ARGO’s Commissioning

We are now in Stuart, Florida commissioning our new boat. Its name will be ARGO. Argo was the name of the man who built the warship used in the search for the Golden Fleece by Jason and the Argonauts. We named our last boat Odyssey, both because of its Homeric origin and because of its contemporary meaning. ARGO seems attractive to us because of its poetic relationship to Odyssey and because it is a simple and easily understood name, which is important when calling officials over the radio, particularly in foreign ports of call.

Our yacht arrived in West Palm Beach on October 4th. Early that morning, Rebecca and I joined John, Rob and Chris of Nordhavn’s South East office in packing up a limousine with fenders, lines and other equipment needed to bring ARGO back to Stuart. We got to the Port of WPB about 11AM and began checking in with officials of The Department Homeland Security (DHS). All ports in the U.S. are under the security control of the DHS. Entry to the port requires a pass issued by DHS at the port entry gate where they take special photos; contact the shipping company carrying the visitor’s cargo and make arrangements for an escort from the shipping company to take visitors to the dock. ARGO’s trip from Taiwan, together with fifteen other yachts took 31 days. The DHS guard suggested that we wait for the ship to clear customs at the tikki bar located a mile or so away. After an hour or two we received a phone call instructing us to return to the gate, present our passes and meet our escort who then took us to the pier. Once there, we waited another hour in the hot sun before we were allowed on the ship to see ARGO and prepare her for self-propulsion after being offloaded. The transport ship’s name was Dajhacht and its deck was a dangerous place to be; its crew kept a close watch on us. With about 15 yachts on deck, all of which were tied down with hundreds of yellow tension lines, it was difficult to move about or get onboard ARGO, and it was hot. Once John and Chris dragged all the equipment onto Dajhacht’s deck, then up a fifteen foot ladder to ARGO’s deck, they set the fenders and lines, went inside to turn on the battery bank and make sure the boat was set up so that the main engine could be started once it was launched. After things were all set, we were taken by the shipping company back to the tikki bar and picked up by a harbor taxi that took us to the starboard side of Dajhacht where we waited for ARGO to be off-loaded. After fifteen or twenty minutes she started to move and soon was swung slowly over the side and gradually touched down into Atlantic waters. Within in a few minutes we were onboard of the new, beautiful yacht that we had spent the last two years planning, building, and waiting for.

By the time we got ARGO underway it was about 7PM. We made our way out of WPB harbor and headed north to Stuart as the sun was setting. The trip took about 4 hours; the seas were calm, but the yacht was difficult to steer manually as there was no auto pilot or other electronic aids to navigation. We had to keep our eyes peeled for small fishing boats, especially as it became darker. Steering the boat was a battle because ARGO had little fuel in its tanks and, with 600ft of chain and a 300lb anchor in the bow, she swung from one side to the other all the way home. It was a very warm and humid evening, there was no place to sit down as no chairs had yet been installed, and wrestling the wheel from side to side to keep the boat on course was laborious indeed. We made Port St. Lucie inlet about 10:30PM. High tide was 4 hours away and the channel had only a foot of water under our keel in some places. John was at the helm, as the boat had not yet been transferred to us. We were all tense and on high alert to watch for telltale markers that would guide John over the shallows and to the Nordhavn dock in Stuart. We tied her up at 11:30 PM.

The Nordhavn crew was at work bright and early the next morning. Their first task was to inventory the boat, as the salon was stuffed with boxes and supplies to be used to commission the boat. At least half the boxes were specifically electronic parts needed to finish the installation, like antennas (one was an 8ft radar array) and connectors. There was a large mast to which many of the antennas are mounted that required a crane to hoist it in place. The interior of the yacht was covered in cardboard to protect the wood and granite, and more was needed as the boat would soon become a construction site. Before long about a dozen people were working away on ARGO. Two people were cleaning the dirt and salt residue from its exterior; others were checking everything from the functioning of the generators and engines to the hydraulic pressure. Everything was checked; for example, one technician checked every connection on the buss panels (there are three of them) to be sure that every nut had a lock washer, that each was tightened properly, and that the gauge of wire used at each breaker was as called for in the specifications.

As an example of what goes on during commissioning consider for a moment the virtual certainty that the boat will operate in both an American and European electrical environment. About half of the countries in the world use the European model of 220V/50 Hz rather than the U.S. standard of 240V/60Hz. Each system has its own set of shore plugs, so for a boat like ours that intends to do extensive cruising, being certain that the yacht can handle either system is very important. Plugging a 60HZ boat into a 50HZ environment can result in extensive and expensive damage. Of course there are complex systems that can be installed on the boat to make the conversion semi-automatic, but they are expensive, subject to failure, and consume a lot of power by themselves. One of the technicians working on the boat realized that the system that was installed on ARGO was not “fail safe”. In practice, I could inadvertently mix the two systems, resulting in a serious problem. He created a work – around requiring rewiring of one of the systems and the addition of a separate 50HZ shore plug, rather than a pig tail add-on to an American plug. 

Once all the adjustments and alterations have been made, and after all the electronic gadgets are in working order, Nordhavn sends the documentation specialist aboard who rechecks everything and creates an owner’s manual complete with pictures and blueprints of the entire yacht.

At this point we are about half way through the process. Our interior designer has been aboard and is now in the process of making soft goods for the boat. All the furniture is made and awaiting installation. Next week the carpet man will come and cut carpet and ready it for binding. We have had a carpenter onboard who will make dish and glass holders so they will be secure at sea. Our electronics team has installed a lot of the equipment that we ordered, but they will need about ten days more to complete the installation and test everything. The tender has been put onboard, but chocks will have to be custom made to hold it in place. This could be finished next week. And of course the canvass maker has been on board and is in the process of making covers for windows, tender and everything else on the outside of the boat that we want to keep protected. Lastly, reality intruded a little bit last week when we “filled her up”. We now have about 3,200 gallons of fuel on board. As far as getting underway is concerned, we hope to be finished and take her for a sea trial by late November.

We have posted new pictures under the title ARGO COMMISSIONING on the index.

We are delighted with the boat. It is everything we had hoped for. It is erfect for us and we marvel every day at the artistry, craftsmanship and engineering knowhow that has been invested in this yacht. We feel so fortunate and lucky to have this wonderful opportunity to see the world and share it with our family and friends.



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