Sunday, August 20, 2017

Late August 2017: Boat Business

It has been nearly a month since we wrote: “While in excellent condition for a 15 year old boat, we nonetheless have a potentially long punch list based on surveys, sea trial and our own personal preferences”.  Scratch the word “potentially”.  It’s a long list.
Ghost Rider in Her Maintenance Slip @ OPC...At The End
Of a Fairway, It Can Be a Tight Maneuver

That said, we – with lots of help from James Knight and his gang at Yacht Tech – have made great progress.  While we occasionally find ourselves in the not usual see-saw scenario (remove one item from the punch list, but add another) that lengthy list mostly now consists of things that have been lined through and are pending sea trial(s) to verify satisfactory completion.  Since we don’t plan to be hanging out near home port once we cast off the lines, we want to be fairly certain that the work done on the main engine, wing engine, generator, hydraulics and stabilizers provides solid ops-normal reliability.  And we want to be comfortable in our understanding of the supporting systems – electrical generation and distribution, fuel supply, air conditioning, etc. 

From a provisioning perspective we think we’re just about done.  Chelle will be complete with the galley and household side of that this week, and the same is true for Rick’s stockpiling of tools, boat supplies, generic spares and safety gear.  Still to be addressed is building the inventory of boat-specific spare parts – oil, filters, belts, water pumps, etc.

Our 70HP "Get Home" Wing Engine...Ran Great
on the Latest Sea Trial
So that brings us back to the sea trials.  On Saturday, 19-August, James and two of his techs joined us on board at 0900 with the goal of knocking out a fairly long list of mechanical, propulsion and system testing.  We planned to cruise a few miles down the ICW and then head offshore via the Lake Worth inlet.  After sleuthing and solving a main engine starter problem at the dock (loose wire at the solenoid), we maneuvered Ghost Rider II out of the marina and pointed south towards the inlet as planned.

Part of the day’s sea trial strategy was to initially run hard on the wing engine – Rick wasn’t satisfied that the survey sea trial had focused enough on that, particularly the shaft’s stuffing box.  In addition to being the “get-home” backup to the main engine, the wing is also used to supply hydraulic power to the bow and stern thrusters, as well as the windlass; thus we consider it fairly critical. So shortly after departing the marina we shut down the main engine and focused on stress-testing the wing power plant. 

The 300HP Main Engine Was a Different Story Without a Reliable Starter Motor
And that actually went well for the first 40 minutes, with Ghost Rider reaching 4.5 knots (even with the wing’s tiny two-bladed prop although a following current helped), with no leaks and overall good health metrics on the gauges and heat gun.  The next focus was to be the main engine’s stuffing box, which in two previous sea trials had run way too hot and had now been repacked twice.

But we could not get a relight on the main engine…there was no response at all from its starter motor.  We were still in a narrow stretch of the ICW, so Rick manned the helm to keep the boat between the buoys while James & Robert spent time in the engine room troubleshooting.  Battery voltage and electrical connections were fine, but solenoid and starter motor would not respond. So we made a 180 and headed back to the marina – at a leisurely pace of 3.3 knots into the current, which gave Rick plenty of time to think about – and discuss with James – how to dock the beast using only the wing engine for propulsion.

To the Left of the Wheel Are the Wing Engine Controls - Separate Levers
for Gearshift (Black) and Throttle (Red).  Thrusters Are to the Right of the Wheel.
Maneuvering on the wing engine presents a couple of challenges, especially in close quarters.  The shaft/prop is offset from the centerline, so steering straight isn’t a given.  The prop is tiny compared to the main, so thrust is limited. (Forget prop-walk.) And on Ghost Rider the wing is also used to power the bow and stern thrusters – but only when its throttle is advanced to something around 1800 RPM (it idles at 600-700 RPM.)  Approaching a dock in gear at that power setting would be poor form, unless you have air bags.

On top of all that, Ghost Rider does not have wing engine controls on the fly bridge, so the docking maneuver would have to be accomplished from the pilot house, where visibility isn't nearly as good.

James:  “I can take it if you want.”
Rick:  “I’ll give it a go….but stay close.”
James:  “Just throw up your hands if you want me to take over.”
Rick:  “How about if I just scream hysterically?”

Ghost Rider at Her New T-dock Berth
We had calm conditions and a protected marina, and it turns out if you go slow – really slow – you can spin the boat 180 degrees in a marina fairway and bring it alongside a T-head dock without casualties.  It went something like this:  stop the boat’s forward motion (reverse); preset the rudder hardover port; throttle to idle; gearshift to neutral, throttle up to 1800, thrust the stern to starboard; throttle to idle, gearshift forward; gearshift to neutral then reverse; gearshift back to neutral, throttle back up to 1800, thrust bow to port and/or stern to starboard.  Repeat until you’ve pivoted her 180 and are parallel (and hopefully close) to the dock.  Having Chelle on headset and providing distances to the aft and side was, as usual, a huge help.

Since the wing engine has separate (mechanical) levers for gearshift and throttle, it’s a bit like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time, while walking a field sobriety test line.  For most veteran single-screw Nordy owners it’s a minor annoyance, but it was a first for these rookies.  Rick was glad James was there as coach.
The Tropics Are Getting Busy With Activity

At any rate, we got her tucked in and secured, and James went off looking for another starter motor and solenoid for the main engine. Meanwhile we headed back to Fort Myers to tend to some administrative and packing priorities, but will return to the boat late Monday…we have to be ready to move the boat to another “hurricane hole” marina further up the ICW if one of those tropical Invests spools up and aims at south Florida.

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