GSSR 2010 no. 2 – A little insurance goes a long way (kind of)

Greetings all!

We’ve now set a schedule for this season’s cruising. There’s an old saying about boating, which states that ‘cruising schedules are best etched in sand at low tide,’ and I suspect this year’s schedule is no exception.

For what it is worth, our schedule is:

             4/26/10  Depart Ashiya
5/1/10 – 5/7/10 Hiroshima
5/10/10- 5/20/10 Fukuoka
5/22/10- 5/29/10 Nagasaki
5/30/10- 6/4/10 Yakushima
6/11/10 – 6/22/10 Okinawa
6/25/10 – 7/1/10 Ishigaki
7/4/10 – 7/10/10 Tainan, Taiwan
7/12/10 – Arrive in Hong Kong, China

The important date on this list is next Monday, the 26th, when we are slated to depart the marina which has become been home to our boats over the past six months. It will be sad leaving here as we’ve settled in, and become somewhat spoiled. We know the bus routes, have favorite restaurants, know where to shop, know people in the area, etc. 

Bellport Marina hosted a party on Sunday where they invited a Shinto priest to bless all of the boats, and offer security for the summer cruising.


The event was taken quite seriously, and we were expected to participate. There was a fair amount of ceremony and I was concerned that I might somehow make a mistake by bowing incorrectly. At first, I fought participation rather than risk offending anyone, but ultimately gave in.

I have assumed that our blessing would cover us all the way to Hong Kong, but received an email indicating that our coverage is limited.

              “…Good morning.

On behalf of all of Bellport members I would like to say many thanks for your participation in the blessing of the fleet.

I think you & crews of all the American boats, owners & family were very surprised to experience the Japanese style blessing.

So, four American boats can safety sail within 20 miles from bellport. However, over the 20 miles, no effect & reach to pray to the God of sea.

Pls try to safely sail over 20 miles by own your risk.

We members of Bellport intend to provide any support & help to you.

Pls contact us in anytime when you need help.

Again, we deeply hope you to have safe & joyful sailing until reach to home port….”

As near as I can tell, the 20 nm limitation is plenty for most recreational cruisers in Japan. When Starr (one of our GSSR boats) was clearing into Japan, I spoke with a group of Japan Coast Guard officers who were walking down the dock. I shared with them our plan to cruise to Hiroshima a ‘short’ 150nm away. I was curious if the coast guard might know a couple of good anchorages along the route. It took a bit for them to understand what I was asking, and when they did, the answer was, “Sorry, but we cannot help you. We only cover the local area.”

To be fair, I’m not sure that American recreational cruisers aren’t also somewhat limited in scope. I gave a speech a few weeks ago at the Seattle Yacht Club, and there was an awkward moment when I was talking to the group, and mentioned that one of my goals for the evening was try to convince the group, many of whom cruise to Alaska every summer to go the extra 500 miles across the Gulf of Alaska to Kodiak. It’s an awesome place, and yet undiscovered by most Pacific NW cruisers. My comment elicited some strange looks from the crowd, which caught me by surprise.

And, on a completely different topic…

As many of you know, I like cool new technologies. I always like to have the newest electronic toys, which sometimes is a good thing, and sometimes is a disaster.

Here’s something which turned out better than expected:


I had an Ipad on backorder long before I had any idea why I wanted one. When mine arrived on the first day, Roberta teased me as I eagerly opened the box. Now that we’re on Sans Souci, I haven’t been able to get to my own ipad. Roberta has adopted it! We quickly discovered that it can be used with the wifi system on the boat to connect to our television at home (via a Slingbox) in Seattle. The ipad has become an ultra lightweight television that Roberta carries with her everywhere on the boat. We’re both news-junkies and like staying current. The ipad gives us complete access to our TIVO at home, and we can even watch Netflix through it. Very cool!

And, as to the weather…

I keep hoping for good weather for our departure, but so far, all we’ve seen is grey skies and rain. Argh!

That’s it for today. Roberta and I will be off the boat exploring Osaka for the next three days!

Ken Williams
Sans Souci, Nordhavn 68
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5 Responses

  1. Hi Ken. Thanks for mentioning our home, Kodiak, in your presentation. It’s kind of a place less traveled. All the people who come here love it though. As you know, Josh and Natasha left N40 Samba in our care this winter. They will be back May 10th to continue their explorations. This year they plan to run out the Peninsula and into the Aleutians. We will be out there fishing and we are making plans to rendezvous with them somewhere for dinner and vodka. They are great people and really put their 40 to good use. We join the Shinto priest in wishing you all a good voyage. Say hi to the rest of the Gang for me.

  2. Thanks, Ken. I’d love to hear more on the comparison once the boats are all underway and you have a chance to compare speed/fuel burn and also any comments on ride differences, although that will be difficult since you won’t be on Starr.


  3. I did the same thing you did, Ken. Got my iPad on April 3rd wondering what to do with it. Now I’m sitting in the St Francis hotel in San Francisco. This morning I fired up a wake-on-lan app to turn on my main home computer then used a RDC app to login and read my mail and your latest blog post

    Logged off home fired up safari to comment on your post.. Isn’t technology great!

  4. Sam:

    Maybe I’ll make that the topic of some upcoming blog.

    Here’s the quick answer…

    I haven’t spent much time on Starr so my opinions are very preliminary. That said, I do have an initial impression, and it is very favorable.

    Everything on Starr seems easy to get to. There is a trend in modern yacht construction to emphasize beauty over functionality. My favorite boat recently was a coast guard ice breaker I was on, where every wire was visible, and clearly labeled. I like easily maintainable boats, and am happy to trade-off beauty for it (something Roberta would disagree with).

    Let’s start at the beginning. Prior to ordering our N68, Roberta and I were in contract negotiations for a Northern Marine. Unfortunately, when I started asking around about them, the word on the street was that they deliver boats late, over budget and to make things worse, were close to financial collapse. For these reasons I did not sign the agreement and returned to Nordhavn. I am obviously a Nordhavn fan, but there were some very appealing things about Northern Marine. The Northern Marine boats are true custom boats. Prior to starting construction they model the interior in plywood, so you can walk around it. The same for the engine room. The entire build process assumed frequent interaction with the buyer and lots of tweaking. A friend of mine who built a 78′ boat with Northern Marine had his own office at their factory and was involved in every detail of construction.

    On the other hand, Nordhavn is a production boat. Visits to their factory are encouraged, although these are for the most part ‘social calls’. Some details can be worked out at the factory, but frequent owner involvement during construction is frowned upon. Nordhavn’s goal is to know what they are going to build prior to starting production, and then have a precise schedule, and budget, which they can manage to. This strategy of ‘semi-custom boats’ has worked well for Nordhavn, and they are still in business, whereas Northern Marine is gone. I actually did ask Nordhavn if I could hire an independent firm to mockup my lazarette so that we could decide where to put everything for maximum maintainability, and they rejected the idea. Instead they said the factory would place all of the equipment, look to see if it fit, and then move as necessary. This turned out to be a disaster, and some things, like the batteries, were 100% un-maintainable. For the second N68, the factory knew what to do, and all was fine. In my case, I yanked the batteries, and moved them.

    I’m saying this poorly, but the bottom line is that ‘if you have no budget or time constraint, and are doing a totally custom boat, there are fine details that can be polished that aren’t practical in a production or semi-production boat environment.’ To put this to hard math, I was estimating that my boat with Northern Marine was going to cost nearly double the cost of the Nordhavn, for virtually the identical boat.

    Overall, if you survey Nordhavn owners on satisfaction, and Northern Marine owners, you’ll find both are delighted with their boats. That said, every Northern Marine owner I spoke with grumbled about horrid cost and schedule overruns, and I did hit some who had perpetual problems with their boats that Northern Marine couldn’t seem to solve.

    So .. back to your original question…

    Starr seems a very maintainable boat. I struggled trying to upgrade my nav software, primarily because of problems with tracking down wires, and inability to run wires from the computers to the helm. I cannot get behind my helm. The access “hole” is only about 18″ by 18″ and I can’t possibly fit through it. Whereas Don has no trouble getting to the back of his electronics. Similarly in the engine room. All of his equipment is easily gotten at. To be fair, I have a lot more “stuff” than Starr. Twin engines takes more space than single engines. My Atlas system takes an enormous amount of space, and adds tremendous complexity. If I built another boat I’d still opt for dual engines and an Atlas, but they do occupy a huge amount of space. I’m always jealous when in the engine room of any single engine boat, because of all the space availability.

    Anyway.. hopefully this answers your question!?

    -Ken W

  5. Ken, now that Starr has arrived I’d love to hear your impressions comparing your Nordhavn to the Stabbert’s Northern Marine. How do the interior spaces compare? And I’m really interested in how the performance compares when passagemaking. How does the quality of the systems and installations compare? Any other comments about the two boats?


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