Boat yard blues

Boat yard blues- in the slings

We planned to haul out Southern Star at Orams Marine Center- located at the eastern side of Westhaven Marina in downtown Auckland. This is our second haul out at Orams. We had good results with the engineering business located at the super yacht yard, Marine Propulsions, at our last haul out in 2021. Marine Propulsions (MP) have several marine engineers that came off superyachts, and I cannot fault their work. Last haul, we had a couple of big projects including our Steelhead crane, and were happy.

Before we hauled, we spent most of December and half of January casually cruising between Waiheke and the Coromandel. It was a nice break after leaving my job at Garmin, and starting my new job as full-time boat husband.

Prior to heading off on our cruise, I made contact with MP and Orams to schedule the work that I thought that I needed to have done. We planned to do this mid Jan., when we thought the yard would slow down, after the typical Christmas rush. And being newly retired, this suited me fine.

Orams Marine Center is ideally located for us. It is only 5 minutes to Gordon’s apartment in Herne Bay. He was out of town during most of the time we were hauled, so it worked out really well. We have a nice place to stay, and it was great way to end a hard and dirty day.


The beginning of the work went as expected. We stayed a couple of nights on the Super Yacht dock prior to hauling. We were surrounded by these 125-200’ beasts. Out Starlink actually had for the first time some obstructions due to the tall masts next to us.

The bottom of the boat looked pretty good when she came out. Almost two years and the antifoul paint was okay. Very few barnacles- and most of the foul washed off with the very thorough water blast (pressure wash).  Orams picked us up with one of the smaller travel lifts (85-ton capacity). We weighed 45 tons. Orams has 4 travel lifts- with a 900-ton hauling out the big boys.

I was pretty happy with the bottom. The prop speed (treatment for the underwater metals) looked good, the main prop and shaft- the wing prop, all looked pretty clean. The keel coolers were pretty fouled. But this haul, I planned to drop both the main keel cooler, and the stabilizer keel cooler, and have them thoroughly cleaned and pressure tested.  We have done this on the main keel cooler- but never the stabilizer cooler, as internal access to this cooler is very, very difficult.

After we were water blasted and moved over to our new home in the yard, the crew at Orams had us blocked securely, and we had a ladder tilted up to the swim platform. They blocked the boat a bit higher than normal, as I told them we were also going to drop the stabilizer fins.  So, we had a 10-12’climb to get on board the boat.

Life in the yard

When you’re on the hard, a temporary community is formed with others in the yard.

Trawlers are unusual here. And the Nordhavn has a unique shape to her bottom. Several people asked me about the hull shape, where there are bumps next to the keel for more room in the engine room.

“How long you out for?” is the common question. Kind of like how you would ask a convict in the yard- “how long you in for?”

The yard is paved, but any yard is filthy with black dirt, and bottom paint everywhere, and Orams is no exception. We laid out old towels on the swim platform and put down some disposable runners inside, to try to keel the grime off of the carpet in the boat.

Unexpected issues

I inspected the bottom of the boat, looking at the thrusters (the blades are coming off, and we are also changing the oil seals on both bow and stern). The stab fins look okay, the prop looked good, no damage of any sort- I used a piece of timber to lever the prop and check for excess wear. OOPS- yes, it is moving vertically too much. We should only see a few mm play, but there is too much.

I show MP project engineer- Mason (Mace) the movement. He agrees- too much play. The cutlass bearing – the rubber bearing which is cooled and lubricated by seawater, with in the propellor shaft turns- needs to be replaced.  I am very surprised by this. I check my maintenance log later and we changed the propellor shaft at Washburn’s Boatyard in Solomons MD – only about 800 hours ago. When we changed the cutlass bearing, and realigned the engine. It was a big (and expensive) project.

MP engineers suggested that the stern tube did not allow enough water flow across the cutlass, as there is no water flowing across the front of the bearing, as in most boats. I was confused and sought input from the Nordhavn Owners Group, NOG. This is a great resource and there are lots of owners that are very smart and freely contribute and answer questions.

I also sent a note to James Knight, Nordhavn Guru. And to Nordhavn HQ, and was contacted by the N47 project manager.

James Knight contacted me and asked to facetime. Being Android user, I called him instead.

Both James and Nordhavn confirmed that this system, with only the back of the cutlass bearing being open to the water is by design. That there are numerous Nordhavns with this design that have circum-navigated the globe, running for thousands of miles with this very system. The slow turning prop has adequate water flow with only the back of the stern tube open to the water. 

James asked how close the rope cutter was to the end of the stern tube? We need at least 3/16”and if closer this could interrupt the water supply. Unfortunately, I did not take any before photos.

cutlass bearing

Other NOG members offered ideas to mitigate, including running dripless stuffing boxes, which inject water into the gland that surrounds the shaft inside of the stern tube. We have a standard packed stuffing box- which uses a waxed packing material, to cool the packing is tightened enough to allow a drip of water every 3-5 secs. The advantage of this is that is simple, and there is no requirement to have water injected into the stuffing box. As we are a dry stack, keel cooled engine like many Nordhavns, we do not have a salt water pump in the cooling system, so to use a dripless system, we would need to find sea water by tapping into a through hull and pump it into a dripless stuffing box.

The mystery of why the cutlass failed, I think became apparent later.

I was looking over the engine, the shaft log, coupler, etc., when I looked closely at the engine mounts on the main. I noticed the aft starboard mount was falling apart- and the rubber which is meant to absorb the vibration from the engine/shaft was extruding outside of the mount. All of the mounts were cracked.  I wondered if the premature failure of the cutlass bearing was due to the mounts failing and allowing the shaft to slide forward and the rope cutter obstructing the water ingress.??

In the end, we opted to add some more water flow into the stern tube. I could not see any negative impact to doing so.. We put a tee into the salt water washdown through hull and ran a hose to an insert we drilled into the stern tube, with a valve inserted. When the boat is in motion, the scoop fitting for the salt water pump will also push water and inject it into the stern tube aft of the stuffing box. This will hopefully give more water flow through the cutlass bearing when the boat is underway.

In any case, a new cutlass bearing is required. We need to remove shaft, remove stuffing box and clean, and new engine mounts went onto the to do list.

The Waiting Game

We hauled on the 17 of Jan, and the first 4-5 days we had MP crew working all day on the boat. The shaft took hours to come out of the boat, the bow and stern thruster props (4 in all) took hours to remove. The MP crew were using a small hydraulic press to get them off, they had to drill out the threaded ports and rethread with a larger bore (used to accept a threaded rod to use to extract the props).

So, the man hours just ticked on and on.

Orams is a very busy yard, and during our stay I watched 50–60-meter Superyachts come out of the water. After the first week, my crew from MP were scarcely around Southern Star. I saw their vehicles parked under a 150’ sailing yacht that was inside one of the sheds.

I did what I could with the boat out of the water. I polished each through hull, and the dyno plate (metal plate for the SSB antenna system).

I polished the water line to the chines. (The area above this we can reach from the water, and we had recently re-waxed the higher areas). Jenny and I touched up the black waterline vinyl tape.

I cleaned and waxed the underside of the swim platform, I put corrosion block on the bolts that hold the staples.

I lubricated all through hulls with lithium grease. Methodically keeping track, using a diagram map that shows each one (there are about 30).

I grew impatient with the MP crew- as it seemed that little work was being done on Southern Star. Plus, we had two holiday weekends pass, so there two additional work days with no work done.

I also wanted to have the hydraulic hoses that power the stabilizer system replaced, as I noticed some corrosion on several of the (mild steel) fittings. I asked MP about this, and they have a hydraulic hose contractor do this work. For the next 4 weeks, I could not get any date or timing for this work to get done.  I was getting very frustrated and after a venting email to the GM of Marine Propulsions, we had the MP crew- Mace and his apprentices back on board.

Mace has a small (physically) apprentice- Ely, who could fit into the small compartment under the master cabin floor- to access the forward bolts and hydraulic lines on the stabilizer keel cooler. While we had Ely, I had them remove the hydraulic hoses to the cooler, and have them made up and replaced when the cooler went back on.

After 4 weeks we went back into the water The boat looks great, and I feel that we have done a very thorough job. I can only hope that we have uncovered the critical issues, and resolved them before there are any major failures.

Ironically, when we were getting ready to splash, one of the thruster alarms went off. I could only shut it down by turning off the thruster system. The alarm (I learned later) was for the overheat loop on the thruster system. The thrusters are 24volt, and the motors have a fuse able link so if they are operated for too long and they over heat, the link protects the motor, and an alarm sound. The alarm sounded even though the thrusters had not been used. I tested them with the alarm sounding, and they both were working properly.

I contact ABT Trac, the Bow thruster company, based in Washington state. And they were great. We troubleshot via email, and I learned the alarm relay had failed. I order some (3) from Digi key, and have since replaced the bad relay, and all is well (knock on wood).

The hydraulic hose contractor finally did our hoses after we splashed, after we were on the dock at Orams for another week. It only took him a day, but getting him to come to do the work took the rest of the week.

Adding injury to insult

I suffered a bit of a toe trauma the day the hoses were being changed.

I was entering the engine room via the lazaret going through the open water tight door, which has an aluminum frame that protrudes up about 1 1/2”. As I passed through it on my hands and knees (the Laz has limited vertical access) I banged my big toe on my left foot on the frame. Man did it hurt. I could not see any blood, but what a stub it was. It ached all night and the next day.

This week was very frustrating to me, as I kept expecting the hose man to come to finish the job (replace the hydraulic oil), and he would not. Calls to him, ‘he would try to make it today.’ The GM of MP called me at the end of that week, and said the hose contractor could not make it out to finish changing the fluid until next week.

I had a bit of a meltdown with this news. I contacted the Manager of Orams yard itself, and vented on him with my frustration (and aching toe). I received a call soon afterwards that Mace would be down that day (Friday) to finish the work. When he arrived with his apprentice, he smiled, and acknowledge that the squeaky wheel worked.

And so, I think that is the downside to using a big yard, like Orams. They have a level of expertise that I need, but we are very small potatoes when compared to the other customers needing work in the yard. My bill was jaw droppingly large, but probably smaller by a factor of ten- than the other boats in the yard were spending.

We are now back at Bayswater Marina for a few weeks. I am going through my project list and we are preparing for our big trip to Fiji this winter.

A list of the work we did during this haul out is below for those that like to get greasy vicariously.

Haul out project list:

  1. Haul- pressure wash -block Orams
  2. Prep and paint bottom Orams
  3. Prep and paint running gear – prop speed and light speed on UW lights-Orams
  4. Drop keel cooler- main- acid wash/clean -pressure test and antifoul- reinstall Orams
  5. Main engine coolant flush/change Marine Propulsions
    1. Order coolant 12 gallons- Ted
  6. Drop stabilizer fins- remove/replace seals- ABT trac 220 Digital Stabilizer
    1. refill oil   Marine Propulsions
  7. Remove bow and stern thruster blades Marine Propulsions
    1. Change seals -refill oil Marine Propulsions
    1. Bow thruster is TRAC 12”Model by ABT       
    1. Stern thruster is TRAC 8”Model by ABT
  8. Change hydraulic hoses on stabilizer system Marine Propulsions
    1. Drop stabilizer keel cooler stb
    1. Clean/acid bath-pressure test-anti foul – reinstall
    1. Change hydraulic oil- Marine Propulsions
  9. Remove GORI folding prop- clean/grease – reassemble Marine Propulsions
  10. Prop speed GORI prop- Orams
  11. Replace all anodes TED
  12. Light speed- UW lights Orams
  13. Check cutlass bearing Main TED
  14. Cut and polish white gelcoat at waterline to chines Ted

Repair vinyl boot stripe damage Ted

  1. Fire Extinguisher/fire system check and certify
    1. Engine room 2.5 KG dry chem- replaced
    1. Lazarette fixed Fire Boy system too old need to be replaced (Will have to wait on this)
    1. Portable extinguishers x 4 1 KG replaced Ted
  2. Life raft inspect and certify- Ted
  3. Check EPRIBs- too old- replace with new EBIRP and PLB TED
  4. Lettering- new home port- “CIYS- Cook Islands” Ted
  5. Remove and replace motor mounts Main Engine MP
  6. Parsuns outboard 5.8 HP- replace impellor – Holiday outboard
  7. Replace Bly bridge Bimini canvas- Canvas Works
  8.  Lubricate and check all thru hull valves- TED
  9. Troubleshoot thruster alarm issue-
    1. Learned that the relay failed
    1. Order and replace relay TED


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