Sunday, August 25, 2013

Happy ninth nomadiversary

Nine years ago yesterday -- August 24, 2004 -- we closed the door of our downtown San Jose, California condominium for the last time, to call Odyssey our new home.  Long-time fellow nomad, friend, and more recently fellow bus-dweller Chris, of Technomadia, coined the term "nomadiversary" to celebrate the anniversary of his departure from a more sessile existence, a term which has stuck with us. [Correction: our mutual friend Ben, of Digital Mastery, actually coined the term and we first heard it used by Chris and Cherie. Gotta give credit where credit is due! -Louise]

This morning finds us still living on the bus.  Given that we spent just barely three months living aboard Vector early this year, and we've been back aboard Odyssey now for longer than that, I am also going to call yesterday our ninth anniversary of life on a bus.  We have perhaps another week or two yet before we can move back to the boat.  It has been a wonderful nine years, comprising some 160,000 miles across 48 states in the U.S. and six in Mexico.  Louise reminds me that she has now lived on this bus longer than any other dwelling in her life.  At some point, when I have more time to collect the information and do the math, I hope to post here a recap of our great bus adventure.

For now, however, all our energy is focused on getting the boat back in cruising trim so we can move back aboard.  We still have no working bathrooms, and the bilges are still wide open.  I am guessing the yard still has two or three days of work to finish the waste system, and some critical parts are back-ordered.  In the meantime, work on other projects, both mine and the yard's, continues to move along.  And while I thought we were past this point, we even continue to add projects to the yard's plate.

New black tanks going into place.

Yesterday, when I had instead hoped to be posting this blog entry, I was engrossed in the lone bilge that had not been remediated and epoxy-painted.  It's a rather small area, maybe five or six square feet, under the vestibule between the master stateroom and the engine room.  Our earlier casual inspection had led us to believe this area was in OK shape, and it was really not possible to have the sole plates up in there while work was ongoing in the engine room and/or the master stateroom.  We had hoped, frankly, not to have to remove those plates at all during this yard visit.

That changed toward the end of the week, when testing revealed the macerator pump located in this bilge was not working right.  We knew before arriving here that it was not pumping overboard, but I had guessed this was likely due to a stuck check valve.  As we started delving further into the system as part of the waste system revamp, however, we discovered the check valve to be perfectly fine and all lines clear.  The yard plumber decided the pump needed to come out for testing, and that meant the sole had to come up.  We ended up relocating the pump anyway, and after the plumber was done in this bilge I decided to clean out ten years of accumulated dust, rust, and debris, and perhaps shoot a coat of white Rustoleum in there to match the other bilges and make problems easier to see.

After I got all the loose material out and started scraping the hull to remove the scale and loose paint, I discovered more rust damage in here than we had first identified.  About a half hour or so into it it started to look to me like bead blasting or needle gunning would be in order, and I asked Keith, the yard owner, to have a look and give me an opinion.  After a brief consultation we decided to have the yard needle gun the worst spots and completely prep and paint this bilge with epoxy paint.  It's more money on top of an already sizable budget overrun, but it's really the right thing to do, and now, with the vestibule empty and the sole plates already out, is the right time to do it.

The last unpainted bilge.

Of course, now all the tools, materials, and parts that I had carefully organized and stored on shelving in that vestibule are piled in every aisle in the engine room, so I can't easily get to any of the projects I had started in there.  I'd already removed the top half of the seachest vent, including the valve, and we have now what amounts to a cork in the end of this pipe in the unlikely event that the water level in it comes up another six inches.  The upper part of the vent pipe was galvanized steel, very corroded, and the brass valve is seized to a galvanized reducing bushing.  I have a new, longer section of schedule-80 PVC to replace the upper part of the vent, and a new bronze valve on order.

For reasons not entirely clear to me, we get foam coming out the seachest vent while under way, and the salt foam running down the outside of the pipe and even the adjacent engine room bulkhead has done some serious damage.  The new PVC vent pipe, in addition to being immune to salt corrosion itself, is a larger diameter than the old one and will also be taller.  I am hoping that, between these two factors, we will eliminate the egress of foam at the top of the vent, but, if not, we will experiment with running the boat with the valve closed, opening it only when stopped, and at each watch change under way, to release any trapped air.  A final option will be to put a catch bottle under the vent to catch the drips.  Once we have this under control, I can clean up the bulkhead rust and get some fresh paint on there.

Another ongoing engine room project involves the main engine primary fuel filters.  One of the two Racor 1000s, which are connected to a manifold that allows us to use either filter individually or both in parallel, has been dripping fuel since we got the boat.  I traced the drip to the plastic plug that stands in place of the optional water sensors; to get to this plug required draining the filter and bowl entirely to remove the heat shield.  As long as I had to take it all apart, I am renewing the gaskets and adding a quarter-turn ball valve to facilitate periodically draining the water and contaminants out of the bowl.  I ordered valves for both main engine Racors as well as the one on the generator.  Also on order is a new vacuum gauge (which tells us when the filters need changing) that has a drag pointer to record the highest vacuum level -- something which generally happens only when we are unable to be in the engine room staring at the gauge.

We discovered, after my big project to re-plumb the head end of the fresh water system and add a tempering valve to the water heater, that the water in the galley is not hot enough for the new dishwasher.  So I also have the cover off the water heater while I try to diagnose whether its thermostat or the tempering valve setup is at fault.  With the engine room full of the contents of the vestibule, I can get to each of these three projects only with great effort, and so I am hoping that the painting of this final bilge goes quickly, so I can put that area back in order.

Moving the macerator out of that bilge, where it was a good dozen feet from the tank on top of two feet or so of lift, to a new location right next to the new black tank, did not solve the pumping problem by itself, and so I had the yard install the brand new backup pump that was on the boat when we bought it.  The inoperative pump was also fairly new, and I took it apart to find the impeller missing a blade.  I'm hoping the blade was ejected from the boat entirely and is not stuck in the discharge piping someplace.  The new pump, in the new location, is working just fine, at least with clear water, which is all we are using so far for testing.

The first half of the week I spent a great deal of time removing trim and cutting holes in the backs and bottoms of the port lockers in the master head, trying to access the pumpout hose.  After many hours of this, I concluded that the only way to remove and replace that hose would be to, essentially, completely disassemble the locker from the inside out, far enough to make a six foot saw cut from the sole to the ceiling.  Even getting to the hose clamps that attach the hose to the deck fitting would require major surgery, or perhaps removing the fitting from the deck itself -- no small task.  I had hoped to replace this decade-old hose with a fresh one, in case it was somehow implicated in the great difficulty we had been having when pumping out.

After I determined that it would take me close to two days of work to open up enough cabinetry to replace the hose, and another day or so to put it back together (the resulting damage would, thankfully, have been hidden entirely inside the locker), I decided instead to ask the yard to pressure-test the hose from the bilge all the way to the outside of the deck fitting.  It held 10psi for a two hour test, which, while not the same as holding five inches of vacuum for that time, suggests the hose is intact and was not responsible for the pumpout problems.  We will reuse the hose just as it sits, although I now know exactly where it is and what I will have to do to get to it should it need replacing  in the future.

The elusive pumpout hose, at the back of the locker behind my drop light cord.

As we come down to the wire, we also are running out of time to have items delivered to us here -- the last good delivery address we will have until we arrive in Baltimore for Trawler Fest.  So this week also saw a flurry of online orders -- I think I placed one McMaster-Carr order each day, and I also placed several Amazon and eBay orders.  I even finally ordered a new TV, from Walmart of all places, which I hope will put the great TV fiasco finally to rest.

I now have a hunk of HDPE to modify the existing chocks for the new tender whenever it comes back, all the PVC parts for the seachest vent as well as vents for the anchor locker and the lazarette, thermostats for the engine room fan (already installed) and a raw-water exhaust alarm, O-rings for the deck fills, and various bits and pieces to complete projects I've already bored you with in earlier posts.

Among the many things we've been ordering and projects we've been tackling have been a pair of scooter tires and some valve stems for unplanned maintenance.  Louise's rear tire had stopped holding air a few weeks ago, and since the tire was worn out anyway we just ordered a new one.  After wrestling the wheel off, replacing the tire, airing it up, and re-installing it, it again went flat on our first excursion,  which is when we discovered the cracked valve stem.  After repeating the whole wheel removal ordeal to install the new hard-to-find right-angle valve stem and finally getting her back on the road (and off my back seat), I found my own rear tire flat on our next outing, the victim of a nail or other sharp object here in the yard.  We are once again two-up while I await receipt of the new rear tire I ordered for myself.  This time I ordered new valve stems at the same time.

We went out last night for a lovely dinner across the river with our local friends Sandy and Steve, and new friends and fellow new boat owners Mark and Jane are in town for a week to work on their boat in a slip just a few feet from us, so we'll likely have another nice dinner out sometime this week.  That and some fairly pleasant weather at least makes it all feel just a little more like cruising and less like unending maintenance.

It is often said that the most dangerous thing you can have on a boat is a schedule, and so we try not to have "firm" commitments.  Nevertheless, we have pre-paid for Trawler Fest, including our first-ever Trawler Fest University class (on maintenance, of all things), in Baltimore starting September 24.  Ever the optimist, I have also booked a slip at the marina, although long-time readers may remember we've done this particular show before in the bus, and so we know it is possible as a backup option.  That said, I am fairly confident we will be back under way in plenty of time to make it to Baltimore for our slip reservation on the 20th.  We've booked a month, although we will not stay that long, because the MTOA negotiated a very good monthly rate to go along with their post-Trawler Fest rendezvous.  That allowed us to plan to arrive a few days early, to enjoy the town and be well settled before our class starts.

When we first arrived here in Deltaville over three months ago, we had imagined ourselves cruising perhaps as far as New York before landing in Baltimore for Trawler Fest.  As the window for that began to close, I had hoped we would at least be able to cruise up to DC before the show.  Even that excursion is no longer in the cards, and we will content ourselves to see a little of the Chesapeake and perhaps even Annapolis before Baltimore.  How far we get after we leave there, and even which direction we will head, is now an open question, depending largely on the weather.

Perhaps we will continue on through the C&D canal, visiting our hailing port of Bear, Delaware before deciding whether to turn north or south in the Atlantic Ocean.  Perhaps, instead, we will remain in the Chesapeake, maybe even taking that cruise up to DC, before heading south ahead of the approaching winter.  About the only thing we can say for (almost) certain is that we will likely be somewhere in Florida come the end of the year.  Our mandatory six months of exile there is over, and storm season will be behind us.


  1. How on earth do you manage to keep track of it all?
    *Note to self* boat ownership might not be a good choice for me....

    Anyway, "Happy Nomadiversary!"

  2. Congrats guys! You continue to be an inspiration and we are blessed to have our nomadic paths cross.

    However, and I had to check - but I believe it was Ben who coined the word 'Nomadiversary'. Here's Chris' 3 year post, in which Ben's comment was our first encounter with the word.

    1. Thanks for the correction. I've noted that in the post. Hugs to you both!

  3. Sean,
    FYI If you didn't know you can put in remote vacuum gauge's to read the Racors condition.

    I put two up at my helm last year because I never went down and looked while the engines were running.

    I have not run the boat much since so don't know how well they work but should be fine.

    Bill Kelleher

    1. Bill, we are adamant (perhaps religious) believers in regular engine room checks while under way, so checking the Racor gauge is no further burden. I am well aware of remote gauges and I do admit that being able to see the fuel vacuum when powering up the engine for emergency maneuvering would be a useful feature. But a drag pointer gauge will cost me $35 and take all of five minutes to install. Running either wires or hard tubing from the manifold some 40' to the helm through two watertight bulkheads is a major undertaking, and a much larger investment as well. Perhaps someday, but it's pretty far down my list.

  4. I'm curious why you need any vent on your seachest. We don't have one on ours and I've never seen one. Not that I've seen hundreds of seachests but I have seen a few.

    1. Bob, our sea chest is entirely below the waterline, unlike many pleasure-boat sea chests which extend above the waterline and have a removable lid for easy access. Depending on where on the hull the sea chest is located and the hydrodynamics in that spot, an unvented sea chest can accumulate air, and if that trapped air bubble gets large enough it can extend down below the intakes and create problems. All the boats I have seen with fully-enclosed, below-waterline sea chests have vents. The fact that we get foam coming out the vent under way suggests that some amount of air does come into ours while motoring. If you Google "sea chest vent" you will find lots of discussion of the issues.

      I think many sea chests that extend above the water line and have removable lids, often plexiglass or similar material, don't need a vent because the lid is not really pressure-tight.

      I have heard that on larger vessels, the sea chest vent often has a fitting or valve on it to connect it to either pressurized air or water, so that debris can be blown off the strainer when stopped. I plan to make a fitting for this purpose at some point, once I solve the foam problem.

    2. It sounds as if its more of a design issue. Ours is entirely below the water line and it doesn't get air in it. At the speeds either of us are travelling there's no reason for air in a seachest if the location is well chosen. That's beyond your control now I guess.

  5. Just an earlier post, you mentioned that you wanted to install a 'get-home engine' of some type and replace the batteries. Have you decided against this (of so why) or has the yard already completed the installation? What kind of 'get-home' system did you decide on? We're thinking of adding a get-home system on our 47' Nordhavn & would appreciate hearing your thoughts & insights. Thanks much and glad to hear the end appears to be in sight. Soon you'll be out cruising!


    1. Hi James. Long answer for this one. First off, yes, we do plan to add some kind of get-home capability, but that was not on the docket for this yard visit. It's a big-ticket item, and we decided that we did not really need it until we are ready to make our first big ocean crossing, at least a year or so away. We thought we should have a lot more experience with the boat before zeroing in on a design.

      I will also note that our sister ship, Antipodes, circumnavigated with just the single Lugger and no backup. I consider one valid "get-home" system to be a complement of spares extensive enough to ensure that I can repair any problem at sea, at least far enough to restore a "limp home" power level. Our Komatsu-based Lugger is extremely simple and reliable, so as long as spares are carried for all the critical parts, such as injection and coolant pumps, it's almost impossible to stop them cold.

      That said, our most likely solution will be to fix a gear or pulley to the propeller shaft and mount a hydraulic drive unit on the stringer next to it, with a chain or belt that we can fit between them in the event of an emergency shutdown. The hydraulic drive would be connected to the PTO on the generator engine.

      This was our thought from when we originally inspected the boat, and we were amused to learn later on, when going through the documentation, that it had also been the original builder's plan. They either never got that far, or decided to make it an option which the original buyer declined.

      I should note here that there are two commercial hydraulic get-home drives on the market that would do the same thing, with the added benefit that they can be engaged or disengaged remotely from the helm. IIRC, one is Wesmar and the other ABT. Unfortunately, we simply do not have enough room between the transmission and the shaft log to fit either one of these.

      Your N47 most likely presents fewer challenges. For one, you have removable soles and the hull is already designed for a wing engine, so one option is to simply have the wing engine fitted. For another, you have a smaller shaft diameter and more room between the transmission and the shaft log, so you might be able to fit the ABT hydraulic drive if your generator has a PTO.

      BTW, dimension-for-dimension, the N47 and Vector are nearly identical. We've been aboard a few of them, and if we could have managed any Nordy other than an older 46, the 47 would have been near the top of the list (although I do confess to a fondness for the lines of the older and much rarer 50).

  6. Hope you guy's can make it up thru the C&D love to see Vector up close at the docks. Unfortunate your length will keep you out of Summit North Marina but you can get T-head at the Maryland House on your starboard side just under the 213 bridge (60') And it's a pretty good place to eat, was the best in it's day.

  7. Congrats on the 9th anniversary. Aug 23, 2010 is our retirement date. We had moved into our first bus in Jan of '10. We have followed you 2 for almost your full 9 years. I hope you really like boat life. It is not for me nor my wife since she does not like water all that much and I hate the smell of harbors.
    did you move the hot tub on board?
    Having a hot tub is a big deal as to whether or not we stay at an RV park or not.

    1. Sorry for the delay -- I missed this the first time around.

      We did not move the hot tub aboard because we don't have a way to heat it as yet. On the bus, the hot tub can be heated in just three hours or so using the Webasto diesel boiler and about a gallon of diesel. Until we have the Webasto for the boat installed, that's not an option. Heating a hot tub with conventional electric heat takes nearly 24 hours -- too long to run the generator at about a gallon of hour in diesel consumption.

      We have a nice spot for it on the boat deck, and I plan to run hydronic lines up there so we can have one once the Webasto is done. Whether we use the inflatable one that we had on the bus or a more traditional style is yet to be determined.

  8. Congratulations! I'm coming up on my ninth nomadiversary as well (Sept. 10), and I actually found this post while I was searching Google to see if other people used this term (I thought so), and how it was spelled. Now I'm all set to celebrate in a couple weeks (and know who to credit for the word, too)!


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