Best laid plans ….

After some late night and early morning detailed weather reviews, we cast off the lines and headed out toward the Strait of Juan De Fuca and Neah Bay.

The condo and slip in the rear view mirror

The weather was beautiful and calm and it looked like we would beat the northerly winds by heading west out the Strait.

Well, the gods, or maybe the furies, are not smiling on us today. Or maybe they are by having us face this engine issue before we are out at sea.

Only a mile outside of the marina the engine showed very significant RPM decreases. This only had to happen a couple of times for us to make the decision to turn around and head back and figure out what the heck is going on.

So we are back in our slip. Larry and Steve spent the day going through all the easy to fix and diagnose items like fuel filter clogs, taking the fuel flow monitors out of the circuit, etc. We thought we might have fixed it and took the boat back out to trial it, but the spontaneous RPM variations continued.

We will be making a trip to the yard for diesel work rather than down the coast over the next few days.

More to come as we figure out what the situation is.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Robert Burns

Back to the Boatyard

They were expecting us at the boatyard. No valet parking however.

We are here in Sidney, BC waiting to meet with our project manager for our final visit to Philbrooks before heading South down the Pacific Coast. We planned this visit earlier in the year, knowing that we could not get all of the work done before taking the boat down to Seattle for Opening Day in May. Therefore, we prioritized the work we thought needed to be done before Alaska and that which could be done afterwards. And, of course, we knew that unexpected items would turn up on our Alaska trip…. and man,were we right about that.

Waiting for her “spa days”.

The work list contains a mix of preventive maintenance items, repair or replace items, and a number of upgrades. Here are some of the things we wanted to do specifically related to cruising in Mexico:

  • Solar panels. We are adding about 1000W of solar on the pilot house roof. We had originally hoped to have these in place before heading to Alaska, but they got bumped to this visit.
  • Flopper Stopper setup for at anchor stabilization. We have heard that many of the anchorages in Mexico are exposed to swell and thus quite rolly. The flopper stopper is a rig consisting of a pole that swings out from the port side of the boat with a line that goes down to a plate deployed into the water. The plate has slats in it that allows it to sink easily, but not rise, thus minimizing side to side rolling. Many Nordhavns have this setup.
  • Interior DC fans. We do have four zones of Air Conditioning on the boat (which is one of the preventive service items) but we want to minimize our use of it, because it requires either running the generator or being connected to shore power. Therefore, we are going to place 8 fans in the salon, pilot house and staterooms with the goal of maximizing air circulation.
  • Sun Shade for the boat deck. When we put the dinghy down, there is a large amount of usable space on the boat deck. We will rig a sun shade to maximize the use of the space.
  • A second autopilot system. We already have redundant GPS, Chart plotters, and radar. We think it is also important to have a back up for the autopilot.
  • Replace galley refrigerator and convection/microwave oven. We planned to replace the refrigerator, which is a 20 year old domestic refrigerator and a real energy hog. We did not anticipate replacing the convection/microwave until the beginning of this trip, when the touch panel of the existing unit failed. It mysteriously started working again, but just to be sure, we will replaced it while we can.
  • Upgrade the engine room cooling system. Engine room cooling has been an issue with many Nordhavns. With a dry stack exhaust system, there is a lot of heat that needs to be removed via air circulation, and without proper circulation, the engine room can get quite hot… sometimes hot enough to impact the reliability of some components. The typical specification is that the engine room temperature does not exceed the outside air temperature by more than 20 degrees. We don’t meet that goal even operating up here in the Pacific Northwest, with very cool seawater for the keel cooler and low ambient temperatures. So, we are going to follow the lead of other Nordhavn owners who have installed extraction fans up in the stack to pull the hot air out of the engine room. We will also replace one of the existing blowers that failed on our Alaska trip.
  • Haul the boat out of the water and look at our propeller and bottom paint and do any service required. We didn’t hit any ice or logs of significance so we believe the propeller is in good shape but want to be sure.
  • Maybe… figure out a stern anchor solution. We have heard that a stern anchor is somtimes helpful in open anchorages in order to keep the bow pointing into the prevailing swells. We have a spare main anchor (a Fortress SX-55) that we have used once as a stern anchor, but the time taken to assemble it and drag the rode from the foredeck storage box makes it very inconvenient to use as a stern anchor. It would be nice to figure out a way to have a smaller anchor that is easy to deploy from the back of the boat.
When the boat is hauled out it is in a cradle like this. The first time we came to Philbrooks we actually stayed for a night in the boat when it was in this position! A bit tricky climbing on and off.

I think that does it for the “planned” work. Some of the repair or replace items that came up on our trip North include:

  • Patch the tube on the dinghy. We were in Prideaux Haven going to our favorite swimming hole and preparing to anchor the dinghy next to a large rock. The rock had numerous oyster shells that were exposed at low tide, and we drifted into one that made a two inch gash in the tubing.
  • Replace the motor on the diesel heater. We rarely use the diesel hydronic heating system in the summer, but needed it on one 40-something degreee morning in Alaska. Of course, it didn’t start. Some great support from Sure Marine Service in Seattle helped dignose the problem, which was the motor. The diagnostic tool? A rubber mallet. “Start the system, and rap the motor with a rubber mallet. If it starts up, you know you have a bad winding and the motor needs to be replaced.” Yup.
  • Replace the Furuno GPS. We have three separate GPS sources on the boat including this older Furuno GPS, which connects directly to a Furuno RD-30 display unit to show speed over ground, position, wind data, etc. When we were crossing Cape Caution on the way up to Alaska, the GPS stopped transmitting data… of course when the seas were up and the boat was moving around quite a bit. No big deal to switch to another source for the NAV equipment, but time to replace the old unit. I elected to replace the receiver only and still have it connect to the RD-30, and from there the NMEA bus.
  • Replace the generator injector pump. I mentioned this in an earlier blog post and actually got a replacement pump sent into Petersburg. However, the fuel leakage had decreased to an acceptable level, and seeing that a miscue in removing or replacing a connecting clip would have serious consequences, I wimped out and elected to have Philbrooks do this.
  • Add delay switches to the windshield wipers. This one sounds odd, I know. The boat has four wipers, one across each piece of the pilot house windshield. The wipers are needed for rain, obviously, but also for clearing salt spray in boisterous sea conditions. Each of the wipers has a separate 3 way switch for off, low, and high speed. In all but hard rain (which we had plenty of in Alaska), the low setting is still too high. Thus, one will be constantly switching the wipers on and off. Trivial, but annoying when running in crummy weather. We should have done this before going to Alaska, but it was only when we got up there that I realized just how much of an annoyance this was, and how easy it is to fix. Just add $$.

After a full day of meeting with the various departments at Philbrooks, everyone has a good idea of what needs to be done, enough so that we have established a tentative pick up date… September 13th. If all goes well we will take the boat back to Anacortes, load it up and start heading South on September 20th.

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!

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.

img_6953

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.

img_6954

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.

The to-do list

We have a bunch of things on our to-do list, between the renovations on the condo, getting the boat ready to go into the yard and getting ready to cruise to Alaska and beyond. We had our post-it notes with the tasks on flip chart paper before we moved out of the house, but we’ve improvised on the boat, using the aft salon window. We’ve grown addicted to the satisfaction of crossing off a task, and sometimes we (OK, I) get upset when we do something useful that is NOT on a sticky…