[KensBlog] Departing Hong Kong

Greetings all!

I am very proud to announce that Sans Souci is now aboard a freighter. It has departed Hong Kong, and on is now on its way to Turkey.

Before I speak of about my boat though, I need to acknowledge events in Japan. As most of you know, we have cruised Japan the last couple of years, including the region closest to the epicenter. It has been very difficult seeing the news reports. I feel terrible for the people of Japan, and cannot begin to fathom what they must be going through. We have a deep respect, and admiration, for the Japanese people and we are confident that they will quickly recover from this terrible incident. Best wishes to them through this painful time.

And, as long as I am on the subject of ‘world events’…

Last month Scott and Jean Adams, and their guests from Seattle, Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle, were captured by pirates, then killed during the rescue attempt. A week later, a Danish family, including three kids, were captured, and are still being held hostage.

As most of you know, it is the potential for pirate attack that caused Roberta and I to load our boat aboard a freighter and ship it from Hong Kong to Turkey, completely bypassing the areas where piracy occurs. I notice that others are starting to make this same decision.

Excerpt from an article in the Wall Street Journal (Full Story):


Sevenstar Yacht Transport, an Amsterdam-based shipping company, is diverting resources to pick up last-minute requests from terrified yacht-owners. In the past few years, the company has shipped about 20 yachts a year. But in the first two months of this year, the company has already shipped 10 yachts, and plans to ship 15 more in the next few weeks.

On Wednesday, a day after news of the American deaths, the organizer of a convoy of 30 yachts in Thailand contacted Sevenstar to arrange transport across the Indian Ocean.

“People are so afraid,” said Richard Klabber, managing director of Sevenstar.

Leisure sailors point out that not everyone can afford that option. Many yacht owners, called “cruisers” or “yachties,” are retirees who have sold their belongings to fund their travel and live on a budget.

Klabber said his company is reducing its rates to accommodate the desperate. But the solution, he says, is simple: “They shouldn’t be there. They should just not be in that zone.”


I was approached by a Dubai newspaper to comment on the pirate situation. Here’s an excerpt from my response:

                            “Anyone who cruises internationally is accustomed to accepting a certain amount of risk. There is much that can go wrong on a small boat; high seas, storms, lightning, mechanical failures, hitting whales, health issues at sea, etc.

The question becomes, “How much risk is too much risk?” Every captain has a different answer to this question. A lot of boats have crossed the Indian Ocean this year. I don’t know how many private yachts, but I’d guess the number is in the hundreds, and yet only a handful have been captured.

I can easily imagine captains who would say, “I have a 97% chance of getting through safely. Let’s go.” For my wife and I, and our boat, this was unacceptable risk, and we are shipping our boat aboard a freighter.

Many small sailboats are sailing on tight budgets. They do not have the luxury of loading their boat onto a freighter. To get across the Indian Ocean they have only three choices; 1) Recognize that the odds are in their favor and go for it, 2) Cross the Indian Ocean as part of a rally. The Adams were part of a rally, and split from the pack. Had they stuck with the rally, they would probably still be here. And, 3) Stay home.

These recent attacks have changed the math. I would expect that fewer private boats are testing their luck. The pirates have extended their range, and are being more aggressive. The odds of safe passage are declining, and the odds of dying as part of an attack are increasing.

My advice to anyone considering crossing the Indian Ocean would be, “Don’t”. And, if someone wants to cross anyhow, they must find a way to do so as a part of a rally or convoy of boats, preferably with an armed escort. Mariners should not take comfort in past statistics, because it is a dynamic situation, and the odds are declining rapidly.

I do not know what the solution is, but one must be sought and imposed quickly. If the pirates continue to reap huge profits, the piracy will spread to other regions, and this cannot be allowed to occur. “

Anyway, enough of depressing thoughts…

The last few weeks have been busy ones for Sans Souci. Our boat was originally scheduled to ship on March 15th from Hong Kong to Turkey. Based on this, I arranged for three Seattle-based marine technicians to fly to Hong Kong, to do seasonal maintenance.

After all plans were put in place, I received an email from the shipping company alerting me that the freighter would be coming TWO WEEKS early. This was a bit of a logistical nightmare, in that all of the technicians would need rescheduling, as would the haul-out facility. Furthermore, the other two boats we’ve been traveling with had their own list of repairs and had arranged their trips to Hong Kong to match up with when the technicians would be there. This meant they also had to reschedule all of their plans. It took a bit of effort, but we did get everyone rescheduled.

Some of you are probably thinking, “Why is he sending three technicians all the way from Seattle to Hong Kong? Was the boat in bad shape?” Well, Sans Souci has traveled over 8,000 miles since its last major inspection, and I wanted the comfort of knowing that everything was in perfect condition before shipping the boat to Europe. The technicians themselves were a little puzzled about the trip, in that they asked me what was ‘broken’ and I said, “Nothing, but I’d like you to focus on everything anyway.” They asked if I wanted the thermostats and hoses inspected, and I said, “No. I want them replaced. I want it to be like a new boat.” 

CLICK HERE to see the actual work list. Only a few of the items on the list are repairs.

One of the items on the project list was to ‘Paint the bottom.’ Boats tend to collect crud on everything beneath the water. Bottom paints contain chemicals (anti-fouling agents), which slows the growth of this crud.

To get at the bottom of the boat, it needs to be ‘hauled out,’ or removed from the water. During our trip last year, we had hunted for a place to haul out Sans Souci and located one some distance away, that was unusual, in that instead of plucking the boat from the water with a giant crane, the boat would be driven onto an inclined platform, and then slid, railroad car style, out of the water.

The team of technicians was led by Jeff Sanson, from Pacific Yacht Management. Jeff has maintained Sans Souci from the beginning, in addition to traveling with us on longer passages. With Jeff on the job, I felt no need to go to Hong Kong to manage the process.

As Jeff was making preparations to take the boat to the haul-out facility, he hit a surprise. He called me immediately, “Ken, the office is telling me that I cannot deliver the boat to the haul-out facility without a pilot on board.” Normally, pilots are specially-trained ship captains who are experts on the waters in a particular region. For instance, in Seattle, when freighters are coming into port, professional pilots will board the freighters just before arrival, to help guide them safely to port. It’s an extra measure of safety, so that a freighter captain unfamiliar with the waters doesn’t commit some error which leads to an accident and perhaps an oil spill. Pilots are highly trained, and expensive. I couldn’t imagine that Hong Kong was requiring a pilot for the short (under four hours) run to the haul-out facility. It wasn’t because Jeff is unqualified to run a boat. He has a 1600 ton Captain’s license, and does deliveries of giant mega-yachts. It just didn’t make sense. Would I have been legal to run my own boat in Hong Kong’s waters? I arrived at night, surrounded by freighter traffic, and no one objected. Why was it now an issue? I couldn’t get a straight answer, but conceded the point. It’s their waters, and their rules.

Later, Jeff called to say that it had turned out well, and he was happy to have had the pilot onboard. The waters around Hong Kong are overloaded with freighters and ferrys, all of which seem to be headed straight at you. Having someone onboard that knows the drill isn’t a bad thing, although I doubt I’ll be thrilled when the invoice arrives.


Approaching the haul-out facility   


Sans Souci drives onto a ‘sled’ which is then hauled up a steep incline, pulled by cables

Although the boat is fully out of the water,
there is still water beneath the sled, making working
on the boat uncomfortable and wet

On my last run of the season, last year, the boat was overheating. We were being chased by a typhoon, and I needed speed, but the engines would overheat anytime I pushed up the throttles. As expected, the overheating problems were a result of all the crud covering my props, and clogging my intakes.

My hoses were filled with growth

The strainer covering my thru-hull was clogged

The props had to be cleaned by hand

After cleaning, the props were coated with
a product called Prop-Speed, to help fight

The thru-hulls, where water is pulled into the boat for cooling the generators and main engines, plus to feed the watermakers, was caked with growth.

Jeff mentioned that when it came time to leave the haulout facility, they asked him to take the helm, and be prepared to drive. He expected the same gentle ride down into the water, as when he had been lifted out. Nope! He said it was like freefalling followed by a big splash. Very exciting!

The work on Sans Souci finished quickly and went much smoother than expected. A special thank you to Jeff Sanson (www.pacificyachtmanagement.com), Doug Janes, and Craig Hattan (www.hattanmarine.com) for all their efforts.

In addition to fixing the boat, I wanted Jeff to prepare the boat for shipment. For one month, while the boat is being transported, all power will be off. In other words, the refrigerators and freezers need emptied,  and everything strapped down. Jeff was very popular on the docks as he emptied out our freezers.

Although Roberta and I have been wintering in Mexico, we haven’t escaped all of the work. I’ve had a boat project virtually every day. In addition to frequent calls with Jeff about the work in Hong Kong, Roberta and I have been focused on the boat’s arrival in Turkey. We have been working to sort out the custom’s issues, find an agent to handle us toTurkey, hire someone to look after the boat while we’re not in Turkey, find moorage, etc. Turkey has nearly a thousand miles of coastline, even without considering the Black Sea. A simple decision like deciding where to moor the boat, in a country you’ve never visited, is not that easy. I hired one agent, only to ‘unhire’ them a few weeks later. Roberta has had to weigh through a huge amount of confusing and conflicting information about bringing dogs into Turkey, and that’s only one of the countries we’ll be dealing with. She is simultaneously working through the dog-issues for France, Italy, and Greece. For instance, in addition to getting EU passports, the dogs already have a vet appointment in Rhodes, Greece!

Once the boat arrives in Turkey I will be going there personally to unload the boat from the freighter. One of Jeff’s projects in Hong Kong was to practice completely powering off the boat and then restarting everything. I don’t want to get to Turkey, have the boat dropped in the water, and discover that the batteries are dead, or that I don’t know the procedure to get it fired back up.

Yesterday, Jeff got the call to load the boat on the freighter in Hong Kong…

He phoned me at about 6am Hong Kong time to say that he was heading to the boat. It was about a two-hour run to where Sans Souci would be loading aboard the freighter.

Steven and Braun (Seabird and Grey Pearl) personally threw off my lines. It was a bit of an emotional occasion, in that it symbolized the breakup of our GSSR group. Hopefully, it’s only until next year, when we’ll reconvene in Turkey, but who really knows?

Our new puppies, Toundra (11 months) and Lilly (4 months)

Speaking of which, I should make a very small comment on a very big topic. As I have mentioned previously, our group is splitting temporarily. My boat is going on a freighter to Turkey, whereas the other two boats in our group are going somewhat farther on their own bottoms, and will load their boats onto a freighter bound for Turkey at the end of this cruising season. Although I have spoken about piracy risk as why we’re not cruising with the group this year, there is a second reason. As last year’s cruising season was winding down we were seeing signs that our best friend, our dog Shelby, wasn’t doing well. We hoped we were wrong, but there were clear signs that it might be her last season on the boat. Unfortunately, we were right, and shortly after returning home she passed away. We have since acquired two new puppies, and need some time to get them out of puppy stage, get them their shots, and ready for travel. It wouldn’t have worked to take Shelby, or the new puppies, on the GSSR this year. As to our cruising friends on Grey Pearl (Braun and Tina Jones) and Seabird (Steven and Carol Argosy), I will not be reporting on their adventures. We will miss them enormously, and will be in constant contact, but they are entering a part of the world where it is best to ‘fly beneath the radar.’ We will be very sad to be cruising without our friends, and wish them well.

Even though I wasn’t in Hong Kong, I was able to feel a part of Sans Souci’s departure …

Sans Souci’s pilothouse has a webcam, which does a very good job. In addition to feeding live video, it also allowed me to hear all the conversation in the pilothouse. Throughout the passage, I was on the phone with Steven Argosy, from Seabird, as we watched, and listened, live, to events inside the pilothouse.


At one point, I heard Jeff and the guys speculating on whether or not I might be watching. Jeff reassured the others in the pilothouse that I could watch only, but not hear. Oops! This was wrong. I was not only watching and listening, but had called several friends to also monitor. They had quite an audience! I phoned Jeff immediately to say, “Be careful what you say!” I’m sure he would have only said good things, but it wouldn’t have been right to be ‘sneaky.’


The MV Frauke, ready to transport Sans Souci to Turkey


Divers, putting straps beneath the boat, so the 700 ton train can lift Sans Souci onto the deck

A “flying Nordhavn” – over 60′ above the water!


Sans Souci is sitting on wooden blocks, strapped to the deck of the freighter

Sans Souci aboard the MV Frauke, where she’ll reside for the next month

Lastly, here’s a video worth viewing. (Click here if you don’t see a video below). Note: The title on this video is not mine. In addition to the person who posted it not being able to spell, his guess at the price is VERY low. Still, it is a great video!


It’s a Nordhavn 75 attempting to enter a marina in Dana Point, California, eight hours AFTER the tsunami. All larger vessels had been asked to leave the marina while the tsunami hit, and there were still random surges that lasted until the next day. To get back into the marina, the boats were watching for times of slack tide and trying to sneak back to their slips quickly. This guy had bad luck and current within the marina went from slack to 12+ knots in minutes. The captain did a masterful job of narrowly avoiding disaster. On a similar theme, and a bit more technical, the captain of Wind Song, describes IN THIS MESSAGE BOARD POSTING having to leave the marina in Hawaii and the surges there.

As always, thank you, and in just a few short weeks, you can expect a blog update from TURKEY!

-Ken Williams

PS Roberta and I were interviewed, as part of the first of a series of on boating, by Callum, the Nordhavn Dreamers group. The chat can be listened to by going to this website: www.nordhavndreamers.com, and looking about 2/3rds of the way down the page on the left side. The audio quality isn’t great, but it was a fun interview.

7 Responses

  1. hi ken,
    how much was the cost of shiping your yacht and what freighter is it? my husband and i are planning to sail from turkey to australia and crossing the suez would be the shortest way but we don’t like to risk being captured or killed by the pirates.

  2. Rod:

    I am assuming that my boat is solidly on the freighter, but really have no idea.

    The good news is that I just noticed that the freighter is now very close to the Suez Canal. It seems to be running ahead of schedule. Within a couple of weeks I’ll be posting an update from Turkey!

    -Ken W

  3. Ken:

    After loading Sans Souci on to the freighter I assume(?) that all of the ‘pillow blocks’ of the rests were screwed up to contact the hull for better stability and support?

    Keep the updates coming


  4. I have a friend that uses the 1 cent method to monitor his freezer. He places a penny on top of one of the frozen ice cubes in his freezer. If the penny is below the top surface the food is suspect. This does nothing to keep customs from confiscating the stores.

  5. While reading about you having to empty your freezers, I was reminded of a neat little device that I use to record my freezer temps (during cruising season when I am away from my boat) and the temps in my boat while on the hard in winter. See this link http://www.myboatsgear.com/ (http://www.myboatsgear.com/mbg/product.asp?prodID=414) You probably have this info with your simon system but this little device only requires 2 AAA batteries and costs around $30.

  6. SUBJECT: Traveling with dogs


    Our children are grown, and out of the house, so our dogs have become our ‘kids.’ We can’t imagine going anywhere without them. One of the nice things about living in Mexico is that many of the restaurants allow us to take our dogs to dinner with us. We also have spent much of our life in France, where Shelby was welcomed at most restaurants.

    Our cruising plans partially revolve around the dogs. There are some countries that simply won’t accept dogs, and we have scratched them off our list. For instance, we may never cruise Australia or New Zealand, simply because they are very difficult to bring dogs into. The UK is difficult. Mainland China probably would have been impossible. These are all exceptions though. Most countries welcome pets, and as long as you follow the procedures, there is no issue.

    I can’t remember all the countries Shelby visited; Russia, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, France, Italy, Portugal, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Canada, Spain, and of course the United States (including Hawaii).

    Thus far, the toughest country was Japan. Their rules are not really that bad, but every bit of paperwork has to be exactly perfect. Most countries have a website spelling out the requirements. Roberta studies these, then supplements the information by googling on the web, and speaking to travel agents in the country. Shelby was known to many vets, as she repeatedly got new health certificates. She was the most ‘looked at’ dog I can imagine!

    You’ll note that our two new friends are tiny. Roberta and I were checking whether or not Lilly might be the smallest dog alive. She is four months old, and still under two pounds! She isn’t the smallest, but she is certainly small! We wanted dogs who could easily travel with us inside the cabin on airlines, and who restaurants would allow at dinner. Our new puppies are very un-intimidating.

    As to specifically what is required…

    – We do not enter countries that require our dogs to be quarantined

    – Virtually everywhere requires a health certificate within days of travel

    – Virtually everywhere requires proofs of vaccination, including rabies

    – There are some special blood tests, which some countries require

    It is impossible to generalize, because each country is different. It is a lot of work, but the pups are our family, so we’re happy to do it!

    -Ken W

  7. Ken – as always, thank you so much for taking the rest of us along for the ride. This posting came in right before dinner time at my house, and my wife and kids spent much of the table conversation talking about you guys taking the dogs on the boat and around the world. Could you elaborate on what all you and Roberta have had to do to work the dogs into your plans? Do they have to be quarantined in any country on entry? Is there such a thing as an animal passport/visa to avoid some of the hassle? Sorry for all the questions – just things my kids were asking that I could not answer!

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