Major Projects on M/V Ghost Rider​​ II

New Sight Gauge for Main Fuel Tank....Both Had to be Replaced

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.

New Shaft, Repitched Prop with Propspeed Applied

The Rebuilt & Recovered Helm Chair on the Flying Bridge

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.)

GALLEY ENHANCEMENTS

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.

HYDRAULICS

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.”

The LinkPro Gauge Displays Available Battery Capacity

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.

The New Wing Engine Throttle Assembly

New Grade 8 Hardware Replaced the Stainless Attachments for Both the Ram & the Rudder Post

New Raw Water Pump for the Generator...Fairly Easy to R&R

New Water Heater Anode and Pressure Relief Valve

The New AC Air Handler Located Under Pilot House Settee

This page summarizes the more significant projects we’ve undertaken on Ghost Rider II since we acquired her in the late summer of 2017.  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.  This is current as of March 2019.​

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.

Trackimo Provides 24x7 GPS Tracking of Ghost Rider

                                                                           Copyright © Ghost Rider. All rights reserved.

SAFETY PREPARATIONS

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. With three other high-volume bilge pumps onboard, including a hydraulic crash pump, that makes for plenty of reliable de-watering capability if ever needed.  But we do carry a spare Gulper just in case.

Finally, 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.

Wing Engine Instrument Panel Relocated to Eyebrow Panel

The Grooves on the Wing Engine Torsion Coupling Were Worn Enough to Cause Clanking & Replacement

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.)

New Shower Sump Pump & One of Several New Water Shutoffs

The New Location of the LPG Panel; You Can See the Previous Location on the Far Left that Lacked Sufficient Clearance

The New AC Compressor Located in a Corner of the Laz

PILOT HOUSE ENHANCEMENTS

While we love the perch on the fly bridge, Ghost Rider’s raised pilot house (which can be enclosed and 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.

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.

STEERING GEAR

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.

Toolbox & Toolbag in the Engine Room & One of Our Spreadsheets for Supplies (Click Pic for Better View)

The Remains of the A/C Sea Strainer

Our Wet Locker...Packed with Life Vests, Throw Rope, Ditch Bag, Signals and Life Raft.

New Starter Motor and Solenoid on the Main Engine

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 Faucet Fixture....One of Two

New Stainless Exhaust Elbow for the Generator....Access to the "Wrong" Side of the Engine Requires Boat Yoga

A Few Tools in the Engine Room

The Old Prop Shaft Was in Bad Shape, Replaced with New AQ22

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.

New Pressure Cap and Collar for the Main Engine Expansion Tank

HVAC CHANGES

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.

GROUND TACKLE

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

Front End of the Main Engine Following New Main Bearing Seal and a New Oil Pan Gasket

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.

We Added This 12VDC Caframo Fan to the Galley, then Later Also Added Two More in the Pilot House & MSR

We Dumped the Chain Locker Contents Onto the Dock and Marked It at 50 Foot Lengths with Colored Zip Ties.

This Inexpensive Button Latch Keeps the Fridge Door Closed in Rough Seas

AND FINALLY....THE BOAT'S DINGHY

New Water Accumulator Tank....Stainless & Not Cheap

Ghost Rider's New Bimini Top-Stamoid Sunbrella with Tenara Thread

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.

New Hynautic Steering Ram to Replace the Old One That Had Developed a Slow Leak in a Piston Seal

THE CATEGORIES THAT FOLLOW ARE:

  • EQUIPPING THE BOAT
  • SAFETY PREPARATIONS
  • GROUND TACKLE CHANGES
  • HYDRAULICS SYSTEM MODS
  • SEA STRAINERS
  • FLY BRIDGE ENHANCEMENTS
  • PILOT HOUSE CHANGES
  • BELOW THE WATERLINE
  • IN THE ENGINE ROOM
  • STEERING GEAR
  • IN THE GALLEY
  • FRESH WATER PLUMBING
  • HVAC
  • IN THE SALON
  • THE BOAT'S TENDER

New Bottom Paint Applied & Stabilizer Fins Pulled for New Seals

New Fire Bottle for the Automatic Fire Suppression System in the Engine Room.

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.

SEA STRAINERS

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.