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General questions & comments
  1. Todd Marrazzo says:

    Hi Again. What travel log software do you use. My wife and I will be going away next month and would like to share with close friends our routes.

    • For personal tracks (when we are away from the boat) we use Google My Tracks on an Android phone. It’s since been discontinued but they open sourced the code when the stopped supporting it and so we did a private build and use that. For boat tracking we have a very elaborate system that logs all boat data every 5 seconds. A subset of that is uploaded to Amazon Web Services where we show it using custom code integrated into to our Word Press-based web site.

      My recommendation is to use Spot or Delorme InReach — both are easy to use commercial systems that do what you want.

  2. Jim Kerr says:

    James,

    Leslie and I met you at the Seattle party. Great to meet you and Jennifer. We are just about 30 days out of taking delivery of a new 63 and I noted your comments on the black water sensor. Just wanted to get one last update on how it’s working before we begin the process of installing our Maretron system. Still working ok?

    • Congratulations on the 63 that is on it’s way. Wonderful boat. Yes, the black water sensor is amazing. Very precise and it works 100% of the time never a glitch. Short term it’s a proven winner. Over the long term, I’m pretty sure it’ll eventually need cleaning. If it goes 2 years between services, I’m thrilled. I can live with 1 year. But it’s too early to know how long it’ll last.

      I’m pretty optimistic that this is a good design and it’ll deliver more than a year between service and quite possibly longer.

  3. Jon Bennett says:

    Hi James & Jennifer,

    I’m the guy with the white beard that stopped you at the BoatsAfloat show in Seattle and gushed about your blog. Every word I meant. It has a been an inspiration to Maria and me as we set our retirement plans into motion. I wish I would have had the composure to ask you all the questions about your North Atlantic passage that I have, but I was, admittedly a bit flummoxed at actually seeing you there. Thanks for taking the time to talk. It was a pleasure to meet you.

    Kind regards,

    Jon Bennett
    MV Sonder (formerly 10&2)

  4. stephen moore says:

    Hi James
    Apologies if I am asking this in the wrong place. I have followed your videos and adventures with interest recently. I wondered how much sailing or other marine experience you both had before you purchased Dirona and set off on your epic trip. I particularly enjoyed seeing you arrive in Liverpool as its my home town, best wishes

    Steve

    • For about 10 years before purchasing Dirona, we coastal cruised on our previous boat along the Washington and British Columbia coast line. During this time we wrote numerous magazine articles and and a cruising guide while racking up 4,100 main engine hours. We elected to get Dirona to be able to go far greater distances and we wanted a boat able to take on more difficult weather at lower risk. We’ve now cruised 10,200 main engine hours on Dirona and, during that time, crossed every ocean and we’re currently in Amsterdam.

  5. Steven Coleman says:

    Hello James,
    I noticed from your “snow covered Dirona” pic that you don’t keep the cap on your main engine exhaust anymore. I assume it’s because of the auto start in case of shore power failure.

    What I was wondering is have you noticed an increase in stack debris discharge or has the low Sulphur diesel pretty much eliminated that?

    • Good eye Steve. Most Nordhavn owners use an exhaust cover. We didn’t for the first two years we owned the boat and got some sooting at times. Then we started to use the exhaust cover and, initially,it “seemed” better but I kind of wonder if it wasn’t at least partly psychological. When you do something active, it seems at least partially effective. With the cover or without, deck sooting seems to happen occasionally. It’s not that bad without the cover and it’s not that good with it but it does SEEM to help.

      With the past couple of years of low sulfur fuel, the incidence of sooting is way down and so we pretty much stopped putting the cover on. And, now that we have the main engine as a backup generator, it’s always possible it’ll turn on so we shouldn’t cover it. t could possibly melt the cover and make a mess in the unlikely event that the engine was started.

  6. Todd Marrazzo says:

    Will you sleep while underway on auto pilot at night, or is there someone always at dog watch?

    • We always have someone on the helm and we also use a watch timer that needs to be touched every 8 min to ensure we don’t inadvertently fall asleep. The watch timer shows a yellow light at 8 min, a red light at 9 min, a gentle beep at 9 min 45 seconds, a medium volume alarm at 10 min, and really loud alarm that will wake everyone on the boat at 11 min.

  7. Todd Marrazzo says:

    Love your site and posts.

    My wife and I are considering upgrading from our 340 cruiser and are wondering how best to budget for this $$?. Fuel is pretty straight forward. I think we worry more about major failure costs? Any suggestions on making sure that there is enough cash flow/savings available for potential failures while underway?

    • I’ve kept working full time so we continue to have cash flow to make major failures easier to live with but that wasn’t the intent when we started trip planning. The original plan is I would quit and would sell the house and car and fun the big failures as they came along. We did sell the house and the car but I did stay working so we could manage larger failures without it being so hard on the finances. But, there have few big issues and none have been very expensive. We do major out-of-the-water service every couple of years. We have had some major faults like the crane failure. After 9 years we replaced the tender. So, yes, there are expenses but the expensive mechanical systems have been very reliable over the last 10,000 operating hours and so we aren’t seeing any big surprises. Eventually the engine will need an overhaul but I would expect it would get 15,000 hours at minumum and it might easily go more than 20,000 hours. Most boats will never even get close to 10,000 hours.

      My only suggestion is to buy a strong boat engineered for high hour operation and to buy the smallest boat that has the space you need for your trip plans. Our goal was to chose a boat we could afford so service wasn’t back breaking. Generally, we’re conservative in our decisions and it really helps keep the surprises to a minimum.

  8. Rod Sumner says:

    James:
    When mounting new hardware externally, such as the new side lights, how do you seal the hole? A dab of silicone on the screw/bolt? Or?

  9. Lucky Read says:

    lucky@outcastcrew.com

    Hey James,

    We are Dawn & Lucky Read. We currently live on our 43′ sailboat, which we love. But, we also love Nordhavn’s. And, I love reading your blog–great stuff, and I learn a lot.

    Anyway, I was hoping you had a simple answer to how you are able to use google maps on your travel blog. I just LOVE the way you have incorporated it.

    We are hoping to cut our dock lines later this year, and would love to incorporate something similar for our family and friends.

    Our current website is on the Wix format, and I’m not even sure if it’s possible, but I thought I’d at least ask.

    Keep up the adventure, and posting. You guys are great.

    Hope to meet you OUT THERE one of these days.

    Lucky Read

    • That sounds like a very good plan. On the real time tracking software, it’s part of what has become a very large integrated system. The work has it’s roots back nearly 25 years ago on our last boat where I got tired of NMEA 0183 multiplexers failing. I designed my own multiplexer. Then since my software was touching all network packets, I started to store all the data in a database. Then I started writing apps against this database.

      That same architecture is still there today. We have software that writes all NMEA2000 data to the database, 5 Raspberry Pis that send digital input data from throughout the boat to the database, a monitoring program that gets data not captured by the Pis and not accessable on the NMEA2000 bus and this program stores the data in the database as well. All data from all over Dirona is stored every 5 seconds in a database and that’s been like that for many years. We write applications against this database to support power load shedding, generator autostrart, warning, alerting, and email notification, remote monitoring, and to extract the data used to support this website (mvdirona.com). Jennifer made modifications to WordPress to allow this data to be displayed using Google maps. We also have a real time tracking system running on Android that tracks us when we are not on the boat and that data is also integrated onto the web site using custom code. It all works well but it’s very specific to the equipment and design that we have on Dirona and it would be challenging to port to other configurations. My recommendations would be to use Delorme Inreach or Spot to get your real time tracking.

      • Lucky Read says:

        Excellent!

        I was assuming you might be using WordPress. I tried it, but found it to be too cumbersome. The Wix platform is WYSIWYG, and SOOOOO simple. Of course it does have it’s limitations. It will allow for HTML code, if and when the need arrises.

        Until then, I believe we will most likely use the Spot system, as we have a couple of friends that use that as well.

        Thank you so much for your response.

        Look forward to following your journey, and possibly meeting up someday.

        Happy Voyaging.

        • I had a look at the Wix platform web site and it looks pretty good and with more than 11 million web site, there is good critical mass behind the engineering effort. Friends using Spot have also reported good results with a nice web page showing location and route similar to what we did.

  10. Eric Patterson says:

    James and Jennifer, we are deep into the specification of the N6081 and I must say this has been 100’s of hours on my part just reading data sheets and O&M Manuals and going over every decision over and over again. We are getting close on the mechanical and hull essentials. Exhausting but fun! I wanted to thank you for your ideas and replies from your site. Without the help of yourselves and others I feel I would have made several errors.

    • Good to hear Eric. Most of the design features we have discussed where done after the original build of Dirona. Your approach of doing it at build time is far more efficient but I know it requires a ton of research.

      • Eric Patterson says:

        James, I think you know Steve D’Antonio. We are going to use his help some in China and perhaps during commissioning. I would consider myself a pretty good engineer but discovering problems/concerns on boats isn’t what I get paid for nor would consider myself completely qualified. I am hoping he will save us money, time and maybe even our life.

        • Steve is incredibly knowledgeable and can both catch system design issues that we both might miss and he can help to help find the best solutions where there are design alternatives.

  11. Ian Gay says:

    Hi James, with reference to your latest project – I recently implemented a soft start modification to N4736 and it has been a great success. It was well worth the effort.

    I managed to fit the additional equipment into the existing shore power enclosure inside the cockpit locker. It keeps the installation neat and tidy. The total cost of the modification was around £35. I used a 25 Ohm 50W resistor and a 25A contactor.

    Before the modification I would get a text from the boat almost every week saying that the power had gone off (lots of power interruptions happening externally). The pontoon would then have its power restored but my 32A supply would then trip out on the restoration of the shore power. The MCB on the 32A supply would trip at least once in about every three power cuts! There does not need to be any load on the supply as the inrush from the large inductance winding on the 12KVA isolation transformer was all it took. Marinas tend to fit ‘type B’ MCBs.

    Since the modification my pontoon MCB has never tripped.

    If you like I can send a photo of the finished installation, just let me know.

    Regards, Ian.

    Your blog is wonderful – keep it up.

    • Love it! I’m taking a very similar approach but I’m limiting current down a bit further than you do since I often plug in into very low amperage shore power connections (sometimes down around 10A or lower). I’m using a 40 ohm, 100W resistor but the rest of the approach is pretty similar. I’ve got a timer on the contactor to keep it in circuit for 500msec but the 14 msec delay in the contactor itself is probably fine without the timer. The house load is brought online 10 seconds after the shore power becomes available.

      I’m about 80% done with the new control box completed and installed with the power leads in a loop waiting for another nice day for outside work. All that needs to be done to complete the job is to connect the input leads to the shore breaker and the other side on the feed to the isolation transformer. It’s good to hear you are happy with your configuration given how similar what you have done is to what I’m putting in on Dirona. We’re really looking forward to eliminating spurious shore power breaker openings.

  12. Michael Jackson says:

    Hi James. As a retired airline pilot and now teach pilots to fly biz jets I use Garmin avionics. I was wondering if you knew or had heard from others about Garmin in Marine world. We hope to build if we can or buy used Nordhavn once I finally retire. If building I’m tempted to use Garmin. Thank you. You guys motivate us with your travels! Keep it going! 😎👊

    • Garmin is massive in the business jet market and seem to be getting traction in the small boat market. I never see them on cruise ships and other large commercial vessels, they aren’t super common on the fish boat fleets, but they do seem to be getting traction in the small recreational boat market in the US. I’ve seen them used fairly heavy in small law enforcement boats as well.

      Our leanings were toward the gear used by the Alaska fish boat fleet and many commercial vessels so went with Furuno. Generally we prize reliability so look to the professional fishing industry to get a read on what they depend upon.

  13. Adrian van velsen says:

    Visiting Amsterdam and just saw the Dirona docked west of central station. I would love to come say hi before i return to California tue am

  14. gary s gordon says:

    James: for stainless steel fabrication you can try
    http://WWW.tatasteel.nl#

  15. Mike Taggart says:

    Best wishes to you both for the coming year. We hope your cruising is safe and exciting.
    Mike & Trish Taggart

    • Thanks Mike and Trish. New Years in Amsterdam is certainly a great way to start 2019. The Dutch LOVE their fireworks. We spent the run up to New Years walking around Amsterdam and then brought in the New Year on a pier near our boat where we had a nice place to sit with a glass of wine enjoying the entire sky full of fireworks.

  16. Reed McGuire says:

    Happy New Year Jennifer and James,

    FYI, there is a recently opened Chihuly exhibit at the Groninger Museum in Groningen, it’s up until May. All the best from Bamfield BC!

    • It’s great to hear from a Bamfield resident. You live in one of our favorite locations on the west coast of Vancouver Island but it’s been a long time. We spent Christmas 2011 anchored in Grappler Inlet near you: https://mvdirona.com/Trips/BarkleySound2011/BarkleySound2011.html.

      We last saw some of Chihuily’s work at the Tacoma Glass Museum. Thanks for pointing out the exhibit in Groningen and all the best in 2019.

      • Reed McGuire says:

        Full disclosure, we are West Seattleites but still have my grandparents house here in Bamfield, came up for the holidays. I started following you guys just before your trip to Grappler and sent you an email at that time saying I thought your GPS posit was off as I didn’t think anyone without extensive local knowledge would have the “stones” to take a boat as big as Dirona that far back into the inlet!

        • We do remember getting a note from you basically saying “you can’t possibly be where your AIS says you are.” And,you are right, it was a big of a slow nail biter to work our way in but it’s a great spot. We were pretty proud of ourselves for finding a path in without touching bottom but, when the boat was next lifted out of the water I noticed there was a few inch wide set of scrapes in the bottom paint all along the keel from bow to stern. Looks like “nearly” touched bottom might have been even closer than we thought :-).

          We’re looking forward to a fun 2019 in Sweden and Finland. All the best to you in 2019!

  17. Rod Sumner says:

    James and Jennifer

    All the best for 2109. Await your postings with great anticipation

  18. Steven Coleman says:

    Hello James,
    Seeing you hooked to the crane reminds me of something that happened once. While using a sign company truck to lift me up so a repair could be made the dang thing quit while extended with no way to lower it without the engine to power the cable reel. Luckily it had a ladder on the boom I could climb down and get it restarted for the guy.
    I’ve noticed you’ve used that method in several posts and works well when it does however, you might want to work out a contingency plan with Jennifer 🙂

    • There are definitely some downsides to the crane assisted lift system. And, currently we don’t have a backup control system so your point is even more timely. Getting me safely down on a crane control system failure would be challenging. I suspect we would go with a rope up through the safety tie off eye and back down to me with Jen belaying from the boat deck. It wouldn’t be fast :-).

  19. John says:

    James, reading your post about waxing/polishing the boat in Amsterdam I was wondering if you have tried any of the newer tech “nano” waxes? Some of the companies which produce ceramic coatings also produce easier to use sprey versions. Gtechniq is one I’ve tried (liquid crystal v2) and I can top up the protective coating on the top sides of our 38ft cruiser in about an hour every two months or so. It’s a lot easier than more frequent buffing.

    Long time reader and fan of your blog from Dublin.

    Regards,
    John

    • Thanks for your suggestion John. We probably should some more advanced coatings. We have never done anything other than use old technology wax. We probably should try something more modern. I’m slightly nervous of more modern coatings from my days as an auto mechanic were I have seen some coatings fail and start to yellow or, worse, flake away in sections. There are substantial messes and some required re-painting to correct. They both made me more conservative and less eager to try new products even though it’s extremely likely that some are excellent and could really save us time. Thanks for passing on your recommendation for Gtechniq.

  20. gary gordon says:

    James: i have asked some contacts that have offices in or near Amsterdam if there are any references for a stainless fabricator.

    • What I need done is simple and only need some cutting, drilling, and a break press but I’ve not found anyone to do it yet. Thanks for checking on it Gary.

      • Steven Coleman says:

        Hello James,

        Just about any commercial sheet metal installer for H.V.A.C. systems large enough to have a water jet, or plasma table could do it if they were interested in the project. I did a search using those parameters which showed several in Amsterdam but since I can’t read Dutch, about all I can say is look in that direction?

        • Exactly. In this case we went with a laser cutter equipped facility. I got help from Daniel Boekel of ShipCraft Engineering and Jan Pieterse and we’ll get the brackets in early January. It’s nice to have that one solved. Thanks for the advice here and over the years and have a great holidays Steve.

      • I got help from Daniel Boekel of ShipCraft Engineering and Jan Pieterse. Daniel was doing an order yesterday and was kind enough to both draft up what I need and include it on his order. We’ll get the brackets in early January. Thanks!

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