Pendana Suffers Hydraulic Failure

Pendana suffers Hydraulic Failure.

You know the saying; when things are too good to be true they often are! Well that holds true for Pendana and her crew.

After a wonderful evening in Cid Harbour and a fantastic trip the following morning to Whitehaven Beach via the narrows between Hook and Whitsunday Islands the world was looking pretty much perfect, especially when you consider the fact that Commander Claire had discovered a hidden block of chocolate until…….

Pendana Nordhavn 62 Whitsundays

Pendana anchored in Cid Harbour.

Pendana Nordhavn 62 Whitsundays

Pendana approaches the narrows.

As we approached our anchorage at Whitehaven Beach (Saturday) Claire was on the foredeck as per usual preparing the anchor for release, Abi and her friend Sophie were in the aft cockpit ready to bring in the tender as we slowed and the sand of Whitehaven Beach was beckoning us ashore. As is standard procedure for Pendana we arrived at our anchorage and I turned Pendana 180 degrees using rudder only (not thrusters) into the wind, allowed the speed to drop off then told Claire whenever she was ready, to lower the anchor. As we were in five metres of water Claire was to pay out 30 metres of chain so that we would have a 1 to 6 scope. 

Pendana Nordhavn 62 Whitsundays

Pendana anchored at Whitehaven Beach

As the anchor reached 30 metres Claire instructed me she was about to lock the anchor off when all of a sudden an alarm went off in the pilot house. I glanced immediately to my radar and camera systems as they can alarm every now and then but to my shock it was neither of those. Then I glanced at my stabilizers which to my surprise were giving me a low oil warning. At about the same time, Claire was in my headset from the front of the bow, asking why I’d turned off the windless too early to which I replied we have a hydraulic failure, give me a second. Our life was to turn from perfection to nightmare in the following minutes as the situation developed.

As she had locked the anchor literally a second before the power stopped and was simply performing a double check, she then tied the anchor off with rope and returned inside. As we had sufficient scope for incoming tide we were quite safe. I then shut down the hydraulic system, restarted it using a different pump but received the same result. I went immediately into the engine room where once inside I went straight to the hydraulic oil reservoir and found it completely empty. Well that will do it I thought to myself. I then went down the hall to the forward cabin and opened the anchor chain locker expecting to see about 70 litres/20 US gallons of hydraulic oil sprayed everywhere but there was in fact only a tiny, tiny amount visible. I then lifted the floors in the forward cabin to reveal a nasty mess swishing around in my once spotless forward bilge. Hydraulic oil everywhere and I do mean everywhere.

Hydraulic failure on Pendana

Hydraulic oil even here! (under floor fwd head)

Pendana Nordhavn 62 Whitsundays

Looking forward toward the disaster zone.

Hydraulic failure on Pendana

One dirty bilge.

I soon had worked out that we had blown a hydraulic line to our windlass (anchor winch) and that what was required was 20 gallons of hydraulic AW32 oil and of course a new hydraulic line. What I had was the oil but not the spare hydraulic line. Pendana had lost all its hydraulic ability which basically meant I had no anchor winch, i.e. no way of getting the anchor up unless I used a manual method, no stabilizers, no anchor wash, no emergency forward bilge pump and no stern or bow thrusters. What I had was a living nightmare!

The feeling of total helplessness and the feeling that I couldn’t fix the problem was very annoying and somewhat humbling so I decided to call James Knight in Florida for advice/thoughts. As we were anchored to the west of an island and were 20nms off shore our mobile phones didn’t work. I was able to speak with the local VMR (Volunteer Marine Rescue) folks in Mackay, some 60nms to our south so I knew we would be fine. I raced up to the pilothouse and grabbed my handheld satellite phone only to be reminded that I had suspended the contract after our trip to New Zealand was cancelled. Next, I turned on the KVH VSAT system and after about five minutes I had a phone line and internet. Thank god for the VSAT!!!!!!! Thank god. 

Once I had spoken with James Knight and he had run through the options and, as I had already contacted a local hydraulic marine company to come and meet me at location some 20nms offshore on Monday, he suggested to sit tight, relax and wait for the arrival of the cavalry – which is precisely what I decided to do. James has a good handle on my abilities and this was simply a step too far!

I must say that being confronted with the situation one’s mind races and, as such, it was good to talk to James as he was able to allay any concerns, like, what if the weather changed? What could I do? How would I do it? Anyway, I am pleased to report that Sunday morning was spent at the beach (after changing a duckbill valve in the holding tank pump) and I am feeling a lot more relaxed about the situation we are in and thankfully the weather has been as close to perfect as possible. We are enjoying what is a remarkably beautiful part of the world and while my thoughts are never far from tomorrow and getting Pendana’s hydraulic system fixed I am, a lot more relaxed than I was.

Tender to Nordhavn Pendana

Pendana’s tender & crew at the beach

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach

Helicopters on Whitehaven Beach

How the ultra-wealthy arrive!!

Monday morning 9:30am and Alan Robinson from All Marine Electrical arrived with a smile on his face and enough hydraulic oil to fill a first class battleship. Within a few minutes the he was in the anchor locker looking things over then in the forward bilge feeling the hydraulic lines for the tell-tale sign of failure. Looking, looking, looking nothing. I then lay down above Alan and peered through the floor in the forward head and looked at the control valve which is located in the bulbous bow when I spotted the gauge which looked a little odd. I asked Alan to shine more light on it from below and sure enough the top of the valve had blown apart. Finally our troubles were over! Alan raced back to land some 20nms to collect the part required and I planned our route to exit Whitehaven Beach.

Broken pressure gauge

Photo above shows offending gauge and top which had blown.

Alan Robinson from All Marine Electrical

Alan emerges from the depths covered in hydraulic fluid.

Alan returned and with parts fitted, hydraulic reservoir topped up we were ready to test the system. Via our two way head set the moment I switched on hydraulics I heard Alan say stop, stop, stop. After shutting everything down I went to Alan only to find him covered once again in hydraulic fluid. As it turned out a much smaller leak was coming from the high pressure hydraulic line which drives the windlass. So after another forty minutes or so we had freed the hydraulic line, found the hole and placed it back on Alan’s boat so that an identical line could be made up.

Alan Robinson from All Marine Electrical

Alan starts looking for new leak.

Worn hydraulic Cable

The offending hydraulic line with hole evident.

Alan departed once again for the 20nm run home and said he or two of his top guys would return in the morning with a brand new line. Alan is a lively guy, old school, ex trawler fleet mechanic so has vast experience and knowledge and is now very much on top of Pendana’s hydraulic system. He also loves being covered in hydraulic fluid!

As the sun rose the following day (Tuesday) an air of excitement at our pending departure came over all aboard Pendana and with Alan’s two top guys Wayne and Tom motoring up in Alan’s trusty twin cat with new cable in hand I was confident we would be underway within just a few short hours.

Pendana Nordhavn 62 Whitsundays

Wayne and Tom arrive with new hose.

With new hydraulic hose installed and some eighty litres of hydraulic fluid removed from the bilge we once again tested Pendana’s systems and I am pleased to report that all went perfectly from the windlass to the thrusters she purred along like the good old days. Hooooooooray!

I must say that this is the first major failure we have encountered in nearly two years of boating so Pendana has performed incredibly well and while it meant anchoring at one of the world’s top ten beaches for maybe thirty-six hours longer than we would have liked – what did we have to complain about really?.

There is no doubt these little ships are complex and require a constant eye and there is no doubt I will add physical checking of all hydraulic lines to my six monthly list, especially where they go through tight areas from this point forward. Thankfully we weren’t at sea or out of reach from help.

Email just in from James Knight….

James That gauge has failed before. Chris (previous Owner) had a failure in the same place. Put in a higher pressure gauge if you can. Or better still, put in a test port. I’m not sure why its failed twice now, but I’m going to discuss it with ABT My guess is that there was a pressure spike. The spike also took out the worn hose where it was probably worn through and corroded. I’ll be thinking about this. My suggestion is to remove all the gauges on the boat and put in test ports. James.

My sincere thanks goes out to Alan from All Marine Services who did what many wouldn’t and helped a fellow mariner in trouble. He ran up some 120nms running back and forth from the mainland to Pendana. Many thanks also to the Nordhavn community who contacted me via email and sat phone during the last forty-eight hours. There was a real sense that we were not facing this battle alone and for that support I am forever grateful. Also thank you once again to James Knight for providing me with a dose of reality as per usual!

So this brings an end to this blog and I am truly glad to say we are once again underway!

Pendana whitsundays

Pendana once again underway!

Safe travels


1 thought on “Pendana Suffers Hydraulic Failure”

  1. James, Great blogs – I,ve missed your regular updates while Pendana was ön her own.. I have noticed a slight error in your blog however, “how the ultra wealthy arrive” and theres a photo of an R44 on the beach .. They’re about 1/3 of the cost of Pendana, far less luxury, and a hydraulic failure in one, would certainly require a change of underwear, twice…

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