The first is that what might seem a relatively minor problem close to shore becomes a major problem in the middle ocean. Keep in mind that not only are you very far from land, in my case many times over a 1000 miles but there might not be much help there once you get there. Also, many of the best times for ocean crossing are on the edge of the tropical storm seasons. You don’t want to delay your passage. This is the case when crossing the Pacific. There is no one you can call for help for a tow. Between the Philippines and S. California we saw less than 10 commercial ships who might have been able to give us a tow. You are on your own. There were many times during the years I spent cruising in my Duck that I wished for the luxuries, mainly the active stabilization, of my Nordhavn 55. But in the end, I was extremely happy for the extra safety, stability and efficiency of my Duck. As I have said repeatedly in this blog that every boat is a trade off in some manner. Again, I have said over and over again that the first thing you need to decide is what type of cruising you are going to do. Here are some things to consider –
1. Most trawlers including Nordhavns, Selenes, and Krogens have a safe 3500 mile range with 20% reserve. If you encounter adverse conditions in the middle of an ocean crossing that is border line safe. Also, that forces you to take on very expensive fuel in remote locations. Many trawlers will use fuel bladders, like the Nordhavn 52 needed in the crossing documented above, to extend their range and insist that is safe. You don’t have to be a naval architect to know that putting many 1000s of pounds of sloshing fuel at the waterline or above it is not the safest thing to do. Trying to move the fuel from a bladder to your tanks in anything but the calmest seas can be harrowing. My Duck has a safe 8000 mile range. Even crossing the Pacific west to east the majority of the time with the current, seas and wind against me I was able to maintain fuel consumption of 3 nautical miles per gallon for a range of 6000 miles. Compare this to the Nordhavn 52 in the above blog post. Thier fuel consumption was close to 1 nautical mile per gallon during this Atlantic crossing. During the portion of my crossing from Hawaii to S. California we stopped the engine to change the oil. The sails were up to stabilize the boat. With the engine off and with the current, wind and seas against us and the sails up but not properly set and the prop fully feathered we ended up heading back to Hawaii at a speed of 3-4 knots. I know in the future I will never make another passage like that last one fighting the conditions most of the way. So it is nice to know that I could easily cross the Pacific with one tank of fuel and have the ability to really sail if I want to extend my fuel to have unlimited range. It was really nice to take on as much fuel as possible in the Philippines where it was $2.00 a gallon versus being forced to refuel at many of the S. Pacific Islands where it was $5.00 a gallon.
2. MV Dirona had the problem above because of two factors. The first is that it is of the Sedan type design. It has a large cockpit and side decks to catch water from breaking waves. The Duck is of a flush deck design with no side decks or cockpit to trap water or hinder the boat from righting itself if completely knocked down. The flushdeck design also has smaller stronger windows. There are lockers in the cockpit of most of these Sedan design trawlers that are not completely watertight with shorepower cords on reels that go into the lazzerette creating a path for the flooded lockers to empty into the interior of the boat. I argued with Bill, the owner of Seahorse, about installing a hand held shower on the transom with hot and cold water controls which had not been done on any other flushdeck Ducks. Not only is it a great place to rinse off after diving and swimming but in tropical areas it is the only place to take shower without adding additional humidity to the interior of the boat. He refused because we could only find a plastic hand held shower unit with temperature controls that would be placed in a cutout in the hull. His point was “no way” was he going to put a plastic plug, a potentially weak point, in his steel hull. We ended up compromising by installing a stainless steel spigot on the transom with temperature controls in the inside of the boat. It has worked out really well. The Duck is designed so that there are only a couple of exterior vents that would allow water into the interior of the hull. The engine exhaust vent is located high up on the flybridge. The engine air vent is located in the cockpit with a louvered vent that can be easily shut. The kitchen stove vent has a valve on it to shut it in heavy seas. There are two bathroom vents. Both are small enough that a piece of foam can be easily used to block it. And, that are the only entrances into the hull. While I am on this subject of hull integrity and minimizing the places water can enter the boat, a big difference between the Duck and similar size trawlers on the market including Nordhavn is the use of a sea chest. The average Nordhavn 40 has 30 (!) thru hulls. The Duck has the one sea chest. With one valve you can quickly shut off the raw water entering the boat. As you can see in the picture below, there is a plexiglass cover on the top of a pipe that extends above the waterline on the top of the sea chest. You can look down through the plexiglass right out the bottom of the boat to verify it is not clogged. If it does become clogged, the plexiglass cover is easily removed and with a long pole you just push whatever is blocking the intake out of the way. Another advantage of this system is that if you are leaving the boat for any of period of time you can close the sea chest valve and then put a fresh water hose in the top of the pipe. You start the generator and engine and then you can flush the raw water exhaust cooling circuits with fresh water. The sea chest also feeds the raw water cooling circuit for the a/c units so you can flush that too. The boat is keel cooled so you have now eliminated all of the sea water that would normally be sitting in the boat for a long period of time. When I flush everything I usually add some “salt away liquid” further eliminating any salt residue left in the system. You now not have only flushed all of the salt water out of the boat but the only route for salt water to enter the boat while you are away has been closed. You don’t have to worry about a failed thru hull, vented loop or hose sinking your boat.
Another factor that led to MV Dirona’s problem is that the bilges of the various “water tight” compartments are linked on the smaller Nordhavns. Even though there is a watertight door seperating the lazarette from the engine room and another watertight door from the engine room to the forward spaces, the problem lies in the fact there is a long bilge that connects these spaces from bow to stern. Water entering the lazarette can potentially fllood the entire boat.The Duck has true watertight compartments. Note in the pictures below the watertight dogged doors at the entrances to the forward stateroom, engine room and aft stateroom. There is no bilge connecting these spaces. On the Duck the bilge is actually made up of fuel tanks that line the bottom of the hull giving it a extremely safe double steel bottom.
Is the Nordhavn an unsafe boat? Absolutely not. Is the Duck a safer boat? Yes. Do you need that extra level of safety with regards to range and build design? Depends on your type of cruising.