Charts, Electricity and Pirates

Braun Jones (Grey Pearl) sent me an email yesterday asking what I was doing for charts for the run. I mentioned to him that I had, at great expense, ordered 85 pounds (seriously) of printed charts, covering our entire route. They came in just as we were leaving Seattle, so I threw them on the boat and never looked to see their quality. I’m not certain what I have.


I’m comfortable that I have good paper and electronic charts, except for Japan. I responded to Braun that I’m not certain what the quality is on my paper charts, and that as soon as I’m back in Seattle, all three of us (he, Steven Argosy of Seabird, and I) should gather to look at my Japan charts, and see if they are any good or not.


I sent Braun a few links to look at for charts on Japan:


Plus some tips on navigation that I found:


I particularly like the last link above. It has some of what I’d call “local knowledge.”


As I was thinking about paper charts, I also thought about electronic charts. I have two nav systems on Sans Souci: Nobeltec, and Navnet 3d. I have Nobeltec with me here in Cabo on my laptop, so I can see the quality of the charts for Japan, and they appear to be excellent. As to Navnet 3d, I had no idea what I have, or even what is available. I searched the Furuno website, and was surprised to find that there appear to be NO charts for Japan. This triggered an email to my electronics guy, asking him to contact Furuno. He responded saying that charts should be released next month for Japan. Argh. I am always suspicious of “next month” and know this really means “someday”. This triggered me sending an email directly to Furuno, who claimed charts are available now, and gave me a link to the Furuno Japan website. I’m betting that I find that the charts are “coming soon.” Roberta is not going to be happy if I have to explain that I upgraded our nav system to one that doesn’t have charts for Japan. Ouch.


And on a different topic…


My blog a couple of days ago spoke about the hazards of floating shipping containers. This triggered this email from Bill Harrington (the commercial fisherman coming along with us on our trip across the top of the world):





Hi Ken. Logs are an issue. Especially in the inside passage where logging is an industry. Don’t know how many I’ve thumped up here. You could call it many. An interesting thing that you will see up here is steel teeth at the waterline and slightly below on the bow. The idea is if you hit a floater, instead of it being bounced under the boat it will be caught briefly and turned to one side or the other allowing it to pass alongside rather than hitting the wheel or rudder or whatever.


I tried to find a picture on the web to forward but could not.


Here’s an interesting anecdote about containers. One of my friends was fishing in the Gulf of Alaska about 100 miles offshore and saw a strange object off about a half mile. Upon investigating he saw it was a container about 2/3 submerged. The company logo was easily readable on the can as was the serial number. He figured he’d call the shipping company and report it. Can’t remember who it was; Maersk, APL, Sealand or whatever. He did so and after a while they called back and asked him if he had a firearm on board. That’s like asking if the Pope’s Catholic in this neighborhood. He said he did and they said they would give him $1000 dollars if he would shoot and sink it. To make a long story short; he blazed away at it with a .338 Winchester Magnum rifle and in fact did sink it. And in fact they sent him the money.


I’m sure neither party would want their names used but it’s a true story.


Best regards. Bill



And, once again shifting topics…


Those of you have been following my blog for a while know that I’ve been wrestling electrical problems from the beginning. My #1 project for the past few months has been to solve, once and for all, this issue. Nordhavn has been on the boat many times over the past 18 months, as well as various other “experts.” Nordhavn has been very good about sending out people, but we’ve generally been solving symptoms, not the underlying problem. Out of frustration, and in my usual style of hunting flies with a shotgun, I’ve: a) Swapped the batteries, b) Swapped the fuses in the electrical panel to breakers, c) Swapped the “connectors” in the electrical panel for a different model, d) Swapped the air conditioners, e) Swapped the generator, f) Overhauled the international shorepower converter, g) Installed a bypass for the shore power converter, h) Added a ton of new monitoring to the electrical system, i) Replaced the auto-start on the generator and j) personally went to school to become an electrician (not kidding). As a software developer, I know that there are times when a bug can be hard to find, and I think my electrical system has been like that. Yesterday, we had a breakthrough. We discovered that the generators had not been grounded correctly, and found some well-hidden, but fried, wiring. I am 99.9% certain that my electrical problems are behind me, but it has been a challenge getting to this point. A huge thank you to the whole team, led by Jeff, who have finally gotten the system stable.


And, once again moving to another topic; another “Email from Bill.”


Hi Ken. Do you plan to carry any firearms? The reason I ask is because I was victimized twice down in the South China Sea. I think I told you I took the 240 foot Ocean Pride from Bangkok to Muara, Brunei. The day we arrived in Muara we launched our tender, a 24 foot welded aluminum center console with two 70 horse outboards to go to the customs station. After doing that we came back and tied up to the landing stage back aft. In the morning the boat was gone. Evaporated into thin air. Reported, searched for, police searched for, the whole works. Poof!, gone. That was my welcome to Brunei. I was there 3 more months and was treated wonderfully by everyone and the day before I left one of my crew tied up our small tin skiff to the stern. Ten minutes later one of my guys came running in the wheelhouse saying there were a boatload of guys untying the skiff. By the time I got there they were drifting away with our skiff and 15HP outboard. I ran back and got my AK47 to wave at them but by the time I got on the stern, they had the outboard off and were making a mile. We got the skiff back. No outboard. The moral of the story there is; don’t leave your skiff unattended. The other moral is to protect yourself to the best of your ability because there are worse things possible than just losing your skiff. Sometime I’ll tell you about a friend of mine whose son was shot in the lower back and is now paralyzed due to a piracy incident. On the other hand, don’t let me mess up a beautiful day. Best regards. Bill



Bill did follow up by sending me the link to the story about his friend:


I responded to Bill by saying that my policy is simple. There are plenty of websites that report incidents of piracy. One of the best is: It doesn’t take long studying this site, and a few others, to see a pattern as to where the dangerous parts of the world are. I can carry the biggest machine gun on earth, and still not be as safe as I can by simply staying out of the dangerous places. As we circumnavigate, we will be studying piracy reports, and there will be places we do not go. I don’t yet know how we will bypass those places. My guess is that we will do some creative shipping of the boat by freighter, or we might try to find a large pack of boats to travel with. We might also give up, and just have the boat delivered to the Med. We’ll see when the time comes. For now, there are plenty of safe places to cruise, and we hope to explore as many as possible.


The observant amongst you may have noted that I dodged answering Bill’s question “Do you plan to carry any firearms?”. My official answer to this question is “I refuse to say.” I want the bad guys to interpret this as “Yes. Absolutely. Very large and dangerous ones.” And, I would like the customs and immigration officials worldwide to translate it as “No. No firearms.”


Here’s an email I just received from a friend who lives near us in Mexico:


Hey Ken


I was wondering what your long term plans are to be to maintain a boat so far away from home. We’re getting ready to leave our boat over in La Paz and even being that close, I like to be able to touch and feel mine frequently. I don’t think Jeff will like living in Japan. <grin>





This is a great, and important, question. We are not full-time cruisers. Roberta and I like to cruise about four to six months a year. We do plan on circumnavigating, but it’s a different kind of circumnavigation. I call the concept “hub-ing”. My philosophy is that each year we move the boat somewhere interesting, and then we use that place as the hub for that year’s cruising. This year, we are moving the boat to Japan, and then we will be cruising Japan. Our plan is to spend at least a couple of months really getting to know Japan. Too many circumnavigators, in my opinion, race around the world. We want to spend enough time in each place that we really feel as though we have lived there. I’m thinking of the circumnavigation as “this year we’ll do Japan, then next year Indonesia, then the year after that Thailand, then we’ll see what we’re in the mood for”. Actually, to be completely honest, a more accurate statement would be: “Let’s do Japan, and then see what we’re in the mood for.” Our plans are not only soft, they don’t exist. The only thing we know for sure is that each year we want to go somewhere new, and we want to be there long enough to really feel we got to know the place. Last year was Central America. This year is Japan. Next year is “Unknown”.


However, as my friend B alludes, this means that the boat is sitting still six months a year, although some years it will be fewer months. There will be times that the boat moves while Roberta and I are not on it. I won’t hesitate to call Jeff (who manages the boat when I’m not on it) and say “Jeff. We’ve just finished Japan. Fix everything I broke, and get the boat over to Indonesia for the start of next year’s cruising.” In other words, sometimes, we will move the boat ourselves on its’ own bottom, sometimes on a freighter, and sometimes Jeff will move it.


When the boat is sitting still for a long period, my plan is to put it into the best, and most secure marina I can find, in the safest country I can find. Once the boat is in a marina, I will always hire someone locally who will “watch over” the boat. Usually this means nothing more than looking in on it from time to time to verify that all looks well. The boat calls me automatically with status updates (with a robot voice). I know every time that the shore power goes out. If I have someone local to the boat, I call and ask “The power has been out for the last six hours. Can you go check?”. There may come a place, such as China, where I need to send someone over to live on the boat for a few months. I hope not, but it is possible. Until I am there, I do now know how secure the marina is, and what quality person I can hire to look after, and have cleaned, the boat.


Lastly, there’s a new new blog I’ve started reading. It’s a Nordhavn 46 owner, David Schramm, on the boat Jenny. He is cruising the Caribbean and lately he has been reporting daily, on the Passagemaking Under Power discussion forum. I like his style. It’s a little like mine – he just writes what he is thinking, and sometimes it is interesting, and sometimes it isn’t – but, it is what it is. I haven’t spoken to him in months, but assume he’ll keep writing. To subscribe to the Passagemaking Under Power list, go to this link:


Ken W


PS I started a new book last night, that was suggested by one of the readers of my blog: “66 Days Adrift” by William Butler (available on Amazon). I stayed up VERY late reading, and finished half of it. A real page-turner. It’s about a couple whose sail boat hit a whale in the middle of the Pacific. They spent 66 days on a raft. I hope to retire my rafts unused someday, but figure it can’t hurt to see if there’s any knowledge I can glean about what to do, or not do.

4 Responses

  1. Chuck: As you mentioned, I am limited in what I can say about the litigation.

    Here’s a little info:

    I sued Yachtpath, in both US and British courts. The suit has been dragging for months, and in some ways isn’t even started yet. These things take years.

    The issues in my case are unique to larger boats, and to my boat in particular. I do not want this perceived as “no one should ship with Yachtpath.” I have actually recommended them on a couple of occasions recently, and at least one boater used them happily based on my recommendation.

    This case is not about me trying to make money off the litigation. My original settlement proposal simply asked them to give me my money back (my boat was never shipped) and donate some money to charity. If ultimately I “win” the suit, and there is any money above my costs, it will promptly be donated to charity.

    I realize that this isn’t giving much information, but my lawyers will probably not be happy I said even this much.

    Ken W

  2. Ken: Are you at liberty to tell us if the shipping company you tried to use from Costa Rica ever made a satisfactory settlement and or refunded your money?

  3. Ken,
    I out of the hospital after 3 weeks on my backside.
    I’d like to thank you for your daily email updates.
    Because of you I managed to find my way to the
    Nordhavn web site and other blogs and such.
    It kept me sane for the duration of my hospital stay.
    It all started with you and I’d like you to know you’re

    My experience so far is 3 years with a 38′ Carver ACMY,
    a wonderful vessel for local and coastal cruising.
    A Nordhavn or comparable passagemaker is in my future
    and and I sure appreciate your contribution to my education
    and mental preparation for extended passages.

    I’d be interested in your recommendations for other blogs,
    forums or whatever you think I’d find beneficial.

    Again – Thanks Ken … Stay well …

    Ric Felder

  4. [quote]PS I started a new book last night, that was suggested by one of the readers of my blog: “66 Days Adrift” by William Butler (available on Amazon). I stayed up VERY late reading, and finished half of it.[/quote]

    I take it you’re enjoying the book! 🙂

    – John S.

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