Late Fall 2005 found Dr. Ron back at work and Nancy back at play, not that she had really ever stopped, but she likes to think that she did some work during our time on the boat. Actually, as you can see from the action photo above, she does provide unskilled labor at critical moments. Nancy's skills have advanced considerably in the past few years, a fact which would definitely shock people who knew her during her brief (very brief) tenure as a programmer. Ron is a patient and forgiving teacher, so she has made progress on tasks such as rebuilding the head (a skill which Ron seemed most anxious she learn as fast as possible) and hardware installation. She will never, despite the most patient teacher, understand electricity, but a few mysteries keep life interesting so she doesn't really mind.
The paravane installation occupied much of our time since we last corresponded with our readers. This installation is covered in technical detail elsewhere but Nancy can't resist providing the lay person's view in this log. Prior to beginning the paravane saga, however, some time passed, snow fell, Ron worked and Duet dozed, waiting for spring. This year we left the boat in the water, as we optimistically hoped that we might get some work done on the paravane project during the winter. Maryland obliged us with a frigid winter, or at least one which was colder than 2004, so we didn't actually get much done on the boat externally, but we did get a few maintenance projects completed, which we won't bore you with here. One project, however, involved removing an old battery and relocating part of the house battery bank, a project which we sincerely hope never to repeat. Fortunately, one of our dock mates lent us a nifty device, which allowed us to winch the battery right out of the lazarette and then position it to be removed via one of the boom winches. We also used this "box" to put the new battery in. Many, many thanks to Bill, on the beautiful Post sportfisher Bellevue Square.
Nancy does also want to point out that she spent considerable time driving down to the boat after any snow storm and shoveling off the decks. Theoretically this practice reduced the impact of snow and ice on the teak and fiberglass, although in the spring it didn't appear that it had made much difference, the teak and fiberglass still needed much TLC. It was, however, great exercise and also allowed for much moaning and complaining about the cold.
Fortunately spring came quickly and we were back aboard. Captain Ron completed his latest practice leg, departing the partnership for the last time in May of '06. Several parties were given, hopefully to recognize his contributions to the practice and the hospital, not to celebrate his departure. Many cards were received but the one which really stuck with Nancy was a poem, written by a nurse who has known Ron for some years. It is not reproduced here to spare Ron's blushes, but suffice it to say that Nancy was quite touched to see how much he would be missed by the folks in the trenches. Ron will not be returning to the practice of medicine in the state of Maryland for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is wanting to relocate out West in the future. Thus, he has "retired" for the second, or is it the third, time. Most of our friends and family don't believe it's true this time either, but Ron wisely keeps his own counsel. Neither Ron nor Nancy like the word "retired" so we say "on a sabbatical of indeterminate length" when asked to describe our present state in life.
So we began work on the boat in earnest again in May. We planned to head south in the Fall and there was much left to be done. As usual, there was too much left to be done, so the first task was to reduce the project list. This process consists of Ron estimating all the projects remaining and figuring out that we won't be done until sometime in the next millennium. Nancy and Ron then debate whether we really need to do each project. Nancy also critiques Ron's estimates, although she has recently figured out that, while he does pad them, overall we usually end up in the same place, as one takes less time and another takes more. She should already know this, as this is exactly what used to happen when she was a project manager debating timetables with team members. Finally, we end up with a rethought (and considerably shorter) project list, which is the bible for what we do over the next few months. Occasionally we get off the track and start thinking about something new, but usually one of us comes to our senses and drags the other one back onto the plan.
Anyway, the major item remaining was the paravanes. Although the bases were mostly installed, none of the rigging was up yet, so the project was really only about 33% complete at the beginning of the summer. Since we didn't cover the base installation in our last log let us briefly enlighten our readers on the process of retrofitting paravane pole bases to a Nordhavn 46.
As you might guess, it isn't quite as easy as drilling a few holes in the boat deck roof and bolting them on. The forces on the poles (which drag the "fish" in the water and hence provide the stabilization) are considerable. Hence, they need to be pretty straight, so those forces are applied evenly to the areas of the boat designed to accept them. When paravanes are installed on a new boat at the factory, they have the luxury of being able to manufacture the bases to fit the boat. When the bases are retrofit, as we did on Duet, its the other way around, e.g. the boat needs to be fit to the bases, as the bases are manufactured elsewhere. The bases not only have to fit the boat but they also have to marry up with the bases of the boat deck rails. Unfortunately using a large hammer to enforce a melding of bases and poles will result in nothing but a sore arm, and possibly bent poles, so we were forced to sort all these mating surfaces the old fashion way, e.g. with epoxy and ingenuity.
Ron spent a lot of time building interfaces for the bases of the poles. These "pads" were constructed of epoxy and fit exactly to the stainless steel base on one side and to the boat deck on the other. They also were leveled so that the boat deck rail bases would then marry up with the paravane pole bases. This process is described in detail with pictures in the separate paravane write up, but Nancy's key memory of it was how many steps were required. First you make little shims of epoxy to level the base. Then you make a full sized epoxy pad for the base to sit on. Then you see if it's level. Then you drill it, and the boat deck, which turns out to have a brass plate in it (for extra strength to support the forces on the poles) so you have to redrill it. Then you fill the drill holes with epoxy and redrill them, so that the core of the boat deck is protected. Then you bolt it all together. Mostly the bolts come out straight, which is not as easy as it sounds when drilling through about 6 inches of solid material. So sometimes you start again. You get to do at least this four times, since there are four bases. Also, you can only do so much in one day, as the epoxy has to set overnight, sometimes longer, depending on how cold it is. Epoxy tends to drip when wet, so Duet spent a lot of time draped in protective plastic bags, much to the bemusement of slip visitors. Then you try to put the backing plates on and find they don't line up right, so they need little bases too. As you may recall, to make the bases, you make little shims.... The bases came out beautifully, and are absolutely level. As you may have guessed, this was the most time consuming part of the project, but very necessary to get right. The alternative is that the poles break off mid ocean, taking bits of the boat deck with them, which wasn't something Ron or even Nancy was willing to contemplate. The bases were pretty well completed by the time Ron came back on board full time, so then we started on the rest of the rig, although we did make another visit to a paravane equipped 46 first, just to make sure we hadn't forgotten how to put everything together. We also found that we probably should have examined all the bits of the kit when we first got them, as one of the spreaders was bent during transit. Spreaders, for the non nautical of our readers, are short poles (about 7 feet long) which attach partway up the mast and support the big paravane poles when they are raised up for storage. They have cups on the outboard end for the paravane poles to sit in. Forespar agreed to repaint it but, after some conversation with Mark from Paydirt who does all his own painting, Ron decided to straighten and paint it himself, mainly to save a long delay shipping the part back and forth to California. This process went pretty well, assisted by Nancy's careful sanding, a skill honed by hours of work on the mast the previous winter. Now we needed to install the poles themselves, and most of the rigging. This is more easily done out of the water, so we hauled Duet for a couple of weeks. Nancy was also going to wax the hull and finish the teak, so we had lots of plans for our haul out. Herrington Harbor North popped Duet onto shore and we got started. Nancy got started at the business end, gently polishing Duet's enormous main propeller with the Dremel to remove barnacles. Finally, before hanging the poles, we needed to complete the base installation. What, it's not done? you say. No it's not, it'll never be done, it goes on forever.... The bases of the poles are further stabilized (beyond being bolted through the boat deck) by tension bars which run from the bottom of the base to a chainplate bolted through the hull. The engineering idea is that the forces coming from the pull of the fish on the poles will be transitioned to the strongest part of the boat, e.g. the hull, via these tension bars. You often see this kind of set up on sailboats, to support the mast. It's the same general principle. So we needed to install chain plates and tension bars. The bars were simple, they bolt to the bottom of the pole base, travel down past the salon windows and through the teak to bolt to the chain plate. By this time Ron was ready to drill anything, so cutting holes in the teak rub rail was not hard for him. It was rather hard for Nancy, as she's spent her entire Duet career keeping those teak rails as pristine as possible, but she bowed to the greater good and managed not to whimper while Ron desecrated her rails. Actually they came out pretty well, once the cover plates were put on and Nancy carefully sanded and repainted the area.
The chainplates were a slightly different story. Drilling the holes for them wasn't a big deal. What was on the other side, however, was a bit of a surprise. While we knew, conceptually, that Duet's hull was solid glass below the waterline and cored above, seeing it was a little bit disconcerting. The glass appears to be quite thick on the aft side decks and the stern, about the width of the rub rail, where we installed the chain plates. Once its drilled, however, it becomes apparent that it is really two walls of glass, each about one inch thick, separated by either core material (Divinycel) or air. Yes, air. Some of the upper aft and stern hull is hollow. This is the result of the way the hull is laid up, blocks of the core material are placed where fixtures are installed (like hawseholes) but some of it remains empty. This saves weight, otherwise Duet would be even more portly than she is. The forward sections of the hull above the waterline (where the forces are greater), as well as the superstructure, are all solid core.
This did present a problem; how to support the bolts which attach the chainplates and their backing plates and prevent water leakage through the ensuing bolt holes? The chainplates are on one side of the hull and the backing plates on the other, so the "air" ends up in between, with the bolts passing through it. Perhaps it would be OK to just put the bolts through holes on both sides and caulk carefully...but Captain Ron isn't in the possibly OK business. He wanted to make sure no water would come in, and also, he would have enough structural support inside the gap to create an epoxy "tube" around each bolt to help transfer the load.
A solution obviously had to be found. It was pretty simple really, once we got the basic idea, just a matter of transferring technology from home building to boat building. To Ron's credit, he came up with the answer as a result of his habit of wandering the aisles of Home Depot whenever he can. Nancy views this practice with acute suspicion, as it often results in expenditures. She does the same thing in grocery stores, however, looking for that special sauce, so she really can't point fingers. Anyway, Ron remember seeing the answer somewhere along the way, it just took a little time to track it down again.
In houses they often use a filler which dries to a hard consistency but can be pumped into spaces, sort of a foam chemical. Ron pumped several cans of this into the hole where the chainplates would be placed, via the initial bolt holes, let it dry and presto, no gaps for water to enter. Actually, it wasn't quite presto, it was more panico, because the first time he pumped the foam in, lots and lots went in and none came out. This seemed good as the hole was full...or so we thought. Then we found out that as the foam dries it expands so a large quantity came back out the bolt holes, much to Nancy's consternation when she noticed it filling the starboard companionway. Fortunately, it wiped off easily and Ron reduced the quantity on the next go around, so we had no recurrences of the Blob that ate Duet. Finally, Ron installed the holsters which hold the fish. This was easy, really it was. He cut access panels, thru bolted the holsters and Bob's your uncle, fish holsters, even on straight! This was the simplest part of the project bar none, and, needless to say, one Ron had worried most about.
So, several years later or at least what seemed like it, we moved on to hanging the poles. But just before that we had to hang the spreaders, so the poles would have something to lean against. The spreaders went up quite easily, but Ron, always cautious, didn't rivet them to the mast, he just taped them on until we got the big poles up. We did, however, install the spreader rigging, which runs from the ends of the spreader to the top of the mast and the bottom of the paravane pole. Remember this rigging, it is important later.
Hanging the poles was actually pretty simple. Hanging the port pole went fine the first time, the second time, the third time.... Actually there were some rather interesting little twists to hanging the poles that we figured out slowly, through hands on experimentation, which is probably the best way to learn, even if it is a little hard on Nancy's back. We have a whole series of action shots of the pole hanging process, in which we were ably assisted by Mark and Karen from Paydirt and Bill from the BoatUS Towboat. It was rather like an Amish barn raising, everyone had their part and there were frequent pauses for refreshment and discussion. Mark and Nancy took turns lifting the pole, Bill handled the winching and lashing (his tow boat experience came in handy here), Ron attached the poles to the bases, and Karen passed parts, kept on an eye on things which might fall on people's heads and took photos for posterity. Even Maggie played a role, keeping careful watch. The first time we hung the port pole it came up just fine. It looked great. It had only two small problems, first it didn't hit the spreader at all. Second, it turns out you can't attach the fixed backstay part of the pole once the pole is fastened to the base. These were minor issues really, except they required that we remove the pole. So we did, put on the backstay and put it back up again. That went fine, except the attachment cap for the backstay was on backward. It was a 50/50 shot on which way up it went, as it looked identical until it was installed, and we bet wrong. Oh well, we had the pole installation and removal process pretty well down by then, who cares about another go around. Ron even learned some very cool ways to lash a pole from Bill, so it wasn't a total loss. This time, as you can probably tell from Ron in this picture, the pole went on right, or mostly right...
During this phase, we ignored the spreader problem, figuring we could sort that out later. The pole leaned nicely against the boat deck rails and Bill carefully lashed it so it wouldn't move. We celebrated a successful pole attachment and shut down for the evening. The next day we repeated the whole thing for the starboard pole, except we only had to put it on once (we're slow but not really stupid) so everyone went home early.
The next day we started in on the spreader problem. Amazingly enough this was also related to the fact that our installation was a retrofit. On a 46 with poles put on at the factory, the boat deck rails are bent so the poles are slightly inboard at rest. This isn't possible on Duet, as her boat deck rails were made straight. They could be removed and rewelded but that opens up another set of problems. So for a retrofit Nordhavn has Forespar make the spreaders slightly longer than they would be on a de novo installation, so the poles are upright at rest.
The first thing we figured out was that the spreaders were the right length, which reassured us somewhat. Then it took us some time to figure out why they didn't marry up neatly with, or at least come somewhere near, the poles when the poles were upright at rest. Finally, after some study of pictures of other boats, it dawned on Ron - the spreaders were too high! How could this be? Simple; the rigging Nordhavn sent had been cut for a de novo installation where the spreaders are shorter, hence the rigging is shorter than on a retrofit. If you put this rigging on longer poles they end up too far up the mast. The spreaders actually should be at the same place on the mast, regardless of whether it is a retrofit or not, it's just that the rigging to get them there is different lengths, depending on the length of the spreaders. The poles won't hit the spreaders if the spreaders are at the wrong height, because of the slight curvature of the poles and the swept back mast. All this took Nancy, who is not fond of geometry, some time to understand, but even she got it in the end.
Problem solved. Well not exactly, as we had no clue where on the mast the spreaders should really go, so we didn't know how long the rigging should be. Unfortunately, we had neglected to measure this detail on the 46s we visited. Nordhavn didn't know either, at least not right away. They hadn't built a 46 for nearly 5 years and finding a schematic for this part of the design took some doing. To their eternal credit they found the original blueprints for Duet's very own mast and faxed them along. Using this, Ron was able to calculate where on the mast the spreaders should be and extrapolate the length of the rigging. Nordhavn sent us some new rigging and Norseman fittings (at no charge) so Ron could recut part of the rigging to the right length and presto, we were in business.
Well not quite. Now we had the spreaders up we could install the rest of the rigging, namely the foreguys from the end of the poles to the bow of the boat, which prevent the poles from moving backward under stress. We had the rigging but no way to attach it to the bow. On a new installation, a hook is welded onto the hawseholes on either side of the bow, but we had no hooks on our hawseholes. Enquiries to Scott on the 46 Egret (now traversing Cape Horn), who had also recently retrofitted paravanes, revealed that he had found a welder somewhere in Greece who had welded a hook onto the hawseholes. This, however, wasn't a process he recommended, or even wanted to remember, as it gave him palpitations. Ron is not a fan of welding near fiberglass either, so another solution was obviously called for. Here Nordhavn again came to the rescue, when Peter Eunson pointed out that you can tap thick fiberglass, much like steel, and it will hold quite well. Peter also mentioned that he had used large padeyes to hook the foreguys and they could easily take the strain.
Ron wasn't a true fan of just taping the glass, he wanted to thru bolt just to make sure. But padeyes could work, as he could cut access hatches into the bow to access the back of the padeye for the bolts. Lo and behold, it was done, and the foreguys were attached. The rest of the rigging, the chains for the fish, the securing of the different guy wires when the poles are at rest, etc. went easily. Even the wiring of the winch switches in the cockpit was pretty non eventful. The winches are used to deploy and retrieve the fish, since they are rather heavy to manage by hand.
So far we've only deployed the fish in an anchorage. Tuning the rig takes a little doing and we've just gotten the tension generally right on most of the bits. Tuning is actually harder than it sounds. The paravane poles are 20 feet long and have some flexibility. We know this because we over tightened the backstay on one side initially. This produced a pole which bore a startling resemblance to a medieval catapult. Fortunately we only did this once, and now only make minor adjustments to the rigging each time we adjust it. We plan to run the fish at sea as soon as we can, possibly on our journey south from Hilton Head to Palm Beach, if conditions are right. We would rather have calm seas for this initial foray and we also need deep water, so we'll see. Worst case we'll run them in the Bahamas, where we gather (from uber fisherman Mark on Paydirt) not only will they improve stability but they should increase our luck at fishing!
Although it may seem like we did nothing but the paravanes during the summer of '06, that is not strictly true. On the travel front, we spent 4 weeks at Lake Tahoe. This time we took Maggie, who very much enjoyed herself. Taking Maggie, however, required driving to Lake Tahoe, which meant 5 days in the truck, multiple hotels, fast food, etc. In a word - ROAD TRIP. We enjoy road trips, although they are much more sedate now than they were in our youth. We carry bottled water, rather than high octane cola, we try to eat at Subways instead of Arbys, we stay in hotels instead of sleeping in tents, but we still have loud rock and roll (via our Ipod instead of cassette tapes), interesting highway incidents and lots and lots of time for rest and contemplation.
Also, we get a chance to visit Nancy's family, which is scattered all over. This time we spent two days in Salt Lake City, visiting Wendy, Brian and our new nephew Oliver. As usual with Brian and Wendy, we ate too much, drank too much and stayed up way too late, which made crossing the Nevada desert the next day all that much more horrendous. But we got to Tahoe in the end, spent a great four weeks climbing mountains, sitting in the hot tub, looking at real estate (mainly hoping prices would go down soon) and generally enjoying ourselves. All too soon it was time to get back to Duet and get to work, so we loaded up the Explorer and headed back home. By the time we arrived most of the Maryland summer had passed, temperatures had dropped every so slightly and it was almost boat show time. Boat show time, for our non boating readers, translates into serious parties, interspersed with purchases of gear we may need someday and, besides, it's a bargain at the boat show price!
On the smaller project front, Ron installed Nancy's Nordic Track on the upper deck, where she now exercises almost daily, much to the amusement of other boaters, people on docks and pelicans. It has been a great addition, allowing her (and Ron when there is no place to run) to keep up an exercise program while cruising. Ron is now trying to figure out how to hook it to the battery charger, as all that energy is going to waste every morning.
Ron also added the world's largest bilge pump. This project was the result of a Nancy project begun in late '05, where she dismantled the old Edson manual bilge pump to rebuild it. The pump was completely inoperative and all the stainless hardware had corroded into the aluminum pump body, so it was definitely time. Over dinner one night, however Nancy and Ron started talking about said bilge pump, who was going to actually pump it during an emergency and how well it would work.
The manual pump is capable of evacuating 1 gallon per pump, which sounds great until you actually try to work it. It requires considerable strength to operate. The specs say 30 gallons/pumps per minute (1,800 gallons per hour), but the reality is probably fewer. In any emergency, Nancy would be pumping while Ron tried to fix the problem. That would leave Maggie talking to would be rescuers on the radio, as she's too short to work the bilge pump handle. This scenario didn't seem too realistic to us, so we decided to make better use of the pump's 2 inch thru hull and installed a 4,000 gallon per hour (66 gallons per minute) electric bilge pump. Both pumps are pushing against the same head (distance the pump has to raise the water to get it overboard), so the electric has at least twice the capacity of the manual pump.
While we understand it will only work when the electric is working, we figure if the main engine and the generator are down, there is no battery power and we are taking on a lot of water, Nancy being able to manually pump for a few minutes is probably not going to save us. We are greatly indebted on this project to Mark from Paydirt who came up with the tie breaker to get the project done, namely the installation of a manual valve in line between the pump and the overboard hose, to avoid the extra work (and risk) of installed a siphon loop. Hopefully we'll never have to use this pump, but we are very glad its there.
The diesel heater now also works, which is a good thing here in Hilton Head during the cold snaps where the outside temp gets into the 30's at night. Ron has installed his oil change system for the generator and the main, as well as a DeBug unit on the main. We are in the process of replacing our old autopilot pump with a new commercial quality Accusteer model (much credit to Scott on N46 Egret who suggested it) and have acquired a second one as a backup.
We finally, after much ado, got the Digital Antenna cellular amplifier working, with much assistance from Digital Antenna, who gets special mention for their consistent and patient support. They also gave us a free T-shirt every time we sent the amp back to be repaired. After much experimentation, it turned out that our PC card was putting out too much power and the dock power was "dirty" (we were using a 120 to 12V transformer). Once we got these two issues sorted out, this communication solution has been stellar, providing seamless Internet access (via a wireless Cingular card) and cell phone reception down the east coast, except for in the rural wilds of NC, where no known cell phone has ever worked. It even works up to 10 miles offshore, so if you are bored on a night watch you may read spam. We are now installing Ocens software for use with our Iridium phone in the islands and will provide a report on that when we return.
Despite all these activities we managed to depart the Chesapeake Bay before the winter, arriving in Hilton Head on November 14 after a relatively uneventful trip. We traveled inside to Beaufort NC, offshore to Masonboro and inside to Southport. We then repeated our first ocean journey from what seems like so long ago, from Cape Fear to Charleston, although this time alas without Oceantide to keep us company. We linked up with Salty-C in Charleston, had a great brisket with Doug and Berna and then traveled inside to Hilton Head.
All in all, an effortless journey, made even more so by our new additions to Duet's capabilities. The new radar led us into Charleston Harbor in the dark, rather like landing an airplane. The ARPA (automated target tracking) is truly amazing, allowing Nancy to closely follow the behavior of three small boats traveling at 40 plus knots at 2AM out of the Camp LeJuene entrance. She thought they were sportfish out on an early run for a little while, but once they rendezvoused with a large gray silhouette on the horizon, she concluded that possibly they were something else. As a final triumph for Chief Engineer Ron, the fuel polishing system cranked through 1,000 gallons 5 times in 2 days after we picked up some suspect fuel, rendering cloudy fuel into liquid clear enough to drink.
Hilton Head welcomed us back, this year we are staying at Shelter Cove Marina, which we highly recommend. We had guests for Thanksgiving; Mark and Karen from Paydirt pulled in for a couple of days. They actually arrived after turkey day, due to a rather nasty cold front passing through, so Maggie was forced to assist with the feast, a task she felt she is uniquely qualified for. We regrouped, had pizza when Mark and Karen arrived and then spent several very enjoyable days together. Nancy and Karen went shopping and Mark and Ron disassembled the dinghy engine and cleaned the carburetor. Ron, amazingly enough, managed to put it back together after Mark left and it runs beautifully. Ron must confess however, that he had to put it back together twice before it ran right, which he's sure wouldn't have happened if Mark was still advising him.
In summary, we met new friends, caught up with old ones and generally re-entered the cruising life as if we'd never been gone. We are very much looking forward to the Bahamas this winter and the Caribbean in '07/'08. We will not be getting email once we leave so we wish all our readers a pleasant spring.