ABT-TRAC Captains Course

At Nordhavn’s 40th Anniversary Gala this past spring, we spoke to Ernie Romeo with ABT-TRAC (the company that supplies the hydraulic systems for Nordhavn and many other quality boatbuilders) about the captains course (link to their site) that the company offers.  We’d heard about it before and it was on the to do list, but when we learned it is held at their company headquarters that are located minutes away from our favorite wine region, we signed up immediately!  (BTW – Sonoma County!)

So this past week, we packed our bags and took the two hour Horizon Airlines flight from Seattle to Santa Rosa.  The airline (Alaska Airlines) allows each passenger flying in to Santa Rosa to bring home a case of wine on your return flight – bonus round!  Of course, during the trip down, the flight attendant delivered a note to us from Jeff and Shannon of N47 Igloo.  We hadn’t seen them board the plane!  Once landed, Alison made it to the rental car desk with just minutes to spare before heading to our place in Windsor, which ended up being 5 mins from the airport.

The note from Jeff and Shannon.

The next morning, we drove 20 mins south ABT’s Rohnert Park facility.  Eric Folkestad, the Product Development Manager for ABT, was our class instructor.  After Eric welcomed us to the class, he shared a few stories about last year’s massive fires that ravaged the area, taking lives and homes.  Four of their employees lost their homes with one of them waking up to a 1:30 am robocall warning and seeing their garage on fire.  The community is still working thru their rebuilding process.  (so sign up for the next class and buy some wine to support everyone!)

The class was made up of about 16 people, a mix of industry people and boat owners.  Two of the three industry people we knew – Lugger Bob Senter from Northern Lights and Devin Zwick (from PAE).  Except for John, an Outer Reef owner, the rest of the attendees were Nordhavn owners!  Alison and I were one of four couples that were there.  Of the Nordhavns represented in the group, three are still in the build process.

Much of the first day was touring around the facilities.  Most of the different “divisions” had their separate buildings or areas.  We first met Steve Ring, the parts guru (good person to know!).  Throughout the day included seeing machining areas, assembly, paint/finishing, shipping, electronics as well as where they lay up the fins themselves.  ABT TRAC makes almost every part of their systems.  This includes bolts so they meet their exacting tolerances!  The attention to detail, in the engineering, fabrication and support really comes thru when you walk thru everything.  Then you continue on with the class and learn even more!

Just cool stuff…
One of the many pieces of machining equipment
From this…
to these!
Cast parts ready to be finish milled.
Lugger Bob!


Cast thruster parts ready to be finished…


Stabilizer being assembled.
The fiberglass shop…


Shelves and shelves of parts.
Eric walking thru a table for of parts being assembled for a new build yacht.
An electric hydraulic pump in the foreground and reservoirs with coolers in the background.
These systems require many parts!


Control box in process.
Endless bins of connectors and lengths of cables all to build their control boxes and other electronic parts.
The electronics shop.  They make all their own assemblies.
The original bow thruster on the far wall…
Some boat builders request a system built ready to be dropped in…
The original test tank for stabilizers…  it was filled in water and then ran until they broke!  Now computer programs can show where stress shows up…
The Finish Shop.
Thruster tube for Nordhavn’s new N80-01
A completed fin with wing.


Fin side being laid up…


Crates ready to be shipped!
Stabilizer shafts.  A “250” series stabilizer has a 2.5″ shaft.  The 300 series is a 3″ shaft and so on…
This is the metal part that is built in to each fin.  The side facing the camera is the boat side and slides up on to the shaft.

I must say, Eric was wonderful at presenting the information.  Very engaging and it was easy to follow along.  Even Alison, self proclaimed non-mechanical person, stayed focused and learned right along side myself and everyone else.  She even enjoyed tearing apart a hydraulic component and reassembling it!


One of the parts we took apart, “fixed” and reassembled.

The second day was mostly in the classroom but that included a hands on element of “fixing” a couple of issues on their classroom wall of hydraulics.  Speaking of which, they have a full working system of stabilizers, thrusters, windlass, etc up on a wall.  It is easy to look at a full system and see how it works.  Amazing.

The wall of hydraulics


Bill Baker with N62 Roxia getting his hands dirty… or staying clean!


Jeff with N40 Irene
Needless to say, it is much easier to work on the stabilizers at this table vs where they are usually located!


As Red Rover currently only has hydraulic stabilizers, we thought we’d be focused just on those (very critical) items and what it might take to add backup hydraulic pressure if the slim chance we lost the main engine (hydraulic PTO pump on the main engine).  By the end, we learned enough to be confident that we could add a hydraulic windlass and chain wash down ourselves!  Stay tuned for that!

Needless to say, if you have a boat with ABT-TRAC equipment in it (or one being built with that equipment), we would rate it as a must go.  They don’t limit how many times you come – so attending early in your build process to better understand the system and options is great and then back after you have time using it would be a perfect scenario!  At least two owners with boats in the build process were reaching out to their salesperson to request changes…

After two days of class, we felt we earned a couple days of wine tasting at our favorite wineries…  being 80 degrees and sunny wasn’t terrible either!


One thought on “ABT-TRAC Captains Course

Leave a Reply