Wednesday, July 1, 2020

June 2020: Routine Maintenance (Mostly)

Foreword:  We’re still hanging out in Fort Myers and still mostly lying low, trying to avoid the unmasked morons when we do get out.  As social unrest and outrage gets layered on top of a pandemic, the pandemonium amplifies.  And just when we thought federal & state governments couldn’t possibly get any more abject & inept, they managed to prove us wrong.  It’s like someone combined 1918 with 1968 and then put the inmates in charge of the asylum.  But as we predicted back in March, that's what happens in leadership vacuums.

The same caveat that led off last month's blog entry applies this month as's all about upkeep and projects -- of interest only to boat geeks and perhaps some gearheads with time on their hands.  We've had no problem keeping busily occupied.

Regular Maintenance
The Main Engine's ZF Transmission with Dipstick and Fill Plug Removed,
Ready to be Drained.
First up was an oil and filter change for the transmission on the main engine.  The book says that comes due at 1,000 hours of run time or annually, whichever comes first.  We were nowhere close to the run time threshold, but it had been about a year, so it was time.  But thanks to the Reverso electric oil change pump and the way Nordhavn plumbed that, this is a pretty straightforward operation.  You do have to move a two-way valve on the main engine to direct the Reverso plumbing to the tranny (rather than the engine’s oil sump), but after that it only takes a few minutes to pump out the old oil.

While the ops manual for the ZF 280 transmission states oil capacity is 1.3 gallons we actually pumped out 1.5 gallons….that’s because on a continuous-duty diesel engine (in this case our Lugger 6108) there is a transmission oil cooler tucked under the usual heat exchanger and that additional plumbing requires additional oil capacity.  Rick wasn’t sure when the transmission’s filter screen was last removed for cleaning, so to be safe he purchased a new one and installed that before refilling with new oil.  The old one, however, looked almost pristine, so it went into the spare parts bin.
New & Old Tranny Oil Screens on the Left; It
Takes a Big Socket to Remove & Install.
We use straight 40W Shell Rotella T-1 motor oil for the ZF tranny (30W is an option for cooler climates) to stay compliant with manufacturer specifications.  While the Reverso system is capable of adding as well as extracting oil, Rick prefers to add oil manually through the standard oil fill port using a funnel….using the same Reverso hose that drains the unit might reintroduce used oil contaminants, so why chance that?

Verifying that you’ve added enough new oil back into the tranny isn’t exactly intuitive, however – the dipstick markings are calibrated without regard for the additional oil capacity that the oil cooler plumbing requires.  Thus one has to start the engine, pop the throttle handle briefly into forward and reverse to circulate the oil, shut down, and then within 60 seconds or less return to the engine room to check the oil level on the dipstick – before the oil cooler lines can drain back into the tranny, and that level should be at the normal “full” mark.  When checking the transmission oil level on a cold engine that’s been sitting it should actually be above that full mark, and it’s wise to note that level on the dipstick.

The Transmission Oil Cooler (Yellow Arrow) and the Two Oil
Cooler Hoses (Red Arrows).
Shortly after the tranny oil change trigger fired in our Wheelhouse software, so did the one for the wing engine – same deal, an annual reminder.  Any oil, regardless of quality or composition, has a finite shelf life….inside an engine (or an open container for that matter) the oil begins to lose its key lubricating and protection properties at about the one year mark, regardless of engine runtime hours.  Theoretically, at least, one could take an oil sample and have it lab tested for efficacy, and extend that interval given positive test results.  (And actually that’s a good idea at certain intervals anyway, since such a lab test can detect chemicals and elements that may portend internal wear issues.)  The problem, however, is you really don’t know for how much longer that oil with retain its protective properties…unless you keep testing it.  In the end, an oil and filter change is cheaper, easier and more reliable.  Why risk equipment that (depending on which engine) costs between $25,000 and $40,000 for the nominal costs of some oil and a filter?
Oil Change on the L984 Wing Engine; the
Yellow Arrow Points to the Oil Filter.

Once again the Reverso oil change pump made this a fairly simple task….flip a couple of switches, pump the old oil into a couple of empty containers, drop the old oil filter into a baggie, grab a new filter and spin it on, then add 9.5 quarts of Delo 10W-40 into the Lugger 984.  Done….all of that takes only 15 minutes.  Then there’s another 15 minutes for cleanup and disposal.

Project Work
Next up was a small project that had been on the “eventually” list for quite some time: to replace Ghost Rider’s anchor light with an LED bulb.  The reason is simple – in more normal times Nordhavns tend to spend a lot of time at anchor running on battery power only, and from sunset to sunrise the anchor light must be illuminated.  The LED bulb should last longer, draw a lot less battery juice and theoretically also be brighter than the standard incandescent bulb.  Unfortunately this project requires climbing on top of the radar arch and balancing there with one hand while using the other for disassembling the housing and swapping bulbs.  The trick is to buy a quality LED (we chose the “Dr. LED” brand on Defender), then pick a calm day, bring a ladder to minimize pulled muscles, and then proceed slowly and deliberately. Rick managed to pull it off without getting dizzy or falling.

The anchor light on Ghost Rider (red circle) is approximately 22 feet above the waterline.  Standing atop the radar
 arch is not something we want to attempt in a rolly anchorage.
Another project on the “eventually” list was getting to the less-optional stage, and that was to replace two duckbill valves in a very tight space located behind the clothes dryer.  These two duckbills are at the top of the anti-siphon loops for the black water pump-out and guest toilet thru-hull discharges, and these two were way overdue for servicing; a failure of an anti-siphon valve could result in an influx of seawater, perhaps even a backflow of effluent – either would be bad news.  While we regularly serviced the five other and easily accessible duckbill valves on the boat (master head, wing engine, generator, etc.) these two required some creativity to access them.
Access Panel Removed...Revealing the Back Half of the Clothes Dryer
that Prevents Any Kind of Access to the Well Hidden Anti-Siphon Valves.

First, an access panel in the guest stateroom had to be opened up, followed by removing nine anchoring screws for the dryer (front & back sides), and then pulling the dryer out about 12 inches into the stairway space that connects the pilot house to the stateroom level.  That gave Rick enough room to angle his shoulders through the small access panel and squeeze into the cramped space behind the dryer; removing the old intake caps and duckbills and replacing with new ones was the easy part.  Reassembly was mercifully undemanding.  Generally speaking the architects at Nordhavn are good at designing sturdy boats with thoughtful maintenance access to most serviceable components….but not in this case.
Unfastening & Pulling Out the Dryer into the Companionway.
With The Dryer Pulled Out We Now Had Access to the Two
Anti-Siphon Duckbill Valves (Yellow Arrows).
Yet another project (actually decision) coming due was what to do about an expiring EPIRB battery at the end of June.  The “Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon” is an indispensable piece of safety equipment, particularly when out of VHF radio range.  Capable of beaming SAR GPS distress signals via satellite (along with a Guard channel homing beacon) for 48 hours of continuous signaling, no blue water boater departs the dock without one.  The thing works anywhere on the planet.  Unfortunately the older EPIRB models utilize batteries that expire after five years, at which time they require servicing by an authorized dealer – the batts are technically not user replaceable.
Our Wet Locker is Pretty Packed with Safety
Gear.  Yellow Arrow Points to the New EPIRB,
the Green Arrow to the Old One in the Ditch Bag.
Given that the cost of that service is about half what a new EPIRB costs, and that the latest models have ten year batts which are user-replaceable, we opted to just purchase a new one, an ACR 2831 GlobalFix V4 model.  We mounted this one in the pilot house wet locker, where most of our safety equipment resides – life raft, ditch bag, signaling devices, first aid kit, life vests, throw bag, etc. – and still kept the old one in the ditch bag’s side pocket.  Both are registered with NOAA as Ghost Rider-specific SARSAT devices.  (LINK.)

Periodically we also have to pay attention to the ship’s navigation computer.  From a hardware perspective that’s a reliable device (a Silverstone 12 volt small form factor computer), but unfortunately its operating system is Windows 10 Pro – the TZ Pro navigation software won’t run on anything else.  And that is decidedly not a good OS for what is essentially a 24-by-7 mission critical system.  The Win10 OS likes to “phone home” rather frequently for all sorts of software updates, and we’ve mastered rather surreptitious techniques for bypassing that disruptive behavior while underway; but occasionally when time allows – as when we are stuck in port – it’s a good idea to backup that PC and then let it go through its update procedures…and then test the hell out of it to be sure it didn’t break anything important.
The Ship's 12V Navigation PC is Tucked Under the
Pilot House Console...Which is Fine Until You Need to
Take it Apart to Swap Out Memory (RAM) DIMMs.

So we allowed the OS upgrade itself to the latest release (dated April 2020), which took a couple of hours across several reboots, then regression tested, and thankfully most things looked good afterwards.  It did completely break the non-essential “Stereo Mix” feature that we like to use for our MP3 music library when at anchor or the dock (allows for concurrent use of hardwired and wireless Bluetooth speakers); and it disabled the Open Shell software (we use it to configure Win10 to look more like Win7); but at least all the important navigation features and interfaces remained ops normal.  Rick eventually dug up an older Realtek audio driver that restored Stereo Mix functionality, and then reinstalled the latest version of Open Shell to regain our preferred look & feel of the start menu and desktop.  Rick also took the down-time opportunity to tear into the computer’s innards and upgrade its random access memory from 8GB to 16GB, which should improve overall response time of the ship’s PC going forward.
The Windows 10 System Info Reflects the Upgraded RAM and the New Version of the OS.

Break/Fix Opportunities
Of course no month of boat ownership would be complete without some break/fix activity to drain the wallet and shame the budget.  We found two of those this month.

The first was yet another air conditioning system fault – rather suddenly we had no less than three air handler units intermittently tossing “HI PS” (high pressure) errors, which typically means low flow of raw water cooling to the compressors.  The pathetic dribbles emitting from the thru-hull seawater discharges confirmed that issue, but the question was why – or more precisely, where in the plumbing was the blockage?  Given the suddenness of the problem, and that we had acid washed the A/C plumbing just four months ago, plus the fact that the A/C strainer basket was clear of any obstruction, we were pretty sure the clog was in or near the thru-hull inlet….under the hull.
The A/C Thru-Hull...After Closing the Valve (Red Arrow), Removing the Hose
(Green Arrow), and Unscrewing the Elbow (Yellow Arrow), Rick then
Reopened the Valve.  Should Have Been a Geyser -- and Was Not.

Rick closed that valve, removed the hose and its 90 degree elbow, then slowly re-opened the thru-hull – what should have been a three foot geyser of seawater into the lazarette was barely the equivalent of a water bubbler.  Something was blocking flow on the bottom of the hull, and no amount of auguring with a screwdriver was making any difference.  Nuts.

We placed a call to our diver service (LINK) and requested an off-schedule visit, and a day later one of their divers arrived, dove under the boat and dug out a handful of detritus from the protective grate on the thru-hull intake: a few tiny fish, a small seaweed salad, some cellophane, and a plastic bag.  And that’s what restored normal flow and A/C operations.  

Lastly, we developed a surprise problem with the boat’s crane….and a nasty one at that.  On one of our periodic walk-around inspections of the boat we discovered a stream of hydraulic fluid leaking from the base of the crane, making quite a mess on the boat deck.  After removing the inspection panels on the base the culprit was immediately obvious: the hydraulic reservoir tank had rusted through in a fairly large area. 
The Polished Stainless Crane/Davit Looks Good on the Outside....

For now that leaves us with no mechanism for launching or retrieving the dinghy.  Rick has manually pumped out the remaining hydraulic oil (about two gallons) to prevent more deck messes, and is researching equipment manuals and potential service centers for help in figuring out next steps.  The solution is not likely to be straightforward or inexpensive.  But that’s a topic for a future post.
....But Inside the Base its Hydraulic Reservoir Tank Has Rusted Through.
But Ghost Rider Still Looks Good After a Thorough Shampoo and Rinse to Close Out June.


  1. Was wondering when the next Update was coming...Depending on the complexity of the repair I have to read thru it two or three times before I get a grip on the story line.

    Terri, not unlike Michelle, has become pretty slick in the hair trimming dept. It sounds counter-intuitive, but I'm guessing she trims more length off my hair than Chelle does yours.

    In any case,it's good to get the latest from you two. Glad your OK.

    1. A toast to our soulmates for keeping us out of the petri dishes known as salons & barber shops!

  2. Rick & Chelle - so glad for the update during all this crazy. Virginia is stupid hot and humid (she says to the people in FL). "Back to school" is also nuts ... remembering Rick's face many years ago when I asked, "can't you just LOOK at my computer?" LOL We've adopted 3 "COVID kittens" in the midst of all this: Smoke, Ash and Raz. Smoke is all boy, and never met a bit of trouble that he didn't dive into while purring as hard as he can. Raz is a petite and dainty little girl, rules the boys with an iron paw and is the first to leap where angels dare not tread. Ash is Mama's boy, sweet and a big fluffy bear. So they are good distraction. Sending best wishes - stay safe out amongst the crazies.

  3. Hi Jen!

    Your wx has been a lot like south FLA…hot, humid, and daily storms to make it…more humid. Any way you time it, if you walk outside you get wet. Enjoy the cats, has been good to see adoptions trending up these whacky days, rare good news. Stay sane.