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  1. Steven Coleman says:

    Hello James,

    Strange as it may seem, on vacation to DC and a quick tour of surrounding areas several years back, I think I took as many pictures of probably just as many totally FUBAR electric service and branch installations as I did of the normal tourist items.

    While it’s hard to tell for sure, at least that doesn’t look like line voltage.

    • It’s hard to believe what some folks will actually do when in a rush. In our last house, I was roto tilling the garden and our phone went out. How can anyone run the phone wire “burried” a couple of inches?

      I later learned that the entire block lost their phone service that day. Shhhh!

  2. Rod Sumner says:


    Two quick questions

    1. When changing the O ring on the rear thruster did you have to bleed the system? If so how?

    2. Hot Water sytsem: When using the furnace for hot water to heat with is there a circulating pump?


    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

    • Hi Rod. Surprisingly, the hydraulic system operates under so much pressure that it self bleeds. You can open the system, do service, and when you close it up, it just works. The operating pressure is 3,800 PSI and, at these pressures, it seems to self bleed and it happens so quickly I can’t see any difference in performance in the first few seconds vs minutes or hours later or the previous day. It’s nice not to have to worry about bleeding the system.

      The furnace system is composed of a boiler, a circulation pump, and fan units spread througout the boat. The system can be run with or without the boiler with a manual switch to choose the mode. I just switch off the manual switch when underway. I’m told that, even without the manual switch, the engine heats the system sufficiently that the boiler will not turn on when operating in this mode. The primary reason we have a manual switch is we plug the boiler exhuast when under way on longer trips to avoid rough seas flooding the boiler.

  3. Timothy Daleo says:

    Happy Thanksgiving (belated) to you three! Two weeks of turkey sandwiches for sure. I noticed in the N76 sunrise picture how tall the pylons were at the marina. That time was mid-tide so is there that much of a range there?

    • Happy Thanksgiving Timothy. You are right the piling extend considerably beyond the tidal range. The tidal range in this area is quite small. Over the course of this month, it’s only 2′. However, you really want the pilings WAY above normal tidal range. During a large storm or hurricane, storm surge can lift the dock off the pilings and many Florida marinas have encountered this failure mode. When it happens, most of the boats in the marina end up destroyed. Very high pilings is a sign of a thoughtfully built marina and, if we have a choice, we like the pilings absolutely towering above.

  4. Erik Andersen says:

    Hello James,
    What heating and heat distribution are you using onboard. I assume the reverse cycle AC are inadequate when temperatures are as low as now. I have this question being Danish/Scandinavian with intended sailing all-year (as long as ice permits) and as most of the Nordhavns are specified for higher temperatures than what we have I wonder if you have separate burner and distribution via air or heated water distributed to the individual sections onboard.
    Thanks for the updates on maintenance – gives a wonderful insight!

    • The 5 reverse cycle HVAC systems seem to work down to around 40F. Some report they heat well down below that water temperature but we’ve not had the occaision to try it. The way we operate is essentially three modes: 1) on the hook we operate using an 85k BTU diesel boiler delivery hydronic heat througout the boat, 2) under way we use the hydronic system on waste main engine heat and the boiler doesn’t run, and 3) when at the dock and plugged in we run on the 5 electric HVAC systems ranging from 10k BTU up to 16k BTUs. These units are reverse cycle heating and cooling systems from MarineAir.

      We are fairly well equipped for high lattitude cruising and have woken up some mornings with the water surface frozen around us but we stay warm and comfortable.

      • Erik Andersen says:

        Thanks for your immediate reply, James.
        Which make of diesel boiler/hydronic system are yours? Does it have separate distribution channels or is it using that from the HVAC reverse cycle.
        Thks beforehand / Erik

        • Erik Andersen says:

          Did you install the boiler after delivery of the boat or was it preinstalled??

        • The boiler is an Olympic 85k BTU boiler distributed by Sure Marine in Seattle. This heats water which is circulated to each fan unit that blows warm air into each room. The HVAC system are integral compressor, fan, condensor, and evaporator units produced by Marine air. These blow hot or cold air into each room where they are installed. Neither system has any shared components or systems with the other.

          • Erik Andersen says:

            Thks again James, much appreciate your information.
            Must do a circumnavigation and include Seattle for an installation…..
            Keep warm and enjoy your voyage onwards.
            Also thks for your input a couple of months ago on the Maretron monitoring systems.

  5. Rod Sumner says:

    Looking at the photo of the steering arm set up the arm is above the spherical bearing thus, as you suspect, dropping metal dust from the bolt onto the bearing. Maybe reversing this set up could eliminate such wear in future boats
    Back to the present!
    It is difficult to see if there is any lubricant on the spherical bearing – if there is this will accelerate the wear of the bushing
    In abrasive plants where loose abrasive grain abounds we always ran conveyor rollers with no lubricant at all. It sounds counter intuitive however bearing life was much better with no lubricant.

    Just a thought


    • Rod, I like your suggestion to reverse it and would have done so if there was space. Not being able to do that, took the following steps: 1) slight interference between the arm and the bolt to prevent movement between bolt and steering arm, and 2) a tight washer between the steering arm and the spherical bearing.

      I did have lubrication on the old assembly but this one is done up dry as you recommended. Thanks for passing on what you haver learned from operating machinery in highly abrasive environments.

  6. Timothy Daleo says:

    Dirona looks like new again! Our boats will never meet but seeing that 2004 390 Sea Ray along side her is what I would expect. It looks like a late 90’s Sea Ray 400 on the other side too. The 390 is chubby white boot but Dirona makes it look short.

  7. Stephen Walker-Weinshenker says:

    I just wanted to say what a great photo of Spitfire you took in the “Hold the Boston” post.

    Also, as you are from the Pacific Northwest, have you heard about Stephen Roberts? He has ridden across the united states ~3 times on varying custom recumbent trikes, as well building assorted other boats and gadgets.

  8. Jamie says:

    Glad to see Dirona got a nice detail. Sorry to go a little off-topic on your wonderful blog, but can anyone ID that lovely boat with the teak rail on Land and Sea’s Home page?

    • Andy Biddle says:

      Those faux plank lines on the hull make me believe it is a Grand Banks Aluetian. I’m not sure which model. A long time ago I moved a 1970 GB that was being sold in Florida and it was wooden. I told the broker that the wooden boat looked the same as a newer fiberglass version of the same model. Not sure of the veracity of his story, but he said that in the 70’s GB switched from wood to fiberglass and didn’t tell the dealers and that is why they the plank look.

    • Tom Uzupus says:

      Hi Jamie, I’m with the detailing company that worked on Dirona this week. The boat on our website is a 2012 55′ Fleming.

      • Jamie says:

        Thanks for chiming in Tom. I am a small business owner and can relate to having that good shot on page 1 – is a must – and that is a GREAT one. Flemming 55 huh. Just spent a little bit looking at them on line. Very nice boats. Oh no! Now Nordhaven 52 has some competition on my short list 🙂 I still think a certain Nordhavn 52 has the best owner blog out there, though 🙂 (weekly follower since NZ)

  9. Andy Biddle says:

    Looks like you had a chilly morning in Baltimore. Heat pumps work well in warm water making heat that you are in, but not in cold water. What system do you have for being in cold water?

    • The reverse cycle air conditioning system seems to have no trouble heating the boat down to water temperatures below 40F. Current, it’s chilly in Baltimore but the water temperature is actualy fairly warm at 61F in this fairly shallow 20′ spot in the inner harbor.

      Our approach to heating is to use the the 5 HVAC systems each sized between 10k and 16k BTU when at the dock or on generator power and, when not, to use our 85k BTU diesel boiler which can keep the boat toasty warm at any outside temperature we have seen. We have woken in the morning in northern BC with a sheet of ice having formed around the boat but it’s still nice and comfortable inside.

    • Steven Coleman says:

      I don’t know what units Dirona has however most heat pumps produced today (or for the last several years) work just fine down to -20F. Being water source, unless they plan to do a trip to the polar regions, I would think they’d work just fine even without auxillary heat.

      I would guess the only real necessity for the fuel oil boiler on Dirona would be to cut the house battery or generator load as far as the heating cycle goes.

      • The advantage of the diesel boiler is it doesn’t require the generator to be running to heat. When underway, the system is heated by waste heat from the main engine without generator operation. When at anchor, the diesel boiler provides the heat again with no generator operation. At the dock with shore power, the boiler isn’t used and we run exclusively on the electric HVAC system.

  10. Steven Coleman says:

    Hello James,

    Interesting enough, it was either yesterday or the day before I had a passing thought concerning what type of filter I would use instead of those washables those units seem to use.

    I never did think of anything but it really wasn’t a priority for me to expend much thought on the subject.

    Here is a good evaporator coil cleaner:

    But if all you are dealing with is dust and “dust bunnies” you could get some copper tube, drill holes in it to allow it to reach those narrow areas and use compressed air from your air compressor. A wet towel thrown over everything traps the flying dust rather well.

  11. Tim Kaine says:

    The C & D Canal video states it is private so cannot be viewed. 🙁

  12. Michael Bean says:

    Not to be too picky but the MG Winfield Scott is a U.S. Army tug not a Navy.

    Thanks for a Awesome Blog, I love the pictures with captions.

    Please let me know if you are coming to D.C., I would love to come down and see you all.


    • Mike,

      Thanks for the correction–we’ve fixed that. And glad you’re enjoying the blog.

      We’ll be in Baltimore for another 3 weeks or so, then plan to work south through Chesapeake Bay. Not sure if/when we’ll get to DC, but would be great to meet you if we do.


      • Steven Coleman says:

        Watching the canal video got me wondering, were either of you hand steering or does the auto pilot track well enough to do most of the work?

        • We went through the canal on autopilot in nav mode steering a previously plotted course. Two or three times through the canal we made manual course adjustments to keep the boat a bit further than the plotted course from shore but, 99% of the time, it was auto-steering.

          Our normal approach is only hand steer in close quarters like marinas, passing under bridges, entering locks, or with boats in close proximity and the system spends 99% of the time running on the auto pilot in auto or nav modes. When hand steering, we are using a follow-up lever that essentially just coammnads the auto-pilot to put the rudder at the specific position requested. The follow-up lever is a nice way of hand steering without having to swing the wheel 7 times lock-to-lock. Our wheel is really just there for equipment failures and, in the life of the boat, I think I have only used the wheel 3 or 4 times and never more than a couple of minutes at a time.

          • Steven Coleman says:

            I’ve noticed some boats forgo the helm wheel altogether and simply use a follow up lever.

            Is your helm wheel tied by hydraulics to your rudder where you could possibly bypass the steering pumps and use brute strength to turn the wheel and thus the rudder or is that pretty much of a bypass and use the “emergency tiller” situation?

            As far as equipment failure, auto pilot or charting software would be the only things I can think of for a steering casualty where a helm wheel would do any good.

            We had steering failures in the Navy from time to time almost always caused by over zealous helmsmen that where trying to go to either left or right full rudder as quick as possible which if they didn’t reverse the helm quick enough the rams could go all the way in which didn’t leave enough oil on the surface area of the ram to drive it. Then it was get out the chain falls and pull it over enough to get fluid back into the ram to operate.

            Additionally the ship I was on was old enough that brute strength would be able to turn the rudder through the hydraulics from the “emergency after steering station” after the pumps were bypassed which thankfully we only did for a short time during drills. One guy on the port and one guy on the starboard chain fall was much quicker and easier but I guess you have to practice everything.

            Personally I guess I’m so outdated in my thinking I wouldn’t consider not having a helm wheel but does it really on something like Dirona, serve any purpose that a follow up lever wouldn’t be good for?

            • Steve, you were asking about the manual steering wheel and if it served any purpose the follow up lever couldn’t do. No, the wheel is just there for redundancy and the follow-up lever is what we normally use in close quarters. The wheel is only there for auto-pilot, control system, or steering pump failure. It is almost never used but I wouldn’t eliminate the wheel. It has been used briefly and having that backup was important at the time.

              For background, the wheel is a manual steering pump and it’ll turn the rudder the same whether the auto-pilot or steering pump is running or not. It is a bit heavy but only a bit since it is geared to be 7 turns lock-to-lock to maintain a good mechanical advantage.

  13. Dave Higgins says:

    Big night tonight. I would imagine that folks are tailgating already over by the stadium. Should be big crowds at Harborplace and the surrounding area before and after the game. You do know who owns that big yacht just north of you?

    • Yeah, this evening is the Raven’s against the Browns and it’s going to be great for us to be back in an NFL stadium.

      Good obsservation on the boat behind us. It is “Winning Drive” owned by the Steve Bisciotti who also happens to own the Ravens. Winning Drive is moved up from Anappolis for Ravens home games.

  14. Tim Kaine says:

    Happy Belated Birthday Jennifer

    You must have felt at home in Salem with your witch related themes from several years.
    Hope you and James had a great day.

    Always glad to see the boat running!!

  15. Dave Higgins says:

    Welcome to Baltimore, Hon’s!

    • Thanks Dave. We’re right down and it looks like a great spot. Nice looking city!

      • Johnson Waite says:

        Be careful in downtown Baltimore. It is much different from the other cities you have visited as you have circumnavigated the world.

        • Thanks for the warning. If there are specific areas to avoid or ones that you feel are safer let us know. We genarlly try to be careful but local knowledge is always appreciated.

          • Johnson Waite says:

            I believe the area around the marina is kinda safe. Be careful after dark. The inner harbor is find during the day.

            As an aside, if you come 30 miles south to Annapolis you might get a slip at the Annapolis yacht club or you can tie up in ego alley and pay the dockmaster.

            • Thanks for the advice Johnson. We’ll take care.

              We did look into Annapolis, but the moorage prices were over four times that of Baltimore. And as nice as Annapolis is, there’s more to see and do in downtown Baltimore. We’ve got Ravens tickets for Thursday night, and we’re going to visit the aquarium, the maritime museum and maybe the science center. We’ve got an excellent slip right downtown and last night we walked over to Harbor Place and had a great meal with a view to our marina across the harbor. We’re loving Baltimore so far.

              • Colin Rae says:

                Can you put some prices on your moorage prices please?

                We hope to bring our N47 across the pond in a couple of years and will hopefully meander up the east coast in similar manner to yourselves once the Admiral gets her Grandma fix in Florida! I think the moorage fees are considerably higher than what I am used to in Europe, but it would be good to have an idea of just how much! I hear of $10/foot and other exciting amounts!

                Take care,


                • The US East Coast is, by far, the most expensive moorage we have seen anywhere. I’m sure there are places all over the world that are worse but this is the highest we have come across. Rates on season runs from $2/ft through $6/ft. We have managed to find some less expensive spots partly because we are usually off season and sometimes we just find better value. The marinas that everyone uses are more expensive than the others. Some of the “others” are actually nicer. For example, in Florida we stayed at Soverel Harbor. It’s a better location than many of the more commonly referenced locations and there are restaurants, a shopping mall, grocery stores all a short walk away and yet it was only $2,50/ft on season and $2.00/ft off.

                  There is also an incredible diversity of rates in the off season where many want the summer rate even when they are empty while others offer excellent rates. In Belfast we were paying just over $1.43/ft while all else in the area was around $2/ft. In Baltimore, we are at $0.50/ft off season and it’s only a bit over $1/ft on season.

                  Some locations are negotiable especially for longer stays while others won’t budge. It’s worth shopping around. Most locations have far better weekly or monthly rates. I’ve even known people to take a yearly Moorage lease and then only use it for a few months — it just ended up being cheaper.

                  50′ appears to be magic cut-off where rates are far higher above. In some locations 49′ is half the price per foot of 51′. At 47, you will slip under that line.

                  • Colin Rae says:

                    Thanks James. Expensive indeed, but obviously worth doing your homework!

                    Looking forward to doing it, thanks for sharing everything with us all.

                    Best wishes,


          • Dave Madden says:

            Baltimore has a bad reputation, some of it deserved, but much of it not. From what I’ve read about Cape Town, Baltimore seems pretty good so just do your thing. I live just outside the city but I travel through it often, and I am safe, even in the bad areas.
            I’ve followed your blog for a year or so, I can’t even remember how I found it. I dont own a boat, but I want to now. I’d love to buy you a beer while your in town.

            • Thanks Dave. It’s funny but last night we were saying the same thing you did. It is a bit like Cape Town where the core is very tourist friendly and there are few security problems. I suspect both cities have issues even there but reasonable care seems to keep them rare. Away from the well patrolled high tourist area at the inner harbor, risk seems to go up in both cities.

              Buy us a beer? That’s a rare one for us to refuse :-). Sure! I’m going through a busy time at work so am more busy than usual during the day but a before dinner visit on most days works well on our end. Drop me a note at and we’ll figure out something that fits for you as well.

  16. Timothy Daleo says:

    Are you all settled in and at anchor? Did Dirona do well on this leg?

    • Yes, we were anchored last night in the Sassafras River. Arrived just before sunset and got to enjoy the sunset from the Cockpit without almost no wind. It was fun watching the aircraft traffic heading into the Baltomore and surrounding airports. There were times when we could see 15 flights in the small section of sky we could see.

      Dirona did well on the run south. No issues. The winds were 5 to 10 kts more than we were expecting so it was a bit rougher than we prefer but no big deal. We got underway this morning at 5:45 and are running at 9.5 kts at only 160 hp with very favorable currents. We will arrive into Baltimore in time for lunch.

      • Timothy Daleo says:

        The weather looks perfect there. You have a nice slip with a view?

        • The weather is GREAT. I’m hard at work but the view is wonderful downtown and it’s so nice that the pilot house door is wide open. I’m looking forward to a nice relaxing evening at one of the local restaraunts. The Inner Harbor is really working out well.

          • Timothy Daleo says:

            It looks like you are in a double slip. Neighbors cool? I do not know what a Rusty Scupper is but I hope it has cold beer!

  17. Andy Biddle says:

    See you are underway. Your location brings back memories of cruising the Vineyard, Newport, Block Island and the sound. Then I look at the calendar and think I would head for Cape May, the Delaware river and the C & D canal.

    • It’s funny you should say that Andy but you just outlined exactly our plan: Cape May, the Delaware river and the C & D canal. We’ll stop off in Newport RI for a few days to visit KVH and tour the area a bit but, as soon as the weather cooperates, we’ll be back underway for Cape May.

  18. Steven Coleman says:

    Hello James,

    I don’t know how much that control board for your HVAC system runs but if you like to tinker and wanted to replace that compressor relay you could probably end up with a spare for more of an investment in time than money.

    Greenwich Electronics was bought out by American Zettler but their relay cross reference shows a match.

      • Yes, that is the relay. To save this board I would have to replace 2 of the 3 relays on the board but that would likely work.

        My theory on what killed these relays was operating the HVAC system on 50hz. The manufacture said it would work fine but the compressor really labored when commming on and I suspect they draw more current when operating in 50hz. I eventually decided it was simply not a good idea to operate the HVAC system on 50 hz and the manufacturer now says the configuration is unsupported so they appear to have arrived at the same conclusion.

        When we went to the new power system design, we stopped operating any loads other than chargers on 50 hz. There are many advantages to the new power system design but one of them is the HVAC system now only needs to operate at 60hz:

        I kept the failed control board so I could change the relays if I get motivated. I have one more spare control board on the boat so I probably won’t invest the time to fix this one unless I see another fault. Thanks for finding the relay manufacturer.

        • Steven Coleman says:

          You are exactly right although almost every motor I see today is rated 50/60 hz, however, if they are equipped with start or run capacitors they are sized on the basis of 60 hz.

          So unless you have a soft start VFD motor on a drive, they are going to draw a higher amperage on start. And in the case of a refrigeration compressor anytime the expansion device opens allowing more liquid through changing the load.

          That is one thing I never liked about the Nordhavn specs was they used 50 hz equipment but since it’s doubtful I’ll ever own one the point is moot. But if I happen to hit the lottery or (even less likely) convince the wife to let me sell everything and move us on a boat I’d have 60 hz equipment and find away to supply it similar to what you’ve done.

          • That’s what we did: sold the house, sold the car, got rid of all personal effects that wouldn’t fit on the boat and went cruising.

            The HVAC system would run on both 50 or 60 hz but I’m much happier only running it on the design frequency for the system. The only equipment we currently run on different frequency than the original design is our 240V, 50Hz Australia patio heater. 1800 watts of outdoor comfort. It’s perfectly happy running on any frequency.

            • Steven Coleman says:

              Anything is possible I suppose.

              She was dead set against motorcycles and yet she’s got her own Road King and hangs in there for my normal 15,000 mile yearly average.

              • 15k miles per year is pretty substantial on a motorcycle. Proves, as you said, anything is possible.

                • Steven Coleman says:

                  I suppose it depends on how you look at it. I know many that ride much more than that however, I know many multiples of that number who ride a lot less. A friend of mine bought a two year old modified street glide after the owner who not to mention any names, happens to be the recently departed head football coach of MU, which was 2 years old and had less than 2000 miles on it.

                  Since they aren’t used as a primary means of transportation, I have a company service truck for work, and the wife drives her car to work since there really isn’t any place “safe” to park hers during the day, I suppose that means when we do ride them it’s simply for the pleasure derived from the journey.

                  Looking at it that way yes, 15K a year is a good amount. But then again, you two didn’t get Dirona to keep her tied up to a pier and I’ve never been one to want a piece of machinery tying up space in my garage that I never use.

                  • I agree. Lack of use is a great way to make a boat expensive. They still need maintenance when not used so, if you are only using it 4 weeks a year, it gets ridiculously pricey per hour. Having less and using it more seems to be the best equation.

  19. Steven Coleman says:

    Hello James,

    Looking at the photo of your “stack socket” I’m somewhat confused (I know that’s easy to do).

    Other than the green insulation on one wire, it looks to be a common two wire romex without ground. The box a common cut-in with ears and I can’t see enough of the receptacle to tell about it’s configuration.

    That isn’t being used for 120 volt service is it?

    • Stephen Walker-Weinshenker says:

      I believe it is 120V service based on the shape of the outlet (I am assuming it is a GFCI). When I zoom in on the photo, I can just barely make out a white wire between the black and green wires.

      • Steven Coleman says:

        I do believe you are right. I had to download the photo to zoom in enough to see it but with 3 wires it makes sense that it could be a GFIC.

        • Yes, it is a GFIC socket. All 120V outlets whether inside or out are GFIC protected.

          • Steve McCreary says:

            James – A few comments on your stack socket work. Loose conductors are always a concern and can lead to hot joints, failures and fire; I suspect you know this. A very important wiring practice that is commonly overlooked is proper strain relief. Cable strain relief should be as close as possible to the wire termination point, ideally at the entry to the socket box and secondary within close proximity to the box. This is even more important if the conductor is solid as there would be little flexibility (hence strain on termination) versus the preferred multi-strand conductor.

            Regarding multi-strand versus solid conductor my professional industrial experience is multi-strand is a preferred conductor too solid in mobile equipment applications (boat would qualify). I can’t see from the photo which is the case in your application. If your application is solid conductor I would suggest just a bit of extra care in preventative maintenance with strain relief and periodic checking tightness of conductors.

            Also happy to hear you use CFCI. Individuals performing wiring should understand the wiring practices and placement of GFCI type outlets in the overall circuit layout, mistakes can be made which renders the GFCI feature inoperable. I tend to use CFGI breakers for the entire circuit, although costlier.

            Happy wiring!

            • Thanks for the wiring advice Steve. These are now all torqued down and properly supported.

              Years ago we had a loose connection on our 24V DC bus bar at the DC panel. I noticed it because it glowed orange when the inverter was active. Rather than the 15A connection we have at the stack socket, the DC bus bar connection can flow up to 500A and when I saw it glowing would have been around 300 to 400A. I now torque these connections every year. So far, I’ve never seen one change so I may eventually back off the annual torque but a loose connection on the main DC bus bar could become a big problem in a hurry.

      • Correct, it’s a 120V outlet. Three problems with the installation: 1) the gasket was positioned such that it didn’t seal at the top and ran water in, 2) the foam core of the stack was not sealed off from water intrusion, and 3) the screw connector for the white wire had vibrated loose.

  20. Steven Coleman says:

    Hello James,

    It’s a good thing you are limber and not the least bit claustrophobic. Otherwise they’d have been cutting another access hole in that stack.

    • You are so right Seven. I actually did end up getting so far into the stack on one side that I couldn’t get back out. The effort it took to push back expanded my chest and wedged me completely. I was deffiniely contemplating new access hatches at that point.

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