Final Departure Preparations

Saturday, June 1. That is a date that we have been focused on, literally, for years. It is the day we take off for Alaska, but also the day that marks a transition for us to more of a cruising lifestyle. We semi-jokingly call it our gap year. And now that day is less than a week away.

Our countdown App.

The last month has been crazy busy. Since we picked up the boat at for Opening Day weekend at the beginning of May, we brought the boat back to Philbrooks (on Mother’s day), attended a two day hands on Diesel training class at Northern Lights in Seattle, picked the boat up and returned to Anacortes. This past weekend Gwen and Miranda took our dog McGee down to his retirement home with Gwen’s parents while I chipped away at a long list of tasks.

Boatyard final update (for this round)

We brought Miss Miranda back to Philbrooks after Opening Day to have the wing engine shaft re-installed and to have some issues that we encountered (see https://mvmissmiranda.com/2019/05/10/lessons-in-boat-patience-technical-stuff/) addressed. The wing engine shaft was a bit of a saga – it was pitted (with corrosion) and had to be replaced. It was sent to “the” person in BC that makes custom prop shafts back in April. Unfortunately, it was made improperly the first time around and had to be redone. It was shipped just in time to be re-installed before we were to leave for opening day, but the coupling was (temporarily) lost in transit. Now everything is back in place, and the wing engine works much better, and importantly, the dripless shaft seal (the original issue) is now actually dripless. I described most of the work we were having done in an earlier post(https://mvmissmiranda.com/2019/04/20/boatyard-update/). I view this visit to the yard as making sure that we were up to date on the required service on all of Miss Miranda’s key systems. We will be going back to the yard upon our return from Alaska for some additional work to prepare for cruising to Mexico.

Parts, tools, and supplies

We have gotten quite used to living in a world where almost anything we might want can be delivered to our doorstep in two days or less. The story will be different when we are underway, to some extent in Alaska, and from what we have heard, really different in Mexico (at least as far as boat parts go). So, we have been compiling lists of tools, spare parts, and supplies, benefitting from the knowledge of other cruising Nordhavn owners as well as what we have learned in various training classes.

A small sampling of supplies…

Of course, all of this stuff has to go somewhere. I spent the past weekend organizing storage space in the engine room and lazarette to hold all of this stuff, and have a pretty good inventory spreadsheet to keep track of it. I feel that we are well equipped to address most of the likely issues, and the trip to Alaska will be a good, long shakedown.

I just changed the oil on the main engine, but we will put enough hours on the engine (and the generator) this summer to require an oil change while up in Alaska. That means that we need to carry enough oil for at least one change (6.75 gallons for the main engine) and the means to collect the used oil – a couple of empty 5 gallon buckets. It’s no problem to carry enough for one complete change, but I’m not sure where we would fit enough for, say, two complete changes.

Dual Nav computers

Miss Miranda came with a computer-based chartplotter navigation system. Last year we replaced the aging tower computer with an Intel NUC and installed both Coastal Explorer and TimeZero plotting software. I wanted to have a second nav computer for redundancy, so over the winter installed some new navigation equipment that would make this possible:

  • First, the Rose Point Nemo gateway (https://www.rosepoint.com/nemo-gateway/) takes all the data from our navigation equipment and makes it available over an ethernet connection, which allows it to be shared with multiple computers. In our previous setup, each Nav data source (e.g., GPS, autopilot, depth sounder, wind instrument, AIS) had a separate cable that plugged into a USB port on a single PC.
  • Second, the Furuno digital radar (https://www.furuno.com/special/en/radar/drs4d-nxt/) also makes data available over an ethernet connection, and can be used with multiple computers running Nobeltec TimeZero.

I originally used a laptop for the second computer, and placed it on the port side of the pilot house… pretty much the only place it would fit. I liked having the ability to run a different plotter program and display different charts, but didn’t like having to look over my left shoulder to see the display. I recently bought a 12″ touchscreen monitor and repurposed an old Mac Mini to see how that would work. I am using a RAM mount to position the monitor in front of some unused space on the pilot house dash panel directly ahead, and so far, I like the way it is working out.

Two nav computers in the pilothouse. The small one on the left is the touch screen running Coastal Explorer, and the large one on the right is running TimeZero. The green on the right is the radar overlay.

My plan is to test this setup while we are cruising this summer, and mount everything more permanently if it works well. I will use the touchscreen monitor to run the routes (in Coastal Explorer) and will use the larger monitor to show the radar overlay in TimeZero.

This week is all about provisioning and getting ready to take off for two and half months. Saturday morning, we drop the lines and start the journey, ready or not!

Vessel Tracking

One of the requirements for the CUBAR rally is that all participants have a Garmin InReach satellite communicator for fleet tracking and communication. So we bought one to replace the Spot tracker we’ve had for the last couple of years. We swallowed hard and paid for the pricey “Expedition” plan, and will use the InReach to share our location.

Miss Miranda is in Sidney, BC

You can see where we are by clicking the “Current Location” on the top menu above or by clicking here.

We also transmit on AIS, so you can follow us on Marine Traffic or similar sites when/if we are in VHF range.

Lessons in Boat Patience – technical stuff

As Gwen mentioned in the previous post, we had a couple of interesting problems over the Opening Day weekend.  I keep telling myself that it was good to have these issues in a place where we can get parts and service.

Domestic Water Pump

The simple, but annoying issue was the failure (again) of our domestic water pump.  This is a critcal piece of equipment not only for the operation of all the sink faucets, but also for the operation of our marine heads, which use fresh water to flush.  Honestly, I’m surprised that Gwen didn’t wake me up on Friday night to replace the pump after it gave up the ghost. (Thanks!)

The pump is a variable speed pump made by a company called Jabsco.  It is very fancy, and relatively expensive.  The benefit of a variable speed pump is that it allows us to avoid having a bulky accumulator tank in the system.  This model of pump has been notoriously unreliable for us – we just replaced it in February, and also replaced it last summer.  Unfortunately, I didn’t put the spare pump we ordered in February back on the boat, so it was off to Fisheries Supply.  My friend Ted also had the same Jabsco pump, also had multiple failures, and eventually replaced his with a Johnson pump, which he is very happy with.

When I showed up at Fisheries and told them about the issue, the “pump guy” gave a knowing look, and took me right back to the Johnson pump, which is a “drop in” replacement for the Jabsco.  And so it was, except for having a different mounting pattern.  So, a few holes drilled and in it went, super easy… except that the tabs that secure the input and output ports were missing!  Fortunately, I was able to reuse the ones from the Jabsco pump.

img_7051
The Johnson pump in place.

I’m not sure that we are done with this saga.  The Johnson pump is not particularly effective at maintaining a high flow rate.  It surges and then slows down, which may be problematic for taking showers, etc.  I wonder if it might be defective, so am contemplating taking it back to Fisheries for a replacement.

Battery Chargers and Generator

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, one of the work items in our trip to the boatyard was changing the batteries from Lifeline AGMs to Firefly Carbon Foam and adding two Victron 100 Amp chargers.  The goal was to allow the Firefly batteries to be recharged as fast as possible, minimizing generator runtime at anchor.  I had the chance to put the system to the test by accidentally discharging the batteries to nearly 90% overnight (left the engine room blowers on).  So, I start the generator in the morning, and flip on the breakers for the chargers.  I immediately see the batteries getting charged at a rate of 300 Amps/hr, which is exactly what I was hoping for.  Awesome… until both the breakers for the Victron chargers tripped… repeatedly.  It turns out that each charger was installed on one “leg” of our 240VAC outputs from the generator to balance the load.  Fine.  But, the breakers were rated for 15 Amps.  The Victron installation manual clearly states that the charger draws 15 Amps of 120VAC current to deliver 100 Amps of DC charging.  I suspect that the breakers were undersized for the application.  Not a big problem, I thought, since the exisitng Magnum Inverter charger was still working, putting out 120 or so Amps of DC charging.  It will just take longer.  After a couple of hours, I tried turning on the Victron chargers again.  This time the charge rate was low enough that the chargers were not pulling maximum current, and the breakers did not trip.  All good, I thought, and went about preparations for the day’s festivities.

Miranda’s friends arrived and she asked that we set up a lounge chair that can be hung from the davit.  No problem, as the generator was already running (the davit is powered by a 240VAC motor so needs the generator to be on to operate).  So, I moved the davit into place, rigged the chair and got ready to lift it… and…. nothing.  Davit is dead.  Checking the AC panel in the pilot house, I see that my voltage reading is at 120, not the 240 that it should be with the generator running.  I had somehow overloaded the AC circuit and had “lost” one of the two 120V legs that combine to give 240 volts.  This was a bit of a mystery, given that I knew of no way to switch a leg on or off.  It was usually 240 or nothing.  I could not find the problem, and what was worse was that the “dead” leg was the one that supplied the Magnum inverter/charger.  Thus, no AC power for things like refrigerator, freezer, etc from the generator, and the batteries were still deeply discharged, so running them from the inverter for another 24 hours would kill the brand new batteries.  This was a bit of a problem.  But then I remembered that one of the Victron chargers must be wired to the leg that was still working.  So, turn that one on, and yes, we are charging… for about 30 seconds, until the breaker trips again.  Now I am really wondering what to do.  I look at the panel and notice that the breaker for the watermaker is just above those for the chargers, and is a 20 amp breaker.  So, I disconnected the power for the watermaker, and moved the power lines for one of the chargers to one half of that breaker.

IMG_7058
Rewiring the Victron breaker.

That worked, and thus we were able to keep charging the batteries with the one Victron charger while running the “house” from the inverter.  I was able to determine that the generator itself is still putting out 240V, which is good news, but was unable to find the fault leading to the panel.  Bottom line is that the boat is going back to the yard next week to have this addressed (along with several other items that did not get completed last month).

 

 

Lessons in Boat Patience

Last Wednesday morning we were very excited to head to Philbrooks in Sidney, BC to pick up Miss Miranda after a month of maintenance work and a few upgrades. We boarded the Washington State ferry that goes from Anacortes to Sidney once a day and settled in for a pleasant 3 hour cruise. About 1 mile away from the dock, the boat came to a stop. After a while , it turned around and headed back to the dock, where we sat for 90 minutes while they tried to fix “mechanical difficulties” and warned us not to use the toilets. But after all that, the sailing was cancelled for the day and we disembarked, wondering how the heck we were going to get to Sidney that day. We had a tight schedule because we were committed to taking the boat down to Seattle for Opening Day of boating season weekend. We had promised Miranda that she could host a bunch of her college pals for the big event on Saturday. And, this was likely our last Opening Day for a long time and we wanted to catch up with our friends before we depart.

We have often watched small private planes fly into the tiny airport just over the hill beyond our harbor. Now we were going to get a chance to experience that first hand. Larry arranged for a tiny 4 person plane to fly us up that afternoon and saved the day.

Heading to the plane. It was VERY small.

It was only a half hour flight, and I think we waited longer on the runway to clear Canadian customs than it did to fly there. Thank god, because I did have to work to keep my stomach in its place up in the air currents!

View of Skyline Marina from the plane.

We did a thorough check out with the crew at Philbrooks, including a lot of time on our new massive anchor and its operation. Then we cruised back into US waters to Friday Harbor in time for sunset and a quick dinner. The next morning we left at sunrise for Anacortes and turned ourselves around in 2 hours to sail down to Seattle. We made it to Seattle, through the Ballard Locks and the Ship Canal and tied up onto the log boom in Lake Washington, again just in time for sunset and a well-deserved cocktail!

Along the way we listened to a dramatic coast guard story unfold over the VHF. An unconscious man was found in the water near Whidbey Island and rescued, but the boat he came from was nowhere to be seen. Later a second person was found who unfortunately did not survive. The boat has still not been found. A sobering reminder, and maybe the reason Larry purchased the rig yesterday that I am supposed to use to get him out of the water if he goes in, despite thinking it was expensive. We need to practice.

I was prepping dinner when the water pressure trickled to nothing. A reset of the pump breaker seemed to fix it. Friday morning, however, the flow of water continue to stop periodically. I managed to take a shower but we decided we needed a spare pump because we left our other spare in Anacortes. A dingy ride and trip to Fisheries Supply was in order.

Larry went to bed early because he was beat after several hectic days. I stayed up cleaning and talking with Miranda, and by the end of the evening the pump was officially dead. No amount of breaker resetting would get it back on. Careful use of the head overnight was in order.

When Larry woke up to the beautiful sunny Saturday, I had to inform him the pump needed to be replaced. He did it with a smile, even when he discovered the box was missing the parts needed to actually attach the pump and he had to jerry rig others to fit, turning a 5 minute job into something much longer. But then all seemed well and we were ready for the party day!

Miranda picked up her buddies from the UW dock minutes before they closed it for the rowing races. It was a clown car of a dingy because she ran out of time for two trips.

We were set up on to spectate in the cockpit and the kids up on the boat deck. Larry got the davit out to set up a swinging hammock chair, when suddenly it stopped in midair, the generator died and all our power went out. Dead in the water. Larry has become very restrained – no salty sailor language was heard.

It’s a very long story and Larry is an amazing electrical detective. He spent much of Opening Day puzzling over the generator and figuring out how to rescue at least a leg of power to provide some charge to our deeply discharged batteries – brand new Lifeline batteries that are supposed to be charge much faster with our newly installed dual inverter chargers. He rewired one of the charges to the water maker circuit (one problem was the charged breakers were clearly too low capacity). He recovered our 120 volt service, but not our 240, which runs the davit. That meant no ability to raise the dingy or put the davit back where it belonged. Also very long time to charge our batteries and stay out of the danger zone while anchored for the 4 day weekend.

Miranda and friends had a great time, fairly oblivious and enjoying the crew races.

The line of boats across from us is freely anchored in the water, on our side we are all tied up to a log boom and anchored. The races and the parade go down the canal between us.

By about 1pm Larry felt there was nothing more to be done and we watched the parade.

The Chief Seattle Fireboat is always a favorite. They usually avoid spraying the crowd.
Many boats come to participate from Canadian yachts clubs and large vessels like this one.

We were happy Miranda had a great time and that it was a beautiful day, but we still had to figure out how to get home through the Locks with the dingy towed behind us in the craziness of hundreds of boats all trying to do the same thing. We planned out all our steps and thought through what could go wrong. We hooked up our tow rope, and lashed down the davit in its upright saluting position. Then early Sunday morning we headed out. We uneventfully hauled our anchor up (our windlass is not on 240 power) and made our way to the Locks. As usual after Opening Day it was an exciting time in the large lock, which can handle up to a small cruise ship and has strong currents when the gates open. A boat always seems to go sideways and there’s yelling and screaming, but damage was averted. Fun to watch when it’s not you.

The view of the Locks filled in front of us. They did cram another boat in there after I took this picture. The view behind us went on twice as far.

We made it home to Anacortes with blessedly calm wind and no significant wave action. Now we are regrouping to get the electrical work fixed over the next week back in Sidney. I am sure Larry will post a technical update for those of you who are into that.