[Kensblog #2] Being prepared doesn’t always keep you out of trouble


Greetings all!

Roberta, the dogs and I flew to Turkey one week ago. We were joined by FOUR mechanics, three who flew with us, plus one who came from Mexico. On arrival we had a big reunion dinner with the full team plus our Seabird cruising companions Steven and Carol Argosy.

L to R. Jose Manuel, Steven Argosy, Doug Janes, Roberta Williams, Mike Kronfeld, Jeff Sanson, Carol Argosy, Ken Williams

The airline lost Jose’s luggage. For the first couple days he wore the same clothes. Finally we took him shopping locally, and got him something to wear. When days later his bag appeared, he was VERY happy to see it!

I wasn’t sure how the Mexico technician was going to work out. It was a bit of an experiment. His name is Jose Manuel and he has done occasional audio, television and internet work at our home in Cabo every year for the last thirteen years. Theoretically, I shouldn’t need annual work on our home electronics, but .. I’m a bit of a gadget geek, and change my mind constantly as to what I want. Our boat is no different than our house, and back in February, when Jose was doing some work at our house, for an inexplicable reason I suddenly said, “Jose, would you like to go to Turkey and work on my boat?” I immediately realized it was a dumb thing to say. The logistics of getting a Mexican national to Turkey would probably be impossible. He had no passport, no experience with international travel, and would need a visa. Perhaps a larger issue: he had no experience with marine electronics. His eyes immediately lit up. He was excited about the possibility. I decided to back-peddle just a little and said, “OK. You can go, IF, you can figure out how to solve all the problems getting you there and back. I’ll pay, but you have to do all the work.”

Jose took me up on it. If you have ever dealt with Mexican bureaucrats, you know they are not lightning fast (a pattern that all nations seem to have in common.) In this case the critical path turned out to be the Turkish embassy in Mexico City who needed to issue a visa. Anyway, to make a long story short, Jose worked for three months; calling Mexico City, driving to La Paz, talking to travel agents, etc. Meanwhile, I had doubts he’d ever pull it off, and was teeing-up an alternate electronics person to make the trip. Just one week before the trip I emailed him to say, “You have one day, and I am giving up on you.” I felt bad, because I knew how hard he had worked. To my complete surprise, 24 hours later he wrote back, “It is here! I can go! I have my visa from Turkey!” 

On Sundays we let the mechanics relax. Here’s Jose on some ancient ruins they found

Sans Souci gets fresh bottom paint, and put in the water…

Roberta and I rented a house near the marina. We knew that for the first week there would be mechanics crawling all over the boat, and that our dogs would spend their days yapping at the mechanics, one of whom would accidentally step on a dog sooner or later.

Each morning, I would get up at 6am, head to the boat carrying my laptop, and start the day. Each night I wouldn’t return until at least 7pm or later. Roberta would explain to the dogs, who didn’t understand where I was going, ’“Daddy’s going to work.” It felt exactly like the early days of our marriage.

There were some electrical surprises. During the off-season a fancy computer router of mine (a $3,000 device) was identified as dead. I was able to get a new one, but suspected that other things were probably dead.

The bad news is that my backup navigation system, Navnet 3d, is completely dead. My Kaleidescape system (a very expensive dvd jukebox) is dead. My primary nav computer was dead. The control panel for my shore power conversion system is dead. These are all problems I can work around. Very frustrating, and very expensive.

I’m not sure what happened. The official theory is lightning, but I have another theory. The boat was switched off of the inverter when it was shrink-wrapped for the off-season. When I arrived at the boat, the power had been switched back on, but the inverter circuit had not (It’s like a giant battery backup that runs the boats electronics, and allows them to operate when there is no electricity on the boat). The inverters shield the delicate electronics from shore power. My suspicion is that the shore power going on and off, without the inverter engaged, clobbered the electronics.

I had never heard this, but for maximum effectiveness, apparently bottom paint should be applied immediately before putting the boat in the water.
I had the mechanics paint marks onto the chain. I wondered how they were going to get the anchor back on the boat. Here’s the answer: they used the davit
It took the giant lift about 30 minutes to move Sans Souci to the ramp where she would be lowered into the water. We walked alongside the entire time.
One of our projects was to install an electric valve, allowing me to easily route grey water into a holding tank, or directly over the side
Electricity is crazy expensive in Turkey, as is moorage. $3,500 USD for two weeks, plus another $60 per day for electricity

  Putting Sans Souci in the water…

Once Sans Souci was lowered in the water, the lift commander gave me the signal to back out of the straps. I hadn’t driven Sans Souci in eight months, and managed to botch the departure, nearly turning the boat sideways while backing out of the lift. It seemed to me like the controls weren’t right, but then I got the boat straightened out, and ran the short distance to the marina.

As I approached the dock, Steven Argosy (Seabird), as well as several staff from the marina were waiting to help with lines. There was also a sailboat, which was occupying a significant portion of the space I was to cram into. The owners were loosening lines and pushing the boat to the side, trying to make enough room for me.

Crap. My first docking in 8 months, a tight slip. And, an audience! No problem. In order to get into the slip, I lined myself up, and used my thrusters to step myself sideways into the slip, at which time the boat started spinning 90 degrees heading towards the sailboat. Jeff, my chief mechanic (who is a serious megayacht captain in real life) was trying to think of something encouraging to say (while wondering if I had ever driven a boat before), and did his best. Everyone on shore were looking very nervous.

Second try. I started approaching again, positioned to sidestep to the dock, and spun the boat again, almost taking out the sailboat. That’s when Steven from on the dock shouted, “Check your thrusters!” I tested the thrusters, and the stern thruster was working backwards! Going left meant going right and visa-versa.

Before I ever take control of a vessel I ALWAYS test the boat’s controls. It’s automatic. Sans Souci has five drive stations (pilot house, port-side, stbd side, fly bridge and in the cockpit.) Whenever I take control of the boat from any drive station I always verify that the controls work. I test the throttles and the thrusters. So, why didn’t I this time? When I took control, the boat was still being held by the straps, from being lowered into the water. I remember thinking I should test the controls, but didn’t because I was worried that any lateral movement might damage the lift. What I should have done was tested the controls as soon as I was free of the lift, but I was out of my routine, and .. didn’t.

So, why were the thrusters reversed? When painting the bottom, the mechanics had removed the props on the thrusters to clean them. When they reinstalled the props they installed them backwards. When I challenged the mechanics, they said, “We installed them right. They were on backwards before.” Argh. Anyway, the repair was simple, they reversed the wires going to the thruster, and the thrusters work fine now.

Fixing things is easy. Getting parts is not!

The fact that I flew in four mechanics tells you that I was expecting to do a lot of work on the boat. The boat was running fine at the end of last year, so I didn’t really know of anything that needed done, but with a full season ahead in unknown waters, it seemed a good time to give all mechanical systems a good look. My mantra, to the mechanics, is always to remind them that the reason airplanes are so safe is that items are replaced before replacement is needed.

How often have you seen mechanics change a belt before it needed replacement? Normally, their attitude is that if it doesn’t look like it is falling apart, they’ll give it another year. On Sans Souci, if the life of something is five years, I’d like a new one at four years. This meant it was time to replace fluids, belts, filters, hoses and a whole lot more. It also meant it was time to replace some of the pumps around Sans Souci. Some, like the circulation pump for the air conditioning system, are hard to get at, and had the mechanics grumbling.

I allowed two weeks for all the work to take place. Meanwhile, Jeff, who was leading the effort was confident the work could complete in a week.

All of the maintenance was expected, but we also hit some frustrating surprises:

  • On a test ride the heat exchanger (cooler) for the boat’s hydraulic system failed. The heat exchanger works like the radiator in a car, except that it uses seawater to cool the hydraulic fluid which operates the boat’s stabilizers and thrusters.
  • We discovered an actuator, a small piston which actuates the hydraulic pump on the starboard engine, had failed.

Each of these items would require parts to be found and flown in. Bringing in parts can be an adventure in itself. Shipping the parts takes only a couple days, but finding them, and getting them through customs can take weeks.

I did not want to pay four mechanics, their hotel bills, plus have all the scheduling delays associated with waiting. The company that provided Sans Souci’s hydraulic system has always had tremendous technical support. I phoned a technician, on Sunday, who had a heat exchanger on the way the next morning. Finding the actuator was trickier. We made lots of calls, including to the Nordhavn factory in Taiwan (who immediately sent us one.) Ultimately, we decided I should swap both of Sans Souci’s actuators and I ordered several from multiple sources, hoping at least one would find its way through customs. We were also creative with the heat exchanger and asked a local shop to hand make us one.

Finally, we were ready to depart several days early. The mechanics, except Jeff, headed to Istanbul sight-seeing. I wanted Jeff on board for a couple more days, “Just in case.” Here, we see the dogs helping me to leave port.

Leaving Gocek. The adventure begins…

Note the headphones Jeff and I are wearing. I just bought these, and love them. They’ve been incredible! They were ridiculously expensive – $3,000, but you get what you pay for. It’s the Eartec Comstar XT4 4-Person Full Duplex Wireless Intercom System.

The excitement begins…

For day 1 of our journey we chose an anchorage just a few hours away. However, once running, the seas were so calm that we shifted our plan to head to an anchorage that I’ve been into several times before: Buzukale, an eight-hour run.

Within a couple hours of starting, we suddenly heard on the radio, “Sans Souci, this is Turkish Warship. Please go to channel 11.”


Jeff Sanson on the bow
One of many Turkish Warships

The voice on the radio was Turkish, and thickly accented. He explained that we were in an area where they were practicing with live weapons.

He asked us to immediately reverse course, and said that we were in danger. We did and then asked how we could go around their firing zone. He gave us directions, which we thought we understood, but which actually moved us deeper into the firing zone, prompting a new radio conversation.

We were on a collision course with a submarine

In the Pacific Northwest, there is an area, I think called Whiskey-Golf, which I’ve had to go around from time to time when they are practicing with live ammo. However, wargames in Seattle, and wargames in Turkey are in a different category. Turkey borders countries like Iraq and Syria, and relations with Syria are not good. These guys were not worried about if we could reach our destination comfortably.

Seabird at anchor

After a second set of directions, which basically came down to “hug the coast” we continued on our journey. A large, heavily armed warship sped to me, and sat right on my tail for a while, refusing to respond to radio contact. I would have taken a picture, but I wasn’t pointing anything in these guys’ direction, and any secrets they might have I didn’t want captured by a camera. Finally, the call came, “Sans Souci, this is Turkish Warship. Please state your destination.” I explained where we were trying to get to, and that we would follow any route they’d like us on. He reaffirmed that we’d be fine if we hugged the coast, and sped off.

As long as the tender was down, we decided to just pull it behind the boat

Over the next few hours we saw many more ships, were buzzed by a helicopter, and succeeded in crossing their firing range.

Our detour had delayed us such that our original destination could not be reached in daylight. Instead, we entered a lovely bay, Ciftlik. Roberta was exhausted from the day’s excitement and went to bed, but Jeff and I tendered in for an excellent dinner.

Clearing out of Turkey – Bozburun

Bozburun was our favorite village in Turkey, and we thought it would be a perfect place from which to clear out of Turkey and take on fuel.


We needed to come into port, so that a fuel truck could give us fuel.

We were delighted to be able to have a nice side-tie location right in the heart of the port. I really wanted to be at anchor, but I also needed fuel, and there’s an interesting option with respect to fuel.

If I take fuel after clearing out of Turkey, I pay around $5 per gallon. If I take fuel while still in Turkey, I pay around $10 a gallon. Sans Souci needed 2,300 gallons of fuel, so the difference was $12,000 USD!

I used a local agent to arrange the fuel truck, and all the clearances with customs. The clearing out before fueling process is well known to customs, and highly regulated. They wanted to know exactly how much fuel I wanted, and that it really was going into my boat.


This is our agent, Ecran, with the fuel truck. Ecran has a wooden leg. Being nosey, we asked a local shopkeeper, who was assisting Ecran in speaking with us, about the wooden leg. He said that Ecran had owned his own gulet (tour boat), and three years ago he wrapped a line around his leg. The locals were trying to help him get set up as an agent.

Giving us the fuel was quite a production. They put a long stick into the tank on the fuel truck, with a chemical at the tip. If it turned color, there was water in the fuel. After showing me the tip hadn’t changed colors, they threw a drop of water at the green chemical, and it turned bright blue immediately

While running, I keep these three little monitors with a live video feed of Seabird, the tender, and the engine room


There was a fairly major issue when I realized my tanks were full, and I had already paid for a hundred gallons that was still in the fuel truck. I had to prepay the fuel, so I owned it. I asked if I could get a refund, and was told “no.” In fact, the agent said, “You have to take the fuel.” “Can I just give it to Seabird,” I asked. “No, you must take it.” “Can I give it to you?” “No. You must take it.” “Can I give it to the fuel guys?” “No. You must take it.”

I explained that my tanks were full, and that if I took more, they’d have fuel overflowing into their nice marina, and its’ pretty blue water. The agent said, “We will put the fuel into 5 gallon cans you can take with you.” I asked to speak to customs. The agent called customs. As you guessed, “No. You must take the fuel.”

We pumped as slow as we possibly could, and by listening carefully, I was able to get within a liter of taking the fuel into my tanks. I was certain that at any moment we’d be spilling fuel into the marina, but we did it. However, I was still a liter short. Believe it or not, he put the liter in a bottle and gave it to me. I refused to take the bottle. “No. You must take it.” I couldn’t figure out if the liter was because I was a liter short, or if it was because they wanted me to have a souvenir. Anyway. I took it, and now it’s on the back deck, and I haven’t the vaguest idea how I’ll ever get rid of it.

On a boat, there are no schedules, there are only goals…

My hope had been to stay several days in Bozburun, but the weather report was telling us a “wind storm” was coming. We had cleared out of Turkey, and needed to be out of the country in the next 24 hours. The next day looked miserable (winds, 32 knots sustained, with projected gusts of 36 knots) so we decided to make the jump immediately into Greece, and enter the port of Symi.

Roberta and the pups exploring Bozburun

Welcome to Greece!

The run from Bozburun to Simi is a short one.

 To dock, we had to drop the anchor, and then back the boats to a wall.

Here we are at the dock. Note the yellow quarantine flag. Clearing in was actually very easy, and took only about 30 minutes.
Steven on the bow, trying to use a lever to tighten his anchor. It worked, but wasn’t enough

Once at the dock, we had a great dinner at a restaurant called Aris, and settled in for a very calm night.

Jeff had to catch an early 7am ferry, to fly home, so I got up at 5:30 to see him off. The wind had climbed to 15 knots and the boat was moving around. Getting him across the gangplank to shore was a bit of a project, but I wasn’t worried.

No sooner had his ship left, than the wind started climbing. I looked, and the wind was now at 25 knots. I rushed to the bow to tighten Sans Souci’s anchor chain, hoping to stay off the wall. Steven was also bouncing off the wall, and his boat and mine had collided a few minutes before with pretty good force. We added additional fenders between our boats.

While we were fendering and tightening, a new crisis emerged

People on shore were starting to gather, to see all the action, and suddenly they were pointing behind me. I rotated and looked behind me, and there was a gulet directly in front of my boat.

I thought he was going to ram us, then realized what had happened. I could see my chain extending straight to his boat! My anchor chain holds my bow, while two stern lines keep me away from shore. My boat floats between the dock and the anchor, about six feet off shore.

 The wind was now at 35 knots, and nothing was holding my bow, except a gulet. Help! The wind was pushing on my port side, pushing me into Seabird, whose anchor wasn’t going to hold forever. This was a serious situation.

This guy quickly peeled to his underwear and dived into the water to loop a line around my chain.

It took the gulet about 30 minutes to free his anchor, after which he left, leaving me with nothing holding my bow. I started engines and used them to keep myself off the wall.

Here you see the space separating Sans Souci from the wall. We’d be on the wall if not for my engines pushing us off.

Seabird wisely decides it is time to leave the marina

I wish I had more pictures, but it was the wrong time to be focused on my camera. I needed to figure out how to quickly leave the marina. I had no idea where I would go, but there was no way to set my anchor again, and I couldn’t run my engines to push off the wall all day.

Seabird left the marina first. I then followed, with us both studying charts. We asked someone on the dock, as we were untying the stern lines, where we could go. They suggested a well-protected bay on the other side of the island, a short ten miles away.

The winds were high during the run, mostly in the 32 to 38 knot range, with one observed gust at 65 knots. Overall though, it was a comfortable ride. Mostly we were just worried about where we would go.

Seabird was in front, which was a good thing, as we had to thread our way through two islands, with rocks on both sides. Easy on a normal day. In 40 knots of wind, an adventure. I let Seabird go through, and when they survived, I followed their path through.
Roberta studying the sonar. We use it as an amazing depth gauge. I have no trouble getting an accurate reading, even in 1000 feet of water!. Here you see us passing over a shallow spot while playing thread the needle.
Wind, with limited fetch, is not a big deal. Here you see 40 knots, but because the island is between us and the wind, the waves haven’t had a chance to accumulate

While we were running we heard a frightened lady, about eight miles away, calling out a Mayday. She said her sailboat was “broken” (I’m guessing it may have been demasted). There were two nearby boats rushing to help her, so we focused on own problems.

We had arrived at the recommended bay, and it was absolutely packed with boats. There was no way for our two boats to fit in there. Instead, we studied the charts and found a nearby place where we could drop anchor, VERY close to a near vertical cliff. The wind would keep us away from the rocks, and the depth was deep (approx. 100 feet). We decided to go for it, and drop the anchor.

As I type this, we are being tossed around by the seas, and my depth is showing as 258 feet. Did I mention that it was a narrow ledge we dropped the anchor on? We’re rolling very uncomfortably, and I wish I was anchored a lot shallower – but, the anchor is holding, and the wind seems to be coming down. The rolling has caused me to lose satellite internet. But, if you are reading this – it came back!

Thank you!

Ken Williams
Sans Souci
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci



PS Here’s a photo we sent to our friends Braun and Tina, on Grey Pearl, who we hope to cruise with again someday – although this is probably not the blog that is likely to excite about joining us.


PSPS Sans Souci is in Sea Magazine this month! Check it out.


8 Responses

  1. Ken,
    Great post! We are just a couple weeks behind you, leaving Bodrum, currently in Dacha and heading to Symi next on our friend’s Jack’s 70 ft. motorsailer Teodora. Who knows where from there. We did the Gocek area a few years ago and loved that. The girls on board always get a little excited when something goes wrong, causes a little panic, so it was good to pass to them your story to show that, when you are boating, s##t always happens. So they need to get used to it!

  2. Hello Ken – I enjoy reading your blog. Have followed it since seeing you pass through Kodiak, Alaska a few years ago. I have been thinking of the problem with your thruster and installing the prop backwards. It does not look to me like that will change the direction of thrust. I have looked at a small prop, and it looks to me like if it is reversed on the shaft and the shaft turns the same direction the prop should still push the same way. The only way I see it making a difference is if you reversed the entire motor on installation.
    Thanks for the blog and hope the summer goes well.

  3. Ken, I saw the blue&white paint on your anchor chain and wondered what color code you used? You are a very organized person and i need to mark 400 ft of chain on my boat and need a simple color recognizable pattern. Could you share this information? Thanks jim PS My claim to fame is I was in the same class as you last year with Bob Senter.

    ——–Answer by Ken — June 5 2013 ——–

    Hi Jim!!! That was an awesome class.

    You’ll get a kick out of this. I asked the guys to base the colors on poker chips. White means 50, Red means 100 and blue means 200. If I see blue-white, that means 250.

    It’s a simple system and works!

    For some reason they still put a red-white-blue splotch at 25 feet, which I don’t understand, but all the others are accurate.

    Good to hear from you again. – Ken W

  4. Ken
    I am a little confused about your electric problems and am no expert but curious. If all your systems were turned off when the power was turned on to the ship would you have had the same problems? How do you keep this from happening?

    I love your blog and can’t wait to shove off on my own travels.

    ——–Answer by Ken – June 5 2013 ——

    Kim, I did have all the equipment turned off, so I’m not sure what happened. This argues that the problem might have been lightning, because it will clobber electronics whether they are powered on or not.

    That said, there were times after I was on the boat, and had turned everything on, when the power was cycled (marina lost power, or while swapping from generator to shore power). I happened to be on the boat one day when everything went dead, and couldn’t believe it. The inverter circuits had been shut down! I never shut them down, so it didn’t occur to me to verify that they hadn’t been messed with. Normally there is a degree of isolation between the boat and the primary power source.

    So .. it is still inclusive. I think it was probably the lack of the inverter running, and shore power being shut off, then on. But.. others think it was lightning.

    No one really knows.

  5. Thanks for the blog Ken! It looks like a great time in Turkey and Greece. My family and I are moving to Berlin Germany for a few years (work related) and hope to get down the Greece and the Med for some quality SCUBA diving time. You blogs are helping me to inspire my own future adventures. Good sailing!

  6. Ken and Roberta, ever sinse I decided to plan a sailing holiday in Turkey, some time in January this year, I searched the net for various information regarding the choice of areas to sail etc. and somehow landed in your blog which I found well written and kept me interested in your daily antics that happen aboard a large cruise vessel.
    I was one of your blog posts that went missing in your blog melt down. My wife and I are about to leave for Turkey and will be there on Saturday. We live in Suth Africa Johannesburg and have a 9 hour flight in fron of us tomorrow.
    I also decided to start my own blog and borrowed a breast bone form your blog to start mine. Not being a computer boff , I asked John to help me set up my layout of which he did most efficiently and enthusiastically. http://alsblog.talkspot.com (http://alsblog.talkspot.com/asps/m/1602538)
    I decide to charter a Oceanis 34 specifically as I intend upgrading to a yacht of this size called a holiday34 which is my favorite yacht because of its low maintainence properties and I’m not looking to spend most of my play time with sand paper and varnish in hand.
    We are doing the Dorian West coast over the next two weeks which should be a lot of fun and was hoping to meet up on our travels but see that you will be long gone past this area by the time we land in Turkey.
    Safe passage – Allan Rosenberg

  7. This is great! I know I owe you a response on the agreement, but my wife and I could not resist responding. Enjoy and we will talk business in a day or two.

  8. Great post Ken – I couldn’t stop laughing in parts especially at the photo of your new and improved headsets!!! Your stern thruster being reversed also most amusing as I can just imagine the nightmare that would have caused then throw in a few warships and well, as I said very amusing to read but appreciate not so amusing for one being confronted with either situation. Enjoy your travels.
    James (pendana.net (http://pendana.net) )

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