Ed. note: Scott and Mary Flanders landed in Brazil on October 19, 2006. The following article on the factors that motivated the Flanderses to undertake their adventure was written by Scott en route to Brazil from the Canary Islands.
Know Your Boat
Boat preparations for a traditional ocean crossing and for high latitude cruising are close first cousins but there IS a difference. Simple catch-all phrases like 'check everything', 'leave no stone unturned' or 'tend to every detail' are simplistic words of wisdom but very true. They are, however, generic and without specifics. The down side to those words is that what they mean to an experienced cruiser versus what they mean to a person with limited knowledge could be two VERY different things. The organizers and planners of the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally recognized this issue and addressed it as well as could be done. Within PAE's staff itself (Nordhavn folks) there is a tremendous amount of knowledge. Unlike most builders, they personally have many thousands of hours in their own boats (including the Mason line of sailboats they built) AND have crossed oceans themselves. From this committee the check list went to another NAR committee of Bruce Kessler (the first American powerboat circumnavigator), retired U.S. Navy officers and many year cruisers Milt Baker and Mike Martus. >From this talented group of people came a check list that is thorough and complete. It is beyond Egret's ability and scope of this article to produce such a list. If you are seriously considering crossing an ocean and HAVE a boat truly capable of crossing an ocean I would imagine a phone call to PAE could produce that list.
The Egret crew spent five months at a dock in the Fla. Keys preparing for the NAR. This was not an eight hour a day for four months endeavor, however it took many many hours with lists of lists of details. Already familiar with Egret after two and a half years of cruising, one long 1100nm offshore trip (Ft Lauderdale - Nantucket) and over 2000 engine hours we settled into the task with virtually everything operating perfectly BEFORE starting. I will mention a few specifics I am particularly obsessed with as well as why I have such an obsession plus what we do about it.
Clean Fuel. We were liveaboards for six months before retiring and throwing off the lines. For six months, except for weekend cruises, Egret faced up river with the afternoon sun on the port side. Fast forward a year-and-a-half later. Egret is standing off Masonboro Inlet, NC in the wee morning hours post Hurricane Isabel getting tossed every which way and never the same way twice. Suddenly the Lugger (main engine) started racing. Racing exactly like an outboard engine races just before running all the fuel out of the carburetor while flushing. Diesels are no different. Racing diesel engine = VERY lean fuel mixture = going to quit VERY soon = this is VERY bad. I immediately switched the Racor dual filter from one element to the other. No difference = this is STILL very bad. Egret's Racors are mounted on the starboard side. We were drawing from the PORT side (the side facing the sun for six months). I leaned down and switched to the starboard tank and our wonderful little Lugger started purring again as she has before and since. Fast forward later in Ft. Lauderdale. With low fuel we transfered the fuel from the port tank to the starboard tank. Removing the fuel tank inspection plates what I saw was a nightmare. There were round thick globs of black algae that looked like and were the size of fried eggs. They could be lifted up with a stick and dropped back down. What had happened back in NC was one covered the gravity feed fuel lines and stopped the fuel. The tank cleaning was relatively simple. The starboard side was clean but we cleaned it as well. In no time they were spotless and have been kept that way. We now also use Biobor diesel fuel additive. In a Voyage of Egret we wrote during the Med cruise and available on this website we give detailed instructions on how to clean your fuel tanks and what equipment you need. This is time well spent and absolutely necessary. An additional item worth mentioning is in the five years after taking delivery of Egret and over 4,000 engine hours with corresponding miles we have removed less than a thimble full of water from her tanks. Water looks like balls of mercury in the bottom of the tank so are easy to recognize and remove. Egret's insulated fiberglass tanks are the real deal (my highest compliment). We have owned boats whose fuel tanks made water regularly.
Keep Your Engine Room Tidy. Another very important item is to keep your engine room spotless, particularly the bilge. A clean engine room is not just a pride issue. Far more importantly, it is a safety issue. Your main engine should sparkle, your generator as well, INCLUDING the tray underneath, and the wing engine. The areas near any fuel lines, hoses of any sort, stabilizer oil tower and in the 46's case, the inverter, should be kept clear of the junk we guys like to accumulate. The bilge MUST be spotless. Spotless = shiny gray. The reason is during your regular engine room checks while under way if there are leaks of any kind they will be easy to spot. Obviously your bilge is the lowest point of the boat. Any leak of anything, anywhere (at least on the smaller Nords) will end up in the bilge. Twice since owning Egret we avoided disaster by finding oil in the bilge. The first was on the Nantucket trip mentioned above. Mary was on watch and found oil in the bilge during a check. There are two hoses on Egret's Lugger connecting the oil filter casting to another casting forward. Those hoses are rated at 3500 lbs. pressure and failed with 45 lbs. of oil pressure. (No spares then - now 2 complete sets plus new set installed). I made a simple catch tank from a pint-size plastic paint pot and a piece of nylon for a bail. In one hour the hose leaked 1 1/2 ounces. No problem with the distance to go, but could have been. The second time, which we documented in a Voyage of Egret (again in the Med), was when a worker kneeled on a transmission hose and cracked it. We were ready to leave the anchorage when I found the oil in the bilge. New hoses later with spares and all was well. The BIG point of these examples is this can happen to any one of us. A filthy bilge reveals nothing, nada, zip.
An inspection tip that originated with the Nantucket trip oil leak is that we now line the starboard (oil) side of the main engine (yours may be different) with white 3M bilge diapers under anything that could leak. White bilge diapers immediately reveal problems on inspection.
When under way long distance we remove a bilge plate to expose the stuffing box. We take once a day temp readings and check the drip.
We do the critical fuel side, main engine oil side and bilge check with a flashlight. This reveals more than the engine room lights. On the opposite side we use the engine room lights.
The raw water intake pump on the Lugger generator is susceptible to seal failure. Egret's failed after 425 hours. After having a hack mechanic in the Abacos try to rebuild it with my parts, I rebuilt it myself. Over 1,600 hours later the pump is still dry but WILL leak again. When the gen pump seal leaks seawater goes everywhere including the pan under the gen. The generator electrical end cooling fan can pick up the seawater and distribute it nicely through the electrical end. Real bad deal. (Generators have two 'ends', electrical and engine.) There is a simple way to prevent disaster, not the seal from leaking. Wrap the pump seal area with a piece of terrycloth towel letting the tail hang straight down OUTSIDE the drip pan under the gen. On inspection if there is a water leak the towel will be white and crusty with salt but will have drained away from the pan. We do not line the bottom of the generator pan with white bilge diapers. An oil drip here or there can be wiped up but bilge diapers disguise a water leak. (I told friends on Grey Pearl, 62 Nord, we used a white towel so THEY used a pink towel, the dogs. I guess now Egret will have to use a red towel. One oneupmanship never ends with boys and their toys.)
Become mechanically inclined. Now I will make a very, VERY important point. I doubt if any, or certainly only a few, Nordhavn owners were mechanics by trade. Our vocations are different. Our mechanical skills are widely varied but we ALL are responsible for our little ships and crew. No matter where you are on the mechanical scale let me suggest you start to learn more about your boat. You can start by figuring out what pump is what then labeling it with a magic marker as we did. 3M blue tape with notes are scattered all through Egret's engine room detailing items from Racor filter element run date to which way to spin the Lugger oil filter to remove it. We wrote on each blue fuel line with a marker its function so at a glance we could identify its function, etc. Down the road you will know all this at a glance but not at first. When you rebuild your first pump write a simple step by step cheat sheet for the next time. Detail your engine room yourself as we described above. You'll learn a lot AND have a beautiful engine room. As time and the miles go by you will look back at your 'old self' and chuckle with your new skills and confidence. You can buy these skills in the States but when you spread your wings and travel, those options will evaporate to a big degree. Where you just don't have the confidence hire someone who can help but observe (they won't like this but it's your money and privilege.) Plus ask questions. When they leave, document what you learned. You WILL learn these skills, you'll see. A huge resource for help is other cruisers. We all have time to share with others. Egret has been helped immeasurably by other cruisers and have returned the help where we can.