Guest Interview – Bob Senter (Lugger Bob)

So, Bob tell us a little something about your cruising to date and where you have been so far?

During my junior high school years in the Pacific Northwest (shortly after dinosaurs roamed the earth), I was introduced to cruising, navigation and single screw boat handling by my best friend who invited me to go cruising with him and his folks in their beautifully home built 32’ Monk Sr. design boat. Those are still some of my fondest memories, cruising everywhere in the Puget Sound with only paper charts and a compass – I have no idea why we never got lost – beginners’ luck, no doubt. But, there was a lot of serious sounding talk about dead reckoning, currents, landmarks and positions, in the dark centuries before Loran, GPS and daylight viewable monitors.

In the late 70’s I bought my first live aboard boat, a wonderful old wood Viking 38, and soon started cruising the San Francisco bay and Delta, discovering perhaps half of its 1100 miles of navigable waterways over the course of 28 years and three different boats. I always dreamed of passage making but my long suffering partner, and irreplaceable boating mate, Ari, preferred the slightly more civilized concept of dropping the anchor somewhere every night and enjoying the destination. We’d stay in marina only if there just wasn’t an alternative, so I learned a lot about anchoring and enjoyed a few Danforth misadventures.

Prior to 2004, all of my cruising was limited to Pacific coastal and inland waters, except for some memorable small and large ship cruises. Northern Lights/Lugger had committed to supporting the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally in 2004 and they sent me to Ft. Lauderdale to provide a few “preventive maintenance” seminars, most likely hoping that would somehow help the cruise go smoothly and not devolve into a public relations nightmare floating somewhere on the Atlantic. At the end of the week, completely to my surprise, I was asked to go on the crossing. I was totally unprepared, had to have my passport flown in overnight and had only a couple changes of clothes. I was welcomed aboard a beautiful Nordhavn 57, “Goleen” and enjoyed every minute crewing with Chris Samuelson, Sonaia and Bram. I’d been beat up plenty of times on the Pacific before but never made a trans-ocean crossing and frankly didn’t know if I’d be seasick or not. It turned out to be the cruise of a lifetime and introduced me to feeling completely secure trusting my safety to a Nordhavn.

Since then, in addition to my own cruising in the Pacific NW, Puget Sound, San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been invited on 2500 NM cruises aboard an N57 and a 62 down the Pacific coast from Portland, Oregon to LaPaz, Mx.

Four years ago, we moved “Transition” our 48’ Tollycraft down the coast from Seattle to San Diego, where she has been home during the winters and permanently, now, at least until the more responsible half of my family insisted on buying another house here.

You obviously do a load of work on many different boat brands but what is it about Nordhavn that you love?

That’s easy: safety, reliability and security. When you’re aboard a Nordhavn punching through waves with green water washing over the anchor and you can’t see the sky over the waves looking out the side windows, there’s that unmistakeable feel of being in a huge fiberglass bank vault being pushed through waves. All boats have little imperfections and personality quirks but I’ve yet to see a production boat as well built as a Nordhavn.

I also know that you do a lot of work with Northern Lights, can you explain that relationship?

My relationship with Northern Lights has always been as a consultant developing and delivering training and technical support for all NL products. It has been a very satisfying experience over many years. I’ve never worked with a better company by any measure. I work with many private clients but reserve all of my corporate client time for Northern Lights exclusively.

Why is it that you have so much experience with diesel engines?

My diesel engine career started out fresh out of college, with diesel and automotive technology degrees, working in heavy duty, over the road truck service for the first 10 years. I started my own business after the truck business faltered during an economic downturn and specialized in automotive service, high end diagnostics and diesels, both automotive and marine. Boats were my passion but cars paid the bills until 1998. During the 90’s, I started consulting and training technicians and was given the opportunity to consult with John Deere developing training for their newly introduced electronically controlled marine engines. They also tasked me with instructing most of the electronic marine engine classes, instruct some train-the-trainer classes and industrial engine classes, as well. Following half a dozen high intensity years with Deere, Northern Lights asked if I could develop training and instruct classes for their electronic engines and all other products. I remember sitting in the VP of engineering’s office, quietly foot shuffling, telling him I didn’t have a lot of experience with power generation and him saying not to worry, I’d pick it up quickly. Then he handed me a stack of books and videos about three feet tall and told me to get to know every product by heart. NL’s six different diesel engine vendor platforms, a dozen fuel injection systems and four generator end suppliers provided plenty of learning opportunities.

If there were only one engine you could choose which one would it be?

The Lugger LP668T or its electronic equivalent, the L1066T. I think these engines are a simpler, easier to maintain equivalent of the famous Gardner diesels that live almost forever. The LP668T/L1066T are based on a 6068T Deere industrial engine and share almost nothing of their marinization with the Deere branded marine engine. Imagine taking a spectacularly good product and making it better and more bullet proof.

Bob, why not the Cummins N14?

The N14 traces its DNA back to the first big Cummins H series sold in 1933, five years before my old Detroit 6-71’s first saw the light of day in 1938. Neither engine strayed very far from the successful design from which it sprang. Both engines represented milestones in American diesel engine engineering but have been replaced by more compact, simpler, more efficient models that also are extraordinarily long lived and easier to service.

What has been your cruising highlight so far?

The Nordhavn Atlantic Rally in 2004.

Do you travel with any animals?

We’ve always had boat dogs and Cody the wonder mutt has been boating with us for the last 10 years. He never gets seasick and was trained to use a plastic tray filled halfway with wood chips if he couldn’t make it to shore. The main in-use discovery with that brilliant idea was that his legs got taller and his aim got worse.


In your past life what did you do or have you always been in the marine business?

I wasted a decent retirement income on racing cars in my 20’s, owned an automotive service business for twenty years, worked in the Silicon Valley high-tech start-up business in the 90’s beta testing, writing training manuals and running field training for automotive PC based diagnostic platforms, and then finally got around to following my boating passions. I tell everyone that I only work to support my boating habit, but there’s a lot of truth to that and I love what I do.

Bob, if there is one thing boat owners do that irritates you what would that be?

There is a certain group of owners that buy a multi-million dollar boat and believe it’s like buying a Lexus; just write the check and go. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a floating city with backups for every service that navigates under its own power – it makes a Lexus look like a Tinker toy by comparison. In my experience, reasonable people would expect a learning curve.

Onto irritating things, have you ever run out of something while at sea that has caused problems?

While cruising on a boat without a spare domestic water pump, it failed many miles from a replacement on a holiday long weekend. It’s one of my Stupid Captain Tricks: having several hundred gallons of freshwater in your tank and not be able to make coffee or take a shower.

What percentage of your work is split between presentations and workshops that you do Vs new boat installation inspections and old boat refits?

It’s roughly a 50 – 50 split now but moving toward more machinery inspections and private training consultations.

Do you have a moto that you live by, if so what is it?

Prepare as well as possible, then have a plan B and C when Mr. Murphy and his Chaos sisters decide to pay you a visit.

Bob, what is the most common mistake boat owners make on the maintenance side of things?

Failing to read (or ignoring) the maintenance manual, closely followed by not learning how to maintain their systems and trusting someone else to do it for them.

If there were three things that top your list for maintenance what would they be?

Change fluids on time, replace impellers annually, change fuel filters correctly and often.

If there were only three spares one could carry what would they be?

Impellers, fuel filters and a domestic water pump.

We all know that air, fuel and power (battery) is really important to get a diesel engine to run, but what else should us mechanically challenged folk be aware of?

Diesel engines need periodic valve adjustments according to the manual recommendations. That seems to be the most overlooked maintenance item but it’s really a great, fun job to share with your favorite boat mate.

Anything that can chafe or vibrate on a diesel will, eventually causing its failure if ignored. With screwdrivers and wrenches in hand, check everything with a nut, bolt or screw and look carefully where every hose or wiring harness rubs against an engine – chafing anywhere is an insidious failure looking for a place to happen. It is critically important that you use all your senses during your hourly engine room visits, sniffing, listening, feeling and hearing anything unusual that might progress to a larger, potentially unmanageable problem if unnoticed. All hoses and wiring needs a half loop between the engine and engine bed to absorb vibration and avoid vibration related failures. Engines can move about 1” on the beds in any direction.

Would you describe yourself as more hunter or more gather?

I think more in terms of “pro-active” versus “reactive”. I’m pro-active, preferring to deal with potential maintenance issues while my boat is in its berth rather than having my cruise interrupted by repair opportunities in exotic locations.

Do you currently own a boat?

I’m currently owned by two boats: “Transition”, a 1979 Tollycraft 48, and “Serenity”, a 1986 Bayliner Contessa 28 cruiser (with a Corvette Tuned Port Fuel Injection system – another $150 manifold purchase that morphed into a $3000 boat project.)

Tell us a little about her?

“Transition” is a classic Ed Monk, Sr. design considered by many to be one of the best coastal cruisers ever produced. She’s economical, sea kindly, can be relatively fast if you don’t mind parting with lots of fuel, a superb liveaboard, constructed of fiberglass as thick as a Nordhavn and has a sheer line that brings tears to the eyes of anyone who appreciates real boats. She has been a near perfect boat, has asked little in maintenance and her built in handling attributes make me look ten times as good as I really am in close quarters maneuvering.

“Serenity” was intended to be the eventual “retirement boat”, easily handled and maintained by one old graybeard (me) and capable of being stored on her custom trailer, avoiding marina berth rental, dirty bottoms and haulouts. All boat builders build a few models that are truly brilliant and some that aren’t. The 1986 Bayliner Contessa’s deceptively roomy interior layout and efficient powertrain combination were only available for two years. A nice bonus, the construction and design is better than average for the breed, at least on this particular model. Typical for me, I hated the simple but prehistoric old carburetor and mechanical distributor, so it was replaced with a Corvette Tuned Port electronic fuel injection setup I’d custom built and marinized for maximum torque and minimum fuel consumption. She’s fast and fuel efficient, likes to cruise at 18+ knots. But I’m still getting used to the short transit times compared to a lifetime of displacement speed boats.

Why did you call them that?

We didn’t change “Transition’s” name, which turned out to be serendipitous; she’s been through a lot with us, including a 1300 mile move from the Pacific NW to Southern California.

“Serenity” was named by my partner, Ari, in honor of her first effortless trip through the Seattle ship canal locks. Big boats are a lot more work.

What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made on the water?

While anchoring in 105’ of water, I performed another stupid captain trick and watched my (newly volunteered) deck crew run 300’of chain out, followed by 10’ of 3/8” nylon safety line – pulled tighter than a fiddle string – securing the bitter end of the anchor chain to the boat. Just another learning opportunity discovering the actual weight of 105’ of chain and how to get it back in the hawse pipe when it’s dangling on a piece of skinny, wet nylon line.

Are you scared of spiders?

Yes. A vacuum cleaner is my friend when challenged by deadly, man eating arachnids.

What’s your favourite photo ever taken while at sea and why?

My first real blue water ocean crossing aboard N57 “Goleen” will be with me forever because it was the beginning of my family of Nordhavn friends and many cruises to come.

What would you never leave behind when heading out to sea?

Chocolate chips, the absolutely essential cookie ingredient in cruising food.

Tell us something about yourself that nobody knows?

I can’t carry a tune in a bucket or sing to save my life. Fortunately, nobody except Ari cares.

Is there a Mrs or Mr Lugger Bob?

No. My best friend and husband, Ari, has been there for me throughout uncountable boating adventures for the last 38 years. He should probably be sainted, as anyone who knows me well enough would instantly agree. He is the voice of reason and responsibility in our family. I keep his life from becoming too predictable.

We have to see another photo of Cody

Ok, Cody, the wonder mutt, who makes sure there is love and dog hair in every aspect of our lives.

…and finally, where to next?

San Diego is where I’ve always wanted to spend my golden years but I’ll continue to play around with boats, semi-retirement and a little travel from time to time for as long as the universe keeps me around.

Good luck with your business, boating and your future travels!

Bobs Facebook page can be found HERE

Thank you very much for your time.

Stay safe


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2 thoughts on “Guest Interview – Bob Senter (Lugger Bob)”

  1. SUBJECT: Re: Guest Interview – Bob Senter (Lugger Bob)

    Great interview. Thank you!
    Tim Daleo

    From: http://WWW.PENDANABLOG.COM
    To: daleo3@[…]
    Sent: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 8:20 AM
    Subject: Guest Interview – Bob Senter (Lugger Bob)

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