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 Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Our next-door neighbors, Mark Mohler and Christine Guo of Nordhavn 62 Gray Matter, recently upgraded their davit to support hydraulic power-rotation. The base came off in two pieces, but is much easier to put back together at the shop. The downside is a heavy assembly: the upgraded base, with the power rotation transmission and motor, weighed just under 500 pounds. They'd need a crane to install their crane.

Our davit easily can lift the equipment, but doesn't have enough reach across the finger pier between the two boats. Luckily, the slip on the other side of Gray Matter was empty, so we backed Dirona around to put our stern adjacent to their bow with no finger pier in between.


With our davit fully extended, we were still a little short of reaching the mounting point on the centerline of Gray Matter's bow.

With some extra fenders in place, Mark carefully released his bow lines to inch the boats closer together.


Wednesday, July 02, 2014 4:05:59 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [2] - Trackback
Nordhavn | Ongoing
 Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dirona has a KVH M7 satellite TV system installed. When we left Hawaii, we cancelled our satellite TV subscription with Dish Network and haven't used the system since. We knew we had some work to do to get the system running outside the US, and it hadn't been a priority. It also wasn't even a possibility until we got to New Zealand and in range of the television satellite there.

The only time we'd really missed it was for live sporting events. We were in Fiordland during the Superbowl and, with our 64kbps data connection, we had trouble getting a reliable audio feed, let alone a video feed. We made do, and actually had a great time, "watching" the game over a mobile play-by-play app. We're not sure if this was a step backwards to a time before television, or a step forwards, but as Seahawks fans it definitely was among the most enjoyable Super Bowl we've ever watched.


Since we plan to be in Australia for over a year, getting the system functioning here felt worth the time investment.

The first stage was to climb the stack to replace the circular Low Noise Block (LNB) at the satellite television antenna with a linear LNB. Circular LNBs are used in the US, Canada, Latin America and some parts of Asia. Linear LNBs are used in Mexico, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. We had purchased a linear LNB when we bought the satellite TV system--this was among of the last few pieces of equipment that we carried for worldwide cruising but had not yet used.

While up the stack, we also adjusted the skew angle on the LNB. Periodically, in different parts of Australia, we'll need to repeat this adjustment. Circular LNBs don't require this adjustment, and newer M7 models can automatically adjust the linear LNB skew angle.


The next stage was to install an Australian digital receiver. The Australian government has established a free commercial satellite system: Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST), for viewers in remote locations or those who cannot receive terrestrial services after the digital switch-over. Travelers, such as those in RVs or boats, also are eligible to use the system.

The satellite frequencies had changed since our system was delivered, so we needed to reprogram them into the satellite dish. This allows the VAST receiver to find the satellite.


At this point in the process, we still couldn't display anything on our TV. The VAST receiver outputs a PAL-format video signal, the standard used outside the Americas, whereas all our AV equipment requires NTSC. We ordered a Orei XD-1090 PAL-to-NTSC converter from Amazon with an expected delivery time of two to three weeks. While we waited for the converter, Mark Mohler of N62 Gray Matter next door lent us his PAL-format television so we could test our setup end-to-end. The receiver quickly found the Optus C1 satellite and successfully established a connection.


With a single satellite to find, this stage was much faster than the Dish Network satellite TV system we'd used in the US. We've spent way too much time with the "Searching for Satellite" screen up as the Dish receiver struggled to locate one of the multiple Dish satellites. We soon had the system running end-to-end. Spitfire seemed to be particularly missing TV.


The last piece of the puzzle, an Orei XD-1090 PAL-to-NTSC converter, finally arrived. And amazingly, it just worked. Equally amazing, Amazon shipped the unit to Brisbane from the US in less than two weeks for only $8 shipping.

In summary, to get our US-installed satellite TV system working in Australia all we had to do was:

  1. Climb the stack and
    1. Swap the circular LNB for a linear LNB
    2. Manually adjust the LNB skew
  2. Program the new satellite frequencies into the dish
  3. Install a Australian digital decoder
  4. Install a PAL-to-NTSC converter.

Basically plug-and-play :).

Thursday, June 19, 2014 5:02:46 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [10] - Trackback
On Board
 Saturday, May 31, 2014

Earlier this week, Nordhavn 5267 arrive into Brisbane from Xiamen, China on board the freighter AAL Hong Kong. Owners Natalie and Oz Bestel watched from the chase boat and shared these pictures of the delivery. 


The offloading reminded us of Dirona's delivery back in 2009, except of course the temperature was in the 70s in Brisbane, instead of 28F in Seattle, and Don Kolhman didn't need to dive into 45F water in his skivvies to free a snagged sling. 



Below, 5267 is underway for the first time in Australian waters. The 52 model is selling well right now, and after having put over 4,400 ours on ours, we think it should. Dirona is the perfect size for travelling the world, and matches our goal well of being the smallest boat we could comfortably do that in. 


Docking at Rivergate Marina, where we recently cleared customs. The boat sure looks beautiful, and appears remarkably clean after that long ocean voyage. 


Here's a short video of the unloading. Another Nordhavn 52 is born! 

Saturday, May 31, 2014 3:51:43 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [3] - Trackback
 Monday, May 05, 2014

Deepwater Basin, Milford Sound

Fiordland has been on our list of special places to visit for nearly as long as we've been boating. We were captivated after seeing a photograph taken from way above Milford Sound of a lone boat heading into a narrow channel between soaring, jagged peaks, its long wake slowly heading out for the shoreline. 

Fiordland is 4,826 square miles, the largest national park in New Zealand, and comprises fourteen sounds and inlets. Having now travelled to every arm of every sound, and anchored in most, we know Fiordland is even more beautiful than that first picture evoked. At the top and bottom of this post are panoramic pictures taken at Deepwater Basin in Milford Sound, and at Hall Arm in Dusky Sound. The pictures below are from the mouth of Caswell Sound and at Precipice Cove in Bradshaw Sound.


Milford Sound is the only one with direct road access, and was the busiest for boat traffic. Watching the tour boat traffic in Milford was part of the adventure. The other sounds are unspoiled and close to uninhabited. Boat traffic was much less, and mostly included the occasional pleasure craft or tour boat, and commercial or recreational hunters and fishers . Besides the scenery, one of the attractions of Fiordland is the excellent fishing. We were lucky that many shared their catch with us.


Impressive waterfalls are everywhere in Fiordland, and are a nice reward after rainy weather. Pictured below are Bowen and Stirling Falls in Milford Sound, and Marjorie Falls in Charles Sound.

Bowen Falls, Milford Sound   Stirling Falls, Milford Sound
  Marjorie Falls, Charles Sound

We also visited several dramatic canyons where water gushed through narrow clefts or over ledges into large pools. The left photo below is at the Windward River at the head of Gold Arm in Charles Sound. The canyon wasn't mentioned in any of our guides, and we couldn't even tell it was there until we got quite close. We worked the dinghy inside, secured it to the rock wall with a grapple anchor, and had an exciting lunch spot. The video at right is along the Lumaluma River at the head of Edward Sound. There we ran the dinghy into a large basin below gushing falls.


Perhaps the most unusual "water feature" we visited was the Manapouri hydroelectric power plant tailrace tunnel in Doubtful Sound, at right below. This is an incredible piece of engineering--the 9.1m-diameter tunnel runs 10km northeast from the the West Arm of Lake Manapouri, rising from a depth of 40 meters below sea level to discharge into Deep Cove. We always have to investigate, so we explored inside the tailrace to where the water comes up. As we shot back into the channel in the strong current, a tour bus arrived. They must have been surprised to see a dinghy pop out.

Fiordland has much wildlife, some unique to the area. We were thrilled to make our first penguin sighting: a Fiordland Crested Penguin. Other memorable sightings included Bottlenose Dolphins and New Zealand fur seals.


Several major New Zealand hiking tracks reach Fiordland, including the Milford Track, pictured below left. About 14,000 people walk the famed Milford Track each year--the 53.5km, 4-day track is considered one of the finest walks in the world, and is one of New Zealand's nine Great Walks. We've never seen such well-managed trails in all our travels. New Zealand's Department of Conservation does an excellent job, and the tracks throughout the country are incredibly well-maintained. Each track comes with its own rewards: beautiful waterfalls, roaring rivers, dramatic peaks, or incredible views back into the sounds.


Besides walking the maintained tracks, we made several ad-hoc climbs for excellent views. The left photo below is above Precipice Cove in Bradshaw Sound, and the right photo is at Hall Arm in Doubtful Sound.


We also donned our drysuits and explored Fiordland underwater. The first thing we saw after descending was a Nudibranch, among our favorite sea creatures. Over 3,000 Nudibranch species live throughout the world's oceans--their fantastic forms and psychedelic colors seem unreal. Had we seen nothing but the nudibranch, the dive would have been a success, but we really did want to see black coral. Fiordland contains some of the largest populations of black coral in the world. Typically a deep-sea species, black coral grows in 15 to 50 meters in Fiordland where a 2-3-meter layer of freshwater, with a visibility of about 3 meters, lies over the saltwater. Black coral looks white because of the thousands of white polyps that grow over the black skeleton. We saw many black coral on the dive, some nearly two meters wide. The visibility once under the freshwater layer was at least 15 meters, but the light isn't great. Some clearer pictures are here.


The southern sounds in particular have several historically significant sites. In 1773, Captain Cook cleared an acre of land at Astronomer Point in Dusky Sound. William Wales, of the Board of Longitude, setup a temporary observatory there to fix the position of New Zealand. His observations made New Zealand the most accurately located place in the world at the time. The Department of Conservation maintains a nice boardwalk around the site. Ruins of several early 19th-century European ventures in Preservation Inlet included a steam donkey, tramway and gold mine.


Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations and more on a map, with the complete log of our cruise through Fiordland.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at

Hall Arm, Doubtful Sound

Monday, May 05, 2014 6:09:01 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [0] - Trackback
On the Water
 Thursday, April 24, 2014

After frequent anchoring, the bow roller bolts eventually would begin to jam and not turn easily. The anchor then would not freely deploy when released, and this also was causing wear on the stainless cheek plates on either side of the roller. The solution is to lubricate the bolt, but doing so requires removing the roller and bolt: a hassle that also risks dropping parts into the water.

While we were in Auckland, we had Holton Marine install grease fittings on our two bow-roller bolts. They drilled a hole longitudinally through the center of the bolt, then radially to bring grease out to the friction surface, and put threads in the end to screw in a stainless steel marine grease fitting. With this solution, it’s easy to get a pump in there to lubricate the bolt. We now easily can grease the bow roller bolts without having to remove them and risk dropping parts in the water. And we're finding that, because they take more grease, we don’t have to lubricate them as frequently. It’s so easy, we don’t mind, and so effective, we don’t have to.


Thursday, April 24, 2014 11:05:34 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [0] - Trackback

Our cruising guide, Waggoner sister publication Cruising the Secret Coast, is available at local bookstores and online. Click book image for details.

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