Buying Rosebud #34

by Craig Smith

It all started in late summer or early fall of 1984. Every weekday morning I'd pass by a small boat yard on my way to the “Board Meeting"—basically coffee with the guys. One morning a new boat in the yard caught my eye. Her name was Compass Rose. I asked several workers if she was a custom or production boat. Someone thought she was built in Seattle; apparently confusing her with a Nordic Tug. Al Larson, a member of the “Board”, and owner of the yard, knew she was kept in the marina next door. Several days later, after she was launched, I took Rosemary down to see Compass Rose. The first thing she said was "I Love it!". That was my first mistake.

After several days of inquiry I learned that Compass Rose was a Victory Tug built by Lord Nelson Ltd. and that Flying Cloud Yachts in Long Beach, California was their local dealer. So, on a Sunday in September, Rosemary and I got on my motorcycle and rode to Long Beach to see the Victory Tug they had for sale. She was hull 2. The salesman said the tugs were built in Taiwan and this was Lord Nelson's first foray into trawlers. Being a power boater I had never heard of Lord Nelson. I'm 6'4” and once aboard I was pleasantly surprised by the ample head room. The only place I couldn't stand upright was in the shower. It was 3” too short. The BMW engine was a surprise to me too. I'd never seen one in a marine application before. The salesman told us that Compass Rose, the LNVT I'd first seen, was hull 3 and she was owned by the west coast editor of Cruising World magazine. We left liking the Victory Tug, but the shower's headroom and the BMW engine left us flat. I wasn't ready to give up because from experience I knew that Taiwanese boats can vary greatly from one hull number to the next. But, since Rosemary and I planned to get married in a few months (October 1984), buying a new boat was put on hold.

In November I was showing my father Compass Rose when we met her owner, Ted Ritter. I had a very unusual request that morning. I asked Ted if I could stand in his shower. He invited me aboard and lo and behold I could stand upright in this shower with room to spare. Something had indeed changed from hull 2 to hull 3. I left that day with upbeat thoughts. I'd also discovered that Lord Nelson had a company office in Newport Beach.

The next day I stopped by a very small office on one of Newport Beach's industrial back streets and met with Craig Beckwith, the man in charge. We spent at least an hour talking about Victory Tugs and boats in general. I learned of the relationship with Hans Christian and that Lord Nelson produced a 41 foot sailboat too. I told Craig of my concerns with the BMW engine. Besides not being common in the U.S., it's fast turning. Even with a 3:1 reduction in the transmission, it's inefficient on a 7 to 8 knot boat. We also discussed the differences I saw between hulls 2 and 3. Craig wasn't sure if the taller shower was standard but did say that hull 22 would be displayed in the King Dome Boat Show in January (1985).

Rosemary and I decided to travel to Seattle. At the show we met Loren Hart, Lord Nelson's founder and toured hull 22. The design change which made hull 3's shower taller had been continued. I could stand in the shower of hull 22 without a problem. There were other changes too. Loren told us that future Victory Tugs would have the same fuel capacity but in four rather than six tanks.

After returning home I had many discussions with my father about the Victory Tug. He'd had two custom boats built and so was a wealth of information. I even called Seattle to talk to Jim Backus, the LNVTs designer, about different engine options. He told me that I needed to find an engine in the 100 horsepower range and ship it to the yard so proper stringers could be designed for it. But, search as I might, I couldn't find an alternative engine that would fit.

On the morning of March 8, 1985 I bicycled over to the Lord Nelson office, walked in and said to Craig, “Start the paper work” (see the contract). By this time hull 34 was the next one available. Remember that in January 1985 they showed hull 22 in the King Dome. So, in two months they'd sold 11 boats. Craig and I went over the options, their prices, and my requirements. There were actually very few options to choose from. I wanted the front door on the icebox, a mast, and the “L” shaped settee in the saloon. Additionally I had several of my own requirements. (1) The BMW takes up the entire fore-and-aft space in the engine room making accessories mounted on the front of the engine, like the water pump, hard to get maintain. To solve this I asked the yard to make a step in the pilothouse-to-stateroom stairway removable. This turned out to be very popular modification and it became standard on subsequent hulls. (2) I requested that panel doors, vs. louvered, separate the chain locker from the stateroom as I didn't want the smell of old wet chain in the cabin. (3) Because I was concerned that the sole's height may increase due to the change from six to four fuel tanks, I put in my contract that the headroom in the saloon shall not be less them hull 22. (4) Another requirement was that in the wheelhouse the yard was not to use wood plugs in the molding around the edges of the over head. Instead they were to use screws so that they could be easily removed and replaced. The thought for this was that it might be easier to remove the overhead to run wires. If the overhead was not easily removable, I could a least run wires around the edges. This feature has been invaluable in running antenna wires. Since Lord Nelson did not have a boat to show in Orange County, Craig and I discussed a discount in return for allowing the company to show the boat over the next year and have one sea trail per month over the same period. An hour and a half later I had written Craig a deposit check for 10% of the price, with an estimated delivery of July 1985. The contract had an expiration date of October 31, 1985. This date will become important later.

After bicycling home and pondering what I had just gotten myself into, Rosemary and I started to make lists of items we had to accomplish before delivery. We decided buy and store as many items we could before delivery. This would make the commissioning go much more quickly. At the time Lord Nelson was offering MASE brand of generators. These were one cylinder 3600 RPM 4 or 6 KVA units. They came in their own sound shield and were light weight. The 4 KVA unit was only 210 lbs. Craig offered a discount, so I bought one and stored it until needed. I purchased the windlass, chain, anchors, radios, antennas, depth finder, anemometer, speed log, compass, and even pots, pans, and dishes. We were inundated with boat stuff. During the spring of 1985 I visited the various boat yards in the harbor to line up a haul. As soon after arrival as possible I wanted to get the bottom painted, zincs put on and various new through hulls installed. The big yard job was going to be installing the windlass. The boats come from Taiwan without any varnish—just bare wood. Knowing that, I made arrangements to have the varnish job started as soon as the boat was docked. In essence, I was ready to go hard and fast once the boat was at the dock.

Delivery was supposed to be in July, but there were delays. In late spring or early summer BMW announced to the world that they were pulling out of the marine market in all of North America. For me this was good news as hull 34 had not been started, and I told Craig I did not want the BMW.

Spring moved into summer with the July delivery date coming and going. No new delivery date was offered. In the mean time we continued to buy equipment and make plans for the delivery. July became August which turned into September. Craig Beckwith quit and Jack Walls took over. Loren decided to move out of Newport Beach and relocated to Seattle. By October we were promised delivery within the next 30 days. My contract had a termination date of October 31, 1985. After that I could ask for my deposit back. The boat was off loaded some time at night on October 31, 1985. The next day Rosemary, my father and I went to the dock in Long Beach to look at our new acquisition (see the invoice). There she sat wrapped up in the shipping tarps. The boat came inside the ship so there was not too much dirt. We couldn't touch our tug until it cleared customs and no one knew when that would be. Finally, on November 4, 1985, customs cleared her. That morning Loren, Lani, Jack Walls, Rosemary, my father and I started to unwrap the boat. Then the Harts and Jack installed stanchions and erected the stack and mast. I had contracted a marine surveyor to do a survey right there on the pier. In my contract with the Harts I had a provision that I would have to sign off before the Letter of Credit would fund. Lani followed me around wanting me to sign off on the delivery, but I waited until I had a verbal report from the surveyor (see the survey). All the work was done that day with the next morning set for launch. The next morning we all met on the dock. Jack had brought some jerry jugs of diesel, but no line or fenders. I brought, lines, fenders, hand held radio, fire extinguish, and a compass. At 0930 the longshoremen attached the sling to the crane and up she went, over the side and down 30 feet into the water. I had found a hose bib and had a bucket of water to fill the engine's coolant system. Jack forgot to bring a funnel and spilled several quarts of diesel all over the brand new teak deck. The aft deck became a mess as people tracked the oil all over. Jack could not get the fuel filter primed so he ran the fuel lines directly into the jerry jug. The engine fired right off. The following is from my log that day:

0930 Launched by sling took about 5 minutes
1005 Started the engine
1020 Departed berth #228
1030 Overheat alarm headed for Union Oil dock
1057 Departed oil dock
1102 Stopped mid channel - over heat alarm - more water added
1104 Under way for Alamitos Bay, Long Beach
1221 Arrived Marina Shipyard (Alamitos Bay)
1230 Departed for Harbor Master Dock
1251 Departed Harbor Master for guest slip
1305 Arrived guest slip 30B and shut down

Every time the boat was put in gear it shook very badly. The transmission would engage with a huge wallop. I had most of the sole pulled up to check for leaks, so I asked my father, “Does that shaft look like it is turning too fast for the RPM?” He thought it was. Meanwhile, at the helm, the engine would only turn up to 1500 RPM. In Alamitos Bay the transom was full of soot. When we arrived at the guest slip I took a flashlight and went on the hunt for the name plate on the Borg Warner transmission. I found it and it read 1.5:1, not 2.57:1. Lani said it couldn't be, but once she saw the plate she said, “Oops.” and called Cummins.

During the next couple of days Jack Walls continued to commission the boat. The boats did not come with the propane stove installed, it was all purchased and installed in the United States. What to do about the transmission? Cummins said that they would ship a new one. Lani did not insist that they ship it by air, so it would come by pool truck in 30 days or so. I decided that I would rather have the boat in front of the house than in a marina. We decided to limp the 12 miles or so to Newport Beach being very cautious of the RPM and the amount of shifting. I've brought boats into the slip in Newport all my life so I knew I could get into the slip with at most only one slight reverse. With the incorrect transmission going into reverse was far worse then going into forward. Rosemary, my father and I departed the guest slip at 0905 on November 9, 1985. Not knowing how much fuel Jack put on board I stopped by the oil dock and put 50 gallons in the starboard side. We departed Alamitos Bay at 0940 and headed for Newport Harbor. We arrived at the entrance jetty at 1201 and I glided the Rosebud into the slip and was secure at 1222.

I had planed to haul out within the first week or so, but Cummins kept promising delivery of the transmission. During the wait I got to work on installing various pieces of equipment. The number one priority was to install the battery charger. Keep in mind the boats from the yard did not have any equipment installed. There was not even a designated place nor wiring for a charger. Finally on December 4, 1985, I headed to the ship yard to have good bottom paint applied, transducer installed, and the windlass mounted. Upon haul out I discovered that in the four weeks that the boat had been in the water, galvanic action had turned the new propeller pink. This is what happens when all fittings are bonded but no sacrificial zinc is attached. The transmission arrived and was installed from December 11-13 . On December 17, 1985 the Rosebud took its first trip around Newport Harbor and everything sounded good. On December 22 we took the first sea trial to run the measured mile and created a speed graph (RPM vs. Speed).

Though out the winter of 1986 I continued to commission Rosebud. I made myself a list of projects by priority. We had an Easter/christening party with about 70 guests and Rosemary finally was able to smash the champagne bottle across the bow. By April the autopilot was working along with all of the electronics. So, on April 19, 1986 we were ready for the first trip to Catalina Island. Some time in June the generator was installed along with the refrigeration system. By July 4th the holding tank was operational and it was not until September 1986 that I installed the water maker. This was the last major piece equipment to be installed.

See many more pictures of Rosebud here.

Rosemary in front of Rosebud after her arrival in USA, 1 Nov. '85

After Customs clearance Jack Walls and Loren Hart remove the tarp, 5 Nov. '85

Lani Hart assembles the stanchion, 5 Nov. '85

Preparing to splash Rosebud for the first time, 5 Nov. '85

Safely into Alamitos Bay, Long Beach, CA, 5 Nov. '85

After motoring to her new home in Newport, CA, ~8 Nov. '85

Rosebud all dressed up for her christening, 30 March '86

Rosemary does the honors, 30 March '86

After only 4 weeks of being in the water without zincs!
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