We arrived at the shipyard in good order, after picking our way through Newport Beach Harbor, which is one of the most crowded places we have been. There are docks, moorings, and, occasionally, a small marked anchorage area, where boats are shoehorned in. The moorings, to save space, have both a bow and stern tie, so all the boats are in neat rows. The channels are carefully marked and we had plenty of depth, so it was all good. Jim, the operations manager for the shipyard, found us a slip and we settled down for the weekend.
And what a weekend it was, we were stern to what amounted to a US version of Venice, with small vessels plying the waters at all hours, journeying to restaurants and bars, surrounded by paddle boarders, kayakers and quite large boats, all jockeying for position a few feet off Duet’s stern. We got little done, spending most of our time watching boats back into the slips of the bar opposite us, usually with the stereo blaring, the requisite blondes in bikinis draped over the bow and lines dragging in the water. We didn’t see any accidents, but Jim later told us that this was considered a slow weekend, as the summer was over. A number of inebriated paddle boarders did fall in, but everyone made it home alive, as far as we know.
We were next to the dry stack portion of the Newport Harbor Shipyard, and that was a new experience for us. The dry stack holds smaller boats, which are lifted into the water when their owners want to use them, and then lifted out to be stored on tall scaffolds. Duet was tied up next to the slip ways for this process, so we got to see all sorts of exciting docking maneuvers, as well as preparations for water borne parties. We even saw an actual party, as one boat never left the dock, but stayed there through most of the Friday night, with folks coming and going. The appetizers looked really tasty, we must admit. Apparently this practice is common with that particular boat, which doesn’t leave the dock much, if at all.
Prior to the weekend, we had a chance to meet with Jesse, the Shipyard manager, and Debbie, the office boss, as well as Lobo, Shipyard dog. We like dogs, and, although Lobo was quite shy, we did manage to get to know him well enough that we think he might have even recognized us after we had been there several weeks.
Lobo waiting for instructions
Anyway, we went over our list with Jesse, and discussed estimates for all the projects. We like to have a clearly defined scope and cost for each project we undertake, and this case was no exception. There were several projects, such as pulling the Yanmar shaft and fixing the transmission, which were difficult to estimate in advance. We understand that issue, and have no problem with it, as long as we are comfortable that the work is being done right. We were impressed that Jesse had read our blog. Newport Harbor used to be the commissioning yard for Nordhavn, so they have a lot of experience with boats like ours, which further increased our confidence. Jesse treated us very well, despite the fact we were a pretty small job for his yard, and we enjoyed the time we spent with him and Debbie, who kept the paperwork trains running on time.
Our work list, in no specific order, was as follows:
Blast the bottom down to gel coat and install a new barrier coat and bottom paint
Pull the Yanmar shaft, evaluate it and replace the cutlass bearing
Repair the Yanmar transmission
Pull the Naiad fins and replace the seals
Remove the main engine heat exchangers, clean and repaint
Install screens on two hatches
New carpet and upholstery
Repair fiberglass damage done by the fishing boat
Repair wind instruments and evaluate the radars for new magnetrons
Figure out how to deal with the inverter/reverse cycle issue
Replace bimini canvas and make new window covers
Replace salt water wash down thru hull
Replace both heads
We had developed this list over time, and there were several items that were postponed, after we got estimates for everything else. The largest of these were adding an awning over the cockpit and replacing the salon table. Funding for these two projects was transferred to the Yanmar, which required a more significant redo than we had expected.
We always have a specific budget for the boat, which we adhere to. Otherwise, we have found, the amount of money that gets spent is truly astounding, as there is no limit to the number of things one can do to a boat. We found Jesse to be quite cooperative with our process, although we think that we may be one of the few who work with them this way. Many of their clients are large, captain run boats, which have almost unlimited budgets.
We also found everyone to be happy to let Ron watch or help with anything they were doing. This is the sign of a confident team, we have found folks who literally do not want us on the boat when they are working on it. Those folks, needless to say, do not get our business. So we spent every day, plus at least one day on the weekends, at the yard, watching, photographing and working, alongside the team, whom we got to know pretty well. We were even invited to an employee BBQ, which featured the best carne asada we have ever had.
The plan was to haul us on the Monday after we arrived, but a significant rainstorm flooded the yard and delayed us until Tuesday. This shipyard has some of the most sophisticated water reclamation technology we’ve ever seen. The rain was captured in drains, then fed into a series of tanks, where it is filtered, sifted and then reused in the shipyard for boat washing, etc. Several hundred thousand dollars were spent on this equipment, to meet the local environmental regulations.
During that Monday, after the water was cleared away, we watched Jim run the travel lift, hauling out various boats which were scheduled for work. He wanted to clear a specific spot for Duet, as she was to spend several weeks on the hard. This required some thought as to where to put boats that were in the way. The shipyard is very busy, and has limited space for boats on the hard, so Jim spends a lot of time moving them around. He handled the travel lift well, so we were comfortable that he could be trusted with Duet. We moved into a hotel on Sunday night, which is something we always do when the boat is on the hard. It increases our expenses, but living aboard the boat on the hard is too difficult for us, particularly when we are working on her every day.
On Tuesday, the day dawned clear, if a bit hot. Our entire time in Newport Beach, some five weeks, there was a heat wave, so the daily temps climbed into the 90s and even to100 several times. The area isn’t used to this, there is no A/C in most buildings (although our hotel was air conditioned, thank goodness) and it is much hotter on the concrete of the boat yard, so we were careful to stay well hydrated. That said, we sweated our way through endless white work t shirts, which Nancy sources at CostCo. Our hotel, the Marriott Residence Inn, had a laundry, so we were able to keep up with the endless piles of dirty clothes which result from spending 12 hours days working on the boat in a boat yard. Boat yards are dusty, dirty places, no matter how hard the crew tries to keep them clean, and Newport Harbor was no exception to this rule.
Following Jim’s directions, Ron carefully backed Duet into the travel lift well, the straps were placed under her and up she came. Her bottom actually looked pretty good, the team at Delta had done a good job of getting the paint to adhere, so there were only a few small areas that it had come adrift. Jim expertly moved her to her chosen spot, and real work began in earnest.
Duet comes out of the water
Her new home for 5 weeks
First look at the bottom paint
The largest project the shipyard was to do was blasting off 15 years of accumulated bottom paint to put on a new barrier coat and new bottom paint. The need for this had been established 3 years previously, when Duet was painted at Delta. We had carefully researched methods, and concluded that the blasting, while more expensive than having her hand sanded in Mexico, was a less destructive process, so we decided to go that way. Newport Harbor blasts 12-15 boats a year, so they have the equipment and the experience. As Nordhavn’s commissioning yard in the early years, they have seen hulls like ours before. There is some possibility that Duet had even been there before, although no one can remember.
The first thing to do when blasting the bottom is to tent the boat, rather like a termite removal. A day or so was spent erecting a scaffold and rigging the tenting, before the blasting began. In the meantime, we sorted out other workers and Ron began on his list of projects. Once we have established the scope of a project, and Ron is happy with the workers’ skill level, Nancy manages the rest, namely timeframe, dollars, schedules, required parts, etc., which frees Ron up to do his own project work or assist with whatever is going on.
Lots of tenting to do
Tenting almost done
And there was a lot going on. Fortunately, we could still access the boat during the blasting process, as the tenting was only around her hull. Jesse got his guys going on pulling the Yanmar shaft and cutlass bearing, before the blasting started. If we needed a new shaft, which it turned out we did, then it would take time to get it, so Jesse figured the sooner it came off the better, and he was right. We waited on pulling the Naiad fins, as we didn’t want their shafts exposed to the blasting process.
Removing the wing engine folding prop
Wing engine folding prop
Wing engine stuffing box
Crevice corrosion on wing engine shaft
The Yanmar transmission folks arrived next, removed the old transmission and took it off for evaluation. It arrived in the shop, the expert took one look and concurred with the mechanic, it was shot. 15 years of salt water from the stuffing box spraying on it had corroded some of the gears. The cost to repair it would be as much or more than a new transmission. Fortunately, the mechanic thought ahead and had already reserved a new transmission that happened to be in stock, so we didn’t have to wait for that.
Old transmission off the shop
Shaft log for wing engine
The folks from the Lugger shop also showed up about this time. Their mission was to remove the main engine’s heat exchangers (it has two external heat exchangers) and service them. It turned out that one was fine, but since they come off as as unit, it was cleaned and repainted anyway. It takes time to clean them and repaint, so this job started early, as Duet can’t really go back in the water without her main engine. Also, they need to test, once she is back in the water, as did the Yanmar team. Finally, the boat needed to be in the water to replace the heads, so there was considerable pressure on the schedule to get the land work done and get her back in her natural element. Keeping to the schedule would also give us a little time to get organized for the CUBAR. As it turned out, we ended up with about two weeks before the CUBAR left, which, while a little tight, did work out fine.
Removing the heat exchangers
Anyway, back to the work. The blasting started about 3 days after she went on the hard. It took about two days to complete and was done by the yard expert, Jaime. Jaime has had some experience with Nordhavns, as PAE flew him to China to paint the first 86. The China yard turned out to be too dirty to paint in, so the 86 was brought to Newport, where he painted her in the water. That is something we would have loved to see. Jaime brought all his nearly 30 years of experience to bear on Duet’s hull and did a great job of getting her back to gelcoat without any damage.
Jaime suited up and ready to go
Airless hot environment inside the tent
Once the paint was off, then Jesse appeared with his moisture meter. Some hulls have water penetration, so the standard approach is to let the hull dry out for several days to a week before applying the new bottom. Duet’s hull was essentially dry, with little to no difference in moisture measurements above and below the waterline. Jesse wanted to let her sit anyway, just to be on the safe side. The bottom was pristine, and the gel coat in perfect shape. Jaime, who has seen a lot of fiberglass bottoms, said that Nordhavn builds some of the thickest hulls in the business.
Blasted right down to the gel coat
You can see the join where the two halves of the bulbous bow and the hull itself were mated together when Duet was built
In the photo below you can see the “maintenance strakes” or bulges which allow standing room around Duet’s engine.
Interestingly there were various gel coat colors on her hull. This is apparently quite common.
As an aside, Nordhavns are built without a barrier coat to keep the water out, as the outer-most laminations of fiberglass consist of vinylester rather than polyester. Unlike polyester, vinylester is not susceptible to blistering. So we didn’t really need a barrier coat, but we put it on anyway, figured extra insurance never hurt.
Before the team started putting the new bottom on, we removed all the thru hull screens. We later replace them, after the bottom was finished. So far, these screens have worked very well, we have yet to ingest anything that has jammed up the workings. We also took this opportunity to check all the thru hulls and clean them where necessary. We did try to grease them, but that wasn’t a huge success. Ron exercises all our thru hulls regularly anyway, so we gave up on the greasing and just gave them all a full turn for good luck.
Ron removing a thru hull screen
Cleaning the screen
Examining a thru hull
Ball valve thru hull
Checking main prop
The Shipyard team also removed all the paint removed by the blasting process. This is considered hazardous waste and so was carefully loaded into drums to be sent off to be recycled. The whole process was extremely messy, as the paint comes off in tiny flakes or actual dust. The workers all wear protective gear when working with it and we tried to avoid it all together.
The clean up team
In the meantime, Nancy was chasing down various vendors, such as Jeddys, to do the new upholstery and carpet. This meant we had to visit their showroom to choose materials. This was a fun trip, Jeddy and his granddaughter Nicole, are fun to spend time with and really know their business. Jeddy has been working on Nordhavns since the first one hit the water and probably did the original upholstery and carpet on Duet.
The timing on this work was complex, as, first, we had to order larger fabric samples of potential candidates to make our final selection. This takes a week or so, then the final selection has to be ordered, which in the case of the carpet takes 3 weeks to arrive, and then everything had to be made up. In the end, the upholstery arrived before we left the Shipyard, while the carpet caught up with us in San Diego. Jeddys also removed the old carpet, which was getting truly filthy during the bottom blasting process, despite our best efforts to keep it clean, and the old upholstery. Even the office stool went off to be recovered!
Patterning the carpet
And the cushions
After Jeddys came the canvas folks, followed by the screening guy. Unfortunately, after much measuring, it became apparent that retrofitting Ocean Aire screens was a nonstarter. On newer Nordhavns, these are standard equipment and are fitted at the factory. Duet has standard size hatches, but she doesn’t have standard size trim around the hatch openings. So the screens would have to be custom made, and that would take months, which we didn’t have. What to do? After some thought, and consultation with Jesse, we brought in his recommended woodworker to make screens. That saved the day, although we didn’t have time to varnish them before we left, that was done in San Diego.
In the photo below, the wooden supports are holding the new hatch screen in place while it is fitted.
As part of our canvas work, we got a new white bimini top.
Sometime during all this, Alcom came by, removed the wind instrument and the radars and sent them off for evaluation. The wind instrument was an easy fix, which was good news. If it couldn’t be fixed we would be faced with replacing 5 small monitors throughout the boat, which display wind speed, direction, etc. The news on the radars was also good, the smaller one needed a new magnetron (which we suspected was the case) while the larger one needed a new pulse emitter. They returned, good as new, and ready for another 15 years of service.
Alcom did the original electronics installation on Duet and still does commissioning work for Nordhavn, so it was interesting to talk to them about what they install now, versus what we have on Duet. The wind instrument, from B&G, is completely obsolete, so if it fails again we will need to replace the entire thing, something we are not looking forward to.
Around this time, Nordhavn 46 Patience appeared off our stern. She had recently been sold and came to the yard for some work, prior to moving to her new home near San Francisco. It was very interesting to see the two hulls, the 46 and the 50, out of the water at the same time.
Patience in the lift
After the bottom blasting was completed and Duet was resting before her new bottom was applied , Ron and Chris from the shipyard replaced the salt water wash down thru hull that had been installed a few years ago in Seattle. Ron was suspicious that the thru-hull was too short for the thickness of the hull. Once we removed the ball valve, his suspicions were confirmed. The ball valve was hanging on to the thru hull by only a few threads. The old thru-hull was replaced with a longer one, allowing the ball valve to be more securely attached.
Ron and Chris also removed the Naiad fins. Ron wanted to learn how to do this, and acquire the special tools, as we may be far from expert help when the seals need changing. Our guess is we can always find somewhere to haul the boat, but experienced Naiad guys aren’t found in every port, so we needed to bring our own. Jesse helped us order the special tool that is used to pop the fins off their tapered shafts. Ron used this maintenance requirement as an excuse to purchase his own really giant torque wrench. We also ordered an extra set of outer seals, which will travel with us. The process of changing the seals isn’t difficult, but it does require some strong help to lift the fins. Chris and Jaime (the mechanic Jaime, not the fiberglass expert Jaime) carefully taught Ron how it was done and he will do it next time.
Loosening the retaining bolt
Notice the blocks under the fin. They keep it from falling off once the retaining bolt is removed
Fin shaft after fin removed
Unfortunately, during this process, we found some water in the starboard fin, above the seal. This means that there has been seawater penetration into the bearing assembly. The water was clear and there was no sign of rust. After extensive consultation with Jesse, we decided on a watchful waiting process for this, rather than pulling the bearings. Pulling the bearings means removing the top of the actuator and dropping the lower assembly. The bearings are packing in 5 pounds of grease, which is then washed out and replaced. This is a substantial project, and not inexpensive, so Jesse’s counsel was to wait until we have actual signs of bearing malfunction. The hope is that the amount of water penetration was small and whatever was there has drained out.
The key to this decision is that the bearings are large commercial grade units and do not fail catastrophically. Instead, they rust over time and that process is usually quite obvious. For example, lots of rusty water runs out when you pull the seals, or water starts coming out the top of the actuator. Duet had neither of these symptoms. She does have some grease working its way out of the top of the starboard actuator, which means it was being pushed out by water. Since the water has now drained, the grease should stop coming out. If, over the next year or so, the grease doesn’t stop coming out, we shall replace the bearings on that side. In the meantime, we shall hope that all the water is now gone, so the grease will stay where it belongs.
Partial diagram of the Naiad 252
While this discussion was going on, the process of painting the freshly blasted bottom started. First, a coat of grey epoxy barrier was applied. Then the hull is faired with grey epoxy and hand sanded smooth. Another coat of epoxy barrier is applied, and then two coats of bottom paint. We decided to go with green bottom paint, instead of black, to match Duet’s boot stripe. We think it looks great. The guys in the yard started calling Duet the Hulk, as she is truly huge out of the water, and very green!
First layer of epoxy barrier coat
Epoxy putty for fairing the hull
Sanding the fairing compound down smooth
Fairing compound everywhere
More sanding on the hull, the stern has already had it’s next barrier coat
First coat of bottom paint after last coat of epoxy barrier over fairing
Replacing the thru hull screens
Screens painted after replacement
While the new bottom paint was going on, the new Yanmar shaft arrived, just after the new transmission was installed. We also replaced the Yanmar’s stuffing box, engine mounts, and sea water pump. So, in the end, we had an almost new wing engine.
Josh cradling the new wing engine transmission
Brand new wing engine shaft and cutlass bearing
Ron crafted a cover for the Yanmar stuffing box, so that it no longer sprays water anywhere.
The main engine heat exchangers came back, all clean and white. Before they returned, Ron cleaned up and repainted that side of the main engine, which isn’t accessibly when the heat exchangers are on. He also fixed a solenoid and did a few other small related projects. Ron was quite busy, actually, what with all the workers on the boat, plus his projects.
Ron working on the main
Painting the main
Repainted heat exchanger parts
Repainted heat exchanger
Installing the new heat exchanger
In the meantime, Nancy wasn’t exactly idle either. She made several trips to Dana Point, and elsewhere, for parts, in between managing various contractors coming on and off the boat. She also kept track of the estimates, and paid everyone. Frankly, we didn’t have much time for anything but boat work, by the time we got to our hotel at night we were exhausted, usually we had some take out and crashed. We did take one day off a week, and we exercised as much as we could, just to clear our heads. Our approach to being in the boatyard isn’t for everyone, but we find it rewarding to be a part of the process. We have to compliment all the folks we worked with in Newport, as they tolerated us very well.
The original drawing of the Nordhavn 50, hanging in Dana Point
Fun and games in the engine room
Ron after a long day
Duet resting under a full moon
Finally, it was time to go back in the water. The new heads had arrived, and the head master, so to speak, had us on his packed schedule for the following week. Several things remained undone, particularly repairing the hull damage from the fishing boat, but we were confident that if Jaime could paint a Nordhavn 86 in in the water, he could probably manage our little ding as well.
Last, but not least, paint the support pads
So the big day dawned and Duet went back into her natural element. The main engine fired up just fine, as did the Yanmar, so those were declared completed. The new thru hull didn’t leak, so it was also checked off. Duet’s new green bulbous bow looked great. Jeddys came and removed all the old carpet, and Nancy scrubbed all the floors.
We splashed on a Friday, which gave Ron time to make sure everything was ready for the head install the following week. While the head master was doing the removal of the old Vacuflush units (which is the hardest part of the whole thing) and plumbing the new units, Ron did all the wiring. Our new Tecma heads require more power than the Vacuflushes they replaced, so Ron installed new wire and breakers for them.
Fetching the new heads from the Shipyard shop
Ron had also, in his spare time, been focusing on our problem with the generator, the inverter and the A/C. We have described this problem before, essentially, when the generator is providing power and one of the A/C units switches on, the Victron inverter-charger interprets the transient voltage sag as ‘bad power’, stops charging, and starts inverting. After 20 seconds, the Victron is satisfied that the power is ok, so it stops inverting and starts charging again. Under normal conditions, the A/C units do cycle on and off, so the inverter-charger is forced to cycle on and off as well. Victron informed us that this frequent cycling will shorten the life of the inverter-charger, so we were anxious to find a fix.
Ron consulted lots of folks, other 50 owners, Mike Tellaria, who is the PAE electrical guru and Bob Senter (both for his generator expertise and because Northern Lights also manufactures marine air conditioning through their Technicold division). We tried increasing the voltage output of the generator, but it didn’t solve the problem. We also considered installation of a transformer to balance the two legs of our split phase system. In the end, after discussions with Clive Cox (an engineer with ADE’s Technicold) we settled on soft start devices. These devices buffer the power draw spike that typically occurs when large electrical motors (like compressors) start up. We considered two brands. Dometic (who manufactures our air conditioning units) markets their SmartStart, and Technicold markets their Easy Start. Technicold’s device is more sophisticated in that it ‘learns’ the unique start-up characteristics of the motor it is wired to, and tailors its power buffering algorithm accordingly. We decided on the Easy Starts.
Installing the Easy Starts was a bit of a faith leap. There was no guarantee they would solve our particular problem. So we started out with just one Easy Start wired to one air conditioning unit. Nancy was dispatched to fetch said unit, and, as soon as Duet went into the water, we tested it. It worked like a charm, when that unit fired up the inverter didn’t even notice it. So more units were ordered for the other A/Cs. We also ordered sound shields for all 5 A/Cs, as the compressors are very noisy. Again, Nancy was sent to pick them up, and they were added to Ron’s installation list.
Getting ready to work on the salon A/C
Installing a soft start on the pilothouse A/C
Editing the A/C documentation
Monday dawned bright and clear, and Jeff, the head master, showed up right on time. It took him a little over a day to remove the old heads, plus about 80 feet of hose. The Vacuflush architecture requires an intervening tank to create the vacuum, whereas the Tecmas do not. The Tecma has a macerating pump in it’s base, so it reduces all contributions to a watery slurry, which is then pumped, actually pushed, down the pipe either to the holding tank or overboard, depending on where we are.
That requires very little plumbing and Jeff was able to reuse the hose already in place beyond our Y valves. The Y valve is put one way for the holding tank and the other way for overboard, so there were no changes downstream of it, just between it and the head itself. Since both Y valves are within a couple of feet of the heads they serve, the plumbing was pretty simple.
We gained a large new storage area under the guest bunk when the Vacuflush pump and vacuum tank were removed. Ron kept the pumps, as they can be adapted to other uses, but the rest of the old head system was carted off to the junkyard. We do still have a number of Vacuflush parts, which we shall have to find a good home for somewhere along the way.
Old VacuFlush parts
Guest head Vacuflush vacuum pump before removal
The tricky part of the install was getting the Tecmas to fit. We had done extensive measuring, and built small mockups, so we knew the heads would fit, but the bases they sit on had to be reengineered to attach them. This process took another couple of days, but soon we were in business. We must say that the Tecmas are the best marine head we have ever used and we wouldn’t have a boat without them. They do use more water and power than the Vacuflushes did, but that is a small price to pay for their performance. They also dim the lights in the engine room when they are flushed, which is an entertaining side effect.
First, read the directions
Then try to figure out what the directions actually mean
Guest head base before reworking
In the meantime, Jaime and his team were working on the starboard hull damage. First, they had to match the paint, which is done using a high definition camera to take a picture of the hull. That picture is then matched by the paint shop and the paint is made up. Jesse had warned us that our hull color, known as putty, would be hard to match as it is a “non color”, e.g. a sort of tan, which is hard to match. So it proved, when the paint went on it wasn’t a perfect match. It will wear in over time, however, and the repair itself was perfect.
Repairing the fiberglass
Jaime on the scene
Preparing to paint around porthole
It was hard to believe, but we were almost done. There was one thing left though. We needed fuel. Nancy consulted Jim, who advised calling the Newport Beach fuel barge, which delivers directly to the boat. We have never fueled from a barge before, but the simplicity of it appealed, even though there was a small surcharge per gallon for delivery. At the appointed hour the barge appeared, tied up to our stern and we loaded about 800 gallons on diesel. It was the easiest fueling we have ever done and we shall definitely keep fuel barges in mind for our future needs.
Fuel barge arriving
We settled all our bills, and about 5 weeks after we arrived, we departed Newport Beach very early in the morning, bound for San Diego. Nancy called up Kona Kai, the marina in San Diego where we planned to stay. Given we were a month late on our arrival date, they would have been perfectly within their rights to say they had no space, as both the CUBAR and the Baja HaHa (which involves nearly 200 sailboats) were crammed into town awaiting their respective departures. But Kona Kai, despite being 100% occupied, came thru for us and we settled into a palatial 80 foot slip for 3 weeks until the CUBAR left.
Those three weeks were filled with parties, new friends, the occasional disaster and, as always, boat work. They will be covered in our next blog, which will also include our trip with the CUBAR to La Paz, Mexico.