The Birth of Ocean Watch

Before the Around the Americas crew set sail, a liveaboard cruising boat was transformed into their expedition-style workboat. "Hands-On Sailor" from our April 2010 issue

May 4, 2010

OW refit 368

Ocean Watch overhaul The 64-foot steel sloop formerly called Danzante III needed some major work before the expedition. Here¿s a short list of what was repaired and replaced: Engine and generator, Plumbing, Wiring, Electronics, Systems, Sails David Logan

On the delivery from Mexico to Seattle in the spring of 2008, it quickly became apparent that the 64-foot steel yacht that had spent the previous decade as a liveaboard cruiser on the Golfo de California was going to need a serious refit before it would be able to commence a 25,000-nautical-mile voyage Around the Americas ( via the Northwest Passage and Cape Horn.

Skipper Mark Schrader and first mate Dave Logan were sure they’d discovered a strong platform for the journey, but they also knew that almost all of the systems, plumbing, wiring, and electronics-as well as the auxiliary engine and generator-were in need of an upgrade or replacement. The goal wasn’t to turn Danzante III into a better all-around cruising boat but to transform the yacht into a sturdy, expedition-style workboat called Ocean Watch that would perform well in high-latitude, ice-strewn waters.

Mate Logan served as project manager for the refit, ably assisted by Schrader, foreman Paul LaRussa, and boat captain Andy Gregory. The work was conducted at the Seaview East Boatyard in Ballard, a neighborhood in the northwest part of Seattle where the project received support and assistance from a host of Ballard tradesmen and craftsmen, many of whom generously donated their time and materials. In fact, the crew came to see Ocean Watch as “the boat that Ballard built.” The philosophy behind the project was to employ sustainable resources and to source products from American companies, particularly local vendors, whenever possible.


The refit team learned several lessons that would be useful for any cruiser overhauling an older boat for extensive voyaging, particularly to the higher latitudes. First, inspect or replace everything beforehand. Second, strive to build in redundant systems while keeping them as simple as possible. And lastly, remember that you’ll have to repair everything yourself in the middle of nowhere and that harsh, extreme climates will inflict quicker and greater damage and wear and tear. Be prepared.

With the Ocean Watch refit, the single biggest job was repowering the boat and replacing the auxiliary engine. A new Lugger Marine 135-horsepower engine took the place of the old diesel, and a new 12.5-kilowatt Northern Lights generator was installed to help power and charge Ocean Watch’s banks of computers, scientific instruments, and batteries.

Based on a John Deere tractor engine, the continuous-duty, fully electronic Lugger constantly meters the fuel, exhaust, and cooling and adjusts each accordingly for optimal fuel economy and efficiency. Luggers are a staple of the Ballard fishing fleet, where they’re considered the absolute Cadillac of working engines. The term “constant or continuous duty” means that the engine can run all day, every day, at 135 horsepower, though in practice, the engine is employed at roughly 45 percent to 50 percent of its capacity. That means the engine can be operated at lower rpm than a normal sailboat auxiliary, which translates to better fuel economy over the long haul. In the Arctic, the engine was regularly run at 1,300 to 1,400 rpm, producing speeds of 7 to 8 knots.


For optimal performance, the engine must work in tandem with the propeller, and Ocean Watch carries two. In the Arctic, the crew utilized a 24- by 19-inch three-bladed fixed prop; once free of the ice, they switched to a 24- by 20-inch Max-Prop feathering prop.

Both the new engine and genset were larger than the previous units, requiring both a bit of minor surgery on the engine room before installation and the fabrication of a few special tools, such as angle-iron skidways and overhead gantries, to set the power plants in place. Related gear also had to be upsized to accommodate them, including a circuitous exhaust system that took two weeks to engineer and install. Simultaneously, the five fuel tanks were polished and new engine mounts were fabricated.

Once the Lugger was in, everything else could start coming out, including roughly 300 pounds of wire. A systems-rich boat like Ocean Watch is a complicated machine, particularly with regard to electrical systems and outputs. The team spent a lot of time drawing maps and schematics of how things could and should work. Gear that could be salvaged was integrated with new systems, breakers, pumps, and circuits in the simplest way possible so it would be easy to understand and operate once the voyage was under way.


The power for these systems is supplied by three banks of absorbed glass mat batteries that have a storage capacity of around 1,700 amp-hours; about half of this is available as 110-volt electricity through the inverter. The batteries are charged via four systems: the Northern Lights genset, the main engine alternator, shore power (when possible, via the inverter’s charging circuit), and four 80-watt solar panels. A trio of automatic charging relays adjusts the charging rates to bring all three banks up equally.

In addition, an entirely new circuit-breaker panel and system was designed and implemented, with a new panel door. The inverter was replaced before the delivery north from Mexico, as the old one was deemed underpowered and unreliable. The batteries and all the high-draw motors on the boat-for the electric winch, the bilge pumps, the high-pressure watermaker pump, and the water-pressure pump-are all now fused either ahead of the breaker panel or in addition to the panel, to create “double” protection.

The largest single plumbing project was the addition of an industrial-strength Village Marine reverse-osmosis watermaker. The refit team also added some 1,000 to 1,200 feet of new hose of varying diameters, along with roughly 800 to 900 new hose clamps. Roughly a mile of new wire also came aboard.


Installing all that wire and hose meant gutting the interior of the boat. In its previous incarnation, Ocean Watch had been set up for two cruising couples, with a double bunk forward and another aft. The refit team replaced those with three single bunks aft and four forward for expedition-style crews. A durable cork floor replaced the old indoor/outdoor carpeting. Cork is a renewable material that’s installed with a water-based glue and finished with a nontoxic green product called Osmo, which was also used on the interior woodwork.

With the boat bound for the high latitudes, a reliable heating system was a necessity. An 80,000-Btu Webasto central-heating system from Sure Marine was the answer. It’s a boiler system that heats hot water that’s circulated throughout the boat in PEX tubing, which runs to radiators in several compartments of the boat; each radiator is controlled by an individual thermostat. The system also heats the domestic hot water and the engine block, in essence keeping the core of the boat continuously warm.

The galley was equipped with a new three-burner stove and oven. The propane tanks were rebuilt and recertified, and a new propane system was implemented with new “bilge sniffers” and alarms. In addition, the entire refrigeration system and the deep freezers were overhauled and rebuilt.

For electronics, Ocean Watch received a state-of-the-art integrated system from Raymarine that includes an autopilot (which engineer LaRussa was able to mesh with the boat’s existing hydraulic systems), a navigation package (with a chart plotter, depth sounder, fish-finder, and radar), and an array of wind instruments.

Additionally, the boat is equipped with Admiralty Marine’s Nobeltec electronic charts, from Jeppesen Marine, that are installed on two computers. All computers are protected by the new pure sine wave Magnum Energy inverter.

On the original delivery north to Seattle, the crew discovered that Danzante III not only performed poorly under power but also struggled under sail due to a 20-year-old in-mast mainsail furling system and a tired sail inventory.

Because the cost of an entire new mast and rigging was prohibitively expensive, the idea was to change the existing rig from one with a furling main to one with a conventional main, complete with its own dedicated track. First, the 78-foot rig, which weighed 1,700 pounds, was removed from the vessel. Next, the standing rigging was stripped and replaced. Then, with the assistance of Euro Marine Trading/Antal Marine, a new extrusion-complete with the hardware and fittings for a traditional main, including the corresponding full-batten cars and track-was fitted and bolted onto the original spar, with a few reinforcing tabs strategically placed in the mast.

The mast was also completely rewired, including a wiring array to accommodate the 25-pound meteorological package affixed to the masthead. The running lights and radio antennas were all replaced, as was all the running rigging. New winches for the mast were added, along with new rope clutches and hardware. When the mast was restepped, Ocean Watch sported a new cutter rig with a modern mainsail employing three slab reef points, outhaul, topping lift, and downhauls.

For the new sail inventory, Carol Hasse and her talented team of sailmakers from Port Townsend Sails crafted a 2,300-square-foot sail plan that includes the mainsail (with an extremely deep third reef, negating the need for a dedicated storm trysail), a working 115-percent roller-furling jib/yankee that can be reefed down to about 85 percent or 90 percent, a working staysail rated up to 30 to 35 knots of apparent wind, and a storm staysail. A nifty cruising gennaker from North Sails, festooned with the map of the Americas, rounds out the package.

To handle it all, the deck layout was completely revamped. Several new Lewmar winches (along with new Lewmar deck hatches) were installed, and the old winches were reserviced and upgraded to accept modern Spectra line. The main halyard and all the reef lines were led aft to the cockpit, where they could be controlled easily with a new electric winch and a console of clutches. A 10-man Winslow life raft was mounted just forward of the cockpit.

Finally, all new lifelines were added, the anchor roller was rebuilt and the anchor windlass rewired with new switches and relays, the stern antenna arch was modified to ease handling of the hard-bottomed inflatable dinghy and davits were added for convenience when in port or on coastal hops, and the cockpit enclosure was rebuilt to provide complete protection in cold climates and shade in tropical locales. The team at Seaview East Boatyard blasted the underbody back to bare metal, added a barrier coat of epoxy, primed it, then applied coats of Sealife bottom paint.

With the voyage Around the Americas now well past the halfway point, and with no significant breakdowns after 16,000 nautical miles, including a successful trip through the Northwest Passage, the crew of Ocean Watch considers the refit a solid success, one that’s provided them with the right tool for the job.

+ High-Latitude refit Tips
• Inspect or replace everything beforehand.
• Build in redundant systems and keep them as simple as possible.
• Be prepared to repair everything yourself in the middle of nowhere because harsh, extreme climates can inflict significant damage
and wear and tear.

Dave Logan, a cabinetmaker and lifelong sailor, and Herb McCormick, a CW editor at large, are two of the permanent four-man crew (along with skipper Mark Schrader and photographer David Thoreson) aboard Ocean Watch for the Around the Americas expedition.

Partners and Supporters of Around the Americas
Marine-industry and communication partners of the Around the Americas expedition include Euro Marine Trading/Antal Marine Equipment/Lopo Light (, Fisheries Supply Company (, Iridium (, Northern Lights/Lugger Marine (, Raymarine (, Samson Rope (, Seaview Boatyard (, Stratos Satellite Communications (, Sure Marine Service (, and Winslow LifeRaft (

In-kind supporters of the expedition include Bainbridge Sailcloth (, Blue Sea Systems (, Chihuly Glass (, Freeborn Concepts (, Hatton Marine (, Helly Hansen (, iBoatTrack (, International SeaKeepers Society (, Jeppesen Marine (, Lewmar (, Logan Services, Miller & Miller Marine, Navionics (, Northwest Rigging (, O’Mega Graphics (, Outdoor Research (, Pacific Maritime Institute (, Pinnacle Painting (, Port Townsend Sails (, Remote Satellite Systems (, Scanmar International (, SSI Shredding Systems (, Swedish Hospital-Ballard (, Vi Reno, Reno Law Marine Attorney (, and Warren Light Craft
( H.M.


More How To