Four Busy Days

Soon enough we were back at Duet again, for the planned 4 day weekend to replaced the main coolant pump and get Duet rigged for our offshore journey. The pump had returned, nicely rebuilt and repainted, complete with all the parts necessary to replace it. Unfortunately, as is often the case, since Ron didn’t remove the pump, it was difficult to figure out how to put it back. Anyone who has tried to reassemble anything that was disassembled by someone else is familiar with this problem. 

Jeff’s mechanic, Miguel, did his best to label everything, but it proved quicker for Ron to wait for Miguel to help, than chew up hours trying to figure out what went where. Ron does have the shop manual for Duet’s main engine, actually he has the shop manuals for just about everything aboard, but in this case it proved a little short on details. Once Miguel returned on Monday, the pump went back on rapidly and Ron can now remove and replace it himself.

We have found Jeff and his team to be very helpful and tolerant of Ron’s learning curve with Duet. Some yards do not like owners to observe work, nor are they happy with teaching you how to do things. We do not patronize yards which have such a policy. We take Duet all over the place, and if we had to wait for a mechanic to show up every time something needed to be replaced or repaired, we’d never get anywhere. We would also rapidly go bankrupt, as good mechanics and other boat support is expensive.

So Ron spent the rest of the long weekend, prior to Miguel’s appearance on Monday, setting Duet up for offshore work. We have some well established procedures, developed on our 46, which we have transferred to Duet. While the trip from Seattle to Portland involved only one offshore day and night, the principle is the same regardless of the distance, so we set Duet up as if we were headed offshore for weeks.

Ron and Nancy split the duties on Duet. The division is more pink and blue than we might like, but in our travels together that has worked best for us. Nancy knows a little about the mechanical side of things, having worked on her own car in the days when she couldn’t afford to pay someone else, but she’s not in Ron’s league when it comes to fixing or maintaining engines, electrical systems, etc. She does, however, handle navigation, charts, safety gear, flares, life jackets, life raft, fire extinguishers, licensing, etc., as well as provisioning and planning for any travel. So both Ron and Nancy were pretty busy during this brief visit.

Ron spent his time making sure that all preventative maintenance that needed to be done had been done. This included a new impeller on the back up main raw water pump (as described in a previous blog), making sure that we had plenty of Racor filters on hand, etc. The Racor filters in particular were critical, as we once spent a rather tense 24 hours changing said filters every 2 hours, in medium weather, off the Carolinas.

These filters ensure that Duet’s main engine gets nice clean fuel, rather than dirty fuel which might cause it to stop. Dirty fuel will also stop the wing or back up engine as well, so having enough filters on board can truly save the day. We had not yet taken this Duet offshore in bigger seas, which might stir up any sediment at the bottom of her tanks and block her fuel lines. Ron guessed her tanks were pretty pristine, based on what had come through the filters thus far, but you can never have too many filters on hand.

Nancy, meantime, focused on offshore food, which in this case meant buying frozen lunches and dinners, plus bagels and other normally outlawed carbs. We normally don’t eat lots of pasta, bread, etc. but when offshore our stomaches tend to crave this kind of thing and we have learned to make sure that offshore meals are tasty. We also want to include as much protein as we can, as otherwise one lives on bagels, cookies and chips, which makes you more tired than ever when the sugar wears off. Yogurt or cheese pasta are good examples of tasty but useful foods for offshore journeys.

On longer journeys Nancy cooks and freezes food beforehand, but for a short journey like this she cheats and buys ready made things. For this trip we had Annie’s Organic Vegetarian Roasted Vegetable Lasagna for dinner and Annie’s Organic Vegetarian Burritos for lunch. Breakfast was bagels with peanut butter and/or cream cheese and/or sugar free jam. Ron, who knows a good thing when he sees it, had everything. Snacks included nuts and lemon and blueberry cookies, as well as frozen Snickers bars for the night watch. We also had fruit aboard, a few grapes go down well when you are looking for something to snack on.

Nancy also assembled our overboard bag, which contains all the things we might need in the life raft, in the unfortunate event that we need to board it. The contents have been refined slightly from the 46, and is based on a list provided by Landfall Navigation, which sells great safety kits, gear, etc. In particular, right now we do not have a hand held water maker, so Nancy ordered some pre packaged water from one of the survival sites on the internet. We have found that survival gear is often cheaper from sites other than those designed for marine use. The same can be said of parts, although you have to be sure that substitutes can stand up to sea conditions. Our man overboard bag is in the center of the picture below, on either side are our exposure suits. We put gear out before departing, where it is easily accessible in the event of an emergency.


Ron, after making sure he had enough of everything to meet any eventuality, set up the life raft. On the 46, we had the life raft in a soft valise in the salon, so it could be thrown overboard from the cockpit. On the new Duet, the life raft is mounted in a cradle on the boat deck, just behind the starboard fly bridge stack below the davit arm. It is equipped with a hydrostatic release, so it will automatically release from the boat when the boat deck is underwater. In a slightly better scenario, Ron would go on the boat deck, release it and throw it over the side. It is too heavy for Nancy, even fueled by adrenaline, to manage safely.

After rehearsing Ron throwing the raft over the side around the davit and trying to hang onto the short painter (line) which sticks out from one side, we figured there had to be a better way. There is, for which we must credit well known Captain Milt Baker on the Nordhavn 47 Bluewater. Milt’s raft is in the same position as ours. He attaches a long line to it, runs the line off the boat deck and down to the aft cockpit, where it is tied to a hawsehole. 

That way, when the raft is thrown into the water, it definitely stays attached to the boat, without the thrower, or anyone else, having to do anything. It can then be cut free when everyone is aboard. The line is attached to the boat deck rails with small cable ties, which break easily under the strain of the rope pulling away. It looked like it should work perfectly. We tested the cable ties, Nancy could break one easily.

We also moved the crane out of the way, so the raft wouldn’t get tangled in it when it was thrown. Rehearsing this kind of event goes a long way to ensuring that things go right when the time comes. Captain Ron, in his role as Dr. Ron, the anesthesiologist, spends a lot of time preparing for emergencies. This skill has come in very handy on a boat.

That settled, we moved on to the sea anchor. We always carry a sea anchor, mainly in the event of a breakdown. The anchor, which looks like a parachute, will keep Duet’s head to the seas while Ron fixes whatever the problem is. We had ordered a new sea anchor, the necessary rode (line) and a drogue, from Fiorentino, a California based maker of safety gear. We had seen the equipment at the Seattle boat show and were impressed with it’s quality. Several heavy boxes had been manhandled onto Duet by Jeff’s crew right before we arrived and proved to contain all that we needed from Fiorintino.

On the 46 we would rig the sea anchor, with it’s chain leader running over the bow to the samson post, and the rope rode running down the starboard safety rail back to the Portuguese bridge, where the anchor itself sat, ready for deployment. On this trip we didn’t go that far, we were not expecting any weather and would only be out there for 24 hours, so Ron figured he could deploy the anchor easily enough if we needed it. All of it was set ready in the salon.


We didn’t think we would need the drogue either on this trip. The drogue is designed to be streamed off the back of the boat to keep her from broaching, which is when her stern comes around in a big wave and she turns sideways to the seas, rather like skidding in a car. We did put the drogue out though, just in case. We would use the same rode for the drogue as we use for the sea anchor, as there are very few, if any, scenarios where we would use both simultaneously.


Last, but not least, was our new Brownie Third Lung. On the 46 we kept a scuba tank for Ron to dive on the boat and remove or repair whatever needed attention. He dove on the boat quite a bit, mostly to change the zincs, but once, memorably, in the ICW just north of Charleston, to clean the keel cooler which got a bit overgrown during a long stay in that wonderful city.

The biggest problem with the tank was the weight, and also, getting it refilled. We considered a dive compressor, so we could fill it ourselves, but it seemed a bit overkill. The Brownie is essentially an endless tank, connected to a long hose with a regular on the end for the diver to breath through. It is a great solution for diving on the boat, and, as we don’t dive recreationally any more, it seemed a better fit for our needs.

We rigged the Brownie up and tested it, to make sure it worked. It started up just fine and even Nancy tried it out. Scott from Sea Eagle, as an experienced commercial diver, had also provided Ron some good tips on how to handle diving on Duet in the open ocean. The biggest issue is the boat rising up and down in the seas, you have to be very careful not to get hit on the head. Scott even sent us a link to some great very sharp knives, which Nancy picked up at Seattle Marine before our departure.

The Brownie comes with a long hose, shown below, as well as a regulator. Ron brought the rest of his scuba gear on this trip, so he is all set.

Last, but not least, we rigged up a jackline from the bow to the scupper on the starboard foredeck. A jackline is a specially made line most often used by sailors. It is shown in the photo below, passing through the scupper. It runs from that scupper to the hawse on the staarboard side, as shown in the second photo. The other end is attached to one of the samson posts just behind the windlass.

Anyone who had to go forward of the Portuguese bridge when the boat is offshore clips their tether to this jackline and then slides it along until they reached the anchor, for example, if it were to come loose. On our 46, every time Ron took the dogs onto the foredeck to relieve themselves, he would clip to this jack line. The dogs also wore harnesses, and were on leashes. Nancy remained in the pilothouse, with her finger on the man overboard button.

So we were ready, or as ready as we were going to be. We flew home to Reno for three weeks, prior to our departure.