A Rescue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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.