An email to Nordhavn

Below is an email that needs a bit of explanation… Nordhavn’s warranty department wrote me recently to say that they were hearing conflicting rumors as to what I wanted done with the air conditioning on my boat. My boat currently has a system by Cruisair which has never worked right. Nordhavn has been waiting patiently for my boat to arrive back in the US so that they can get it fixed, but they have also heard that I wanted to swap to a competing brand (of air conditioning). This is my response to Nordhavn…

-Ken W



My apologies for any confusion. Here’s the status with Cruisair…


As I wrote you last week, my current plan is to pull my four existing Cruisair chillers, and replace them with two Technicold (Northern Lights) chillers, with Soft starts (VFDs). I plan to install a 60,000 btu and a 36,000 btu unit. All other elements of the system, except the chillers, will remain in place.


During my call with Cruisair, Ben Haynes lobbied that he be given access to my boat, so that he can assess my problems, and give his opinion. I agreed to this, but doubt that anything will change.


Mr. Haynes did an excellent job convincing me that this was not a Cruisair problem (aside from the two chillers that are dead). I had previously blamed the TWC36C chillers for the problems, and now believe that the source of my problems were “electrical system tweaking issues”, all of which [Nordhavn’s chief technician] has said he can solve.


There are other factors which are influencing my decision:


Superstition. Although it makes no sense, I’m superstitious about equipment. If something fails repeatedly, I swap it out – even if the equipment has a good excuse. To be completely honest (and irrational): I am mad at my chillers and want them off of the boat. They have caused problems that extend well beyond personal comfort issues. I want equipment that I can trust, and I’ve lost confidence in these particular chillers.

Space. My lazarette is too crowded. I need to open up some space so that I can properly maintain the equipment. Getting rid of two chillers is one of several steps I’m taking.

I don’t like the current surges. Even if by tweaking the electrical system, we make these chillers work, it will be through doing things I am not convinced are good in the long run. For instance, I don’t understand the potential impact of running my generator at 63hz instead of 60hz, or using slower-burn breakers. I don’t really like seeing the lights dim every time a chiller cycles on. I worry about the problems being caused by the low voltage around the boat. It just seems better overall to avoid the current surges in the first place. Think about this scenario: I will be lucky to get even a single 50 amp cable at most marinas around the world. 50 amp service really means 40 amps inside the boat. Even with virtually nothing running, (I’m specifically thinking of when I leave the boat for months to fly back to the US), it is tough to run a single chiller. The start-up current draw for the TWC36C is 75 amps, in addition to any other load on the boat. I want to do all I can to reduce the potential for tripped breakers when I am not on the boat.

Maintainability. The Technicold chiller is much less sophisticated than the Cruisair chiller. Both Jeff [the guy who fixes my boat] and I had the same reaction when we saw it: “I understand this thing, and can maintain it.” The Technicold is a dumb beast with no computer of any sort associated with it. Jeff and I spent some time fiddling with a unit at Lugger in Seattle. It looked like something we could easily repair, with all the guts out in the open where we can get at them.


So, the bottom line: As promised to Mr. Haynes, I will have Cruisair take a look at my boat, and see what they think, when it arrives in Seattle. However, it will be tough to have an open mind.


On a related topic, when Jeff received my email saying that we would wait until Cruisair has a look before ordering the new chillers, his reaction was extremely negative. He informally reviewed the plan to swap to the soft-start Technicold chillers, and the other changes I’m planning, with his advisors, each of which thought we were on the right track.


All of this said, I have great respect for Cruisair, and may decide that the smart swap is to two Cruisair soft start chillers. I do not see a scenario in which I keep the four existing chillers.


-Ken W


PS All of this does assume I ever see my boat again! (which is tough to believe some days)

One Response

  1. My posting above resulted in this posting on my website:

    “…I am surprised you would post email correspondence with Nordhavn warranty on your web site. As a business man I would think your issues could and should be handled on a more confidential basis. Following all your troubles with the yacht now makes me think twice if I would buy a Nordhavn. Seems it was not designed correctly from the beginning. Certainly all new vessels have some warranty issues, but not to the extreme extent of yours. Structurally I’m sure Nordhavn’s are great, but there obviously needs to be a lot more thought put into auxillary systems. You would probably do Nordhavn a favor by not publicizing these issues, in my humble opinon….”

    My response:

    Good point, and perhaps you are right. I’ll think about it over night and see what I think. I almost didn’t post that email. Generally my policy has been to just post the good and the bad, and assume people are smart enough to form their own opinion. In this case, I wasn’t being critical of Nordhavn, and am disapointed that it could be misinterpreted that way. I would happily match my warranty repair list against that of any other manufacturer. After 6,000 miles, including a north bound passage off the coast of California, the Papagayo winds, and the Gulf of Tehuantepec, the best I can think of to whine about is that the air conditioning doesn’t work reliably. I assure you that there are owners of other brands of boats who would happily swap lists.

    And — to be completely accurate, Nordhavn, and I, knew that I had a problem before the boat was delivered, and I was in a hurry to start cruising, so I took the boat anyhow. We have planned for nearly a year to fix the issues when the boat is in Seattle. My email to them explains that rather than having them fix the current chillers, which they are happy to do, I’d rather swap them out completely. The bigger picture on my boat is that I put too much optional equipment into the lazarette. Most of the equipment in the lazarette is equipment that I selected. Several of the items, in particular the passarelle, the inverters and the Atlas, took up far more space than I had planned. This has created a situation where I can’t get at equipment as easily as I’d like for maintenance. I’m reviewing everything in the lazarette with an eye towards how to free up space. Also, as I say in the email to Nordhavn’s warranty group, I’ve decided to upgrade to soft start chillers, and this negates the need to repair my old chillers.

    My apologies to Nordhavn, and to anyone else, who mis-read my comments. – Ken W

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