New Year 2005 found Duet's intrepid crew walking the beaches in Duck, NC. In the years before we set out on our adventures (using the term loosely), we used to spend Christmas and New Year in Duck, renting an ocean front house for a quarter of on season rents and enjoying the empty beaches. The weather could be a bit iffy, but the ambiance couldn't be beat. 2005 was no different, we figured that it was too cold to work on the boat (actually Ron didn't mind the cold but he reasoned that he'd be better off if he agreed with Nancy) and both Tristan and Maggie are big beach fans, so no arguments there. As it turned out, this was to be Tristan's last New Year and we are very glad we got to spend the time with him in a place he loved so much.
We did, however, spend the second week of Ron's January vacation working on the boat. Since it was January, it was pretty cold, even in Maryland. Thus, after two days of trying to sand the paint off the mast with frozen fingers, Nancy had a brilliant thought: Why not take the mast to the townhouse, where she can sand it in the garage, which, while it's not heated, at least it's sheltered from the wind. A great thought indeed, and Ron's job was to figure out how to get all 17 feet of the mast to the house in one piece, on the Washington Beltway, no less. Loading it on top of our long suffering Explorer (which turns out to be exactly 17 feet long) wasn't all that hard, but traversing the 40 odd miles back to the townhouse in the ensuing snowstorm took a little doing.
All arrived safely, and the mast was carefully unloaded, much to the interest of our neighbors. Little did they know they were to be subjected to the endless whine of Nancy's hand sander for the next week, while the mast was polished, cleaned and otherwise prepared for it's stay in the paint shed. Even worse, the Porsche (which never goes out in rain, never mind snow) got covered in paint dust and had to be washed twice with warm water in the garage. Nancy got washed even more than that, and was forced to wear glasses and a respirator, but finally the mast was ready and we transported it to Alpha rigging, where it disappeared, presumably to be painted.
The mast project, given we were using outside help, went extremely well. Nancy, although it's been some time since she was a software project manager, did remember the basics, namely nag the #$%^# out of whoever is doing the work, so they do your work first. This approach worked beautifully with Alpha Rigging, who, much to their credit, didn't tell her to take a long walk off a short pier while holding the mast. Not only were they great to work with, but they even let Nancy help put the mast back on Duet. This was a first, according to Rigger Dan, who'd never seen an owner allowed to be on the boat during restepping, never mind asked to help steady the mast as it was lowered.
We did weld little "ears" on the mast step, although we didn't replace the stainless steel step with aluminum, after much consultation with Kato Marine. We drilled the mast and base so that the two could be thru bolted together. This was the recommendation of Forespar - the mast manufacturer - but most Nordhavn 46's we've seen don't have the bolt. Also we cut small drain holes in the bottom edge of the mast, since we think that the corrosion problems we had are at least partially related to poor drainage. Finally, Nancy coated the entire step and base of the mast with anti corrosion goop, most of which ended up on the Alpha Rigging team during the restepping. The mast looks fantastic, better than new, and we would recommend Alpha Rigging anytime. Ron added deck lights while the mast was down, and checked, cleaned and/or replaced all the other gear and fittings, so we hope to go at least another 10 years before we have to do this again. We did find, however, that Ron's memory isn't what it used to be, so he did have to sneak a peak at the instructions every now and again. When the mast was removed, so was Duet's steel dry stack, which once had been a shiny work of art, but was now more of a pitted,stained, non shiny bit of metal. So Nancy set to work polishing the stack. This wasn't such bad duty, as it wasn't actively snowing, but it did involve some rather interesting physics. The exhaust has a "accordion" section between the long straight bit which goes up the mast and the bent bit which attaches to the muffler. This section will figure considerably in the muffler installation, but for now it served as an apex to keep the mast turning on the sawhorses, while Nancy tried vainly to polish. Finally, Nancy figured out how to tie the mast to the sawhorses to keep it from rotating at inopportune moments. Small things for small minds, but it made her whole day. Sometime during the winter the team at HHN painted Duet's underside. This year we decided that blue paint would look better than red paint, as Duet has a blue bootstripe. Further, we went with two coats, the first red and the second blue, so we can tell when the paint is getting worn. The end result looked great, as shown in this view of Duet's new blue tum tum.
Ron, meanwhile, continued work on the various projects, including the new fuel transfer and polishing system. This system is now named the Goldberg Version One Fuel Polishing, Transfer and Priming system, or possibly it's the Goldberg Version One Fuel Transfer, Polishing and Priming System, or maybe even the Goldberg Version One Fuel Polishing, Priming and Transfer System....whatever, Ron spent a lot of time working on it. He also got most of the A/C relocation project done. But the best was yet to come...the muffler.
For those who aren't familiar with Duet's main engine exhaust system, just think large truck. Basically, we have a radiator (the keel cooler under the boat) connected to the main engine, an interior exhaust stack which runs from the main engine through the salon (in a teak box) up to the boat deck, where it joins the muffler, which connects to the exterior stack (now being polished within an inch of it's life). The muffler is contained in a fiberglass house and is wrapped in a blanket of ceramic material held on with fiberglass tape. Seems pretty simple, actually, even Nancy understands it.
Ron had known for some time that the "hat" (which covers the joining of the outside stack to the muffler) was leaking, thereby letting water drip onto the top of the muffler. So he blithely ordered a new muffler from Nordhavn, figuring how hard can it be to replace a muffler? Fortunately, neither Nancy nor Ron knew how hard it could really be or they would have run screaming from the yard, but instead said muffler appeared via UPS in due course, and sat on the floor of the galley (Nancy eventually stopped tripping over it) until early spring. Then the project began in earnest.
At this point, we need a little aside on teamwork and Nancy's growth as a project assistant. When we first started out, Nancy's years as a technology executive hadn't really prepared her to operate at the point of the wrench, so to speak. She was very capable of planning a voyage (a little too capable if you ask Ron, who really wanted to figure out how the boat worked before we went offshore to the Caribbean), provisioning, etc. but she could hardly work a screwdriver. Ron was a little better, and he had one skill Nancy doesn't possess, namely the patience to read the manual. Nancy has, however, been improving, so Ron has been giving her larger and larger tasks to complete, mostly unsupervised.
Hence the muffler project (how hard could it be, after all?) was to be a team effort. First, Nancy was sent up to strip off the old fiberglass tape and ceramic wrapping. That was easy enough, although there were some things we should probably have known in advance. More on this later. Then came the removal of the old muffler. Not a big deal, surely, just undo the bolts and pull it out, even Nancy could probably have managed it. However, we reckoned without the impact of years of water dripping slowly on top of the iron muffler, which of course did what iron does under such circumstances, it rusted. It rusted the muffler, it rusted the nuts and bolts holding the muffler to the top of the internal stack, it rusted the nuts and bolts holding the muffler to the bottom of the fiberglass stack, in short it rusted everything that could be rusted and then some. So there we were, with a muffler rusted solid and which definitely needed to be removed, before it sprang a leak and caused a fire. Force was obviously called for. First came the big wrenches, then the huge wrenches, then the heat gun, then the WD40 and other chemical solvents, then the big hammer, then the huge hammer, and finally, to save the day, the Dremel! The muffler finally surrendered after Ron cut the (it's?) nuts off with the Dremel (which later burned out on an unrelated project, but we're sure this was the beginning of the end for it), hammered the bolts out and pried it off the lower stack with a crowbar. To make matters worse, once we got the muffler loose we couldn't get it out of the fiberglass stack, as it turns out that first you have to remove the stainless steel surround on top of the stack (which marries up to the little hat, which covers the join of the lower part of the stack, which joins the accordion, which ....) Needless to say this little cap had been glued on and even the strongest solvents didn't loosen it. But, triumphantly, after almost a week of pounding, horrendously nasty unguents, pry bars and prayers, the old muffler was finally subdued, extracted and dumped under the boat, where we could glare at it every day as we went back and forth.
This left us with the supposedly simpler part of the project, e.g. installing the new muffler. It was nice and shiny and painted black, and,even better, it fit neatly onto the top of the internal stack. So, with a sense of a job well done, we carefully gooped up the gasket to be installed between the top of the internal stack and the bottom of the muffler. Then we bolted it down with special high grade military spec stainless steel bolts designed for high temperature applications. Heaven forbid we actually have to remove it again, at least we won't have to sacrifice a Dremel (and the better part of two person weeks) to the cause.
After admiring how the new muffler looked for a bit, we decided to remove the brown wrapping paper around it, which we'd left on so it wouldn't get scratched. This turned out to be a rather significant step, as on the side were the helpful words "This way up", unfortunately with the arrow pointing down. Even the slowest among Duet's rather demoralized team realized that possibly we had made a slight error. So the new muffler was removed, reversed and reinstalled. That process actually went pretty well, especially compared to the nightmare which preceded it.
Finally, we were ready to reconnect the muffler to the outside stack. This looked simple enough, the top of the muffler consisted of a short pipe which stuck up through the hole in the top of the fiberglass stack and which should line up neatly with the bottom of the stack itself, helpfully designed with it's little accordion so that we could flex the bottom of the stack a little to line it up with the fixed top of the muffler. By this point, however, we were understandably wary of things which looked easy enough, and we approached this task rather cautiously. Both Ron and Nancy felt strongly that Nordhavn, in their wisdom, wouldn't have designed this structure without carefully machining the parts so they would match cleanly and concisely, possibly with a nice satisfying click. Given how the project had gone so far, it is hard to believe we actually thought this, but we did.
As our intrepid reader will have realized by now, the parts didn't match up well, as a matter of fact they didn't match up at all! After turning the top of the muffler (which required removing and reinstalling it several times) through all it's possible positions and bolting down the stainless steel surround on the top of the fiberglass stack in it's four possible stances, we still couldn't get any of the bits to marry up with any of the other bits, any which way. Fortunately, instead of throwing the whole deal over the side and installing a wet exhaust, common sense (from Ron needless to say) prevailed and we went down and carefully examined the old muffler. The old muffler had a significant bend in the pipe on it's top end. So we went back up and both pulled as hard as we could on the top of the muffler. Eventually, we crammed the bits together and, over time, the bends have adjusted to each other and the stack has resumed it's nice, organized, carefully designed look.
Last, but definitely not least, the muffler needed rewrapping in it's ceramic blanket. Ron, after consulting Nordhavn, ordered the recommended material, which showed up in a box marked all over in capital red letters "Caution: Contents Carcinogenic". Nancy, needless to say, wasn't too thrilled with having been sent to strip the old muffler without proper care having been paid to her health, but she got a kick out of seeing Ron put the new material on, all dressed up like one of the cast of "Andromeda Strain".
So now we have a brand new muffler, wrapped in carcinogenic blankets, attached to a newly polished stack. It looked great. The proof was in the pudding however, for when we started the main engine, it puffed along perfectly happily, with no flames bursting out of the stack, smoke drifting anywhere or any other signs of trouble. Further, the new muffler was cool to the touch, and, despite Maryland's torrential summer downpours, not a drop of rain has entered the stack since.
This wasn't to be the end of the stack saga, however, In addition to the rusting of the muffler, the lower sides of the fiberglass deck structure which houses the muffler, and are cored with marine plywood, had also gotten wet and the plywood core was rotting. This caused the dreaded "brown streaks" which indicate a leak to any boater. So Nancy, in her new role as project assistant, set out to repair said problem. It actually didn't look too hard, which is why Ron let her do it. First step was to remove the stainless steel covers, which fit over the holes in the side of the house and enable us to access the muffler. These grills are screwed on, and are, frankly, not one of Nordhavn's finest moments of boat design.
Nancy's first step was to remove the rotted wood between the layers of fiberglass. Then she sanded everything smooth and cleaned carefully with Acetone and then filled in the cracks with epoxy. This was pretty simple and she was feeling her oats a bit. Needless to say, this tempted the project god, who decided to teach her a lesson. The next step was to refit the vents, overdrill the screw holes and fill the oversized screw holes with epoxy. The screw holes would then be redrilled to the right size, which eliminates the risk of water getting into the wood via the screw holes. At this point things became a little more complex. First Nancy refit the vents, which took quite a bit of sanding around the edges, to level out the epoxy filler and get the vents to go back in their places. This took several go rounds, because to get the vents to fit she had to sand down in several places below the epoxy, so she was back to ground zero, had to re-epoxy, resand, etc, until the vents fit with enough epoxy to ensure that the wood was protected. Needless to say, Nancy was none too thrilled with all this rework but she persevered.
Finally, she carefully drilled the screw holes (using the vents as a guide), installed threaded inserts in the holes (as part of this project Ron decided to add inserts so we could use thumb screws on the vents rather than wood screws) and carefully put the vents back up. Then came the moment of truth; installing the screws. Unfortunately, only about 20% of the screws actually would fit back in the holes designed for them. Nancy was not happy, even when Ron explained that it could have happened to anyone, Nancy wished it had happened to anyone but her. Her follow on suggestion, namely taking a chain saw to the whole deal, was, she felt, rudely rejected without due consideration, but rejected it was. Instead, Ron enlarged the screw holes in the steel vents so the screws fit properly, the wood is protected and whole stack is back together with no leaking.
In the meantime, between drilling sessions, Ron installed the mount for the radar. This item, carefully crafted by Kato Marine, Duet's stainless steel provider of choice, was truly a work of art. It's rake had been carefully measured to mimic the rake of Duet's pilothouse windows, it was polished to a mirror gleam and lovingly stored in bubble wrap to prevent harm from coming to it. There was only one issue, how to make sure it was on straight. This is harder than it sounds, as there is really no clear way to ascertain, other than by eye, that it is indeed straight. Ron spent several days with compasses, long strings stretched from bow to stern and lots of geometry, none of which Nancy understood, but he is now comfortable that the mount is indeed on straight. Nancy, every time she sees it, is careful to comment on how straight it looks. Ron, having now read the section of the manual which explains how to set the radar software to compensate for any deviation from true during the installation, is somewhat less enthusiastic about this process. Actually, as a project, the radar was a bit of an anticlimax, although almost anything would be after the muffler fiasco. The array went on the right way up the first time, the wires threaded through the pilothouse roof and the screen mounted easily into the dash. Nancy felt there was an awful lot of cable, but it all found a home in the end. Chief Engineer Ron, as usual, engineered the mount installation so we can lift the boat with it, should the need arise. The backing plates, for example, are set on an epoxy base and through bolted, while the power unit is not only bolted but also siliconed on, so that no water can ever enter. The only minor hitch involved the new WAAS enabled GPS: the Navnet was several software versions behind and had to be upgraded to recognize the WAAS capability but other than that it all worked right out of the box. We did spend an entire day sea trialing it, which involved Nancy steering the boat back and forth over a planned course while Ron fiddled with the software. The hardest part was making sure the radar was properly oriented to the boat; initially it was 90% out of true, which threw us off for a bit, but after 6 or 8 passes at the HHN jetty, much to the amusement of everyone watching, we got it figured out. We think the new array looks great, although we are taking a lot of grief on the dock, in the form of comments like "can I come over and roast a chicken with that?, can you get the Ohio weather?", etc. Ron blithely ignores all this and is as happy as the proverbial clam with his new acquisition.
In between radar work, Ron finally finished the fuel polishing, transfer and priming system. The hardest part was making the hoses, which seemed to involve (at least to Nancy) an inordinate amount of pounding with a hammer in a large vise, which was specially acquired for this task. The design and installation of the fuel system is covered in a separate (as yet unwritten) web page but even Nancy was impressed when it was finished, as it is, if nothing else, large, complex and covered in dials.
We have also continued our evaluation of Single Sideband radio technology. As our regular readers know, we currently use our SSB to receive weather faxes and our Iridium phone for email. During our years away, the technology has advanced considerably and we are now looking at alternatives for both weather information and email/web activities. During the summer, we used an East coast wifi provider, Beacon Wireless. While it worked most of the time, it was somewhat unreliable, particularly after a large sport fish with it's own wifi network (connected to a $15,000 Fleet 55 antennae) moved in down the dock. Based on this summer experience, our jury is out on wireless, next summer we may go with a hard line DSL connection, which does have it's own problems as anyone who uses one can attest.
In the meantime, Captain Ron has been getting better acquainted with the new weather products, in particular those provided by Ocens. Ocens has been used by a number of other Nordhavn owners, and is also recommended by weather guru Chris Parker. Ron has much enjoyed Mr. Parker's book, Coastal and Offshore Weather. Mr. Parker is also high on Globalstar phones (we are trying to ignore the fact he is or was a Globalstar reseller) so we've been checking those out too. So far Globalstar is much cheaper than Iridium, but we are suspicious about performance, having met several folks in the Bahamas who were ready to throw theirs overboard. We are also concerned that Globalstar's prices appear to have gone up in the last year or so, which leads us to believe that now they have achieved market leadership they are preparing to reap the benefits. So our jury is still out on this one.
As part of this update, we've been trying to get our SSB to perform better, in case we want to buy a new radio which can receive email and thus weather information. Our current radio is from Bill Lynn's sailboat, so it is over 10 years old and not able to converse with an email modem. Performance on it has been haphazard, it can receive weatherfaxes with little trouble but we cannot talk to anyone, nor can we hear voices (other than the NOAH High Seas Forecasts). We do get what Nancy thinks sounds a little like the Ewoks on the planet Zar, far away squeaky sounds which could be interpreted as voices but are not actually understandable. Frankly, we still feel a lot better than a number of new Nordhavn owners, who spend countless dollars on the absolute latest top of the line SSB solutions and can't get theirs to work either, at least ours came with the boat.
Finally, we've been looking at the Furuno weatherfax unit, which is capable of receiving weather faxes without the extensive babysitting required of our current SSB. However this unit is a standalone, it can only get weatherfaxes, and it costs about $1,000, so we're not sure of the cost/benefit.
Ron, in his role as Mr. Science, decided that over the summer he would test various SSB transmission/receive remedies. First, he added an extensive amount of grounding to the system, in the form of copper stripping running throughout the boat, linking the metal items, like the generator, the main engine, the fuel tanks, etc. to the SSB antennae, in the hope of improving performance. Second, we tried moving the antenna around to get it away from the mast, since some folks feel that being too close to a large metal object affects performance. Moving it involved a number of jury rigged solutions, fortunately Duet was tied up the entire time, if we'd been out on the hook the entire thing would probably have blown overboard. Finally, we tried an insulated forestay as an antennae, to see if that improved things.
Unfortunately, none of these solutions seemed to improved reception or transmission, so we scrapped the idea of spending about $3,000 on a new radio and email modem and are now back to the satellite solutions. Figuring that, worst case, we will use what we've used in the past, which has at least worked, we are going to stall until next summer to see if the smoke clears on this particular battlefield. Best guess is we will go with the Globalstar, if Ron is happy with the Ocens weather products or other email weather products, which he plans to test this winter. Regardless, we will leave the SSB where it is, as a back up and we'll keep the Iridium phone so, at a minimum, we can make a call from anywhere in case we should need to.
Other summer projects included endless waxing, including a complete rework of the fiberglass muffler stack, which was covered in soot, muffler gasket grease, WD40 and blood, which was mostly Ron's although even Nancy bled on this one. We also did some teak repairs, utilizing Dr. Ron's Harvard trained skills, which were also deployed on fiberglass repairs. We spent probably way too much time entertaining and being entertained. This social whirl was such that we were forced in introduce new crew orders, drinking and partying was allowed only every other night and on alternative mornings the captain and crew got up early to exercise and hopefully eliminate some of the side effects of an active social life. We even installed a rowing machine, which is eventually intended for the boat deck, but in the heat of the Maryland summer was only usable in the pilothouse. Since the boat never left the dock having it in the middle of the pilothouse floor wasn't an inconvenience, although it did occasion some comment from visitors.
We even took several weeks off, deposited Maggie at Sunchaser Kennel, and went to Lake Tahoe. Regular readers will recall that we greatly enjoyed Jackson Hole and Glacier National Park last summer, this visit was intended to evaluate the Tahoe areas as a possible location for our summer home, if and when we decide to acquire such an item. A great time was had by all, the biggest problem we encountered was that all the wine lists were exclusively Californian and we've almost given up California wine since it became so expensive on the East Coast, so we were a little lost. Other than that, we ate too much, drank too much, did some hiking, went on a great boat ride, looked at real estate and generally enjoyed ourselves. We plan to rent for a few months in Tahoe during Ron's next sabbatical, as we feel it has real potential as a summer location.
All too soon, Ron was due back at his place of work, the summer had flown by in a flash and we were much looking forward to July '06, when he will be off for 1-2 years and we plan an extensive southern cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. Meanwhile, Duet, now with many additional bits and pieces, dozes peacefully at her dock, waiting for the next adventure.