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Roberta,Ken And The Pups Cruise The World On A Relatively Small Boat

GSSR#8 - Roche Harbor to Nanaimo

Greetings all!

Total Distance: 5,276 nm
Run so far: 136 nm
Nautical Miles to go: 5,140 nm
Today's goal: 35 nm - ???

Greetings all!

As I type this, we're sitting in the marina at Nanaimo, with the wind blowing consistently at 15-20 knots. Over the past 15 minutes, it has been in the 20-26 knot range. My theory is that if the wind is that strong inside the marina, I really wouldn't like it in open water. Our plan for today was to run the boat about 35 nautical miles north, to Lasqueti Island, and drop anchor. However, unless the wind dies down, we'll relax for the day here in Nanaimo. 

Note the flag in this picture...

Some of you may be thinking: "It's a Nordhavn. Is 25 knots of wind really a problem?" The answer of course is "No. It really isn't a problem. We could move safely if we wanted to" That said, it would be uncomfortable, and this trip is meant to be a fun one, so if the weather looks questionable, and we're someplace with shopping, restaurants, and a cute little town, why hurry? We can spend the day just wandering around Nanaimo.

We still might go today. It's 9am as I type this. I'm betting the wind is calm by noon. Our next leg is a short one, only 35 nm), so I can make the go/no-go decision as late as 1pm. Theoretically, I could make the decision even later, but going to anchor on an island we have never visited is something I would want to do with plenty of hours of daylight remaining. Who knows what surprises I'd hit? I'd need time to seek an alternate anchorage if my first choice doesn't work.

The weather for our voyage yesterday, from Roche Harbor to Nanaimo, was as good as it gets. Calm seas and sunshine all the way. Many of you tracked us along the way, using our real-time tracking (http://tinyurl.com/djpflm).

There were really only a couple bits of excitement worth commenting on.

About an hour into our run we found ourselves in an area noted for whirlpools! In the little chart snippet above, you can see the little circles on the water which indicate whirlpools. We were doing our best to avoid them, but they grabbed the boat, and rotated Sans Souci 20-30 degrees a couple of times.

Then, a bit later, we found ourselves in the middle of a sailing regatta. There were probably twenty sailboats, under sail, surrounding us. This had my full attention, as one of the basic "rules of the road" in boating is that a sailboat under sail always has the rightaway. Ordinarily, when there are targets on the radar, I can "mark" them, and the radar computes their speed and direction. This allows me to quickly see whether or not they are a potential problem. However, there were too many targets for this to be of use. The radar was just a useless jumble of dots, even on 1 mile range. Plus, sailboats are prone to frequent changes in direction as they tack back and forth to capture the wind.

Note: depending on your email programs limitations, you might see a video player below. If not, click this link to see the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4tSttijx7A


Adding to the "fun", I had a ferry coming at me from the south, that would be cutting in front of me, and a ferry from the north, that effectively cut me off from any turn to port. I can't imagine what the ferry captain's must have been thinking. Technically speaking, the sailboats have priority over the ferries. That said, there's another unwritten rule of the road, called the "Rule of Greater Mass." Small boats are more maneuverable than large boats. Even if a sailboat has the rightaway, the ferry is unlikely, or more accurately, unable, to move to avoid the sailboat. The ferry captain may do what he can, but the really large ferries do not have the maneuverability of smaller vessels. Generally, with freighters, cruise ships and large ferries, it is always best to assume they are moving faster than you think, and will not move to get out of your way.

Sorry for the lack of photos, but running the boat, and seeking a safe path through the clutter was priority #1.

Arrival in Nanaimo was simpler than expected. I had been warned against clearing customs in Nanaimo. According to the story I was told, Nanaimo is a training ground for new customs agents. Whereas the seasoned veterans can quickly see which boats are worth investigating fully and which aren't, the rookies tend to give every boat the full procedure. I figured we had nothing to hide, so this wasn't a big deal. Whether or not this rumor is true, I have no idea, but I can say that clearing in was exceptionally easy. I phoned Canada customs (1-888-CanPass).

Canadian customs asked a long list of questions; how long we would be in Canada, why we're here, names of all passenger, birthdates, what alcohol I had on board, and whether I had any tobacco, fireams or commecial products. The only sticking point seemed to be Roberta. There must be a bad guy out there whose name is Roberta Williams! They wanted to verify her full name and when she had been in Canada before. Apparently I convinced them that she wasn't a smuggler, because they welcomed us to the country over the phone. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience. The only surprise was that they didn't seem to want anyone's passport number. I wonder why?

Tying to the dock was  somewhat less fun. We had the worst of all circumstances. The wind was blowing fairly strongly away from the dock. Once at the dock, Roberta used the thrusters to keep us pinned against the dock, while I tied us down. We are traveling with just Roberta, myself and her parents. Her parents are wonderful people, and enthusiastic to help, but there are times when no help is better than some help. Sans Souci weighs over 200,000 pounds. Her dad, John, kept trying to pull the lines to help Sans Souci get to the dock. I was continuously explaining to him that with my 200,000 pounds competing in a tug of war with his 150 pounds, Sans Souci was likely to be the victor. My fear was that a sudden gust of wind might push us off the dock, and he'd try to counter it, and wind up swimming.

Adding to the complexity, I was at a dock with wood rails to tie to, instead of cleats. I'm positive there is a trick to tying to these that makes it easy, but I confess to not knowing it. Whenever I try, I get splinters from the wood, and it takes forever to work the slack out of the lines. I never did achieve a clean tie-down.

No sooner had we tied down than we were greeted at the dock by some Nanaimo locals who shouted "We read your blog. Welcome to Nanaimo!". Thirty minutes earlier we had been passed by a Nordhavn, who said on the radio: "We read your blog. Welcome to Nanaimo!". We are constantly astounded by how many people read my blog....

As I finish typing this blog entry, I notice the wind is now at 27 knots, and not showing any signs of dropping. It's looking like we'll have PLENTY of time to explore Nanaimo, and that's a good thing!

Thank you, Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci

PS Thank you everyone for all the emails yesterday! We were reading them while underway and getting a chuckle out of all the people following us. Here's one email I thought I'd respond to here:

"[...]I have a few questions of your selection of boat and accessories. Did you investigate the ”Marlow Explorer” with Resin infused hull with claims of lighter weight and 3 times stronger and all the benefits of lighter weight. A 70’ boat with cat 1015 hp documented at 25 knots max to get into a harbor if needed and still the economy of hull speeds when appropriate. I have compared Marlow with the Grand Banks Aleutian 72 of more conventional construction and the Fleming. Have not compared the Nordhaven. Can you give me some comparison and reason for the selections you made. One of My lifeline AGM batteries in my motor home went south and dragged the other three into early retirement within a year. They claimed that the batteries were to be tested at the ambient temperature here in Florida of 80 degrees but use the battery capacity rating at zero degrees to determine if it was good. Even a dying horse with enough adrenaline can still wag his tail even if he can’t get up. I gave up on Lifeline and turned successfully to Master Volt. Do you ever get bored on the long runs? Do you take turns at the helm? Have you considered Solar Power to charge house batteries? Do you feel venerable with a 10 knot max. speed? Does your wife ever complain about being on board for lengthy periods. Your comments would be greatly appreciated....Bruce D "


Thank you for writing. You might want to consider ordering a copy of "Voyaging Under Power" by Robert Beebe. It's the book that I read back when I was trying to understand this issue. I'm not a naval architect, so I only vaguely understand the issues, but here's my understanding:

The world of power boats divides into three categories; planing, semi-displacement, and full-displacement. Most smaller boats and sport fishers are planing boats. When moving through the water, planing hulled boats ride on top of the water. Think of yourself on water-skis. It takes a ton of power to get you out of the water, and keep you on top of the water. At the other end of the spectrum are full-displacement boats, such as my own Sans Souci. There is a formula which correlates the length of a boat to the maximum speed at which it can efficiently move in the water, not ON the water. This magic maximum speed is called "Hull Speed." It is the speed beneath which a boat can move through the water at very little horsepower. For instance, my boat can be moved at up to 10.6 knots with less horsepower than might be on an ordinary ski boat. 10.6 really is a wall though. To go 10.7 knots means adding a huge amount of horsepower. Thus, if you know the length of a full-displacement boat, such as a Nordhavn, you know it's maximum realistic speed. Semi-displacement boats are boats which are designed to run efficiently by sitting fully in the water, as a full-displacement boat, but which have a hull design, and the horsepower, to be able to lift out of the water when so desired. This sounds too good to be true, and to some extent it is. The hull design of a semi-displacement boat isn't as stable in rough seas, as that of a full-displacement boat. If you won't be crossing oceans, then this probably isn't a big deal, but if you expect to be in rough seas, you'll quickly trade that extra speed for added safety. Also, I haven't researched this, but I don't know how a semi-displacement boat could have stabilizers. They would be sitting above the water when the boat is planing. A power boat without stabilizers would be very uncomfortable in rolling seas. I guess I would summarize by saying that any boat which claims speed greater than hull speed must have a planing or semi-displacement hull. In any scenario except full-displacement, you are talking lots of horsepower, and lots of fuel burn - plus, a hull shape that doesn't lend itself to maximum safety in rough conditions.

As to your other questions: One dead battery in a bank of batteries will pull down the other batteries. I doubt that swapping brands makes a difference. As to us getting bored on long runs, that has never been a problem. For some reason, we are always busy on Sans Souci, and we have a lot to do. There are lots of entertainment options: our computers, the internet, a DVD jukebox with a couple thousand DVDs, etc. Plus, there is always maintenance of some sort to be done, and books to be read. I don't like the major passages because it puts you in a position where you are at the mercy of the weather. On a 14 day passage, if the weather comes up 7 days in, you have no choice but to take whatever mother nature tosses your way. I'd personally rather have shorter runs with good weather windows. That's one of the reasons we are going to Japan, in a way where our longest passage is only three days. As to our speed making us more vulnerable, that is certainly true. If I could move 25 knots, I could certainly get to port faster than at 10 knots. However, as I said before, the penalty with a planing or most semi-displacement hulls is seaworthiness, and over the years, I can't identify any actual situations where getting to port a couple hours sooner would have made a difference. Lastly, you asked about whether my wife ever complains about being on board for protracted periods. That has never been an issue! I'm lucky enough to have a wife who loves boating. Your results may vary.

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