Cruising, finally!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We also upgraded our fire safety systems some more.

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

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

It’s definitely time to go south!
Local exercise

We did some local visiting in San Diego.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The offending item that blocked the head

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

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

Where’s a shotgun when you need one?

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

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

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

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

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

The Sea of Cortez has some truly beautiful sights…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miss Miranda arrives

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

Duet anchored at Agua Verde
Vultures at Agua Verde

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Dolphins offshore on the way to Puerto Vallarta

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

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

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

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

We wish all our readers a happy and safe summer.

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 for some of the great dives, and pictures, they have taken. They have also started a site for Sea Eagle,, 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 ( 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.



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.