About Ngahue IV-Outside

All About... Outside Ngahue IV

Here some of our solutions for the problems we encountered - sometimes obtained by some quite goofy methods...


For most of the building period, HR53s were fitted with a Volvo-Penta TAMD41-B engine, which weighs in at approximately 455 kg and produces a reasonable 145 HP. The last HR53 units to be built were fitted with a much more modern VP D3-110 engine. The TAMD engine is essentially a 6 cylinder 3.59 litre Volvo turbo diesel bus or truck engine which has been "marinised". The engine is fitted with a hydraulic marine gearbox which is water cooled, as is the turbocharger. The whole cooling circuit is long and complex. Especially if the boat has not been used for some time, it's a good idea to check the water strainer, where sometimes we need to add water to overcome airlocks which may have developed over longer periods of non-use! We always check there's water coming out of the exhaust, having - by omission - burned one impellor in our beginning days of owning the boat!
On the one hand, the engine does have a turbo (a hi-tech feature, I would argue), yet on the other, there is a total absence of electronics (which in my view classifies her as very lo-tech). The black box with electrics on the engine (see photo - top left-hand part of the engine) mainly houses a relay to stop the engine (there is no mechanical decompression as on the smaller VP engines I've owned). Like many older Volvo Pentas, our engine smokes. In fact, it smokes quite heavily if load is suddenly applied. This can be quite embarrassing when manoeuvering around in marinas, when you leave black deposits in the water... Yet compression tests on our engine show that she is OK. New injectors were installed just before we took ownership of the boat in 2016 and the valves are regularly and properly adjusted. Nevertheless, James Bond would be jealous of us when we suddenly open up the throttle and produce great wafts of black smoke to escape from pursuing foes. Oil consumption, however, remains moderate and is well within the tolerances for a 20-plus-year-old engine of this size and technology. Perhaps modern bio-diesel fuels also add to the smoking issue on these older engines that were designed for and relied on "greasier" fuels... Officially, the motor had done less than 1000 engine hours when we acquired the boat in 2016. With our sailing, we quite consistently average about 250-350 engine hours a year (both in European half-season sailing as in full-time live-aboard cruising). We suspect significant and enthusiastic under-reporting from the previous owner as the engine control panel had a new rev & hour counter. It's more probable that in reality she had done double that number before we got her... However, as these engines are supposed to last at least some 10,000 hours, there's still, in reality, lots of life left in her! Our local Volvo-Penta technicians (formerly Kant Marine in Nieuwpoort) gave her a clean bill of health after working several days on an extensive revision in June 2016, as has Van Swaay Yacht Service in Bruinisse who did another extended service on her in 2018/19.

As far as we have been able to ascertain, the following parts of the engine have been renewed in (very) recent years:

> Starter motor - 2014

> Turbo and exhaust elbow - 2014 and the elbow again in 2019

> Intercooler - 2014

> Injectors - 2015

> The engine's "electronics" (relays and ignition) - 2016

> Water pump, primary muffler and some of the exhaust hosing - 2018/secondary muffler in 2019

> The engine's control panel in the cockpit - 2018

> The engine control panel in the cockpit - 2018

> The engine's control wires - 2019

Working with this complex engine has been a new learning curve, as the "beast" is certainly a lot bigger and more intricate than anything we've had before. Because of the way we run the engine for instance (see below, our reasons for running with low revs), there is probably more coke build-up in the exhaust system than in most other engines. So we need to clean the exhaust elbow more regularly than other owners who run their engines at much higher revs would need to. We've certainly learned how to check on the cooling system, as we've experienced a frustrating "fail" here. But generally speaking, our Volvo-Penta, despite these provisos, is a reliable piece of kit, albeit on the noisy side, compared to modern marine engines. It always starts when you turn the key, which is my own main requirement. Furthermore, it can take a fair amount of punishment and still continue to work afterwards. And during our extensive cruising, we've had the engine running for 2-3 days at a time, which it does this without any problems!

The engine drives an, in our view very oversized, 4-blade Flexofold propeller which was retrofitted by the boat's second owner. Of course we don't know how he used the boat. But judging from our few conversations with him, we think that he didn't mind heavy power-motoring at speed. We, on the other hand, prefer very quiet motoring, and although we have been warned that we are coking up the engine exhaust and really need to run her at 2200 Revs on regular occasions, we tend to forget this. Running at such high revs is not something we relish or often do, but when we think of it, we will do do it from time to time... With a clean bottom, the boat happily reaches a comfortable cruising speed of up to 7 knots in calm seas at some 1250-1300 revs (and uses just over 5 litres of diesel per hour in the process). This gives the boat a theoretical motoring range of some 1050M in a calm sea. If you push the throttle as much forward as you can, the boat will accelerate to 8.5+ knots (useful for dodging freighters in TSSs or wayward fishermen). Noise levels are said to be reasonably moderate, even at full speed! But they do disappoint me as I was hoping for a much more silent boat... In any event, engine revs will not get beyond 2500rpm (the limiting effect of the big prop, we suspect). The engine was originally rated at 2700rpm max and 145HP; we've probably lost 10% of that over the years...

One advantage of the Flexofold design is that the folding mechanism seems better protected against sealife encrusting itself in the Batsystem gearing of the folding blades. This is a definite advantage in warmer tropical waters, where sealife develops with gay abandon after only a few days. We have managed to pick up a 5m piece of fishnet ( we were motoring off the Galician coast) so we are not totally immune to accidents at sea, unfortunately! As the photo shows, our propellor looked a sad sight when the boat was lifted after 15 months in tropical (yes that strange brown lump is indeed our propeller!!) waters. The Flexofold mechanism may be immune to crustacean sealife, but the rest of the propellor certainly was not. Nevertheless, the propeller continued to propel the boat as it should, with only a limited reduction in efficiency.

When testing the boat just before she came out of the water in September 2018, Van Swaay Yachtservice put on full power and we discovered that the PSS propeller-shaft seal leaked quite badly. Not that we'd ever noticed this as it didn't leak at the low power settings we tend to use. So the whole seal was replaced over the winter and a spare rubber housing of the seal kept as spare for our circumnavigation.

The HR system of having foot-buttons at the steering pedestal to operate the Sleipner Sidepower 10HP bowthruster is very convenient and allows for extremely simple berthing. The 10HP motor (rewired in 2015) also has a better, modern propeller, with little cavitation in the thruster tunnel which is very deep under the waterline. It is therefore very quiet compared for instance to our former HR43! The bowthruster is relatively effective at shifting the bow around. It is only in 15kt+ side-winds that a bigger motor would be useful! As the larger part of the house battery bank is situated next to the mast, the cable run to the bowthruster is relatively short. With no significant voltage drops, the bowthruster is, as just stated, quite effective (after all, it is only 10HP on an approx. 28 ton fully-laden vessel, compared to the 8HP thruster we had on our 15 ton fully-laden HR43).

The previous owner, Dr Bierhoff, also removed the three protection bars that Hallberg-Rassy fits to all its thruster tunnels. Apparently these absorb about 10% of the thrust generated by the bow propellers. He indicated that a heavier electric motor could be retro-fitted with no need for any modifications to the thruster set-up. So far on our circumnavigation, the bowthruster has always been more than adequate to help us move the boat around in tight corners, or to reverse into moorings between two other boats, when essentially the thruster's role is to point the bow in the right direction so that the whole keel acts as a "rudder" to keep the boat on track...

Rig and Sail-handling

When we acquired Ngahue IV, she was just under 21 years old. Much of the standing rigging was the original stuff, and our insurers, Admiral Insurance, rightly insisted that we replace all of it before leaving Kiel. As the previous owner had purchased new parts of furling mechanism from Reckmann Rigging, we turned to this reputable German company, whose Stefan Schwarz was very helpful to advise us on the replacement of all our standing rigging in Kiel while the boat was still at Knierim Yachts for storage. Ngahue IV is cutter rigged; her rig consists of:

> Seldén mast with hydraulic in-mast furling (new motor in 2017 - the old one was reconditioned by Seldén and is kept as a spare for the future)

> Reckmann hydraulic genoa furling (from 2009 - reconditioned in 2016)

> Reckmann mechanical cutter stay manual furling (from 2009 - reconditioned in 2016)

> Navtec hydraulic boom support/kicker and back stay tensioner (this is a separate manual hydraulic system and was fully reconditioned in 2018)

> Harken carbon spinnaker boom on track attached to the mast (shortened and put in a protective sleeve and with a leather patch where it could hit the shrouds)

All stays are rod rigging and all shrouds are st/st 1x19 wires of varying thicknesses - the two running back stays are Liros lines with 4:1 purchase Seldén blocks. The central hydraulic pump for the mainsail and genoa is a Lewmar Commander 20 unit, which Hallberg-Rassy installed in the forward heads. During the 2018-19 winter refit, we added a filter in the hydraulic return lines, which doubles the lifespan of the hydraulic oil in the system. If one looks closely at pictures of our cockpit, attentive readers will spot not the usual 4 winches, but 7 winches, ranging from huge and electric ST66s to a small manual ST40! The previous owner went to town to add two intermediate-sized mechanical Lewmar ST58 winches as well as a small Lewmar ST40 mechanical winch to service the mainsheet track. Although it is useful to have dedicated winches in all shapes and sizes for every conceivable sheet or line around the cockpit, this means that getting in and out of the cockpit requires lots of extra thought and dexterity because all usable walking space has been taken up by these extra winches! However, we did find that for downwind sailing, the extra 3 winches offered power for the boombrake, the foreguy and the preventer.

The previous owner had also invested quite heavily in a full set of carbon sails from the German sail-maker Stade. However, these would not survive very long in the tropics, so after lengthy discussions with Elvstrom Benelux, we decided on a whole set of new EPEX sails from them (pictured here during their first outing in the Belgian spring of 2017). In Guadeloupe we met up with the Danish HR48 North Star and compared notes regarding our EPEX sails. North Star's sails had actually started delaminating after 2,5 years and the owner had had a strong and decisive argument with Elvstrom head office (they had received their sails directly from the Elvstrom main office) before receiving a replacement set. So we have watched our sails more closely than we would normally do, because we felt that the pictures of our boat crossing the ARC finish line (our sails had been used for just 5500M then) also showed a set of "beginning-to-look-tired" sails... Most of the UV strip on the genoa is already falling off. And although we were told that these latest Elvstrom clothes didn't crease, our sails have been creased since their second use... Hmmm... When you think about the price of a new set of sails, this was disappointing! Both our befriended HR54 Mar-Jolie and we had another bad surprise with our EPEX sails (for Mar-Jolie it was the genoa and for us the main): when handling and holding on to the sails, they ripped! Definitely not an advertisement for Elvstrom EPEX quality at all! And perhaps a traditional set of Dacron, Dyneema or Gitter-Spectra sails would have been a better choice, as the Elvstrom representative in Guadeloupe suggested...

When preparing for our circumnavigation needs with Maxim van Pelt of Elvstrom Benelux in 2016, we decided that we would set off with only the following sails, which - predictably - mainly come from Elvstrom:

> An old but to date unused Elvstrom hydranet mainsail with 5 + 3 vertical battens (which was part of the boat's inventory - from 2004)

> A new Elvstrom EPEX mainsail with negative roach and no battens for failsafe furling in and out of the mast (2017)

> A new heavy orange coloured dacron Elvstrom trysail for use in storm conditions - it has its own track on the mast (2017)

> A carbon Code Zero from North Sails on its own furling mechanism, which came with the boat (2008)

> An old Elvstrom hydranet Genoa (date unknown) as well as a new EPEX Elvstrom Genoa (2017), the former coming with the boat

> An old Elvstrom hydranet cutter sail (date unknown) as well as a new EPEX Elvstrom cutter sail (2017)

> An old Elvstrom Gennaker with a sock & snuffer (date unknown), which also came with the boat

In effect this gives us two complete sets of sails, plus 2 down-wind sails (a Code Zero and a Gennaker) to play around with. The size and weight of the sails we have chosen to keep from the original inventory and those of the Elvstrom sails that we ordered are still such that a small crew of 2 not particularly strong people can (just about) handle them. We have been practising, controlling huge surfaces of rebellious sail cloth... On our first departure, we stayed away from our Code Zero and Gennaker. For our second departure, the gennaker will probably stay at home, and only the Code Zero will be hoisted (more or less permanently once we're into broad-reaching & downwind sailing conditions). We have had our carbon pole adapted and shortened by a foot so that it fits over the guardwires (and we don't have to take it out of its mast-fitting each time we go about). Being relatively "lazy" sailors, most of our sailing is done with the sails that are bent on at the beginning of the season and therefore available at the push of a furling or winch button...

When setting off again in 2019, we'll probably leave, as just said, the gennaker at home; this will create more space and easier access to the other sails in the forecabin. There's not much point in having lots of sails on board if you don't have easy access to them when you need them. Also we would have great difficulty bending some of them on even if we did have access to them, given our limitation in strength.

Ground tackle

On Ngahue IV we replaced the original 55kg CQR anchor by a more modern Vulcan anchor. This gives us a total of three anchors:

> A 55kg Vulcan anchor - on 70m 12mm calibrated chain, as main ground tackle (this Rocna-derivate is from 2017)

> A 55kg CQR anchor as reserve (this was the boat's original anchor and clearly dates back to 1995)

> A 15kg Rocna-like stainless steel anchor at the stern - it's attached to 8m calibrated chain and has an extra 56m anchorline line

During the winter refit of 2018-19, the whole bow fitting has been removed from the boat so that Van Swaay Yacht Service could beef it up and enhance its solidity. As we found in Guadeloupe when the whole fitting was destroyed, the HR bow-fitting is fine until exceptional forces are exerted on it; then it can quickly buckle and "open up" as pictured below.

Our anchor and chain weigh approx. 300kg and to drop this and raise it again, we rely on an old and trusted Lofrans Ocean windlass rated at 1500 watts. When we had it serviced in Guadeloupe in January 2018, the maintenance technician asked whether it had ever been serviced since 1995. Of course we had no answer to that question; I guess that anchoring wasn't a priority for the previous two owners...

For heavy weather situations and just before embarking on the ARC and our circumnavigation we ordered from Ocean Safety in Southampton a parasail anchor as recommended in the Pardeys' Storm tactics handbook (and apparently "unrecommended" by the US Coastguard). Even though it is not our intention to be sailing in waters where big storms would habitually form, it is nevertheless essential to be prepared for everything (see for more details on our Preparing for the ARC page).

Teak decks

Maintaining a beautiful teak deck remains as much a mystery to me today as 27 years ago when I took possession of my first HR. With time, though, I have learned what NOT to do. The decks on Ngahue (I) were initially washed and scrubbed with Starbrite teak cleaner and brightener, and the odd dose of teak oil, which looked lovely when applied and then turned dirty and patchy afterwards. When I sold the boat after 12 years, the surveyor strongly advised against this treatment and told me that I had been killing the wood with it, and pointed to one bad spot in the deck that needed expensive attention.

On Ngahue II and Ngahue III the decks were given the (strongly) suggested Boracol treatment and very little else, except the odd soft scrub with natural green soap containing linseed oil. Confusingly, instructions for using Boracol vary depending on who you talk to. They range from 'apply a thick coat with a brush once a season', to 'vaporise a thin & diluted coat several times a season'. The first approach seems to yield a more lasting result.
Boracol, which unfortunately has become more difficult to find these days (but it's still available), is deemed to be better for the longevity of the wood, and certainly a better approach than regular sanding of the decks, which seems to be a very popular approach in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany (as we discovered when acquiring Ngahue IV). Sanding the decks certainly leaves them looking a beautiful brown wooden colour. But of course you will have removed 0.5 to 1 mm of the 12mm or so of teak deck each time you do this. In our view this is a much too high price to pay for a deck that will look nice for a limited period only! Also, if this method is used too often, your deck gets thinner and thinner. Ngahue IV still has about up to 8mm wood left on the walking deck (as the Germans call it) and a good 10mm deck thickness on the coachroof. So we're definitely back to Boracol and green soap (with added linseed oil), applied with a soft brush. And perhaps the odd dose of teak oil to nourish our wood which is indeed of a venerable age. When tried out on the cockpit seat, the teak wood immediately showed a much deeper and honey-coulored aspect. We'll also give the aft coachroof such a treatment as we need to sand away the remains of a layer of brown varnish that was - once upon a time - applied to the whole top deck by one of the previous owners. It showed up in all its "splendour" when we replaced the old dorade deck ventilators by the new "Air Only" ventilators that HR fits these days. Thanks to the Air Only vents (see next chapter), the deck becomes a whole lot more usable as the stainless Vetus 'trumpets' from the previous owner were removed and don't get in the way anymore! Yessss! We can sit and lie on our aft coach room again...

Sailing in the tropics seems to have affected our decks relatively positively, as they look a lot "whiter" under the Caribbean sun than before... However, I do seem to be spending a lot more time replacing the dowels after each long(er) seapassage!!!

Ventilators and fans

As indicated before, we removed the (Vetus) air ventilators that Hallberg-Rassy installed originally and that the previous owner had further embellished by adding shiney chrome "horns" to vent as much air as possible into the boat. We decided we wanted to "upgrade" our deck and install the new generation of "Air Only" ventilators that the HR Yard fits these days. These are very good at keeping water out of the interior of the boat, so Leon Schulz of Regina Laska has assured us. But they are much less efficient in channeling air into the boat which is a pity in the topics. Air Only offers solutions for this, but they're not very pretty! In hot climates, we leave the windows open and just need to keep a sharp look-out for tropical showers that suddenly inundate the interior of the boat. The new ventilators don't have a "trumpet" to capture airflows, but rely on a bigger hole in the deck compared to the old Vetus ones. In short, in the tropics the "Air Only" ventilators are not particularly good, and we have noticed that several of ours have started to go creamy under the effects of the sun (the company said this had been a German chemicals company that got its forumulation wrong - we've been promised replacement parts). This actually wasn't a bad thing, as the coachroof of older Rassies is creamy coloured too - so the "Air Only" matched the coachroof. But when the replacements come, we will fit them! From what we've heard, the Air-Only ventilators are certainly watertight; so this did put an end to the persistent leaks we had around the foredeck Vetus ventilator (which had, it must be said, completely corroded over the years - a fact we only discovered this once I started removing the whole installation). Another advantage of the Air Only ventilators is that they do not trip you up on deck: you can walk on them and lie on or over them. So our decks have got a much less cluttered look over them these days! See photo of uncluttered foredeck...

Inside the boat, we have installed 5 Caframo ventilator fans: 3 in the saloon and 2 in the aft cabin plus an extra Hella fan in the engine room - it gets very hot there in the tropics. These operate at three speeds, the lowest of which is pretty inaudible. Speeds 2 & 3 progressively make more noise, but do shift more air-mass. As Ngahue IV is essentially a 24V boat, our units are all 24V - a pity in a way, as we had a couple of extra Hella fans still from Ngahue III - but those operate at 12V and so are no good to us any more… Usually, these large Rassies have air-conditioning on board, with up to 3 units cooling the aft cabin, the saloon and the forepeak. Such big airco units require a lot of energy (which is why you have a big generator on board, the Yard would say...). From what I read, you need either a very, very large battery bank, or a generator running to keep the air-conditioning going (or shorepower in the Caribbean). We're interested in none of these, and have therefore opted for the "poor man's airco": open windows with the Caframo ventilators to circulate whatever (cool) air comes into the boat. Experience in the Caribbean (up to 30°C with lots of humidity) is that this solution is pretty much OK actually... It only becomes really hot inside in 30°C+ and the sun beating on the boat all day long... But then, we went long-term sailing to escape the cold weather in Europe, no???

Davits and dinghy

At BOOT-2017 in Düsseldorf, we looked at and decided to order a set of Swedish Batsystem davits to be mounted on the stern of Ngahue IV. Most of the bigger Rassies have big and solid Lewmar (or Simpson Lawrence or Whittal) davits, mounted on special supports. These are indeed beautiful and impressive pieces of kit, often being electrically operated as well, and capable of lifting hundreds of kilos as a time. We had a set of Whittal davits on our HR43. And we saw several HR53s equipped with electric davits whilst searching for Ngahue IV. But these davits do require you to reinforce the transom and to cut into the capping rail - this is what the Yard in Sweden, or Nova Yachting in Bruinisse do when they install them with special support blocks. The main disadvantage, though, is that you place an enormous amount of weight at the very end of the boat as the davits on their own are already very heavy. Perhaps with the more modern Rassy designs, and their much longer waterlines (more boat in the water towards the stern), you can afford to have a lot of weight hanging over the stern without inducing any rocking-horse effects. With the more elegant HR53 shape, and her nice overhangs, it seems to me that you would be contributing towards such tendencies.

The Batsystem davits simply rest on their hinges that you bolt firmly to the transom and that's it. Two tackles and blocks which are attached to the davits at one end and to the pushpit at the other allow you to gently lift up the dinghy in the davits - it's a simple lever movement. It's marvelous simplicity! There is one aspect to take into account though, namely that Hallberg-Rassy makes its pushpits fairly lightly. This is important, because the Batsystem davits use the aft balcony to hoist the davits into the upright position, we knew that we would need to strengthen and rigidify ours. When Maricom installed our communication electronics, and notably the Iridium aerial on a Scanstrut pole on the aft deck (see elsewhere on this page) they proposed to make up two struts to stabilise and rigidify the pushpit. If you look closely at the left picture or our boat, you will see the Batsystem davits and the two struts that were bolted to the aft balcony so that it has become significantly more stable.

When we picked up an unmarked and submerged lobster pot in Guadeloupe and needed to launch the dinghy in slightly choppy waters to cut the line, the rocking movement of the boat put the dinghy in the water at the low end of the swinging movement, and then back up in the air the next moment. This jerking movement put so much stress on the aft balcony that despite the Maricom reinforcements the port and starboard balconies twisted out of shape. So we asked for additional struts to be made up and hold the pushpit in place from the other side (see picture on the right). Guadeloupe being French, we learned that these struts are called "bras de force" in French; a rather apt name. The result is that our balconies have become indeed VERY RIGID now. Let's hope that they are rigid enough for all our future needs.

But concluding, I don't personally think that Hallberg-Rassies are ideally suited for Batsystem davits, as they rely too much on a strong aft balcony, which isn't necessarily an HR strong point (the Yard provides lots of other positive things though, so this weak point comes as a bit of a surprise; but perhaps other brands are even worse...). We have investigated the possibility of upgrading to a set of heavy duty Lawrence Simpson davits, despite the fact that they spoil the aesthetic looks of the boat and are quite costly... As the right-hand picture also shows, the back of our boat looks like a dog's dinner anyway!! Perhaps we will make the jump in 2019 and install a set of Simpson Lawrence series 8 davits... With the "high" model, we believe the davits, even with our dinghy in them, won't interfere with the Watt & Sea water generator that you need to drop into the water at the back of the boat... That's another disadvantage we discovered with the Batsystem davits and our "retroussé" stern: it is VERY difficult to slither between the dinghy and the stern to get to the bathing platform... Then again, after some discussion with the Batsystem people at the 2019 BOOT Düsseldorf show, we can probably tweak our davits and continue with them.

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