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General questions & comments
  1. Bob Grauer says:

    James you like a great number of adjustable wrench users are use not only the adj. wrench but also the end wrenches wrong, sorry. Please watch this you tube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=latrFJ7uFiM that willshow you what you are doing wrong. My father used to holler at me if I use a wrench in this manner. Please take my criticism as constructive criticism. Your way can break the wrench when you need it most not to mention hurting your self.

    • You’ve had your father explain the use of adjustable wrenches to you. I’ve had the same. I’m also a licensed professional auto-mechanic so you can imagine I’ve had automotive trade teachers explain this too me many times. I’ve done a 9,000 hour apprenticeship so, yes, I’e had this explained to me by many seasoned and highly skilled professionals. We post to our blog (https://mvdirona.com/) and put videos (https://www.youtube.com/user/mvdirona/featured) up describing our trip and showing some of the service work we have done in our years rounding the world. Literally dozens of folks like yourself have jumped in to save us from injury and explained how adjust wrenches could or should be used. I’ve had a lot of advice on this topic.

      But even with all that good advice, I still don’t religiously follow the “adjustable wrench rules” that are otherwise so popular. As a professional auto-mechanic, I had a 5′ high tool box with thousands of dollars in tools and yet not a single adjustable wrench. When you have 2 cubic meters of tools, you almost always have the right tool and it would be silly to accept the bulk and weaknesses of adjustable wrench. But, on a small boat, it’s not practical to have anywhere close to 2 cubic meters worth of tools and, ironically, there are a great many fasteners much larger than any found in an automotive application. Even more tools are needed on a boat. There just isn’t space for all the right tools so adjustable ends up being the only practical solution. Boats also often have a shortage of space and adjustable wrenches are bigger and more bulky so it’s often the case that the adjustable wrench can’t use used in the “right” way and the only way to move a nut is to sift it first a bit using one side of the wrench and then turn it over and use the other side. That’s why all wrenches have about a 15 degree offset on the end — it allows progress when the clearance is tight but that does require using the wrench in both directions in violation of popular advice.

      Having used adjustable wrenches “incorrectly” for literally decades, I’ll observe they are far stronger than conventional wisdom allows and I’ve got a great many jobs done that wouldn’t have been possible following all the rules. And, I’ve never had an adjustable wrench fail. They are far more reliable than conventional wisdom but I do agree they are worth avoiding and, if they must be used, they should be used with care.

  2. Max says:

    A quick thank you for having your “Prince William Sound” presentation available on-line. We returned to North America from Micronesia via the Aleutians and were debating in which region of Alaska we would transition from “delivery mode” to “cruising mode” for a few weeks. Your presentation led us to deciding to spend our slack time in PWS vice the busier SE Alaska and the whole family thoroughly enjoyed it (http://sv-fluenta.blogspot.com/2020/01/more-ice-yale-glacier-and-watersports.html).

    Even as a sailboat guy I follow the technical aspects of your blog as I enjoy reading how well you two overcome the technical challenges of cruising.

    Thanks again,

    Max
    SV Fluenta
    Presently Sidney, BC

  3. Alec Peterson says:

    What sensor did you use to publish the domestic hot water temperature on your NMEA2000 network? I love the idea of having that information available centrally to know when I would need to fire up the generator.

    • We use the “Ring Temperature Probe” Maretron Part# TR3K connected up to a TMP100 (https://www.maretron.com/products/tmp100.php). I clamped the metal end of the temp probe onto the brass outlet port on the water heater right up against the heater pressure tank. The tight mechanical connection of a hose clamp gives excellent conduction and gives an accurate read on hot water tank temperature.

      • Alec Peterson says:

        Perfect thanks. Ordered some ambient temp sensors too, that will be very helpful.

        • We find having temperatures sensors with alarms all over the boat is really useful. Some examples from our boat (some humidity sensors aren’t operative):

          Temp & Humidity: 02/14 07:58 (02/14 06:58)
          Outside 47.1F 77.3% 1013mb 0.0kts
          Water 46.4F
          MSR 63.0F 52.0%
          Pilot House 73.0F 47.0%
          Salon 65.0F 52.0%
          Furnace 56.9F
          Water Heater 120.4F
          Engine Room 63.2F
          House Bank 63.5F
          Start Bank 60.8F
          Autopilot 1 59.6F
          Autopilot 2 60.9F
          Lazarette 62.9F
          Laz Freezer -12.8F
          Entertainment 89.0F 25.0%
          120V Inverter 77.0F 25.0%
          240V Inverter 1 67.0F 55.0%
          240V Inverter 2 68.0F 74.0%
          Engine Intake 58.0F 60.0%
          ER Intake 61.0F 1.0%
          ER Outlet 62.0F 100.0%
          Stack Shroud 61.0F 66.0%
          Stack Fan 60.0F 46.0%
          Fuel 55.8F

          • Alec Peterson says:

            Wow, that is an impressive set of temperature data. Especially given your power setup the inverter ones seem particularly relevant.

            I saw that picture you took of the melted transmission at the boat show, and it got me thinking: Is there value monitoring the transmission temperature? Aside from checking the oil level regularly I’m not sure how else I’d get ahead of a failure like that. Wondering if you think that would be a useful leading indicator.

            • Yes, measuring temperature of the transmission is worth a lot. In fact, if you monitor transmission temperature and frequently check the fluid (level and looking for water or other impurities in the oil), you will detect most problems before failure and, on many problems, have lots of warning. Monitoring transmission temperatures is definitely worth doing.

  4. Chris Barber says:

    Hi James,

    Can you tell us what you’re using for the big floodlights up on the stack – the side- and aft-facing ones. As-built, or new led ones or what?
    And also your hydraulic bilge pump so I can go find one for my boat.
    Thanks
    Chris

    • For the hydraulic bilge pump, it’s a Pacer and they make both hydraulic and electric versions of the same pump. Hydraulic is a nice solution for a hydraulic boat but, when retrofitting the electric version might be an easier install. Both use the same pump and can move the same volume of water. Here’s an electric pump from Pacer:

      https://www.absolutewaterpumps.com/pacer-close-coupled-centrifugal-self-priming-pump-se2elc2-0c-electric-single-phase-2-hp-2-fnpt-110-gpm?fee=2&fep=7869&matchtype=&network=g&device=c&adposition=1o2&keyword=&gclid=Cj0KCQiA7OnxBRCNARIsAIW53B9P6i4Bgre93TLsh53IHb08XiRgQSanhYj2LrfVnL9G8m5ZTv4ttwYaAh8-EALw_wcB

      The side floodlights are super bright, 150W LEDs (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008XGT27U/). They are real beasts and the design point for them is to augment GPS, charts, and RADAR when entering tight quarters at night. These lights are setup to not illuminuate the boat so there is no back scatter but they really light up the surrounding area for a few hundred feet. It’s an added visual check to help stay away from the rocks. We also have a Flir but find visual checks with bright lights even more effective.

      The back lights are to illuminate the boat decks and swim platform for working at night. The most common use is lifting the tender at night.

      • Chris Barber says:

        Great, thank you. Nice lights, bummer they’re not on Prime but still look very cost-attractive in a three-pack. Clicking that one now. The thing about the electric-vs-hydraulic on the pump is that if the boat’s full of water, the engine and hydraulics may be the only thing still working. You’ve got the big hydraulic pumps on Dirona but my 47 has the small pump on the main for the stabilizers, and will get another similar or identical pump on the wing. I’m hoping that this will deliver the capacity needed by that bilge pump in the hydraulic version. I’ll take a look at the specs and see; maybe convince my hydraulics guy to put a bigger pump on the wing, or be able to use both engines to drive the bilge. We’ll see; plenty of time to make this decision.

        • Your right that that water pump is a high volume hydraulic consumer. You could put a bigger hydraulic pump on the main. Variable output pumps back off and produce less volume when needed so a larger pump barely changes the parasitic load when not moving large volumes of oil but makes available large volumes when called upon.

          • Chris Barber says:

            I just looked at the hydraulic version of the electric pump you linked above. says 500 pounds, 9 gpm. Surely even the smaller hydr pump used for the stabilizer system would drive this?
            https://www.absolutewaterpumps.com/pacer-self-priming-centrifugal-hydraulic-water-pump-se2el-hyc-hydraulic-driven-2-110-gpm-female-npt

            • I’ve got a 45cc Bosch Rexroth Pump on the wing and the main engines. What that means is that 45cc of oil is pumped on each RPM. Find out what your pump capacity is and then multiply it by RPM to find the max volume of oil you can move at that RPM. That’ll allow you to figure out if you can drive the Pacer crash pump.

              • Alec Peterson says:

                I’ve got a manual pump that connects to a manifold, allowing a connection to the four different bilge locations. Theoretically, could this pump be connected to a Y connector on the manual pump, allowing this pump to be used? Feels like it’s a viable way to avoid having to plumb another set of hoses to each of the bilges.

                • That’s very close to what we did as well. Most of our pumps have there own non-shared pickups and their own non-shared through-hull and that is the recommended approach. But, when we added the second Rule 3700, we put it into the manual bilge pump circuit. The Rule 3700 is in the main bilge and it pumps up the manual bilge pump, through the flapper valve in the manual pump, and out the manual bilge pump through-hull. This isn’t the recommended configuration but, when set up like this, the Rule 3700 still produces the same unrestricted output and the manual pump still operates as before. I’ve tested both and I’m happy with the configuration but I don’t view the manual pump as adding much safety with all the other pumps we have and I suspect we may someday just remove the manual pump entirely.

      • Chris Barber says:

        I just got my set of three flood lights. Holy cow these things are huge! Holly could barely lift the package to bring the thing in. My friend saw them, and said, “you will be seen from space”! Best comment of the year.

        Anyways, I wanted to ask how you have these wired: did you put a weather tight junction box in the stack and connect them all together there, or did you run per-lamp cabling all the way to inside the boat? Certainly current is not an issue with three or four of these at only 150W each on a single cable; really just a question of the amount of wire and where to interconnect them and relative convenience. I’ve never been inside that stack so I’m not sure how much room there is in there for cable management.

        Thanks
        Chris

        • They are big lights. We where in the middle of the options you mentioned. We want individual control of the three circuits so we went with one wire for each of: 1) forward spotlight, 2) side floods, and 3) boat deck floods.

          The only problem with those lights is the bracket is powder coated steel and it’ll rust. I have stainless steel brackets made to the same dimensions. Other than that, even in very high use in difficult conditions, you should get 5 to 7 years from those lights.

  5. Clay Mathews says:

    Thank’s for bringing all of us along on your adventures. You’re doing what a lot of us would like to, but will never take the plunge. A couple of questions. Based on your engine hours do you have a feel for when major engine work will be necesary? You’ve done a lot of changes/modifications on your boat. How many of them have you done for your specific needs vs what would help the “general” boater. Do you know how many of your-and other long distance cruisers mods have been incorperated on production boat’s?

    • We expect the engine will do double the hours it has on it now — it should easily reach 20k hours and many experts predict 30k. At this point (10,800 hours), it’s not a hint different from new with no oil burning or smoke. It still feels “new” and it really running well.

      Many of the mods we have put in make the boat easier to use by automating things. For example, rather than having to monitor the electrical load and be careful not to put on the microwave and the hair dryer at the same time, the system load sheds so that breakers don’t pop. Less essential loads are shut off allowing the boat to continue to operate without having to explicitly manage the load. These are more advanced systems that I believe will become “normal” in RVs and boats but it’ll be quite a while before that happens. Some other aspects of our designs, like the ability to run on dual shore power and easily use 50/60hz (https://mvdirona.com/2014/08/a-more-flexible-power-system-for-dirona/) is becoming more common and is optional on current Nordhavn builds. But all these items are for convenience and none are a prerequisite to really enjoying a boat or the trip.

  6. Alec Peterson says:

    I’m thinking of putting together a generator auto-start system similar to what you described. I like the precision of the system you’ve built as compared with the rather limited control some of the off-the-shelf solutions provide. The automated signals based on N2KView all make sense. But I’ve got a few questions about how those signals are used:

    1) You seem to have some beefy switching relays for your loads (https://mvdirona.com/blog/content/binary/Blog_WarningLights_IMG_1182.web.jpg). What are those relays?
    2) The Northern Lights control system sounds great, but I have an Onan generator which doesn’t seem offer a similar product (though granted I just did a cursory search). Would using the Dynagen control system for the generator work for any engine? It seems like it would (and since I’d be using it for a generator I wouldn’t have the throttle issue you had).
    3) How do you manually turn on the generator with this setup? Is the idea that since the warm up/cool down is something you always want to do anyway (regardless of what the signal is) that you have a manual ‘switch’ in N2KView that you use to manually switch on the generator, and never just start it up directly? This is important in my case because I don’t have a need to implement your ‘all loads through the inverters’ setup, so there are some loads (like the water maker and water heater) that I need to run the generator for.

    Thanks!

    Alec

    • You are doing 100% the right thing to start with warm-up/cool-down when thinking through autostart. It’s vital that a cold engine not be brought online into a full load. We have a 12KW generator which is 50A max output. I like our electrical systems with headroom so I use a 65A contactor to implement warm-up/cool-down. I’m a big fan of Shcnieder products and use them heavily at work so I chose their LC1D65ABD (https://www.se.com/ww/en/product/LC1D65ABD/tesys-d-contactor—3p(3-no)—ac-3—%3c=-440-v-65-a—24-v-dc-standard-coil/) which is a 3 pole contactor rated at 65A at 240V and it’s using a 24VDC coil. There are variants of that relay with all different coil voltages — you should use whatever is easiest to implement in your control system. There are variants of that series of contactors so you can get one sized for whatever generator you are using. I like to run max load at around 80% of the contactor rating so we use a 65A contactor on our 50A circuit.

      For engine controller, I really, really like the Dynagen TG410 (https://dynagen.com/tough-series-tg410-auto-start-controller). We use our main engine as a 9kw backup generator in case our main generator fails (https://mvdirona.com/2018/01/two-generators-when-you-only-have-one/). On this install, we use a Dynagen TG410 and it’s great.

      Both the Northern lights controllers and Dynagen controllers have provision to implement adjustable warm-up and cool-down times. When I originally installed I used a 2 min warm-up and a 1 min cool down. It’s super easy to configure on both these engine controller designs where it’s one menu entry for each and the number of seconds can be set. This approach works great and is all I recommend but, I can’t leave well enough alone so my control system warms the generator up to 150F so sometimes will give 20 seconds of warmup (the min) and sometimes up to 10 min of warmup (the max). But the fixed 2 min and 1 min works great.

      With the Dynagen TG410, all you need is to send a 24V control signal to the TG410 when to start. There are many ways to do this. Some system use battery voltage and some use battery state of charge (SOC) and both have issues. If you use SOC, it’s sometimes off by a wide margin and is really not very reliable if you are not frequently charging your batteries to 100% charge. I don’t recommend it. Using voltage will cause your generator to premature start when large loads hit the system and draw the voltage down. This works fine, will never hurt your batteries but will be auto-starting more frequently than absolutely needed. I used max voltage over 15 min which works very well but probably isn’t supported by most off the shelf solutions. Just using voltage works adequately well and most modern inverters can do this for you.

      My solution is to use a custom software system that monitors battery voltage and starts when the trailing 15 min max voltage indicates 55% charge. What I do is note that over 15 min periods, the max voltage is almost always the average current for the boat. Battery voltage is poorly correlated with battery state of charge. But, battery voltage at a fixed discharge rate is VERY highly related to state of charge. I configure the system to start at 55% and it works great.

      You asked how can the generator be started in this model. Many different ways depending upon the richness of your system. The simplest is to walk up to the TG410 and press start will do a manual start. I almost never do this since this is full manual mode and won’t auto-shutdown. An easy alternative is to have a dash switch that is in paralel to your auto-start system and is an alternative way to send a start signal. In this model, the 24V signal can be sent to the TG410 from the auto-start logic (usually an inverter) or via a rocker switch. To start, you just flick on the rocker switch. Here again, it won’t auto-shutdown but it’s useful for oil changes and testing purposes or if you want the gen on for cooking or other high load purposes.

      Our system is a bit richer in that I have a couple of other ways to start the gen. It’s implemented on a web page where I can request the control system to start from a web page from anywhere on the boat. Actually from anywhere in the world. I can turn on the water heater, the generator, the HVAC system, the diesel boiler, the chargers etc. from any device on the boat or where where I’m sitting and typing this in Seattle. When we fly back to Amsterdam, I’ll turn on the water heater and heating system to warm the boat so it’s back up to temperature when we arrive.

      I also have 16 key keyboards spread throughout the boat where I can turn on gen, tun off/on chargers, heater, HVAC, change the duration of the next generator run, skip to the next song on the entertainment system, go back to the last song, pause the music, and many other things. So, there are MANY ways to turn the gen off and on and you are only limited by the number of different ways you can send a 24V control signal to the Dynagen TG410. It’ll automatically give you warm-up and cool down if you install the contactor recommended above.

      • Alec Peterson says:

        Wow, thanks for the detailed response.
        If I’m understanding this correctly, in this model the warm-up/cool-down logic in the auto-start system itself, separate from the demand signal? So one way I could go is rely on the inverter to do a very simplistic ‘the batteries need to be charged’ signal, or do something more nuanced in N2KView that would look at the battery state, and send the signal at the right time to the Dynagen. The Dynagen would take responsibility for the generator warm up/warm down. So that means a manual signal to the Dynagen takes care of closing/opening the relay between the generator output and the loads as necessary. That makes sense.

        I am curious about your comments regarding the ‘when to charge’ signal. Specifically this statement I wasn’t quite sure about:

        “What I do is note that over 15 min periods, the max voltage is almost always the average current for the boat.”

        The relationship between current and voltage certainly makes sense, with more current reducing the voltage of the system. But as both of those are analog values that many permutations, how do you reason about what 55% SOC looks like in an automated system? Do you basically have a bunch of conditional blocks over the trailing 15 minutes with ranges like “If the voltage is between 24.8 and 25.0 and the current is between 30 and 50 amps”, and “if the voltage is between 24.6 and 24.8 and the current is between 50 and 100 amps” with a catch-all at the end like “if the voltage is below 24.0”, any of those evaluating to ‘true’ would be your signal to activate the generator?

        If that’s the case, what’s your signal that the batteries are to 80%? I would assume it’s the function of the net input into the batteries combined with the terminal voltage, in another version of the logic above that could probably be a lot simpler, since with the battery chargers pumping current in the voltage should be in a much smaller band.

        One other question I had: I love that you have all of those devices automated, but what that likely means is that you’ve replaced the manual breaker panel with this automation as the way that these systems are powered. So you’ve likely got many of those Schneider relays spread around the boat (one for each of the loads you’re managing), controlled by Maretron DCR100 relays?

        • You asked for more detail on how to know when to start the generator and when to stop it. And for a bit more on how circuits are switched on and off given that we are still using mechanical breakers. Let’s start with the last one. We use contactors sized to the load. The HVAC system and the generator warmup/cooldown circuits are 50A rated so I used 65A contactors on those two. Others are much smaller so I use smaller contactors. For contactor control, in some cases I drive them using a Maretron DCR100 which can handle up to 6 contactors. In other cases I drive the contactors with a Raspberry Pi digitial output but this is more complex and I recommend just using the DCR100.

          On how to start and stop the generator, you really want to use battery state of charge and it’ll work fine if you are frequently fully charging the battery bank. But, for applications that go for long periods without fully charging, SoC gets inaccurate. Many use it fine and for those where SoC stays close enough to accurate, they are happy with the solution. In our application, SoC is effectively useless but, if you can use it, it’s a nice and simple solution.

          Because SoC is quite inaccurate and gets progressively less accurate as batteries age and the boat goes through charge/discharge cycles. For starting the generator, we use voltage at a given load. Computing SoC as a function of voltage and load can be quite accurate but it’s complex to get enough data to fully calibrate the system. Lifeline published SoC data at various load rates so computed a polynomial approximation of the 2 dimensional surface of voltage on one dimension and load on the other dimension and the output from the function being SoC. This was excessively complex and not sufficiently accurate. I eventually went for a simpler approximation where I take the highest voltage over the last 15 min — this avoids short duration heavy loads and, when looking at longer periods (we chose 15 min), is close to to the average load on the boat. From the Lifeline battery manual I interpolate to get the voltage level at our average load that corresponds to 55%. It’s a bit complex to describe, a bit of a hassle to figure out but it’s super simple to take the maxV over trailing 15 min and compare to 55% voltage and trigger a start. That’s what I use but many far simpler solutions work fairly well and, if the generator sometimes starts a bit early, you don’t really care.

          On stopping the generator, we look at the amperage going into the batteries. The actual amperage produced by the generator will be higher since it’s also powering the house. What you want is the amperage going into the batteries.

          The above two points can be calibrated using the data in the Lifeline technical manual and a SoC meter is quite accurate on the first battery cycle so you can use it to select the correct triggering voltage for 55% (or whatever you chose) charge and the triggering amperage for 85% (or whatever you use) charge. Both are approximations but it’s surprising how accurate this simple system can be once calibrated.

  7. Alec Peterson says:

    Hi James,

    We have the same engine as yours in our 49′ Selene (though it’s M1 rated instead of M2). Looking through the oil change procedures for the engine, this step is one I don’t know how to do:

    IMPORTANT: Immediately after completing any oil change, crank engine for 30 seconds without permitting engine to start. This will help insure adequate lubrication to engine components before engine starts.

    Two questions about this:

    1) I haven’t seen this in other engine oil change procedures (though admittedly my sample size is small, but for the Onan generator we have in the same boat it doesn’t include this step). Given how many oil changes you perform do you see it as a critical step on this engine?
    2) Assuming the answer to #1 is “of course it’s important”, how does one crank the John Deere 6068 engine without allowing it to start?

    Thanks!

    Alec

    • Deere is playing it safe in case customers change the only on an engine that hasn’t been run for a while and I don’t follow their recommendations in this case. We never change the oil unless the oil is hot which means the engine has been running and is fully coated with oil and the engine is warm. I then change the oil and start the engine and it takes roughly 10 seconds to fill the oil filter and come up to full oil pressure.

      Theoretically it would be slightly better to crank the engine to oil pressure first and then start up but only slightly better and I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle. The only ways I know of to cause cranking without starting are to disconnect the ECU and there is no way I would do that without very good reason. I don’t want connector wear etc. If you were really concerned about this, you could 90% fill the filter with fresh oil before re-installing it. Personally I don’t think it’s worth the hassle — a warm engine that has been running in the last 30 min is very well oiled. Don’t start it into load, leave it a low idle, and otherwise don’t worry about it is my approach.

      Because I have a live hydraulic pump (always on), I ensure the hydraulic system is not on (won’t be pumping above idle pressure) and this should always be the case until the main engine has been running and is warm and ready to take load. The main alternators on our boat are big beasts that will apply material load. These I’ve adjusted to to not engage the field and put load on the engine until it’s been running for 30 seconds. This is an easy option on a Balmar external regulator (MC-614 for 12V systems and the MC-624 for 24 volt systems) and, for tawler applications with large house banks, I recommend external regulations to allow the charge control you need for large house battery bank operation.

      If you do want to prevent starting for 30 seconds, my recommendation is to contact your Deere Dealer and get their advice on how to do it. All methods I can think of our pretty clunky. I personally don’t think it’s worth the hassle and most I know don’t either. It’s vital the engine be warm and recently run on an oil change though.

      • Alec Peterson says:

        Great re the oil change, that’s the same rationalization I was going through in my head and mitigation I was hoping to use (ie, running the engine right before, which they also recommend). Thanks for the confirmation. Clearly they are going full ‘belt and braces’ with reducing risk. The alternator on the engine now doesn’t even kick on until the engine hits 1200RPM, so from the perspective of loading the the engine that’s all good.

        It’s interesting you mention the Balmar alternators. I had one in my previous boat (a 90A/14V), which was fantastic. It very close to its maximum output (about 80%) on a continuous basis as long as I had a demand for it. The one that came with our Selene (it was a floor model) is a 140A/28V alternator (not a Balmar). This feels like it should be enough for the loads we have, but even at cruising speed it barely put out 50% of its rated capacity on a continuous basis even when the batteries are well under 80% charged.

        I was thinking of putting a Balmar alternator in its place, and was wondering which specific ones you have? Looking at the options there seem to be a few possibilities but I was wondering if for extended heavy use you rely on the “Heavy Duty Cycle” extra large case units, and do they fit well on the 6068 engine?

        • We use 2 Balmar 190A@24V units (http://www.balmar.net/product/alternators/alternator-97ehd-190-24/). These are about 4.5KW each and absolute tanks able to put out 100% output continuously. Integral regulator alternators are designed to charge start battery banks and aren’t setup to efficiently charge large house battery banks. The easiest and least expensive solution to your problem is to keep using the 140A unit you have but take it to a alternator repair store and get it converted to external regulation. If you do decide to do that, it probably makes sense to get it freshened up while there. Then I would install a Balmar MC-24 (http://www.balmar.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/PDS-MC-624-H-1.pdf) to control it.

          That is an inexpensive change that will allow you to get full alternator output. You need to be careful and limit the output to hold the alternator down below 225F to at very most 240F which is easy to do with the MC-624 regulator. There are a full alternators out there that can put out full output up above 300F — noboby recommends they be run there but, as an experiment, I ran the Balmar 97EHD-190-24 without temperature limits for years and it was often in the 300F to 315F range and that alternator is an absolute tank and it’ll do that all day long but, generally, unless you are using an unusually good alternator don’t let it go much above 225F.

          On our previous boat we had 105A Delcos and I learned super quickly that they can produce 105A for about 5 min before releasing their smoke. I experimented a bit and found out that they are best limited to 77A and, at that level, they don’t go above 225F and will last forever. At 105A, the field windings and bearings fail very quickly. The Balmar 97EHD-190-24 is a rare breed with very durable field winding insulation and great bearings and it’ll run at very high temps for yeas without a problem. The 190A will fade slightly to about 177A at 300F but seems able to run that way indefinitely.

          In your case, the easiest solution is external regulation but the nicest solution is to replace the alternator with a larger unit. Given 140A is pretty high, I would be tempted to stay with what you currently have.

          • Chris Barber says:

            The N47 we are purchasing has a Leece-Neville 175A internal regulator. That’s going to have to go, mainly because of the internal regulator but I also don’t know anything about its true capacity characteristics. James, what do you know/think about the 98 series Balmar as compared to the 97 you’re using? Maybe they are a newer design that was not available when Dirona was built?

            • The 175A Leece-Neville is a wonderful alterator that is used heavily in trucks and buses. It’s not quite as temperature resiant as the Balmar of the same size but it’s a great alternator and I personally wouldn’t replace it unless it’s failed. Just convert it to external regulation and install Balmar regulator configured to keep the alternator temperature down below 225F to 235F. That’s the most efficient approach. Changing alternators is more expensive than needed in my opinion, although if you do, I’m a pretty big fan of the large frame Balmars.

              • Chris Barber says:

                Excellent, if that thing can be converted to external regulation that would be ideal. I’ve always heard good things about that brand but can find little documentation. Also I just remembered what drew my attention to the Balmar 98 series: it’s brushless, which should add a bit of long-term easing of maintenance and failure rate. But that’s an expensive bit of gear. As it turns out I actually have two of the L-N alternators (came with a spare) so if I convert them both and mount the second one in place of the small start battery alternator as you have done I’ve got about 9KW on the main engine which is not a bad outcome for basically no cost! Seriously, thank you for saving me several thousand bucks!

                • Yes, it can be converted to external regulation cheaply and efficiently by any alternator shop and the Lease Neville a well built system that I would happily use. The dual alternator config works very well and make the main engine into a medium sized generator. With that configuration, we never need to run the generator when underway even with AC systems running.

  8. Chris Barber says:

    Hi James,
    Can you give me some details on the cameras you use and how you integrate them into your electronics plan? The 47 we are purchasing has a couple of analog cameras and an old-ish monitor with some vga inputs or something requiring you to fiddle around with the monitor’s input selection to choose which camera to look at. Pretty unscalable and inflexible.
    Thanks
    Chris

    • I use a combination of Reolink Bullet Cameras (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C5JWK4K) and Reolink Dome cameras (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FQ2T89L/). They are about $50 each with 5M pixel resolution and excellent longevity in difficult conditions. These are single connection Power over Ether (PoE) cameras.

      Reolink provides a free client application that will find and show all the cameras on the subnet. I use that program to set them up. They all need passwords etc. This application could be used to show the Cameras but I use Synology Surveillance Station (https://www.synology.com/en-us/surveillance) which is an app that comes with Synology File Servers. The no-fee version with Synlogy file servers supports up to two cameras and, after that, licenses are $50 each.

      • Chris Barber says:

        Great, thanks James! I just got one of the bullet cams to test, plugged it in (I have POE switches all over the house), installed the client app on my laptop, good to go. Really nice system. Time to start pulling ethernet through the boat!

        • I have POE switches at three locations and that does a good job of covering the boat: 1) lower dash, 2) upper dash, and 3) salon entertainment area. If there was one also one in the GSR/MSR area, the entire boat would be covered and easy to deal with. #1 can reach the entire area below the window in the PH and down below to the staterooms. #2 can reach the upper dash, the fly bridge, and the stack. #3 can reach the salon, galley, engine room and laz.

          • Chris Barber says:

            Definitely putting a switch in the GSR. That’s my office. In the PH there’s a little closet to the port side of the stairs, just forward of the stack. That seems like a good place for a 16 port POE switch to feed the cameras and internet access gadgets, and whatever else ends up the PH like a laptop, Maretron, or whatever, and then feed a couple of smaller POE switches and outlets from there. I’m putting one of those little micro form factor computers in there too, replacing the ancient Windows XP thing that’s in there now, and actually died in front of us on the sea trial day! Good idea to put a switch in the salon. I might throw a smaller switch under the PH dash to. You really can’t have too many switches!

            • If you put PoE switches at those location, than adding cameras or anything else is always easy. No big wire pulls. The entire boat is within reach with only a moderate amount of work.

  9. Steven Coleman says:

    Hello James,

    Reading about your diesel drip made me remember something you “might” be interested in.

    Removing the handle to tighten the packing on a ball valve is no big deal really, unless of course you are tightening the packing on several hundred, or simply wanting to give the ones on Dirona a quick run through.

    Here is a link to a tool that allows you to tighten the packing on a ball valve without removing the handle.

    https://www.plumbmaster.com/plumbmaster-approved-packing-nut-wrench-1-4-2-inch/p/97550?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIhcvOnruj5wIVC5yzCh2BSAFoEAQYAyABEgLEzPD_BwE

    I have no idea if that is a good price as the company I work for literally buys ball valves by the semi truck load and the suppliers pretty much give us all we want.

    I do know if you are doing multiple valves, it is well worth having one.

    • The Plumbmaster site has been down for the last couple of days but, from what you said, that does sound like an excellent tool and quite inexpensive. Thanks for the pointer Steven.

      • Steven Coleman says:

        Hello James,
        I’m surprised something I always took for granted could be so difficult to find. When you told me that site was down, I went looking for another link.
        Even with the tool part number from NIBCO which is where mine came from, there doesn’t appear to be anyone other than that one site that offers them on the internet. Johnson Controls does have packing nut tools for actuators (which I also have) however they aren’t the same thing.
        Then I went to trade forums and could only find people asking if they made such a tool.
        I’ve got 52 I’ve collected over the years and I’m half tempted to test selling them on eBay where, if that works buying a truck load and selling them on Amazon
        Anyway I assume you can pull my email address off my posts, if you are interested tell me how to ship it and I’ll send you one to play with.

    • Chris Barber says:

      Nice tool, I just got mine. Thanks for the tip!

  10. Peter Niederreiter says:

    Hi Jennifer and James!
    My wife Melitta & I are learning a lot from your Blog/Vlog! We own the N52-72 Fortuna Star currently located in Port Sidney Marina, BC since 2017 and are preparing ourselves and the boat for crossing oceans! I watched with much interest your Steering Video. We will follow your precious advices. During that video at minutes 8:15 Jennifer is holding a replacement bolt in her hand. I noticed that she is wearing some kind of Alarm Buzzer ??? on her wrist. Could you clarify what that is? Is this an alarm she can activate while she is somewhere in the boat to call your attention? Since we are also planing to travel alone as a couple , this could be something to consider! Would appreciate any thoughts on that! Very best regards, Peter and Melitta – N52-72 Fortuna Star

    • We lived in Victoria for years and have boated a lot in your area. It’s a great place to boat. And, on your N52, congratulations. I’m assuming from it’s serial number (ours is 63) that your boat is reasonably new.

      I like your idea but, no, the device on Jen’s wrist is a ReliefBand anti-sea sickness device: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00PG4NUOS. Jen has some trouble with sea sickness but only when the boat is pitching. When we see those conditions, she wears the band and that solves the problems for all but the worst cases. In those rare cases, she goes to a Scopolamine but that’s pretty rare.

      On the problem you asked about, getting the attention of someone on the boat in a remote place. if the person on the helm wants to catch the attention of the person working or doing something down below, we just change the engine RPM. It’s subtle and remarkably efficient at getting attention. When we need to talk back and forth, we use a handheld VHF radio on a working channel. We don’t have a good solution for the person below getting the attention of the person on the helm so we use a VHF radio when we know there is a chance we might want some help. And, when I’m working around active machinery there is a chance I could get hurt, stuck, or incapacitated so Jennifer keeps an eye on the 2 video cameras showing the engine room.

      So, we don’t have the exact solution you were asking about but we have some solutions for some of the use cases.

      • Peter Niederreiter says:

        James!
        Thank you for the clarification. The Relief Band sounds interesting. We will give it a try when we will cruise from Seattle to Dana Point later this year going out on the Pacific for the first time!
        Our N52-72 is a late 2015 model. We bought it in Seattle and up to now have been cruising the Puget Sound, San Juans up to the Broughtons. In some part we followed your paths and anchored in quite a few spots where you have been. We will complete the planed upgrades this summer and start moving south. Our plans for next year is to cross to Hawaii and proceed from there. Greetings Peter & Melitta

        • Your plans sound great. The Pacific coast can be lumpy especially when heading south but the crossing to Hawaii is both fairly short and usually a pretty easy crossing. Your 52 will do well on both but, if you can, be selective on the weather for the trip south.

  11. Gary says:

    I am a only a few years away from transitioning out of full time employment and doing some budget planning for full time cruising. I know there is a lot of variability in any budget. Can you tell us about your cruising budget? What is an appropriate budget for continuous cruising of a Nordhavn 52 like you are currently doing? If I own the boat outright is $150K per year sufficient for coastal cruising in US waters? $176K? Has foreign cruising significantly increased yours costs?

    • It really depends upon how you Live. Big variables are flights back to the US (I do quite a bit for work), telecommunications costs (I spend a lot because I work full time), restaurant eating, marina time, etc. Assuming you don’t have a big satellite bill, spend similar time to us in Marinas, don’t eat out too frequently, and don’t fly back to the US frequently, $150k would cover most years but assume that every 2 to 4 years, you’ll have some bigger boat related bills. Seems to run $25k to $50k.

      Overall, the high end of your estimate looks pretty safe as an average. We spend more but it’s because I’m still working but pay for all flights, hotels, and telecom costs. Things like staying in downtown Seattle for 3 weeks adds up quickly. We also do some off boat travel that is above these estimates like the Rhine River boat cruise and the F1 race in Abu Dhabi.

  12. Eric Patterson says:

    James, have you given any thought to SpaceX satellite internet service and it’s potential for marine usage. As a large data user of Sat I wanted to get your take.

    • Yes. I’m super interested in the new low earth orbit satellite constellations being deployed: SpaceX Starlink, OneWeb, Amazon Kuiper, and Telesat. This new breed of satellite system are using low cost satellites built using commercial off the shelf parts where possible and exploiting the emergence of low cost space lift vehicles.

      The cost of communications will be falling but it’ll take time. We’re still a ways away but I’m excited about these new services mostly because they will dramatically reduce costs but also because LEO satellite systems can cover the entire globe whereas the geosynchronous systems can’t reach the poles and tend not to cover areas without much commercial shipping traffic. Better coverage and lower costs are coming but it’ll take time.

  13. Jeff Robertson says:

    Port of Amsterdam looks busy-ish:
    https://twitter.com/i/status/1217547142048468993
    Nice work getting in and out of there unscathed!

    • Yes, the river in front of the Central Station is very busy. Last night we had the tender out doing a canal cruise and touring the Amsterdam Light Festival (https://amsterdamlightfestival.com/en) and, on the return trip, the traffic was quite heavy. Lots of canal tour boats out enjoying the light festival, the steady flow of commercial barge traffic on the river, a dinner cruise, and the rapid criss-crossing of multiple ferry routes. There’s a lot happening.

    • jan-kees says:

      This video is from Sail Amsterdam, a once every 5 year event, taken during the sail in at the beginning.
      So not representative of the daily traffic, which is still busy, but not like this.
      More astounding would be the evening fireworks parade, where this traffic looks like a deserted place.

      This year 2020 there is again Sail Amsterdam ( August 12-16). And yes we will be there.

      • That video reminds me of Sydney harbor at the start of the Sydney-Hobart sail race. Both are wonderful events and both great experiences to have in someone else boat with someone else at the helm :-).

  14. Hello James and Jennifer,
    Happy New Year and thank you for so much great information regarding your peregrinations. We’ve all loved it!
    I’m still working as an architect here in Portland, Oregon, but have longed daydreamt about travelling aboard a Nordhavn 52 to see the world with my wife and daughter.
    As we consider the layout of a 52, and what electronics one should/should not include on it, it makes me wonder if you’d ever consider consulting through such a process?
    We will purchase a used boat (wouldn’t have enough for a new boat), but are patient enough to find the right boat and fit it with the necessities for such long trips.
    Thank you again.
    Ben

    • Sounds like you have a good plan. If we know the answer or have thoughts on how to approach getting an answer, we’ll follow up to any questions you post here. And, if you ever happen to be in the same city as Dirona, we would be happy to show the choices we have made and talk through the pros and cons.

      • Benjamin Kaiser says:

        Thank you James, I’ll likely take you up on that some day in the not too distant future.
        Safe travels.
        Cheers,
        Ben

  15. Christopher Hylarides says:

    I’m not sure how long you guys are in Amsterdam, but if you’re looking for a weekend trip, check out Ghent in Belgium (about 2 hours by rail). It’s essentially the beer capital of Belgium, has some of the best Gothic architecture outside of Germany (walk east from St Michael’s Bridge along Sint-Michielsbrug) and is larger and less tourism focused than the more famous Bruges as it’s a bit of a University town.

    If you do go, get drinks at a bar called Dulle Griet, where you have to give them your shoe as a deposit to prevent the theft of the glasses (is a problem with certain collectors).

  16. Bob McArthur says:

    As part of our research to fully prepare N5705 Alice for PNW cruising, we came across your article on stern ties. We like your message line system. In any case, our question regards what dimension stern line to use. Did you find the 1/2” Sampson was ultimately satisfactory? The 57 displacement is higher than the 52, although I assume loading on a stern line is not simply a function of displacement. Thanks. Bob and Marty N5705 Alice

    • The 1/2″ Sampson was used on our previous boat. On our current vessel we use Sampson Amsteel Blue to increase the breaking strength while at the same time allowing a smaller and easier to store diameter to be used.

      • Bob McArthur says:

        Have you done any loading calculations to determine what breaking strength range you need? Thanks.

        • No but, at 55 tons the boat will put amazing forces on a stern line if it’s loose and the boat has room to move and the wind is blowing hard so we’re pretty conservative in choosing when to use this solution.

  17. Mike and Trish says:

    Dear James and Jennifer
    When we first made contact we were in that trap of working and living 5hrs away from our boat and not being able to move towards living on board and achieving our cruising ambitions.

    We took a hard look at our lifestyle and ages and realised that there is a clock ticking, and its getting quicker and quicker. So in October we sold up and moved 40 yrs of house living and accumulating into store, the decisions we had to make were so stressful and have probably caused our delay to go cruising for years.

    I have established a client base that will let me work on board with the assistance of video and audio conferencing.

    We are now finishing fitting out Sontay with a plan to start a UK circumnavigation next year.

    You have a lot to answer for but we are so grateful that you are sharing your life it’s inspirational, thank you.

    We are taking a break this Christmas in Seattle with our resident children. Can you recommend somewhere we can go and look and touch Marentron equipment.

    Best wishes for Christmas and safe cruising next year.

    Mike and Trish.

    • Congratulations on moving to living aboard. That is a big step and we remember going through some of the same decisions ourselves. It’s not been more than 10 years and we still have no regrets. We’ve seen a lot and had some amazing experienced.

      I’m pretty sure that West Marine sells Maretron and I know that Fisheries supply does. Recommend that you give them a call and see if they have a display system set up. Another approach is to talk to an installer and see if they can show you one of their more recent installs. You might try Emerald Harbor Marine — they have done many installs over the years.

      Best wishes over the holidays and all the best on your cruising next year.

  18. Steven Coleman says:

    Hello James,

    I’m curious about your inverter. I can think of multiple ways to automatically turn it off when not in use. Have you found a way to anticipate when it will be used and turn it on automatically or is that a manual function?

    I hope you and Jennifer are enjoying the holidays, it looks like a nice place to spend the winter.

    • I gave thought to making it automatic but decided that manual is fine. If I shut off the water heater and the HVAC, it’s very likely we’re traveling and don’t need the inverter on but, in a 60 hz country, we might have the house running on shore power and not need the inverter and it’s conceivable that we would want the inverter with the hot water heater and HVAC off. For now, I’ll leave it manual where it’s just on a web page that shows power consumption and allows manual control of h/w heater, HVAC, furnace, defrost, both chargers, and the 240V inverter.

      Have a great holiday season.

  19. Angela and Gerry O’Dowd says:

    Dear James and Jennifer,
    We are in awe of your travels and expertise. Thank you kindly for the valuable resource and inspiration. We hope to travel far and wide too on our newly acquired N43 once we retire next year. Your site and contact information will be most welcome.
    Gerry and Angela

    • Congratulations on getting a Nordhavn 43. You just bought freedom and can go anywhere in the world. 10 years later, we still love our boat. If you have questions where you think we might be able to help, we’re happy to help. Just post them here.

      • Angela and Gerry O’Dowd says:

        Thank you kindly, we most certainly will! We hope to live aboard beginning in April 2021 once we retire, fingers crossed. We will be 60 at that point and hope to have some good years of travel and learning. If you are ever in New York, give us a shout.

        • My only advice is consider starting the process earlier than April 2021 on the argument that it takes time to get a boat, get it set up and running the way you like, and to learn the boat. Getting it before retirement could give you an year back by overlapping some of these operations more and ensuring, when you retire and have time, you are using it all fully.

  20. Philip Jones says:

    Hi James and Jennifer.
    I’m trying to import gear into Turkey, for our N57, Beyond Capricorn 1. i cannot find a freight forwarder willing to handle what they consider a small shipment. I’m keen to bring this gear in ‘duty free’ if possible so need to go the full customs/duty, ‘vessel in transit’ route, so can’t use DHL or FedEx.
    I know you have had items shipped around the world., would you mind sharing your contacts/freight forwarders.
    Thanks,
    Phil

    • We last used Intervracht (https://www.intervracht.nl/en/) to bring a pallet from the US to Amsterdam. The contact information there is sales@intervracht.nl. They did an excellent job for a good price and we’d happily use them again. They are a Netherlands-based company, so if they don’t do Turkey, they might be able to give you a reference. Or you could try Rotra (https://www.rotra.com/) which is the US-company that Intervracht dealt with to handle the Seattle pickup and transport.

      We actually had trouble finding a freight-forwarder for this pallet as none of our previous contacts from shipping to Aus/NZ were interested. We had found a Netherlands customs broker already and asked them for a recommendation for shipping the pallet and they recommended Intervracht. So you might try that if you don’t have luck any other way.

      Jennifer

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