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).

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