More Projects in March

Before we knew it, we were back on Duet. We stopped on the way north and picked up the life raft from Westpac. Fitting it into the SUV was quite a challenge, we had to unload about three quarters of the contents of the vehicle onto the parking lot, insert the raft, and then carefully fit everything else back in again. When we finally managed to get the doors closed, there were fishing rods wedged into the sun visor over the drivers side, and packages in the passenger footwell. We were a little worried about the overall weight of the load, but the Lexus, while not exactly speedy, did manage to get on the freeway with little trouble. We were glad, however, that we had left the additional 12 gallons of engine oil behind.

This was to be a busy three weeks. Philbrooks needed to complete all their work, Ron had a long list of things to do, and Nancy was to spend most of the time working on lists, lists of food, lists of toiletries, lists of parts, lists of lists… Ron was even scheduled to be dragged to CostCo, whether he wanted to go or not.


Things started off fast. Steve, exhaust wrap expert, showed up at noon on Saturday, the day after we arrived. He worked pretty much nonstop through the weekend, finishing up late Sunday. The result is a work of art, and definitively a much better solution than what we had before. Nordhavns are great boats, but, like anything, they have their weak points. The one we have a lot of experience with is engine room cooling. Both our boats’ engine rooms have run very hot. Ron has gotten this Duet’s temp down to about 40 degrees over outside ambient temperature (known as the “delta t”) but we need it closer to 20 degrees. The new exhaust wrap should go a long way to helping with this issue.


Ron helped out with the exhaust project by reattaching the exhaust run to it’s supports. These supports are essentially big stainless steel springs, which keep the rigid exhaust from vibrating. They are bolted to the ceiling of the engine room and to tangs welded to the exhaust run. You can see them in the picture above at several points along the exhaust run. 

Once we know how the temps are trending with the new wrap, Ron will add more fan(s). The key to engine room delta t is to run the boat for at least 24 hours nonstop, to allow the fuel to heat up. Nordhavns carry a lot of fuel. Diesel engines do not burn anywhere near the fuel they draw in. Our main engine, for example, draws about 50 gallons per hour but burns only 4. The rest, now heated up by traveling through the engine, is returned to the tank. Over time, all 1,200 gallons of fuel in our engine room heats up, and is a major contributor to engine room temperatures.

The new Naiad pump was installed with little fanfare. Robin, whom we were lucky enough to draw as our Philbrooks mechanic, taught Ron some more about how to interact with the pump and the over hung load adapter, and we planned a sea trial in the near future to see how the new pump ran.

We even kept the old bearings from the overhung load adapter pump, as they were in good shape. Ron feels strongly that one can never have too many spares.

On Robins’s recommendation, Ron also decided to have the local machine shop rebuild both our alternators and our windlass motor. That would give us spares for the primary 12V alternator, and the windlass motor. We have only one 24V alternator aboard now, but will add another before we depart for Hawaii. The 24V unit doesn’t work anywhere near as hard as the 12V, but it has also had a long life, so having it rebuilt made sense. These units came back within 72 hours, spanking clean, with new innards and shiny exteriors.

The 12V was definitely past it’s prime, the shop returned it’s old stator coil. The stator has wraps of wire around it, and the insulation on the wire was starting to burn. It wouldn’t have started a fire, but it would definitely have failed, probably at the most inconvenient time.


Woodworkers from Philbrooks appeared early in the week and spent a day fitting the new settee back. They were closely followed by the canvas team, who delivered beautiful new pilothouse and fly bridge cushions. The pilothouse settee now works the way we want it to, serving as both a comfortable sitting area and a reclining spot for the off watch.

Sometime early in the week, the first of what we call “project x” problems appeared. It is our experience that, whenever we are on the boat, something unexpected breaks. There is no way to plan for these problems, so we just add a few days of project time for “unknown difficulties”, to any plans we make. On this trip there were to be two problems, the first of which involved domestic plumbing.

Duet has two galley sinks, in the corner of the L shaped galley counter. This is a useful arrangement, as, while neither sink is very big, it is nice to be able to put vegetables in one and dishes in the other, for example. One sink has a garbage disposal, the other does not. Nancy tends to use the one with the disposal more frequently.

One day she was innocently rinsing something in the less used sink and heard a loud splashing sound. Since we are on a boat, loud splashing sounds tend to indicate the presence of local wildlife, boating neighbors hopefully washing their boat, not falling in, or, possibly, a large vessel passing nearby. So Nancy looked for all the usual culprits, but none was to be found. 

She continued rinsing. Said splashing also continued and sounded very near. Suddenly, it dawned on her, the splashing was UNDER the sink, not outside. Opening the cabinet clearly identified the problem, sometime in Duet’s past life a temporary (we hope) repair had been effected, using that most versatile of tools, duct tape. Somehow, it had been forgotten, and remained in place until it failed, spectacularly.

So here was project X. The sink was closed off, a bucket was placed underneath it, and domestic plumbing repair was added to Ron’s list. Fortunately, this isn’s his first plumbing rodeo, so it only took a few minutes to determine that we needed an entirely new sink drain and connection to the drain pipe. That was the easy part. Sourcing it also wasn’t too hard, when we made our Costco run we also stopped at a local commercial plumbing supply store, which had exactly what we needed. 

Removing the old drain, however, proved to be a struggle. It had been glued in place, so it didn’t unscrew as it should. After the usual unguents (WD40, PB Blaster, etc.) and heat and cold had been applied with little success, Ron rolled out the big gun, the Rotozip. The drain surrendered pretty quickly once it was cut in half, and an entirely new drain and join were installed.

We also carefully checked the other sink drain, just to make sure it was not on the way out. It, however, was fine, so Ron returned to the engine room where he belonged.

Actually, he and Nancy spent some time this trip doing projects together. First was the installation of the life raft. As we mentioned in our life raft blog, the key to having the life raft work properly is to put it back right. Fortunately, Westpac provides clear detailed instructions on their web site on how to do this. We, actually Ron, read these carefully and had them nearby on the iPad while the installation was completed. Our raft installation now exactly matches the picture, so we hope it will do it’s job if called upon.

Speaking of emergency equipment, our Kannad Gprib was recalled due to problems with its wiring harness. Said problems would result in us pushing the “come and get us” button but no signal going out. We were pleased to learn of this issue prior to actually needing said unit. Duet has 3 of these emergency signaling devices, two personal units (known as PLBs, or Personal Locater Beacons) and one Gpirb (Global Position Indicating Radio Beacon). We attach our PLBs to our life jackets, should we need to go in the water or the raft. The Gpirb is mounted on Duet’s starboard stack in a hydrostatic release unit, like the life raft. Should we sink unexpectedly, it will deploy and start signaling our position. Should we go into the life raft in a more orderly manner, we will take the Gpirb with us, rather than have it stay with the boat, as it is us, not the boat, who need rescuing.


Anyway, said Gpirb needed to be returned to the mother ship for a new wiring harness. Nancy, after some struggle, found a service group in Vancouver. Getting the unit to Vancouver, however, was another matter. After two different places refused to ship it over, despite the fact that the Vancouver team felt they should, Nancy was getting a little frustrated. Fortunately, Vancouver decided to step in and sent a courier to get it. It returned to us about 3 weeks later. It looks exactly the same, but presumably has a new wiring harness. Ron will test it before we depart, just to make sure it is still working. Obviously, it could still have a problem with it’s wiring harness and we’d never know but our guess is that it’s fixed.


Anyway, back to the joint projects. As our regular readers may remember, we had two minor problems with the Steelhead crane. First, it was leaking small amount of water down it’s base into the salon overhead. Second, Nancy had, we thought, inadvertently broken the brake by leaving it on while deploying the crane. So we had some work to do. Ron had talked to Steelhead support (a very helpful group) and developed a strategy to stop the leak.


First, the top of the crane had to come off, to give Ron access to the hydraulic hoses. The leak was a result of water wicking down a particular hose, and the plan was to straighten the hose out as much as possible, without causing it to chafe. Ron would then grease the area where it entered the boot at the base of the crane with silicon grease to further reduce the chances of water intruding down the boot.


As part of this exercise, the access door at the base of the crane needed to be removed. While Nancy is nowhere near the mechanic Ron is, over the years she has learned a few things. She can, for example, work a screw driver. So she removed the base, while Ron sorted out the top of the crane.


Once the hose was organized, then it was time to turn to the crane brake. After much study, Ron determined, much to Nancy’s relief, that there actually wasn’t anything wrong with the current brake. It looked exactly the same as the new brake. So we left the old one in place, and added the new one to the spares inventory.

Nancy then put the access panel back on, while Ron put the top of the crane back together. One more project down. Only time will tell whether the crane will continue to leak. We shall test it out on our Alaskan journey, where rain is pretty much guaranteed. If it keeps leaking, a canvas boot will be made to cover the area.


During this trip, Ron spent some more time on the diesel heater. At this point, he was essentially putting it back together. As readers of the last blog may recall, we left off when Ron couldn’t cut the exhaust off the old heat exchanger so he could install a new heat exchanger. This trip we had brought a secret weapon, the Rotozip. It took the exhaust off in a matter of minutes. In anticipation of this moment, we had ordered a new exhaust section from our local supplier. This section bridges the gap between the new heat exchanger and the main exhaust run out Duet’s transom. Unfortunately, our supplier decided to get creative, which in our experience is usually a mistake. The exhaust piece was a work of the welder’s art but, when confronted with the acid test of any job, it failed as it didn’t fit.

So back to the shop it went. It returned about two days before we departed and Ron installed it with alacrity. He had to recommission the heater as well, since removing the heat exchanger required draining part of the system. 

The heater fired up, sounding much quieter than it has since we owned the boat. Unfortunately, it also blew soot everywhere and was smoking more than it should. So it went back on the repair list. Ron has asked Robin to bring down some diagnostic tools on our next trip, namely a tachometer to see if the motor is functioning properly and a gas measure to see if the air mix is correct. While Ron knows how to use these meters, he doesn’t own them as he doesn’t use them enough to make it worth while to buy them. One of the things we have learned over the years is when to call in an expert and we had definitely reached that point with the diesel heater.


Our next activity was to turn Duet around, so that the wax team could work on her other side. Here in Sidney we retained Raven Marine to wax Duet. They sent a team of young ladies. We aren’t sure why it’s young ladies who always seem to be doing our waxing. Nancy thinks it’s because women work harder. Ron doesn’t care why, he’s just glad he’s that lucky.


Regardless of the team, we needed to get Duet bow in, for waxing and so we could install the storm plates on the port side for our journey north. We always install our port side storm plates when we plan to go offshore. Duet is a wide body or asymmetrical design, which means that her three salon windows on the port side are flush with the hull. They could easily be hit by a wave, and, while they are nearly half an inch thick, most Nordhavn owners add storm plates. Duet’s plates are ½ inch Lexan, and they bolt to hardware set in her hull. It does mean that we can’t open the two windows on that side, but we think it’s worth it to have them on in case of bad weather.


So early one morning, we started up the main and prepared to turn Duet around. This is not a big deal, but we always test everything, just as if we were going out for a much longer journey. On this test, the bow thruster jog lever in the pilothouse failed to respond to bells. The lever is mounted in a touch pad, which allows us to turn the thruster on and off. Unfortunately, the on button no longer functioned. This is a design problem with touch pads, they fail after a certain number of touches. We have additional jog levers at both our stern and fly bridge stations, and Ron planned to turn her from the fly bridge, so he jumped the pilothouse start function and off we went. This was, however, the other Project X of this visit, namely now we had a broken lever in the pilothouse.


The lever was removed and put aside for later study. The wax team arrived and work commenced. We also installed the storm plates later that day, once the wax team had departed. That evening Ron dismantled the jog lever to see if he could fix it. Marcus, from the Philbrooks parts department, had helpfully called ABT (who makes our bow thruster) and passed along some hints for trying to get it going again. If Ron couldn’t fix it, it would need to go back to ABT to be rebuilt or replaced. So it was worth a shot to see if he could fix it aboard Duet. Unfortunately, despite Ron’s best efforts the thruster refused to cooperate, so off it went to ABT to be rebuilt. We have to commend ABT, they have great service. 

Ron also had several more projects he wanted to complete on this trip. One, in particular, filled us with trepidation. Duet is 15 years old and it was our guess that her fuel tanks had never been opened. As any boat owner knows, diesel fuel is a tough item to store. Over time it tends to break down into its component parts. Once it does that, it becomes corrosive. Our Nordhavn 46 had iron fuel tanks, and the chances of corrosion causing leaks was the stuff of Ron’s nightmares. 

Duet has fiberglass tanks, which was a requirement for our second boat, as they don’t corrode. They can, however, become filled with goopy aged muck, which then, usually at the most inopportune moment, blocks the fuel lines, thereby bringing the mighty main engine, and the back up wing, to their knees. Ron, understandably, wanted to know what the inside of our fuel tanks looked like. This isn’t quite as simple as it sounds, since the tank needs to be empty when you open it, so you can see the bottom where the bad things hide. At this point, Duet had about a half load of fuel or 700 gallons, aboard. She has four tanks, two small ones of about 100 gallons each in the laz, and the two large saddle tanks of about 575 gallons each, one on either side of the engine room. Ron wanted to see inside a saddle tank as they are our primary source of fuel.


So we spent a day or so moving fuel from the starboard side to the port side. Currently we have a rather slow fuel transfer pump, which is on the list to be replaced. It transfers about 60 gallons per hour. We needed to move about 250 gallons from the starboard saddle tank to the port saddle tank. This took most of the day. During the transfer Duet slowly came off her trim, until the fenders were floating on the port side and the bottom paint was visible on the starboard.


The next morning Ron carefully opened the starboard saddle tank. Each tank has two access hatches, under the salon floor. The one we opened is just forward of the starboard settee. First Ron marked the bolts, to make sure he could get the top back on the same way.

Then he lifted the top off, while Nancy held her breath, as cleaning the fuel tanks was not something she was looking forward to. As you can see in the photo below, fuel tanks are painted red. Water tanks are painted blue. Even Nancy can follow this schema.

We had cleaned all four tanks on our 46, after a particularly difficult offshore journey where our Racor fuel filters were plugging up every couple of hours, but it’s a dirty and exhausting job. Fortunately, after some careful inspection of the interior of the tank with a flashlight, Ron pronounced it pristine. Given that this tank was fine, we made the decision not to open the others. We will, however, inspect one of the smaller tanks when they are empty, just to be sure.


Finally, about three days before we were due to leave, we figured we should get Duet out for a day for a sea trial. We had hoped to spend some time on the anchor, but what with the bow thruster failure, no diesel heater and the plumbing issue, we had run out of time for that. So we picked a nice day and set off early in the morning to test the new Naiad pump and the raw water exhaust leak fix. Ron jumped the bow thruster lever again and off we went.


The day was relatively uneventful, although of course not entirely. When we started up the main and engaged the Naiad Datum stabilizer head, there was a loud clunk from under the boat, on the starboard side. The Datum immediately began to sound an alarm. We shut everything down and Ron went down below to see what was up. We were expecting a hydraulic leak, as the Datum indicated that it couldn’t center the starboard fin, which is standard for departing. The Datum head is smart enough to manage the fins based on Duet’s speed, so it centers them when we traveling at less than about 3 knots or in reverse.


Anyway, the starboard fin definitely wasn’t centered, but there were no leaks. So, after perusing the Datum manual, we figured we’d give it another try. All fired up normally. While we were a little concerned about what might be going on, we figured we would follow the cinematic Captain Ron’s dictum, namely “if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen out there”, and pulled out of our slip. We chugged out into the little bay opposite Sidney and started off on a few hours of running at standard cruising speed to see what would happen. Nothing did. The main exhaust leak is fixed, the new Naiad pump ran fine and the Naiads did their job.


So we turned around to come home. Ron had wanted to run the boat for 4-5 hours to let the main get up to full temperature, thereby putting some stress on the new exhaust wrap. We won’t get a full test of the wrap until we do a 24 hour run, but at least he could get some sense of how it was doing. Turns out it was doing pretty well, although the exhaust temp exiting the engine is over 650 degrees, the surface of the wrap was much cooler. While it is difficult to get an accurate temperature as our infrared heat gun doesn’t read well on reflective surfaces, we do know that the new wrap is comfortable to the touch, while the old stuff was difficult to touch at all, so there was a definite improvement. Engine room temps seemed down too, but it will take more research to see by how much. Because we have such a long run of dry exhaust from one end of the engine room to the other, the surface temperature of the exhaust insulation makes a big difference to heat transfer in the engine room.


As we were returning, we noticed a beautiful Nordhavn 40 coming into Sidney from the north. In a typical boating coincidence, it turned out to be Lionel and Deidre aboard Chinook. Lionel took some beautiful pictures of Duet, as well as several segments of video. Nancy took some poor photos of Chinook in exchange. We had an enjoyable dinner together that evening.


Several days later we returned to Lake Tahoe. The SUV was almost empty on the return journey, US Customs was glad to see us and the weather remained beautiful throughout the trip. Our house was just as we had left it, the VA put Ron on duty immediately, and we settled down to complete an endless list of tasks before returning to Duet some three weeks later to begin our journey to Alaska.


Duet will be cruising Alaska until August, and then journeying south to Dana Point, California. While we are traveling these blogs will be few and far between, as we have limited internet connectivity. We can still receive email, via our satellite phone. We wish our readers a pleasant summer.







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