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!

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.

Riding the ebb, water pump woes and how thick is a Nordhavn hull?

Riding the ebb tide up Johnstone Strait the other day we saw a boat speed of up to 15.1 knots… and our normal cruise speed is 8.6 knots. That’s a hell of a push. I was too slow to get evidence of that, but this is pretty close.

The boats shown on AIS at the top right of the chart were getting ready to start the Van Isle 360 Regatta.

After arriving at Port Harvey, Gwen said that our domestic water pump wasn’t working…. AGAIN. It never completely shuts off, ticking over very slowly after all faucets are shut… as if there was a leak somewhere… but there isn’t. We turned the pump off, deciding we would deal with it in the morning.

Yesterday morning I woke up bright and early… to an impressive bout of gastroenteritis. It was not fun, and knocked me out for 24 hours. Glad that is over with.

  • This morning I went back at the water pump. I decided to install a small accumulator tank, hoping that might help. This is when I came to consider the question of how thick is a Nordhavn Hull? The answer(s)?
    1. That depends on where you measure.
      Not as thick as I thought.

    I was drilling a hole to mount the accumulator pump – and was planning to use a 3/4″ screw. In went the drill and out came a stream of water. Yes. Salt water. A short screw coated with 3M 5200 sealant went in pretty quickly and a bunch more was slathered on over it. Disaster averted. So the real answer is, at least where the water pump is mounted, no more than an inch thick.

    After all of that excitement, we still didn’t resolve the water pump issue. Accumulator tank did not fix the problem. I replaced the pump with a spare. Nope. Now we are back to wondering if there is a very small leak in some out of the way spot. We decided to leave it for now and simply turn the breaker on when we need water and off when we’re done.

    Today we are resuming our journey north,heading for Sullivan Bay in the Broughton Archipelago. Gwen did quite a nice job of getting Miss Miranda off the dock and underway.

    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!

    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).