miles, was “not well”. The amount of grease now being extruded was considerable, indicating the continued presence of seawater . Seawater will destroy the bearings over time, so the side needed to be disassembled and the bearings replaced.
We also needed some minor work, servicing of the bow thruster, etc., but the two drivers of our yard selection were the transmission and the Naiad work. Fortunately, Shelter Island Boatyard, in San Diego, was immediately adjacent to a ZF certified service provider for our transmission, and Fonteneau Naiad was just up the road. We know Fonteneau, as they have worked on our water maker in the past. We checked on the boatyard via various friends, and it got a good review. So Ron called both the transmission service shop and the folks at Fonteneau to confirm what we needed done. Nancy got us queued up for a haul out in early October, and we were all set.
One thing Nancy should have done, and didn’t, was find us a slip for our time before and after the yard visit. This had not been a problem during our last trip to San Diego, but it was this time. Long story short, there were no slips on Shelter Island, the closest we could get was Chula Vista Marina, in Chula Vista. This was due to the remodeling of one of Shelter Island’s larger marinas, whose residents had taken up all the remaining slips in the area while their own were off limits.
For readers who aren’t familiar with the San Diego geography, Shelter Island is in Point Loma, right off the entrance to San Diego harbor. Since it is so well located, there are a lot of boats berthed there, and many associated service providers, such as Shelter Island Boatyard. Chula Vista is about 8 miles south of San Diego proper, so it is a much longer run back and forth to the ocean, and to many of the folks we would need to help get Duet ready to go. But, while a bit inconvenient, Chula Vista Marina turned out to be a great place, well run with many helpful live aboards. We would return there and recommend it.
During the summer, when not sorting out who was going to do what, we also started ordering what seemed like an endless list of gear, parts, etc., that we felt were critical to the South Pacific journey. While we realize that folks have safely and enjoyably made this journey in much smaller, less heavily equipped boats than Duet, we added gear that we felt was necessary for our safety and our comfort. Nancy reviewed a lot of web sites, as well as consulted with a number of Nordhavn owners and other boaters who had been this way before us. The boating community, and Nordhavn owners in particular, is extremely helpful when called upon, so she got a lot of useful information. Our actual preparation for the journey will be covered in a separate blog, suffice it to say that we are sure that, while we don’t have everything we might need, we have most of it!
Meanwhile, aside from the South Pacific list, there were a lot of other things for Ron, or somebody, to get done before we departed for La Paz in November. So we saddled up and went back to Ensenada in early September, to bring Duet north to San Diego. While Ron can work in Ensenada, and it is a nice town to spend time in, it’s easier to get shipments of parts in the U.S. So Duet returned to the land of her flag and we set up shop at the Chula Vista Marina.
First up, since it was starting to get a little chilly, was installing a new water heater. Actually, first up was removing the old one. Nordhavn, when they build boats, has to make certain compromises on where they install gear. We understand that. We do occasionally really really dislike it, such as when we are forced to remove or work on things like the washer, the dryer and, now, the water heater.
The heater sits in a custom base under the master berth. It weighs about 65 pounds, so it’s not an easy lift. It is also ¼ inch narrower than our interior doorways, with the doors off, and it has to go up the stairs to the pilothouse and then down the stairs to the salon, since it won’t fit out the pilothouse door or down the companionway. So, with his usual application of brains over brawn, Ron started this project by thinking about how to use leverage and mechanical advantage to get the heater out of the boat. Of course, this would also be useful to get the new heater into the boat.
The water heater is the large black cicular object below
Nancy, in the meantime, acquired a new heater, ordering it from an on line web store we have used in the past. We do try to buy parts locally when we can, but the price differential between the local supplier and an on line source was about 25%. The heater arrived as scheduled. We let it sit at the marina office for a day while Ron worked on getting the old heater out of the boat. We didn’t take the new heater out of it’s box until we got it to the boat, which was to prove an error, but more on that later.
As an aside, we’d like to commend the folks at the Chula Vista Marina office for serving as Duet Package Receiving Central, both when Duet was actually at the marina and while we were at the boat yard. We like to believe that they had already been planning to institute a package storage fee before they met us, although we aren’t so sure. Fortunately, they implemented said fee after we left, so it was all good.
Ron, after some thought and observation, rigged up a hoisting harness for the old heater. He managed to dead lift it straight up out of it’s home and onto the surrounding underpinnings of the master berth, which is an example of the payoff he gets from his daily exercises. He and Nancy then got it up the stairs down the stairs, out of the boat, and into a dock cart, using the crane once it arrived in the cockpit. Even though we were in Southern California, it rained heavily throughout this, and actually most of, the water heater replacement project.
First you hook it up
Then you lift it up
Then you haul it up the stairs
Then you wheel it away
Once we got the old heater deposited at the marina recycling area, we manhandled the new heater, still in it’s box to keep it dry, into the dock cart and down to the boat. The crane cranked it up, still in the box, and we hustled it into our salon. At that point, we removed it from the box. As most readers have probably guessed, the new heater was badly damaged in transit. So we got on the phone to the vendor, sent pictures of the damage and hauled the heater (in it’s wet box) back to the marina office to be collected by UPS and returned to the Raritan factory in New Jersey, who actually shipped it. Frankly, the damage wasn’t UPS’s fault, it was Raritan’s. They had packaged the heavy heater in a light cardboard box, with absolutely minimal styrofoam packing. The TV we bought later had far more protection and was less than a quarter of the weight of the water heater.
The new heater, below, had two injuries, first the crinkled bit shown below, which Ron worried might mean the interior tank was cracked
And second, the crushed zinc, which, while Ron might be able to fix it, could also hide other problems within
While we were assured of a replacement heater being forthcoming from Raritan By the on line vendor, the timeline didn’t work for us. It would take at least 5 and probably closer to 10 business days before the new heater arrived. Cold showers in San Diego for that long didn’t seem all that appealing, not to mention we were supposed to be in the boatyard by the time the heater actually showed up. So we cancelled the order, took a refund (which took 3 weeks to sort out) and trundled over to Downwind Marine, which fortunately had the right heater in stock. Admittedly they had it at several hundred dollars more than we had paid on line (even with a “we feel sorry for you guys” discount) but it was a hot water heater and it worked. Of course we had to get it down the dock, onto the boat, into its little home under the master berth and hooked up. Then it leaked, incessantly, until Ron replaced all the fittings that had been used on the old heater. However, it did heat the water, so all was well.
For those who may want to try this at home, remember that, at least aboard Duet, commissioning the water heater means you also get to drain and recommission the diesel heater system. The diesel heater interfaces with the water heater, so it, rather than electric power, can heat the water. This is a great feature, except when you are replacing the water heater. Once the diesel heater is drained, the water heater is hooked up and the diesel heater system refilled and bled of errant air bubbles.
Below is the diesel heater draining, via a hose attached to a pump which pumps the coolant into the bucket. Refilling it requires reversing the process.
Having subdued the water heater, Ron then moved on to, hopefully, easier projects. These included all the usual oil changes, coolant changes, etc. He did try to get as much of this done as he could before we went to the boat yard, as, in our experience, when we are in the boat yard, Ron doesn’t get much done other than minding the boat yard.
The largest of Ron’s “maintenance” projects was probably the replacement of the main engine circulation pump, which moves coolant through the engine. We had this pump rebuilt in Seattle just before we left for Portland in 2013, because Bob Senter had noted it was leaking more coolant than he judged advisable at survey. Unfortunately, after the rebuild and a few thousand miles of service, it was again leaking coolant. Gale, on N50 Worknot, helpfully clued us in to the fact the the pump is a Komatsu part, private labeled by Lugger for resale. This little bit of info saved us several hundred dollars on a new pump. Said pump, along with a truly astounding number of other things, traveled from Reno to San Diego aboard our long suffering SUV, which was even equipped with a roof suitcase to let it carry yet more stuff.
As part of the circulation pump swap, Ron also changed the main engine coolant, checked the valve clearances (since the top of the engine was off anyway) and painted the pump, which came in standard Komatsu yellow. He even painted the front of the engine. So, while all he was really doing was swapping the pump, it took a little while to complete the entire exercise.
First, drain the coolant and remove the coolant tank
Then remove the old pump
While everything is apart, check the valve clearances
Install new circulation pump and new hoses
Put it back together, refill it with new coolant
Then put the alternator belts back on, put on the belt guard, and start it up to check for leaks. Also, install new mount for the coolant bottle, that you made at home.
Since you are thinking about it, check the valve clearances on the generator
During this period, the saltwater air conditioning pump, possibly feeling left out, decided to leak. So Ron tore it down, ordered and replaced the shaft seals. This included some careful polishing of the shaft, which had some surface corrosion. We think that The corrosion caused the leak, as the seals couldn’t sit well anymore. While sometimes it can be difficult to get a good seal after polishing the shaft, particularly with a bad case of corrosion, we were lucky and it all came back together perfectly. This was a good thing, as a new gasket was $30 and a new motor for the pump nearly $1,000.
This is one half of the saltwater pump. The shaft is still installed, in the center
This is the impeller
Corrosion on the shaft before being sanded is shown below
Here’s the shaft after sanding
Also on the leaking front, both round portholes in the guest stateroom, which open into the Portuguese bridge, were letting in small amounts of water. We removed them, cleaned them and rebedded them. We have done this endless times on various boats, this Duet is no exception. Now they do not leak and are nice and shiny, as we took the opportunity to give them a little polish while they were out.
Below is a porthole gasket, which also needed cleaning
Here’s one half of the porthole, with the gasket on, ready to be installed
Ron also began to replace leaking fuel valves. Duet has two major fuel manifolds, the Supply and the Return. The Supply is pretty self explanatory, the Return is a result of the way diesel engines work. When a diesel takes fuel from the Supply side, it returns most of it unused, hence the Return side. Our main engine, for example, draws 50 gallons per hour wide open throttle, but burns only 15. So the remaining 35 gallons need to go somewhere as they exit the engine. Each piece of diesel equipment, namely the main engine, the wing engine, the generator and the diesel heater, has it’s own Supply and Return valve. There are also valves to control which of our four fuel tanks we are drawing from, and which we are returning to. There are 18 valves in all, 9 on each manifold.
Below is the supply manifold.
Every valve is original equipment and is made of stainless steel, as are the manifolds themselves and the plumbing adapters that connect the tapered threads of the valves and the flared hydraulic fittings on our fuel hoses. Lots of stainless. While stainless steel plumbing fittings are pretty to look at, they have a greater tendency to ‘gall’ when tightened hard, as occurs with tapered threads. Galling welds the threads together in spots.
We think this explains why so many of the valves leaked even more severely after they had been disassembled, cleaned and reinstalled. Thread sealant (we tried both Loctite 567 and 545) did not help. The solution was to replace most of the stainless valves. To prevent future problems we switched to valves made from nickel plates brass. Still pretty to look at, but less tendency for thread galling (we hope).
Below you can see both the Supply and the Return manifolds. One valve is undergoing repair on the Supply side in this picture.
Ron has also designed a new set of labels for the manifolds, as well as installed new valve handle covers and locking valves. Unfortunately, we forget to take a picture of the end result of all this, but take it from us, it’s sharp looking. It also works better. The key to the fuel valves is to make sure you have them all set the right way. This is critically important with the Return valves. While it can be somewhat disconcerting to set the Supply valves wrong, the worst you can do is starve the equipment, so it quits. That is relatively easy and inexpensive to fix.
Getting the Return valves wrong is a whole different story. Returning fuel to a full tank, for example, produces a close encounter with the local environmental authorities. Having the Return valve closed on the main engine when the main engine is running is the stuff of Ron’s nightmares, as the engine will try to put the 35 odd gallons of diesel it hasn’t used (at WOT) through the valve anyway. The resulting blowback causes extensive and expensive engine damage. So Ron spent some time thinking through the truly awful valve combinations and has installed locking valves on those, so you have to really work at it to cause a disaster.
Since Ron was already working, admittedly peripherally, on the fuel system, he decided to also install new fuel tank gauges on our main fuel tanks. We had calibrated both of these tanks when fueling, so it was relatively easy to order new gauges. The only problem was that one of the sight gauges decided to leak when removed. Justin Brown at PAE parts saved our bacon by coming through with a new set of gaskets and sight gauges. Justin has saved our bacon more than once, by tracking down various parts from China and Taiwan. Ron installed the new gauges and, presto, we suddenly have a lot more fuel in the tanks. Actually, there isn’t any more fuel, we now just know that’s it there and can see how much we are actually carrying.
Below are the original gaskets and sign gauge
Before putting on the new gauges and labels, Ron painted the boxes
New fuel sight gauge and label installed
Duet carries approximately 1,440 gallons of fuel, 600 gallons in each of the big saddle tanks, the ones with the sight gauges, and about 120 in each of the aft tanks, which have no sight gauges. We think that we could probably get another 5-10 gallons in each of the aft tanks, and some more in the saddles, if we really pushed it. We are going to really push it when we fuel for the Mexico to Marquesas leg of our South Pacific journey, as we will need all the fuel we can get.
As Duet gets older, Ron worries more about the parts he can’t see. Recently, he’s been focused on the main engine exhaust elbow and the spray ring. Duet is a wet exhaust, which means that, about 10 feet after the hot exhaust gas exits the engine, it is mixed with seawater to cool it down before it is ejected out the stern. So there is a spray ring which sprays seawater into the exhaust and a mixing elbow where it all comes together. These parts are metal and exposed to seawater, so, over time, they will corrode.
Unfortunately, to examine these two bits, you have to remove a large unwieldy exhaust hose that connects the exhaust pipe to the muffler. Ron, after some thought, decided to replace this hose with a silicone high temp hose, which is easy to remove and replace. Said hose is expensive, but it’s worth it to be able to pull it off to check these key parts and then slip it right back on. We first learned about this hose from Robin at Philbrooks, when he installed it as a replacement for a leaking hose further down the exhaust system.
Said expensive hose was ordered, duly arrived, and was carted to San Diego. Ron, with some trepidation, cut off the old hose and examined the exhaust mixing elbow and the spray ring. Both were, thank goodness, in excellent condition. The new hose was then installed, and, as we will discuss in our blog on preparing for our South Pacific journey, came in useful right off the bat.
The join where the hose will go. The muffler is on the bottom and the exhaust is on top. As you can see, Ron did have to cut off part of the muffler inlet pipe to get the hose to fit.
The water injection elbow. The round gold bits are the injection points
Here’s the new hose installed. You can see the exhaust temp probe on the side
Ron also installed, in his spare time, a new TV. Duet came equipped with a nice 19 inch Sharp TV, mounted on the port settee side table. We figured, however, given the age of the TV, is would probably quit at some point. While this isn’t a big deal in the Americas, it is in New Zealand or Australia, as they use 50hz power. Any TV we could buy there would not plug into Duet. So a prophylactic replacement was made. We bought a nice new 40 inch Smart TV on sale at CostCo, which of course can’t connect to the internet, but does have a really nice picture and is much easier for our aging eyes to see.
Prior to buying the new TV, we did some careful modeling to be sure it would fit
Right now, actually, it’s picture quality is a bit limited, as Ron hasn’t had time to run the new HDMI cable for it, but it will have a really nice picture once it gets hooked up. While aboard Duet we don’t actually watch TV, we watch movies and TV shows that Nancy has recorded at home, using a software VCR. We have several hundred films and lots of TV, ranging from Downtown Abbey to The Walking Dead, so we always have something to see, if we can spare the time from cruising activities.
In the classic example of one project begets another, when the TV was swapped out it left a gap on the side table where the old TV had been installed. Duet’s previous owners came to our rescue with the twin of our other salon surface lamp. Ron installed that too, which required some wiring, some drilling and the usual fiddling around with things that got in the way.
Ron also did a Mr. Science project. Whenever we leave the boat for a period of time, he flushes SaltAway, a product which is supposed to reduce salt residue, through all our freshwater units, namely the wing engine, the main engine, the generator and the A/C pump. He has discussed this with other Nordhavn owners and some have expressed doubt that this actually helps. So Ron figured he’d test it, since SaltAway isn’t cheap. When we left Duet mid summer he placed two identical brass wing nuts in glasses of salt water, one with SaltAway added at the dilution of SaltAway in equipment when it has been run through a strainer (the way Ron does it), and one without. After 7 weeks in salt water, the end results were pretty impressive.. So we will continue to flush SaltAway through our gear.
The lab bench
Soon enough, it was time to go to the boat yard. Immediately following our arrival in San Diego, we had visited the yard, the transmission shop and Fonteneau. The yard manager gave us a tour, the yard was clean, appeared to be well run and had some of the coolest lifts we’ve seen. They have two, a 165 ton one and a slightly smaller one, both remotely controlled. This saves a laborer, as with a “driven” lift, you need at least one other person to tell the driver where the lift is going. With a remote the driver just walks around looking at where the lift is going. We gather that the yard spent over $1M on the new lifts, as well as a remote controlled boat trailer than can turn all four wheels. Having seen the gear we believe it.
Our visit to the transmission shop was less confidence inspiring. First, they had no record of our multiple calls to schedule service. Second, we found out that they didn’t actually rebuild the transmission on site, they shipped it to the manufacturer in Seattle. This process could take a month or more. Since we were hoping to leave for Mexico in about three weeks, this wasn’t good news and we weren’t really happy that they hadn’t told us this during our calls to discuss our situation.
At this point, we had already decided to rebuild the transmission, after consultation with Gale, among others, about the level of our copper counts, the state of the oil and the distance of the journey we were about to undertake. We were given the same advice by the shop owner. Some months later, we have found that we are at least the second Nordhavn 50 of our vintage to replace the main transmission. Of course we didn’t know this when we decided to do this job, so it was a bit of a leap.
We were assured by the shop owner that he would do his best to speed up our job. We also assumed, that, since he had managed to get certified by ZF as the only service provider in Southern California and had been doing it for many years, that he and his mechanics must know they are doing and provide good service. Of course, assumptions are just that, assumptions, as we were to later find out.
So, off we went to the yard, complete with a transmission shop mechanic on board to test the oil pressure in the transmission, which we believe has been low since the boat was commissioned and a Fonteneau yacht tech to run some tests on the stabilizers.
Our experiences at the yard will be covered in the next blog.