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 REFIT — The Installation of OLOH’s Upgraded WESMAR Stabilizers

We upgraded OLOH’s hydraulic stabilizers by replacing the boat’s factory-installed 4.5 square foot fins with 7 square foot fins while replacing the system’s original electronic controls with new, state-of-the-art gear, all from WESMAR which manufactured the original stabilizer equipment that was installed on the boat when it was built.  After a few thousand nautical miles of cruising experience with OLOH we identified her stability in beam (from the side) and following (from behind) seas as something that could be improved upon to increase our enjoyment of the boat.  For a look at how stabilizers work and the different upgrade options we considered be sure to click here.

The Team

As we detailed in our story about the upgrade, we chose Yacht Equipment And Parts (YEP) in Fort Lauderdale to perform the work.  We got in touch with YEP’s Jim Monroe on the recommendation of WESMAR’s Florida rep and instantly felt confident that his team was who we wanted on this job.  We are pleased to report that our gut was right and Jim and YEP saw this project through from beginning to end with the highest level of professionalism and skill, all at what we felt was a very fair price.  Jim is extremely knowledgable with tons of experience and was always available to answer questions or offer suggestions.  He’s a fun guy who clearly loves what he does.

Jim put his awesome tech Ray on our job and Ray was a part of the OLOH family by the time the work was done.  He is a consummate pro who knows a lot about a lot and was able to methodically innovate when unexpected challenges arose and always kept the work moving forward.  He is kind and friendly and exactly the kind of guy you want working on your boat.  And Jasper likes him which we always point out as an important requirement for working on OLOH.  We can recommend YEP without hesitation.  Be sure to tell them OLOH sent you.

Scope Of Work

Here’s what needed to happen for our upgrade…

  • Install WESMAR’s DSP5000 system which replaces the existing gyro (the instrument that detects the roll of the boat), valve driver circuit board, main display/control at lower helm, fin position potentiometers, add a new interface circuit board and enclosure and all the required harnesses.  Install a remote control for the system at the bridge helm.
  • Remove existing fins from boat and replace with 7.5 square foot fins after cutting and re-fiberglassing as needed to fit OLOH properly.

The Installation

The first order of business was the electronics upgrade.  As this portion of the job can take place while the boat is in the water, Ray got this done over two days at our marina in advance of our haulout the following week when the fins would be installed.  Probably the biggest challenge of this part of the job was running power to the system.  Generally speaking, OLOH has very good access and pulling most wires is not an enormous challenge, but tapping into OLOH’s only 24-volt source took a bit of exploration to determine the proper path.  OLOH’s house DC system is 12 volts and the new system requires 24 volts.  The initial thought was that we would use a 24 volt to 12-volt converter but decided for forgo that extra layer and tapped into the battery bank for the boat’s 24-volt bow thruster.  I am normally of the mind that the bow thruster batteries should not power anything other than the thruster given that it’s a system you want as dependable as possible when you call for it, but I was assured that the power draw for the stabilizer system is so minimal that it would have no impact.  The batteries power only the electronic end of the system, not the movement of the stabilizers themselves which are hydraulic.  Also, we are always running our generator while underway so our batteries are always being charged as needed.

Measure twice, cut once. Ray prepares to cut the helm panel to install the new control/display.

And… it’s in.

A perfect fit and complement to OLOH’s helm.

The new 3 axis gyro is mounted in a cabinet forward of OLOH’s lower helm along with the electronic interface circuitry.

The panel with the new valve driver circuitry replaced a similar box in the starboard engine room right next to the system’s hydraulic reservoir tank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had initially considered putting a second full control panel at the bridge helm but it was hard to justify the added expense.  Very seldom do you need to make any adjustments to the system and should we ever need to while running from up top, one of us can easily go to the pilothouse to do whatever’s needed.  If things are particularly rough we tend not to run from the bridge anyway.  We did replace the existing remote at the bridge helm which at least allows us to engage or deactivate the stabilizers.

These are the controls at OLOH’s bridge helm. The original stabilizer control is on the left. Just getting those rusty screws out of there was worth the upgrade 😄

Next stop, Marina Mile Yachting Center for our haulout.  We scheduled the fin upgrade to coincide with other work we were having done in the yard including fresh bottom paint.

As soon as OLOH was hauled, Ray was on site to drop the old fins and temporarily install the new ones so measurements could be taken for the fiberglass work.  Boats have chines which are sharp changes to the angle of the hull.  Very often in fin installations, the fins have to be cut so they can move unencumbered by chines.  What made this part of the job relatively straight forward is the fact that the shaft size of the new fins and old fins is exactly the same making it essentially plug and play.

Ray checks the angle of the modifications on the old 4.5 square foot fin.

Back in the shop, this is one of the fins after the necessary fiberglass was cut away. There is a steel plate welded to the shaft inside the fins.

The exposed fiberglass from the cut is sealed before extra layers are added.

One fin cut to the required size, the next one ready for the knife.

After the fiberglass work is complete the fins are sanded and primed with the tops getting bottom paint as it is difficult to access that area once the fins are installed.

Size matters.  The new 7.5 square foot fin next to its predecessor.

The new fin is in, supported by a jack stand while it’s secured from inside OLOH.

Installed, painted and ready to (stop) roll!

When it was time to splash OLOH, Ray was onboard to check for leaks or anything abnormal.  Fortunately, everything was exactly as it was supposed to be.

Tim gives the thumbs-up as OLOH gets wet again after the completion of a highly anticipated project.

Every project has its challenges and you never know what you’re going to encounter along the way, but Ray tackled the unexpected with aplomb and nothing kept the work from moving forward.

The Sea Trial

The last step in the process was the sea trial.  Separate from making sure everything was working as it should, it was an opportunity for Ray to “dial-in” the system so it is optimized for our boat and train us on how everything works.  The system requires very little interaction and the controls are very intuitive, but having Ray go through it with us in real-world circumstances was extremely helpful.  Jim was also along for the ride and eager to see our reaction to the anticipated improvement in the boat’s performance.  Our close friend, yacht captain and superyacht broker Andre Bouse also joined us for the fun.

On the overcast morning of our sea trial, the wind was blowing to 15 knots from the northeast which made for sporty conditions in and just outside of the Port Everglades Inlet in Fort Lauderdale.  While the ocean conditions were the kind we generally avoid, it was a good day to see just what the system was capable of and, perhaps more importantly, if this upgrade really accomplished what we had hoped it would.  Bottom line –  it was impressive and an enormous improvement.  We put OLOH through its paces in ways we don’t ordinarily run the boat in order to really push the limits of the stabilizers and it was immediately apparent that the game had changed.  Big beam seas, tall following seas at a variety of speeds – we could hardly get a roll out of the boat.  Admittedly I was so focused on my responsibilities at the helm and adjusting our speeds and heading so Ray could fine-tune a few adjustments that I was unable to really take it all in.  But the crew was satisfied and I was happy to run us back into Port Everglades and the calmer waters of the Intracoastal when the work and evaluation were complete.

Over the course of around 25 minutes, we gave it everything we could within reason given the conditions. Very choppy through the inlet and up to 3 – 4 footers in a confused sea just outside in the Atlantic. Not conditions we like to boat in but good for a stabilizer sea trial. The biggest frustration was getting our freshly detailed baby so salty so quickly!

Returning to the relative calm of Port Everglades inlet after a successful sea trial.

Sea Trial Satisfaction after a job well done.  From left, Admiral Tim, Jim, and Ray from YEP, Captain A.J.

Our real-world sea trial would come a few days later when we were running offshore between Miami and Marathon.  Most of this 98 nautical mile run is in the relatively protected Hawk Channel and the forecast was for a light chop but that turned into unanticipated swells on our beam of up to around four feet, conditions which would have ordinarily turned OLOH into a giant pendulum with our old stabilizers.  We were thrilled when it occurred to us that while the conditions were less than pleasant, OLOH was maintaining its proper level and staying STABLE through it all.  Wooohooo!  Victory.  We knew then and there that this was one of the single greatest upgrades we’ve made and, at least in this instance, the improvement seemed to be everything we hoped it would be and perhaps even more.  When we’re cruising, nothing is more important than the safety and comfort of those aboard and our stabilizer upgrade was a giant leap towards that end.

Have questions or comments?  Please feel free to contact us.

 

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