Cracker Boy Boat Works

When we hauled out in Whangarie, New Zealand near the end of 2013, we didn’t expect to go more than 2.5 years before the next haulout. We finally lifted Dirona again at Cracker Boy Boat Works in West Palm Beach. In the nine days that followed, we cleaned and painted the bottom; re-applied Propspeed to the all the propellers, re-caulked the swimstep, replaced all the underwater zincs, repainted our satellite antenna domes, and upgraded the keel cooler. We also changed the thruster transmission seals and oil; the stabilizer seals, bearing oil, trunion bearings and clevis bearings; and the starboard-side stabilizer actuator cylinder. Most of these are regular maintenance items, except for the keel cooler. The current cooler is perfectly functional, but we wanted to increase the heat rejection. The keel cooler needed to come off to repair a water leak anyway, so we decided to take the opportunity to change the cooler and get more cooling headroom.

Given that our last bottom-painting was 31 months earlier and we had been sitting in Florida waters more 10 weeks (without bottom cleaning), the bottom was in surprisingly good condition with not much growth. We did discover that we had some minor gelcoat damage on the port side under the swim step from when we were pushed up against the wave break during the 50-knot storm in Richards Bay, South Africa. The marina we’d just vacated broke apart in the storm, so we’re lucky that’s the only damage we took.

We usually stay on the boat during yard work, and are permitted to at Cracker Boy Boat Works, but with no A/C we decided to live better and stayed at a hotel in downtown West Palm Beach for the duration of our stay in the yard. This worked out very well—after a hot day at the yard it was really nice to come back to have a long shower and then head out for a great meal. The hotel was pet-friendly if we did need to bring Spitfire back to the hotel, but he was fine on the boat.

Highlights from May 25th through June 3rd follow. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

We finally departed Soverel Harbour Marina this morning for a long-overdue haulout. Following us past the PGA Blvd Bridge were Nordhavns 43 Genesis and 62 Sabi.
Nordhavn 64 Kapowai had just been launched from Cracker Boy Boat Works and was taking on fuel from a truck as we arrived. There sure are a lot of Nordhavns in the area.

We hauled out today on the 125-ton Travelift at Cracker Boy Boat Works in West Palm Beach. The crew was efficient, competent, and careful from start to finish. Many yards only use two lifting straps, where a single failure is the end of the boat. Cracker Boy lifted Dirona on six straps and used a diver to ensure they were properly positioned, particularly around our stabilizer fins.

Given our last haulout was 31 months ago, in October of 2013, and we have been sitting in Florida waters more 10 weeks (without bottom cleaning), the bottom was in suprisingly good condition with not much growth. We did discover that we had some minor fiberglass damage on the port side under the swim step from when we were pushed up against the wave break during the 50-knot storm in Richards Bay, South Africa. The marina we’d just vacated broke apart in the storm, so we’re lucky that’s the only damage we took.

After we were lifted, we inspected the bottom while it was power-sprayed and scraped clean, then Cracker Boy transported Dirona across the street to a haulout stall. shows stills and video footage.

As was the bottom paint, the Propspeed we’d applied in New Zealand back in 2013 also was in pretty decent shape.
Paint damage
We thought this was just a section of paint that had worn through. But, on closer inspection, it was previously undetected damage from the big storm in Richards Bay that broke up the docks: Brush with Disaster.

We had been asked to leave the marina prior to the storm coming in. The marina owners were concerned we were too heavy and their docks might break up. It’s super annoying to wait until we have no alternatives to let us know that the facility really isn’t strong enough for our boat. We considered just staying but eventually elected to leave and it was a good thing we did. In the link above, you’ll see the docks where we were collapsed and many boats were damaged. Even worse, post repairs, the docks broke up again only a month later.

We had nowhere to go and eventually anchored in the channel and tied off to a wave break. This put us on the weather side of the wave break but it was the best we could find at short notice. I think the wear on the transom paint came from the biggest storm gusts pushing us back into the rubber bumper of the wave break.

In our location we saw winds of 52 kts and the more exposed port saw over 70 kts. To escape with only worn off bottom paint was pretty fortunate.

James removed all our zincs, last replaced in 2013 during our New Zealand haulout. In Seattle we used to change our zincs every 6 months. But since we’re not in marinas as frequently, we’re able to go years rather than months since we’re no longer supporting other boats in the marina.
James using a prop-puller to remove the bow-thruster propeller. These were a little challenging to remove. It’s really important to use a puller—we’ve seen mushroomed prop shaft ends from them being beaten apart. Certainly this would lead to early bearing failure as well.
Chris and Rob from Nordhavn Southeast brought us some packages and supplies they’d been holding for us. The large wooden box contains our new keel cooler. The current one is in fine working condition, but we wanted to increase the amount of cooling available, so ordered one with more cooling capacity.
Slip 85
Our empty slip at Soverel Harbour Marina where we’ve lived for the past ten weeks. Jennifer took an Uber up to retrieve our rental car.
James removed the stabilizer winglets and let them drain before painting.
Hyatt Place
We expect to be out of the water for about ten days. Although we usually stay on the boat during yard work and are permitted to at Cracker Boy Boat Works, we decided to live better and are staying at a hotel for the duration of our stay in the yard. We got a great room for a surprisingly reasonable rate at the Hyatt Place in downtown West Palm Beach. The room is large, with a separate sofa and desk area, includes a free daily breakfast buffet, and is a ten-minute walk from restaurant-packed Clematis St and City Place.
After a long, hot day, we had a great meal at Bradley’s on South Clematis St. overlooking the intracoastal waterway.
Phan Yacht Refinishing
Keith Phan of Phan Yacht Refinishing will be doing our bottom painting. This is one if his more major projects: a multi-month LP (Linear Polyurethane) paint job on a 100ft+ yacht. The entire project is done inside this plastic enclosure to allow spray-painting. Environmental laws require all painting be done by brush or roller outside of an enclosure.
The Phan Yacht Refinishing crew sanding the bottom and cleaning the in preparation for paint and Propspeed.
How we get on and off the boat.
Spring Day
Nordhavn 76 Spring Day hauled out the day after we did. That is a load of boat. Cracker Boy Boat Works used 12 straps on the over 125-ton vessel.
Our main propeller being prepared for a new coating of Propspeed.
Don Weippert
Lunch at the Tap House on Clematis St. with Don Wieppart of Nordhavn 76 Spring Day. We first met Don and his wife Lili around 2009 when their Nordhavn 55 Lili Pad was moored near our previous boat at Seattle’s Elliott Bay Marina. We last saw Don at the 2011 Anacortes Trawler Fest. It was a real surprise and treat that we ended up together in the same yard on the other side of the country.
Blue Martini
Happy Hour at the Blue Martini in City Place mall.
Rudder foot
James sanding down the rudder foot in preparation for painting.
Phan Yacht Refinishing repaired the areas damaged by the Richards Bay storm.
Main propeller
The main prop is nearly ready for Propspeed.
We returned to Bradley’s for fish tacos and Margaritas.
Rudder foot
A coat of Petit 6627 Tie Coat metal surface primer on the rudder foot while the wing engine propeller is being cleaned up for Propspeed.
The bow and stern thruster propellers are off, but they need some work before Propspeed treatment.
We painted our domes grey in New Zealand using Rustoleum so that they wouldn’t show soot so much. This worked well, but the paint is starting to look a little chalky, so Keith will repaint them for us. James already has the starboard dome off and is removing the port dome.
Jennifer has mostly been working inside catching up on site content while James is prepping the boat for painting. With no A/C, the interior gets pretty warm, so we’ve setup fans inside for some air circulation. Spitfire doesn’t mind the heat though—we often find him lounging in the 100°F+ engine room after we’ve been underway.
James sanding down the domes in preparation for painting.
Phan Yacht Refinishing applied small patches along the hull where the paint had worn through.
Wing propeller
The wing propeller is nearly ready for Propspeed now.
Thruster tube
Looking through the starboard bow thruster tube, with the props removed and the shaft covered up for painting.
Keel cooler
Our new keel cooler with a coat of metal surface primer. Paint reduces the cooling efficiency of the cooler, but marine growth reduces it even more. So this is an experiment and if it doesn’t work out we’ll clean the paint off.
The first layer of bottom paint is complete.
Painted domes
Keith repainted the domes with LP (Linear Polyurethane). They look fabulous.
Memorial Day
The streets around Meyer Amphitheatre were closed for a big Memorial Day street party, with bands playing at the amphitheater. This is our first Memorial Day in the United States since 2012.
We see plenty of security in West Palm Beach, but they’re usually bunched together in groups like this in the same place for hours. It may not be the most effective, but it does seem to work as the area feels pretty safe.
A great meal at Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar.
Bottom paint
The final coats of bottom paint have been applied. We put on two full coats, plus another half-coat from the waterline to about halfway down the hull.
The newly repainted domes back in place.
Cameron McColl
An excellent evening at the Avocado Grill with Cameron McColl, owner of Nordhavn 57 Jura. Cameron also co-owns the Nanny Cay marina in the British Virgin Islands. We were hoping to stop by and visit Cameron at Nanny Cay as we were passing through the Caribbean, but ended up running straight to Florida to deal with Jennifer’s shoulder injury. Cameron was in the Palm Beach area this week and came down for a visit.
Keel cooler
The new keel cooler painted with Petit Specialty underwater paint for metal boats. James is cleaning up the threads with a wire wheel on the drill.
Installing new hull zincs.
Stabilizer zincs
We’ll be changing the stabilizers seals this week. As part of that job, James removed the stabilizer fin zincs. They zincs aren’t completely gone, but definitely ready for replacement.
Stabilizer parts
Parts and tools for the stabilizer seal job (the many small boxes at the center of the picture). James also is going to replace the starboard-side actuator (far left) and the trunion and clevis bearings on both sides (bottom, left of the seals). The large white cylinder is a stabilizer fin nut tool, and the smaller unpainted one to the right of it is a trunion bearing removal tool. At the far right is the fin position sensor tool to reposition the fin after replacing the actuator.
A late lunch at Bradley’s after a hot day at the boat yard.
Appetizers overlooking City Place at Lafayette’s.
This morning Cracker Boy Boat Works lifted Dirona and shifted the supporting blocks and stands so we could clean the bottom and repaint the covered areas:
Thruster gear
Draining the oil from the bow thruster transmission.
A layer of Propspeed going on the wing and main propellers.
James loosening the bolts to remove bow thruster seal housing.
More Propspeed
Propspeed going on the thruster propellers.
Chris Cooper from Nordhavn Southeast draining the coolant from the old keel cooler prior to removal.
Fernando Diaz of Nordhavn Southeast re-caulking our swimstep. The old caulk was peeling up.
With the port stabilizer fin removed, at the right of the photo, James is cleaning marine growth off the stabilizer shaft.
Stabilizer shaft
A close-up view to the stabilizer shaft arm with the fin removed.
Touching up the paint on the hull where the support stands initially were.
Removing the keel cooler.
Several of the bolts holding the thruster seal housings had seized in place. James managed to get the front two off. Tony Fields of ABT-TRAC managed to get all of the bolts out of the rear except for one on each side which required an Ez Out. We air-freighted replacements in.
Epoxy collar
Within a week of landing back in the water after the last time it was hauled out two and a half years ago, the keel cooler started leaking fairly substantially. We didn’t want the expense and time-consumption of lifting the boat right back up, so we temporarily sealed it with 5-minute epoxy and it has worked remarkably well for the past couple of years. It’s important for us not to have water leaks in the boat because a known water leak could possibly hide other ones.
Starboard stabilizer
Tony Fields of ABT-TRAC changing the upper seals and o-rings, trunion bearings, clevis bearing and actuator on the starboard side fin.
Yoke removed
The starboard stabilizer with yoke and actuator removed and the upper seal housing exposed.
Avocado Margarita
A surprisingly tasty Avocado Margarita at the Avocado Grill. The hotel has worked out super-well. After a hot day in the yard, it’s really nice to come back to have a long shower and then head out for a great meal.
Replacing the thruster seals. You can see the seal boxes and three of the thruster seal retainers.
No keel cooler
Chris Cooper from Nordhavn Southeast cleaning the holes where the keel cooler was bolted to the hull in preparation for installing the new cooler.
Hubbell YQ100
One of the boats in the yard required 100-amp service. This Y-connector combines two 50-amp connectors to feed 100.
The new keel cooler coated with 3M 5200 prior to installation.
Starboard stabilizer
The starboard stabilizer re-assembled after changing the upper seals and o-rings, trunion and clevis bearings, and actuator. The only thing left on this side is putting the fin position sensor cap back on (middle of photo).
The hose end that used to attach the keel cooler, with daylight showing through the holes where the old keel cooler came through the hull.
Chris Cooper from Nordhavn Southeast fitting the new keel cooler. It’s a really heavy beast.
New keel cooler
The new keel cooler in place. The new cooler is almost identical to the previous, with a few extra cooling tubes and extends only slightly farther down than the previous one.
The wing propeller is designed to fold away when not in use to reduce drag. The gears that control the prop folding tend to get fouled with marine growth, so need a careful cleanout and liberal greasing.
Starboard fin
The starboard stabilizer fin back in place.
Old keel cooler
The old keel cooler packed up and ready to leave.
Banko Cantina
A delicious dinner experience at Banko Cantina. Several of their signature skewers are hanging above the table, along with a salsa sampler and Margaritas with all ingredients made in-restaurant except the Tequila.
Bacon Bits
Jennifer stocked up on fresh produce and a few other items today. One of the few products we like that was difficult to find anywhere else in the world was Bacon Bits.
Trunion bearing removal tool
The stabilizer trunnion bearings were very difficult to remove and the lower bearing on the port side was not budging as of late yesterday afternoon. That’s potentially a very big problem. Tony Fields of ABT ended up fabricating a tool to pull them out and found success this morning, so the works is now done. What a relief.
Although not quite as many people are in the engine room as when we visited the yard in Xiamen, China, it still fells full with, from left to right, Chris Cooper and Fernando Diaz of Nordhavn Southeast and Tony Fields of ABT all in there working. Chris and Fernando are refilling the coolant from the keel cooler job and Tony is completing the port-side stabilizer work (changing the upper seals and o-rings, trunion and clevis bearings, and actuator).
Jeff Merrill
An excellent evening at the Avocado Grill with Jeff Merrill of Jeff Merrill Yacht Sales. We met Jeff back in 2004 at the Poulsbo Trawler Fest on our first tour of a Nordhavn 47: 4710 Kellie Anne and 4715 Oso Blanco. Jeff patiently worked with us for years and eventually proposed a deal that really looked like a great fit for our interests, and contributed a huge amount of time, energy and ideas while we built, configured, and equipped Dirona. 7,891 hours and 53,795 miles later, rarely does a week go by without us commenting on some design feature or equipment choice that Jeff recommended. It’s been years since the sale but he stays in contact, still makes recommendations, and still collects ideas from our experience to contribute to future builds. We haven’t seen him since we left Seattle in 2012, so it was great to see each other again and catch up.
Big load
Cracker Boy Boat Works maneuvered this yacht into a haulout stall with inches to spare on either side.
Dockside Petroleum
Steve Ellis of Dockside Petroleum fueled us on the hard this morning. We could have fueled in the water after launching, but we likely would be going in around slack water and wanted to take advantage of that to enter the adjacent Riviera Beach Marina. The currents here can be quite strong.
As with the haulout, Cracker Boy Boat Works did a careful and efficient job of relaunching Dirona. At 2:00 into the video, you can see one of the workers placing a step near the bow. Once the boat is floating, we got on using those steps to start the engine and make sure everything looked OK before the Travelift straps were released.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at


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