GSSR # 13 – Ketchikan to Wrangell

Greetings all!

Total Distance: 5,276 nm
Run so far: 825 nm
Nautical Miles to go: 4,461 nm
Tomorrow’s goal: Wrangell Narrows!

Greetings all!

I’m happy to report that all three GSSR boats (Grey Pearl, Seabird, Sans Souci) made it successfully to Ketchikan!

Left to right in this photo: Roberta Williams (Sans Souci), Braun and Tina Jones (Grey Pearl), Steven and Carol Argosy (Seabird) and Ken Williams (Sans Souci).

One thing you can’t see in the photo above is that we are in the restaurant alone. This picture was taken at the restaurant Steamers, in the heart of Ketchikan. A very nice restaurant, with a great view, and a large restaurant, but no one there. In fact, the entire town was empty!

We discovered that Ketchikan really revolves around the cruise ship schedule. I’m not sure how many cruise ships a day come into Ketchikan, but we saw probably an average of two a day. When there are no cruise ships the town effectively closes. The shops close, and everyone goes home. It is as though someone turned off the lights. I’m not complaining, and in fact, Ketchikan is probably our favorite city so far, but it was a bit disconcerting. Roberta and her mom blocked out a day of shopping, on Sunday, and when they walked into town — no shops were open. Oops.

Of course, there are really two Ketchikans; the one the tourists see, and the “real Ketchikan” where the locals live and shop. Both are impressive. Walmart, Safeway, McDonalds, and more. We rented a car and spent several days exploring the area.

In addition to sightseeing, I found time for a few boat projects. I made the first of what will be MANY oil filter changes on the generator. A local mechanic was called to help me figure out a small hydraulic leak.

And… we all took on fuel.

Here’s an interesting statistic:

Miles from from Seattle to Ketchikan: 729

Fuel taken by Sans Souci: 1,188 gallons
Fuel taken by Seabird and Grey Pearl: 620 gallons

In other words, the Nordhavn 62 averaged 1.17 miles per gallon, while the Nordhavn 68 averaged only .6 miles per gallon. Or, here’s another way of looking at it: Assuming all boats averaged 8.5 knots, then we would have run for a little over 85 hours. This would imply that Sans Souci averaged nearly 14 gallons an hour, whereas Seabird and Grey Pearl averaged only 7 gallons per hour.

Hopefully I’m not putting you to sleep with this. Here’s my last thought on this topic: There are several reasons why Sans Souci’s fuel burn is so much higher. 1) Our weight is 120 gross tons, whereas the Nordhavn 62 is only 70 gross tons. 2) The Nordhavn 62 is almost as long, but has substantially less beam. 3) I have twin engines, which adds some inefficiency. And, 4) I suspect that speed is part of this. My guess is that I averaged over 9.5 knots, and fuel efficiency declines dramatically as speed increases.

OK … enough of that…

I mentioned in my last blog that I would be asking Seabird and Grey Pearl to do short videos to introduce themselves. While in Ketchikan, I gave Seabird a list of questions and my video camera, and asked them to shoot a video of themselves which would reveal a bit about their personalities, their boat, and their trip so far. Seabird just gave me their video, and I should have Grey Pearl’s video in a day or two.

If you do not see the video player below, click this link:


As you can tell, boaters are “interesting” people….

At dinner, we were talking about spare parts (yes … that is what boaters talk about at dinner). For a trip like this, I have almost enough spare parts on board to build another Nordhavn 68. I mentioned to Braun Jones (Grey Pearl) that I have a thick spread sheet that I use to track all the parts, and most importantly where they are hid on the boat. Some are beneath beds, some behind the couch, some in the engine room, etc. There are spare parts EVERYWHERE.

Braun then told a story about his system, which I thought was quite clever. He has a listing of where all the parts are stuffed, the same as I do, but then also has a system for ordering replacement parts.Whenever Braun uses a spare part, he tears the part number off the box, and tosses it into a tray. Then, when he reaches town, he grabs all the little pieces of cardboard from the tray, and runs off to a marine store, where he buys replacements. Recently however, he discovered a flaw in his system. He was changing the oil, and looked at his inventory to see where the oil filters were. The inventory said that he had three filters, but when he looked, he really didn’t have any! This stumped him, until the next time he was in port, and bought some new filters. When back at the boat, he opened the bag, and pulled out the filters, which were wrapped in cellophane. No box. Aha!

Roberta and I were in a hurry to get moving, and left for Wrangall a day ahead of Seabird and Grey Pearl. Our run to Wrangall was long (nearly 100 miles) and very complicated in places, but overall, very uneventful.

Departure from Ketchikan was complicated by all the cruise ships coming in. We had three cruise ships pass us in the first five miles after leaving port. That’s not fun in a tight channel!

About half way into our run, something really strange thing happened. As we were running, in perfectly calm seas, we suddenly heard a loud noise, and the water around us suddenly showed ripples like there was some kind of sea creature; perhaps a whale beneath the boat. Nothing made sense. I scanned around us in all directions, and finally realized – it was a coast guard helicopter, right on top of us, probably no more than 50 feet above our boat! They hadn’t called on the radio, and there was no apparent reason for them to be sitting on top of me. They stayed for a minute, and then took off fast. All I can figure is that they saw on AIS that our destination was Osaka Japan, and got curious about who we were.

Here you see a picture of how deep the channel was. Here we are running through a tight narrow channel, and you’ll notice the bottom is over 1,800 feet!

Here you see a few pictures from Wrangell. It’s a small town, with a nice marina. We had noticed as we approached Wrangell that the water suddenly shifted colors, to brown. We were intersecting the Stikine River. I had to quickly kill the watermaker, rather than quickly clog the membranes.

Several tour boat operators offer jet boat rides up the Stikine River. According to the brochure: “… The Stikine River is the fastest flowing navigable river in North America, and one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers, running 330 miles through British Columbia and the Alaskan Mainland to its Delta….” Roberta and I wanted to do the jet boat trip, but from the chart it appeared that we could do the trip either from Wrangell, or from Petersburg, our next stop, and the charts were telling us, because of tides and currents, that we’d rather move on Petersburg.

Of course, to reach Petersburg, we’ll have to transit Wrangell Narrows…

More tomorrow.

Thank you, Ken Williams Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci

15 Responses

  1. Tracy Arm is by far the most scenic trip there is. On my trip I saw unbelievable calving glaciers, bears, humpback whales, killer whales, beautiful waterfalls and much more. I definitely recommend going to Tracy Arm. In fact, there is a movie on Tracy Arm called “Alaska, The Tracy Arm Experience”. The film captures the beauty of this incredible place. You can buy the film here from Film Baby: (

    I highly recommend Tracy Arm. If you get a chance, experience it yourself. And don’t forget to buy the film too!

  2. Hello K&R,

    Your fuel stats, (and other tech goodies) certainly do not put me to sleep. It is very interesting, keep it coming. Well, .06 nmg is, for practical safe planning at 9.5 kts, may be what you should count on, including running generators all the time, eves, etc; that will fit into the equation. Your Simon sys has fuel sensors? How about gens fuel flow? When you are running nonstop for a few days, and I see that coming soon, you can probably do much better. At 9.5 kts, it is perhaps to close to the high of displacement speed? At 9.5 kts, is that 1.40, or higher than the calculated resistance for economy? 1.35, the mysterious barrier number, would be 9.1 kts, even so, resistance is peaking. Perhaps 1.20 would add a huge amount of range… while your 24/7 gens remove a little although not much at all on long averaged nonstoppers.. The full displacement design can carry massive amounts without affecting economy, if you are at or below the Froude. (converted speed/length ratio). Having fun in FL, watching you at the other end!

  3. Well, the blue one – miles done – is 825 NM
    So I suppose Ken has been a little bit conservative about the ratio…

  4. However one says nautical miles, the bar just says miles. Not sure of the conversion but that probably explains the difference

  5. Ken,

    just an observation:
    On your progress bar-chart you are showing 6000+ sm instaed of the 5000+ of the text…


  6. Ken, Roughly speaking…20KW will draw approximately 30 Hydraulic Horsepower figuring efficency into the hydraulics only. So without question that is using more than parasitic horsepower from the mains. As you’ve suggested probably not the most efficient use of power.


  7. Jim:

    The hydraulic alternators might be working now. To be honest, I haven’t tried them since they were fixed.

    I tried them when the boat was first new, and they overheated immediately. This caused me to abandon their use until recently. Nordhavn was on the boat in March, and added a safety feature to the alternators, that would disable them at lower rpms. I then tried them again, and they caused my hydraulic system to overheat. I just installed flow meters on my hydraulic cooling system, so I checked and only two gallons per minute were flowing. This led me to calling David Sidbury, owner of the second N68, and a walking encyclopedia, who said I should be at eight GPM. I dialed it up, and haven’t tried the hydraulic alternators since.

    My current issue is one of efficiency. Before the alternators overheated, I measured the incremental fuel burn. I have a hydraulic pump on the back of each of my main engines. Normally, one pump is adequate, but using the alternators puts me over the line to needing both pumps. This causes incremental fuel burn of nearly two gallons per hour; or more than my 25kw generator.

    To make things worse, the output of the alternators is 24 volt. This needs converted back to A/C current to be used, meaning another cycle of lost efficiency.

    The bottom line: Nordhavn has stopped putting the cruising alternators on the boats. It’s a lot of pain for not much gain.

    -Ken W

  8. Ken, I have 30 years experience in marine and mobile hydraulic systems. We built in the past 20 service trucks used on the North SLope in Alaska that all had 12KW generator/welders that worked 1000’s of hours with no problems. It seems to me your having a lot of problems with your hydraulic generator drives. It should be a flow/pressure compensated system.In some cases just a pressure compensated system is used which could cause the heat problems you had previously described.I am not intimately acquanted with the specific part numbers: pump, motors, flow controls your system uses but would be glad to help in any way I can.

  9. Those people from Seabird are very funny. I can’t believe they could keep a straight face while doing that. Very talented.

  10. Great video, cant stop laughing, a great couple to have along. You should all have a ball. no need to worry about pirate attacks or customs agents.

  11. a tip about parts which actually came from someone talking about the need for a watermaker, a part broke on this persons boat while offshore, gets the replacement, opens the box and inside was the wrong part, took him days to get back to a port. don’t assume the part in the box is correct! jon

  12. Ken…I’ll second what Hal mentioned about Tracy Arm.

    Its a must-visit location and always provides great photo opportunities, should be some very pretty ice floating around in there.

    The video-visit with the folks from Seabird, quite entertaining..!

    And… didn’t mention that you guys have a Clinton look-a-like along for the trip

  13. I just loved the comedy skit by the owners of Seabird. What a hoot. I had a good laugh. Thanks.

  14. I’m vicariously enjoying your trip, Ken and Roberta. I like Petersburg much more than Wrangell. I ran the Wrangell Narrows once at night — great fun.

    Don’t miss Tracy Arm and Sawyer Glacier on the way to Juneau — as good as Glacier Bay in my opinion.

  15. If I were you, I wouldn’t let Bill Clinton put his arm around my wife! Great pictures!
    Ron Rogers

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Credits     |     Video produced by: Rock Steady Media     |     Teletype photo: Arnold Reinhold     |     PDP-11 photo: Trammell Hudson