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Latest Posts

  • Naples

    Naples

    Earlier this month we rented a car and made a road trip to Naples, Florida to have lunch with a friend. On the way ...
  • USS California Distinguished Visitor Embark

    USS California Distinguished Visitor Embark

    Last Thursday Jennifer and I were down on Las Olas Blvd in Fort Lauderdale having an enjoyable patio dinner when my ...
  • Fleet Week Port Everglades

    Fleet Week Port Everglades

    This weekend we attended Fleet Week Port Everglades as a guest of Mike Chan, Protocol Officer with Navy Region ...
  • Boat Projects

    Boat Projects

    Soverel Harbour Marina has been an excellent stop to replenish our boat spares and supplies, address ...
  • Balancing alternator outputs

    Balancing alternator outputs

    In our charging configuration, we parallel the house and start alternators to charge the house battery bank. Each ...
  • Metal Shark Aluminum Boats

    Metal Shark Aluminum Boats

    Jeanerette, Louisiana isn’t a massive metropolis, so why were us boaters and technology lovers excited to ...
  • Soverel Harbour Marina

    Soverel Harbour Marina

    We’ve spent the month since arriving in Palm Beach at Soverel Harbour Marina in Palm Beach Gardens. We ...
  • Fuel bugs

    Fuel bugs

    As we describe in Dirona fuel manifold, we choose to explicitly pump fuel from the appropriate bulk tank to the ...
  • Johnny Sessa Bulldozing Visit

    Johnny Sessa Bulldozing Visit

    What beats an afternoon operating heavy equipment?Β  Months before we made it to Florida, Oliver Sessa offered us a ...
  • St. Lucia to Palm Beach

    St. Lucia to Palm Beach

    Last week we ran 1,424 miles directly from St. Lucia to Palm Beach, Florida. We initially were planning to work our ...
  • Pigeon Island

    Pigeon Island

    We took a taxi from the Rodney Bay marina to explore Pigeon Island National Landmark. The island once was detached ...
  • St. Lucia

    St. Lucia

    From Port St. Charles we travelled 97 miles to St. Lucia and spent a relaxing couple of weeks at the marina in ...

General questions & comments

  1. Rod Sumner says:

    James

    It was remembering the Shear Madness write up of their 5 months of work caused by a lightning strike. Many items were fried and systems needed a lot of work.
    What really stuck was their heartfelt gratitude to their insurance agent who insisted on lightning coverage.
    No precise $ number was mentioned, but it was well into five figures!
    Rod

  2. Foster says:

    Looking at the picture of the Nordhavn 6209 Bella Leigh. She doesn’t seem to have the long foredeck of other 62’s. Is that the custom part of this boat, or just because of the angle you took the picture?

  3. Timothy Daleo says:

    Great picture. I had just done a bunch of research on N6209. I read that the interior walls are fuschia and light green. I hope that the new owners can get it cleaned up. It was such a beautiful boat with the stern bustle and should be restored to her former glory. I rebuild old cars as a hobby and would love to restore a Nordhavn someday.

    At least now you know the lifts at Seminole can do 160,000+ pounds safely πŸ˜‰

  4. Timothy Daleo says:

    Seminole is hard to beat if they are only 400 yards from you! It is very cool to see so many Nordhavns in the area. I love the picture of Stella Maris. That is same boat and age we are working towards! Thank you for posting all of the great pictures.

  5. Rod Sumner says:

    James

    Echoing comments from others,I am extremely envious of your recent Fleet Week activities. As always gret write ups

    Changing the topic:

    Having just read a blog about passing through severe thunderstorms I was wondering about your approach to dealing with storms, especially with Dirona being so extensively ‘wired’?

    Rod

    PS. Loved the write up on the Everglades Recognised the view over the Everglades. I inadvertently came very close – 2 ‘ – to a huge gator’s mouth. Subsequent photos showed him about 13.5 ft, so it appears they are not as dangerous as their Australian cousins!!

    • We were at NASA Cape Canaveral yesterday. The security is fairly good already but having alligators in all the waterways has to help. The fencing surrounding launch pads curves up and out at the top which seemed unusual to me and I asked the guide. He said they used to look like normal fences until a journalist took a picture of a gator scaling one. Now they curve outward a couple of feet.

      • I missed Rod’s question on lightening (electrical storm) management. Electrical storms are common in this area and we are extensively wired so it’s an important question. We take two classes of defense: 1) avoidance and 2) mitigation. On avoidance we try not to be out exposed in the middle of storms and prefer to be in a marina where we aren’t the largest mast in the nearby area. This is not always possible so you quickly get to mitigation.

        On the mitigation side, we installed a Forespar Wand lightning system with high quality ground to copper plate in the water. We took this precaution but I’m far from confident that this would prevent damage in a high percentage of the cases. But, I’ve really not come across a reliable lightening protection systems. Good quality grounding very much improves ones odds, but it’s still far from assured safety.

        For the next level of mitigation, we have a GPS and laptop ready to go stored inside the steel ships safe which forms a faraday cage around those backup electronics. Again, safety is far from assured by we take all reasonable precautions.

        • Timothy Daleo says:

          If lightning strikes but the equipment is not connected could it still fry? What I mean is could you have a secondary system disconnected from power and have it be safe?

          • Tim says:

            That is why Dirona keeps a spare GPS and computer with Nav software installed in their safe. Disconnected and inside what amounts to a Faraday cage protecting it from power surges. Shear Madness (N72) has a blog posted on what happened to them when they were hit by lightning (https://shearmadness72.com/about/lightning-strike/).

            • Exactly right Tim. Electrical equipment even when “off” is not safe from a lightening strike (or the Electomagnet pulse from a nuclear bomb) but it’s the lightening strikes that have me worried :-). And, as summer comes to Florida, we are starting to see a ton of electrical storm activity.

              Dirona heads to the yard next Wednesday for bottom paint and other scheduled maint work.

              • Timothy Daleo says:

                Throw an extra set of parts in a large old microwave in laz?

              • Timothy Daleo says:

                I did read about the direct strike on Shear (they had written a paper) but was not familiar with the affects of equipment not connected. What about the ignition system on the boat?

                • Tim H says:

                  I have no experience with lightning hits on boats/ships, but we’ve had a light pole across the street got hit and we lost all of our telephones (land line), computer modem and the modem that was internal to our DIRECTV receiver. I was also on a plane that took a direct hit (not something I want to go through again) and a tree next to my mother-in-law’s house was hit and the bolt deflected to her house. Everything she had plugged in had to be replaced. It was also interesting looking at the pattern on the outside of her wood-sided house as the there was a burn mark that went from nail to nail from up in her gable to the ground.

                  I think it is safe to say that anything wired on a boat could be damaged as the result of a hit. And as James has indicated, while they have an upgrade on their grounding system, they still store some ‘get home’ items in their safe. Planning for a worst-case scenario makes a lot of sense when you do the kind of cruising the Hamilton’s do.

  6. Doug Potts says:

    James and Jennifer,

    Let me start with my thanks for the most interesting blog that I read, bar none! I have followed your every post with great interest and have lived vicariously through your travels. My girlfriend and I have a dream, like many others, of buying our passagemaker and traveling the world. We have been saving for a couple of years now and are well on our way to achieving that goal. We are sold on Nordhavn and believe that the choice is well founded in safety, support, redundancy and community. This weekend, we are traveling down to Dana Point to talk to PAE and see more Nordhavns. We are thinking a new build 43 at the moment, but if our investments do better than planned we may reach for a 52. We are also somewhat torn about going used for more room and stability, but are a little worried about buying someone else’s problems. What do you think?

    Someday, we would love to catch up with you and Jennifer and see Dirona, up close and personal.

    I especially like the posts of this past week or so because I spent 24 years in the Navy and am always impressed by the professionalism of the sailors that now have the helm. I am proud that the “have the watch”.

    Keep up the great work and know that there are many of us Nordhavn Dreamers out here waiting for the next post!

    Doug Potts
    LT USN Retired (LDO)

    • Great Comment Doug and thanks for the feedback. Feel free to come by and visit Dirona if you are ever in the same city as us (http://mvdirona.com/maps). You asked about brokergage boats and if you woudl be buying someone else problems. My general take is that new has the advantage of giving you complete control of the build — this is important if you are trying to do things that are a bit different or hard to retrofit. But new builds are slower and usually more expensive for what you are getting. When we bought Dirona, there were no N52s in the market,so our only options were to go with a N55 or a N47. We love outside space so neither the N47 nor the N55 was ideal being ligth on cockpit space. But, for the right value, we probably could have gone with either.

      Prices swing around over time but, when we bought, the new prices were only a small uplift more, we were not in a rush, and we did want to do a fair amount of customization. All that came together to make a new boat look like a better choice to us.

      You asked if a brokerage boat might be buying someone elses problems. Certainly anything is possible but Nordhavn’t are remarkably strong boats with under-stress mechanical systems. It’s unlikely you’ll find fundamental problems and even more unlikely that anything big will be worn out. Our engine has 7,800 hours which is more than you will likely see in a brokerage boat and our engines is showing no signs of wear at this point. Based upon listening to other Nordhavn purchasers, I would expect any boat, whether new or used, to have some electronics issues to work throug in the early days. And, again whether new or used, you’ll want to do some work setting the boat up the way you want it.

      I’ve seen a lot of brokerage Nordhavn’t purchased and I’ve not seen any fundamental or difficult to address issues. The used boat owners don’t seem any less happy than those that went to the new market.

      I would make the decision on new or used on speed of delivery, how many of what you want are currently in market, the degree of customization you need, and the value of the boats in market. Generally, I wouldn’t worry much about buying problems. Dirona has been around the world and is in better condition now than when it left. If we were buying again, we would consider both brokerage and new. All the best in your search and feel free to set up a visit on Dirona if you happen to be in the same city.

  7. Timothy Daleo says:

    Big ole’ lifts. Do they keep maintenance logs on their straps and cables?

    • Good point on possible Travelift failures. It’s impossible to go to a yard and not think about the Nordhavn 47 that was dropped. I always inspect the straps on Travellifts before using them but, since wear is so usage and care dependent, it’s hard to know what to look for in a maintance log. I just look for fraying or wear especially near the pins that bring the straps together.

      • Timothy Daleo says:

        In the background that 70-ish foot convertible on the hard at ACY probably comes in a 160,000 so easily 55,000 over a loaded Dirona! Crazy big boats and even bigger lifts!

        • Yes, one of the lessons we learned the first time Dirona was lifted out of the water is “don’t ever be the biggest boat in the yard.” As Dirona came out of the water I could hear alarms blaring from the 50 ton travel lift complaining of overload as I stepped off the boat before they completed the lift. The tires on the travel lift looked near flattened by the load.

          It turns out that our little boat is actually 55 tons. We now look for yards where we are nowhere close to the biggest boat and we really like closer to 100 ton Travelifts. That way, most boats they pick up are bigger and heavier than Dirona and the they likely have had heavier boats in the air the previous day.

  8. Tim Morris says:

    The pic on 5/5 was good to see. It seems Jennifer’s back on track and now fully able to get the heavy work again. πŸ˜€. Great news indeed.

  9. Gary says:

    https://i.imgur.com/QP1cQOl.jpg

    28ft plus and girth as big as a man

    Don’t know is this will display but this is a pic of the largest croc out of that era.

  10. Steve says:

    Cool to see Janet.

    I do have I guess a complaint. Is it possible for you to allow comments on specific post? Seems I need to scroll down to the end and then my post is not specific to one of yours.

    • Yes, it was great having lunch with Janet. On your comment point Steve, you can comment on any article and any comment. If it’s a general comment put on the general comment page. If it’s specific to a posting scroll down and comment on that page. If it is a new comment thread, then you post it at the bottom as you describe. But, if you want to add a comment to an existing comment, find that comment and you’ll see “reply” in the lower right corner of the comment. That’ll do what you want.

  11. Timothy Daleo says:

    Jennifer,

    Your grip getting better? Ball squeeze and grippers in the morning?

    Tim

    • Tim,

      I’m pretty much back to 100% now, thanks for asking. I didn’t even need much exercise–I started seeing improvements almost right after the surgery once the pressure was off the nerves. And strength and feeling steadily improved over the following weeks. The final step is to get that annoying pin removed, and get my shoulder fully healed. I’m still not allowed to put my full weight on it, so no push-ups for a few more weeks.

  12. Gary says:

    James and Jennifer,
    Thanks for your fascinating travelogue and tour of the Everglades, flown over them a bunch of times but never had the opportunity or time to go touring. On the bucket list.
    Loved your comments on the Panther, as you know Australia doesn’t have any land predators so watching out for a big cat would be a rare thrill. We do have something like the 10 most venomous snakes in the world though.
    As you know we do have a major croc population but you may not have known that when I was a boy, they were hunted almost to extinction and the big crocs you see today are only youngsters. At the time a younger brother was working in Darwin and we used to fly up there often to go fishing which was great because the fish had no competition from the crocs. There were so few if any crocs it was rare to see one and one time whilst we were fishing with our other brother in the Little Alligator with a fractious toddler, we didn’t think twice about putting him on the bank to play while we got on with the serious stuff. You really had the best of Australia in your Northern travels. Dampier, your pushing off point, represents most of the rest and its not hard to understand why the Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch upon happening on our West coast lee shore on their travels to the East Indies and Spice Islands, didn’t feel inclined to stay. There are manifold wrecks of these guys along that coast. You will recall the beginning of abyssal drop off is sometime only a hundred or so meters off the coast with a reef on top, with 2-300 meter cliffs behind, so stumbling across one of these in the middle of the night was normally lights out. Initial research reveals European genetic markers in the Aboriginal population which can only have come from survivors.
    In the meantime keep on having fun so I can continue to enjoy your travels with you.

    • The Everglades trip was very interesting and, although I agree that the Gators we saw were smaller than Australian Crocodiles, the alligators are still a formidably effective predator.

      Your story about putting a child on the edge of a river in North West Australia sent shivers down my spine. You just can’t do that today. We wouldn’t let our cat Spitfire anywhere near the water. We would hardly make an hors d’oeuvre for a crocodile. The crocs are massive and crafty so you need to be intelligent when passing through the zone between water and land where they do much of their hunting. They generally don’t like to move fast but, when they do, it’s amazing how fast they can be. I got video from fairly close of one very large croc eating something large it had caught and you can actually hear the bones crunching.

      Lots of people don’t like the crocs because you really do need to keep your eye on them when anywhere near the water but we love watching nature and seeing these animals in the wild was both interesting and exciting.

      • Gary says:

        James

        Yes they were really almost extinct and not the danger they now are.

        The “big” crocs you see now are the ones who have “come back” from the near extinction before hunting was banned.
        Legends abound of the really big ones of the pre hunting ban.

        What disturbs me most is the tourists boat operators hang dead chickens over the side to encourage the crocs to come up and eat them, These are very wily creatures and it is only a matter of time before they “board” one of these boats and take a tourist.

        Really pleased to hear Jennifer’s shoulder is coming good, I am only a few months from a total replacement, you dont realise how important a shoulder is until it becomes defective.

        In the meantime we continue to enjoy our vicarious tourist journey of Florida and environs.

        It’s terrific, thanks and have a great day.

        • Tim H says:

          It is illegal to feed alligators in FL for the very reason you stated.

          From the FL Fish and Wildlife Commission site: “Never feed alligators – it’s dangerous and illegal. When fed, alligators can overcome their natural wariness and learn to associate people with food.”

        • Yes we have seen pictures of tour operators “training” crocadiles to jump by offering dead chickens. Impressive how far out of the water a 10′ to 15′ crocadile can jump. An amazing sight but probably slightly crazy as well. We deffinitely kept our swim platform door closed while in the area :-)

          • Gary says:

            Well as we expected a few days ago a couple of guys out mud crabbing near Darwin, got boarded by a croc. It was only a small tinny which might have been part of the problem but the real one as far as I can tell is that the crocs have no fear of man.
            One of the men drowned, getting caught under the capsized tinny, the other spent 3 hours throwing spanners, spark plugs and other object at the crocs looking for lunch. He got himself into some mangroves and hung on until he was found. Lucky man he was.
            When they were hunted, pointing a stick at them was often enough to see them off.

            • Yikes! That is scary. Many Australias warned us we were taking unecessary risk by operating using a RIB rather than the more common local choice of an aluminum boat. It just didn’t make sense to us to replace the tender just for our six months in croc waters. So we used a RIB but didn’t let the Crocs get within biting distance figuring our best defense was 40hp and speed.

  13. Foster says:

    While you are there make sure you go to to the southern part of Everglades Park. Very impressive. Stop at Robert is here, on the way in or out for great milkshakes.

    • We couldn’t find “Stop at Robert” but we do appreciate tips on things to visit in the area. There is a lot of really interesting places to visit in Florida and we are having a great time. This weekend we were at the Navy’s Fleet Week Port Everglades. We got to spend time aboard the USS Cole, USS Bataan, and the USS California. Pretty incredible. We’ll get some pictures posted later today.

  14. Rod Sumner says:

    James:

    As always your post and photos make excellent reading.

    Why are you wearing gloves when testing the load on the fire extinguisher system?

    • Good eye Rod. I took a shock from 24VDC system so I put on gloves to find the fault. I suspected I had stray AC voltage so I carefully probed all circuits and there is no alternating current component there at all and the voltage levels are all as they should be in the nominal 24V range.

      Nothig tested out of the norm but, for sure, it was not 24VDC that I felt. My theory is that the high current DC relays induce a small high voltage spike in the control circuit when then turn off. I suspect that when going “off”, the magnetic field collapsing in the relay coil induces a momentary higher voltage in the control circuit. Its perfectly safe, very tiny amperage, but it did surprise me enough to put on gloves while looking deeper.

      • Steve Coleman says:

        It’s always a good idea to wear gloves. I’ve never read the actual articles so have no direct knowledge other than what I was taught in training but it is my understanding there have been deaths on DC voltages as low as 28 volts.

        I suspect there may have been underlying health issues or long term exposure involved.

        I have on the other hand seen 3rd degree burns resulting from voltages as low as 6 VDC caused by arc flash when there was no short circuit protection involved.

        • That’s a good point on the danger of even very low voltage DC when considerable amperage is available. As an automechanic I once installed a new starter that was faulty and had a direct short internally. As I finished the job and dropped the negative cable back onto the battery, there was a very large flash and the positive cable insulation dripped off from the heat. Even a standard automotive battery packs an enourmous amount of energy.

          On Dirona, there are fuses near the batteries on all links directly connected. Most loads are connected after the emergency disconnect switch which feeds a bus bar where each attached load has a fuse right at the bus bar.

  15. Timothy Daleo says:

    I assume you want to leave the system on but still have limited fault and zone monitoring? 24v power is at a 3 amp breaker? I use a switch at the battery to shut down my CO sensors while the boat is in storage. You want the system always on right? Side question, does Dirona have the machinery shutdown management relays enabled?

    • The fire supression system is always enabled, never shut down, and draws no power. The relatively high power draw fire supression component is the system that shuts down the three engines, the shroud fan, the ER cooling fans, and the laz cooling fans when the fire bottle is discharged. The discharge is triggered thermally or manually and when it dischargs it is important to shut down the fans and engines to prevent the fire fire suppression gas from beign pumped out of the area prior to it supressing the fire.

      There is no point in having the fan and engine shutdown system powered up if the engine and fans aren’t on so it seems wasteful to have it drawing 24×7. But, there is complexity in reliably turning the system on just when needed and I haven’t yet come up with a simple and reliable solution that I like. The downside of the existing design is it is power intesive but the upside is it is simple and highly likely to operate correctly.

      • Timothy Daleo says:

        You still have the genny set up to run when needed, right? Could you connect the fire system monitoring to the ignition switch of the boat and also to the genny run indicator? Are there additional accommodation adapters of just for the ER?

        • Yes, generator autostart is used frequently. We love it. It’s even started the generator once while in the Marina. We were out for a day and there was a Marina power outage. It’s nice to just not have to worry about over-discharging the batteries.

          There are many solutions along the lines you suggest but each needs to be weighed off thinking through potential faults and their mitigations weighed off against complexity of the solution. I’m still thinking on this one.

  16. Jamie W says:

    Your black tank needs emptying – and I note that ‘111’ is the emergency phone number in NZ πŸ˜‰

    • Hey Jamie. The black water isn’t really at “111” levels. It’s a sensor fault. I use the same sensors on fresh water and grey water as well as black. On fresh and gray, they are always very accurate. On black water, they often struggle. If the tank is freshly flushed, the black water level sensor works great but weeks later, it’ll be incorrect.

      I’m pretty sure what is happening is the ultrasonic level sensor is not getting a clean reflection off the fluid surface over time due to floating toilet paper. When we were in Australia it worked perfectly but it’s now back to North American Toilet paper and this seems to yeild unreliable results. We always use septic tank safe paper but it appears that some break down faster than others and, if the paper doesn’t break down very quickly, then level reflection can be scattered.

      I have redundant level sensors on the black water tank so usually have a good reading from one of the Maretron TLM100 and the Sealand Tankwatch 4. I probably should do the research to find toilet paper that doesn’t yeild this issue but, since the problem takes a week to develop, it’s a slow process to try different products, you would need to pump out between tests, and this investigation just hasn’t made it to the top of my list.

  17. Michael says:

    Re. the Master bed struts – earlier today we were saying we must put gas struts on our N40 double berth. I’d love to know which struts you used.

  18. Timothy Daleo says:

    Congratulations on the 50,000 nm pennant!

    • It’s amazing how fast we have blown through the miles. Partly it’s a long way around the world but most of those miles are coastal miles exploring along the way. We expected it would be a great trip but, when we started, we really had no idea what was in front of us.

  19. Timothy Daleo says:

    What program do you use to back up your systems? Do you do full images or just data? Is your off-site up to Amazon?

    • We were thinking of blogging the backup solution we have evolved to since there are some challenges to managing this on a boat. We will do that but just a short outline here. Backups are all about understanding possible data loss events and ensuring that the risks are protected against. The vast majority of the failure cases and by far the most likely are equipment failures and human error that doesn’t involve loss of the boat.

      To protect against this large class of failures, we backup all devices automatically each night to the RAID6 file server in two different ways. One copy is the current system state precisily mirrored with all deletes and file changes. The other copy is an additive copy where deltes are not mirrored. These two copies exploit the fact that local bandwidth is available and, generallly, the approach is fairly complete but we still could lose file changes on this model using a Microsoft utility called Robocopy. We’re thinking through other incremental change approaches and so I would say this part of the solution is still in flux and more change is coming. The good news is that most loss situations are now protected against even with what we have now.

      Because we are running RAID6 we can survive the loss of up to 2 disks without any loss of data and there are alerts on disk failures so we can change them before the next fault in the common case.

      What’s missing in the description so far is off-site backup. This is challenging and must be incremental since bandwidth from a boat is usually restricted. We use the onsite backup to the file servers to protect against all faults except completely loss of file server and client devices (most likely from loss of the boat). These failure modes are less likely but they are possible and the loss is complete. Since we have no house or property other than the boat (and since I’m a pretty big believer in cloud computing), we backup everything to S3 and maintain incremental backups to AWS.

      For the backup to S3 we use S3sync and aim to run incremental backups every oportunistically but no less than quarterly. More detail in a blog once we refine the system and finalize the approach. The good news for us is we are now pretty well protected and, with more than 100,000 pictures and lots of custom software the thought of a loss is not very appealing.

      • Timothy Daleo says:

        Also, did you stock up on video cards or find a new future compatible card for the nav computer?

      • Timothy Daleo says:

        Thank you for the response. RAID6 is definitely the most robust way to cover disk failure. I have seen many pictures of other boats with NAS boxes in the pilot house and knew you had a good process. You also have all of your log data that is constantly being generated so that must be addressed.

        I use Windows Storage Server at home. All my systems backup to that unit and then I can then back that data up to a remote drive and store it off-site or in a waterproof safe. I am not nearly as advanced as you and Jennifer so having WSS and its easy image access allows me to restore systems rather quickly like I used to do with WHS back in the day. My thought is that if I have a system that dies I can just attach a new drive and restore it. This process does not cover me for data in between backups but it allows me to easily go back to an image that worked. I am sure Jennifer knew of all of the early issues but it sure works well the basic user!

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