Flying Blind


Flying Blind

Flying blind may be a little extreme but on a recent day trip we noticed that our main Radar unit the Furuno FR21XX series (FR2105) which is a full blown commercial grade radar and, I might add, our main radar wasn’t working. This is the radar we rely on when running at night and it had decided to give up the ghost! Thankfully it gave up working while it was daylight and thankfully we have another Furuno radar which we use as a backup being the VX2.

When running at night without radar bad things can happen very quickly. See image below to highlight this very point. 

With a quick call to the Australian master distributors of Furuno, JN Taylor & Co, in Brisbane, we were soon in touch with their Sydney authorised reps being Olectric Systems ( I am a little ashamed to admit but I had never heard of Olectric Systems before and considering they are the main game in town for ICOM and Furuno I was somewhat amazed that I had not come across them before – perhaps this is testament in some way as to the incredible reliability of Furuno and ICOM! 

A few days later Guy and Grant from Olectric came aboard and were, to put it bluntly, amazing. On arrival they got stuck straight in, running up the radar in test mode only to discover a problem with one of the boards on the Furuno Black Box system and it’s on-board battery. With this news in hand and results from the test Guy went top side to inspect the magnetron, only to decide that this too was not right and may in fact be responsible for triggering the video error we were getting on screen. With our current magnetron having run for 2239 hours and with a lifespan of approx 2,000-2,500hrs it seemed reasonable to assume the magnetron had a part to play. With parts being extracted left right and centre and a language being spoken between Guy and Grant that I was unfamiliar with (i.e. serious technical talk) I decided to let them take the parts in question and stand by.


Pendana Nordhavn 62 Whitsundays

Grant pulling boards out of the Furuno Black Box system


Guy Oliver Olectric Systems

Guy, pulling out the Furuno magnetron unit – note the God like rays coming in from above – was this a sign?!

With equipment gone and Guy and Grant both telling me that the FR2105 was a $40,000 radar and of commercial standard I was feeling very pleased with myself and now understood why I loved this particular radar so much!

A few days later Guy called me and said that he had some spare parts coming in from Western Australia. This included a new battery for one of the five boards in the black box system and a new magnetron.

Furuno Black Box

Guy arrives at Pendana with new battery installed and tested on one of the PCBs.

After installing the PCB with its shiny new battery Grant went up top to re install the Magnetron unit with new Magnetron already installed inside.

Furuno black box housing

This is the unit which houses the magnetron.

Furuno black box magnetron

And in above photo this is what the magnetron (which is inside the earlier photo) looks like. Magnetrons are not just very expensive magnets, they are so much more.

The magnetron is a high-powered vacuum tube that works as self-excited microwave oscillator. Crossed electron and magnetic fields are used in the magnetron to produce the high-power output required in radar equipment. These multicavity devices may be used in radar transmitters as either pulsed or cw oscillators at frequencies ranging from approximately 600 to 30,000 megahertz.

The electronic principle on which radar operates is very similar to the principle of sound-wave reflection. If you shout in the direction of a sound-reflecting object (like a rocky canyon or cave), you will hear an echo. If you know the speed of sound in air, you can then estimate the distance and general direction of the object. The time required for an echo to return can be roughly converted to distance if the speed of sound is known.

Radar uses electromagnetic energy pulses. The radio-frequency (rf) energy is transmitted to and reflected from the reflecting object. A small portion of the reflected energy returns to the radar set. This returned energy is called an ECHO. Radar sets use the echo to determine the direction and distance of the reflecting object.

The term RADAR is an acronym made up of the words

RAdio (Aim) Detecting And Ranging

The term “RADAR” was officially coined as an acronym by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Samuel M. Tucker and F. R. Furth in November 1940. The acronym was by agreement adopted in 1943 by the Allied powers of World War II and thereafter received general international acceptance.

Now here is an interesting fact which you should know next time you turn on your radar and that is the little pulse beams that get shot out of your radar system in order to give you data on the screen travel at incredible speed: how fast, well…300,000 kilometres per second or, 186,000 miles per second or, 671 million miles per hour or, in other words very, very, very fast!

Helicopters on Whitehaven Beach

Once Guy had finished installing the new parts we fired the system up and BINGO! She worked! Photo above of the FR2105 Furuno Radar back in action again. I love this radar and am very pleased she is working once again.

Another item on Pendana I have been struggling with for some time has been a little Oberdorfer oil transfer pump (model N.991R-32-A.96) and even after replacing the seals a few months earlier this was the week it wanted to give up the ghost and finally stop. Another quick call was made to Peter Feruglio from PCF Pumps in Melbourne ( and within seconds a new pump was ordered and delivered to me within one week. I must admit that what Peter doesn’t know about pumps is not worth knowing. Lovely guy and very helpful indeed.

Oberdorfer oil transfer pump

New pump installed and working perfectly!

Also Dean from On the Water Sydney and I decided it was high time to address the oil pressure gauge issue in the pilothouse. The gauge in the pilothouse would read 40psi (perfect) but then slowly climb to 60psi after a few hours. Our Murphy oil pressure gauge in the engine room which is the main gauge and the one we rely on, as it is a mechanical gauge, reads a perfect 40psi.

Alan Robinson from All Marine Electrical

Dean felt it may be the board that controls the gauge which may be the problem, as we had already unsuccessfully tried a new gauge and engine sender unit, but this was not to be the issue either. 

Alan Robinson from All Marine Electrical

New board being tried without luck.

After every possible permutation being tried I decided that we would simply replace the gauge with another which is what we did and the problem has now been solved. Still to this day not sure why the Cummins approved gauge and sender didn’t work and the third party gauge did but in any case all working now.

As most would know I like to keep my engine room clean so that I can see if anything is not as it should be easily. Recently, I noticed a wee bit of coolant in the pan coming from the port generator. Firstly, allow me to define ‘little’ – we are talking less than 1ml of coolant. That said I prefer to catch things early so I asked Dean to pressure test the generator to see if we could identify the leak (however small). We finally found that the leak was coming from under the hydraulic pump, which is mounted on the front of the generator and coming from a hose which runs coolant into the heat exchanger. With hose tightened and system retested, no more leaks! Another small job off the list!

teak repair

Hard to get to clamp and even harder to photograph.

With all of the above items attended to and working perfectly Pendana jobs list reads, nothing. Nothing is right! All items are done, all maintenance up to date and no niggling issues left to do other than to enjoy her which is exactly what we plan to do.

As most of you would be aware Captain to the stars, Captain Mark James is and will always be our number one choice for crew when we go on longer trips, as this allows three of us to rotate watch and have at least one of us remain fresh at all times in case of an emergency. Anyway some sad news just in; Mark has taken up a full time position as rotation Captain aboard a 100ft+ vessel names Silent World II (SW2). I have no doubts that the owner of SW2 will be as impressed as we were with Mark, his manner and his knowledge and while Claire and I wish him the very best we do feel a little like we have lost an old mate and Pendana herself is NOT happy! Good luck Mark, you deserve all the success in the world and then some.

Captain Mark James, Silent World II

Silent World II at Hamilton Island.

Now as most of you would know Pendana was commissioned by the somewhat renowned Mickey Smith whom I thank daily for his remarkable input into creating an N62 I believe stands head and shoulders above all others. Mickey is now heading up a company called PowerWave Systems ( which are building fully-integrated hybrid propulsion and power-regeneration systems for yachts. Their systems are optimized to provide safe, efficient, and reliable power with lower environmental impact than the conventional combination of diesel engines and generators. Whether it’s a new build or a refit, they offer some simply amazing solutions. Seems as though Mickey is still way ahead of the market!


For those who don’t know Mickey’s background he began his career at General Motors Research Laboratories researching electric vehicle battery and drive control systems before joining Intel Corporation where he promoted micro-technology in the world of industrial control and power systems. Smith then plunged into a great adventure as the full-time owner/captain of his own yacht, N6220 Discovery (now called PENDANA) while cruising for five years in the Atlantic and Caribbean. Having been instrumental in drawing up the specifications for his own Nordhavn 62, he unknowingly stepped into the next phase of his career as a yacht systems consultant with Pacific Asian Enterprises, builders of the well-known line of Nordhavn ocean-going trawlers and Smith’s designs were implemented in over 250 Nordhavns over the years to come. Since 2005, as President of Boat Systems, Inc., Smith used his experience with PAE as a springboard to develop business relationships with numerous boat builders and marine technology vendors around the world, completing the electrical and mechanical systems design and implementation for long-range motor yachts, sailing and power catamarans, and commercial vessels and ranging from 35 to 156 feet. These designs had been addressing the growing interest in diesel-electric hybrid propulsion systems which is when Mickey decided to form PowerWave Systems. As I said I thank Mickey every day for being the first owner of Pendana as she is remarkable in so many ways and truly a standout. 

On another point altogether I have come across a new boating blog by a few folks who brought a Nordhavn 47, Hull #18, “Southern Star” in late August 2013 to begin cruising the world. Jo and Robbie are setting off from New Zealand to Vanuatu as we speak. Their blog can be found at : and while only a very new blog is certainly worth a look!

Southern Star N4718

Southern Star N4718

For those who love a good boating blog there is one – if you are not already a member – that you must not miss. That is the blog of Ken and Roberta Williams on San Souci a Nordhavn 68. This is the blog that most of us mere mortals look to as being probably the best blog around. Ken and Roberta are about to set off on their summer travels around the Med and I have no doubt we will all be in for a jolly good time as we travel with them in cyberspace! 

The blog can be found at: or the Facebook page can be found at Inside tip: it is worth liking the Facebook page as Ken often puts images and stories up there well before they hit the blog. Although I still think the original name for San Souci was better, that being, Vamanos, which in Spanish means Lets Go!!


The banner for Kens Blog gives you a quick sense of the quality within!

Also, MV Dirona N52 (James and Jen Hamilton) are, as I type this, crossing the Tasman Sea in what were near perfect conditions (very jealous!). They have a great website/blog and if not already aware of them already here is their link to what is a great blog with an incredible tracking location map: – (Ken, you need to find a way to do this!)

MV Dirona

MV Dirona N52

Tasman Sea

James Hamilton on Dirona sent through a picture of conditions in the middle of the Tasman Sea – a dead calm for days on end! Simply incredible stuff!

A small update from the owners aboard Commander N57. For regular readers of the blog you will remember Murray and Marilyn from earlier blogs and their beautiful N57 Commander. Anyway, Murray and Marilyn are, as we speak, making their way from the Whitsundays (in Queensland) to the Kimberley’s (in Western Australia) which by my calculation is a one way, 2,000nm trip. Marilyn has just sent in this photo of a magnificent rainbow off Yorkies Knob while they continue to travel north.

Helicopters on Whitehaven Beach

Both Murray and Marilyn have extensive cruising experience and a trip like this for them would be a walk in the park. That being said, where they are heading has some of the greatest tides in the world at 14.1m / 46ft, only beaten by the bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Canada, at 15m / 49ft which has the largest tidal range in the world. 

The Kimberley region is some three times larger than England and about 1,000 times scarier. Going to the Kimberly is like stepping back in time, a time modern day has forgotten and a time when being on your own brings with it a whole new meaning. I guess the thing that would scare me the most is the tidal range and associated currents, not to mention the zillion odd crocodiles ready to take advantage of the smallest error one makes. 

Atlas N62

Need I say more about the currents!

Aussie saltwater crocodiles (not the same as the alligator) are, in a word, ferocious. Many a tourist is taken by these monsters which remain out of sight until it’s simply too late to react. They are huge, aggressive, territorial, and plentiful across the north of the Australian outback. Growing up to 7 metres / 28ft in length and weighing up to 1,000kgs / 2,204lbs they are not to be messed with. I understand that Murray in his earlier days had come across a few of these monsters and lived to tell the tale so no doubt he is better prepared than most when it comes to the Kimberley Coast and associated crocs! We hope…….

Gray Matter Nordhavn 62

Photo above is ‘REAL’ un-doctored. When we say they are big, we mean they are big! If you look closely you will notice this crocs right leg is missing which means that maybe an even bigger croc took a bite!

I am sure a tender ride in the Kimberly’s would bring on a whole new meaning. Ouch!

Literally millions of signs in the Kimberly’s and around the top end of Australia like this one. Murray and Marilyn, we hope you make it back in one piece!

Email just in from Murray and Marilyn.


Bradshaw’s Aboriginal Paintings.

Map below shows area I am referring to as the Kimberley in Western Australia.


Photo below of Murray on Commander in Sydney Harbour NYE 2013 and on hard stand in 2012.

Commander N57

I would like to make one final remark and that is the even greater danger that exists up north and that is the simple fact that the charts in this area are almost non-existent. Most of the Kimberley Coast is yet to be surveyed making navigation incredibly challenging. The idea of going into an unchartered river, full of crocodiles would not fill me with anything other than sheer terror.

Back in November last year most will remember we were on hard stand at the great facility that is Gold Coast City Marina. During our time the Gold Coast was hit by a rather massive storm which caused hundreds of thousands of dollars damage to many boats, including Pendana sustaining some minor damage, which was repaired while on hard stand. Anyway I have come across a video on youtube which shows the extent of the hail storm taken from the marina office. At approx. the 2:20sec mark you can just see Pendana centre left of screen. It really was an incredible storm. Link to storm video here,

Gold Coast hail storm

Someone asked me the other day why I didn’t use Sydney City Marine to go out on hard stand but rather travelled the 440nm north to Gold Coast City Marina and the reason is three fold. Firstly, we all enjoy the two day run to the Gold Coast and the subsequent holiday that follows. Secondly, I very much doubt that there is any facility in Australia that can offer the broad range of marine services on site nor a facility that bends over backwards to accommodate your own people working on your boat. Whether you are upgrading your stabilizers, dropping a shaft or simply in need of a well-managed and executed antifoul they simply can’t be beaten and, finally, cost of lift and hard stand rates need to be taken into account. Sydney City Marine quoted me $ 1,656.00 for lift and launch and then $414 per day hard stand rate compare this to Gold Coast City Marina who charged me $1,382.60 for lift and launch and $136 per day hard stand and the numbers really add up. I would also point out that Sydney City Marine is not at all keen at all on owners using their own people, which is ridiculous in my opinion. To discourage the use of your own people they charge a subcontractor fee of $82.50 per day or $330.00 per week, simply crazy stuff. In my opinion you are either in the lift/hard stand game or in the marine services game but you can’t be in both without running the very real risk of irritating people no end. 

Some Interesting Ocean facts;

The largest Ocean is the Pacific and it represents 45.9% of the world’s oceans.

The deepest Ocean. In 1995 the Japanese verified the deepest ocean (Pacific) to be 35,797 feet(10,911 metres). This is in the part of the Pacific called the Marianas’ Trench.

The highest wave ever recorded was 98 feet high –ouch!

Finally, while I am not really into jokes, captions etc I found that this one in particular tickled the old funny bone!

Safe travels



1 thought on “Flying Blind”

  1. James, you are a really enthusiastic travel writer! I couldn’t believe the picture of that crocodile. WOW!! I have never been to Australia, but I have seen videos of them. Yikes.

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