When Lightning Strikes Nearby Part II

This is the second part of our post regarding lightning damage to Orenda’s navigational and other systems. If you have not read Part 1, a quick read of that post will provide additional background about what occurred. We are including a lot of photos to try to help demonstrate the complexity of this work.

We treated our travel to West Palm Beach, FL from Baltimore much like a yacht delivery verses a cruise south down the East coast of the US with stops at interesting and new places.  We opted for an open ocean transit verses the Intracoastal Waterway and our route was just a little over 1000 nautical miles.  Weather was our primary concern but other than sitting out a two day storm in Cape Lookout just south of Cape Hatteras, we had favorable sea conditions the entire way.  We entered Florida coastal waters as allowed by our insurance and made our way to Lake Worth and a berth at Safe Harbor Old Port Cove marina for a much needed crew rest and staging for our upcoming refit. 

Miami skyline at sunset.

We quickly confirmed what our earlier research had indicated, that two months of transient moorage would not be easy to find and our only option appeared to be signing an annual moorage lease.  This was not a good option for us as we are required to be out of Florida during the hurricane season.  We had planned to do a bottom job on Orenda since it had been just shy of 2-years since the last one. Working with the good folks at Yacht Tech and Ocean Currents Marine, a plan was developed to achieve both of our objectives.  We would haul Orenda and block her on the hard and do the bottom job and as much of the electronics refit as possible.  We hauled out as scheduled and Yacht Tech managed our bottom job cleaning and new bottom paint while at the same time, we contracted for a hull detail by Coleman Marine which would be followed with the balance of boat detail once we were back in the water.  Ocean Currents started the electronics refit at the same time so Orenda was a beehive of workers on the interior and exterior!

Scott with Bob from Yacht Tech overseeing the haul-out

A little about our approach to the refit; there are at least 3 different ways to accomplish this scope of work we could have taken.  First, we could have taken on the entire scope of work adding duration and knowledge gaps we would need to address. The second approach could have been to contract with a company to do the all work and deliver the boat “finished”, or a third approach, which is a blend the first 2 options and actively participate in the work while employing professionals to get the work done. We implemented the third option as Scott is a very capable, hands-on captain/owner.  Obviously, contractors can be a bit squeamish about owners being too involved in this kind of work but this is the approach we used in the refit of our N47 in 2018 where we did a very similar scope of work.  At the time, Professional Boat Builder Magazine did an article about it which they titled Owner on Board.  This article does a good job of explaining how this can and does work.  Of course, you have to gain the respect and trust of the contractor to make this work.  Scott is not a ‘look over the shoulder and question the work being done’ type of owner; instead, he actively works side-by-side with the pros to get the work done.  This approach isn’t for everyone because it is like going to work in most every way.  Long days, undesirable jobs and just plain hard work.  He would arrive early and make sure the boat was ready to work on and we would stay late to clean up from the days’ work so we were not paying the pros premium wages to do those things.  Both of our refit experiences have resulted in outstanding outcomes and friends for life. 

Scott hauling a 10′ length of PVC pipe.

It goes without saying, insurance for this type of event is of critical importance!  Due to the magnitude of the work, Scott spent considerable time and energy making sure the insurance claims adjuster(s) understood what and how we were getting the work done and the costs.  I hesitate to include project costs because there so many variables and differences between boats and missions, but a TPC (total project cost) in the $200K range should not be considered unreasonable.

The electronics refit officially started on November 14.  Ocean Currents Marine crew, Rob, Greg and Chase hauled tool bags, spools of wire, and boxes and boxes of electronics.  Since we were on the hard in Seminole Marine, a DIY Boat Yard in Palm Beach Gardens, anything we brought on the boat or took off was via a 12-foot ladder tied off on the stern swim deck. Scott and I prepared the pilothouse by removing the old electronics, gauges, labeled wiring and connections, and covered the horizontal console and exposed wood edges with cardboard to protect it.  And the process started!  Hundreds of feet of wiring were removed. Headliners were taken down, electrical raceways opened, a few closets and cabinets were emptied to access above and below the spaces. The refit touched the entire boat from engine room to pilothouse to flybridge.

Demo! Removing a tremendous amount of equipment and wire.

New instruments, gauges, radars were staged in the galley and salon until being installed.

Orenda was likely commissioned in 2009 we think, and at that time was outfitted with state of art electronics like Black Box chart plotters, gyro compasses, sat comms, commercial radars, etc. Like most boats of this vintage, past owners have taken the original navigation suite and made enhancements with modern technologies. That was exactly the state Orenda was in when we bought her.  A lot of the original equipment was still in service and working perfectly but AIS, autopilots and PC based navigation equipment had been added over the years.  She worked very well and we would have kept using her the way if the lightning related damage had not occurred.  Because lightning damage is so unpredictable and has been known to show up much later than the original event, the refit replaced all of the navigational equipment and interconnecting wiring and interfaces.  It is a huge job to do right and takes many labor hours to accomplish.  I’m sure if Scott was writing this post, he could go on for pages about what he did and why, but perhaps the included pictures help show a pretty good example of how much work this involves.  Anyone wanting more information on the specifics please feel free to reach out to us, we are happy to share more detail.

American Yacht Restorations built new dash panels and replaced Formica surfaces

Equipment layout on new dash panels for cut-in before Formica is applied.

Orenda crew working through the weekend; new tank monitoring system.

A new modern and usable flybridge layout

During the time we were in the yard, hurricane Nicole, a late-season Category 1 hurricane made landfall twice in Florida on November 10th.  We spent a day or two preparing Orenda for the hurricane and yard work was halted for a couple of days and were not allowed access to the boat. Fortunately, Palm Beach was spared significant damage and we enjoyed the day at Stormhouse Brewing attending their “Hurricane Party!” Once yard activities resumed, Orenda got new bottom paint, the hull was detailed, and the thrusters and stabilizers were serviced.  Since many of the headliners were already taken down, I decided to stretch and re-staple the headliners in the VIP and forward bathroom that had not been redone by her previous owners. Not the ideal process, however, replacing headliners was not in the current work scope.  The project results were so-so but better than they were.

Stretching and tightening the headliner panels, not perfect but better

We splashed on December 12th and moved the boat to a marina where we were fortunate to be able to use a Yacht Tech service slip for a short time to complete the work. There was still work to do but I was able to put closets back together, do a thorough cleaning the inside surfaces, walls, and floors, and rinse and scrub the outside of the boat.  Dirt in the yard seems to permeate the entire boat!

Splash! Ahhhhhh…

Although we could have worked through the holidays, it was Christmas and I was determined to go home to spend Christmas with family and friends.  We flew into Pasco, Washington on December 21st. It was 4o when our son picked us up at the airport. Burr! Just 12-hours earlier that day we were enjoying temperatures in the mid-70s.  We spent lots of time with family, re-connected with friends and neighbors. I was so grateful for the time spent at home. Eileen, our daughter works remotely in Olympia and was able to work from our house almost the entire time we were home!  Scott scored a fishing trip to Orofino, Idaho on the Clearwater River with a friend and previous co-worker.

Family again. The handsome dude in the middle is Billie’s son Jaxson.

We returned to Orenda early January and a sea trial was scheduled for January 17. After a couple of “Crazy Ivans” everything was adjusted and calibrated. Scott felt like he was at the helm of a new boat, familiar but then unfamiliar!  And all smiles! We cannot thank Ocean Currents Marine enough for their support and friendship.

Sea trial; Scott at the helm and Rob “fiddling’

Celebration dinner with Ocean Currents Marine and their ‘significants’. Fun time at the Waterway Cafe.

Today we are in Key West, Stock Island Marina Village. We will get our fill of fun times in Key West and then head to the Bahamas when weather conditions are favorable to cross the Gulf stream. 

Scott wrote in the previous post, Part I “What I would like to do with this post is help those fellow cruisers and others understand that this can and does happen more than you might imagine and to share our approach to this occurrence and how we are going to make sure Orenda comes out better than before…..” I think this post helps you understand how we did it. I would also like to point out the tremendous amount of research, planning and time Scott spent preparing for the electronics refit, participating during the install, and then finally understanding the new electronics.  It is truly amazing to me how he was able to pull off such a huge project starting with Rob evaluating the boat back on July 22 and end up with what we have now.

Happy captain!

Oh, I forgot to mention the Starlink high performance antenna and solar power that Scott managed to pull off at the same time as electronics refit 😊Orenda is now truly better than before and ready for the cruising adventures that lie ahead for us.

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