LPG FUEL SYSTEM
During more than two years of ownership of N50-21 we had never been fully pleased with the operational stability the LPG (liquid petroleum gas) system. While the gas stove, oven and dual-tank LPG storage theoretically provide an efficient and low-power system for cooking in the galley, it was never quite right. When first powered up it was temperamental as hell, frequently sounding ominous alarms at the galley's control panel, requiring several recycling attempts of circuit breakers and bottle valves. Then one day we got a call from James Knight over at Yacht Tech (LINK.)
James: "Do you have vertical or horizontal LPG tanks on Ghost Rider?"
After closer examination we discovered that we had two 20 pound LPG cylinders labeled as "horizontal use only" but mounted vertically. It did not take much research to reveal that was not a good thing. And the date stamp on those two horizontal LPG cylinders (2001) meant they had been that way since the boat was commissioned back in 2002. It was a decidedly unsafe arrangement. But it also gave us a good clue as to why the system would alarm as much as it did -- the pickup tube location in a horizontal tank mounted vertically would almost certainly deliver some liquid (vs. vaporized) gas to downstream components. We're lucky nothing had gone boom.
Initially Rick removed the two cylinders and fashioned new studs to hold one tank securely in the proper horizontal position. But the LPG locker wasn't sized for two of them in that orientation, so we had to find a storage location for the second LPG bottle. A little more research revealed that we really did not have a safe place for that -- ABYC standards dictate the same rather rigorous storage parameters for a spare bottle as it does for an in-use cylinder.
So we went to "plan B", which was to purchase two brand new 20 pound vertical bottles. These cylinders, by the way, are aluminum (plain steel would rust out within a month), and as such are NOT inexpensive. But it's back in specs, is a lot safer, also more reliable.
A screen shot of one of the iMonnit portal screens, this one showing the list of alerts and triggers defined for the installed gateway and four sensors.
New Water Heater Anode and Pressure Relief Valve
Just before departing for the Bahamas in April of 2018 we noticed that the depth finder on our dinghy had failed. Rather than delay departure and miss a good weather window we tossed a handheld sonar unit onto the boat and used that for a couple of months.
But when we returned to the USA we sourced a new Garmin combo chartplotter and sonar unit and had our nav technician, Rob Cote from Ocean Currents Marine (LINK), perform all the required surgery.
The Final Result -- All Five Racors Converted with Fire Protection Deflector Shields & Brass Draincocks. From Left to Right:
The Twin (Duplex) 900's for the Main Engine, the 900 for the Transfer Pump, the 500 for the Wing Engine, and the 500 for the Generator.
Air conditioning components are either very expensive or hard to reach…or both. It’s just a rule on most boats. In the summer of 2018 while cruising and anchoring out in the Chesapeake we had noticed that when the compressor for the pilot house would kick in the genset would droop and surge a bit before recovering to its normal constant RPM. And sure enough eventually that compressor went totally tango uniform and would not start at all. Fortunately by that time the weather had cooled considerably so we were able to make it back all the way to Palm Beach in Florida to have the work done. On the downside we had to replace both the compressor and the air handler since the older units were the now discontinued R-22 refrigerant systems, requiring replacement with R-410 components.
Some time after that the exhaust fan in the master head died. It took Rick quite a while (and some guidance from fellow N50 owners) just to find where the thing was located…which was in an incredibly hard-to-access ceiling compartment in the forward guest cabin. If you were the size of a 10 year old with four foot arms it would have still been difficult, but Rick eventually got the old fan (actually a Dayton blower) replaced with a new unit.
The Smaller 500 Models Required Disassembly to Replace the Bowls Since the Retaining Ring was Integral with the Mounting Frame.
On the Right is One of the Original (Unprotected) Racor
Filters, Contrasted with a Newly Converted One on the Left.
New Water Accumulator Tank....Stainless & Not Cheap
The four camera display (with only three active) on the ship's 17" PC monitor & the 10" display that came with the system.
SOME CATEGORIES THAT FOLLOW:
The New AC Air Handler Located Under Pilot House Settee
DIESEL FUEL SYSTEM - RACOR FILTER MODS
Ghost Rider's diesel fuel system is equipped with five Racor Turbine Series primary fuel filters -- there are two of the 900 models for the main engine (duplexed), one 900 model for the transfer pump / polishing system, and two of the 500 models, one each for the wing engine and the generator.
The boat was originally built at a time that preceded today’s ABYC and US Coast Guard standards for fire protection, and as such lacked adequate protection from a potential engine room fire -- the clear plastic bowls were fully exposed, and the draincocks were also plastic. These are known as the 900FG and 500FG Racor filters. But the updated regulations now specify filter housings must either be all metallic, or the clear plastic ones should be protected by metallic heat deflectors, and any drain valves must also be metallic. (The newer filter models are known as the 900MA and 500MA, where "MA" indicates the marine standard.)
To maintain conformance with ABYC fire standards that drain valve not only has to be metallic, but also can turn no more and no less than 90 degrees, cannot rely on any spring tension for leak integrity, and also must have its own plug as an additional measure against leaks. The objective is to make the filter housings survivable for a minimum of 2 ½ minutes in the event of an engine room fire, giving the fire suppression system time to do its thing before a breached (melted) filter could dump a full fuel tank into the blaze. There’s a good explanatory article HERE from Passagemaker.com.
Racor (a division of Parker-Hannafin Corp) supplies heat deflector conversion kits, which are a lot less pricey than buying and plumbing whole new turbine filter assemblies, so that's the path we took. We used the Racor Store (LINK) for the deflector kits and bowls, and McMaster-Carr (LINK) for sourcing the UL Listed fuel valves. Technically we did not have to replace the bowls as they had the compatible thread pattern and gland (chamfer) that the new hardware required, but the old bowls were quite discolored after 18 years of use, so we did. The brass draincocks (1/4" NPTF female x 1/4" NPTF male threads, McMaster part number 7910K82) can also be sourced from Racor, but typically at a significant premium.
Slight complications included: (a) having to add 5/8” starboard backing to three of the filter mounts to provide enough space for the increased diameter of the heat deflectors; (b) moving two (mostly useless) Algae-X inline filters, also to provide room for the shields; and (c) having to completely remove/disassemble the two 500 units to get the bowls off/on. The only other real difficulty we had was getting the correct torque on the new brass kit-plugs (SKU RAC-RK 12041) – which was not very much; overtightening those even just a little deforms the orange o-ring and results in leaks, some which did not manifest until a day or two later. We also used Loctite 565 on the male threads of the draincocks, but that was overkill given the NPTF threads.
Overall we were pleased with the results, and Ghost Rider is a safer vessel now.
New Faucet Fixture....One of Two
ABOVE LEFT: A view of the salon with new area rugs but old recliner chairs.
ABOVE RIGHT: Similar view of the salon with the new recliners in place.
RIGHT: Frontal view of the new recliners. A bit more substantial and they recline with only a 2.5" wall clearance required.
THE BOAT'S DINGHY / TENDER
FRESH WATER PLUMBING
Most of the modifications to the fresh water plumbing on Ghost Rider were made early in our ownership. The system’s accumulator tank wasn’t holding pressure so that got replaced, as did several inline shutoff valves that were either leaking or not fully shutting off water flow when tested. The latter was discovered when we went to replace the forward shower’s sump pump which had gone belly up. Michelle also wanted new faucet assemblies in each of the two heads and Rick let Yacht Tech handle those installations.
When our Wheelhouse maintenance program told us it was time to replace the hot water heater’s sacrificial anode we also discovered that tank’s pressure relief valve was defective – that’s potentially dangerous, so we had that replaced as well. Finally Michelle wanted new toilet seats in each head – they were looking pretty gnarly – so we replaced those, too.
This second projects page summarizes the remaining projects we’ve undertaken on N50, Ghost Rider II. 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 Revised Horizontal Mount for LPG. The Yellow Arrows Point to the Two New Stainless Steel Studs and
Wingnuts that Were Required. The Red Arrows Indicate the Previous Studs Used for Vertical Mounting.
Our New (Vertical) Aluminum LPG Cylinders. We Had to Get Creative with their Mounting Brackets -- Turns Out that
'Galvanized Deck Post Ties' from Home Depot Are a Perfect Fit After Drilling Holes to Match the Mounting Studs.
New Shower Sump Pump & One of Several New Water Shutoffs
IN THE SALON
Every owner ends up customizing their boat's interior areas to some degree, but overall we were very happy with Ghost Rider's general layout and arrangement. We did replace some area rugs, the largest being in the salon, while being careful not to cover too much of the boat's teak and holly sole, which we really like and found to be in excellent shape for a 16 year old vessel.
A previous owner had already replaced the television with a flat screen LED and moved it from the original lift cabinet to the opposite corner of the salon - which we find to be much better and viewable location. The old TV cabinet remains and makes for a very good liquor cabinet.
Lastly we just (April 2019) replaced the two reclining chairs in the salon. The previous pair were scantily padded and the seams were wearing very thin. We sourced a pair of Island Loungers from Glastop (LINK) over in Pompano Beach, adding a touch of color to the much increased comfort they provide.
The New AC Compressor Located in a Corner of the Laz
Copyright © Ghost Rider. All rights reserved.
ABOVE: Somewhere Up Above that Ceiling Panel and Behind that (Immovable) Book Shelf is Where You Will Find the Dead Exhaust Blower.
RIGHT: Poke Your Head & Shoulders Up Into that Hole and Ah Yes, There It Is! Total Pain in the Ass to Remove & Replace.
This was one of those "projects" that we pursued in stages, and not necessarily well-organized or timely ones. When we initially acquired Ghost Rider we first installed a GPS tracking and geo-fencing solution called "Trackimo". It was a low cost ($150) device with reasonable ($50) annual subscription fees, and it made the insurance company happy. While the device had its own internal battery, it was simple enough to wire it directly to the boat's 12 volt power panel for a continuous charging source. We also tucked it out of sight for security purposes....yet it still was able to acquire both GPS and cellular positioning without any difficulty.
About two years later we (finally) decided to attack a remote monitoring and alerting system for a few key health metrics for when we were away from the boat for extended periods -- our main concerns were the state of (house) battery charge along with shore power status and bilge compartment water level. (We later added cabin temperature as an indicator of air conditioning status in the really, really hot Florida summers.) The two year wait was mainly due to the fact that we rarely were away from the boat in those initial years, but that changed in year three due to some family obligations and medical issues. We decided upon and installed a wireless component based system from Monnit, and we are quite pleased with the result. The whys and wherefores of that choice and the installation are documented in a blog post that you can find HERE.
After that we also pursued a CCTV camera system for the boat...and like the Monnit remote monitoring system, it was largely a wireless solution. We chose a camera package from Cromorc with the main goal of having engine room views from the pilot house, but also a remotely accessible security view of both when away from the boat. We got lucky with the choice as once again we are happy with the preliminary results. Details about the system, installation and testing are documented in a blog post that you can find HERE.