January in Amsterdam

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Our third month in Amsterdam, January, was a busy one. We visited local museums such as Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum, took in the Amsterdam Light Festival by tender, attended an Amsterdam Tigers ice hockey game, made day trips to Haarlem and Delft, hosted several visitors, completed a number of boat projects such as soft start, and at the end of the month made a ten-night return trip to Seattle.

Below are trip highlights from January, 2019. 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 mvdirona.com/maps

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Steelhead Crane Control
The new CPC Series 1 connector pin that we installed on the side of the Steelhead crane (bottom left). Read more …
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After we replaced the wing engine exhaust elbow due to a pinhole leak, blog reader Steve Coleman suggested we drill, tap and plug it. Steve says this is a technique used in the past on cast iron boilers where a a casting imperfection causes a small pinhole leak in an otherwise un-damaged part that would last for years if not decades.
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Exhaust Elbow
The completed exhaust elbow with a stainless steel screw plug.
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Power Outage
The marina staff needed to turn off the power at the shore pedestal briefly today for some maintenance. As soon as the power went off, our automation system responded by disabling turning off the HVAC and water heater (A/C and W/H indicators are black) since they would rapidly discharge the batteries without a power source. It also shut off both chargers (Chg#1 and Chg#2 are black) so there isn’t an immediate draw when the power comes back. The system will reverse the process when power is restored, first turning on both chargers and then bringing the loads back online. While the shore power is unavailable, both shorepower indicators (Shr#1 and Shr#1) show in black. You can see the difference between the area outlined in red at the bottom of the screenshot compared to normal operation mode.
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We rode our bikes to Specsavers to buy some new glasses—we’d each lost a pair of the two we’d both purchased in London last winter. This is the third country where we’ve purchased glasses from Specsavers: Australia, England and now the Netherlands.
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La Oliva
A wide range of delicious tapas to choose from at La Oliva Spanish tapas restaurant on restaurant-packed Tweede Anjeliersdwarsstraat. We had a great meal over a bottle of Roija.
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2018 Timeline
James received a Google Maps 2018 Timeline summary email this morning, with a map showing all the places he had visited over 2018. One of the more interesting pieces of data included was that he’d visited ten countries last year. This was a lot more than we would have guessed, but added up when we counted them all. In order of first visited these were the UK, France, the USA, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and the UAE. We did even more travelling than usual last year.
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Satellite Problem Solved
Our KVH V7hts satellite system has been producing progressively more frequent errors over the past few months. Some of these were kind of scary: “ERROR 218: SKEW MOTOR ASSY”, “ERROR 206: AZ MOTOR ASSY”, “ERROR 100: ANTENNA POWER OPEN” and “ERROR 400: OUTSIDE COVERAGE”.

It was beginning to look like we may have a hardware issue. We got lucky this morning though, and James found a loose connection at the antenna ICM (Integrated Combox Modem). Here James has the connection apart for service. It was relatively easy to fix and is now error-free. It also seems to be hooking up more quickly.

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Howard Rosenberg
Blog reader Howard Rosenberg was in Amsterdam for a few days and stopped by for a visit and a tour of Dirona. We had a great time talking boats and in particular learning more about the company he founded, B-Stock Solutions, that provides an online marketplace for inventory liquidation.
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Nico and Nely
Nico and Nely Vendrig just arrived at the marina in their Grand Banks Widestars III and stopped by to say hello. We’ve corresponded a bit with Nico, who is interested in Nordhavns and has been following our blog.
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Anne Frank House
Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for 25 months in a secret annex behind a 17th-century Amsterdam canal house. They eventually were captured and only Anne’s father survived the concentration camps, but her story lives on through the diary she kept that has been translated to over 60 languages. Today we visited the excellent Anne Frank House Museum, where visitors can view pages from her diary, learn more about her life, and walk through the Secret Annex. Read more …
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Shore Power Soft Start
Isolating shore power from on-board electrical systems is important to avoid excess corrosion and, even more importantly, to avoid risk of shock in and around the boat. Two common approaches to isolation are galvanic isolators and isolation transformers. Isolation transformers have many advantages and often are installed in Nordhavns, but have one potential downside though: when first plugged in, a substantial but very short current in-rush can occur that can trip shore breakers. It’s no big deal, in ten plug-in attempts, it may only cause a problem once or twice with a 16A connection and it’s never a problem when plugged into higher-rated shore power connections. Many boaters will never plug in an isolation-equipped boat to 16A or less and, for those that do, it only rarely trips a breaker and a simple reset will clear it. Here’s James is testing part of a resistor-based soft start system. The complete install is described at Soft Start.
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Taking delivery of an order of antifreeze. We’ve been struggling a bit with shipping heavier items to the boat, as the marina doesn’t have an office and their address isn’t registered with the local postal service. The adjacent hotel will accept letters and smaller packages for us, but we don’t want to hassle them with something this heavy. After the local courier couldn’t find the address to deliver this jug of antifreeze, Jeff van der Jagt (behind James) of Filtersystemen Nederland offered to deliver it in person. Impressive service.
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The Rijksmuseum art and history museum was founded in 1800 in the Hague and moved to the current Amsterdam location in 1885. It’s the largest and most visited museum in the Netherlands and annually sees over 2 million visitors. We spent much of our time there viewing the museum’s treasures, including Golden Age masterpieces by Dutch painters such as Rembrandt, Jan Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen, and also taking in some works from their 20th-century collections. Read more …
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An early-morning delivery from Albert Heijn grocery store. You can tell we’re aways north—sunrise isn’t until 8:45am. The delivery went much more smoothly than the first. With our new Maestro debit card, the payment was processed without issue.
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Engine Oil
We’d ordered some engine oil from Amazon Germany a few weeks back, and the local courier failed to deliver it yesterday. We’d already had two orders returned to the shipper when the local courier was unable to deliver to the marina and were expecting this too would fail, but amazingly, the four 5-gallon (20L) pails arrived today.

We really wanted this particular oil Shell RIMULA R4L for several reasons: 1) the circular pails fit well in our oil storage area, 2) it’s a high-quality ACEA-E9 oil and 3) the price is excellent at EUR 84.09 per 20L pail. Obtaining the circular pails is getting harder in many geographies, where each company is using their own proprietary-shaped 20L container. We need secure storage when we’re in rough waters, so it’s far easier for us to use a standard shape.

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Battery Problem
We planned to head out in the tender to view the Amsterdam Light Festival the way they are best viewed: from the water. But the tender battery was flat. We’ll investigate the cause of the problem tomorrow but, for now, we just want to get underway. We keep a spare battery on our tender so that we won’t be stranded by a circuit left on or a failing battery. We quickly connected it up and found that the off/on switch on the battery jumper system had failed. Again, we’ll solve that problem tomorrow but, for now, we just want to get underway. We keep tools on board the tender so that we can deal with simply mechanical problems like this one. So, I switched to the spare battery we keep on board, started the engine, and we headed out to see the lights of Amsterdam.

The picture shows our current setup with the spare battery on the left (normally kept in a plastic box) and the black battery box of our primary tender battery on the right.

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Amsterdam Light Festival
The Medium is the Message“, the famous quote by Canadian scientist Marshall McLuhan, is the theme of the 7th edition of the Amsterdam Light Festival. The displays are mostly along the interior canals and designed to be viewed from the water as well as the shore. We’d seen several of the displays while walking through the city at night, and had a fabulous evening seeing them the way they are best viewed: from the water. Read more …
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Battery Problem
The battery was flat on the tender last night. We switched to the on-board spare and continued the trip. This morning we’re charging up the flat battery and testing it. After charging, it tested out as still having 183 CCA (cold cranking amps) which is close to normal. It looks we can continue to use this battery but, each time a battery is fully discharged, it’s life is substantially reduced.

Investigating the cause of the battery discharge, the problem was operator error—we had left on an accessory switch. We’ll need to put that accessory switch on ignition-switched power or be more careful in the future. We’ll likely make the change to avoid the problem in the future. Since we have a backup battery on-board, this problem wasn’t a big issue and didn’t slow us down much.

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Backup Battery System
The second problem we had last night is when attaching the backup battery jumper cables and turning on the switch, the motor still wouldn’t start. We installed the spare battery without investigating the problem so we could get underway. But, in checking this morning on the problem, we found the off/on switch had failed.

The history of our tender backup battery system is a long one. We originally purchased a commercial battery boost system and it worked well for a couple of years before its battery needed replacement. We took apart the commercial boost system and replaced the battery and it again worked for another couple of years, but the battery is a very small battery and it really can only be used once or twice. So, we took the jumper cables and switch off the commercial battery boost system and put them directly on a second battery exactly the same as the one used on the tender. This worked far better and has been the system we’ve been using for nearly four years. But the last remnants of that commercial battery boost system have now failed. The off/on switch is no longer operative. We’ll replace them with direct wiring without a switch.

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Tender Battery Connectors
One of the reason we liked the old battery boost system is we could just connect the jumpers, turn on the switch, and start the engine. When not in use the switch was off and there was no risk of the terminals touching together. But, predictably the switch failed.

For the new system we’ve gone with an even simpler design where each battery has 12-gauge wires with connectors on the end. We have dummy connectors installed on each to keep the water out and to prevent shorting. When needed, we simply remove the dummy plugs, attach the two wires together and we are in “jumped” mode. Another nice feature of this approach is we can charge or test both the primary and the backup batteries without taking the batteries out of their enclosures.

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Container Risk
After sinking and fire, the threat of hitting things at sea is probably our next largest concern. Fortunately, the oceans are big and there really isn’t much in the water. Having crossed all oceans and the Atlantic twice, we have seen lots of fishing gear, buoys, and parts of docks destroyed by storms but generally we don’t see much floating debris offshore and what we have seen isn’t a threat to hull integrity. In this category, the biggest concern is shipping containers lost at sea. These are plenty big and heavy enough to sink a boat so the risk is a real one. And on average, 1,390 containers are lost at sea every year. Again, the oceans are really big so this is spread over a vast amount of space and we suspect that the odds of loosing a boat to a meteorite strike is around the same probability. But 1,390 is still a very big number.

On January 2nd, the MSC Zoe lost 250 containers off the north coast of the Netherlands. We were just there a few months back, so the pictures of the containers washing up on shore from this loss seem particularly attention-grabbing.

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After chasing his toy mouse all over the pilot house berth, an exhausted Spitfire promptly fell asleep holding it.
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Amsterdam Tigers
The Amsterdam Tigers are a semi-professional ice hockey team that play in Jaap Edenhal arena, a short train ride southeast of the city center. The complex is named after the famous Dutch speed skater Jaap Eden and includes the largest skating rink in the Netherlands, with a 1312ft (400m) lane. We hadn’t seen a live ice hockey game since attending a San Jose Sharks match a years ago and had a great time at the Tigers game. Read more …
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Bicycle Turn Lanes
We’d mentioned earlier that biking in Amsterdam’s dedicated bicyle lanes is much like driving a car. This picture gives another example, and a sense of how busy the bicycle lanes can be. Here you can see separate right and left turn lanes for the bicyles.
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The Waag
This castle-like building is the oldest surviving non-religious buildling in the city. It was originally built in the 15th-century as a gate in the wall surrounding medieval Amsterdam and in the 17th-century was used as a waag (‘weigh house’).
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Amazing Oriental
Picking up some provisions at the well-stocked Amazing Oriental Asian grocery store.
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Dunkin’ Donuts
We haven’t had a real Boston Creme donut since consuming the last of our Newport donuts during our 2017 Atlantic crossing and were happy to find a Dunkin’ Donuts nearby in Amsterdam.
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Rene’s Croissants
At Rene’s Croissants to pickup some pastries. Amsterdam has wonderful baked goods.
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Full Load
Jennifer returning back from grocery shopping with a full load.
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Replacing Sidelights
James installing new mounting brackets for the slightly larger side lights that we’re upgrading to. Here he’s hanging from the crane, since that’s the only way to access the aft side of the lights.

We’re moving to a slightly higher output light and that requires a larger support bracket. In the picture he’s got the bracket fully installed and the new light temporarily in place (rightmost) while he checks the wire length.

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Teyler’s Museum of Wonder in Haarlem, opened in 1784, is the oldest museum in the Netherlands. It was funded to foster an interest in arts and sciences both through research and sharing discoveries with the public. Much of the museum has been preserved intact and entering feels a bit like stepping back into the 18th century.

Haarlem itself, a 15-minute train ride from Amsterdam, is a beautiful city to visit with other attractions including the Frans Hals museum devoted to the Dutch Golden Age painter and Bavo Church with its spectacular 5,086-pipe organ that stands 98 ft (30m) high. And just outside town is the Cruquius Museum, housing the world’s largest steam engine. Read more …

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Thruster Wash
To avoid growth build-up, we run the hydraulic thrusters monthly. This the wash the forward thrusters throw underneath the dock and over to the marina wall, about ten feet away from the boat.
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Taking the streetcar to pickup our new glasses from Specsavers. This the fourth form of public transit we’ve taken in Amsterdam. The others were the Metro subway, and the Sprinter and Intercity trains.
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Looking down Haarlemmerbuurt from the west end after we’d gotten off the streetcar after picking up our glasses at Specsavers. We returned to De Pizzabakkers for another delicious meal.
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The city of Delft in South Holland is known as the home of Dutch Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer and as the major 17th-century producer of Delftware, a Dutch ceramic product styled after Chinese porcelain. Much of the city dates from that period and is remarkably well-preserved, making it a popular day-trip destination in the Netherlands.

A half-hour’s drive to the southwest is the Maeslantkering storm surge barrier, one of largest moving structures on Earth. The Maeslantkering, pictured above during a test, is designed to keep the New Waterway shipping canal clear for traffic to and from the busy port of Rotterdam, but will automatically close in the event of a storm surge to protect against flooding. Read more …

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Installing Lights
Earlier in the week we installed the new mounting brackets, now James is installing the slightly larger side lights that we’re upgrading to. Here he’s working on the wiring through a pie-eye at the base of the winglet that supports the lights.
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New Side Light
The new side light in place, with the older style they are replacing still in use for the aft-facing lights.
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Flood lights On
Testing the side and aft facing lights. The new side lights are a little larger than the aft-facing ones, but are double the wattage at 150 watts versus 70. We did a quick test at night and the side lights could easily illuminate the street several hundred feet away.
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Ken and Ali Wittamore invited us over to Armorel to see their Integrel Marine charging system in use. This innovative charging system won the prestigious DAME Design Award at METS in 2018. We met Ken and Ali through Nigel Calder and we were really impressed with the Integrel advanced generator replacement so we jumped on the chance to see one in use.

The system combines a 9kW output engine-driven generator with a fairly large lead-acid battery bank and an advanced control system. The system will run well on any boat, but their target market is small to mid-sized sailboats where a generator takes up considerable valuable space. By installing a 9kW main engine driven alternator, they eliminate the need for the generator but, on smaller boats, this load represents a considerable portion of the full output of a small engine.

The real secret of the design is the control system that monitors current prop power draw and max engine output at the current RPM. The system takes whatever power is left over after driving the boat, ensuring that propulsion requirements are met unchanged and only the unused available engine power is used to charge the batteries. This takes available engine power to drive heavy loads that would normally have required a generator while, at the same time, ensuring full engine output is always available on demand.

The control system makes load decisions ten times per second to ensure the system is always running at maximum efficiency, the engine is never pushed into overload, and full engine output is always available for the prop on demand. The idea is innovative and it’s a very professionally-engineered solution.

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Detecting Autostart
Whenever an autostart engine is worked upon, the autostart must be shut off. There is a possibility that it might accidentally be left off, so some additional protection is afforded by warning when autostart is not currently on. Here James is installing the autostart detect circuit in our Northern Lights Wavenet (very similar to the current North Lights TSC).
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LCD and keypad
Over the nine months, we have continued to add more and more functionality to the pilot house display and keypad. From this pair, we can do or show the following:

  1. Boiler off/on
  2. HVAC off/on
  3. Set water heater temp to: off, 120F, or 136F
  4. Defrost off/on
  5. Generator off/on
  6. Generator run time limit setting
  7. Battery charger #1 off/on
  8. Battery charger #2 off/on
  9. Display current and next three songs playing on audio system
  10. Display current & next three bands playing on audio system
  11. Display all boat temperatures (20 sensors throughout boat)
  12. Display all fuel, F/W, B/W, & G/W levels
  13. Display kWhr consumed from Shore#1, Shore#2, & Generator
  14. Display voltage and amperage output from chargers & inverters
  15. Display RPM, Temperature, and Oil Pressure for Main, Wing, & Generator
  16. Display short form of last 4 warnings or alerts from the boat control systems
  17. Display time of last 4 warnings or alerts from the boat control systems
  18. Display long form of last 4 warnings or alerts from the boat control systems
  19. Boat music: pause/play
  20. Boat music: previous song
  21. Boat music: next song
  22. Display off/on

This system has been so useful that we wanted to add another keypad and display for the engine room. The first step of this project is assembling of a control box to house the 4×20 character LCD display and the 4×4 Matrix keypad. This is the finished product.

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Running Wires
James running wires from the lazarette Raspberry Pi to the engine room control system display and keypad. The display requires 4 wires (5V+, 5V-, and 2 i2c signalling lines) and the keypad requires 8 signaling lines.
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James testing the i2c signalling that will be used to run the engine room control system and 2 devices each providing 8 pins of digital I/O. He normally tests using a spare Raspberry Pi before installing the final solution in a more difficult to access location.
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ER Keypad and Display
The new engine room remote control display and keypad box mounted with wiring roughed in but not yet connected.
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Junction Box
A junction box with roughed in wiring above the generator that will house an i2c to 8 channel digital I/O converter and allow access to all signaling wires between the lazerette Raspberry Pi and the engine room display and keypad.
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Wasahamnen Guest Harbour
We’ve been researching some of our stops for this summer’s Baltic cruise and are planning to spend a few weeks in July at Wasahamnen Guest Harbour in Stockholm.
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A beautiful pink dawn viewed from our berth at City Marina in Amsterdam.
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Junction Box
The completed junction box open with final wiring complete.
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ER Keypad and Display
The completed engine room remote control keypad and display mounted. We can now control remotely control our automation systems from the engine room and also view the various status displays.
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January Trip to Seattle
In late January, we left a cold and snowy Amsterdam to make another return trip to Seattle. While there we spent time at the Seattle Boat Show and attended our first Nordhavn Owner’s gathering since leaving Seattle in 2012. During the evening, PAE president Dan Streech presented us with two special pennants: one for having covered 70,000 miles in Dirona and an Extreme Latitudes pennant for crossing the Arctic Circle and beyond last summer. Read more …
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 mvdirona.com/maps.


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