New member, many questions-

Use this area to discuss general matters and issues relating to the Nicholson 31.

New member, many questions-

Postby hertfordnc » 24 Oct 2007, 21:05


I am very glad to finally be able to participate in this forum I have lots of questions.

I am the new owner of hull #15.

I plan to sail her 150 miles this weekend from her berth in Rock Hall, MD to my home in Elizabeth City, NC.
I've spent very little time on the boat so far and I suppose some of my questions will get answered when I get underway and have a chance to look around.


What's unique about the earlier hulls? I've read about some changes during the production run.

Where is the water pump located? I need to figure out why I don't have pressurized water and that's the place to start.

What engine did it come with? I am pretty sure I have a Yanmar 3QM30 but I see some references to a 2QM20.


I'm sure there will be a lot more questions after this weekend.


Crew Member
Posts: 195
Joined: 19 Nov 2004, 07:58
Location: Newton Centre (Boston), Massachusetts, USA

Welcome Dave

Postby blueprintbill » 26 Oct 2007, 06:14

It looks like you have a real project on your hands. I look at the photos attached and I have questions / suggestions about almost every one.
I don't know which engine you have, but it sure looks like it's the original. My boat (hull 113) has a Yanmar 3GMF and it has been flawless - so far !
My fresh water pump is located under the galley sink locker ajacent to the hull, accessed from either the panel in that locker or from a panel in the port side trotter box.
If you would like to talk, Questions etc. call me in Newton MA.
Bill Roesner
CN 31-113


Postby SailingCirce » 29 Oct 2007, 22:23


That's a 2QM20 based on the photo. It looks just like mine although yours is a bit on the rusty side. Oil that hand crank chain before you head to Eliz City. I live in NC, have owned a Nic 31 for 20 years and have been/done lots of stuff with her. Post a phone number and I can call you this week. I'm flying back to my boat soon. It''s on the hard in the Caribbean.

Also, I don't think you have pressurised water in the head; that's a hand pump.



about that hand crank

Postby hertfordnc » 30 Oct 2007, 12:38

After a really long search I finally found the hand crank all rusted under a locker. It's probably been there since the Carter administration.

So just for fun I took a stab at hand starting the motor. I had a freind throw the compression lever. No luck.

How hard is it to hand start that motor? It would be nice to be able to.


Hand cranking

Postby SailingCirce » 30 Oct 2007, 22:02


You can start the engine with the hand crank ( assuming you've oiled that rusty chain). The sequence is this: using the compression release lever, release the compression by pushing it towards the back of the engine. This will allow you to use the hand crank to get the engine spinning pretty fast ( maybe 10-15 full, hard turns of the handle). Then pull the compression lever forward while still cranking. It should start. It is helpful to have someone else pull that compression lever forward so you can use both hands to crank the engine.



Hand starting part 2

Postby SailingCirce » 30 Oct 2007, 22:06

If your battery is too low to start the engine and you can't turn it fast enough with the hand crank, there is an alternate method that has worked for me.
1. Release the compression
2. Turn the engine over with the starter. Often a low battery can't turn it over against the compression but can if compression is released.
3. Engage the compression release.
4. Engine starts



Postby hertfordnc » 31 Oct 2007, 12:40

Yes, I used all of those techniques. opening the compression lever for a low battery start etc,

When I tried to hand start the engine we were sitting at anchor resting from a long hard night so the motivation wasn't really there, it was just an experiment. But you've confirmed that it is humanly possible so I know I can do it in a pinch

Meanwhile; there is a black rubberized toggle switch by the companionway, above the cabin light switch, any idea what it goes to?



Toggle switch

Postby SailingCirce » 31 Oct 2007, 16:53

I don't have a clue. It could be something from either original installation on your boat or afterwards by different owners. I don't have that switch.

I don't practice hand cranking but I have done it successfully a few times when necessary. Did you make it back to NC without any problems?



Postby hertfordnc » 31 Oct 2007, 18:40

I didn't make it back to NC but it was a good trip and I'm satisfied with the results. I sent this to the previous owner as he is interested in how I make out with the boat;


I thought you might enjoy hearing an update on Puffin.

Thursday night we made our second attempt to bring her down. The first was scuttled the previous weekend when a crewmember (the one with the most Chesapeake-specific navigation experience) was overcome by a stomach virus. We were all in Rock Hall with the boat ready to go and had to drive the rental car back to NC.

But this past Friday morning we were set to go. There were a few more little kinks to work out and we got underway around 1100 with just myself and one other person.

We decided to motor the 12 miles or so to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge before raising any sails.

After clearing the bridge we sailed wing on wing for a few hours before the wind shifted to northeast and intensified.

Right about here is where I determined the alternator had failed. In our test the previous week it had charged the batteries very quickly but now power was falling and the engine was no help.

We determined the one battery still had enough power to restart the engine and the other was only good to sustain the instruments for as long as it could.

The wind continued to build but now we were well into the long legs of the Chesapeake and the boat was handling the conditions so magnificently and the visibility could not get much worse, we felt nothing would be gained by stopping.

We pressed on and the wind increased. I wish I knew just how much but the wind speed indicator appears to have been damaged (by the yard). Subsequent conversations with locals suggest the wind was as high as 25 knots.

No matter, Puffin sliced through the 3-5 foot seas as if she were on rails. I lashed a camp stove to the boats gimbaled stove and made soup.

The GPS said we hit 7.2 knots.

The rain intensified to a series of brutal squalls which were unpleasant for the crew but went un-noticed by the boat.

Finally the battery weakend and the compass became difficult to see so we switched batteries, started to the engine and sought shelter.

I fully expected the second battery to start the engine and provide auxiliary power for at least as long as the first (weaker) battery had, but I was wrong. As we headed for the lee of the Eastern Shore the battery died completely.

This is where things got a bit exciting. The bulk of my navigation experience happened before GPS became affordable for recreational boats so in my Luddite paranoia I had been tracking our position on a paper chart against the boats GPS, a handheld GPS that my friend brought, and the ATON we passed. Good thing.

An hour or so after we turned east the battery gasped and we were without lights or depth finder as we threaded our way in to Taylors Island, MD. We found the bottom once but that beautiful little motor twisted us right back out.

The little marina there is wonderful and a local waterman loaned us a battery to get the boat started again. The marina serves the commercial fisherman so it's very 'no-nonsense'. Rates are reasonable

As we considered whether or not we would continue the trip with two charged batteries and no alternator we discovered a leak on the shaft packing that well exceeded the preferred two drops per minute. There was fair bit of water in the bilge.

Fearing that the grounding (minor as it was) may have traumatized the shaft, and given that we would be unable to sustain electricity to run a bilge pump, and that we were at this friendly marina that would haul the boat and store it on the hard for really reasonable rates, we decided to call it a day.

Alas Puffin will likely spend one more winter in Maryland. We'll go back after Thanksgiving and winterize her, fix the alternator, and assess the leak.

Not much changes really. My restoration plan was going to focus on the interior first. Now I will shift gears and address the sea cocks, and the hull and whatever else can be done out of the water. And instead of doing it a bit at a time after work we'll do it in a few marathon weekends then put put her in the water in the spring.


Chesapeake trip

Postby SailingCirce » 31 Oct 2007, 20:19

Your trip sounds interesting but you made it Ok to the marina/yard. These boats handle weather, wind and waves very well. We routinely sail Circe in 18-25 knot winds, well reefed in 6-8 foot seas; she just keeps on going.

I'm not sure what kind of stuffing box you have but they are very hard to reach unless you like standing on your head in an empty cockpit locker. I changes to a PSS shaft seal 7 years ago and haven't looked back.

Good luck with the rest of your trip.

Does that alternator have a special external regulator or is it internally regulated?

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