Sailing Adventures

Ocean Capable vs. Ocean Ready

Many Nordhavn owners dream of sailing to far distant shores. That is why we bought Nordhavns in the first place because they are capable of crossing any ocean. A sound Nordhavn is a great foundation for living the dream, but it is only the beginning. Just because a boat is ocean capable does not mean it's ocean ready. What makes a vessel "ocean ready"? Let us share some lessons we've learned about how to properly equip a boat.

Before we purchased M/V Orion, N57-25, we had logged over 7,000 NM on our previous trawlers. We weren't experts, but we were well past the novice stage. Meanwhile,the previous owners of Orion had kept her in a boatyard, being prepared for long range cruising. She was in peak mechanical shape when we bought her. Our shakedown cruise was a 2,000 NM round trip from Newport, Oregon to Prince Rupert, BC, returning south via the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

As we continued south, our plans were to stay on the Pacific side of the Americas to Chile, Patagonia, and the Straits of Magellan. Scott Flanders of N46 Egret had spent a lot of time down south and we talked with him about our plans. His advice was that we were not adequately prepared for the isolated Patagonia wilderness. With less than a year aboard, we didn't know our new boat's systems or how to repair all of them, and didn't have adequate spare parts, tools, or supplies onboard. We accepted his advice and diverted through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean instead.

Five years later, after 23,000 NM and 14 countries on Orion, we are confident of our boat, her preparation, and our ability to cruise anywhere in the world. Gerry claims Douglas will sink the boat carrying extra parts. Douglas claims Gerry will sink the boat with all the galley and liveaboard stores. But with a few days preparation, we are prepared to cross an ocean.

You can never carry all the parts that might fail on a sophisticated yacht like a Nordhavn. It is wise to have a backup plan for obtaining replacement parts. We use Hatton Marine in Seattle as our primary supplier. Hatton has all our mechanical data in their computer, including model numbers and serial numbers. They have the experience to ship parts anywhere in the world. If necessary, they will send a mechanic with the parts, though gratefully we've never had to use that service.

Major mechanical parts that we carry include a spare alternator, a replacement hydraulic pump, and replacement hydraulic rams for the stabilizers. We have individual boxes for specialized parts, labeled Maxwell Windlass, ABT TRAC, Aritex Davit, VacuFlush, etc. All spares are inventoried in our KTOE software with part numbers, quantities, suppliers, and locations.

We use the same motor oil and coolant in all engines. It is usually possible to buy motor oil anywhere you go, but it is sometimes difficult to find our brand. Transport is often a problem. We carry enough oil and coolant for one complete change in all engines. We carry a large selection of filters, including many Racor fuel filters, secondary fuel, air, and oil filters, and spare belts and impellers for all engines. We stock extra filters for the watermaker and the fresh water supply system. Our Goo box Is filled with tubes and cans of grease, penetrants, paint, epoxy, etc.

The systems that fail most often on a boat are the pumps, especially the raw water pumps. We have replaced all of the larger pumps, including the fresh water pump, the salt water washdown pump, the CruiseAir pump, and the low pressure pump for the watermaker, with magnetic drive units. In a magnetic pump, there is no direct connection between the motor and the pump head so there is less chance of salt water damaging the motor. We carry one or several replacement pumps for the wing engine and the generators, the bilge pumps, Vacuflush vacuum pumps, shower pumps, and fresh water pumps.

If a pump fails, it is often possible to jury rig another pump to do the job. We carry a substantial bundle of extra hose in various sizes. When we need a piece of hose, we typically buy twice as much as needed and put the extra in stores. To make it possible to jury rig when necessary, we have a tackle box full of bronze pipe fittings and a larger box of nylon fittings. We carry a Plumbing box that carries other common plumbing parts and a large selection of hose clamps in all sizes up to 8". It is always possible that our redundant fresh water system will fail or we might get a bad load of water in the tank. We carry a dozen or more gallon jugs of drinking water, just in case.

As with plumbing, electrical systems require repairs, maintenance, and additions. We carry a complete set of electrical tools, reels of extra wire in various colors and gauges, lots of heat shrink connectors, and a heat gun. We carry a box of miscellaneous electrical parts like electrical boxes, switches, fuses, bulbs, zip ties, and chafe protection. We carry several contractor grade extension cords as well as several shore power cords. Different countries have different connectors so we have a bag of various power connectors, including a 220V 50A female connector with a pigtail with bare wire ends that we can wire directly into a shore pedestal if necessary. Orion has two generators, a Northern Lights 20K and a NL 6K. If the local power is at all iffy, we rely upon our own generators. We have become adept at managing the 6K, which at a burn rate of 1 quart per hour is more economical than most transient rates for shore power.

We carry a full complement of mechanics tools, such as ratchets, socket sets, and wrenches. Other specialized tools include a full selection of battery powered saws and drills, drill bits and hole saws,a Multimaster, a come-along, and a few large wrenches topping out at a 36" pipe wrench and a large bolt cutter.

We carry a drawer full of carpentry tools and a selection of wood dowels, pieces of teak, and odd bits. We have a large damage control kit that includes things like tapered plugs, wax rings, a fothering patch with 50' lines, a hatchet, small sledge, and underwater epoxy.

Our guest manual contains detailed instructions for fire or abandon ship events. We review these procedures with each party when they come aboard. Our fire equipment includes fire extinguishers within easy reach almost anywhere on the boat as well as two automatic Fireboy halon systems. There is a fire mask in a cabinet just outside the engine room door.

We carry a 6 person life raft. An upper deck locker holds a well stuffed ditch bag, a box of flares and rockets, four survival (gumby) suits and an EPIRB. If we have an underwater problem, we carry two complete sets of SCUBA gear, five oxygen bottles, and a hookah rig.

You can never be too anchored. Our ground tackle includes a large Ultra anchor with Ultra swivel and 400' of chain, a Fortress 55 Danforth-style anchor with 300' of rode, and a small Bruce-style anchor with 200' of rode. We carry two sea anchors including tackle to deploy them using the Pardey's recommended technique. We carry two additional 200' rodes and a long heavy towline.

You can never be tied too securely so we carry enough dock lines to triple up all points in a heavy blow, including one line as long as the boat for springing off. Good chafing gear is critical. We have short dock chains that can bolt to dock cleats and some tough ballistic nylon and Velcro chafe protection tubes.

Safety on the mothership is not enough. We carry a 13' Bullfrog dinghy. Unlike the typical rigid deflatable boat with a fiberglass hull, the Bullfrog has unsinkable foam filled polypropylene tubes and an aluminum hull that will dent, not tear, when we run up on a rock.

Many RIBs look like a sports car, with lots of seats and padding but no room for groceries or supplies. The Bullfrog lacks sleek good looks but is a real workhorse roomy, fast, and stable even in a heavy chop.

A big fear is what happens if one of us gets hurt or seriously ill in some remote region. We are not doctors, but here are some of the things we keep onboard.We carry a large first aid kit and an AED defibrillator. Our medicine chest includes seasickness meds like Scopace patches, Bonine, and Dramamine. We keep one or two Z-Packs (azithromycin) and Ciprofloxacin for antibiotic use. For prostate emergencies we carry a box of catheters. For sprains or broken bones we have braces and cast materials.

Our library includes several good marine medical books including "Marine Medicine" by Eric Weiss and Ken Jacobs. As part of our ski patrol training, we have taken several classes in wilderness first aid. After a bad experience, we require all guests to detail any health conditions and medications they use before coming aboard.

Orion is equipped with motion detectors on the aft and above both side deck stairways. No one can approach an entry door without setting off a quiet alarm in our master stateroom. The intruder won't know that we know he is there, giving us time to prepare a proper welcome.

We routinely keep the small switches for our large halogen floodlights on. We have a zip tie on the circuit breaker so we can identify it in the dark. One flip of the breaker and the outside of the boat is blindingly lit up. Our air horn is painfully loud for anyone on the decks. Other deterrents include conveniently located billyclubs, a machete, cans of wasp spray, bright LED flashlights, bear bangers, and miscellaneous weaponry, depending on the laws of the country.

Having all the spares and tools doesn't help much if you don't know how to fix things. Before heading off into the wild blue yonder, take advantage of classes by Northern Lights, ABT TRAC, Trawlerfest, and others so you know you can fix anything. Make sure you have good documentation for all the systems on your boat you probably won't have Google available once you get out of the Land o' Plenty. We learn our boat systems one breakdown at a time but the learning comes easier if you spend time in local waters close to assistance before getting too far afield. Douglas usually assists whenever we have a specialist working on the boat.

More important than anything else, make sure everyone aboard is physically fit with good stamina and plenty of rest. Being out to sea can be hard work when the boat is rocking and rolling, especially when it goes on day after day. You must be emotionally mature yourself and have a strong relationship with your crew. Most boats are operated by couples. When things go to hell, you must depend upon each other. This is no time to be negotiating who works the hardest or ate the most chocolate. You must know that your partner will show up on time for watch changes or if there is a call for "all hands on deck". You don't want the dream to end during the first nasty gale.

There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you and your vessel are capable, self sufficient, and personally responsible. When you know that your vessel and crew can handle any conditions and that you can fix anything that breaks, you can settle into a lifestyle that is comfortable, fascinating, and free.

Respectfully submitted,

Douglas & Gerry Cochrane
M/V Orion, N57-25

Hello the Cochranes The only things I would add to your "boat ready" tips would be:
1) a small cyl of medical oxygen with appropriate masks etc
2) various tubs of " Belzona" a miracle bonding repair product unique for GRP or mild steel or stainless or aluminium. Two pot mix with almost indefinite shelf life.
3) small cyls of oxy/acetylene with hoses and various torches and nozzles. If you can't weld often someone else nearby can
4) a couple of safety harnesses won't go astray. I have spent all my life in the marine industry and decades at sea and can only echo your comments and advice to those planning to venture into the wilderness. Also a good dose of "common sense" goes a very long way and always keep a cool head. Panic will lead to disaster. Cheers Murray France N5732 Commander Whitsunday islands