Winter 2009-2010

This is my first update since just prior to Thanksgiving and the reason is that we had left Japan by air back to the US for ………vacation??  It has been a nice getaway for Carol and me.  We spent time with our families, caught up with old friends and, of course, went to a boat show!! We put the boat “to bed” in Ashiya, Japan for the winter months.  The temperature there is fairly moderate and rarely gets below freezing so we did not winterize the boat and left it in the water.  We hired a person to continuously check all three of the boats periodically and report back to us on any issues. So far so good.

All of the time here in the US has been spent between California and Florida.  Here in California, we have spent time with Carol’s father which has been just great.  It is always fun to visit with him and we spent Christmas with him, Carols two sisters and three of my nephews.  I was kind of in charge of their entertainment and we went on ATV’s in the desert and go-carting too. Supposedly, the intent was for me to be a positive influence on the boys but that ended when I got into a fierce battle on the go-cart track with some other drivers that ended with me being escorted off the track.  My nephews thought it was kind of cool, but their mother was not amused. She inferred that I would never be trusted again….

We traveled to Florida to see my Mom and my sisters.  We surprised my Mom with a 90th birthday celebration. She still plays golf several times per week, drives her car, is as sharp as ever and fun to be with. We then traveled from Miami to Stuart to Vero Beach to Ponte Vedra to Naples to Vero Beach to Bonita Springs and finally ended up in Miami at the Boat show. I think we slept in 9 different beds in the three weeks we were there!

 We are just now preparing to return to Japan and prepare our boat for the next segment along with our good friends, Ken and Roberta on Sans Souci and Braun and Tina aboard Grey Pearl. 

If you read Ken’s blog you know that we have a ton (literally) of stuff being shipped to Japan.  Pleasure boating in Japan is nowhere near as big as it is in the US, so spare parts and boat stuff in general are hard to come buy.  Boat stuff for little ships like ours is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find.  Braun has this friend who ships stuff overseas all the time and advised us to get a small (20 ft) container and load it on to a ship with all of our stuff inside.  We all shipped hundreds of items to Seattle over the winter to load into the container  which ranged from coffeemakers to anchors, gallons of oil and coolants, computer parts, ropes, screws, hose clamps and a PTO.  What’s a PTO??  I will get to that in a minute.  It requires its own story.


Just before we left Japan, we spent a lot of time thinking about how we should spend Thanksgiving.  The biggest hurdle was the Turkey.  I am not even sure there is a word for Turkey in Japanese and I had NEVER seen one in a store! One day Carol looked at me and said “COSTCO!!!!!!”  Sure, why not?  Anyway, we made the multi vehicle trek (bus, train and another bus) to Costco (in Japanese, they call it Cost-ee-co). ..Cute….  Well, sure enough, they had plenty and we invited some friends over for the feast.

Our good friend Olivier, who is a pastry chef by trade and a great overall chef, suggested we brine the turkey which involved soaking it in our wash down bucket in salty water for a day and then cooking it. We were a bit wary but it came out just fine. Olivier also made the dessert, which rates a picture of it’sown (see above)!

We also invited our friends Karin (from Bristol, CT) and Paul and his wife Emiko.  Everyone brought something and it turned out to be a wonderful feast shared with great friends, which is what Thanksgiving is all about!

Mechanical issue

The extended downtime for boats is a great opportunity to get things fixed or refurbished and we wasted no time in fixing what has been a perplexing problem for the past year and a half.  Boats are a bit like your children and after you have been around them long enough for extended periods, you can sense when things are not running right.  Some of the symptoms were glaring while others were subtle.  First, before we left from Seattle on the trip, I noticed that the engine, when started from cold, was running rougher than normal and we were spewing an inordinate amount of soot from the dry exhaust.  Once warm, the engine would run fine (seemingly), but would not idle correctly when in gear.  It was almost as if some big huge guy was down in the bilge with his hands around the shaft, trying to stop it from turning.  We also had a substantial amount of vibration while at cruise speed.

While in Seattle, we had the boat hauled, the shaft and propeller removed and inspected.  We also had the cutlass bearing removed and replaced as well as aligning the engine.  We also had the injectors replaced, the fuel pump rebuilt, the compression checked etc etc. All of this had a minimal effect on the performance and I was being convinced by many that there was nothing wrong and that I expected too much from the drive train. They said it was running fine and it was the cold weather (or maybe my imagination?).  Based on that, we left for Alaska. 

I still felt, with all the work done, that the engine was running poorly.  My exhaust was hotter than normal and the entire engine room was hotter also.  Just as we were approaching Ashiya, Japan, I decided to check every item in the engine room with my laser heat gun.  I found that the PTO, which is a device located on the aft side of the transmission and used to power the hydraulics, was running about 100 degrees above normal.  When we got to Ashiya, I had local mechanics pull it off and we found a shot glass full of metal ground to the consistency of coffee grounds and big chunks inside!

 We sent it back to Mill Log Marine in Kent, Washington and had it rebuilt.  They commented to me that it would be smart to pull the transmission also, as the core issue may be inside there.  Ok, now we have a BIG job…..but they were right to suggest it as it turns out.

We gave the job to Mizuno Marine and their excellent mechanics who took great care (see pics) to make sure that there would be no damage to the inside of the boat as they pulled the 700lb transmission out through our salon! We decided that as long as the transmission was out, we may as well do a complete job and are replacing all of the bearings, clutch plates, seals and oil pump. The worst thing that could happen is to get it all back together only to have to tear it apart again at some point.

Inside they found not only worn clutch plates, but a bearing had spun in the housing.  I contacted an old friend of mine at Sikorsky Aircraft who works in engineering and he suggested how we should repair it by boring the housing oversize and inserting a sleeve.

The biggest problem now is that the PTO is on a ship not due to enter Japan until the middle of March. With a little luck, we should have everything back together shortly (hopefully before we arrive!!).

Upcoming Trip

All of us are getting a bit anxious and excited about the next part of the trip to the Inland Sea, Okinawa, Taiwan and Hong Kong.  The trip to Taiwan should be especially exciting as that is where the three boats were built, by Ta Shing.  No Nordhavn has ever returned to the factory and my understanding is that they are very excited to see us.  Jeff Merrill, who works for Nordhavn, plans on catching up with us in Japan and travelling with us to Taiwan.

So……..Here is our approximate path for the coming cruising season starting in April and ending in July. The total length is about 1600 Nautical Miles.Click on it to Enlarge>

Until next time….

Steven Argosy

MV Seabird

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. It was nice to see you two for Elinor’s 90th. Keep those barnacles off the hull. love Judy

  2. Glad to hear you have been having a good time and that the reduction gear problem is solved. Have fun. Bill H.

  3. Given your names and info by an old friend, Paul Faust, and now am anxiously awaiting your return to Japan and the ongoing journey. Paul sent it to me probably because my husband and I sailed a bit while we lived in FL and knew I’d love following your adventure. We so miss being on the water. We now live deep in the heart of TX, San Antonio.
    Wishing you smooth seas on your journey.

  4. Helo Steve, after sometimes being a bridge for the Geabox repair, I finaly visit your ship today, Well I was happy to c every things goes well despite of the injectors nozzel.

    Well we will do our best to make sure that the service we provide you guys will contribute to make your dreams true. Wishing you all the best

    Harald Edward


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