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.

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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.

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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).

 

 

Boatyard Update

Miss Miranda has now been at Philbrooks for a couple of weeks, working through a long list of maintenance items and upgrades that we have compiled over the past year.  Many of the maintenance items came as a result of a Ready for Sea inspection by Marine Guru and all-around good guy Steve D’Antonio.  The upgrade list was driven by how we think we will use the boat for the next couple of years.  Here’s what shows up as complete on the work order so far.

Main Engine

  • Shaft seal.  The shaft seal keeps water from entering the hull at the exit point of the propeller shaft.  There are generally two types, which are referred to as “stuffing boxes” or “dripless seals”.  I have the latter, which are supposed to be, as the name would suggest, dripless, meaning no water enters the bilge from the seal.  That is true, as long as they are installed and aligned properly.  Steve’s inspection revealed that these seals were leaking, even after having been replaced when we were in the yard last year.  Furthermore, they were not type Steve preferred, as they are sensitive to the alignment of the prop shaft.  After some discussion back and forth, Philbrooks is replacing a suspect part on the existing seal and asserts that it will address the issue.  By the way, the whole stuffing box/dripless seal topic is another one of those that generates near religious fervor.  Personally, I just want the things to work as advertised.
  • Exhaust leak.  Miss Miranda has what is called a “dry exhaust” system, meaning a muffler and exhaust pipe that goes up and vents out of the top of the stack.  What that means is that the (very hot) muffler and exhaust pipe run right through the engine room, and is therefore insulated with a special blanket.  Ours was of an old “bandage” style, and needed replacement, which we had done in November of last year by Ballard Insulation in Seattle (highly recommended).  Well, the guys at Philbrooks noticed that the initial section of the exhaust, a 90 deg elbow that leads from the turbo up to the muffler, was leaking.  Good catch by them, and they fabricated a replacement.

Wing Engine

The wing engine is a small Yanmar diesel that has a speparate shaft and folding prop that is to be used as an emergency “get home” engine.  It is a critical piece of safety equipment, but is not run very often, and frankly, has been a bit of a pain in the ass from a maintenance perspective.  We had work done it it last year, with more to be done (and redone) this year, hoping to make it the reliable backup that we can depend on.

  • Shaft seal.  This one is getting replaced with the Tides style recommended by Steve D.  We could never get the PSS seal to work properly in spite of having it adjusted several times after it was replaced last year.
  • Shaft.  It turns out that the wing engine shaft has some pitting (corrosion) which means that it needs to be replaced in order for the Tides seal to work properly.
  • Motor mounts and alignment.  The mounts were replaced last year, but were too soft.  Replaced and motor to be (I hope) properly aligned.
  • Raw water hoses.  The hoses that supply sea water for cooling the engine are original, meaning that they are 20 years old and long past due for replacement.

There is more to be done on the wing… they just haven’t completed all of the work yet.

Generator Maintenance

We thought we would need to replace the generator exhaust elbow, as it showed signs of leakage during Steve’s inspection.  It turns out that the leak was from the heat exchanger end cap.  Good news, as this is a relatively minor fix.

Miscellaneous Mechanical

  • High water bilge pump.  We have a second pump located above our main bilge pump that is intended to help dewater the boat in case of a leak.  We switched it out for a larger capacity pump and added an alarm.
  • Rudder bearings.  Rusted, needed to be replaced.  There is a removable deck plate over the rudder post that allows emergency steering via a tiller in the event of hydraulic steering failure.  When the deckplate leaks (ours did), the bearings eventually rust.  The additional new piece of equipment to be installed is a tupperware bowl to cover the post…

Electrical

  • Battery replacement/upgrade.  We are replacing the Lifeline AGM batteries (last replaced in 2015) with Firefly Carbon Foam batteries.  The principle advantages of these batteries are ability to withstand deeper discharge, tolerance to partial charge cycles and longer service life.  We think they will work well for extended cruising off the grid.  Along with this, the battery boxes in the lazarette will be reconfigured, and we will recover some valuable storage space.
  • Upgrade charge capacity.  Our exisiting battery charging system was woefully undersized for the size of the battery bank, at 125 Amp/hr for 1500+ Amp/hr capacity.  We are adding:
    • Two Victron 100 Amp chargers.  This will give us a peak capacity of 325 Ah, which will help us recharge the Fireflys quickly while running the generator.
    • About 750 Amps of solar panels.  We hope to get roughly 200 Ah per day of charging from the panels, which is a bit less than half of our daily consumption.   This will reduce the daily generator run time while at anchor.
  • Replace the original 24V engine/thruster battery charger.  It is mounted under the master berth and is very noisy, as well as not having the right charging profile for the AGM batteries.  We’re replacing with a Victron.

Reupholster Salon Setee

We were very happy with the work Philbrooks did on our pilothouse setee last year, and the 20 year old salon setee is well past due.  We used Stamoid fabric for the pilothouse, and really like it for it wear resistance and ease of cleaning.  Unfortunately, the color pallete is pretty limited, so we decided to use ultraleather for the salon.

There is a lot more work in progress, and we are still hoping for completion by May 1st, in time to head down to Seattle for Opening Day.

New Anchor

Anchoring technique and equipment is a topic near and dear to crusing boaters, and is one that can become something like a religious or political conversation – people have very strong views.  For example, Trawler Forum has an entire forum set aside for Anchors and Anchoring, with over 19,000 posts.  What we know about the topic is that we don’t like our CQR anchor, and have had a number of problems, both with setting and dragging, with the last one having us leave an anchorage at 3 AM to find a better spot.  So, high on our Philbrooks list was replacing the CQR with something bigger and better.  I am a member of the Nordhavn Owners Group, which is a wealth of information on all things related to owning and operating Nordhavns.  Consulting the group, it seems clear that the preferred replacement anchor is the ROCNA.  It has a long track record, and is reported to set quickly and hold really well.  The downside is mostly around how the anchor actually fits on the bow roller and stays in position.

I’ve decided to do something that may be a bit heritcal, and am going to experiment with a SARCA Excel, as I mentioned in a previous post.  I’m working with Chris from Ground Tackle Marine, who happens to be located right near Philbrooks in Sdiney, BC.  He sent me a couple of pictures today to show me the initial fit, and I like what I see.

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Here it is sitting on the bow of the boat.  It is certainly not obvious from the photo, but it is a “size 13”, weighing about 140 lbs.  It seems to fit really nicely on the pulpit and roller.

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Here is a shot looking at how it connects to the windlass. The bar at the end of the anchor is called a flip link, and basically causes the anchor to get into the right position to stow when it comes over the bow roller.  It serves the same purpose as an anchor swivel (another one of those topics that will generate endless arguments).  There is a chain stopper under the bar, positioned to evaluate fit.  However, I don’t think we will wind up going with that setup.  Instead we will have a short snubber line that has a loop to go around the windlass and a chain hook that we will use for setting the anchor.  We will use a turnbuckle setup to secure the anchor when underway.  I’ll show some pictures of those when they are installed.

To the Boatyard

This morning it was time to head over to Philbrooks Boatyard in Sidney, BC for some planned refit work. We brought the boat here last year and were really pleased with their capabilities and level of service, so we are back again for more.

Yesterday was a beautiful blue sky day in Anacortes, but this morning was shrouded in fog. It was a great opportunity to test out our new Furuno Digital radar, which can overlay a radar image on top of a chart on our PC based navigation system… but that is the topic for a different (overdue) post.

Crossing Rosario Strait and finally emerging from the fog.

As I approached Thatcher Pass, the fog began to clear. You can just begin to make out land in the photo above.

Thatcher Pass.

Then the sun came out, making it a very pleasant 33 mile cruise over to Sidney. Philbrooks gave me a slip assignment just inside the breakwater of Van Isle Marina.

A beautiful afternoon in Sidney, BC

The tall building on the left side of the image is the Phibrooks boat shed, and they have a marine railway for hauling boats out of the water. It is a cradle on tracks that goes underwater, and you drive the boat up on it.

The marine railway

Here is a photo of the cradle. Tomorrow they will roll it down the tracks and we will bring Miss Miranda up onto it to begin work which includes (in no particular order):

  • Bottom and running gear, anti-fouling paint as needed
  • Install a new Sarca Excel anchor to replace our drag-prone CQR.
  • Major electrical system upgrade that includes replacing our house batteries with Firefly Carbon foam batteries, adding chargers, and installing solar panels. This will allow us to stay at anchor indefinitely.
  • Reupholster the salon settee. After nearly 20 years, the cushions and fabric are shot, and Philbrooks did a terrific job on the pilot house settee last year.
  • Install an Iridium GO satellite messenger. This will allow us to receive weather data from Predictwind at sea, and also supports (very slow) email access and voice calls.
  • Scheduled maintenance for almost all major systems, including main engine, wing engine, generator, stabilizers, hydronic heating system, watermaker and autopilot/steering.

It’s a good thing that the condo renovations are (almost) complete, since the boat, our home for the past two months, will be at Philbrooks for all of April. The plan is to have the work done by May 1st, when we will pick up the boat and head down to Seattle for the Opening Day of the boating season.

A fitting end to the day