About us and the boat

About us and the boat:

We were lucky enough to retire early at the start of 2013 so we could head off and "live the dream" on board our Nordhavn 47 Trawler Yacht. The idea is to see some of the planet, at a slow 6 - 7 knots pace. There are no fixed goals or timings, we just had a plan to visit Scotland and then probably the Baltic before heading south.

The Baltic has been postponed as we didn't manage to see everything we wanted to in Scotland during our first year owing to family issues. The idea is to visit the nicer areas in these latitudes before heading south for warmer weather. If we like somewhere, we will stay for a while. If not, we will just move on. So, for the people who love forward planning and targets, this might seem a little relaxed!

If anyone else is contemplating a trawler yacht life, maybe our experiences will be enough to make you think again, or maybe do it sooner then you intended!

The boat is called Rockland and she is built for long distance cruising and a comfortable life on board too. If you want to see more about trawler yachts and the Nordhavn 47 in particular, there is a link to the manufacturers website in our "useful stuff" section. For the technically minded, there is a little info and pictures of the boat and equipment in the same section


Richard and June

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Winter maintenance and pottering

When the days get shorter, wetter and windier, thoughts do turn to all those "little jobs" that are on the list but had no chance of being done during the cruising season. And then some new ones pop up of course....

Where to start is the question. Well, initially we wanted to fit an external breather to the vented loops. We loathe and detest the stupid plastic Jabsco things that were fitted in the factory:

Firstly because the two fitted on the aft heads and grey water pump are pretty inaccessible. Secondly because the little rubber duck bill fits inside a plastic screw on cap:

When you screw that cap tightly enough to stop leaks past the threads, it can distort the duck bill insert and cause that to leak instead.

So, some chromed brass fittings were procured, suitable holes drilled in the walkway area with a hole saw (carefully!!), and vent pipes led down to the hated Jabsco fittings. A great time to discover that one of them had a small crack in the casing. Cue a temporary epoxy job. Grr.

The power panel had also started to do funny things. Initially, it looked like the inverters were failing (ouch!) Here is the panel:

The incoming genset supply shows 228 volts. The power being "passed through" the inverter to the consumers shows 209 volts. Bit of a problem! However, when the heating / air conditioning system was fed from the inverters, it showed a healthy 228 volts as per the picture. So, not likely to be the physical inverter causing trouble then. Maybe the cabling to the consumers fed via the "inverter panel"? Well, checking the voltage at one of the plug sockets, it was fine. Opening up the power panel, the errant voltage gauge was getting the same full 228 v fed to it but was only displaying 209 v. It also had started to wander around by about 10 volts. A seriously sick gauge.

Once again, the Nordhavn Owners' group was a wonderful resource. The advice was that this is normally caused by a capacitor failing on a circuit board and a new one of those is three orders of magnitude cheaper than a new gauge. The trick is to replace it before it fails totally and destroys the rest of the gauge! Hence the unit was hastily unplugged.

The power panel does not look quite as professional now:

The plastic bag hanging out of the slot contains the connector plug for the sick gauge.
Just need to find someone with a fine point soldering iron now - we only have a chunkier one on board that would trash the printed circuit board.  The fine one is stored away with our furniture in Romsey (we hope). 

The offending capacitor is the closest one (the biggest black cylinder for the non electronics folks):

It hasn't all been work though. There has been a little playtime too, walking the white fluffy dogs (Pip and Poppy) the black spaniel Bronwen and having a visit from Anne and Izzy (our goddog).

The three smaller canines looked quite cute together:

Izzy took quite a shine to Pip. Quite a shine.  Shame that the poor lad had been "done" a while ago. Still, it must have done his street cred no end of good.

All was well until Izzy had chicken and cabbage for dinner. You can work the rest out for yourselves.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Automotive fun (no, the Captain isn't back at work)

We had a little excursion to the wilds of Malvern. Why? Well, firstly, there was the Morgan sports car factory to visit. Of course, the captain had spent many years involved with car production but this place is very different. No robots, no real automation, no computerisation, no proper "just in time" parts supply etc etc. It is kind of a cottage industry that just happens to produce a few cars in a most inefficient way at the end of it. Mind you, what they produce is a lot of fun:

Some of the craft skills on display, the tools and the facilities are quite unusual for a car plant too:

Yes, they do have timber frames around the passenger tub.

What else has been happening? Well, one of the things you get with a Defender (alongside water leaks, a dreadful on road ride, clunky drivetrains, built in corrosion etc etc) is an off road experience session. We picked Eastnor as a good venue and for some strange reason, invited Anne along with us. You might remember her as the crew for a trip to Guernsey a couple of years ago who was instantly sick when supplied with red berry tea by the crew. Quite understandable really. However, since the off road ride is a lot like being out to sea, red berry tea was banned.....

The day was the best. We are still in awe of what a Defender can do in novice hands with standard tyres on and how it happily crawls up slippery hills with the engine at idle in low range 3rd gear. Torque to die for.  Backing down a slippery rough hill is amusing too. The best way is to put the truck into reverse whilst holding it on the brakes. Then, switch the engine off, release the clutch and gently release the brakes. The Defender just hangs there on a 45 degree slope, held by the engine and transmission alone. To go backwards, you just start it without touching the clutch and it walks backwards downhill quite happily.

We did get it a bit muddy of course, despite the many runs through deep water to try and wash it off:

The bent front bumper was not a battle scar that we caused by the way.

Should you want to join us on a trip and hear the soothing words of the instructor, have a look at this video:

The noises from the crew can, of course, be muted if you wish..... A great location and a great day.

After so much sedentary stuff, some walking was needed. The Malvern Hills provided the necessary challenge:

Weather was kind, hills were suitably steep, just not too much boating in this post really. We will get back to that stuff soon.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Oily stuff (in the wrong place though)

Well, as the weather was nice and the boat deserved a run out, we did the huge "run around Cardiff bay" thing. Trundling up and down the bay. giving the wing engine some serious exercise and then a wide open throttle run for the big Lugger too. Afterwards we did the sad end of season bit and took the seats and covers off the flybridge. Symbolic stuff.

Now, the rest of this post is boring maintenance information. Normal folks should now stop reading and do something mind improving.

That evening, the captain noticed that the main engine had spat a little coolant into the overflow bottle. Hum. Upon checking the header tank, the bad news unfolded. There was a little clean oil on top of the coolant in there. Grr. Luckily the engine had decided to wait for the end of the cruising season to play up and as the engine is keel cooled, diagnosis is pretty simple: the O rings in the gearbox oil cooler have almost certainly started to leak a little, allowing gearbox oil under high pressure to get into the coolant. The big questions is, how much?

Well, after cleaning out the slightly contaminated header tank, the coolant that was drained from the engine block was fine. No nasty emulsified stuff at all - seems we were lucky that it chose to fail on a shorter run. A little cleaning and perhaps flushing with some dishwasher detergent in the system, a coolant change and all should be well. Just the small matter of changing the O rings in the cooler to contend with. We had the spares on board for such an eventuality too. Perhaps we should have changed them last winter as a preventative thing? Well, on keel cooled engines they are supposed to last many more hours than we have recorded so far but lesson learnt. They are now on our routine maintenance list a little more frequently than before!

Whilst the coolant level was low, the thermostats got changed too. Here are the two new ones cuddled up in their housing:

Michael, who owns Coracle, a Nordhavn 40, intends to replace his oil cooler O rings as a preventative job this winter. Hence he came along to help and so we discovered  the challenges together.

Draining down the coolant via the drain fitting on the engine block was a slow process. It resulted in some suspicious looking bags:

If you remember the story of the Liverpudlian that we bumped into at Fort William, then you will see how the sight of these brought back some unpleasant memories. The John Deere pre-mix coolant is an unfortunate colour.

The next challenge is removing the coolant pipe from the bottom of the oil cooler without drowning the small alternator. It sits in just the wrong spot and so some large plastic bags were taped into position to protect it as the hose was gently released and the residual coolant leaked out. Alternator saved, the cooler itself was removed:

and then we found the next challenge - a normal Allen Key will not undo the top end cap as there is not enough space to get it into one of the three fixings. Nothing in the tool box was going to work but luckily Michael had an extensive Dremel kit on his boat and so we cut down an old Allen key to suit. This is now an important part of our toolset!

The end caps came off relatively easily to reveal the tubestack and the offending O rings:

Nice gloves though....

The tubestack had a good clean up and then, after cleaning the casing, the work hit trouble. there were what looked like some form of stress cracks in the casing itself. Two thin ones along the length of the cooler and three smaller ones around the body - all of these were hidden between the cooler and engine when it was in position.

There had been no leaks evident (oil would be coming out under pressure onto the cooler surface) but it looked suspicious. There were two choices - get it tested by a professional outfit with the right kit or replace it. A new casing was amazingly sensibly priced via ASAP Supplies at a lower cost than a test would be so new parts were duly ordered. In fact we went wild and got a whole new cooler as that was as cheap as ordering a casing and tubestack individually. Having a spare tubestack seemed sensible somehow. The new cooler duly arrived:

was dismantled and the original end caps were fitted as they have different outlets. We also used the new O rings from Alaska Diesel, the Lugger people, rather than the ones supplied with the Bowman cooler itself. Apparently they have sourced a different material that is more forgiving of assembly issues and more durable. Let's see if they can survive a ham-fisted captain.

Of course, having a brand new tubestack means that the one we had carefully cleaned out is now a spare. Still, it had to be spruced up..........

A new coolant hose was procured and then the whole thing rebuilt. Here is the oil cooler free engine adorned with plastic bags to protect the alternator:

And with the new cooler casing, tubestack and hose:

Coolant gently refilled, gearbox oil level adjusted, we fired it up to check for issues.

Guess what...... Luck was on our side and it all looked OK. Will need to take the boat for a run and get it seriously warm to prove the point but so far, so good.