Service Opportunity Karma

I am thinking that maybe I should not have made the service opportunity blog post. It seems to have prompted new service opportunities. The current one has to do with the… shall we say… sanitation system. Most of us living on land rarely give this topic a thought, but it is very important on a boat. In our home cruising grounds all Marinas have pump out stations, where we can remove waste that accumulates in our holding tank.  That is not the case way up here.  Therefore, boats are equipped with an overboard discharge pump, which does exactly what the name implies, of course only in locations (offshore, deep water) permitted by Coast Guard regulations (and common sense).

So, what to do if said pump does not appear to be in working order? Check all of the easy possibilities first… maybe the vent is clogged, maybe the through hull is blocked, maybe the tank tender is not reading correctly. When that is done, you recall that you had the system serviced in May, wanting to avoid just this situation… and you also recall that you do not have a replacement pump or spare parts on board. Uh Oh. Fortunately, we have both phone and data service where we are, so I was able to look up the model numbers for the relevant parts and call Piston and Rudder in Petersburg to see if they can order the pump and/or parts for me. I feel that I am getting to know them quite well, since they also ordered the generator fuel injector pump for me.

We should find out today if they can order parts, and we plan to be in Petersburg by Thursday or Friday. Then the real fun can begin…

Meanwhile we are enjoying beautiful Takatz Bay (post coming) and a couple of sunny days.

Maintenance and “Service Opportunities”

Routine (and not so routine) maintenance is part of the joy of boat ownership. For instance, our main engine requires an oil and filter change every 250 hours and our generator requires the same every 200 hours. We carry the necessary spares and supplies, and I did the generator in Hoonah and just did the main engine the other day in Sitka. They are both plumbed into an oil change pump, so it is really easy to do – the biggest issue is properly disposing of the used oil and filters. Fortunately, most Alaska ports have oil disposal tanks.

While doing the generator oil change I noticed some fluid collecting on one of the motor mounts. Not sure of the source, I cleaned it up with an absorbent pad and decided to keep an eye on it. In Sitka it became clear that it was a fuel leak coming from the injector pump.

The injector pump assembly. The pink stuff on the lower right, under the bolt, is diesel fuel. This is a “service opportunity”.

Coincidentally, I had gotten a call the day before from Northern Lights diesel guru “Lugger Bob” Senter to discuss an inspection of Miss Miranda in preparation for the CUBAR rally. I called Bob back and he was able to diagnose the problem over the phone. The cause of the leak was likely that the inner o-rings on the pump became stiff and lost their ability to seal. Basically, time to replace the injector pump and have this one rebuilt, as the o-rings are not user-serviceable. I did not have a spare on hand, but called the local Northern Lights dealers. The dealer in Sitka probably could have gotten a replacement here in a day via “Gold Seal” delivery – basically putting the part on an Alaska Airlines flight, but at a cost of $100+ in shipping. I elected to have the part shipped to the Petersburg dealer, as we will be there in a week.

The only other “service opportunity” we’ve dealt with recently was with the ABT Trac stabilizers, which mysteriously went into “SAFE MODE”. Trac service Guru Dave Wright was able to diagnose that issue as a failed “roll control” unit, which we had shipped into Juneau while we were there. That was a very simple part swap and configuration job.

I’m glad that our scheduled maintenance is behind us, and am hoping that we don’t have any more service opportunities.

Update: Self-inflicted “service opportunities “

So, getting ready to depart Sitka this morning, go to start the engine and…. nothing. Crank crank crank, no start. Almost NEVER happens with a Diesel engine. And almost always a fuel issue. So, I checked all the obvious things, and even some difficult to get at non-obvious things (bleeding the injectors) and still nothing. Oh, and I was missing the proper wrench for the injectors. Fortunately, another Nordhavn owner was able to lend both a tool and some experience. Two things. 1) There is a manual fuel pump to prime the system after changing filters, but it only works if the crankshaft is in the right position. 2) it is best to only bleed one or two injectors and not try to do all six. Finally, metric 17 mm for the injectors, and better yet a “crows foot” wrench… look it up. End of story- engine started, all good, now underway. Thanks, Jim!

Hoonah – Crabs and Halibut

We left Glacier Bay in the fog this morning to make the 30 mile crossing of Icy Strait to Hoonah. It was a glassy calm morning and along the way we saw a bunch of fishing boats anchored in the Strait, presumably fishing for Halibut.

We arrived in the Harbor, which is amazingly well protected with huge rock breakwaters all around, and got moorage at the transient dock – no power, no potable water (but cheap). I heard there was good crabbing in Hoonah, so I asked the Harbor master about it. He said right around behind the breakwater in 20(!) feet of water. So I went over and dropped a pot – there were plenty of others in the area so I assumed it was pretty good.

I decided to check the pot after dinner, since my limit is three per day. Here is what I saw when I pulled it up after a three hour soak.

Plenty of crab!

I didn’t count carefully, but I think there were 8-10 males in there and probably half of keeper size (6.5″). I took the three biggest, released the rest and re-baited the pot. Hoping for more of the same tomorrow!

We also saw some local fishermen come in with a huge haul of Halibut, probably 8-10 of various sizes. The largest must have been 5 ft long and weighed who knows how much… must have been 100+ lbs. Here is a photo of the two big ones. Too bad there is nothing to give a sense of scale.

Barn door Halibut.


Gwen bought a Fishing License and we pulled up six more (the limit for two licenses) this morning.

Best crabbing we’ve ever done!

We love Hoonah! And not just for the crabbing… the local restaurant, the Fisherman’s Daughter, is outstanding!

Juneau, July 4th

Yesterday was busy with various resupply runs and boat tasks prior to our daughter Miranda’s arrival on the flight in from Seattle. We learned from Ashley at the Harbor Master’s office that there would be fireworks at 11:59 PM tonight (July 3rd). The reason given was that the mine had the 4th as a holiday and therefore wanted all of the workers to have their celebration hangovers on that day rather than the 5th!

We got Miranda settled in, got groceries put away and had a very nice (second) birthday dinner at local restaurant Salt, where, by the way, I had to request salt for my salad. Everyone had a little chuckle about that.

After dinner we came back to the boat and waited for the fireworks. I took the opportunity to grab a quick nap – the only way at my advanced age to last until midnight. All of the cruise ships departed and we had a clear view of Gastineau Channel where it appeared that the fireworks barge was setting up right in front of us. We had front row seats to a fantastic 20 minute display. It was especially fun to hear the explosions reverberate against the mountains on either side of the channel.

The plan for today is to do a little more shopping/provisioning, maybe get out to Mendenhall Glacier, maybe watch the parade. Tomorrow we are off towards Glacier Bay.

Electrical System Repaired!

We got to Petersburg yesterday and got a list of service providers from the Harbor Master. This morning I called Mattingly Electric and by 9 AM Darby was on the boat. He cut off the bad ends of the old wires and managed to locate the proper breakers, grumbling a bit about the flimsy plastic box and how tight the fit was. Well, he got everything wired up and as he was pushing the whole assembly into the box, the case of one of the breakers cracked.

This would not do. He left and assembled a heavy duty metal box and mounted it on the generator sound shield, as shown below.

The new breaker box

Inside are non-marine, but much heavier duty, 50 Amp, 250 volt breakers.

Much more robust breakers.

This seems to me to be a much better solution. It is easy to access and replace the breaker, if necessary. We are running the generator right now and everything seems to be working normally (and nothing is burning).

We are actually on a maintenance roll today. I got Gwen a 29th Anniversary gift, which was just what was needed to clear the clog in the insinkerator unit that we use to dispose of food waste.

Happy Anniversary honey!

Finally, a surprising number of people have asked about the water pump issues. All resolved by installing the little Jabsco Par Max pump that was bought 9 years ago as a spare by the previous owner. Here’s a rule of thumb… if we aren’t griping about something, that means it’s OK (or we have bigger issues to worry about).

Now it’s time to explore Petersburg.

Electrical System – a scary failure

Yesterday we departed Stedman Cove for Cannery Cove. We often run our generator while underway, allowing us to run the water maker, charge up the batteries and do laundry. Today was no different… except that I noticed that the water maker stopped running. When Gwen went back to check, she noticed an acrid electrical smell. I went down to the engine room and saw no smoke, but then I noticed that we had lost one leg of our 240 V AC power from the generator. I quickly shut everything down and went to investigate. I suspected a problem with the main AC circuit breaker from the generator. Sure enough, it was tripped, and the box was hot… and looked like it had melted a bit. We decided to keep moving on to our destination and investigate further once we arrived.

When we got to Cannery Cove, I opened up the breaker box and found that one of the connectors to the breaker had burned right off – see the photo below. The breaker showed clear signs of overheating and the box had indeed melted on that side. Furthermore, the wire insulation (at least) had melted and essentially fused all of the wires together. We are DAMN lucky that we didn’t have an engine room fire.

The culprit was quite obviously a loose connection on the post that burned off. You can clearly see in the picture below that the screw holding the connector to the post is loose. Loose connection = high resistance = high temperature = electrical fire.

So, what to do? We are off to Petersburg today to see if we can buy or get shipped in a replacement circuit breaker. I did not have a spare for this breaker, nor do I have the connectors or crimping tool for this heavy gauge AC wiring. Lesson learned, both in terms of spare parts and tools.

Oh, by the way… it is our 29th wedding anniversary today. I did promise Gwen that we would spend it cruising, but forgot to add that the definition of cruising is repairing the boat in exotic locations.

Tolstoi Bay and Exchange Cove

Ketchikan Harbor during the day.

We left Ketchikan and the epic rain Tuesday morning after fueling up, heading for Tolstoi Bay on Prince of Wales Island. We had to cross Clarence Strait to get there, and conditions were just a bit snotty, with 15 kt winds from the southwest creating a bit of swell up the long fetch of the strait that was right on the beam. As we got across into the lee of Kasaan Peninsula, the wind dropped and seas flattened out. Did I mention that it was raining? Rounding Tolstoi Point, we saw several fishing boats working the banks, and also saw several shrimp pots dropped along the bay. This was looking promising. Entering the West Cove, we found a couple of cabins on floats in the NE corner, but still plenty of room to anchor.

The floating cabins in Tolstoi bay – taken near sunset when the sun came out!

We set up the shrimp pots and took them out. The other pots around seemed to be in really deep water, more than 400’, and we weren’t sure that we had enough line. So we dropped ours in slightly shallower water. By this time it was raining hard, and we wound up getting pretty wet, despite our foul weather gear.  

We had a very nice dinner aboard, serving up the King salmon that was given to us by a local commercial fisherman that bought our previous boat. He paid us a visit to Ketchikan and told us a bit about the area and his experiences over decades as a fisherman.  We later heard that it is the custom that the first King Salmon caught in the season is not too be sold – it is shared with friends, and the carcass fed to an eagle.

Anyway, early the next morning, I went out to check the pots, and… nothing. Well, not quite. I think there were 2 in one pot, and 1 in the other. I re-baited, moved them to different spots, and hoped for the best. Not much luck… half a dozen in one, bone in the other. Fortunately, Sarah and Ted did better… landing a couple of dozen.

Low tide shoreline in Tolstoi – I love the layer cake look of the shore at low tide.

Meanwhile, it was a beautiful day. The sun was out, and there was no wind. We left Tolstoi Bay around noon and headed up to Exchange Cove off Kasheverof Passage. It was a big, beautiful bay, empty save for one other boat.

Looking into Exchange Cove, you can barely see the one other boat off on the right
Seal checking us out as we anchor in Exchange Cove

After a pleasant evening, we headed out in the morning to try our hand at fishing at the North end of the Passage before heading around to Point Baker. We use our wing engine, otherwise known as the get-home engine if our main engine fails, to troll because we can go 2 knots or so easily with it. We had no luck trolling for Salmon, but it was good to get the gear out and re-orient ourselves with all of it. Along the way, we saw a couple of whales in the distance and enjoyed another sunny, calm day.

We arrived at Point Baker to meet one of Gwen’s work colleagues. More to come on the next post on that terrific experience!

Leftover picture from Dixon Entrance crossing on way to Ketchikan -the Green Island Lighthouse Station.