Saturday, February 5, 2022

Jan 2022: Situating the New Boat

Like everyone else on the planet, we had to slog through a variety of supply chain challenges, so it required about five months to get the new house where we wanted it – furnished to our tastes, with a 24 KW whole-house generator plumbed in, but most importantly a new 20,000 pound lift installed to hoist and hold Ghost Rider.  (A timeline sequence of related photos appears at the end of this blog entry.)

The boat lift hardware came from Dolphin (LINK), Hooker Marine dismantled the old lift and assembled the new one (LINK), then NCS Electric (LINK) handled the substantial reengineering of electrical circuitry to provide 220V/50A power down to the dock and lift.  It all seems to work as planned.

Ghost Rider's New Home

At this point we had also been trying for several months to get a service call scheduled for the 100-hour service interval on Ghost Rider’s pair of Yamaha XTO 425 HP outboard engines.  Those inquiry results were subject to the same availability perils that have afflicted nearly everything else, thus, with the boat now in our back yard, Rick decided to tackle the maintenance himself. 

The Yamaha 425 XTO engine is a relatively new outboard power option (about three years since its USA introduction), thus it was no surprise that procuring all the required parts and supplies turned out to be another (continuing?) challenge.  The service manual took a month to obtain, and the water pump kit (not actually needed this time) was a two-month backorder.  On the other hand, the plumbing kit for the lower unit oil change was nowhere to be found – even Yamaha, Inc. could not provide an ETA for that piece of kit.

The Yamaha XTO 425 Engines...Which Weigh
About 1,000 Pounds Each

There are many cool new features with this engine – electronic steer-by-wire, direct fuel injection, triple exhaust ports, high output charging system, and generally overbuilt hardware components (not to mention the 425 horsepower studly output) – and another is a very unique lower unit plumbing system that allows for in-the-water gear oil changes.  Or more specifically, one can change oil from within the boat with the right equipment.  Rick really wanted to test that out as he wasn’t keen on trying to balance the kayak while bobbing behind the boat lift and juggling tools, drain pan, o-rings, oil bottles, etc.  Those days of such dexterity are long gone.

The Quick-Connect Hydraulic Fittings
Required for the Gear Oil System
Failure to find the required $150 “Gear Oil Attachment Kit” (Yamaha part number 90890-06963) meant we had to get creative; fortunately, it turns out the couplings and fittings can be found at most hydraulic supply shops, and even with adding in a few clamps and a length of hose, our home-made cost was under $50.

 Yamaha Maintenance

While Rick had been performing the annual upkeep duties on the Nordhavn’s small 25 HP Yamaha 4-stroke outboard that powered the small dinghy, that was a toy compared to the big XTO.   But the basic principles of OB maintenance remained the same….engine oil and oil filter changes, lower unit gear oil change, primary and secondary fuel filter replacements, new spark plugs and (occasionally) a water pump impeller. 

An OEMTOOLS brand vacuum extraction pump (2.5 gallon capacity, LINK) made short work of draining each engine’s oil sump through the dipstick tube, although two additional engine panels must be removed to find & change out the oil filter.  After disposing of the used engine oil (about 4.2 gallons total), the same extraction pump was used to drain each motor’s lower unit via our home-made gear oil attachment kit; refilling with 1.5 quarts (each) of the 90W gear oil via a small hand pump was a bit more work, but even that was fairly quick. 

The Vacuum Extraction Pump (yellow arrow) Drawing Out the Engine Oil via the Dipstick (red arrow), with the Oil Filter Nestled Just Below That (green arrow)

The Same Extraction Pump (yellow arrow) Sucking Out the Lower Unit Gear Oil.  You Can
See the Quick-connect Hydraulic Fittings on the Air/Vent Connection (orange arrow)
and the Fill/Drain Tube (green arrow)

Next up was installing the four new fuel filters – the two big water separators, and then the on-engine filter elements.  The only “gotcha” occurred when Rick went to turn the fuel selector switches back on to their respective fuel tank positions; the one for the starboard engine was nearly frozen, only moving in one direction.  It took a week to find a replacement 3-way valve and the correctly shaped/sized hose barbs, but in the end it was a fairly straightforward swap-out.

The New Design for the On-Engine Fuel Filter Element is Pretty Slick....It Just Pops Out & Pulls Away from its Mounting Bracket (yellow arrow), and Then an Easy Screw Cap Design Exposes the Paper Element (green arrow.)  No Need to Remove the Water-Sensing Wire.
The New 3-Way Fuel Selector Valve Being Installed for the Starboard Engine.  We Switched to the Moeller Brand for This One, Hoping It Will last Longer Than the OEM Part Did.

Other Punch List Items

A rather big to-do that we had been putting off was troubleshooting an intermittent XM Weather issue that had finally gone fully dead.  The mushroom antenna and its leads looked to be secure and intact, so our next guess was the “Power and Audio module” that connects the antenna to both the Fusion stereo (for XM/Sirius radio) and to the Garmin MFD (for the multiple weather display options), as well as to the DC power wiring.  Of course, that thing was well-hidden inside the boat’s motorized electronics box, requiring some interesting disassembly.

After Removing the Hinges at the Rear of the Electronics Box & Disconnecting its Lifting Rod, We Cut the Zip Ties on the Wiring Bundles to Create Some Slack, and then Flipped It Over to Allow Access Inside.  The XM Power Module is Hidden Under the Lid (yellow arrow), and the Wiring Tunnel Runs Down (direction of the red arrow) to the Void Behind the Circuit Breaker Panel in the Cabin.

It took us most of an afternoon (and it’s a two-person job to get the electronics box disconnected and flipped over), but eventually we got the old power module removed and the new one attached.  Connections were straightforward except for the power lead and ground wire; fishing that down through wire tunnel and into the void behind the cabin’s circuit breaker panel required some patience, a lucky aim and a couple of pulled muscles.  But once the reassembly was complete, it all powered up as designed and after a signal refresh, the weather data stream began flowing once again.

A few other punch list items we also got to this past month included: 

 * Repatching a hole in the middle of the transom; this was a survey item that identified a poorly caulked (and below-the-water-line) opening for the transducer cable; Rick used an entire tube of JB Water Weld epoxy (good stuff).

 * Installing permanent mounts for the fire extinguishers in the galley, head & helm areas.

 * The semi-annual fresh water rinsing of the fuel tank surfaces beneath the cockpit decking.

 * Securing some loose A/C ducting to silence a rattle in the mid-cabin area (duct tape to the rescue.)

 * And finally – and somewhat painfully given the lousy quality of Garmin’s horrid update utilities – updating all nav/comm software and charts.

Still on the punch list are some repairs to a few gelcoat chips where it appears the previous owner got a bit too frisky when beaching the boat.  Given labor shortages and the screwy supply chain, and since those are below the waterline and not particularly noticeable, that may be something we attack ourselves.


We’ve got kids & grandkids visiting for a large portion of February and into March, so we’re hoping to get some beneficial boat time and some local fishing trips in soon.

And as mentioned in our last post, we have some lengthier sorties planned for May (the Southern Loop); and in June (Key Largo and the near Bahamas); and also in July (back down to KCB in the Keys for more fishing.)  Hurricane season, as usual, will dictate what comes after all that, and we’ll keep y’all posted on all of it.

To conclude, here are some sequenced shots of all the dock and lift work:

Day 1: Removing the Old Lift
Day 2: Elevating and Extending a Portion of the Dock
Day 3: Setting Pilings for the New Lift
Day 4: More on the Dock Extension and Pilings
Day 5:  Finished with Dock, Ready for Lift Components
Day 6 Midday: Constructing the Lift
Day 6 End-of-Day: Good Progress on the Lift
Day 7: Lift Work Completed....But No Electrical Yet
Some Days Later: Electrical Crew Gets to Work
Complete: Getting the Bunks Spaced Properly and Adjusting the Four Lift Motors Took Some Time, But It Was Worth It.


  1. Finally! Another Blog. I've been Jonesing for one for the past couple months.

    The lift looks great as does the New GR. (I was hoping for "Tide Pirate II", but okay...) At least the slight currents in your canal won't silt the bottom up like it did under your old lift on the river.

    Enjoy your Family Time in the ensuing weeks. Starship is buried several boats deep in climate-controlled storage in Michigan. I think this is the longest I've gone without waxing a boat in years. (Feels good...)

  2. Come visit to warm up & we’ll go for a spin.