MV Seaquel: The Boat

Cruising the net one day in September 2010, I happened on the website of Cooper Salvage, in Connecticut. The site’s landing page featured the image of a Tiara Sovran 4300 that, up on blocks, looked quite the worse for wear. I made some inquiries and discovered that she was a new boat, built at the end of 2009, and delivered to a dealer on Staten Island, but never commissioned. She had bashed her stern against a bulkhead repeatedly during a winter storm at a dock. The platform was holed. Water entered the engine room and she sank.

After making a few inquiries and discussing the matter with a friend at Coastal Carolina Yacht Sales, together, we called the Tiara factory in Holland, Michigan. Tiara made us a simple deal we couldn’t refuse, contingent upon us transporting the boat to Holland. They would examine the feasibility of rebuilding the boat from scratch. We agreed that, if she could be rebuilt, any part except the hull and hull fittings that had been immersed would be replaced as new. Game on!

The wreck arrived in Holland in late December 2010 and soon after the holiday break the craftsmen at Tiara went to work under the guidance of their able leader, Evan Dufendach. In mid-January, I got the call that the boat could be fully restored as new. I paid her a visit at the factory in mid February 2011, after another brutal north country blizzard. They had completely disassembled the hull and deckhouse and removed all of the mechanicals, electronics, wiring, plumbing, and interior. The hull’s integrity was breached in only one place, the stern platform. The rest of the damage was mostly cosmetic—extensive dock rash along the port side.

The Sovran 4300 has a unique feature that I found attractive but proved her nemesis. The platform is part of the hull and provides significant stern flotation—as opposed to a bolted on platform. The platform took the hit and broke in the middle of the after edge letting water into the engine room. Secondary stringers inside the platform had splintered and cracks appeared where the platform joined the vertical transom. I called for an independent marine surveyor who examined the boat and determined that the cracks did not penetrate the transom. Moreover, the framing and bilge strakes were all intact and firmly bonded to the transom.

Tiara’s expert shipwrights found the boat’s original mold and built a new platform. Quite unceremoniously they cut off the old platform with a handheld reciprocating saw. A newly fashioned and stouter platform was bolted and fiberglassed into place with new stringers and new decking. Dufendach found that they could rebuild the interior with the new design of the Sovran 4500. While the interior was being assembled on a platform elsewhere, craftsmen worked the hull inside and out. New wiring harnesses and plumbing were installed. The latest iteration of 435-hp Volvo diesels were lowered into place and attached to IPS 600 drives. The deck and deckhouse were bolted to the hull after extensive renovation. A new console was outfitted with twin Garmin touch screen displays, autopilot, open array high definition radar, sonar, Volvo electronic monitoring, AIS transponder system, and a joystick. The helm station features an ergonomic Stidd chair adjustable to a person of any size.

We added Volvo ACP, the active corrosion protection system, instead of the standard Volvo transom zinc system. "Corrosion protection" shows up on the Volvo computer display at the console as good, limited, or none, depending on whether the boat is in salt, brackish, or fresh water. The system is well balanced to the IPS hub zincs and requires the use of Volvo-branded hub zincs due to their proprietary composition. ACP is critical to the integrity of the intermediate seals in the pods.

Reworked as Second Chance she went out the factory door on April 4, 2011. She was offloaded at Ross Marine on Johns Island, South Carolina, a week later. We took delivery on April 15, 2011, and spent the next several weeks commissioning. Rebirth as Seaquel is not the whole story. The new name has a foundering “a” in it, as in Seaquel, signifying her ignominious beginnings. However, in the U.S. registry of vessels she appears as Sequel.

For the next three months we ran the boat hard. Up and down the coast, we traveled trying to ferret out quirks and found that she performed admirably out-of-the-box. The engines are very quiet. Fuel consumption is quite efficient and easily 40 percent less than our last twin gasoline inboards running a boat weighing 12,000 pounds less. At canal and waterway speeds (7 to 10 knots), we consume less than 5 gallons per hour depending on wind and current. We can run the generator all night without vibration and only a whisper of sound.

There were a few small items that had to be addressed. For example, the fuel level transducer was faulty; replacement and recalibration were simple tasks. A VHF transmission problem was attributed to a bad antenna connection in the roof. A fitting on the platform broke loose because it wasn’t through-bolted, again easily fixed. An ignition switch is cranky and may need to be swapped out. I have a gremlin in the navionics that likes to cut off signal from the sonar and radar. I have found a broken connector from the sonar transducer that may be the culprit. In this case, the remedy is to replace the transducer module. That is not a simple task.

I performed the first 50-hour service with a Volvo mechanic looking on. The oil changer pumps are in easy reach as are the fuel, oil, and raw water filters. The charge air cooler sacrificial anode is out in plain sight. The intercooler zinc is another story altogether. It is hidden behind a cowling that covers the serpentine belt. The cover's removal is time consuming, especially on the starboard engine because of the proximity of the generator soundproofing. I left knuckle skin on boat parts taking down the cowling. Servicing the generator is a little tight, also. The filter is tucked away and the zinc can only be reached through a hole in the starboard side of the enclosure. The air handling raw water system was a bit balky, too. In our water, marine growth intrusion plugs the raw water filter. The way the plumbing is configured opening the strainer causes the system to lose prime. The only way to re-prime is to take apart the plumbing at the pump and fill the system using a turkey baster. I remedied the problem by putting a ball valve between the pump and the strainer.

There is plenty of creature comfort to go around. The full galley is nicely laid out with plenty of refrigerator and storage space. Every cabin has ample storage. A combo washer–dryer is tucked away under a desk in the main salon. The master stateroom features an island queen bed and a full head. The twin accommodation aft stateroom is closed off, too, and has its own full head that doubles as the day head. There are wash downs at the bow and stern. The anchor is easy to deploy and retrieve. The all chain rode is an advantage because the bite from wildcat and capstan does not allow slippage but one must be careful that the winch clutch is tight and the riding pawl and preventer are set. The consequences of not taking care of the latter details is accidental deployment underway.

We are quite pleased with this boat. She is easy to handle in and out of tight marinas. We don’t get beaten up in a seaway. It should take us around The Loop handily. We have since added a nifty roll-on St. Croix davit and a RIB. The hard-bottom RIB is easy to deploy and run up on the davit.