GSSR 2010 – Osaka Japan

Greetings all!

I’m very happy to report that Roberta, Shelby and I have arrived safely at Sans Souci (our boat) in Osaka Japan.

Here you see us checking in for our non-stop flight to Osaka from San Francisco. As you can see in this photo, Shelby was not excited about getting into her dog carrier. There’s a lot of luggage, but keep in mind that we will be on the boat for four or five months as we work our way towards Taiwan.

We had worried for months about putting Shelby into the cargo compartment during our 12 hour flight to Japan. However, the flight was smooth, and we couldn’t believe how fast she was off the plane and we were through customs. Within 30 minutes of stepping off the plane we were cleared into Japan, Shelby was cleared by Japan Animal Quarantine, we had our bags, and were on our way to the boat.

Seabird (Nordhavn 62), Grey Pearl (Nordhavn 62) and Sans Souci (Nordhavn 68) at Bellport Marina Ashiya (near Osaka.)


Wedding Chapel at the marina


The Ashiya Bellport Marina

Our arrival at the boats was made special by hugs and gifts from our friends on Grey Pearl and Seabird. It is great to have the team back together again, ready for another adventure.

Roberta’s and my arrival was particularly pleasant because Jeff, and his team from Pacific Yacht Management  in Seattle, were on our boat for three weeks, just before our arrival. You can see a summary of the work Jeff did by CLICKING HERE. This is an old report. He actually did everything on this list, plus more.

While on Sans Souci Jeff took samples of the oil from the main and wing engines and sent them off to a laboratory for analysis. Before bed a couple nights ago I saw an email come in from Jeff with the headline ‘Oil Analysis results.’ I couldn’t open the email knowing that if it had bad news the year’s cruising would be over, and my checking account would take a sharp turn towards empty. However, at 3am, I woke, worried, and stuck back to my computer. The opening lines said: “NO PROBLEMS PRESENTLY ASSOCIATED WITH THIS SAMPLE. CONTINUE SAMPLING AT THE NORMAL INTERVAL”. Yay! (You can read the full report HERE.)

Rocna 150 Anchor, mounted on Sans Souci.

One of the first things I did on arrival at the boat was to check out my new Rocna 150kg anchor. It had looked enormous in the photos and raised questions about whether or not it would fit, or be too heavy to retrieve. The good news is that it fits beautifully and Jeff said my windlass had no problem raising or lowering it.

For those who may have no idea what I’m talking about, this is the second time I have swapped my anchor. Roberta and I like to anchor, and I like to sleep knowing our anchor will hold us. I’ve seen tests which indicate that the Rocna anchors aren’t particularly better than other brands at holding the boat, but that what they do exceptionally well is to ‘set,’ meaning dig into the bottom. The pointy end of the anchor is sharp and digs well, and the back side has a “roll bar” which helps to flip it over if it lands upside down or on its side. I’ve had better luck with the Rocna setting on the first try than with other anchors. Also, or at least in Rocna’s advertisements, if the anchor does pull loose (drag) the odds are good it will re-set itself. My recent upgrade was from a 110kg Rocna to their larger 150kg model. I have never had a problem with dragging the smaller anchor, so I can’t say if this will make a difference or not, but it’s one of those areas where I’ll take all the insurance I can get.

And on a completely different topic…

Starr arrives, after a 9,000 nm passage!

Starr, a 75’ Northern Marine trawler arrived from Seattle here at the marina in Osaka, Japan, yesterday. 

Whereas I’m usually stressed out entering new marinas for the first time, Don has a spatula out and is asking how I’d like my steak as he maneuvers Starr to the dock (if you look closely, that’s his throttles, he was messing with me).

Some of you may remember that our GSSR voyage across the Bering Sea was originally planned to be four boats. The fourth boat in our group, Starr, was delayed and wasn’t able to join us. Also, Don and Sharry, Starr’s owners aren’t great fans of cold water, and wanted to take the ‘long way around.’

Whereas our group was nicknamed ‘The Wrong Way Gang,’ Starr earned the nickname, ‘The Long Way Gang.’ By going the Hawaii route to Japan, rather than the Aleutian route that we took, Starr covered 9,000 nm! We went ‘only’ 6,000 nm, saving 3,000 nm with our shortcut.

Starr will be cruising with us for the next month or two. Don just put together a blog entry which details the few mechanical issues he experienced, and has an interesting video showing his stabilizers in action, and a strange sound that they are making. His blog can be read HERE, and here’s the video: (NOTE – if you don’t see a video below, try clicking this link: )

One would think Japan would be ‘fished out,’ but we’ve had fish jumping all around the boats continuously, including this guy who jumped onto the dock to greet us. (We threw him back.)

This, and the shopping center, restaurant, bakery, grocery store, boat dealer, tire store, and more, were a vacant lot just three months ago. When the Japanese decide to build something, they build it!

Sharry, from Starr, modeling the latest in Japanese footwear.

As to what I’ve been up to…

I’ve been working hard trying to get Sans Souci ready to go to sea. Jeff and his team did all the hard work, and left the boat in perfect condition. That said, there were several electronics projects that I asked them to leave for me to handle. I didn’t want them having all the fun! That said, the work has turned out much trickier than planned.

First off, I decided to upgrade the main nav computer on the boat to the new Maxsea Time Zero software. I bought a fancy new 64 bit four processor Windows 7 computer to run it, and figured it would be a simple project to install. I don’t want to bore everyone with the details, but suffice it to say that the transition hasn’t been an easy one, and I may revert back to the prior computer. Maxsea just sent me a support response with a few things to try, so perhaps it is something easy. I hope so as I do like their software and would like to use it.

The offseason was hard on Sans Souci’s electronics. My guess is that it was horribly humid inside the boat last September, and then cold all winter. The good news is that Japan has been easy to ship to, and I’ve had no problem shipping in anything. The words ‘Replacement parts for yacht in transit’ seem to be magic with customs. We’ve paid no import duties, had no shipments held up by customs, and I can get parts here in as little as three days.

This was all clean when we arrived at the boat, but that was before the work began.

Here’s a picture of Sans Souci’s pilot house torn apart as I dig through everything to fix the electronics. It’s really horrible for me to see the boat looking like this. I’ll be glad when I can put everything back together and Sans Souci looks like a proper yacht again.

And, onto a more cultural topic…


Our GSSR boats are presently in Ashiya, Japan, which is only a few miles from Kobe. In 1995 Kobe experienced a 7.3 earthquake, centered only about 20 miles away. At our marina, we are surrounded by condos, and I’ve been told that the condos were originally constructed to hold those who were displaced by the earthquake. During the earthquake 6,500 people were killed and 10s of thousands of homes destroyed. At the Earthquake Museum we saw several movies showing the devastation, and discussing the conditions people had to live in during the aftermath of the quake. It was quite sad.

As to the bigger picture of ‘what comes next’…

Chart of the GSSR 2010 planned voyage.

Our GSSR group just met to assemble our first attempt at a cruising schedule. All of us have friends and family who want to fly in and cruise for a bit. This means flights have to be booked, and vacations scheduled. This is somewhat inconsistent with the cruising mentality which is usually governed by the weather and our mood. We all prefer to be in a mode where if we are somewhere fun we can stay for a while, and if we’re not having fun, and the sun is shining, we move. Plotting to be in a particular city, on a particular day, spoils a bit of the random freedom which we enjoy so much. That said, we are all passionate about what we’re doing, and look forward to sharing our enthusiasm and the wonderful places we’re visiting with others. So, our goal is to come up with a schedule that doesn’t force us to move too quickly, but has clearly defined dates when our friends can fly in (and out) to join us.

Having Steven, Braun and I huddled around a marine chart measuring the distances between anchorages and ports, was like coming home again. We had one of our ‘captain’s meetings’ where we spent hours just talking about our upcoming plans. From that meeting we derived a schedule that shows us starting our journey on April 26th, and arriving in Hong Kong in mid-July.

Currently, the weather is lousy here in Japan. It has rained virtually every day since our arrival, and the water is miserably cold. My hope is that summer will soon be here, and that the water will warm quickly. I still think of boating as a way to reach beautiful anchorages with white sand beaches and warm water. Rumor has it that the Okinawan islands will offer the tropical Hawaii-esque experience I’m seeking. As of now, I’ve never been able to use my new dive compressor, and I’m looking forward to that changing.

We received some visitors from Nordhavn Taiwan…


While we are in Taiwan we plan to visit the factory where our boats were built. This will be very special for both us and for Nordhavn’s factory in Taiwan (called Ta Shing). No Nordhavn has ever returned to the factory, and now there will be three at once! Ta Shing is excited about the visit and sent a couple of their senior team members to Japan to discuss work they might do on our boats while we are at the factory. I picked the restaurant and chose an Italian place. The Taiwanese were very good sports, and never said a word, but I sensed that when they looked at the plates of spaghetti they had the same emotion I get when confronted with a plate of raw fish and fish heads.

And, we’re delighted to say…

Shelby is going to Hong Kong! We’ve been working for months to get Shelby into Hong Kong, and had backup plans in place in case we should fail. Luckily, the animal quarantine people in Hong Kong have been very helpful and have been willing to work with us to help make Shelby’s visit possible. It’s still not 100% certain, and we’ll keep our backup plans, but as of now, I’m fairly certain Shelby will be getting another stamp in her already overflowing passport. 

Roberta has been busy provisioning!…


Here you see Kokoro, from the marina, helping us get the groceries we bought at Costco back to the boat. This is only one of many trips we’ll make shopping! Roberta has a full-time job finding where to put everything!

And with all that said…

I apologize for the lack of photos and information about Japan in this blog. We just got to the boat and I’ve spent most of the last week lying on my back cussing at wire bundles (which don’t seem to care how frustrated I am). It has rained virtually non-stop since our arrival, discouraging attempts at photos, and making exploring the area impossible. This is probably a good thing. I have at least a week of more boat projects and then once we start cruising, the fun can begin.

Thank you!

Ken Williams
Sans Souci, Nordhavn 68
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14 Responses

  1. Rosepoint has long recommended Keyspan hardware. I’m still not sure why you are unwilling to install Windows 7 32 bit OS. You could download it from home when on Wi-Fi in a marina. Someone might have to load it on one of your servers and then you can use a virtual CD to load it or burn an installation CD on the boat. Otherwise, you are unlikely to win the driver fight and I’m sure that you would prefer to run MaxSea as future charts outside Japan may be better than those offered by Nobletec.


  2. Thinking about it more, if your USB-serial converters are visible (under the couch) you might consider buying a Keyspan converter and trying it out. Since basic converters aren’t configurable you should be able to just plug and play.

  3. Ken, serial drivers can be very annoying. I’m surprised your installer didn’t use Keyspan converters, which are kind of the gold standard when it comes to compatibility. We don’t have converter issues on our N47 since everything is NMEA 2000 and we’re using Maretron and Actisense NMEA 2000/USB interfaces on 32 bit XP. I didn’t see the point of a newer OS since the applications don’t take advantage of any of the new Windows features. (I do have a backup USB port in the helm with minimal 0183 data [GPS, AIS, depth] that I can plug a laptop into if everything else dies. The converter their is built into the Actisense combiner and seems to use drivers that ship with Windows. I just plugged it in and it worked.)

    As for the charting, it’s ironic that MaxSea charts are bad in Japan given that MaxSea is half owned by Furuno. We’ll be very interested to follow your experiences “gunkholing” the western Pacific as we are now planning our 2011 cruise to some of the areas you’ll be “pioneering”. 🙂

  4. Greetings Adam!

    Maxsea Timezero shines most when run on an older gutless machine.

    The machine I bought to run it is rediculous overkill. And, worse, I opened myself to a ton of compatibility issues.

    My problem has been that the equipment is buried deep under the couch in the pilothouse, and the wires are in a loom that disappears into ??? (who knows where?). There are serial to USB converters used that I have no idea what brand are, and can’t get 64 bit drivers for.

    I experimented with running Maxsea TImezero on the box prior to trying to plug it into the boat’s systems, and it worked fine. However, the problem came when I started trying to find USB drivers for the various serial to USB converters. I also hit strange chart issues. The charts for Japan have data errors. I thought these were caused by fonts I needed to install, but after MUCH experimentation, and long chats with Maxsea I finally discovered that the problems really are bad charts. The data is fine (or, somewhat fine), but the charts are weak, and the location titles display as garbage.

    After all the effort, I gave up and put back the XP computer which runs Nobeltec.

    I just did a Maxsea Timezero installation today on Starr, which went smoothly, and I had a long talk with a Maxsea support tech. He explained the problems I have been having. When we get to Hiroshima I might try again, although I still have the problem of no 64 bit drivers for some of the serial to usb converters that are already on the boat. And, they are hard to find, and impossible to replace.

    So …

    I might try again in Hiroshima, but I will more likely wait until Hong Kong. There’s a lot to be said for “it works”. Nobeltec charts are weak for this area, but at least they work. Overall, it doesn’t really matter what charts we use. We are in poorly charted places, and need to rely on our senses and our sonar…

    -Ken W

  5. Ken,

    I’ve run into both driver and software issues with W7 64 bit. It’s the 64 bit that seems to be the problem. Things have improved over the last year, but there are still software incompatibilities and even some HP printers still lack 64 bit drivers. In the beginning, USB ports were the problem. Consider a fallback position of switching to 32 bit as most programs can’t take advantage of more than 2GB of RAM anyway. The 32 bit OS, itself, will use the 3rd gigabyte for OS functions if you decide to go that way.

  6. Ken,

    I’d be curious to hear more about the problems you experienced integrating MaxSea TZ. I just finished by myself a full helm refit with two PCs running MSTZ and Rose Point CE, connected to a Navnet3D black box and midsize NMEA 2000 network. I was surprised at how smoothly everything went together.

    I note that the PC you mentioned seems massively overpowered for MSTZ. I’m using Mac Minis running Windows, which are cheap, small, quiet, run cool, are easily replaced, and have NVidia video cards that drive two monitors and run MSTZ beautifully in 3D.


  7. Glad the flight went well. It’s amazing how cold it is there compared with San Luis Obispo CA at the same latitude. West winds coming off the continent versus coming off the ocean must be the difference. Please say hello for me to Don and Sharry and Tina and Braun.

  8. Man, I can’t wait to hear about Taiwan. The place just fascinates me. And the homecoming should be wonderful, I’ll bet they have more than a few plans for you dudes.

  9. Hi ‘Gang’ (all GSSR 2010 Members). All reads exciting to me! Thanks for Blogging. Ken, your ‘…visitors from Nordhavn, Taiwan, are these visitors in ‘Sales’? vacationing visitors? or were they there to help all GSSR 2010 members with ‘boat’ issues?

  10. Hi Ken. Glad to hear you made it to Japan. It looks like Jeff did his usual superb maintainance. Sounds like you will have an excellent and mellow time this year. A little less harrowing than our Aleutian passage. We are back to our normal thrashing and banging in the Gulf of Alaska and have had a couple good halibut trips, well, good if you don’t mind breaking ice with baseball bats. Been a little nippy up here. We are on our way to Sand Point and Dutch where I’m sure you will be well remembered. I’ll say hello to your new friends out that way. Best of luck and have fun. Bill H.

  11. Peter C:

    We haven’t thought that far ahead. The whole topic of where we go next year is unresolved. I’m in the paranoid camp when it comes to piracy, and don’t want to go anywhere near any areas where there have been attacks. My understanding is that between Hong Kong and Singapore (Phillipines and north coast of Malaysia), and in the Mallaca Strait, piracy can be an issue.

    I do know that Thailand is definitely on the places I want to go, and hope that the piracy topic isn’t a barrier.

    Ken W

  12. Since you like beautiful anchorages, warm water, and white sandy beaches, do you plan on visiting us here in Thailand after you finish up in Taiwan? I could recommend some very nice spots.

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