Soon after we bought the boat we were experiencing finicky behavior of the galley’s LPG system; its leak alarm would trigger frequently along with tripping the galley panel’s circuit breaker. We had the supply manifold between the two aluminum bottles replaced and that helped some. But ultimately it was when Rick removed the galley control panel for examination that we found the real issue: it had been relocated to a spot that was slightly easier to access, but which did not have enough clearance to mount the unit without jamming the back of its control box into an exhaust pipe. Restoring the panel to its original position finally solved the problem.
Another interesting challenge for us was finding a secure latching mechanism for the refrigerator and freezer drawers; unlike the Subzero systems we had on the N47, this boat’s Summit brand fridge didn’t sport the barrel bolts. And we know from experience such latches are sometimes needed to keep the contents of the unit inside the unit when bashing around in rough seas. Drilling holes in the insulated doors wasn’t appealing so Rick decided on simple marine “button latches” that are normally used on exterior storage compartment lids.
Michelle also wanted a small fan to help move air around the galley better. We decided on the Caframo 12 volt DC unit and rigged it so it could rotate to service either the salon or the galley’s cooking spaces; we liked it so much that we added two more, one in the pilot house and one in the MSR.
Lastly, by the time we got to the Fall of 2019, both of us had tired of storing and retrieving items from the two tall, deep and narrow pantry cabinets. They required a ladder and telescoping arms to reach things. Without a spreadsheet inventory it was difficult to tell what we had put in there. So we had a series of sliding shelves custom made and installed. Details about that installation are documented in a short blog post that you can find HERE.
Trackimo Provides 24x7 GPS Tracking of Ghost Rider
The New Wing Engine Throttle Assembly
We Also Had the Fly Bridge Cushions Rebuilt & Recovered
New Starter Motor and Solenoid on the Main Engine
FLY BRIDGE ENHANCEMENTS
We love our fly bridge….we cruise up there on the nice days, relax there at marinas and anchorages, and when it comes to close quarters maneuvering it is THE place to be. But when we were initially sea-trialing the boat the helm seat literally fell apart; so we had it removed, rebuilt and reupholstered by C2Shore (LINK) over in Palm Beach. (It was a whole lot cheaper than a new helm chair.) Some months later the old and formerly white Bimini top was showing signs of serious deterioration after one of 2017’s nasty tropical storms. So we had a new navy blue Sunbrella top custom fitted by Atlantic Marine Canvas (LINK), also in the Palm Beach area. Finally, in the Fall of 2019 we grew tired of the remaining fly bridge cushions in the seating area -- they were retaining more moisture than they were repelling & getting pretty ratty -- so we had them rebuilt with new foam & the same marine vinyl used for the helm seat.
Wing Engine Instrument Panel Relocated to Eyebrow Panel
This page & the next summarize the more significant projects we’ve undertaken on N50, Ghost Rider II, when we owned her from 2017 until 2021. Some of these were contracted out and some we tackled ourselves. Within this context we do not include any of the “scheduled maintenance” activities that go with owning and running such a vessel, but focus mainly on those we found necessary to maintain, correct or improve the quality and integrity of the boat. Rather than list these chronologically we decided to categorize them as noted below. Updated 12/2020.
The Grooves on the Wing Engine Torsion Coupling Were Worn Enough to Cause Clanking & Replacement
ENHANCEMENTS IN THE ENGINE ROOM
Down in the engine room (aka the holy room) we encountered several opportunities to spend some Boat Units. On one of our early sea trial sorties we had just completed some stress tests on the wing engine and went to restart the main engine – and got nothing…good battery but no starter motor action at all. We limped back into port using only the wing engine (an interesting exercise worth practicing) and had a new starter motor and solenoid installed the next day.
During those wing engine exercises we had also noticed a rather loud clang and clunk when the transmission engaged; James recommended we have it torn down to check the torsion coupling, and sure enough it was quite worn. Yacht Tech handled the replacement.
Another early ownership finding was that the main engine would occasionally burp coolant back through its overflow port – a new pressure cap and neck assembly for the expansion tank solved that, but we also added an overflow catch bottle just in case. During our second year of cruising Ghost Rider we developed a slow but annoying main engine oil leak – actually two…one at a corner of the oil pan (gasket) and then shortly thereafter one at the main bearing seal. Alex Graham, our classy diesel mechanic, repaired both at no charge to us after we returned to Florida following our adventures up in the Chesapeake.
Eventually the generator needed some attention as well. Its wet exhaust elbow was showing signs of some corrosion (an inevitability for cast iron elbows) so we ordered a new stainless steel replacement and Rick installed that during a July 2018 layover in Charleston. As we were finishing up our east coast travels in November 2018 Rick also replaced the generator’s raw water pump, as it had started a slow water leak behind the impeller. When we sent the old pump to Depco for a rebuild evaluation they pronounced it unworthy of the effort, so it was a good thing we took action when we did.
Lastly we also ended up replacing the sight gauge tubes and associated o-rings on both main fuel tanks. We had been experiencing intermittent fuel seepage at both the top and bottom of the tubes, which was both messy and annoying; and it took us a couple of shots at it to get it right.
New Sight Gauge for Main Fuel Tank....Both Had to be Replaced
We Dumped the Chain Locker Contents Onto the Dock and Marked It at 50 Foot Lengths with Colored Zip Ties.
New Bottom Paint Applied & Stabilizer Fins Pulled for New Seals
Ghost Rider is equipped with hydraulic power for bow and stern thrusters and the windlass, which is generally a huge blessing – the thrusters can be used proportionally, as well as continuously without thermal or timeout issues; and the windlass has amazing pulling power. The tradeoff (vs. electric systems) is all that high pressure hydraulic plumbing.
For reliability purposes we replaced all the thruster directional coils as they were looking pretty pale, and likewise replaced all the inline hydraulic pressure gauges – which can crack and leak – with more robust test ports; and we upgraded the hydraulic cooling pump to a beefy Oberdorfer. We also replaced the thruster control head on the fly bridge with a new unit….the old (original) one had rusting contacts that made for occasional (and nerve-wracking) intermittent operation; those babies are pricey but James at Yacht Tech (LINK) gave us a fantastic deal on a spare he “had laying around.”
New Grade 8 Hardware Replaced the Stainless Attachments for Both the Ram & the Rudder Post
This Inexpensive Button Latch Keeps the Fridge Door Closed in Rough Seas
New Shaft, Repitched Prop with Propspeed Applied
One of the very first things we did was swap the galvanized 110 pound Bruce anchor that came on the boat for our preferred 100 pound stainless Manson Supreme. The Manson is essentially a knockoff of or look-alike to the proven Rocna rollbar design, and our Manson has proved extremely effective over the years. The thing just grabs and holds. (There was one instance where that damned rollbar snagged a huge railroad tie off the bottom, but that was a one-in-a-million shot…or so we hope.)
We also dumped the entire chain locker onto the dock, inspected for integrity, made sure the boat-end was securely attached to the vessel (but severable if necessary), and marked off chain lengths at 50 foot intervals with multiple groupings of colored zip ties. (Spray paint is another option but it doesn’t last as long.) We also found a leaky caulk seam in the anchor chain locker resulting in some water ingress to the forward thruster compartment, which we reamed out and re-bedded with Rescue Bond XL1 caulk.
The New Cisco Network Switch Sitting Atop a Spare Dlink and Old Furuno Hub101
New Stainless Exhaust Elbow for the Generator....Access to the "Wrong" Side of the Engine Requires Boat Yoga
Toolbox & Toolbag in the Engine Room & One of Our Spreadsheets for Supplies (Click on Pics)
The Rebuilt & Recovered Helm Chair on the Flying Bridge
The Remains of the A/C Sea Strainer
Our Wet Locker...Packed with Life Vests, Throw Rope, Ditch Bag, Signals and Life Raft.
Front End of the Main Engine Following New Main Bearing Seal and a New Oil Pan Gasket
This is a Shot of the Machinery Space in the Stern's Lazarette...Where You Can See Some of the New Directional Coils (Red Arrows), Test Ports (Blue Arrows), Portable Test Port Pressure Gauge (Black Arrow), and the New Hydraulic Cooling Pump (Yellow Arrow.)
The Old Prop Shaft Was in Bad Shape, Replaced with New AQ22
The New Location of the LPG Panel; You Can See the Previous Location on the Far Left that Lacked Sufficient Clearance
BELOW THE WATERLINE
Periodically – roughly every two years – every trawler owner must accommodate major work below the water line….typically to include cleaning the hull and running gear, applying new bottom paint, and refreshing the sacrificial anodes. We pulled the trigger on this about a year after acquiring Ghost Rider, engaging Yacht Tech to handle the haul out and associated maintenance items in June of 2018. We used (black) Interlux Micron CSC ablative this time (7 gallons), and also had all running gear coated with Propspeed.
James at Yacht Tech had warned us to service (replace) the Naiad stabilizer seals at two year intervals as well, so we had them tend to that while we were hauled out.
Rick also wanted to have a new cutless bearing installed on the main shaft; while it was within tolerance it probably wouldn’t be by the time the next haul out would occur. The visible portions of the main engine’s (Aquamet 17) prop shaft were also looking rather gnarly, so we had the shaft pulled for a full inspection – which turned out to be a good idea as it was significantly corroded, pitted and scored along most of its length. So we had a new one fashioned (tapered of course), this time using Aquamet 22 stainless. We also sent the big 34” propeller to the shop to have it re-pitched so we could get the main engine’s max revolutions closer to the recommended wide open throttle (WOT) RPMs.
The Furuno BBWX3 Weather Receiver
New Hynautic Steering Ram to Replace the Old One That Had Developed a Slow Leak in a Piston Seal
SOME CATEGORIES THAT FOLLOW:
New Pressure Cap and Collar for the Main Engine Expansion Tank
We Added This 12VDC Caframo Fan to the Galley, then Later Also Added Three More in the Pilot House & MSR
The Stainless Manson Supreme Looks Good and Provides Great Holding. Note the Flag Staff...Rick's White Fiberglass Replacement Will Wear Better Than the Old Teak One.
During our June 2018 haul out we also had Yacht Tech inspect our rudder and had them replace the stock stainless steel mounting hardware with Grade 8 bolts and securing nuts. While stainless sounds like a good idea in this application that big rudder has to deal with occasionally extreme forces; we were aware of a few boats that had experienced failure of the stainless gear, as its soft composition tends to give and stretch over time. The Grade 8 stuff is much stronger, although you do need to treat it periodically with CRC Corrosion Block to keep it that way.
A couple months later we noticed a slight fluid leak in a piston seal of the steering ram. We were cruising north towards Norfolk at the time so we scheduled a stop at Atlantic Yacht Basin in Great Bridge, VA and had the capable techs at AYB order and install a new Hynautic steering ram. The new unit was larger and beefier than the old one so some additional drilling surgery was required for proper fitment.
Ghost Rider's New Bimini Top-Stamoid Sunbrella with Tenara Thread
Yeah, I know, this sounds pretty damned trivial, especially since a previous owner had most of the through-hulls replaced not long before we bought the boat. Unfortunately the very last owner who had the boat for all of four months apparently didn’t think checking and cleaning sea strainer baskets (while cruising the Bahamas no less) wasn’t particularly important. He wasn’t big on generator oil & filter changes either, but that’s a different story.
So in the first week of ownership we found: (1) the sea strainer basket for the air conditioning system was essentially welded into a solid mass of barnacles; it took Rick an hour to pull out the basket in pieces with a pair of pliers and a chisel, and another hour to wire brush the strainer housing; Yacht Tech sourced the replacement parts for us. (2) The sea strainer basket for the wing engine was packed almost to the top with sand; it was recoverable. (3) The two large sea strainers for the main engine were relatively clean but their acrylic screw tops had been overtightened and were cracked and leaking; Yacht Tech sourced these replacement parts for us, too.
A Side View View of the New Sliding Shelves
New Fire Bottle for the Automatic Fire Suppression System in the Engine Room.
New Raw Water Pump for the Generator...Fairly Easy to R&R
Four Slide Out Shelves Make the Pantry Much More
The LinkPro Gauge Displays Available Battery Capacity
PILOT HOUSE ENHANCEMENTS
While we love the perch on the fly bridge, Ghost Rider’s raised pilot house (which is enclosed and can be air conditioned) contains the brains of the boat and is the go-to place when the weather or seas go to hell or when making overnight runs. It’s also where you can spend the most money on just about any boat save perhaps for the engine room. Fortunately for us a previous owner had just upgraded the key nav/radar systems to the latest Furuno devices, thus our tweaks weren’t as bank-breaking as they might have been.
One of the first things we did was to have a LinkPro battery monitor installed (by Yacht Tech) so we could have more precise information about the house battery bank’s state of charge – not just voltage data but also percent of amp hours remaining. We also hardwired a GPS Trackimo tracking device in a non-obvious location so the boat could always send us its geographic coordinates when left unattended; in addition to custom geo-fencing capabilities it can also send motion-detection signals to our smartphone. Such functionality is typically an insurance requirement on these vessels.
A rather significant change we made was to relocate the wing engine’s instrument panel. Its initial placement would have been fine had our eyes been in our ankles (see pic below.) So we had Yacht Tech move it up to the eyebrow panel….not a trivial exercise, but well worth the enhanced visibility given how much we use the wing engine. We also eventually had to replace the mechanical shift/throttle control for the wing engine – the original unit literally fell apart after 16 years of service, and Rick felt a whole new Morse throttle assembly was preferable to attempting a repair that might not last.
One capability missing from this boat that we’ve had on every previous cruising vessel was a satellite weather receiver; when combined with predictive GRIB files and real time radar, the sat weather data rounds out the forecast picture; just as importantly it provides us full regional forecasts and near real time data in remote North American cruising areas. So we installed the Furuno BBWX receiver to interface with our multifunction charting displays.
During our installation of that satellite weather receiver we discovered a bug in the Furuno network hub….it would fail to transfer the received weather data to the MFDs; Furuno was willing to upgrade its firmware at no charge if we removed the thing and shipped it to them, but Rick decided it was easier just to replace it with a standard Cisco network switch that we modified to power from direct 12VDC. In that same electronics cabinet we also added the BT-100 Bluetooth module to our Fusion marine stereo, which gave the boat’s stereo speakers access to both Internet streaming music as well as our own large collection of MP3 tracks.
Finally, we also upgraded the Aigean AN7000 WiFi booster to its latest iteration with the newer motherboard; with just a couple of wires and screws it was a simple swap-out. Aigean isn’t the cheapest priced booster solution (by a long shot) but it is one of the best, and their customer support is first rate – they provided the new unit free of charge.
Copyright © Ghost Rider. All rights reserved.
We Used the Same Material as the Helm Chair
EQUIPPING THE BOAT
Some will argue that equipping the boat does not qualify as a “project”, but the process of supplying and provisioning the vessel is undeniably a challenging and expensive effort….and seems to go on forever. The goal is to have onboard those things – safety devices, tools, spare parts, consumables, fishing gear, cleaning supplies, whatever – for which you don’t want to wait when they are needed. Just how much you will acquire and carry will vary according to whether you are cruising nearshore or far from civilized supply chains, as well as what degree of redundancies your vessel already has.
We’ve included two links, HERE and HERE, for examples of our lists that can drive such an ongoing project. The length of these lists and ultimate costs associated with both are stunning. And neither of those includes food and drink, which of course are just as critical…running out of wine, scotch or rum would be near disastrous, especially at a nice anchorage. There is an attendant sub-project that goes with all of this, which is figuring out where to stow all the stuff. (And then being able to recall where you did stash it - it’s best to write that down somewhere unless you enjoy frequent scavenger hunts.)
While a good deal of safety related preparations are handled within the previously mentioned provisioning exercise, there are a number of vessel systems that also require attention. In addition to acquiring good ACR ditch bag and loading it up up with the EPIRB and various safety gear (including SOLAS-certified signaling devices), we also had the Winslow 4-man liferaft inspected and serviced, which is a non-trivial event that recurs every three years.
Additionally we replaced the old low-water bilge pump; the standard unit is a Jabsco diaphragm pump whose TBO (time between overhauls) is way too frequent. We replaced it with a Whale Gulper 320, a self-priming run-dry pump that can eat rocks if need be. And the high-water Rule 3100 was replaced with a new Rule 3700. Along with the 10,000 GPH hydraulic crash pump, that makes for plenty of reliable de-watering capability if ever needed. But we do carry two spares just in case.
We had both Fireboy automatic fire suppression system bottles replaced (another non-trivial spend.) The big MA900 system in the engine room failed the weight test on our second annual inspection, while the smaller 350 cubic foot model in the lazarette was replaced as a result of an accidental discharge. That “oops” was not ours….the poor technician got a face full of FE241 but was OK once the shock wore off. His company, ABC Fire Equipment Corp (LINK), paid for that replacement bottle. We also had them replace the manual activation cable for the engine room bottle as that was starting to fray, and we added an electrical circuit to tie in the large Delta-T engine room cooling fans to the fire suppression shutdown system.