[Kensblog] A New Season Begins

Greetings all! 

Table of Contents

In just a couple weeks Roberta, I, and our two doggies will start another season of cruising.

We haven’t cruised as much as we’d like or as far as we’d like in recent years, but hopefully that is about to change. That said, this year our cruising will be somewhat limited. We’re building a new home that is scheduled to finish sometime this summer. We need to be available at any time to answer questions for the contractors or (fingers crossed!) move into our new home.

Because it has been nearly a year since I last posted a blog entry, I’m catching up with some pictures from last year.

A forewarning: The pictures aren’t that exciting. Our summer 2022 was a non-event. Roberta and I wanted to cruise but we were working on a new video game (https://www.colossalcave3d.com). We spent the entire summer glued to our computers. We had hoped to work while cruising but quickly discovered that Starlink (Elon Musk’s satellite internet system) worked fine when sitting at a dock, but miserably when the boat was turning at anchor.

We started the season with bold ambitions and wound up barely leaving the dock. 

Random memories from the last year 

There are few better places to be than Roche Harbor Marina, on San Juan Island, for the Fourth of July

After July 4th we decided to start our cruising up the Inside Passage to Alaska, by clearing into Canada at Victoria.

Our trip was a disaster. We made a short run of maybe 20 miles from our home base on San Juan Island over to Victoria Canada. Clearing into Canada was easy, but within hours of arrival I started feeling “queezy.” We had gone through two years of Covid never falling ill, but here we were having just entered Canada and a self-test kit confirmed it: I had Covid!

Victoria International Marina, Victoria BC, Canada

A few days earlier I had stood in a crowded line at a restaurant at the Roche Harbor Marina on San Juan Island. I remember saying to Roberta at the time that I shouldn’t have been in that line. Oops.

We had heard rumors of Canada locking up persons with Covid into hotel rooms. I had no idea what would happen if we were discovered with Covid in Canada. Rather than find out, we stayed inside the boat until I felt marginally better and then slinked back to the US. Once we were back in the US I was able to clear in via telephone and we stayed at anchor for several more days, waiting for enough time to pass that I was no longer contagious. Our big trip to Canada was a total fiasco.

Our Seakeeper overheating

We returned from Canada on a beautiful clear, windless, sunny day. But on a boat you can never completely relax.  Soon after departing we encountered thick fog, and then minutes later our Seakeeper, which helps keep the boat stable, overheated. 

I was still as sick as could be, and the water was calm enough that the Seakeeper wasn’t needed, but I wanted to solve the problem, so into the engine room I went.

Various hoses providing cooling water to the Seakeeper

The problem was easy to fix. I have two different pumps that feed cooling water to the Seakeeper. There is a valve that chooses whether water should be taken from pump 1 or pump 2. It made no sense that the wrong pump would have been selected, but after tracing the flow, I decided that “yes” that was the problem. Someone had set the pump selector to the wrong pump. Maybe a mechanic during the off season? I was just happy that it was an easy solution.

After a couple weeks of recovery, for both of us, Roberta having gotten covid from me, we re-entered Canada and this time headed to the Ganges Marina on Salt Spring island. The marina is a bit rickety but a great place to be, with very nice people, in a fun little tourist town. 

The marina is popular in summer and sometimes struggles to have sufficient electricity to handle the boats. We had some challenges with tripping the shorepower breaker, and the power randomly going out, but its highly recommended as a place to just hang out.

Ganges Marina, Salt Spring Island, BC

We were actively working on our video game, and needed internet. Starlink worked great while in a marina, but once at anchor we would lose internet every time the boat would rotate. Ordinarily this would be tolerable, and we could work around it, but not this year. We were working 12 hours a day with a remote team and constantly communicating with the team via internet using live video streaming (Microsoft Teams and Zoom). 

After a few days at Ganges we desperately needed time at anchor and headed out knowing internet would be a problem.

Directly across from Ganges is Montague Harbor, one of our favorite anchorages. (Roberta and Pixie)
This picture summarizes our entire year. Roberta spent the whole summer sitting at her computer while I spent the summer sitting at mine. This was (sadly) a WORK year
Keeley and Roberta relaxing in the cockpit. The wine is mine. Keeley is NOT 21
Montague Harbor is divided into two sides. We think of it as the protected, but crowded side, and the quiet but not-as-well-protected, side. We like the quiet side with tender rides over to the other side, where there is a resort with some good food
I couldn't let all of the pictures be of Roberta, so I'm including this picture of me sitting in the fly bridge hot tub
Here you see Cygnus sitting happily at anchor. Before you ask: The fenders are down just to get them out of the way
Mornings at anchor are calm and beautiful

We have a new boat, a former coast guard boat, a Safeboat Defender 25! Our new home is on an island 25 miles from the mainland. Rather than depending on the ferries, which can have extremely long lines and delays in summer, we can now run quickly to the island and back any time we want. We could use our big boat, but then we’d need to find moorage each time we head to the mainland. We bought the Safeboat partially for the boat itself, and partially for the convenience of moorage. We have a slip at a “rack and stack” facility where they store the boat in a warehouse and we can ask for it to be dropped in the water at any time. The Safeboat can run at speeds up to 35 kts, and can be run safely in virtually any conditions. It may not be pretty, but it is fun to drive, and gets us where we’re going, quickly.

Preparing for a new season

Roberta and I are normally on the boat four months a year. My goal during those four months is to maximize fun and minimize maintenance. If something breaks, I have no alternative but to fix it myself or get it fixed, but generally, the goal is to put off most maintenance until the off season. The last thing Roberta and I do each boating season is to put together a powerpoint presentation summarizing everything we would like done to the boat during the off season. I then hand this list off to my Seattle mechanics (www.pacificyachtmanagement.com) to get the boat ready for the following year’s cruising season.

There are some items that are automatically on the list, year after year.

  • Change the oil on the main engines and generators
  • Change the fuel filters (if needed)
  • New membranes for the watermaker
  • Exercise the passarelle and the tilting mast
  • Fill the propane tank (BBQ)
  • Clean the BBQ
  • Wax the boat
  • Fill the fuel tank
  • Haul the boat, paint the bottom, change the zincs
Haul out

This year, while the boat was out of the water, we removed the main engine props, and thruster props to have them checked and balanced. I hadn’t hit anything with the props but it’s still something worth doing periodically.

The flybridge on Cygnus

I don’t see this spoken about often, but a huge issue for us is “shade” when dining outdoors. We often have the misfortune to want dinner at the same time that the sun wants to be low in the sky, rendering dinner hot and uncomfortable. 

We’ve experimented with various kinds of roll down shades over the years, and never found a solution we like. It’s more complicated on a boat than you might realize. 

When sitting at anchor the boat rotates with the wind. We like to have a view of the water when having dinner, so we drop a sunshade only the side of the boat facing the sun. On our prior boat we had a series of rolled up sunshades, any of which could be unrolled to shield us from the sun. The system worked, but was a pain in the tail. Every time the sun would move (in reality, the boat would rotate) I’d spend 5-10 minutes fussing with the shades only to return to cold food on my plate. 

We had a bid to do something similar this offseason, but then decided that a better approach was to do something that is kind of a brutal hack, but that I think we’ll like much more. I found some simple stick on hooks on Amazon, that are allegedly easily removable, yet hold 80 lbs of weight. I’m planning to stick a few of these on the overhead of the flybridge, and then use shade material (also on Amazon) that has grommets every 18″. Moving the shade should only take seconds. 

 

Simple shade. We shall see if it works

We have tiny dogs, but like having them on the flybridge while we are dining. We’re always afraid that a sudden wave hitting the boat will send one of them overboard. I asked the mechanics to put netting around the rails of the boat. It’s ugly, but better than a swimming pup.

Testing the passarelle to verify it is working

In Europe virtually all boats have a passarelle (the fancy word for a gang plank.) The marinas ask that you back into your slip, and there are no finger docks. Your only way off the boat is via the passarelle. Even though we’re not in Europe now, we like to extend the passarelle annually just to keep it ready for action.

We installed new carpeting throughout the boat, leaving some teak showing in places

We ordered wool carpeting when the boat was new. It didn’t hold up well at all. We re-carpeted with a vinyl  weave material that looks and feels very different, but will hopefully last a lot longer.

The Starlink maritime solution requires two dishes, each of which mount flat to the roof of the boat. Because they point straight up at the sky, they are not subject to the problems we had when the boat would turn at anchor

Starlink has gone through a lot of changes over the last couple of years. The pricing has been jumping around. At one time the service cost $99/month for unlimited data. The newest pricing is at $250 for 50gb of data, $1,000 for a terabyte of data, and $5,000 for 5 terabytes of data, per month. It’s expensive, but both Roberta and I are hardcore internet users. As we saw this last year, without internet we get glued to shore. We now have Starlink Maritime which should give us fast internet everywhere we go. I’ve been testing it and expect to be impressed. This should be the best internet we’ve ever had at sea.

Electronics

Those of you who have followed our adventures over the years might remember a famous quote by an Alaskan commercial fisherman, Bill Harrington, who was aboard our prior boat in the Bering Sea. As I was training Bill on the boat, so that he could take shifts at the helm, Bill suddenly exclaimed, “This isn’t a boat, it’s a fricking video game!” 

Bill was right. Because we spend months aboard the boat, comfort is important. We want fast internet, streaming TV, multiple ways of getting internet, remote monitoring, etc.

The picture above shows the electronics that are located beneath the helm seat. We struggled with that area overheating last year. We had everything removed, rearranged, in some cases replaced, fans installed, holes drilled for ventilation, and basically made better. Overheating will not be an issue this year. 

The picture above shows a slot for our VSAT satellite internet device. Thanks to Starlink it may never be used again. It cost a lot of money, so I hate to throw it away, but I also hope never to turn it on again. Vsat is slow and way more expensive than Starlink.

And of course, this is only a tiny piece of all the electronics on Cygnus… There’s the whole Maretron system, Network data server, navigation electronics, security cameras, communication systems, and more.

Cruising Plans

Roberta and I are stuck in the Pacific NW again this year, because of the move into our new house. You don’t need to feel sorry for us. There’s nothing wrong with cruising in the Pacific NW and 99% of the boats who are here never leave. It’s a wonderful place to cruise.

That said, I consider myself a warm water cruiser. I like to be in the Med during the summer, where I can find white sand beaches and swimmable water. Roberta and I have an ongoing debate, in that she doesn’t really like the Med,  because of all the wind we have to deal with there. Finding moorage in the Med for a larger boat is challenging, which means we are often stuck anchored in conditions that are not comfortable, or are dangerous. 

We both agree that it is time to resume international travel, but where??? The current momentum is towards spending this winter in the Sea of Cortez (Mexico), and then running the boat to Costa Rica. Then next year, we would take it through the Panama Canal and up through the Caribbean. We’re not sure though. We’ve also talked about shipping the boat to Florida from Mexico, and starting our cruising there. We’re not worried about it. We know we’ll suddenly get an inspiration for something to do, and that’s what we’ll do. 

That’s it for this edition of the blog.

Cruising starts in June! 

Ken and Roberta Williams, along with Keely and Pixie!
MV Cygnus
Grand Banks 60

 

40 Responses

  1. HI Ken been following your blogs for years and Sierra games since the early days. Would enjoy a write up on the products, configurations and integration of Cygnus electronics systems. More specifically on non-navigational related items though would enjoy reading your take on all of them.

  2. Very excited to reading the latest updates to give me a quick brain-break while in the office. Was just up in Seattle this weekend to enjoy the 90 degree weather then came back to a rainy Oregon. Best of times with Colossal Cave and the new home.

    -Jake
    SeaSwirl Striper (not quite an ocean crosser yet)

  3. Ken
    This is Alex Vasiliu.When you were building Cignus you send me the block wiring diagram of the boat and I asked you about the Delta fans
    Choose the window to come down to Mexico with care
    I use Predictwind and their one week outlook is pretty good.They have the results for 6 mathematical models .For our area I like the GFS model
    As you know better than most of us boats behave different in the open ocean .Maybe a breakdown run to Oregon and back may take all the gremlins out.
    Best wishes for the 23 season.
    Alex

    1. The Strait of Juan De Fuca can be rough. My suspicion is we’ll get our wish to see some rough water before the summer is out. We did actually have one rough ride last year. We were heading to Deception Pass from San Juan Island and hit six foot seas between Thatcher Pass and Anacortes. We knew there was a lot of wind around and were taking the smoothest route we could find. The boat did fine, although the Grand Banks gave us a much wetter ride than our Nordhavn. There was a lot of water going over the top of the boat.

      As to Mexico, I’m accustomed to thinking of the ride south as easy, and the ride back north as a nightmare. I did the ride south in October for the first Fubar (now called the Cubar). We got lucky on the weather and had a great time.

      And as to weather, I trust no report more than 24 hours into the future. We always try to pick the best weather in the best season. For as many miles as we’ve traveled I have very few exciting stories to tell, and hope to keep it that way!

      -Ken W

  4. Hello Ken and Roberta–
    Rabbi Daniel & Susan Lapin here. I can’t tell you how much we enjoy reading and rereading your blogs. You so successfully evoke the spirit of the Pacific Northwest which we so miss as we now live on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. And no, we don’t boat on the Chesapeake, it’s shallow, brown, and dull. We explain to folks that boating in the PNW is just plain different.
    Our son Ari who remembers you so fondly and his days of boating Lake Washington from your dock is now an emergency room physician in Vegas. Yes, time does go by.
    Ken you were so spot on with your Internet Radio concept–just a few years early, right? Remarkable. I have swopped my KSFO terrestrial radio gig for a podcast now which I own and which has subscribers all around the world. Who could have known? And effective Internet while at anchor! I remember my first British Columbia boating trip bringing along a mobile phone. It was a huge brick transmitting at 3W. It was 1986!
    Thanks for your blog and I hope you’re working on writing another book.
    Warmest wishes-
    Daniel Lapin

    1. Greetings Rabbi Lapin and Susan! I didn’t know you moved east. It’s sad that we were too far ahead of our time with Talkspot. We had the right idea, and if we could have hung in there another couple years, history would have been very different.

      You must be very proud of Ari! He actually wrote me at almost the same time as you did.

      I will never forget you telling me about your “adventure” with a chartered powerboat, and an open port hole (or, that’s how I remember it). I’ve been very careful to double check them all ever since.

      Hopefully more boating is somewhere in your future.

      Best wishes,
      Ken W

    2. So glad to see your blog up and posting again. Loretta and I enjoyed cruising the Chesapeake Bay in our Albin trawler. We have moved to western Pa. We sold the boat some years ago. Although I think we have aged gracefully,the boat was just to much to handle. We are now going to do our cruising via our 5th wheel travel trailer. Land locked so to speak. Keep up the interesting posts

  5. Warm regards from an emergency physician in landlocked Las Vegas who used to be a teenager you (very graciously) let dock his Catalina 22 in front of your home. I eagerly look forward to your posts and wish you and Roberta many years of health and happiness! I hope we’ll cross paths on the water one of these years!

    1. Greetings Ari! Time has moved much too fast. I look forward to when our paths cross again. Congrats on your success.

  6. Great to read a new Ken’s blog. Happy to know all is OK.

    How was the new video game effort process? Did you finish it? Are you continuing to develop and market new games?

    New house sounds great. Will you be able to dock the big boat at the new house?

    It might be a good idea to ship the GB to FL and try cruising the Bahamas. the GB has shallow draft suited for the Bahamas and is small enough to slip into most harbors there. The beaches and waters of the Exumas and other parts of the Bahamas are astounding. It would be an excellent boat for those waters.

    1. Good morning! Yes – We are indeed thinking about shipping to Florida and cruising the Bahamas. Alternately, we could ship to Saint Martin and make the run to Florida. I haven’t checked the distances yet. If there’s a way to do this such that we get four months of cruising and wind up in Florida before hurricane season, that would be the way to go.

      We’ve been so busy on the game I haven’t had time to focus on any of this. The game is out now, and doing well. There’s some chance we’ll never do another. Game development is awesome, but it’s a LOT of work, and we miss boating. I’m working on a couple of game projects, and we still have several versions of our game to get released.

      PS Unfortunately, we won’t have a dock at the new house. I wanted one, and looking at a home which DID have a boat dock is what started us looking. Ultimately, we saw a great building site which is only 15 minutes from our marina and decided we were ok not having our own dock. One less thing to take care of.

  7. Ken and Roberta,
    Good to see your posts again. I been following your adventures for years. Good to see a new adventure starting.
    Regards Allan and Debbie

  8. Ken,

    Always a pleasure to read and enjoy your blogs. It been a long time since we crossed the Atlantic together. Still one of my great memories.

    As I recall you had thoughts of doing the Great Loop in your new boat a couple of years ago. I have done 3 rounds of the Loop over the last 20+ years and it has been interesting to see the river and port change overtime.

    Good travels wherever they take you and Roberta.

    John Harris

    1. We bought this boat with the goal of doing the Great Loop. I still think we’ll do it, but I think short term, it has been way too long since I’ve been in warm crystal clear water. I’m fixated on a need to be back somewhere where the water is swimmable. I need one year somewhere warm and I’ll be ready to head for the Great Loop. If you’ve done it three times, that’s quite an endorsement.

      I will never forget our crossing of the Atlantic. No matter what happens in life, we will always have special memories of having done something that few people will ever do. It is among my top memories of all time.

      -Ken W

  9. Ken, great to see you both using the boat as originally planned. Did you complete the house in PS ? We were there a few times this past winter and enjoyed the upgrades downtown. Looking forward to hearing about your upcoming travels.

    After teaching myself to sail I sold our small sailboat and looking to build an all electric powered launch. The research took me to Turkey and the Netherlands before returning stateside and searching for a builder for this small project. Look forward to meeting again in the future.

    You may want to checkout Kosmos website and their recent 8 month trip to the sea of Cortez.

    John T.
    N4050,N4061,N3522, Helmsman38e. Sandpiper 16. Electric Launch being developed.

    1. Thank you John. I’ll check out Kosmos’ site. Hopefully I’ll read nothing but good things… I’ll be curious to see what your next boat is!

  10. Great write up, thanks. I look forward to you both getting some extended time in the Pacific North West and farther north and your thoughts on a newer faster boat vs your previous vessel.
    Take good care, and happy boating no matter where you go, or if you only get down to the dock and watch Marina TV, it is all good.

    1. We chose the GB60 because it is a good compromise between a trawler, and a go-fast boat. It is extremely seaworthy, perhaps not as seaworthy as our Nordhavn 68, but we’re not planning to cross oceans. It carries a huge amount of fuel and has a 2,000+ mile range. I cruise easily at 25kts and have had it to 30kts.

      I tend to whine about having downsized from the Nordhavn, but those thoughts are long forgotten when we are underway and I’m in a hurry to get somewhere. The biggest question in my mind is, “How seaworthy is it?” We haven’t had it out on open ocean yet. I have spoken with other owners of the GB60 and all speak very well of how the GB60 feels at sea. One owner I spoke with had taken his GB60 from Cabo to San Diego, which can be a very tough trip. He said the boat did just fine.

      Bottom line: We miss the space (volume) on the Nordhavn 68, but overall are quite happy with the GB60. The Seakeeper has exceeded all expectations. It has an annoying whine, but we use it at the dock, while moving AND at anchor. It really is amazing. We also are in love with the auto-pilot’s ability to “hold position.” I used it a couple of days ago when going through the locks here in Seattle. It was like magic. I was in the current that was coming at me from the locks, and needed to hold position to wait for the locks to open. I pressed a button on the autopilot and could then relax and the boat didn’t move at all. The other nice thing about the GB60 is the maneuverability. It’s MUCH easier to maneuver into a slip than the Nordhavn was.

  11. Nice to read things are getting back to normal Ken and that you and Roberta have some neat adventures planned.
    Looking forward to reading about them too. Have a great summer and some wonderful cruising times.

  12. So great to hear you will be cruising again. As many, have always enjoyed you blogs. Plus all the the other talented Nordhavn bloggers. You have inspired so many. We too have down sized from a comfortable 73’ Outer Reef to a “smaller” 63’ 18kts cruising boat…

    Love the Bahamas and places in South Florida…

    This stuff keeps you young!!

    Jack Apple

    1. Shipping the boat to Florida, and cruising the Bahamas, is our other idea for this winter. It depends on what time of day you ask us…

  13. I always enjoy reading your blog. I had a GB ‘47 and stayed on it in the Bahama for 4 months in 2007. So, I enjoy all the details.

    I knew you when you were at the Palmilla area. Ihad a casita in Villas Del Mar. Do you still have a house in Caleta?

    My wife is a little Asian girl.

    John Keogh

    1. We are completely out of Mexico now. It was incredible, but we were there for 20 years and ready for something new.

  14. Hi Ken and Roberta,
    Enjoying the updates and looking forward to reading about your future travels. Perhaps we will cross paths at some point when you head south. We are currently in south Florida and will leave for Guatemala in a week or so. We cruised to Nova Scotia last year which was a great trip. I really enjoyed your book “Crossing an ocean under power”. It was a great read while my wife and I bring our Nordhavn 62 “WanderLost” back to her former glory. I believe you are pretty familiar with her yourself as she was originally San Souci then Dimma then Bella Leigh. Well anyway, safe travels and we look forward to your next posting!

    1. You have our old 62???? She’s still painted black? I hope we cross paths. That boat has quite a history. I still believe the N62 is the most seaworthy and efficient boat Nordhavn has ever made.

      1. We do and absolutely not still black. She’s been painted top to bottom. Now has a Flag Blue hull and Matterhorn White structure. Just came back from the Bahamas with two other 62’s. We have great drone footage of the 3 boats slipping along the bank side by side.

        1. Send video or pics. I’m a true fan of the 62s. I’ve cruised a LOT OF miles alongside 62s

  15. So glad you’re back cruising – love following you. Hope to catch you in the PNW this summer!

  16. I have a feeling Ken Roberta you don’t like this boat at all and it’s time for a bigger boat that’s just my got Phil not got Phil but gut feel anyway. God bless good luck in your small boat. You know you hate it

    1. James – You are right that we are missing our old boat, Sans Souci. It’s tough to downsize. Plus, last year was kind of spoiled because we were stuck sitting at the dock working. Our goal this year is to put this boat through its paces and see how it performs in rough water. A lot will depend on how seaworthy we feel the boat is, and how comfortable it feels this year, without us working constantly.

  17. We spent 5 months last year in the sea of Cortez mostly between La Paz and Santa Rosalia. I would highly recommend!

    1. Awesome! We’re thinking to wait until the end of January to start the cruising. Our hope is that the wind will be lower and the water warmer. We lived in Cabo for nearly 20 years, but never cruised north of the islands just above La Paz. I’ve been watching Sea of Cortez cruising videos on Youtube. It looks great!

  18. Way to go, Ken and Roberta! (Kelly and Pixie too!) Congrats on your new home build and I look forward to following along again this year. All the best to you! Joel

    1. Thank you! We meant to come see you this year, but never got there. Hopefully we’ll see you sometime this winter!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Be the first to know when

the game releases!

Plus, receive special insider, behind the scenes, sneak peeks and interviews as the game is being made. Don’t worry. We will not spam you, and we will not flood your box with too many emails.
 — Ken Williams

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