Gentleman: Pack your bags!

Jeff, the delivery skipper bringing my boat north from Newport Beach Ca, sent this email to his delivery crew this morning:

“…Gentleman: Pack your bags! The boat will be finished on Saturday. We will want to depart on Sunday ASP. I will call everyone today and tell them my plan. We have to take advantage of this weather window. …”

Jeff’s plan is to run non-stop from Newport Beach to Seattle, a distance of 1,225 miles, in five and a half days, non-stop. The first three days should be calm, however, on Wednesday, the outlook says “…Winds should freshen along the northern CA/Oregon coast of 25-30kts with SW sea/swells 9-15ft from late Wed/aftn through Wed/night-overnight….” This is down from a projection of 35-40 kts yesterday, so the trend is good.

If all goes as planned, Sans Souci should be here in Seattle on Saturday morning, Nov 1st.

With the boat approaching, I need to get serious about deciding what work I want to do this winter. One of our goals for the run from Seattle to Costa Rica was to get a good feel for the boat before beginning our circumnavigation.

I want to do a system by system review to see if there are any upgrades that I should consider. At this point, these are very loose ideas, mostly inspired by seeing articles or ads in magazines. To give you an idea of the kinds of things I’ll be researching, here is a short list:

Internet. Both Roberta and I are power internet users. I currently have six different ways to access the internet on the boat, so I’m not completely internet-deprived. But, the boat’s equipment was chosen almost three years ago, and times have changed. The two most critical components: Syrens Wi-fi extender, and the Fleet 77, are fairly old technology. For instance, on this trip I discovered several marinas that I could not connect with because they used a new form of security, called WPA, that my Syrens device wouldn’t connect to. They recently sent me a firmware upgrade. Maybe this solves the problem, or perhaps there is some new device I should consider. I don’t know. As to the Fleet 77: This device gives me access to the internet anywhere in the world, reliably. Even in the middle of the ocean. It is expensive and slow, but rock solid and predictable. We had one on our prior boat, so the Fleet 77 has been around at least a decade, which in the Internet world is a REALLY long time. Recently I was told that there is a new broadband option which works globally (Vsat) and offers an “all you can eat” data plan. I hope this is true, but am skeptical. I started to upgrade to it before the Costa Rica run, but don’t have room for another dome on top the boat, and if I remove the Fleet 77, to install Vsat, and it doesn’t work, Roberta will quickly have me replaced.

Shaft Seals. I’ve been encouraged by several people to swap to dripless shaft seals. The idea of zero water in the bilge is very appealing, as is the idea of not having to monitor the shaft temperatures constantly.

Hundestat Props. This is in the category of things I’ll research but almost certainly not do. These are variable pitch props which allow you to maximize fuel efficiency by tweaking the prop pitch to engine rpm. I also believe I could idle one prop on long passages without worrying that I’d be burning up a transmission. Nordhavn has started installing the Hundestat props on their new motorsailer and I spoke with a trawler owner who swears by them.

Inverters. My boat has 14kw of inverter capacity (I can generate up to 14kw of 240v electricity from my 24v battery bank). There are newer-technology inverters which have the ability to supplement generators with battery power when needed. Specifically, let’s say that I am running on a generator, with the air conditioning going, and Roberta wants to run the oven, or I want to use the davit (which has a very high startup power demand). Often I have to manage loads, but if these newer inverters work as I understand it, then the inverters will be smart enough to notice that I have exceeded the generator’s capacity, and supplement the generator with power from the batteries when needed.

Navnet 3. I use two different sets of navigation software on Sans Souci: Nobletec, which runs on a normal Windows-based computer, and Navnet, which works on a dedicated piece of hardware from Furuno. I have had great luck with both. Navnet is very popular on the boat, but has the look and feel of an out of date piece of software. The screens are a bit clunky, and at very low resolution. There is also some weirdness that I don’t completely understand. Apparently, I have two Navnet units; one for the fly bridge and one for the wheel house. Some of my equipment (radar, depth sounders, gps) is plugged into one unit and some into the other. The two units talk to each other, and share charts and equipment, but at least on my boat, not reliably. There seems to be an unneccesary layer of complexity. Furuno has launched a new version of Navnet, called Navnet 3, which looks, in the advertisements, like it captures everything great about Navnet, but fixes the problems.

Safety Equipment. I outfitted the boat for warm water cruising in calm seas. There are survival suits on the boat, but I’ve never tried mine on, and haven’t the vaguest idea if it fits. I don’t want to imply that we don’t have proper safety equipment on board, because that would not be true. I’m a big believer in safety, and WELL equipped the boat for safety. For instance, we have the best liferafts we could find, for 16 people! However, we are now looking at cruising in a harsher environment than I had ever planned, and perhaps there is additional equipment that can be added. My guess is that I’ll go to the Miami boat show, and seek out all I can find in this category.

Monitoring. We have a monitoring system on Sans Souci (called Simon) that is continuously monitoring something like 250 different things around the boat. I wasn’t sure when I installed the system whether or not it was worth the money and added complexity, but after spending a year with the system, I would never build or buy a boat again without one. It doesn’t replace engine room checks, but it does raise by an order of magnitude the odds that you’ll identify a problem before it becomes a much larger problem. There is one major area I did not monitor, and need to correct; which is the flow of cooling water through the system. I remember asking the Simon people about their ability to measure water flow through the sea chest, and their saying that reliable flow monitoring was something they were just experimenting with. My guess is that they would now have no problem giving me reliable flow data on cooling water going to the generators, main engines, hydraulic cooling system, a/c chillers, etc.

These are just a few items on my list. There are more. I’ll research all of these, and may or may not do any of them. In actuality, none of this is necessary. It has been fun watching the scenes in the pilot house on the tv series “Deadliest Catch” and to look to see what equipment the real professionals have; as they do battle with the deadliest seas in the world, during the deadliest season. It looks pretty antiquated. I guarantee they are not whining about upgrading their Fleet 77. I’ve never been on one of these boats, but the few glimpses I’ve seen seem to indicate single engines, with a single generator, and a clunky nav system.

So.. as you read through my list, hopefully you will keep in mind that none of this fits into the “must have” category. Boats have been going to sea for a long time without all of this “stuff”. But, at least for me, some of the “fun” of the boat is to install the latest gadgetry. If I wanted to circumnavigate the planet in the cheapest and safest manner, I suppose I could buy a “round the world” ticket in coach on some airline, and do it in 10 days or less … but, what fun would that be?

-Ken W

4 Responses

  1. Rusty: Yes it is the Victron inverters I’m looking at. I did some googling yesterday and found several positive comments, including one person who said that they “worked as advertised.”

    As to Simon: I had assumed I’d get an endless stream of false alarms, but it really hasn’t been bad at all. When we first took delivery of the boat, there were a lot of alarms, as I tweaked the different alarm levels. The technician who installed the system put in his best guess for all the alarm levels, and had a few that needed adjusted.

    My only problem has been sensor failure. The Simon system uses top of the line industrial sensors, but it’s a pretty harsh environment. I didn’t stock replacements for the sensors, which is a mistake I’ll correct on this next run. It says something about how much I’ve come to rely on the system, that when a sensor fails, it really bugs me. – Ken W

  2. Ken –
    Your potential upgrades look interesting. It sounds like you are going to look at the Victron inverters. I have also found those intriguing so will be looking forward to your reports.

    I am also interested in your experience with your Simon systems monitoring system. The concept is certainly great to have all the information collected and monitored but I have worried about its complexity and potential for false alarms (from sensor failure for example).

    Thanks … your blog is great!!


  3. Bryan: The current plan is that Nordhavn will work to get at least some air conditioning going, but wait to do the real work until the boat gets to Seattle. One of my four chillers has never worked. Because of where the chillers are located, it is time consuming (meaning expensive) to swap a chiller. Regardless of what occurs, we know that at least one chiller has to come out.

    My chillers are “single phase” and I am thinking of replacing them with “three phase” chillers. The differences are complex, and I’m not sure I can explain them — except to say that I want to add “soft start” to my air conditioning system, which requires three phase chillers. With soft start, I can eliminate the current surges when the a/c kicks in.

    I’m also thinking of reducing my chiller configuration from four 36,000 btu chillers, to two chillers; a 60,000 btu unit, and a single 36,000 btu unit. This would give me almost the same amount of a/c with substantially less space requirement.

    Thus, I’m putting off getting the air conditioning fixed until the boat is in Seattle, and we have the time for a much larger project.

    -Ken W

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