Gssr 2010 No. 7 – When it rains it pours

Greetings all!

The last time I sent out a blog update we were sitting happily in Fukuoka. Or, at least Roberta and I were. The crews of Seabird and Grey Pearl had headed off to So. Korea for some sightseeing, and Starr had stayed an extra night in Moji. I had some business to do, so I spent much of our time in Fukuoka staring at my computer screen.

The high-speed ferry between Fukuoka, Japan, and Busan ,South Korea


A street scene taken in Busan by Steven Argosy of Seabird

Both Steven and Carol, and Braun and Tina, sent emails encouraging us to come over to S. Korea. They promised great western restaurants. However, Steven sent me this picture, which tells a slightly different story.

Braun and Tina (Grey Pearl) visited Seoul and traveled to the DMZ, while Steven and Carol (Seabird) remained in Busan.

I was very curious what it would be like to be in South Korea now…

In the unlikely chance that some of you may not know what is happening, these are tense times. The North Koreans recently sunk a South Korean ship. North Korea has threatened war if the South Koreans retaliate. It’s a sad situation which is likely to get worse before it gets better. That said, our group felt that the prevailing sentiment in South Korea was optimistic, and that it is just a matter of time until the Koreas reunited. 

The dome you see in the background behind our boat, Sans Souci, is Fukuoka’s ‘Yahoo!’ Baseball Dome.

We all go to a baseball game!


Steven Argosy (Seabird) and Sharry Stabbert (Starr) are rooting for the Tigers, Osaka’s baseball team.

Of course this meant we had to go see a baseball game. At home we are Seattle Mariners season ticket holders, where, on those rare occasions that we are actually in Seattle, we watch our team’s hero, Ichiro Suzuki, play. It was impossible not to be amused by the fact that we were now in Japan watching the Hanshin Tigers (from Osaka) play the Softbank Hawks, (Fukuoka’s team) as an American pitcher was pitching to an American batter.


The Japanese fans have American fans beat. Each of the outfield sections had its own band, and the fans sang non-stop. The noise level was deafening! A couple of times, the audience blew up balloons and let them fly all at once. There were even cheerleaders! Very cool!

Another day we all visited a small nearby island called Nokonoshima. There is a ferry — ten minute ferry ride — to this island from Fukuoka. The ferry is above to the left. The claim to fame for Nokonoshima is a beautiful garden. We took some time to stroll through this garden and to take in the fragrant smells from all of the flowers.



The gardens had a full golf course, except played with croquet mallets. It looked fun, but I didn’t try. It was really more like a combination of croquet and miniature golf.

Each time we think our boats are tied up in the best place imaginable, it just gets better. Our boats are docked just beneath the ferris wheel you see in this picture.

I haven’t spoken much about boating-related technical issues. This is because there haven’t been any! The boats have been running flawlessly.

That said, there are a few brief technical topics that might be of interest (feel free to skip ahead)…

Electricity has been a bit of a headache, although not as bad as we anticipated. The dockside shore power pedestals have mostly had the same connectors as in the U.S. The biggest problem is that the marinas aren’t really set up to accommodate boats our size. For instance, in Fukuoka, there were 50 amp connectors on the visitor dock, but after tripping the breaker a few times I did some investigating and discovered that the power for the entire dock, including all four of our boats, was flowing through a single 40 amp breaker.

It took some creativity to explain to the marina what our problem was, but once they understood they immediately called an electrician to come fix the circuitry. Unfortunately, the power was not fixed until the day before our departure. We felt bad leaving after they had gone to all the trouble to bring in electricians. 

Sans Souci has an international power adapter, called Atlas, which is great at times, and a pain at others. On the positive side, it always delivers 100% clean electricity to the boat, at a consistent 240 volts. It will accept single or triple phase electricity and virtually any voltage I’m likely to find, worldwide. This flexibility comes at a price though.

In the photo above you can see that I am drawing 33 amps from shore power, but only 18 amps is available inside the boat. Where is the missing electricity?

There are a few answers to that question:

1) The input voltage is only 203 volts. This seems to be the standard here in Japan. When boosting the voltage from 203 to 240 volts, 15% of the potential amperage is lost. Let’s assume for a minute that I really had 50 amps available from my shore power cord. If the voltage were 240, then this would equate to 12 kilowatts of power (240 x 50,) whereas at 203 volts, only 10.1 kilowatts are available.

2) You’ll note on my display that it mentions a power factor of .94. This says that only about 94% of the incoming electricity was useful. This happens when electricity is ‘dirty.’ In other words, the theoretical 10.1 kw coming into my boat is really only 94% or about 9.5 kw.

3) Lastly, in the photo above, if you run the math, I am drawing 33 amps at 203 volts, at 94% efficiency, which means I was consuming about 6.3kw from the shore power cord. On the output side, I am seeing only 4kw (240 volts times 18 amps. This loss is called ‘inefficiency’ and comes from the Atlas unit itself. A full third of the available power is being lost during conversion! Where is it? Electricity cannot simply disappear. The answer is ‘heat.’ There’s actually a formula that can be applied to figure out how much heat is being thrown out by my Atlas. I ‘lost’ 2kw, and the formula for converting kilowatts to btus (a way of measuring heat) is 1kw = 3,412 btus. In other words, I’m dumping 6,824 btus of heat into my lazarette, via the Atlas.

Sorry to bore you with all this, but for at least me, if not most of you, it is an interesting topic. Providing electricity for the boat, when traveling international, is a very important topic, and one we spend a great deal of time puzzling over.

As long as I’m talking tech… 

While we were sitting still in Fukuoka I decided to change the oil in on the 20kw generator.

I expected that it would take 15 minutes, to an hour at most, but the project wound up taking much longer. 


Sans Souci has an oil change system that makes changing the oil amazingly simple, and that’s a very good thing because there’s a fair amount of oil that needs changing. There are actually six different pieces of equipment: two main engines, two generators and two transmissions.

Each of these six pieces of machinery has a hose attached for draining or filling oil. I can press a button and transfer the oil in or out without every getting my hands dirty. I also carry two oil tanks, one for oil that is new, and one for oil that is used. By twisting a couple of levers and pressing a button I can quickly and easily swap the oil.

Or, at least that’s how it’s supposed to work….

To change the oil in the 20kw generator, I set the levers and pressed the discharge button, but no oil would come out. I double checked and triple checked the levers. I was trying to move the oil from the 20kw generator into an oil bucket.

After a bit of frustration, I called Steven on Seabird to see if he had any ideas for me. Steven checked the valves, and agreed I had it set up correctly. He then suggested running the generator for a bit to warm the oil. That worked and the oil suddenly started flowing. In a few minutes the generator was empty.

I then pressed the button to put the new oil into the generator, and once again, nothing. Steven and I checked the valves, and rechecked them. We were trying to pump from the ‘new oil’ tank to the 20kw generator and it just wasn’t working.

Our theory was that the pump needed primed. I had just sucked oil out of the generator, so this didn’t seem completely right, but something was happening and we had no other theories. We then tried pumping clean oil backwards from a bucket into the ‘new oil’ tank. No luck. It wouldn’t pump at all. After another hour of messing about and total frustration, it suddenly worked! Oil started flowing and the generator oil was changed. Neither of us has any idea what was wrong, or what we did to fix it. But, the generator is now happy again.

Anyway, on to more interesting topics…

The run from Fukuoka to Nagaski is about 110 nautical miles. Our boats can make 200 nm in a 24 hour period, so it’s not a long run. That said, we’ve been trying to run only during daylight. There are narrow passages where we need to precisely time our arrival due to currents, and there is frequently fishing gear in the water that we need to dodge around.

We had planned to make the run to Nagasaki over two days, with a stop halfway between to anchor. We asked the Coast Guard to suggest a location, and the place they identified was a closed port. This meant we had to apply for permission to anchor, which was granted.

On arrival at the anchorage, we could quickly see that we were exposed to the wind, and the wind was predicted to rise overnight. We saw a nearby fishing harbor that offered greater protection. We thought it would be tight, but that we could make it work. After a bit of work to cram all the boats in, we finally got the  four boats anchored and were just settling in when I opened my email to find this message:

         “Ken san

Just had calling from Hirado Coast Guard that 4 boats arrived and anchored off Kawachi port.

However current anchoring point is on the route to entering Kawachi port and
Fishing boats transit the route.

So Coast Guard asked you to shift to Off Senrigahama (Pls see attached map)
for safety. Thanks for your understanding and cooperation in advance.

Best Regards
Kazuo Furuno “

We had anchored carefully and were not blocking anything or anyone, but didn’t want to argue. None of us were in the mood to move the boats, especially to somewhere less safe. But, we moved anyway.

Luckily the forecasted storm didn’t arrive and we actually had a very smooth night as it turned out.  


Here’s a picture of Sans Souci’s anchor coming up. Note the swivel. It is supposed to rotate the anchor into a good position for coming over the bowsprit. The use of a swivel was controversial, and apparenlty they can be problematic. Many readers of my blog wrote to advise me not to install one. Thus far, all is good.

On our run to Nagasaki we had the first serious problem of the entire GSSR trip thus far….

About two hours into our second day Grey Pearl came on the radio to say that their main engine had quit. Braun went on to say that his backup (wing) engine and his generator had also quit. He had been transferring fuel and had noticed air bubbles starting to appear in the filter. His theory was that he had gotten air into the fuel system and would need to bleed the fuel line.

About 20 minutes later Braun got the engine running and we were back under way. However, about 10 minutes later Braun was back on the radio. The main engine had quit again.

We were in a vulnerable position. We were still a four hour run from Nagasaki. It was around 10am and a big storm was expected to hit at 3pm. None of us wanted to be offshore when the storm hit.

Braun tried unsuccessfully for another half hour to get the Pearl’s main engine started, without success.

Don, on Starr, came on the radio to offer to tow Grey Pearl while Braun worked on the engine. This would allow us to continue making forward progress while Braun diagnosed the problem. I asked Don his plan for towing the Pearl, curious to learn how he planned on doing so. I had no idea whether or not Don had ever pulled another boat. Personally I’ve never pulled anything larger than a tender, but I do know some of the theory, having studied for the Coast Guard exam on towing. Don’s response quickly established that he not only knew how to tow, he REALLY had his act together. He had a tow line already sitting on deck, already shackled up. To my amazement Grey Pearl had a towing bridle set and within 15 minutes we were back underway, making six knots. This group is incredible to travel with!

Then began ‘diagnosis by radio’ with Braun, Steven, Don and I all kicking in ideas. Fifteen minutes after towing started Braun had the wing engine going, and after another fifteen minutes the main started up. Starr towed the Pearl for perhaps another 30 minutes, just to verify that all was really well, and indeed it was. The Pearl ran smoothly the rest of the way to Nagasaki, and our belief is that it was nothing more than air in the fuel lines. I’m not sure whether or not the problem is completely resolved, but as I type this we are safely in port.

We arrived only about one hour later than our original projection, and within minutes of tying up, the storm hit. Since then, we’ve had non-stop rain and moderate winds.

Roberta on deck getting lines and fenders set for arrival in Nagasaki


We are at the Dijema Wharf, in the heart of Nagasaki. We were able to find the marina using Google Earth, because it was the only marina we could find in the area. It is a very cool, very central, wonderful place to be, but it is a marina with only twelve slips spread across two peers. Prior to our arrival we were told that all four boats would need to tie to a nearby concrete wall, and that we would have to raft to each other, without electricity. The marina can only accommodate boats up to 35 feet!

As we were approaching the marina we received the good news that Grey Pearl and
Seabird could tie up at the end caps on the dock. This would leave only Sans Souci and Starr to tie to the wall.


The wall is not meant for a boat like Sans Souci. In this photo you can see how the wall looks. The water rises and lowers seven feet, and the lower four foot of wall is covered with sharp fender-eating crud.

Starr took one look at the wall and knew it wasn’t going to work. I tied to the wall, and then looked to see what had come of Starr. After a bit of begging they had convinced the marina to stuff all 75’ of Starr into a 35’ slip, with a storm coming! Starr had found ways to relieve the pressure on the floating dock by running lines to the nearby quay, and to the dock posts. The cleats on the dock itself are tiny and  useless for boats our size.

Braun came on the radio to suggest I move off the wall, and I declined. It had been a long day and Roberta and I weren’t in the mood to move the boat again. Plus, I studied how Starr was tied, and it looked  complex. I wasn’t sure I could tie Sans Souci similarly. Braun responded, “It took some selling to persuade the marina that you can move your boat. You might want to jump on it before they change their minds.” The rain was starting to pour, and I was getting soaked. I said, “I’ll take my chances and see how it looks in the morning. Ask me again after I’ve gone through a tide cycle.”

It was a tough decision to stay on the wall. My worry was that the sharp clams would cut through my fenders. Also, getting on and off the boat was a HUGE challenge. To allow for the large tide swings I couldn’t tie the boat snuggly to the wall, and to complicate life, Roberta’s parents (in their 80s) are arriving on Tuesday. We’d never be able to get them on and off the boat. That said, I was worried Sans Souci would rip apart the fragile dock if the storm got worse, and I wasn’t sure I had the skill-set to tie the boat solidly as Don had.

Early the next morning, all of the other boats were back on the radio offering to help me move. This time I couldn’t resist, and we moved the boat. This really is a special group. We’re in heavy rain, with strong winds, getting drenched, and these guys are offering to assist me with a really complex boat-moving and tying project.

We did move the boat, and securing it in its new location did turn out to be as big a challenge as I had feared. Roberta and I would have difficulty tying the boat without the group’s help.

It is now early evening and the rain has headed off any interest in sightseeing. I’ll report on Nagasaki in my next blog.

Thank you!

Ken Williams
Sans Souci, Nordhavn 68
And, if you are interested in my books, check out : 



19 Responses

  1. Hey Ken,

    With the release of the iPad in Japan today, you can pick up one for yourself! That way you can get your finger prints all over it! That way Roberta won’t mistake it for hers, I mean your other one! (grin)


  2. Hal:

    I ‘had’ an ipad. Roberta has stolen it as her personal portable tv. Seriously. I tried to use it the other night and she yelled at me for getting the glass dirty on HER IPAD. How did it get to be her ipad? I bought it, and she teased me for buying it with no idea how I’d use it. Argh!

    As soon as she isn’t looking I’m going to steal it back and try to download the ipad navigation software you mentioned.

    Thanks for the tip!

    -Ken W

    PS Steven just got an ipad for his birthday (Seabird). Maybe he’ll let me play with his from time to time.

  3. Ken, knowing you have an iPad, I wonder if you’ve seen the Navionics iPad app with charts for the south china Sea, Korea and Japan waters? An app store search on Navionics Japan will pull it up.


  4. Jon:

    One more comment on fuel management on Nordhavns…

    I haven’t heard it talked about, but I regularly move fuel around on my boat to ‘balance’ the boat. I would imagine other Nordhavn owners do the same.

    The boat can get unbalanced many different ways. For instance, when I’m towing the tender, instead of having it on deck, it is heavy enough that the boat can lean 3 or 4 degrees. This puts extra strain on the stanilizers. Thus, I’ll move some fuel around to rebalance the boat. The same happens when I pull a lot of fuel from one tank or the other — I might need to rearrange the fuel in order to get the boat flat.

    -Ken W

  5. Jon:

    Regarding your question about day tanks on Nordhavns…

    I only know the N62, N64 and N68, so I’m not sure about other Nordhavn models. My belief is that ALL Nordhavn’s have one supply (or day) tank, or possibly two. On my N62 I had a seperate supply tank for my main engine and for the wing engine, whereas on my N68 I have a common supply tank for both main engines. Personally I believe that there should be two independent supply tanks, so that you can isolate your backup engine from your main engine. Who would design an airplane with both engines feeding from a common fuel system? Why Nordhavn decided to consolidate to one supply tank I do not know. If my fuel gets contaminated, both of my mains will quit. I cannot isolate. Nordhavn’s guys are smart people, so I’m sure they have a rationale, but were I ordering a boat I’d certainly ask why there is no isolation.

    All of the boats have multiple fuel tanks, located in different parts of the boat, with a fuel transfer system for moving fuel from tank to tank. On my N62 the day tank was plenty big to handle a day of running. On my N68 it is only 80 gallons (about 8 hours of running). I prefer a larger day tank and set my valves so that most valves are closed, and I have total control, via fuel transfer, of where the fuel is. I treat my starbard engine room tank as a large day tank and move all fuel there before using it. This accomplishes several things. 1) All fuel is polished before used. 2) I’m not fiddling with the valves that have to do with the primary fuel system. And, 3) Most runs are done with all fuel in place before I leave the dock.

    Nordhavn’s newer boats have a very simple but powerful fuel system.

    – Tanks feed from the bottom as they should.
    – There are fuel cutoffs outside the engine room (as their should be).
    – I can move fuel anywhere.
    – The tanks are well baffled.
    – I have the power to decide how I want to configure the system. Every owner tends to have their own system and it gives them the power to set things up as they want.

    Ken W

  6. ken, do nordhavns use only one day tank to feed diesel to everything: main engine, generators, wing, kabola … or two? i always assumed they had more than one day tank, i suppose from reading somewhere about the wing engine having its own separate fuel system. i’ve read about the high reliability of marine diesels and that bad fuel is the main reason for problems, never read about both engines, main and wing, being stopped by air in the fuel lines. thank fully it didn’t put them in danger. jon

  7. Captain Williams:

    I just got off a N 55 that has an anchor swivel. During one “raising”, the anchor didn’t “swivel” as designed–it was brought up to and onto the bow sprit much too fast–not by me by the way–which didn’t allow time for it to swivel into proper position. Consequently the anchor jammed between the roller and the support structure. We tied the anchor into position as it was and motored on to the next lock.

    The way the anchor was jammed is hard to explain but by looking at your bow sprit, anchor and support structure, it will be easy to see. The anchor shank is shaped like an “I” beam. Take paper and pencil and write a capital “I”. I will be simplistic here—there is a vertical line that you will cross, top and bottom of the vertical line. with horizontal lines. The top horizontal “line” became wedged between the roller and the support structure. The anchor shank, the “I” part of the anchor shank, was solid against the roller and the top of the horizontal “line” was solid against the support structure. And wedged it was!! There was no way we could physically lift it out of it’s position and the windless would just “jam it tighter.” So………….how to get it loose? We studied the situation for many minutes. During the “studying” I leaned on the anchor shank to catch my balance and it moved slightly. We discussed this and determined that by “rocking” the shank, we just might be able to “pop” it loose. I asked the captain/owner if it would be ok to do so and having no options, he agreed. The captain/owner and the other gent aboard moved away, far away I might add, and I rocked the “heck” out of the anchor shank and it did pop loose. We untied the anchor itself and it “swiveled into position”, we then lowered the anchor shank off the bow sprit, let things quite swinging and brought it, very slowly!! into it’s “up and locked” position.

    Lessons learned: 1. When the anchor is clear of the water, stop hoisting and let it swivel into proper position and then ease it onto the bow sprit. 2 There is critical need for a spacer between the roller and the support structure. This will has to be fabricated, the support structure disassembled, spacer inserted and support structure reassembled and tested.

    Hope this helps.

    Don Cochrane

  8. D Traver:

    You’ve asked about fuel/air seperators, and the honest answer is “I don’t know.” Worse yet, I can’t tell you if I have them. Ouch. I hate it when there’s a hole in my knowledge!

    Sans Souci’s fuel system is really quite simple. I have three large fuel tanks, each of which feed to a small 80 gallon supply tank. From the small tank, fuel is gravity fed/pulled through a dual racor filter, and then to the main engine.

    My fuel transfer system is completely independent. I can transfer fuel between any two tanks, and it is passed through a single racor as it is transferred.

    I tend to do all fuel transferring while sitting at the dock, rather than risk anything going wrong. Of course, on long passages I don’t have that luxury.

    There are a lot of valves in the fuel transfer system but I do my best not to fiddle with them. Incorrect setting of valves is probaly the #1 cause, by a mile, of Nordhavn’s running out of fuel (more common than anyone will admit). I run with two of the fuel tanks completely isolated, and treat my starboard engine room fuel tank (950 gallons) as a giant day tank. This system has worked flawlessly for me for many miles.

    Braun was doing fuel transfer while underway. Actually, he was polishing the fuel. One possibility is that a valve was left open to some tank that was empty. Another is that there is a crack in some line somewhere. We had dinner last night, and we’re all still at the theory stage. I did own an N62 for eight years, so one would think I’d know the system on the 62, but I’ve long forgotten it.

    -Ken W

  9. Hi Ken,

    I would expect that in boats rigged for heavy weather, fuel/air separators would be part of the standard kit? If they are, do you have any insight on why Gray Pearl suffered fuel/air problems during calm running; or if they’re not installed, is there a specific reason for that?

    Regarding Spectra line: In cordage, static (non-stretching) line is really only static in comparison to dynamic line. From my rock climbing days, I recall Spectra stretching about 2%, although under your extreme circumstances ( a big, wet line pulling a massive object) I have no idea what the stretch would be.

    I seem to remember Chapman’s saying a little stretch is vital in a tow.

  10. Ron:

    Excellent post about towing, and 100% consistent with my training.

    Starr’s towing of the Pearl was not done “by the book”, but worked exceptionally well anyhow. Thus, I don’t want to be critical, because all I have is book learning, whereas Don (Starr) has real world experience, and this was indeed a successful tow.

    My sense is that Don went into it with the attitude of “How do we quickly get the Pearl moving so that we are making headway while he solves the problem?” We knew that speed was of the essense. If we had had more time, the tow would have been done differently. In this case, it was intended as a one-hour tow in calm conditions, and I think all of us were surprised by how well it worked.

    If Braun hadn’t been able to resolve the problem, and we’d have had 100+ miles to go, I’m confident the chain would have come out (to provide catenary), and a towing bridle rigged.

    -Ken W

  11. When towing, it is important to use a bridle from the beginning on both vessels. The bridle on the towed vessel is to spread the load among as many cleats and bits as possible. As you recall, on the NAR, the ring down by the waterline was to be used for towing, but attaching the line would be interesting. I suppose one could use the anchor line snubbers if they are heavy enough. The bridle is more convenient.

    The towing vessel needs the bridle to maneuver! The tow line slides on the bridle and allows the tow boat to turn without resistance from the towed vessel. Tugs get around this by having the towing bit (or windlass) well forward of the rudder stock and the towline can slide left and right on surfaces made for this purpose.

    Single screw pleasure boats must use the bridle, Twin screw pleasure boat could try to use their engines to maneuver, but are better off relying on the bridle. With vessels of this size, a galvanized thimble can slide on the bridle. Smaller vessels can use large sailboat blocks. Tow boats using Spectra use line so big that its weight creates catenary. Sometimes, chain can be incorporated into the center section of a towline to give it weight. In a storm, chafe can become the major enemy. Chafe is why some texts suggest the use of chain as a bridle on the towed vessel. You will always see this when ships are being towed.

    Finally, the towing boat must watch engine temperatures as the boat was not designed for this duty. Sea conditions and engine temperature will dictate speed of advance. I suspect that the 62 is a relatively easy tow as she has less windage than other Nordhavn designs. In extremis, two tow boats can join on the same tow line. You will see this in the commercial world as well. Of course, this method requires excellent seamanship and constant attention.

    Rendering assistance to another vessel in distress is an obligation under law mitigated only by a captain’s judgment that rendering such assistance will jeopardize his/her vessel. In which case, standing by the vessel in distress is the preferred alternative.

    Ron Rogers

  12. Hi Ken,

    Great Blog entry, very useful information on towing. A question on a different topic though. For your anchor washdown, do you use seawater or fresh water from your tanks, and what type of pump is installed?

    We are in the process of installing a system on Locheill, our 40′ trawler. We connected up a line from the freshwater tank that runs off the standard water pump that supplies the taps inside, but the pressure is not very useful, so we are considering to install a high pressure pump that we will fit to an unused seacock.

    Thanks very much,


  13. Adam:

    I should have given a bit more information on the towing in my blog entry… It’s past midnight here in Japan, so I’ll respond quickly, then read my response tomorrow and see if it is somewhat coherent.

    I’ll ask Braun and Don tomorrow for a few more details. I was leading the group when Braun lost power, so I was a good mile in front of Grey Pearl. I turned back but never went within about a quarter mile of Grey Pearl while she was being towed, so I really am basing my comments mostly on our radio dialog.

    Grey Pearl does have a tow ring, at the water level, but it wasn’t used. Braun had a bridle that he used that was strung from the bow hawse holes by the anchor. In Don’s case, he used one of the aft side hawse holes. He said that if it were going to be a long tow (meaning more hours) he would have rigged a bridle and used both of his stern hawse holes.

    Don mentioned that he had 600′ of Spectra for towing, but it looked to me like he was towing the Pearl from only about 200′ away.

    Although there was a storm rapidly approaching we were running on totally calm seas, which is probably why we didn’t have a problem. My recollection is that Spectra doesn’t stretch. Don was towing the Pearl without much slack (catenary) in the line. For a proper tow, you would want to put a bunch of weight in the middle of the tow line, and have a longer tow line. [Note: As I said before, I’ve never actually towed a large boat, so correct me if I have this wrong]

    Don did maintain some slack in the line, and drove Starr from up on the fly bridge so he could watch the line.

    Starr easily pulled the Pearl at 6 knots with no apparent strain on the tow line. Once the Pearl had her engine running, Don pulled the Pearl at 8 knots. Don made it sound easy, and said he had no problem pulling the Pearl.

    -Ken W

  14. I’m loving every word, and following every move! I especially like the “mechanical systems” of it. Thanks Ken for writing and sharing so well; -Howard.

  15. Ken, would love to have more details on exactly how you all achieved the successes described in this post. On the towing issue, it’s hard to see but looks like the Pearl’s bridle somehow connects down to the bow towing eye at the waterline. Is this correct? Can you tell us more about how the bridle was constructed and where it connected? And where did Starr tie off the towing line?

    Regarding your moving of the boat, can you describe how the lines were tied off, and especially what order they were tied in and what maneuvering you had to do while they were being arranged? It would be interesting to know the lengths of line you needed as well.

    Thanks for another fascinating entry!


  16. Jerry:

    We discussed once, a very long time ago, what we’d do if we were ever presented with a situation where one boat needed towed. We all agreed we would offer the other a tow.

    Starr is new to the group, and actually, will be leaving us here in Nagasaki. We had never had this discussion with Starr. Once Don started towing, he said to the group, “I’ve got it under control. The other two of you should race ahead to port and get to safety.”

    There was an awkward pause after he said this. It did make sense. All I could think of to say was, “No. We’ll hang out here. It would be wrong to leave.” It wasn’t a particularly bright response, but it was an honest one.

    We then did the math and discovered Seabird and Sans Souci weren’t really being heroes. Starr was pulling Grey Pearl at 6 knots. On our own Sans Souci and Seabird would have moved at only 8.5 knots. We only had about four hours to go when all of this happened, and would only have gotten to port about 40 minutes faster than we would by staying. We weren’t really risking our lives by hanging around.

    It was actually a very strange situation, in that we wanted to help, but felt powerless. On the Pearl, Braun was working hard in the engine room, and we had very little data. We wanted to help, and were discussing theories, but with no information to go on we really couldn’t accomplish anything . Tina (Braun’s wife) was drivnig the Pearl, and she gave us what informmation she had, but really, she was as in the dark as we were. It was really just between Braun and his engine with the rest of us left to wild guessing about what was happening.

    Anyway.. I’m digressing. The quick answer to your question is: There is no way any of us would have left another boat disabled at sea, even with it being towed. It just wouldn’t happen.

    Overall, it was a valuable exercise, and boosted confidence.

    My “takeaways” were that:

    1) I should travel with a towing line and bridle already rigged
    2) Towing really is practical! I had some doubts that it was.
    3) I need to better understand how to bleed my fuel system. I “kind of know” but I’ve never really done it. I should have this skill nailed, and I don’t.

    Thank you!
    Ken W

  17. Salty Dog:

    There’s a bit more to the story. I was worried that I was putting the readers to sleep, so I left out some critical details.

    I have two manifolds on the oil change system.

    1) The oil tank manifold. This has hoses to a NEW oil tank, and a USED oil tank. It also has a hose which is open-ended for filling, or taking from a bucket. And, lastly, it has the connection to the pump.
    2) The engine manifold. This has hoses to all six engines (2 mains, 2 gensets and 2 transmissions) plus a connection to the pump, and a hose that can be used for taking from or dumping to a bucket.

    Historically I have not used the USED oil tank.

    Just prior to my arrival in Japan, Jeff, my mechanic, topped off both the new and the used oil tanks.

    I have three theories.

    1) This is the most likely, and is what you suggested. The new oil tank is full, and the vent is clogged. The vent is under the seat in the cockpit, which is crammed with life jackets. I’m betting the tank is full and we blocked the vent.
    2) Perhaps all was fine all along, and I just didn’t give it enough time. We were worried about burning out the pump motor, and when no oil showed up after two minutes, we killed the pump. We then primed it by sucking in oil from a bucket, but nothing worked UNTIL we did two things. First, we opened the valves to BOTH the new and used tanks, and second, we gave it more time. I monitored the temperature of the pump using the IR gun. After a couple minutes it was at 120 degrees. A minute later it dropped to 95 degrees. This told me oil had started flowing.

    We’re running the generator around the clock now. There’s no power in this marina. I’ll change the oil again in a couple days, and report back on what happens.

    -Ken W

  18. Ken as far as the problem with your oil change system not pulling the new oil, does your new oil tank have a vent?

  19. Fantastic read Ken. A couple of questions or comments. The dilemma of a boat breaking down while traveling with a group such as yours has always been an issue when we cruise with others. When does one decide to move ahead due to weather and when does one decide to stay to assist. I know the idea of danger for the disabled vessel is most likely the deciding factor, but what if Star had not offered to tow the other boat. What then……..there are numerous scenarios but I’m curious what thoughts were going thru your head and the others? At the dock is another issue totally, but in the ocean with an approaching storm, is there a pre discussion about, for example…….each Capt will make his or her desison on their vessel and so on…hope this makes sense to you what I’m trying to say or ask. We love the company of other boats but like the independence too.

    Also, I really like the technical stuff regarding your operating systems and how things are working…….I know that there are others reading the blog………but as a cruiser who depends on self help and diagnosis..your information is wanted.


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