Getting Serious About Trip Planning

Most of the past week has been consumed with moving (from a house to a condo). We are finally feeling “moved in” and tomorrow is our last day in Seattle before flying back to Cabo on Thursday morning. Aside from being tired of packing and shuffling boxes, we’re very much looking forward to being warm for a while.


There have been a few boat-related projects the past few days…


Roberta and I spent yesterday afternoon on the boat, meeting with the team who is doing all the work while we are gone. Jeff, who is managing all of the upgrades this winter had a long list of questions for me. It was quickly apparent that Jeff has everything under control, and that I didn’t really need to make any decisions.


Here’s a quick list of the larger projects this winter. I’ve discussed all of these in my blog, so I’m just giving an ultra condensed version of the work being performed. If anyone wants more info on any of these, feel free to post a comment and I’ll go into more detail.


Upgrading the electronics. We’re upgrading from Furuno’s Navnet 2 system to their newer Navnet 3d.

Upgrading the Internet Access. Internet is a big part of both Roberta’s and my life. We’ve been primarily using a combination of wifi and Fleet 77. The Fleet 77 is slow and expensive, but has served us very well over the years (We had a Fleet 77 on our Nordhavn 62, and now on our Nordhavn 68). There is a finally a high-speed solution (2 megabit) with unlimited access, called Mini V-Sat. My understanding is that we’ll be amongst the first users, and certainly the first private boat to cruise the Bering Sea with Mini V-Sat. It’s a huge project making the change, but if it works, it will be worth it.

Swapping the batteries. During the first six months after taking delivery of our boat, our international shore power adapter (Atlas) did not work. Our battery bank was completely drained many times, and now seems to be fine, but I don’t trust it. I’m installing a new battery bank that uses half the space, and has three quarters of the amp hours.

Swapping the air conditioning system. Our a/c system has never worked on the boat. It now appears that the problem may have been an electrical problem, however, I tend to be superstitious about these things. After months of trying to fix the system I made the decision to toss the old system off the boat and swap brands (from Cruisair to Technicold). This may have been a dumb idea, but I am not always rational when angry.

Swapping our 16kw generator for a 20kw generator. We had two generators; a large (25kw) and a small (16kw). The N68 is a bigger boat than I think we realized, and the 16kw always seemed to be slightly less than we needed.

Fixing the fresh water system. We had a few leaks in the fresh water system that have been there from the beginning. It’s a warranty item, but it hasn’t been bad enough that we were in a hurry to get it fixed. The time has finally arrived.

Swapping one of our two tenders. We had two great tenders, but what we really should have gotten was one great tender, and one tender that is designed just to be “beached.” Specifically, we need a small, lightweight tender, with wheels that allow it to be rolled up the beach.

Upgrading the engine room fans. I describe myself as a “warm water cruiser.” Roberta sold me on our trip across the Bering Sea by promising me that there would be nothing but blue skies and warm water once we get to the other side. We discovered that with the 95 degree water in Costa Rica that the engine room ran hotter than I’d like. We’re going to upgrade to stronger fans.


This is a long list, but not as bad as it looks. When Sans Souci leaves the dock May 1st, it may not re-enter the US for 10 years. Our goal for the Costa Rica run was to put the boat under stress, and spend some serious time aboard, and see if there is anything we would change. Studying this list: the battery swap was caused indirectly by a failure in the Atlas system. The internet upgrade is being done because we’ve been using a decade old architecture, and now there is a new technology. Ten years is a lifetime in internet years. The upgrade from Navnet 2 to Navnet 3 is roughly the same. Navnet 3 is newer and cooler, and I like cool new technologies. The a/c swap is arguably unnecessary, as is the generator swap. The fresh water system is a warranty item, and lastly, the tender swap is being caused because I ordered the wrong tender in the first place. It’s amazing that the list is so small given that we ran the boat over 10,000 miles in the first year.


Of course, this isn’t the whole list. There are dozens of little projects. For instance, I’ve mentioned that I want to “beef up” the monitoring system. I’ve also asked Jeff to explore a system I’ve heard about that extends the time between oil changes.


And on a different topic….


I somehow have found time over the past few days to start digging in deep on trip planning.


This has meant an endless series of hours spent “googling” to find good reference information. I wasted almost an entire day looking for websites or blogs with good information about cruising in the Aleutian Islands. The deeper I look, the more I realize how little there is that has been written, and how little there is to talk about. They are a desolate chain of islands, with almost nothing on them, no reason to go there, and horrible weather.


A few weeks back, I did hit a gold mine, by finding this site: It has more detailed information on weather and anchoring in the Aleutians than I ever dreamed I’d find. I keep googling, thinking I’ll find another great site, but am losing faith that anything else particularly awesome exists. The only other great reference I found was this one: It’s the coast pilot to cruising in Alaska and the Aleutian islands. The first few pages of Chapter 7 are mandatory reading for anyone thinking about going to the Aleutians, and explains why we won’t be seeing a lot of other boats.


My googling for Japan has also gone well. I discovered this site yesterday:


It has links to English language cruising guides, charts, marina info and more. I’ve spent hours on it, and my favorite page so far is this one: It has a downloadable file for google earth with placemarks for most of the marinas in Japan. The placemarks have links to the marina’s websites, and show where each marina is located geographically. I’ve been zooming in, to see how many slips the marinas have, and what size boats are at each marina. Very cool. Also, when I go to a marina website, I translate it from Japanese to English using: I just put in the Japanese website address and then I can surf the website in english. The language is sometimes translated so poorly that it is a “detective project” to figure what the site says, but it has definitely been a valuable resource.


It does make you wonder… How did cruisers do their trip planning in the “old days?”


-Ken W


23 Responses

  1. Ken, I’m curious about the sea service for your 100GT license. The USCG Web site says that 720 days of deck service are required in addition to the training and testing (and letter of recommendation!). How did you document that?


  2. Ken,

    I just spent two days on the new Krogen 55, we offloaded it from the freighter and took offshore from Georgia to Ft Pierce, FL. Of interest is the “Delta-T” blower system installed. We turned it on high, and within 4-5 minutes, the engine temperature on both engines came down 3-4 degrees, while still running. This sytem really moves some air. I would not have believed it had I not seen it. When stopped, it really does a number on engine room heat. Yes, there is residual heat from the engines, but even that tends to dissipate soon. It’s a ver ynice system.

  3. Hey Ken

    WOW, Nice Kodiak Brochure! I noticed that you might be hitting Kodiak around the time of the Kodiak Crab FEstival on May 21-25-09. They will be having Survival Suit Racesas part of the fun, and I encourage you and the crew to join in the fun!!! LOL (Page 51 of the brochure)Sure enjoy the blog. It’s the next best thing to being there. Did I tell you I can cook?

    Enjoy your time in Cabo!

  4. Ken, on a slightly different subject I’m not sure if you had a chance to check out Three@S… website located on Nordhavn owners website? A friend of ours, Jim Rooney was the original owner of thier N43 and suggested we check it out. You will be amazed at this 12 year old girl and the video’s she is producing as she and her parents spend the next four years circumnavigating.

  5. All… I just landed in Cabo… and, need a margarita. I’ll tackle all the comments (great comments!) tomorrow.

    I was just reading an article in Soundings about the Katmai and watched this video yesterday of a crew member describing the sinking. (

    As Roberta keeps telling me: “Think of it as three weeks in hell followed by years of warm water.” It’s the only thing keeping me motivated…

    -Ken W

  6. Gosh Ken,

    I read the following in Chapter 7 of the USCG Coast Pilot and cannot see why anyone would go near the Aleutians, except to fuel at Dutch Harbor. I also note the use of the phrase of “it is said” in the text. Translation: they don’t know for sure! Here is part of the introductory text:

    “The weather of the Aleutians is characterized by
    persistently overcast skies, strong winds, and violent
    storms. It is often variable and quite local. Clear
    weather is seldom encountered over a large area. North
    shores are usually better off than South ones. The win-
    ter temperatures are moderated by the relatively warm
    waters of the Japan Current, so the islands are usually
    free from ice, which would hamper navigation. At Adak,
    overcast conditions average nearly 75% of the time
    June and July, dropping back to approximately
    50% of the time from October through February.”

    Later they note that the Winter is better for visibility than the Summer!!! Adak Island is foggy 175 days a year! Currents from narrow passes can reach out up to 20 miles from their origin.

    I’d get my fuel and get away from the Aleutians. You don’t need an expert if you stay away!


  7. On the subject of having an Aleutians expert on board, I think I have the appropriate job description. You want a navigator. Think of old airplane crews and current military ship crews – had/have navigators.

    I’m wondering if there is a retired or current (would have to take leave) Coast Guard officer or senior non-commissioned officer who has the relevant experience. One could contact the Region or District Headquarters seeking a referral.

    Earlier, I had suggested (offline) consulting a “Deadliest Catch” captain, but I never thought they would make suitable companions. They are very “in charge” personalities.

  8. On engine room temperatures, I’m wondering if you have examined the differences between your boat and the second Nordhavn 68. They reported an engineroom temp of 101F and a water temperature of 79F. I realize they have different engines, but is their ventilation also different?

    Since you have found 20 degree cooler spots in the engine room, perhaps a circulating fan might also help the average temperature?


  9. Might you need a secondary weather routher familiar with your route in the same mode that you feel you need a secondary captain to advise you and Jeff? I know the weather router is good, have used him before, but this route might be outside his expertise.

  10. “Two days in he appproached me to complain about the lack of scheduled entertainment and activities on the boat.”

    I think at that point, I would have suggested he contact Royal Caribbean, or Carnival Cruise Lines instead of buying a Nordhavn! 🙂

    As to my question on contacting one of the Deadliest Catch captains…I wasn’t thinking along the lines of bringing one of them onboard for the trip….I was thinking more along the lines of picking their brains for info on the area…

    I agree that you don’t want any rookies on board on the Bering Sea…I’ve seen all the Deadliest Catch episodes, and the Bering Sea can get extremely rough. And as you mentioned before, there aren’t a lot of hiding places…

    Once you get your info from the experts on the heat question, I’m sure there are many readers here who would be interested in hearing the answer to that question. Or, if you know any future N68 buyers who went with a single engine option, it would be interesting to hear how warm their engine room gets. Mind you, I’m sure there are a lot of other variables when it comes to heat in the engine room, due to the many different options one might have installed in their engine room, along with cooling options installed. I’m still curious though….

    – John S.

  11. Chuck: THe boat has come up the coast twice .. the first time was when we initially took delivery last July. That’s when we had the guy on board. He’s actually a really good guy. I don’t mean to pick on him. It was just that he was thinking of it as a fun run, and I tend to think of longer passages as “hunker down and get them done.” The same guy was on a Nordhavn 40 recently running from Panama to Florida and had a wonderful time, and the owner whose boat he was on said he was a first rate “crew” member. It was an issue of setting expectations, both his and mine, and we didn’t talk first. He was expecting we’d all sit around the table at night and play poker. That’s just not my style. Actually, Jeff was onboard, and did organize a “movie night” as a result of the event. It was a big success and became something the crew looked forward to every day.

    On this most recent trip up the coast, I wasn’t on board. It was strictly Jeff and hired crew.

    -Ken W

  12. Ken-I am confused. You said on the trip north on the Ca. coast you had a future Nordhavn owner on board who was complaining about lack of entertainment. First off that has got to be the dumbest comment I have ever heard from a guest, but secondly I thought you weren’t on the boat coming north until it got near Seattle?

  13. Rod:

    I need to go back and research what I ordered. A box did show up, but it just had a five volume set of Admiralty Sailing Directions for Japan. Now I’m not positive whether or not I ordered the charts. Tomorrow, we go to Cabo, and life will get simpler for five weeks. I’ll start reviewing what I have, and check the order.

    I did spend some time looking at the Japan charts that are part of Nobeltec Max Pro. They appear to be very good, and include detailed charts for all of the areas I’ve checked so far. I also checked Siberia, and the charts seem very good. I’ll also be getting a completely different set of electronic charts from Mapmedia, to work with Navnet 3d.

    I’m still waiting for a response from Bellingham printers on a price for paper charts. They were supposed to have responded yesterday but didn’t. Maybe today…

    -Ken W

  14. John:

    I did try to contact the Deadliest captains, and even hunted down some of their home phones. I was literally down to picking up the phone to call them when I had second thoughts, and didn’t dial the phone.

    A bit of background…

    On the run to Japan, Roberta and I will run much of it alone, or with friends. However, for the run from Kodiak or Dutch Harbor, to Siberia, we will want some professional crew on board to help. I had a specific list of skills we wanted to have on board:

    – Jeff Sanson (Jeff is awesome to travel with. Versatile, can fix anything, and inspires confidence throughout the boat)
    – A cook
    – Someone who has been in the Aleutians before, and knows the islands
    – A cold water diver (“just in case we hook a net or bang a prop”)

    During the Aleutian run, I want no “rookies” on board. Everyone must have run many thousands of miles, and with mild, or no, seasickness issues. The Bering Sea is not a good place for amateur hour.

    As mentioned above, one of the slots on the trip is for a skilled person who has been to the Aleutians. This is a trickier slot to fill than the others, because what I really want is a captain. A deckhand, regardless of their years of experience, doesn’t give me the inside knowledge on currents, winds and anchorages that I’m seeking.

    The problem with bringing on a skilled captain though is one of politics. Generally, a ship should have one captain. When Jeff and I first met, it was a bit awkward, in that I insisted that when Jeff and I are aboard ship together, I am the captain. This was initially tough for Jeff to swallow. He has a 1600 ton license, whereas I’ve only had my 100 ton license for a few months. By any measure, except perhaps when dealing with computer, software, or electrical issues, Jeff’s skills exceed mine across the board. When I ran a company, my goal was always to surround myself with a team that was smarter than I was, so having Jeff onboard wasn’t much of an adjustment for me — but, for Jeff, it was an issue. That said, it was only an issue for the first few hours. We quickly discovered that we have mutual respect, and a job to get done, and neither of us gets bogged down in politics. It has never been an issue. However, that is not always true. Captains tend to have strong personalities. I don’t think one leads by being shy. Mixing two strong personalities on a boat can be difficult. Adding a third strong personality might be a non-event, and it could be a big event. It really depends on the person. My perception, generally, of the Deadliest Catch skippers is that they are a hard-drinking, hard-smoking, heavy-cussing group. That may just be a personality created for television, or it might be real. Once again I don’t know. I run a pretty boring ship. When I have crew on board, it’s generally because we’re running waters which I think deserve our full attention. I don’t like distractions of any sort. The focus has got to be on moving the boat safely from point A to point B, and anything not related to that goal tends to bug me. On our recent passage up the west coast of california, I had a passenger on board who was considering buying a Nordhavn. Two days in he appproached me to complain about the lack of scheduled entertainment and activities on the boat. I had to confess to being 100% guilty. I tend to have blinders on when making a passage. Issues related to maintenance and safety get my attention. Everything else can wait until we get there.

    Anyway, I’m way off the subject of your question…

    I didn’t make the call, because I was worried about how adding a new captain to the mix would work. Ultimately, I solved the problem by making it Jeff’s problem. As the guy who writes the checks, I always have a certain element of control. Thus if there is friction, it is more likely to be between Jeff and the Aleutian expert, not with me and them. By letting Jeff hunt the person down, I’m assuming the odds go up that we’ll have good chemistry on the boat. I’ve given him the idea of calling the Deadliest Catch skippers, but when last we spoke, he was focused on people he had worked with before, and knew. It’s a bit of a social experiment putting six semi-strangers together for a month in a little 68′ x 21′ space. If everyone isn’t happy, then the focus can shift away from making a safe passage, and that is completely unacceptable.

    As to the topic of singles vs twins, and the impact on engine room heat…

    It’s actually not 100% clear. Intuitively, it seems that two engines should put out twice the heat of a single. But, I’m not really sure. Heat comes from the generation of horsepower. To move my boat at a given speed, there is a particular horsepower requirement. This horsepower requirement doesn’t change whether there is one engine, two engines or 12 engines. If it takes 220 horsepower to move my boat at 9 knots, then I either need one engine cranking out 220 horsepower, or two that contribute 110 each. In other words, I would expect the heat released into the engine room to be roughly the same, or perhaps higher by only about 10-15% in a twin engine configuration. I’ll ask the experts… On the studies I’ve seen, the experts compute based on the potential horsepower from each of the engines, and ignore the lowered individual engine horsepower requirement that comes from having twins. I consider this an error… but, I’m a software developer, and they are the experts, so I’m not really certain. A good question.

    -Ken W

  15. Ken,

    Have you considered trying to contact any of the captains from “Deadliest Catch” to get their input for your trip? At least when it comes to the Bearing Sea part that is…..

    Also, I’m curious to hear if your engine room temperature would have been any cooler had you gone with a single engine instead of dual. (ie – was your N62 engine room cooler than the N68?)

    – John S.

  16. Sam: I have the new Passagemaker here, but haven’t opened it yet. I’ll move it to the top of the pile… I did have Delta T analyze the engine room, and also did a spreadsheet, which I sent to Nordhavn, showing all the equipment and the ventilation requirement for each item. The boat will be hauled out at Delta this week, and we’re asking them to do a third analysis.

    I don’t like excess heat in the engine room, so we’re being very careful. Personally, I like to see the engine room warm, but not hot. I’m deferring this to the experts, but I like it between 95 and about 110 degrees, subject to exterior water temperature. We’ve been running 120 to 130 degrees when in warm water, which implies that we need to drop the temperature by at least 10 to 20 degrees.

    Engine room temperature varies widely within the engine room. There are places within my engine room where the temperature is 20 degrees cooler than elsewhere. I use the heat gun to shoot the temperature. If I shoot the wall just inside the intake fan, it is much cooler than if I shoot the wall above the exhaust fan. For consistently, I usually measure the engine room temp by shooting the ceiling just above the door at the entrance to the engine room. This seems to give me a reading which I believe comes closest to representing the average temperature in most of the room.

    It will be interesting to see what the article in Passagemaker recommends…

  17. Dave: Oops. I was wrong in my blog entry. I am upgrading from a 16kw generator to a 20kw generator. The 16kw Northern Lights, and the 20kw Northern Lights generators have the same physical footprint, whereas the 25kw is significantly larger. I would have preferred going to a second 25kw, but needed to fit the existing space. – Ken W

  18. Ken
    Does this mean that you will now have two 25KW generators? Also does this mean you plan on alternating the generators to split the workload/maintenance intervals?

  19. Ken, you may have seen it already, but there is a big article on engine room ventilation in this months Passagemaker.


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