Tuesday, May 12, 2020

May 2020: Back in FMY - Fixing Stab Overheat

Foreword:  We and the boat are back home in Fort Myers and we’re still being diligent about social distancing and hygiene practices.  Hopefully that’s true for all y’all, too.  But here in the USA, with most states proceeding with “re-opening” without much regard for science, we’re also preparing for a long slog with multiple setbacks looking very likely.  If you want a historical analog, go study the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918…along with how & why it continued into 1920.  Mark Twain reportedly once said “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”  It seems we’re destined to prove him right again.  But there is good news….have discovered if you keep a glass of scotch in each hand then you can’t touch your face.  That’s good hygiene.

This entry is all about a system repair and nothing else.  So unless you are a boat geek, or bored enough to seek almost any distraction, you’ll want to skip it.

Even though we’d had a very successful maintenance stop with Yacht Tech in Palm Beach, we still had ample boat projects to keep us busy on Ghost Rider.  But the priority problem-to-solve was the stabilizer oil overheating condition we had encountered at the midpoint of our journey back to Fort Myers.  After a few days at the dock we now had a much cooler engine room, allowing for a relatively relaxed and comfortable approach to troubleshooting…and the luxury of temporarily disabling the main engine without consequence.
The Red Arrow Points to the Main Engine's Heat Exchanger on the Port Side of the Maine Engine.  Tucked Under That, the Blue Arrow Points Out the Gear (Transmission) Oil Cooler.  The Yellow Arrows Point at the Pencil Zincs on the Heat
Exchanger.  And then the Green Arrow Indicates the Down Elbow....Just Underneath that a Small 5/8" Diameter Hose
Branches Off to the Cooling Circuit that Routes Over to the Stabilizer Oil Tank.
The design of the cooling circuit for our stabilizer oil tank is relatively simple. Ghost Rider is an exception compared to most Nordhavns….rather than being keel-cooled with a dry exhaust stack, our Nordy’s main engine is cooled via a raw (sea) water heat exchanger and uses a traditional wet exhaust.  That arrangement provides for a secondary cooling circuit that branches off at the bottom of the main engine’s heat exchanger and is then routed over to the stabilizer oil tank reservoir for additional cooling duties there.  After exiting the stab oil tank, that auxiliary cooling circuit empties into the sea via its own dedicated discharge thru-hull.  Except now we could not detect any outflow coming from that thru-hull opening….meaning no cooling flow.
The Stabilizer Oil Tank is Located in the Port Side Forward Alcove of the Engine Room.  The Yellow
Arrow Points to the Input Cooling Line that Branches Off the Bottom of the Main Engine's Heat Exchanger.
The Green Arrow Points to the Output Line that Goes to the Thru-hull Discharge.
So there is a minor flaw in that design:  while the heat exchanger itself is quite beefy, by necessity it utilizes two sacrificial pencil zincs (anodes) to prevent galvanic corrosion inherent with that salty seawater flow…and as those zincs decay (as intended) the shedding debris will descend to the bottom of the heat exchanger – right where that stabilizer cooling loop begins.  That loop uses much smaller diameter hosing and piping (5/8” ID), and occasionally is prone to clogging with that decaying zinc detritus.  When that occurs the result is hot stabilizer oil….rather than the normal 155F temps we were seeing nearly 200F on the leg to Marathon following the overtemp warning light.
Flushing the Line Going from the Heat Exchanger to the Stabilizer Oil Cooling Loop.  The Red Arrow Points to One of the Two Pencil Zinc Ports We Used for the High Pressure Flush Out.  The Yellow Arrow Indicates the Low Point of the Stab Cooling Circuit Where We Diverted its Feed Hose Into a Drain Bucket.
Rick decided to start the investigation where the stabilizer cooling loop originates at the bottom of the main engine’s heat exchanger.  After removing the two zinc plugs (they were due for replacement anyway) and disconnecting a segment of the hose feeding the start of the stab cooling circuit, he stuck a high pressure hose into the zinc ports for a flushing out.  While that netted some debris it certainly was not enough to cause a blockage or overheat issue.
After Disconnecting the Stab Oil Tank's Cooling Hose from the Thru-hull Discharge (Yellow Arrow) and Augering Out
a Significant Zinc Debris Blockage, We Observed a Good Cooling Flow from the Hose End (Green Arrow.)
After reassembling the main engine side of the loop, the next step was to check at the opposite end of the stabilizer cooling circuit, where it exited the boat via the thru-hull fitting.  It was a likely suspect since there was a 90 degree elbow where the outflow hose clamped to the thru-hull fitting – and in there Rick found enough stray zinc debris to form a very effective dam.  A stiff wire coat hanger server as a suitable plumbing auger, and in the end that blockage turned out to be the only culprit.  After clearing the clog and starting the main engine we observed good cooling flow exiting from the thru-hull discharge.
The Yellow Arrow Points Out the Resulting Normal Stab Cooling Flow from the Thru-hull.
The question now was whether such an event could be prevented in the future.  The zinc decay itself is a critically important feature that protects expensive diesel engine parts from dissolving through galvanic corrosion; it would not be wise to change that portion. One option was to design an entirely separate cooling loop for the stabilizer oil tank, which would entail a new intake thru-hull as well as a new electric water pump (and then sealing off the existing feed from the heat exchanger.)  But another path was just to insert a sea-strainer device into the existing cooling circuit to trap zinc debris, with periodic inspection and cleaning.  The latter sounded a whole lot easier and cheaper, at least as a first try.  So that’s the approach we’ve taken for now.  Rick installed a standard Jabsco PumpGuard strainer at the circuit’s low point, close to where it branches off the main engine’s heat exchanger.
The New Sea Strainer Inserted into the Stabilizer Cooling Circuit at its Low Point.  It's Positioned Just Under the Front End
of the Main Engine Where It's Readily Visible and Accessible for Cleaning When Necessary.
It was a relatively simple modification, but it needs to be sea-trialed to determine whether it still allows for an adequate flow rate for cooling the stabilizer oil tank.  A better long-term solution might also call for an inline shut-off valve just upstream of the strainer to allow cleaning of the strainer basket without having to first shut down the engine and drain the heat exchanger (that beast holds a LOT of sea water.)
Just What is a Heat Exchanger?  The Schematic Above is Generic, but is a Good Illustration.  It's Basically Like a Car's Radiator, but Instead of Outside Air Cooling the Antifreeze that Circulates Through the Diesel Engine, it Takes in Seawater to Perform the Same Function.  On Ghost Rider a Portion of the Seawater is Expelled Through the Wet Exhaust, but Another Portion is Routed to the Stabilizer Oil Tank to Perform Cooling Duties There.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

April 2020: Cruising Back to Fort Myers

Foreword:  Ghost Rider became our very own containment vessel for the few days it took us to cruise back to Fort Myers, staying offshore and stopping only at a couple of anchorages along the way.  There are worse ways to practice social distancing, and not many safer.  We would like to salute the front line medical workers and first responders who continue to put themselves in harm’s way. To once again quote Mr. Churchill: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”  Of course he also reportedly said something like “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing…after they have exhausted all other possibilities.”  That one is looking dubious.

First Leg: Palm Beach to Rodriguez Key (Near Key Largo)
With Yacht Tech mostly shut down we had definitely reached a point of diminishing returns on the east coast of Florida, so on Tuesday, 14-April we departed Loggerhead Marina in Palm Beach Gardens and pointed Ghost Rider south.  Joe and Carole (from N40 Barefoot Girl) helped us with dock lines, which was much appreciated as our assigned boat slip wasn’t an easy one for Chelle to dismount and remount the boat, especially with a very stiff breeze from the southeast pushing us off the tall fixed dock.  Our planned itinerary included an overnight run south to the Rodriguez Key anchorage near Key Largo, then a shorter day trip to the Marathon anchorage, and finally another overnighter from there to home port in Fort Myers.  The planning logic was simple: there weren’t any marinas taking transients, so anchorages were our only option; and we wanted to get past the mainland and down to the Keys quickly enough to avoid a worsening weather forecast for areas north of there.

We departed just after 1500….timed such that we would reach our first anchorage shortly after sunrise the next day.  It was mostly sunny, humid and hot with the temp hovering at 90F, but the stiff breeze coming off the slightly cooler waters helped keep it comfortable on the fly bridge.  By the time we reached Lake Worth winds were at a steady 20 knots but we had timed the two ICW bridge openings perfectly and made good time.  And somewhat surprisingly, when we punched through the inlet and into open ocean, the ride wasn’t too bad – two to three foot square waves with plenty of wind chop on top, but Ghost Rider seemed quite happy to be moving again.  However that hefty wind (with higher gusts) regularly kicked salt spray clear over the fly bridge and up to the satellite antenna dome.
Pilot House View at Dusk Near the East Florida Shoreline
We had planned our initial legs down towards Miami to be about three miles offshore, the thought being we would avoid most of the near-shore fishing grounds, along with the busy inlets and anchorage areas at Fort Lauderdale and Miami.  Unfortunately, while NOAA was reporting the western edge of the Gulf Stream ten miles out, that did not appear to be the case.  After the turn south we found ourselves bucking a current of at least three knots.  Following an hour of crawling along, sometimes under five knots of SOG, we hung a hard right, detouring two and half miles to the west.  We began hugging the shoreline about a thousand meters off the beach and that gained us two more knots of forward speed for a while.  But come night fall we once again swerved back out to the three mile limit line, mainly for the traffic avoidance and safety factors near the busy ports….and back into that nasty current.

Chelle took the helm for the early night shift (1900 to 2130), then Rick took over for the graveyard shift through 0430, followed by Chelle again for the final four hours.  It was after 0200 on Wednesday, 15-April before we got around Lauderdale and Miami – and their offshore anchorage fields looked like parking lots. There was a lot of stranded tonnage there, collectively with enough lights blazing to totally destroy everyone’s night vision.  
Radar Screen Capture as We Skirted the
Lauderdale Offshore Anchorage Area

Overall the night running was mostly without stress, but approaching the Miami area Rick had to hail one cruise ship on the VHF to clarify safe passing logistics.  The big vessel was lingering about a mile to the east of the offshore anchorage, but unlike all the others its AIS readout did not reflect an “anchored” status and it showed a few knots of movement; we did not want to get run over….a distinct possibility at our reduced ground speed.  It turned out he was “drifting in place” and we agreed on a passing protocol satisfactory to both vessels.

Once south of Miami’s Government Cut shipping channel we again cut back west and closer to the mainland to join Hawk Channel and run inside the Keys’ reef tract.  Even there we were still bashing into a current, although one not nearly as strong as the Gulf Stream’s fire hose.

Throughout the sortie the winds never let up, and the atmosphere remained warm and muggy all night – temps never dipped below 82F.  So when we reached Rodriguez Key and tucked in behind it just before 0900 and dropped the hook, the generator and A/C came online fairly quickly.  That anchorage is one of our favorites in the Keys – good protection, fairly isolated, plenty of swing room, just enough depth with mild tidal changes, and always clean, clear water.  But we had never seen it so empty.  We tended to some minor chores, napped, read and caught up on the news (blech) via satellite TV, then slept like stones that night.
A Shot of the Rodriguez Key Anchorage Near Sunset.....It Was Pretty Empty
We were not in a big hurry the following morning, Thursday, 16-April, since we only had a short six hour sortie down to Marathon in the mid-Keys.  It was still warm and muggy outside even at 0830 – temp and humidity both in the mid-80’s – but we had kept the genset and A/C running all night, so had slept well.  After our coffee, email and news checks we cranked up Ghost Rider’s systems, hoisted the anchor and were back underway by 0930. 
Our Track from Rodriguez Key to the Marathon Area

Hawk Channel waters were docile, generally about a foot, and since the wind had diminished considerably overnight to around 10 knots, featured just a light wind chop on top.  We had to dodge occasional strings of crab pots, but otherwise traffic was light apart from the occasional pod of dolphins that would glide in the boat’s bow wave.

Water quality was as good as we’d ever seen it inside the reef.  No debris, and bottom features readily visible in varying shades of blue, green and turquoise.  We had read reports the same was true all along the coasts of Florida following beach and facility closures that had reduced human activity to nearly nothing.  Perhaps a silver lining in the Covid cloud.

The Anchorage Near Marathon & Seven Mile Bridge
But around 1400 the calm of our peaceful cruise down the spine of the Keys got interrupted by a bright red warning light on the stabilizer control panel – for “High Temp.”  Nuts.  Rick went to the engine room and used the infrared temperature gun to verify the oil tank temp was high (it was, well above redline), then centered and pinned the stabilizer fins, and shut the system down.  A quick check of the manual revealed it had absolutely nothing to say about troubleshooting this error, so Rick pinged James Knight via SMS text for his input. James called back within minutes, and had Rick check the relative temps for the cooling input and output lines at the stabilizer’s oil reservoir (both normal), and also verify that the output line’s thru-hull seacock was open (it was.)  Seas were still quite gentle and forecast to remain that way for the final leg home, so the absence of stabilization wasn’t a big deal.  Conferring with a few other N50 owners gave us a pretty good idea as to cause (clogging debris in the cooling circuit, likely from zinc anode shedding); that will require considerable disassembly and flushing, so we decided to leave the system disabled, and wait to address once back in port.

We turned the corner at Boot Key and pulled into a mostly empty anchorage near Marathon around 1530, and had the hook firmly planted shortly thereafter.  Initially we left the generator off and the boat open for a few hours to let the engine room cool down a bit, then ran genset and A/C for a spell and recharged the batts.  By late evening the predicted cold front shifted the winds to a northerly flow bring slightly drier air, making it comfy enough to shut down and sleep with natural ventilation.
Chelle Cooking up a Spicy Taco Dish at the Marathon Anchorage
By 0800 on the morning of Friday, 17-April the winds had clocked around to the southeast once again and the breeze helped as it was already quite humid with a bright tropical sun gradually amping up the heat.  We started the generator around 1030 and let it charge the house batteries and enjoyed some cooling A/C.  Our goal was to be underway by 1530 – enough daylight remaining to pass through some of the more dense crab pot fields visually, but not so soon as to arrive at the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers before daylight the following morning.  And that’s what we did, weighing anchor at 1515.
Our Overnight Track from Marathon to Fort Myers

Once Chelle had steered Ghost Rider under the Seven Mile Bridge and into Florida Bay we found smooth water, mainly just a light wind chop, and we were grateful for that with the stabilizer system shut down.  We weaved our way around Red Bay Bank and then aimed the pointy end north, settling down for the long run up to Fort Myers.  As expected we were dodging the crab pots in the southern part of Florida Bay, and we managed to pick out most visually and on radar, although the wind-chopped surface made the latter erratic at times.

We manned the helm with the same shift schedule as the previous overnight run, with Chelle driving at the sunset and sunrise portions, and Rick in between. (His stay-alert technique: two mugs of coffee and a whole box of Girl Scout cookies.  Thank you Grace and Alice.)  It was a black, moonless night, the proverbial “boating in an ink bottle” run; looking straight ahead you could see absolutely nothing….not even the Nordhavn pennant fluttering a short distance away on the bow.

Chelle Steers Ghost Rider Towards the Seven Mile Bridge
Looking up, however, it was a different story.  With zero light pollution that far out in open water, the night sky was a star-studded palette of brilliant pinpoint lights.  To our west Venus was initially bright enough to leave a narrow wake of reflective light on the bay, and nearby Sirius was almost as bright.  To the east Ursa Major stood out, pointing dutifully to Polaris. Rick’s “Star Map” app could be distracting, and it took some discipline not to continually scan the sky and stare at that thing.  Way off to the northeast distant flashes of lightning would occasionally strobe out far enough for us to see, but our XM weather display told us the cluster of storms that spawned them were at least 75 miles away and moving further east.

Duel Radar....Totally Void of Any Traffic
In the blackness Ghost Rider’s Furuno DRS X-Class radar served as our eyes.  As is our habit we ran one radar display at close-in range and the other looking out a few miles further, with a two mile Guard Zone set up.  This night we also ran with the autopilot in “Track” mode, also known as “Nav” or “Auto-follow” mode on some pilots.  In open water on long, nearly straight stretches it’s a no-brainer to let the computers drive the vessel on its intended course.

We did not see another boat on the water from Marathon all the way up to Naples, either visually or on radar.  Throughout the night our conditions stayed comfortable, with following seas at about a foot, temps in the low 80’s, and humidity close to that.  The breeze turned from southeast and around to the northeast just before midnight, which also helped with better airflow in the pilot house. 

XM Weather Display Showing the Cluster of TRWs
Between Lake O and the East Coast of Florida
On Saturday, 18-April, we arrived at the Sanibel Causeway around 0730, and at that point we finally witnessed a normal level of boating activity on up to Fort Myers...plenty of small leisure craft getting early starts toward the fishing grounds.  We coasted upriver on an incoming tide and pulled into Legacy Harbour Marina at 0915, docking without any drama in mostly calm conditions. Then we spent two hours hosing off several layers of salt from Ghost Rider, unloaded gear and food, drove to our condo, and called the journey complete.
Sunrise Over Fort Myers Beach as We Approached the Sanibel Causeway
Overall Ghost Rider had performed very well.  Apart from the stabilizer oil temp / cooling issue, the only other thing to break the entire way was the starboard side (green) navigation light; we carry spare bulbs so that was an easy fix (although Rick did cut himself when the old bulb shattered in his hand; nothing new there.)  And our dipstick leak repair was so far holding up very well.  While it was disappointing to have to skip the planned Bahamas cruising, the maintenance depot stop at Yacht Tech was satisfying, as was the safe journey back home.
The Repair on the Dipstick Housing Oil Leak Seemed to be Holding Up
Our Complete Return Track -- From Palm Beach to Fort Myers -- as Seen on Google Earth

Sunday, April 12, 2020

April 2020: Final Maintenance, More Madness

Foreword:  We’re stilling hanging in there, practicing the recommended distancing protocols, and keeping busy.  And we are reconciling with the reality that things will be this way for quite a spell.  While leadership is hard to define and impossible to teach, the absence of it eventually becomes obvious….and costly.  Churchill once said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, it’s also what it takes to sit down and listen.”  We don't have a Churchill.  Of course Sir Winston also said “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  So there’s that.  Keep on going.

As if We Weren't Spending Enough on the Boat, the
Condo Got a New Fridge / Freezer.
By this time we originally had planned to be in the Bahamas, but for obvious reasons that wasn’t going to happen this year.  So during the second weekend of our stay at Loggerhead Marina in Palm Beach Gardens we took care of a mix of personal and boat business.  Charmaine (Chelle’s mum) drove down from her winter home in Frostproof, FL, and we loaded up her car with supplies and food.  Chelle and Char then drove back over to Fort Myers to our condo and got Char settled in.  Unfortunately, as they were stocking the freezer they discovered it wasn’t cooling; that had happened before, so we decided we were done with that (LG) unit and had a new one delivered.  LG may make decent televisions, but their refrigerators are crap.

Rick had a couple of projects to attack over the weekend as well.  The first priority was tracking down a slight water leak somewhere on the starboard side of the forward engine room compartment.  That turned out to be the strainer lid for the main engine’s raw water cooling loop; it wasn’t loose or cracked, but it was missing one of the two o-rings that provide the seal between the acrylic screw-on lid and the strainer’s bronze housing – an easy fix.
Strainer Baskets Leak a Lot Less with
the Correct O-ring in the Lid.

There were also two other minor items that Rick had been putting off for a long time – and time was one thing he currently had available.  The first was cleaning, lubricating and adjusting the three sliding doors on Ghost Rider – two small ones in the pilot house, and the big beast at the rear of the salon.  Another item was the anchor’s blocking pin on the bow pulpit.  That’s a beefy stainless steel rod that serves as a mechanical brake when the anchor is stowed, and it has worked well enough except for the way that Nordhavn fashioned its safety line tether: a length of wire rope attached to the bow roller pin, whose rotation tended to twist and wrap that wire into a gnarly and tangled ball.  Rick cut off the wire rope, tossed it in the trash, and replaced it with a much more flexible segment of paracord, attaching that to a fixed stanchion instead of the roller.  That’s one less thing to worry about when deploying or retrieving the big Manson Supreme.

Maintenance – Part III
Yacht Tech reappeared at the boat on Wednesday, 08-April, to begin tackling our next project, which was to replace some of the aging and increasingly odiferous black water hoses.  If there was ever a maintenance item worth offloading to a third party, this was it.  It’s a difficult, messy and smelly endeavor.  But parts of Ghost Rider’s black water plumbing was showing its age, and while we had no leaks (thankfully) some of the older hose runs were permeating.  If one opened certain compartments or inspection plates a distinct sour odor would start to waft around.  It was time for action….or a divorce according to Chelle.
It Isn't Difficult to Tell Which of These Two Hoses is the Smelly One....the Bottom (White) One is Still in Good
Shape, but the Top (Yellowed) Hose Needs to be Replaced.
Dan & Paul drew the short straws at Yacht Tech, or were on James’ shit-list, we’re not sure which.  They wore gloves and masks, although this was an endeavor that called for that regardless of CDC guidelines for the current pandemic crisis.  We decided to go with James’ recommendation of Shields Poly X sanitation hose (at $22.50 per foot, or $30 if you’re crazy enough to buy it at West Marine), but pulling old hose lengths and running new ones is not for the faint of heart.  We decided to focus on the oldest (yellowest) hose runs and ended up replacing about 40 feet in total.  And, since one of those hose runs was the one going from the master head toilet to the black water tank – and that required disassembly of the toilet – we also replaced the toilet’s base and sealing gasket, using a spare kit that Rick already had onboard.
Paul (with the Heat Gun) and Dan Looking Less Than Happy Pulling Out Old Black Water Hoses.  This is a
Project That Warrants Hazard Pay.  The Heat Gun Was Needed to Remove Some Hose Ends that Had Been Glued.
While they labored on that delightful project Rick tackled one of his own down in the engine room.  The dipstick housing tube on the main engine, a big Lugger 6108A2 diesel, is a rather poor design – it features a sleeved fitting that wasn’t particularly tight and would seep small amounts of oil after a few hours of run time.  It certainly was not serious, but it annoyed the hell out of Rick.  The consensus was a whole new replacement tube would be just as problematic.  Bob Senter (aka“Lugger Bob”), the NOG’s resident Northern Lights expert, recommended removal, a thorough cleaning, a light sanding with a 3M Scotch-Brite pad, then a coating of either Permatex or Loctite Blue before reassembly. We had both sealants onboard but Rick chose the Permatex, since it tended to be less brittle after curing.  Reassembly was fairly straightforward, and testing will occur whenever we sortie back to Fort Myers.
The Dipstick Housing Removed from
the Engine Block.

Then, on Thursday, 09-April, Yacht Tech decided to shutter its operations.  Some neighboring shops were starting to report employees with suspicious symptoms and James did not want to take any chances with his employees and customers. He got no argument from us, it was the right thing to do.  Together we had made good progress on the Ghost Rider punch list, with only two items left outstanding – the rub rail replacement on the port bow, and the Triac heat cycle switch on the A/C compressor.  The former is just cosmetic, and Rick thinks he can figure out the latter item on his own between now and the next time we need heat on the boat.

Chelle drove back from Fort Myers to the boat on Friday, 10-April, this time in our own vehicle.  Eventually we’ll return to fetch it back home.  Her only stop was to fuel up ($1.69/gal at Costco) and also brought along a few fresh food items that we needed to restock on the boat.  Then we began to plan our escape from Palm Beach.  Right now it’s looking like we’ll have a decent weather window to get back underway on Tuesday, 14-April, with the rather modest goal of simply getting back to our home port in Fort Myers.  That will be an interesting journey since there are no marinas along the way accepting transients, but we’ll figure it out.  We’ll have more on that in the next blog.

In the meantime take care of yourselves and each other.

Friday, April 3, 2020

March 2020: Continued Maintenance & Madness

Foreword:  We are still hunkered down, observing public health protocols, and like everyone else closely monitoring the continuing Covid-19 conundrum.  Up until 01-April here in Florida some businesses and beaches actually remained open (and crowded), a stunningly stupid idea. Leave it to Florida to finally announce mandatory stay-at-home on April Fool’s Day.  Of course the federal efforts are just as mysteriously nuts.  We hope you are staying safe & sane despite the chaos.

The Loggerhead Marina Office in Palm Beach Gardens
Over the previous weekend we were saddened to say good-bye to Dave and Amy, as they were heading back to their dirt-dwelling home in Tennessee.  They had also recently decided to put their N40 (hull # 36) Intrepid up for sale (with Yacht Tech as broker, the listing is HERE.)  Dave is a pilot and Amy is a flight attendant, and they were missing their own airplane. Chelle had volunteered to finalize a few things on their boat after they departed, such as the disposition of a few remaining food items and defrosting the freezer chests, but that didn’t take long.

Also over the weekend we got a brief update from Brad & Lorraine Carlton aboard N55 Adventure.  They had been working very diligently and generously on hurricane relief efforts in Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas when the Covid-19 crisis intervened.  Here is Lorraine’s email update as of 29-March:
Chelle Finishing Up Work on N40 Intrepid
“We are hunkered down on GTC. 24 hour curfew in effect except for food, water, exercise.  We haven’t left the boat in 4 days. Got word today that we can go subsistence fishing with members of own family only. So, that is our plan today. No dinghies allowed on beaches. Needless to say, our construction has stalled for now. 

One restaurant (McIntosh) remains open for take-out only. The grocery store is still open. The ferry is no longer running to Treasure Cay so the island has been isolated. 14 confirmed cases in Bahamas. 12 in Nassau and 2 in Grand Bahama. Stay safe!”

Brad and Lorraine have done incredible work over there for several months now, and it’s worth reading about when you have a few minutes at this LINK.  We regret not being able to join them.

Maintenance – Part II
On Monday, 30-March we returned our attention to the punch list.  Dan from Yacht Tech came to the boat early to work on the control board for the MSR’s A/C compressor.  But after fiddling with it Dan determined that the entire board wasn’t toast. (This is the board we had salvaged from the old pilot house compressor two years ago.)  Instead, his sleuthing revealed the problem was now the “Triac” switch, which is a small transistorized relay on the control board.  There are two of them on each Cruisair compressor unit – one controls the cooling cycle, the other the heat cycle.  
The Two Yellow Arrows Point to the Triac Switches....the One for Heating
 Was Functional but the Cooling Switch Was Not....Se We Swapped Them.

Dan removed the one for cooling and swapped it with the heating Triac…and voila, the thing started working.  That means we still needed to source a new Triac for the heating side, but that most certainly is not a priority right now in south Florida, and those things are cheap compared to a whole new control board.  Dan is now officially Rick’s favorite marine electrician.

By Tuesday, 31-March one of our last punch list items remaining was servicing the windlass gearbox.  A proper maintenance curriculum calls for draining and refilling its gearbox with 90W gear oil every three years and that was now due.  There is a (mostly accessible) drain plug, but getting it refilled was another story.  The manual for the hydraulic Maxwell 3500 indicated the entire motor assembly had to be dropped for that part of the operation (their assumption being you would also replace seals.)  But Glen & Rob from Yacht Tech have a technique of pumping oil into the sight glass cavity, and while a bit messy it gets the job done.  Rob and Rick fired up the wing engine and hydraulics, ran the anchor through a few up/down cycles, double-checked the oil level in the sight glass and called it a success.
The Hydraulic Windlass Motor....Which is Located in the Chain Locker at the Bow of the Boat.
How Glen Crawled into the Chain Locker is Best Left to the Imagination.
The Same is True for How He Got Out of There.
On Tuesday evening Yacht Tech owner James Knight stopped by for a courtesy visit, and given how hectic his world has been, we were quite appreciative.  James had returned from Washington state (where Yacht Tech was branching out) about a week ago and had gone into a self-imposed quarantine while awaiting his Covid-19 test results.  We celebrated his negative results with Goombay Ghosts and entertaining conversation, and as usual James had some thoughtful advice on the few remaining maintenance items for Ghost Rider.
James and Chelle Aboard Ghost Rider
While the weather had been very pleasant since we left Fort Myers back on 12-March, on Wednesday, 01-April we awoke to even better conditions.  A mild cold front had passed through overnight, and after a brief rain shower in the wee hours left a cooler and drier air mass behind.  Temps stayed in the 70’s all day with humidity hovering around 44%, which by south Florida standards is quite dry.  After Rick hosed down and mopped the boat we shut down the A/C and opened hatches and doors.  The perfect weather was a bit mocking since there was no place to go.  Coincidentally, that same day the governor of Florida finally got his act together and reluctantly, under pressure, issued a state-wide “stay-at-home” order, which effectively shut down all non-essential businesses.  As it turns out, that did not include Yacht Tech.

Testing the Boat’s Bonding System
In the previous blog entry we had briefly mentioned at its conclusion that Rick wanted to determine just how well the boat’s bonding system was performing.  A vessel’s bonding system is what keeps its various metal components that are immersed in sea water (a very good electrolyte) from acting like battery terminals and corroding to a quickly dissolving death.  Technically speaking, that’s called galvanic corrosion.  The concept is simple – connect all those metal parts (bronze thru-hulls, stainless steel shafts and rudders) to a much less noble metal (one or more zinc anodes) and make that less expensive chunk of metal the sacrificial device.  A small slab of zinc (or aluminum) is a lot cheaper and easier to swap out than a thru-hull, shaft, rudder or engine block.
The Always Handy Multimeter and Reference Electrode Assembly. The
Latter Needs Enough Cable Length to Go Over the Side & Into the Water.

Ghost Rider’s bonding system consists of #8 green AWG wires and copper plate straps that run fore and aft on either side of the hull.  These are connected at several locations to embedded through-the-hull terminals fitted with 4” x 8” sacrificial zinc anode plates.  (Prop shafts have their own “donut” zinc collars.)  Then, inside the hull, all metallic parts and thru hull fittings touching water are connected together with more #8 AWG (tinned & stranded copper) that are branched off the fore and aft wire and copper runs. 

While we’ve never observed galvanic corrosion damage or uneven wearing of zinc anodes, Rick was curious.  A bonding system check is properly conducted using a “reference electrode” (usually with a silver-chloride element); it gets immersed in the water around the boat and its long cable plugs into the negative port of a multimeter; the positive probe of the meter is then connected to the (hopefully) protected metal component, and the meter then displays the voltage delta.  On a fiberglass boat protected with zinc anodes the meter should register from -550 to -1100 mV per ABYC standards, though Steve D’Antonio prefers a more conservative range of -750 to -1100 mV.  (And it’s worth noting that the adequacy of any boat’s bonding system can only be tested with the boat in the water.)
Testing in Progress on the A/C Raw Water Through-Hull.

The readings Rick took (initially just on three thru-hulls) on Ghost Rider were in the sweet spot, all at -940 mV.  Theoretically at least, all such readings should be identical if all the connections to the boat’s bonding system are solid and consistent. Likewise, the readings should remain the same when taken first with the shore power cord disconnected, and then again when shore power is re-connected to the boat’s electrical system – that’s a comparative that tests whether the vessel’s galvanic isolator device is doing its job.  And those also looked good on our meter readings for Ghost Rider.  If you are a boat nerd, want to know more about marine corrosion, and have time on your hands (who doesn’t during the current lockdown?) the ABYC webinar video at this LINK is edifying.

We still have a few punch list items to address, but both scheduling and obtaining parts are getting to be a challenge.  We hope to have a better idea of what will be possible early next week.  Stay tuned and stay safe.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

March 2020: Madness & Maintenance

Foreword:  Just because we are still blogging please don’t think we aren’t taking the Covid-19 situation seriously.  We, like you, don’t know how bad things may yet get, or how long this all will last.  We will follow the facts and science, and accept that the recommended social distancing and hygiene practices not only benefit ourselves, but also our family, friends and neighbors.  There’s nothing like a crisis to inform whether your priorities, principles and values are correctly defined and aligned.  Eventually we’ll all get an expensive & painful lesson on how (and how not) to deal with a pandemic.  Perhaps more importantly, we’ll get an important reminder of what real leadership looks like and how its absence can be fatal.  For now Ghost Rider has become our lifeboat, and we need to take good care of her.  The blog is just our therapy. 

Even before we had arrived at Loggerhead Marina in Palm Beach Gardens we had received word from All Hands and Hearts (AHAH, LINK) that they were shutting down their relief efforts at Marsh Harbour in the Bahamas for at least two months.  This of course was one of many ripple effects of the emerging pandemic, and it also affected all of the AHAH relief sites around the globe.  At a minimum that meant that we would not be hauling supplies to them as originally planned.  And other changes were obviously in the works as travel restrictions evolved and businesses shuttered, including many ports and marinas….both across the Bahamas and the Florida Keys.
Looking Down "B" Dock at Loggerhead Marina in Palm Beach Garden
Practically speaking, as of this posting date we’d been in our own self-isolating lock-down on Ghost Rider for 18 days (since 11-March).  Other than an evening with good friends Bernie and Sylvia in Jupiter, and one round of golf for Chelle at their private club before it closed down, our only outside contacts have been with fellow Nordhavn owners at the marina a few guys working on the boat here at Loggerhead Marina (LINK).

We had no clue where we would go next, nor when, so we mainly focused on our maintenance punch list with a lot of help from the capable folks at Yacht Tech (LINK).  But in spite of the new social distancing norms now in place we also had the opportunity to make more Nordhavn friends.  Also on Loggerhead’s “B” dock were three other Nordies:  N40 Intrepid (Dave & Amy), N40 Barefoot Girl (Joe & Carol) and N68 Migration (George & Marci).  While all of us stayed busy during the day, it was always enjoyable to gather for docktails and a sunset to wrap up an evening....even with the physical buffer zones in place.
Docktails...from Left to Right: Dave, Chelle, Amy, Joe & Carol.

Maintenance – Part I
As for Ghost Rider’s punch list, first up was replacing the raw water pump on the main engine.  Technically it was due only for an impeller replacement, but we couldn’t see a way to do that with the pump still on the engine.  So Rick had purchased a whole new pump assembly and Casey from Yacht Tech did the grunt work swapping out the pumps.  The old unit is now a spare (it and the impeller still looked new.)

Two other major service items that had also come due were the valve clearance adjustments for both the main engine and the wing engine.  While not rocket science, it was Rick’s practice to team with an experienced mechanic on the first attempt at things like that.  Yacht Tech recommended local diesel mechanic Tommy Tubbs for the project and we spent an entire morning in the engine room with wrenches and feeler gauges getting the two jobs done in accordance with the specs in the Lugger service manuals.    Since he had removed the fan shrouds for access to the crankshaft pulley, Rick took that opportunity to check the belt conditions and tighten the belt tension for both alternators.
Making the Valve Clearance Adjustments on the Main Engine

Surprisingly the smaller wing engine was a tad more challenging – there was a bit less room to work in that corner of the engine room, but manually turning the crankshaft for valve positioning wasn’t possible without removing the PTO’s hydraulic pump.  We said no thanks to that.  Instead Tommy rigged a remote starter switch by tapping into the starter’s hot wire in the engine-mounted relay/fuse box, and we used that to kick the crankshaft to position the valve lifts.  After all adjustments were done and reassembly conmpleted, we ran each engine for a spell at RPM to check for valve cover gasket leaks.  All looked good.

While we were waiting on parts for a couple of other punch list projects Rick attacked some smaller items on his own:  updating the electronic charts on the Furuno and Nobeltec systems; pulling two engine instrument clusters to clean and tighten some gauge connectors; performing the annual maintenance on the crane davit; and installing two more smoke/fire detectors – one in the lazarette and one in the bow thruster compartment.  The latter completed our goal of having such a detector in any “out of sight” compartment and behind every electrical panel that housed either machinery or wiring, in addition to all the living & crew spaces on the boat.
Dan from Yacht Tech Working on the Engine Room Fan Rewiring Project

By Tuesday, 24-March some of our parts arrived and that allowed Dan from Yacht Tech to work on the next project, which was to modify the wiring on our two big Delta-T engine room cooling fans.  The goal was to integrate these with the boat’s fire suppression shutdown system.  It was a safety issue that had been nagging at Rick since we bought the boat – the two fans at the forward end of the engine room would shut down (along with the main engine and the generator) when the fire suppression system was triggered (tested), but the big fans in the rear kept spinning; not what you want if you ever have a real fire down there.  Dan installed a junction box to tap into the AC power feeding the forward fans, then ran a wire from there back to rear fan DC power switch through a relay box fused at 30 amps.  Worked like a charm.

While Dan was routing, connecting and heat shrinking wires Rick went to work on a small issue with our Force 10 gas stove.  One of its three burners would light but not stay that way, extinguishing as soon as its control knob was released.  That typically means a bad thermocouple, but we had not been able to source one (out of production.)  Fortunately Bob at Yacht Tech had an old stove sitting on the shelf for cannibalizing and he scavenged one out of that.  Replacing it required removing 15 screws and the three burners to get at the damned thing. Rick likely set a record for the longest time for that disassembly, but the swap-out was successful.

Old AP Control Head on the Left, New One on the Right.
We also had one of the local diver shops come out and give Ghost Rider’s gear and hull below the waterline a good cleaning.  He reported only mild fouling on the bottom, anodes in good shape and no barnacles on the running gear.

Next up for Rick was to replace the autopilot control head on the fly bridge, an old Raymarine ST6001+ unit.  While it was still functioning well enough, its display was discoloring with a bad case of LCD burn and was getting exceedingly difficult to read.  We found a good used unit on eBay (another discontinued item you can’t find new), the swap-out was relatively painless, and it tested with the autopilot computer without issues.

About that same time we experienced an unexpected system issue – this one beginning with an odd pulsating sound from the vicinity of the lazarette followed by the pungent smell of burned wiring.  That odor always gets your undivided attention. Rick scrambled to turn off all the breakers on the AC power breaker panel and we began the sleuthing.  The odor was definitely strongest in the laz, so Rick grabbed the infrared heat gun, flashlight and a fire extinguisher, emptied that compartment into the cockpit and started poking around in earnest. 
The Fried A/C Control Board.  The Green Arrow Points to the
Melted Pigtail, the Yellow Arrow to the Separated Circuit.
After eliminating some systems (inverter/charger, batteries) and putting those back online, eventually we concluded the source was almost certainly one of the port side A/C compressors.  So we decided to leave those electrically isolated and opened the boat for fresh air ventilation for that night.  Thankfully it was a pleasant evening with just enough breeze to keep us comfortable.

The next day Rick started pulling apart control boards for those two A/C compressors looking for internal evidence of arcing and burning.  The innards of the big unit for the salon looked fine, but the board and pigtail plug for the master stateroom unit definitely had problems – with the control box cover removed, that lingering pungent smell was obvious; one circuit had separated from the board with obvious heat issues, and one corner of the pigtail connector was melted.  Rob from Yacht Tech stopped by to take a look and he discovered a leaking raw water hose connection (loose clamps) that likely created the whole damned problem.  As he worked on tightening those Rick went hunting in his box of spares for another control board – we had saved one when we replaced the pilot house A/C unit two years ago.  But that one turned out to be faulty, too.  Humbug.  A new board has been ordered.  In the meantime we were able to safely restart the other three A/C units and keep the boat comfortable.
The Yellow Arrows Point to the Vicinity of the Sump Pump Mounted on
the Inside of This Cabinet Enclosure. Not a Fun Place to Get Your Head Stuck.

Back when we first arrived at Loggerhead Marina, Chelle was cleaning the shower pan in the master suite and realized that while the sump pump was running, it was not draining the pan.  That typically means the pump’s diaphragm is shot, so Rick went to work on removing that (as usual, it was in a limited access space), and gave the specs to Yacht Tech so they could source a new replacement.  Supply chain disruptions are real – it took seven days to get the new pump and in the interim we used the forward (guest) shower.  But we finally received the new pump (plus a spare!)  on Friday, 27-March, and despite the boat yoga required, Rick got that installed and operational without too much cursing.
Another DC Fan Mounted in the Pilot House

That same day Rick finally got around to installing another Caframo DC-powered fan in the pilot house.  That space, with all its glass, can feel like a greenhouse on sunny days, and up to now we had been using a small AC-powered portable fan to help push and circulate cool air emitting from the A/C discharge vent that was tucked into a far corner.  But that portable unit often interfered with our access to the big freezer chest in the same vicinity, and Chelle had finally said “no more of that.”  After tapping into the wiring for a nearby LED reading light and drilling a few mounting holes, we finally had a more permanent and elegant solution.

On Saturday, 28-March we mostly relaxed.  Chelle took a break from the banzai cleaning spree she had been on during this maintenance stop, and we slept late, sunned on the boat deck, read our latest books, and fiddled with the blog.  Rick did “work” for an hour or so, but it was on a “curiosity project”….which was to find out just how well the boat’s bonding system was performing.  We’ll have more on that and additional maintenance activities in the next blog post.  Stay tuned, and in the meantime, y’all stay safe and sane.
Dave & Amy's N40 Intrepid Parked Off Our Bow at Loggerhead
Joe & Carol's N40 Barefoot Girl at the Other End of "B" Dock
George & Marci's N68 Migration Heading Out for Some Tests.  If the Name Sounds Familiar....Their Nordhavn Holds the
Record for the Northern-most Latitude Visited by a Private Powerboat (81N).