Game Over – The Final Chapter

Greetings all…

Roberta’s and my cruising has come to an end. It’s sad as I sit here looking at the boat, and looking out at the Mediterranean, and knowing that it will be at least a year, or even two, before we take to the seas again.

Why might it be two years? Those of you who have been reading my updates for a while will remember that Roberta and I have considered selling Sans Souci, so that we could have Nordhavn build us a new 62. After spending a few months on Sans Souci, we’ve decided we would like the interior laid out a bit differently – mostly to enlarge one of the guest staterooms. After thinking for a while about selling Sans Souci, which is still an option, our current plan is to keep her and do an interior remodel. Hopefully this can be completed in time for cruising season, but you know how those things go…


Before I begin my last update, one bit of business:

Over the next few weeks, the website will be going through changes (http://www.kensblog.com/) Now that the cruising is over, I am going back to my life as a retired computer guy. I’ve been keeping myself busy coding on a do-it-yourself website builder (http://www.websiteconstructionset.com//). It’s just a hobby, but there are 400 or so websites that have been built with it, and after two months of neglect, it needs my full-time attention.

I’m turning over management of this website to a gentleman, John Sytsma, who volunteered to take the site over. My hope for this site is that it can continue to be somewhat what it is, with a slightly wider focus.

There are a lot of couples out there cruising the world, who could use a forum for exchanging information, both technical and fun. Nordhavn has a great site, but it’s for owners only. I am renaming this site to: http://www.kensblog.com/. Both the old and new website addresses work, so use whichever one you like.

My goal for the site is that it can provide valuable information to people who are cruising. There is a real need for cruisers to share information on destinations, insurance, maintenance, boat customization and electronics, anchoring tips, etc. I’d also like to provide a forum for other boaters to share their trip reports.

I have no interest in making money off the site. I do not want to sell advertising on the site or accept sponsorship money. My only goal is to enhance yours and my boating experience, through creating an online community of people with similar interests. It costs me nothing to keep the site alive, but it can profit all of us immensely. The website is meant to be a hub for the globally distributed community of trawler owners, or potential owners, who seek information or have information to share.

My hope is that John will do a solid job of running the site. Ultimately though, its success or failure will depend on whether or not all of you who are reading this contribute to the discussion. I leave it up to you as to whether or not this is something you would like to do. If you would like to drop participation, simply go to the website and choose “Do Not Email” under the “My Account” section.

All that said, we can now go back to my update. A wise man once said, the best place to start is at the beginning, so let me start with our departure from Gibraltar…

Last Thursday morning, July 1st, Roberta (my wife), Roberta’s parents (John and Nova), Shelby (our dog) and myself left Gibraltar for Formentera. Our plan was to stop for one night at Puerto Banus, a port only 35 miles east of Gibraltar in Spain, and then run the 48 hours required to reach Formentera, an island off Barcelona Spain. Formentera is one of several islands in a group called the Balearic Islands. We had Sans Souci in the Balearic Islands a couple of years ago, so it would be a home-coming of sorts.

On July 14th, a delivery crew will be meeting us on another island in the Balearics – Mallorca. The delivery crew will take the boat to France where it will sit for four months until it will be transported, via Dockwise Yacht Transport, to Vancouver, near our home in Seattle.

I was nervous leaving the dock at Gibraltar. I’ve pulled Sans Souci away from the dock countless times, but have never felt comfortable doing so. Roberta and I give the appearance of competent crew going in or out of a port we are familiar with, but in strange surroundings, it can be a completely different story. The rally made life simple. We had seasoned veterans aboard ship at all times. Even on those occasions where I drove us into port, others took care of the myriad little details that need to be done for an arrival or departure.

We timed our departure to leave before everyone else was awake. We figured this would help us cover-up any departure errors we might make, and also help us sneak out of town. Even though we finished the rally, the “final” event (banquet) was still four days away, and we needed to get cruising. When you have only ten days for cruising, weather delays can quickly ruin a vacation. I already have a hard time explaining why we shipped Sans Souci to the U.S. from Europe, only to drive it back to Europe where, after we get our ten days of cruising, it will be shipped right back to the U.S. Each of those ten days is precious to us.

Our departure was not to be as private as we wanted. As soon as I started the engines, all the neighboring boats woke up. As it turned out, this gave us a chance to say one more round of goodbyes to all our friends, and was really nice. The departure was anticlimactic. All went well …

It felt strange to be alone! After 49 days with a group, we were suddenly floating free.

Immediately after leaving the dock, I looked at the computer, and noticed that it still showed us at the dock. It was not receiving updates from the GPS. We had to float for a few minutes while I rebooted the computer. I keep saying that I’m going to make up a checklist for leaving port, and this was a reminder of why I need to get this done.

Leaving Gibraltar harbor, we immediately encountered a tender with some very serious looking, and very armed, military types aboard. They circled Sans Souci close-in giving us a detailed inspection. It took only a few seconds to recognize these as American soldiers. We smiled and waved, and tried to look as harmless as possible. Roberta shouted for me to get the camera, which I refused to do.

I have a general rule against photographing heavily armed serious looking people, although I did sneak a shot as they were leaving us. They never did wave or lose their stern dispositions. As we looked at where they were going we realized what was up – they were the advance team for an approaching American submarine. These are serious times, and they were protecting the sub. Good.

Proceeding east a few miles later, we noticed on the map a large rectangle drawn. No note on the map told us what the significance of the rectangle was. In front of us we saw a commercial fishing boat pulling a net. This led us to believe that the box on the map denoted a fishing zone. Was the box on the map an indication of a fishing zone? It stretched from shore to about 10 miles out, and was about 5 miles wide. To go around it would add at least a couple of hours to our journey. I started doing research, and found nothing that helped. A cruising guide said to give fishing boats a wide berth and to not assume they follow the rules of the road. Nothing told me how far behind the fishing boat its nets stretched, which is what I really wanted to know. 50ft? 100 Meters? 5 miles? How does one know? We took the conservative route and went the two hours out of our way.

The run to Puerto Banus is a short one, only about 50 miles. We were nervous about entering port, but our worries were unfounded. I had signed up for the only slip available, an 8 meter wide berth, at $650 per night. As expensive as it was, we had to drive to Puerto Banus days earlier and personally beg for it. We had faxed, telephoned and emailed – only to be told the port was full. In person, we were able to work something out. Getting into the berth was simple, even with a bit of wind. Plenty of space, and the slip next to us was open. Puerto Banus is the nicest port I have ever seen! Imagine a better version of St. Tropez – or, if you haven’t been into St. Tropez, I’ll describe it this way: the city frames the port. The port is popular with the jet-set, and mega-yacht folk. There are at least 50 great restaurants you can walk to. There are upscale shops, discos, supermarkets, internet cafes, all within an easy walk. There is also a wild nightlife. Tens of thousands of people flock to the port each night for dining and dancing until dawn.







The port had only accepted us for a day, but we didn’t want to leave. This sent me back begging to the nice lady at the capitainerie, who consented to two more days. Contrary to the ports reputation as impossible to get into, we had found a loophole. The mega-yachts own their slips, and go to sea for weeks or months at a time. Their slips are held open just in case they want to come back, but are rented when the office knows that the owner isn’t in danger of coming back. $650 per night for a boat slip is irrational, and not something I would normally pay – but, after 47 days on the rally, a little luxury sounded better than you can imagine.

We also weren’t looking forward to our next run, which we knew would be tough. Those of you who have been reading my posts for a while know that I am a “day boater” – I don’t like to go anywhere that is more than about a four hour run. We now needed to run 48 hours, with effectively just Roberta and I on board. Roberta’s parents were not part of our watch schedule. Neither has any knowledge about boats, and wouldn’t know what to do if anything should go wrong. We assigned ourselves alternating four-hour watch schedules, and set in for the long haul.

Our first problem wasn’t long coming. Nova was making dinner (spaghetti) when the stove quit. At the end of the trip, coming into Gibraltar, we had run out of propane, and flipped to our backup propane tank. I made the changeover, and noted that the backup tank was reading empty. I went back to the galley, and the stove was back on, but suspected it wouldn’t be for long. I had Rip look at the tanks, and he confirmed the tank reading, but told me not to worry, as he had personally filled both tanks, and knew that regardless of what the gauge said that it was full. Ignoring instrument readings can be problematic, as we were finding. I do believe that Rip filled both tanks, but the fact of the matter was that we appeared to be out of propane. Oh well… it would be a nuisance, but certainly wasn’t a huge deal.

Around 2:00am, on my shift, with just John and I in the pilothouse, we hit a weird one. There was a blip on the radar, but we couldn’t see anything. It was an absolutely black night. It was about two miles out, and we assumed it was a sailboat running without lights. But then I tweaked the radar and realized that I could see eight or so of the blips, running in a slightly arced line, spaced about a quarter mile apart. For those of you who want to look at a map, we were at: 36’31N by 3’33W, about 12 miles off shore. They were curving to the right, blocking my path, and roughly matching a line I could see on the map, that I assumed was an underground cable. I wanted to cross them, as I was reasonably certain that it wasn’t a net – but, I wasn’t 100% certain that it wasn’t a net. What to do? I circled for a bit, and messed with both radars to try to see if I could learn more. On our smaller radar I couldn’t make them appear no matter what I did. On the large radar they were unmistakable. I shut down the small radar, in case it was some sort of interference between the two radars. Nope – no difference. Something was in the water. I woke up Roberta, who grumpily said I should just turn right – go another five miles out to sea – and, forget about it. The dots stretched for at least another 10 miles, but we kept them on our left. I don’t think it was a radar glitch, as it wasn’t a straight line – but was it a net? I don’t know. There were no lights whatsoever, and I never saw anything.

Our ride was bumpy, but not a problem. The wind seemed to know which way we were going and stayed on our nose. We had about four hours that were really bad – where we were really slammed, but nothing that scared us.

What did worry me was fatigue. With Roberta and I doing four hours on, four hours off, I was having trouble sleeping. Roberta would send me downstairs to sleep, and I would lie there not able to sleep on command. I did one night-time shift alone and noticed myself drifting towards sleep a couple of times. I reminded myself that this could be fatal, and forced myself awake. I set my alarm clock, built into my cell phone, for 15 minutes later – and, kept setting it over and over again through the shift. The next morning I told everyone I wasn’t doing a night-time shift again without someone along to keep me awake. Many people do watches alone without falling asleep. Others, particularly sail boaters, sometimes go to sleep and just don’t worry about it. These people are nuts, in my opinion, and have also been known to run, or anchor, without lights. Scary and dangerous.

We had a couple more encounters with commercial fishing boats. Roberta decided to experiment with passing a half mile behind one. Nothing bad happened. This emboldened us, and when we encountered a fleet of 10 of them blocking our path coming into Formentera, we just drove straight through them (keeping a respectful distance behind the individual boats)

We approached Formentera in 25 knot winds, at 9:00 in the morning. We were tired and wanted to go to sleep. Anchoring looked like it would be a miserable experience. I had phoned virtually every marina on the near-by larger island of Ibiza, all of which had no space available. Finally I called Formentera’s sole marina that surprised us by saying they had an available slip. The cruising guide warned that it was a small marina with frequent entry and exit of high-speed ferries, and not very protected from the wind.

Our smooth exit from Gibraltar, and entry/exit at Puerto Banus had emboldened us. I was convinced we could get into port, no problem, even with the wind. I was wrong. Just entering the port took a half hour, as ferry after ferry came shooting into the port entrance. Each time that I would think I was aligned, a ferry would come blasting out, or another shoot up behind me. I finally picked my window and shot into the port.

Inside, the port was a mess. There is a small turning bay, perhaps 150 feet across. On the right is a ferry dock, with room for four or five ferries. To the left there were various boat docks, and straight head there were some more boat docks. I was directed to proceed through the turning bay, just past the first dock on the right. In the bay was one ferry arriving, one departing, a 50’ sail boat that was struggling with the wind, and drifting out of control, plus a couple of other smaller boats that seemed to not know where they were going. The wind inside the marina was showing as 22 knots. I was dodging the other boats, while looking to see what I had to do to get to my dock. Unfortunately, the narrow entrance to the dock I wanted to get to was further narrowed by a couple of sailboats rafted together at the end. Quickly, I ascertained that this wasn’t happening. The entrance to the dock would be nearly impossible without wind. The wind put it over the top. I shouted to Roberta “Let’s get the hell out of here!” Her response: “You can do it. Just take your time.” I believed her, and maneuvered a bit more, trying to avoid the out of control sailboat, which seemed to now be under control, but still in my way. After a few more futile efforts to align myself, I called to Roberta – “This can’t be done. If you think you can do it, the controls are yours.” She gave me a disgusted look, and grabbed the controls. I went towards the back of the boat, to have a look at the situation there and within 30 seconds, realized the boat was pivoting! I ran back to the front, where Roberta was and shouted “What are you doing?” She said “This is impossible – we have to get out of here. We’re drifting into the wall. If we don’t get out now, we’re going to hit” That, and the fact that she walked away from the controls, got my attention quickly. I did drive us out of the marina, but it was one of the hairier things I’ve ever done. The marina was not surprised when I called back to say “Sorry. I decided to pass on the slip. I cannot get in.” I now understood why it was the only available slip within 50 miles.

Anchoring was sounding a LOT better. Formentera is a strangely shaped island. The northern part of the island is a long sandbar, a 3-mile long sandbar. Given that sandbars have two sides, this means six miles of beautiful beach, and many miles of awesome hiking. Unfortunately, the sandbar is low, so there isn’t much protection from the wind, but there is some. The sandbar runs north to south, and boats tend to anchor on the east or west side, based on the wind. Not only does this provide some sheltering from the wind, but it also has you blowing offshore should you break anchor. Each side has beachfront restaurants. It was an east wind, so we chose the west side, and anchored. It wasn’t bad at all, and we asked ourselves why we ever considered going into port. We were alone, due to the wind, but this didn’t last long. With each hour, the wind dropped, and new boats arrived. By 1:00pm, the wind was down and the beach was packed. We napped then tendered ashore for a wonderful lunch, and hike on the beach.

As were tendering to shore our first time, the first sail boat we passed had a couple of young men (hunks) standing on the back deck, totally nude, showering. Dress codes are extremely loose in the Med. I was a little nervous that Roberta’s mom might freak out, but all she said was “Can’t we slow down a little to see if they turn around?” I told her not to worry that she would see LOTS more similarly dressed people over the next few days. Roberta’s dad later made his only comment on the situation, saying “Ken, do you think they sell any copies of Playboy on the island? I can’t imagine they do. This is much better.”

We had three incredible days on Formentera. The only excitement was tendering to shore. On the second day, the wind flipped directions. All of the hundreds of boats moved to the other side of the sandbar. The winds had come back up. This was not a problem for us at anchor, but the waves were breaking on shore. We could see everyone at the restaurant enjoying their lunch, but I didn’t want to take the tender to shore, with the breaking waves. Everyone was hungry, so they convinced me. We all got in the dinghy and tried, but failed. Back to the boat. We then noticed the restaurant tender going boat to boat taking people to shore. To get to the beach they were surfing the waves, lifting the engine, and driving fast up onto the sand. We signaled the guy and did it – exciting! Roberta’s parents didn’t like it though, as it was tricky getting out of the tender and very wet.

On a related topic of wind at anchor, I should mention our flopper stoppers. We’ve had them for years, but only used them a couple of times.

On the east side of Formentera, we were anchored with a 1.5 meter swell. This made it miserable on the boat. The flopper stoppers (there is a picture of them on the website (http://www.kensblog.com/) act like stabilizers at anchor. Roberta and I made a command decision to force ourselves to really master their deployment, after years of avoiding their use. It took some practice, but what had taken hours the first time, we now have down to minutes. I would now consider dropping them a normal part of our anchoring process, unless the water was absolutely flat, and would never own a boat without them.

After a few days, we moved to an anchorage at nearby Ibiza. Sometimes I like quiet bays to anchor in, but as we had no ability to cook aboard ship, I was seeking a protected anchorage, with a good restaurant. We found the perfect place for this at Ensenada de la Canal on Ibiza (Playa Mitjorn). Great restaurants and a fun beach.

The restaurant did have a tender, but we decided to do our own tendering. The local tender guys tend to be a bit crazy, and I was convinced I could do a better job. The waves were breaking again (too much wind), but I had studied their technique, and had my own ideas. I would get close enough to shore, to be just where the waves started breaking, raise the motor and jump into the water. I would then lead the boat as close to shore as I dared, and ask everyone to jump out. The bad part of this idea was that Roberta and her parents were exiting the tender in knee high breaking waves. This wasn’t horrible, and Roberta and I thought it was kind of fun, but her parents were not amused. Leaving shore, I goofed once, and we took a large breaking wave straight over the bow of the tender, soaking everyone, and filling the tender. Roberta and I were laughing hysterically. Her parents were not.

I loved it there, but it was clear that Roberta’s parents did not like the twice-daily trips to and from shore. They were real work. The wind was moving, so it was time to find a new anchorage. I asked Roberta’s parents whether they would rather go to another anchorage, or if I should see if I could get into port in Mallorca early. They jumped on the opportunity, and I agreed. As much as I love life at anchor, being on shore sounded good.

We had a nine hour run ahead of us to Mallorca, and I was burnt out on long runs, so I looked at the map to see how to break up the trip. I found a port on the east side of Ibiza that would get us a couple of hours closer and called them. They had a slip!!! We headed out immediately. Wow! A very cool marina, called Puerto Sta Euralia. I had no expectations, and was extremely impressed. We had no trouble getting in, with one small exception.

In the Med, everything is the Med Tie. There are no finger docks. Everyone parks side to side, with only fenders to separate them. Your bow is held in place by a line that extends to the bottom of the marina, and your stern is tied to the wall by your own stern lines. The bowline, when you arrive, is dangling from the wall at the back of your boat. You back to the wall, someone jumps off, grabs the rope, jumps back aboard, and then walks it to the front of the boat, where you winch it tight – and, you are done. Roberta’s and my normal procedure is that I back the boat to within about 20 feet of the wall, then she takes control, and I walk back to collect the bowline. We have a redundant set of boat controls at the aft deck (as well as several other places on the boat). For an unknown reason, which I need to investigate, the aft controls would not work. Roberta pressed the button and assumed she had control. She shouted up at me: “I’ve got it” and I ran downstairs. We were drifting slowly backwards at the time. She then shouted: “I can’t get control!!!!” Oops. We were going to hit the wall. I ran back up and goosed us forward just in time. As usual, a crowd had gathered to watch us park. The 62 is an unusual looking boat, which is in some ways a pain. I am often confronted by a curious crowd which wants to learn more about the boat while I am trying to tie lines. In this case, the crowd that was preparing to ask questions, instead watched Roberta and I look very confused as we bailed ourselves out of trouble. Oh well…

By a stroke of luck, Sta Euralia is the same city as one of my favorite restaurants on Ibiza – the Bambudhha Grove. We taxied to dinner, and had a great time.

The next morning, we set out for a seven hour cruise to Mallorca, which we decided to shorten by picking up the speed to 9.5 knots. In just six hours we were entering the port at Puerto Portals, in Palma. Puerto Portals is incredible! I had thought Puerto Banus was great, but now am reconsidering which I like better. It’s not quite as big, or hip – but – it’s quieter, and much classier. We had no trouble getting into our slip, and the people are very nice. We’ve mostly cruised the coast of France, with only one previous trip to Spain. I’ve been growing more impressed with it by the day, and wish I had more time. We don’t. We have only four days here at port in Mallorca, waiting for the delivery crew – and, our time on the boat will be over. Thus, my log has reached its end.

Thank you again for having “accompanied” Sans Souci and myself on this long quest. We have crossed the Atlantic and then some. I thanked everyone in sight with my last update, so I won’t bore everyone doing that again – but I did forget one important thank you — to Sans Souci herself. She has brought us nearly 5,000 miles, through some calm seas and some very rough seas, with virtually no problems. I asked last night at dinner if anyone was ever scared. Neither Roberta, nor her parents, could remember one moment when they felt in danger. That says a lot. I doubt I’ll ever cross another ocean, but am thrilled to have done so. Who knows, maybe I’ll reconsider someday?

Ken Williams
Sans Souci, 6209
http://www.kensblog.com/

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