AIS

We got AIS working. We applied through the FCC, which requires a station license as well, but this was necessary for international waters (Hello, Canada! Looking forward to hanging out after the virus!) There’s a post on Trawler Forum with step-by-step instructions. To the FCC’s credit, we got our number a couple of days after applying.

The MMSI needs to be programmed into each device separately. We have a Vesper XB-8000 AIS which runs headless, so you need to connect to it using an app over it’s dedicated WiFi network (why can’t boat electronics just be added to the ship’s WiFi network?!) So I added the MMSI and Station ID over the WatchMate app. You need to get this right since I think they only let you do it once or twice before you need to send it in for a reset. This is weird because MMSIs aren’t transferrable. Anyway. We got it added there and I also added it to the Pilot House Garmin VHF for DSC. I still need to add it to the radio on the flybridge.

After adding it, I was surprised to find we weren’t on Marine Traffic, even after several days when all of our neighbors were. I ran through the Vesper troubleshooting and it looked like everything was working. So, eventually North Pacific sent a Marine Electronics expert out to help. Turns out the NMEA-2000 bus is powered by the same breaker that the chart plotter is on. So, when the chart-plotter breaker is off, the whole NMEA-2000 network is down. Now, honestly, the AIS broadcast shouldn’t need the NMEA-2000 network to work. But, once we powered it on we showed up on Marine Traffic.

My leading theory here is that it wasn’t actually the NMEA-2000 bus. It was just that the AIS data on Marine Traffic is crowd-sourced, and it took several days to get all of our information uploaded. Regardless, it’s good to know that we need to keep that breaker on for anything to go across the NMEA-2K network.

Duncan from Puget Marine electronics went over a few other things – mostly getting our engine data onto the NMEA-2K bus so we can access it from the multi-function displays. He also priced out some fuel tank gauges for us, since we only have dumb floats in there now, and I’d like to use one of the built-in boat computers to calculate MPG and other data for us (we only have live burn rate right now).

Regardless, here we are on Marine Traffic, if you want to follow along.

We went for a nice overnight in Manzanita Bay. Being moored in Kitsap is providing some unexpected advantages. While Shilshole is a better location for just about any trip, you have to deal with the open Sound, making weather windows a bigger issue – even for overnights. Liberty Bay and Port Orchard are part of the more sheltered western side of the Sound – protected by the islands and Kitsap peninsula. When there are 4′ rollers on the East side of Bainbridge, the West side can be relatively calm. So, we cruised 3.5 miles from our marina to drop anchor 2.6 miles from our house (as the crow flies) for a lovely, sheltered night (weather was from the S/SE, so we were sheltered by the bay).

This gave me a chance to gather some data on power consumption during the “worst-case scenario” – hydronic heat running 24/7 and no sun for the solar panels. We dropped anchor at 2:20 pm with 100% charge in our 600AH AGM house bank. Over the course of the day, we did zero power conservation – we ran the hydronic heat, left the navigation electronics on, (so we had the anchor drag alarm), and we even streamed a movie (the Dark Knight – our little cellular connection really struggled). Depending on whether the heat and/or fridge were running, we were consuming between 12 and 20 amps at any given time. The solar panels were putting out less than an amp.

At 7am, the banks were down to 53%, meaning we’d used about 280 amp hours over 16.5 hours, or about 17 amps per hour. We ran the generator for two hours, returning the banks to 73% – about 60 amps per hour (or 10% charge per hour). This seems a little slow for bulk charging, but isn’t that far off from what I expected.

All-in-all its about what I expected. A few thoughts.

  • The solar panels can make a huge difference. During our summer cruise, on bright days, I saw them putting out 18-20 amps at 14V, which would pretty much run the boat and recharge the batteries. Realistically, they do about 6-8 amps for most of the day, which is enough to run the fridge.
  • The 24V charger was drawing a surprising amount – this system transfers power from the house bank to the windlass/thruster banks via the inverter. It was hard to get a precise measurement, but I’d say 3-5 amps.
  • The hydronic + fridge drew between 6 and 10 amps.
  • TLDR; in winter at anchor, we’ll need to run the generator for 2-3 hours per day. We can probably optimize this a little, but not much.
  • In summer at anchor, we’ll need to run the generator for 1-2 hours every-other-day. With a lot of sun, the panels put out plenty of power and – coupled with not needing the heat – there’s a chance we could go for several days without needing the generator.

Chris from North Pacific came out to our marina in Kitsap for a maintenance day. While he couldn’t find any obvious leak, he reassembled all of the connections to the boiler. Since it was only leaking a small amount, we’ll have to run it for a while to see if this addresses it. He also replaced a faulty heater fan and a couple of broken ducts. He also re-bed the screws in the pilothouse horn and replaced the gasket on the port fuel tank site gauge.

While on the trip, I got al little frustrated with all of the little bugs and hassles, but these are truly minor shakedown issues compared to some boats. We have about 80 hours on the main now – and ran the hydronic for 10 days straight – so it’s not surprising that things are settling in. Most of my stress was because I was doing the work… but the boat is under warranty. Trevor told me to just write everything down and send it to him and he would take care of it. And, he did! Very pleased with the service by Chris and North Pacific.

We got our MMSI from the FCC and I programmed it into the AIS transponder and one of the VHF radios. I still can’t see us on Marine Traffic, though it says it’s broadcasting.

The Christmas trip was wonderful.

We’re prepping for our big Christmas trip. We take one every year (except last year, when we were “between boats”). There’s still a long list of bugs to squash and small inconveniences to remedy. Onward!

Hot Coolant Smell

North Pacific has been working with me on the smell coming from the hydronic heat. First they arranged to for a visit by a tech from Seattle Boat Works (the local dealer for ITR, who makes our Hurricane Chinook hydronic system). In a weird twist of fate he was anchored just outside of our marina in Liberty Bay. Alex and I swapped out a couple lengths of hose and both of the heat exchangers under the bed, but the smell was still there. So, Trevor sent in the big gun: Dave Rasmussen, who did the original install, came down from Blaine to help troubleshoot. (Trevor has been adamant about fixing this before our trip). As Alex and I came to suspect, the smell was coming off the fiberglass wrapping around the exhaust elbow, which is just under the galley. There’s a fairly large air gap, which allows air from the engine room and bilge to flow into the space under the bed in the midship cabin; and, the fans on the heater cores were pulling in the air from the compartment with the exhaust elbow (not to mention some furnace exhaust, which was coming back into the engine room vent, along with some “bilgy” smell).

Dave replaced the insulation and gave me some preservation tape to seal up the air ingress points under the bed. He also cut a second intake port in the closet to make it easier to draw in inside air. The smell is totally gone now!

It’s too bad Alex and I replaced all of those parts for no reason (I liked the old blue hose better – it’s thicker). But, I’m glad we got it solved. Kudos to Trevor, Dave, and Alex (and Marcello from ITR) for getting this resolved before our vacation. I sent the old parts (still all good) back to North Pacific (but kept some spare hose).

I also love learning about the boat – and have a much better understanding of the Hydronic system, airflow, etc. We never did figure out why the wrap smelled that way. Hydronic boilers are often installed in the laz, so maybe they always smell like this but the air isn’t pulled into the cabin.

TODO: The preservation tape I used will last a year or two. If I replace it with something more substantial, it will last 4-5 years. Ultimately, I should get some door plank and screw it into the wall plywood to close off those gaps, and then caulk it for a more permanent seal.

Diesel Leak

I found about a teaspoon of diesel fuel under the site gauge on the port tank. There’s a cracked gasket on there which looks like the culprit. Since it’s on the outside of the ball valve, it should be easy to replace.

Loose Emergency Tiller Hatch

There is a round port in the swim step that allows access to the rudder assembly, so we can attach an emergency tiller, if we ever lose steerage. It came from the factory loose and sea water has been getting into the laz. There’s some rust on the rudder assembly and salt on the diamond plate. I cleaned up the hatch and tightened it down, but there’s still a little sand in there. I also didn’t use any lubricant, so the O Ring (which is really quite thin) may have gotten damaged when I tightened it.

The lazarette is filled with electronics, so it’s really important to keep it clean and dry.

TODO: (after vacation)

  1. Clean rust off the rudder assembly with FSR.
  2. Clean salt and corrosion off the diamond plate with Salt Away.
  3. Rinse and clean the deck plate and replace the O-ring. Tighten down with some lubricant. 
  4. Coat the rudder assembly with WD40.

Bubbling Dash

The material on the top of the dash in the pilothouse has some gaps beneath it, which are causing some discoloration. It looks like there is a problem with the adhesive. Fortunately, this is just cosmetic, so there’s no hurry to get it fixed. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly major job to remove this stuff and reapply it.

Blinds

I got the last blinds installed in the master stateroom. They look great, but are a little awkward on the bottom (something only I will notice, I think). We weren’t able to fit blinds into either head or the kids room. They either blocked the ability of the portholes to open, or just didn’t work with the curve of the wall and the hull. For these, the XO is making some custom sunbrella covers we can pop on and off. The ones below are prototypes.

Decluttering!

This is something that’s long overdue. We have stuff randomly scattered through the boat storage compartments without any logic behind it. There’s a lot of storage on the NP, but we’ve been totally wasting it. I brought home stuff we don’t need to keep there (the blinds that don’t fit, a sheet of extra teak, spare shelves for the refrigerator, etc.), sorted the stuff we do need to keep (dinghy spares, engine spares, tools, electronics, etc.), and started putting things in places that make sense, instead of whatever cabinet I happen to be standing next to (Binoculars at the helm!) We’re also making a bunch of small quality of life upgrades, like non-skid shelf liners, hose couplings for making the dinghy outboard flush easier, and a sun cover for the dinghy electronics.

I think we’re over the hump with the pre-trip maintenance. Now we’re moving on to provisioning. We’ll be out for 7-14 days and with the lockdowns, we’ll need to be a bit more self sufficient than usual. Really looking forward to our trip. It’s going to be a completely different experience than the Christmas Cruise on our Bayliner.


I love James and Jennifer. They’ve been an inspiration for me and have taught me a lot about planning, maintenance, and redundancy. But, I’m just going to admit that I’ll probably never carry a spare dishwasher spray wand aboard. I mean, 1) we don’t even have a dishwasher. And, 2) I guess at some point you’re dragging a whole spare boat along with you….

The holes on the original dishwasher upper spray arm (right) had widened over time, reducing the force of the flow and impacting cleaning effectiveness. We replaced it with a spare.

Source: Austfjorden

Some folks may be concerned we approached too close to the whales. We actually stopped a several hundred yards away (the cell phone is zoomed in, hence the grainy pics). We put it in neutral and were drifting. The Orcas were swimming back and forth (east and west) and were slowly approaching us. We repositioned once or twice to try and make room, but the Orcas kept getting closer. By the time they were within a hundred yards or so, we decided it was safer to just keep it in neutral and let them pass. This is exactly what the guidelines say to do.

I got the blinds installed n the pilothouse. The valence here isn’t as deep, so I was able to get a drill in there to create a pilot hole. In some places the screws are hitting fiberglass, which they can’t pierce, and so push the facing wood away (unfortunately, some of the blinds in the Salon I left like this.). For the pilothouse, I was able to drill into the fiberglass which allows the screws to set flush.

If the blinds in the salon don’t hold (because the screws didn’t pierce the fiberglass), I’ll go back and find a way to drill a deeper pilot hole.

The remaining blinds will go below. I’ve already discovered that, because of how the portholes sit on the hull (and how the valences are laid out), some of the blinds won’t work. So, we’ll probably sew some custom sunbrella covers with elastic sides that we can put on these windows. These would be in the heads and the kids’ room. I think the master suite blinds will work great, but we’ll need something for the bow hatch.

Bill, the Seattle North Pacific rep, happened to catch me outside of Shilshole as I was single-handing Turtle to her new (temporary) home.

It’s been a busy fall. We moved to a new city and that’s been taking up most of our attention and energy. We also moved Turtle to a new marina, closer to our new home. We only have transient moorage until May – and it’s a 30A slip – but the owner of the marina assures us she can find us a permanent slip with 50A power. I didn’t think I would care about 50A, but it’s nice to be able to run the hydronic heat at the dock without igniting the diesel boiler. We also need 50A to do laundry. We can always run the generator, but it’s a nice quality-of-life upgrade to do everything we need on shore power.

We’re keeping our Shilshole slip for now. We have regular business over in Seattle, and it will be nice to have the boat over there as a local condo when we need to stay overnight. It’s expensive maintaining two moorages, but the waitlist for Shilshole is so long I’m hesitant to give it up. The new moorage is about half of what Shilshole is, so it will be nice to eventually move here permanently.

There was a long wait list here, as well. But, apparently having a shiny new boat bumps you to the front of the queue for private marinas. I feel a little bad about that – but not really. Especially considering how we’ve been treated by the sailboats and live-aboards.*

Anyway – mechanical updates!

ELCI

We’ve started seeing our forward ELCI breaker trip. This happened sporadically up in Blaine during commissioning as well. So far it has only happened once, but it made us lose all the food in the fridge, since we don’t leave the inverter on when we’re away. There are no obvious sources of surges (no electric heaters, etc.) and the failure is infrequent. When we plugged power back in we saw a green flashing light which indicates: “...the tripping is due to an over current“. These things are super sensitive, so it could be anything. This one may be tough to track down. Now that the boat is closer, it’s easier to check in on it. But, I still want to know that I’m not going to intermittently lose shore power. North Pacific is helping troubleshoot – but I am also farther away from their usual boat mechanics, so the logistics could be a problem.

Hot Coolant Smell

One or both of the heater cores under the kid’s bed smells like hot antifreeze. If you’ve never smelled it, it smells like maple syrup or roasted chestnuts. There are no signs of leaks anywhere, but the smell is quite strong. North Pacific sent me a spare heater core and the local rep for ITR (the manufacturer) happens to be anchored outside our new marina (seriously, that’s a stroke of luck!). He’ll come troubleshoot on Tuesday. We need to get this addressed before our Christmas trip.

Salon Blinds are Done!

I’ve had piles of blinds sitting in the laz for months now. I finally bit the bullet and spent a day getting the rest of them in the salon. The valence hanging over the window makes these really hard to get in. A couple a tricks I found:

  • Use some poster putty to hold the clip in place while you get the screws in.
  • Get a really long extension for the power drill (and use the hex head, not the Philips head).

A couple of times I could not get the screws to go all the way in, the facing would pull away and the screw hit something (maybe the aluminum floor mesh?). But, for the most part they seem secure. I think they look really good…

Couch feet

Finally, this has been a chronic annoyance for a while. The couch doesn’t sit level (on a boat? really?) and the plastic pads scratch the floor. We tried little shims and felt pads, but they don’t work. So, I added some permanent felt feet that can be adjusted. Now it sits level and I can move it without scratching the floor.

One more thing. I picked up one of these Milwaukee portable shop vacs and they’re amazing. It makes cleanup of sawdust and other stuff super convenient. It’s also part of the whole “Fuel” line of tools that use interchangeable batteries. Though, there are differences you should be aware of before you decide to lock into their ecosystem. So far I have the shop vac, a drill, an impact drill, and a leaf blower. Been very happy with them.

*Let’s just say the tension between sail and power, and between marina live-aboards and monthly moorage, turns into full on class warfare when you have a new boat.

I’ve been using Numbers on my iPad to collect ship’s log entries. It’s working pretty well, so far. I have a template with some of the items as pop-up menus, and I can copy/paste the GPS coordinates from the Navionics app.

Lots has happened! Briefly, we went on a two week shakedown cruise through the San Juans. Turtle handled beautifully and there were only minor issues. General overview: we went from Sucia to Reid Harbor to Garrison Bay to Blakely Harbor to Bellingham to LaConnor to Blake Island to Shilshole.

I didn’t intend this as a cruising blog (it’s probably more of a “North Pacific 45 enthusiasts” blog), so I’ll spare the details there.

The boat handled beautifully in many conditions. Being able to make water and do laundry aboard is amazing. Fueling up, pumping out, docking, adding fresh water dockside – all are so much simpler than our old boat. I’m particularly surprised at how maneuverable the boat is at low speeds.

We’re in Shilshole for now while we find permanent moorage.

Meanwhile – a random gallery from the trip.