November 30th, 2009 – The Boat that Ballard Built
by Dave Logan and Herb McCormick
On Tuesday morning, the crew of Ocean Watch set out on their next leg of their journey, bound south down the coast of Brazil. Today’s log is the first of two parts. This week, we’ll be looking back at the refit of Ocean Watch for the Around the Americas expedition in a multiple series of reports called “The Boat that Ballard Built.”
The Boat that Ballard Built
by Dave Logan and Herb McCormick
Before the voyage Around the Americas was going anywhere, the crew needed a boat. After an extensive search, skipper Mark Schrader and Dave Logan found what they were looking for: a rugged, 64-foot steel yacht that would withstand the rigors of ice and high-latitude, expedition-style sailing, with enough room and amenities to call home for a year-long voyage of some 25,000 nautical miles. The boat they discovered, in La Paz, Mexico, was called Danzante III. There would be much work ahead before she’d become Ocean Watch.
After inspecting Danzante and purchasing the vessel, Schrader and Logan had come away feeling that the boat itself was a fine, proper platform, but that many if not all of the systems, plumbing, wiring, electronics – as well as the auxiliary engine and generator – were in need of an upgrade or replacement. And the actual delivery trip from Cabo San Lucas to Seattle confirmed their suspicions.
Mate Logan was also the project manager for the refit – think of him as the general contractor for the job – and in that role he needed a foreman with a broad background and vast, hands-on technical expertise to help him tackle the mammoth undertaking. He knew exactly the person he wanted, an experienced sailor, fisherman, boat captain and all around jack-of-all-trades named Paul LaRussa.
“I’d known Paul, who became the chief artist of the refit, a long time,” said Dave. “I knew his abilities, and knew that he leaned toward perfection and doing things the right way. I brought him down to the boatyard and we talked about the refit and had a look at the boat. I told him what I had in mind and what I wanted to accomplish.
“His exact words were: ‘This is an impossible time frame, an impossible budget, and pretty much an impossible amount of work to accomplish by the time you want to leave. But I’m still standing here so I guess I’m in.’ The next day he was there ripping things out of the boat.”
What would prove to be a major obstacle, and what took an incredible amount of time to sort out, was what to do with the main auxiliary engine. Danzante was equipped with a Westerbeke diesel that proved to be inadequate on the journey from Mexico. On top of that, it had a blown head gasket. Because there was no line item in the budget for a new engine, the plan was to rebuild the one already in the boat, add a new propeller, and hope for the best. But getting parts from Westerbeke proved problematic. Weeks went by with no solution.
Ultimately, another Ballard-based company, Lugger Marine/Northern Lights, joined the Around the Americas effort as a major in-kind marine industry partner and sponsor. Their brand new 135-hp. engine replaced the Westerbeke, and a new 12.5 kW Northern Lights generator was installed to help power the banks of computers and scientific instruments that would be coming aboard. Lugger’s major contribution and their flawless, dependable auxiliary proved to be a turning point in the refit.
“If Lugger hadn’t come aboard, the project might’ve stopped right there,” said Dave. “They really stepped up with their outstanding, continuous-duty engine, a staple in the Ballard fishing fleet. It’s proven itself to be one of the most important and reliable items on the boat.”
Regarding the engine itself, Dave said, “The engine meets or exceeds all current standards and standards well into the future. It’s based on a marinized John Deere tractor engine, one of the oldest diesel engines there is with an indestructible block and bones. This particular version is built for constant duty at maximum RPMs. It accomplishes this because everything on it is electronic, it’s constantly metering the fuel, exhaust, the cooling, and constantly adjusting everything accordingly for the most efficient operation.
“The end result is, for this horsepower, we’re getting incredible fuel economy and trouble-free operation,” continued Dave. “You hear of an electronically controlled engine on a boat and it makes most people shudder, but the whole system is backed up by manual overrides, so you can actually run the entire engine, throttles, and so on, entirely manually. It’s a really well-engineered system and is considered by the guys running workboats in the Seattle area – boats big enough to carry an engine like this – to be the absolute Cadillac of working engines.”
The term “constant or continuous duty” means the engine can run all day, every day, at 135 hp., though in practice, the engine is run at roughly 45-50 percent of its capacity. That means the engine can be run at lower RPMs than a normal sailboat auxiliary, which means much better fuel economy. In the Arctic, the crew regularly operated the engine at 1300-1400 RPMs and still made speeds of 7-8 knots. “We’re running at about a third of the RPMs that you’d run in a typical, modern sailboat auxiliary, so this is a workboat engine and that suits us because we’re doing the job of a workboat,” said Dave.
Of course, to optimize efficiency, the engine must work in tandem with the propeller, and Ocean Watch carries two. In the Arctic, the crew employed their 24″ x 19″ three-bladed fixed prop; once out of the ice, they switched to a 24″ x 20″ three-bladed MaxProp self-feathering prop that maximizes speed under sail when the engine is switched off. A sharp, on-shaft line cutter, to cut away any flotsam the boat may encounter, rounds out the auxiliary package.
Repowering the boat was an impressive exercise. “Getting any sort of engine out of a sailboat is interesting and out of the ordinary,” said Dave. “It’s quite an engineering feat just to get it from inside the boat to a pallet beside the boat. You need a lot of careful thought and a thorough understanding of the seven or eight basic mechanical tools, levers and pulleys, incline planes and fulcrums and all of that. A few special tools were fabricated, such things as angle-iron skidways and overhead gantries.”
After the old engine was out, all of its related gear also had to go. “Both the generator and the new engine were larger than the previous one, so things had to be upsized to accommodate them,” said Dave. “Probably the trickiest were the exhaust systems,” a circuitous affair that took the better part of two weeks. While this was going on, the five fuel tanks aboard were all polished and LaRussa fabricated new engine mounts to accommodate the incoming power plant.
Once the Lugger was in, everything else could start coming out in earnest, including roughly 300 pounds of wire. “As we dug into it, we’d pull out one thing and find two more things that we had to repair,” said Dave. “The scariest two items were the wiring and the plumbing, and all their interconnected systems. A lot of it looked like a first-time homeowner had done it over a span of about twenty years. So it all just started coming out.
“Again,” Dave continued, “it began with the engine and everything associated with it. We’d arrived at the decision to replace it reluctantly, but it had become obvious the old engine wouldn’t do this trip. Once we had the Lugger, it was time to start deciding what exactly was going back into the boat.
“At that point, we were beginning to get a lot of interest from the Ballard marine community in general, including everyone Paul and I already knew. The Seaview East Boatyard had also really stepped up and was donating time, services and people. By then, a lot more craftsmen and experts from Ballard began donating things: time, advice, effort, materials, and so on. It was like no one wanted to be outdone by anyone else. And that’s when it started to seem possible we might finish the refit in our relatively short time frame.”
There’s a long and rich nautical tradition in the seaside community of Ballard, with an incredible collection of talent and resources continuing that heritage to this day. Ocean Watch was the beneficiary of vast generosity and expertise. Indeed, as the refit gathered steam, it started to become evident that the 64-footer, undergoing a complete transformation, was going to be “the boat that Ballard built.” Not only that, but from the outset the overall goals and philosophy of the refit was to purchase “Made in America” products and services whenever possible. Ocean Watch was proudly “made in the U.S.A.”
A complicated, systems-rich boat like Ocean Watch is like a small city unto itself, particularly with regard to electrical systems and outputs. The team spent a lot of time drawing maps and schematics of how things could and should work. Gear that could be salvaged was hooked back up with new systems, breakers, pumps and circuits in the simplest way possible so it would be easy to understand and operate once the voyage had begun.
After much planning and consideration as to placement and sizing, new banks of AGM (absorbed glass mat) batteries were installed. “We needed to increase the capacity because of all the scientific equipment,” said Dave. “We needed a way to isolate and protect the battery banks in ways that weren’t possible before. And we needed a way to charge them in ways that were easiest on the batteries. So we ended up putting a series of equalizers and chargers into play.”
A trio of automatic charging relays now bring all three banks of batteries “up” at the same time, and adjusts the charging rates accordingly so all the banks receive an equal rate of charge. Along with the Northern Lights generator, the boat is equipped with a powerful alternator and four 80-watt solar panels to augment her power needs.
Those needs are significant. On most cruising boats, the engine alternator handles the charging and keeps the batteries topped off. But a standard cruising sailor isn’t carrying SeaKeeper 1000 pumps (that run constantly and monitor salinity, PH factors, etc.) that draw 15 to 20 amps, or atmospheric sampling equipment constantly downloading data to a computer drawing another 2-3 amps.
“Essentially, we have 1700 amp-hours onboard, about half of which is available for use at any given time,” says Dave. “At last count, we might have nine different computers on at once. So the new charging system is a little more complicated than usual. We needed some redundancies.”
Now, speaking of redundancies, Ocean Watch has three methods by which the batteries can be charged: shore power, a dedicated battery charger via the generator, and the inverter.
“All of it adds up to the power requirements of a small house on a day you’re not going to do the laundry,” he said. “But we do have a washer/dryer and watermaker aboard, both of which are 220-volts, and require a large generator to run. Under normal conditions, we run it approximately four hours a day to recharge batteries and make sure the voltage draws don’t run dangerously low.”
The first real setback encountered was the onboard waste system, the sewage storage tanks, if you will. Once the old genset was out it was discovered there was a hole in an aft tank, which explained why a foul odor was emanating from the bilge. Upon further investigation, a hole in the forward tank was also revealed.
“So,” said Dave, “we cut away part of the boat and had new tanks made. We put those in, cleared out bilges, repainted everything, stripped out everything, put up panels we could mount things on, and started putting circuits back in to accommodate the engine.”
Not only that, but an entirely new circuit-breaker panel and system was designed an implemented, with a new panel door and a pair of new panels. The inverter had actually been replaced before the boat sailed from Mexico to Seattle, as the old one was deemed too shaky and underpowered.
“The batteries and all the high-draw motors on the boat – for the Lewmar electric winch, bilge pumps, high-pressure water-maker pump, water-pressure pump – are all now fused ahead of the breaker panel, or rather in addition to the breaker panel, so they’re all double protected,” said Dave. “In other words, everything on the boat that has a motor now has an inline fuse between that motor and the breaker panel. So if the breaker fails or doesn’t trip the fuse will blow and we won’t have burnt wires, as we did before.”
Moving onto plumbing, as far as fresh, potable water is concerned, Ocean Watch is completely self-sufficient and able to make its own from seawater with its Village Marine reverse-osmosis water-maker. “We didn’t want to take water on in ports where it might be full of fluorides or heaven knows what else,” said Dave. “We got the simplest one we could find, with a lot of manual features as opposed to automatic features. That gives us more control with less circuits to potentially break.”
Ocean Watch’s thirty gallon-per-hour water-maker has worked flawlessly. Running it a couple of hours every day addresses all the crew’s cruising requirements. In practice, the unit pumps water into a 45-gallon stainless-steel tank which is accessed with a hand pump; once that’s full, the overflow is routed to five more 40-gallon tanks that are tied into the boat’s pressure-water pumps and system.
“The reason we did that,” said Dave, “is that if the electric water-maker fails, or the tanks or hoses fail, we know we always have 45-gallons of available water for drinking or emergencies. We also have a salt-water foot pump in the galley, which we don’t use often since we have ample fresh water. In addition, we have all new hose and probably 800-900 new hose clamps. And from the exhaust hose to the smallest vent hose to the hose for the water tanks, I’d say we probably have 1,000-1,200 feet of new hose of varying diameters. And there’s at least a mile of new wire on the boat, maybe more.”
Again, installing all the new wire and hose meant gutting the boat, specifically much of the interior layout and accommodations features. “The boat had been set up for two couples to cruise with a double bed forward and a double bed aft. We knew those had to go so we could add enough bunks for expedition-style sailing,” said Dave. “But we also had to take out the floor, the ceiling, the shelving, and cut holes in the bulkheads and rip backs out of closets. For months, the boat was pretty much a disaster area. For awhile it looked like we would go to sea with working systems but I thought we’d have to go to sea with beds from Ikea because there just didn’t seem to be the time or money to put stuff back together.
“But once again,” he concluded, “the Ballard community stepped up.”
For this part of the project, a small platoon of highly skilled, volunteer craftsmen descended upon Ocean Watch. For the new accommodation plan and bunks, the firm of Bakatun & Thomas, premier Ballard boat-builders – “guys I’ve known since we were kids,” said Dave – agreed to do the work.
“They’re very accomplished and very fast,” said Dave. “They sent a guy over who completely rebuilt the bow and stern, at a huge discount in price. We designed it, he shook his head at what we were trying to do, and then he executed it brilliantly.”
However, that still left the matter of who would finish the overhead, prepare the floor for the new cork flooring, and put the trim and the backs of the closets back together. Enter more Ballard craftsmen by the names of Joel Marquardt, Brian Hamilton, Jeff Knudson, Paul Bagshaw, and Miller & Miller Marine. “They made all that possible,” said Dave.
Tomorrow, in Part 2 of “The Boat that Ballard Built,” Dave will continue to address the nuts and bolts of the pre-voyage refit of Ocean Watch. The AtA crew and team would like to thank the following companies for their generous support, without which the voyage “around the Americas” would not be possible.
Around the Americas
Marine Industry & Communication Partners
Euro Marine Trading/Antal Marine Equipment/Lopo Light
Fisheries Supply Company
Iridium Satellite LLC
Northern Lights/Lugger Marine
Stratos Satellite Communications
Sure Marine Service
Winslow Life Raft
Around the Americas
Blue Sea Systems
Freeborn Concepts LLC
International SeaKeepers Society
Miller & Miller Marine
Pacific Maritime Institute
Port Townsend Sails
Remote Satellite Systems
SSI Shredding Systems
Swedish Hospital – Ballard
Vi Reno, Reno Law Marine Attorney
Warren Light Craft
- Dave Logan and Herb McCormick with photographs by David Thoreson
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