It has been a while since I updated my blog, so I thought I’d give a quick update.
First off, I’ve had a flood of new people sign up for my blog over the past couple of months, and it feels like an appropriate time to give a quick background on who Roberta my wife, and I, are to all the ‘newbies’ receiving my blog.
Roberta and I are retired software developers. Back when personal computers were just being born, we quit our ‘real’ jobs to start a computer game company, Sierra On-Line. After nearly 20 years of making video games (Kings Quest, Leisure-Suit Larry, Half-Life and many others), we sold the company, bought a boat, and started exploring the world. Although we’ve owned a boat throughout all of our 38 years of marriage, until 2004 we never ventured out of sight of land. This changed in 2004 when the manufacturer of our 62 foot boat, Nordhavn, announced that they were assembling a group of boats who would cross the Atlantic together. Roberta has always loved adventure, and whereas I had serious doubts about the voyage, we signed up, and alongside 17 other boats, we took our boat across the Atlantic, from Florida to Europe. To keep my family and friends at home updated on our big voyage I started writing a blog. Although I’m not much of a writer, and knew almost nothing about boating, my blog somehow started collecting readers. My dad forwarded it to his friends, who forwarded it to their friends, and suddenly through the miracle of the INTERNET many thousands of people started reading my blog, including you!
Over the past few years we’ve ventured to a lot of different corners of the world, and even started a circumnavigation.
Although I say we are circumnavigating, we’re doing it our way. Most boaters who decide to circumnavigate pick a fairly straight route around the middle of the planet, and take a year or two to dash around the globe. Our strategy is a little different. We are taking our time, zigzagging our way along, going where our moods take us, and see this as a ten year or longer adventure.
One reason we’re taking so long is that we cruise only four to six months a year. Recently, a 16 year old young lady, Jessica Watson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessica_Watson) , circumnavigated in just eight months, without ever touching shore. That’s the complete opposite of us. Whereas Jessica had to take whatever seas the weather gods wanted to toss her way, and had a well defined route, we want to go where we want, and choose the best time of year to do it.
And, this upcoming year, we’re cheating a bit. If you look at the map above, you’ll see that there is a green dotted line stretching all the way from Hong Kong, across Malaysia, Thailand, India, through the Middle East, and then becoming solid again once it reaches Turkey. Our plan is to load our boat, Sans Souci, onto a giant freighter, and let the freighter make that passage, with our boat, but not with us.
Why? Well… it’s a long distance, around 9,000 miles, from where the boat is now in Hong Kong, to the Mediterranean (the Med). In between, there aren’t that many places we want to see (Thailand being a major exception!). And, there are some places we definitely don’t want to see, like the pirate-infested waters around Somalia. So .. as I said, we decided to cheat, and let our boat hitch a ride on a freighter and then meet it in Turkey. Actually, the cheating doesn’t bother me. We’re losing our shot at a ‘circumnavigator merit badge’, but I haven’t wasted a minute thinking about that. Instead, what does have me sad is that we’ll be leaving behind the two boats we’ve cruised with the past couple of years, Seabird and Grey Pearl. We called our little group the “Great Siberian Sushi Run,” or GSSR, and have had some amazing times, including cruising Alaska, crossing the Bering Sea, hanging out in Siberia, seeing more of Japan than most Japanese, touring WWII’s history in the Pacific at such places as Attu and Okinawa, visiting our boat’s factory in Taiwan and then arriving in Hong Kong. We’ll miss those boat’s owners; the Argosys and the Jones, but with a little luck, we’ll be reuniting in the Med during 2012.
Why Turkey? The Med is a long 2,500 mile stretch of water, that forms the southern coast of Europe, with Turkey to the East and Gibraltar to the west. Our plan is to start in the east, and mosey, over a three to five year period from east to west. Over the next few years we’ll visit Greece, Croatia, Albania, Italy, Malta, Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia France, and Spain. After that, who knows? A turn to the left? A turn to the right?
Over the past month I’ve been working on arranging moorage in Turkey. One would think this would be easy, but Turkey has a 1,000 mile long coastline, with dozens of marinas. I’ve been a little nervous about reserving a marina, because they all seem to be fairly expensive, and want money up front. Personally, I’ve never been to Turkey, and have no idea where we want to be, or where we’ll be the happiest. Istanbul is a modern city, in the north, and would probably have plenty of things to do, and great restaurants. Or, the city that seems to be the hub of the maritime industry, and the most obvious choice is Marmaris along the southern coast. After weeks of reading, and still not feeling like we had a feel for Turkey, we chose a marina called Gocek Exclusive, in Gocek Turkey.
Gocek is a bit of a strange choice, andlocated in the boondocks on Turkey’s southern coast. It may even be a bad choice. We don’t know. It was rarely mentioned by other cruiser’s I spoke to, which probably made it sound more attractive to Roberta and I. It looked pretty, and we like being off the beaten track.
The boat has been on the move almost non-stop the last few years. It has never been said, but sub-consciously, I’m sure that part of why Roberta and I decided to separate from the GSSR group during 2011 is that we were in the mood to sit still and be mellow. The idea of picking a pretty marina, and spending the season hanging out mostly at the dock, while our other friends from the GSSR run thousands of miles to catch up with us in Turkey sounds darn good. Does this mean my blog will be dull in 2011? Almost certainly it does. But, that said, Roberta and I always seem to find ways to challenge ourselves, or the boat finds ways to challenge us, so as much as I’d like it, boredom is unlikely.
One challenge, once in Turkey, is that the marina isn’t well enough sheltered from the weather for winter moorage. I have the slip reserved thru November 2011, and then I’m not sure what we’ll do with the boat. The marina has a haul-out facility and a 200 ton lift. I have the option to haul the boat out of the water and park it on shore for the winter. That said, I’m hoping I can find a way to leave the boat in the water. I have never had the boat sitting on land for a protracted period, and don’t know what the issues are.
And of course, whereas I used a couple of sentences to say that we’d be moving the boat from Hong Kong to Turkey, it really isn’t that easy. There’s some chance that the big check I just wrote for moorage will turn out to be wasted money, because I can’t find a freighter to pick up our boat in Hong Kong. Long-time readers of my blog will recall that a few years back I wrote about my plan to load our boat on a freighter in Costa Rica, for transport to Alaska. The shipping company I used dropped the ball on shipping my boat, resulting in a lost cruising season, and expensive litigation, which is still dragging through the courts.
So, the fact is that I don’t know what freighter will ship my boat, or when it will ship, I also don’t know where the freighter will drop my boat in Europe. And, to be honest, I’m not even 100% certain what country my boat will ship FROM. The leading idea is to take my boat from Hong Kong, back to Taiwan where it was manufactured, and hope that the manufacturer (Nordhavn) can help me get the boat moved. My best guess, at this time, is that my boat will ship sometime next April or May, from Taiwan, headed to somewhere in Eastern Europe, arriving in June or July. My expectation is that the boat will be off-loaded from the frieghter 500 to 1,000 miles from Turkey, in Italy or Greece, and I’ll have to run it to the slip in Turkey. Remember when I said that I was worried about the cruising season, and my blog, being boring? We shall see. Boating is rarely dull.
Since this blog entry is intended to help spin up to speed all the new people to my blog, I should mention a bit about my philosophy of boat maintenance. I am by no means a fully trained boat mechanic. I need to be able to fix the boat, enough to get us to shore, if it breaks, and I’ve had training in diesel engine maintenance, and even received certification as a marine electric technician. But, all of that said, my sincerest hope is that other than changing the oil, I never have to use any of my knowledge. Some people like to own a boat, as a hobby, and love nothing better than tinkering around in the engine room. I respect those people, but I’m not really one of them. We cruise for the fun, and because we like sampling life in foreign countries, not because I like hanging out in engine rooms. Instead, I work with Jeff Sanson, at the company www.pacificyachtmanagement.com, based in Seattle, who readies my boat at the start of each season, and ‘puts it away’ at the end of each season. At the beginning of March, Jeff will fly to Hong Kong, and do this year’s maintenance. The boat is in very good condition, and as far as I know, nothing major needs done. Every couple of years the bottom of the boat needs painted, and Jeff will oversee that process. Mostly what I want him to do is to go from one end of the boat to the other, looking for anything that might be worth lubricating, replacing, or repairing. I want to focus on nothing other than enjoying life when on the boat, and know that I have essentially a new boat at the start of each year’s cruising.
Anyway, I saved the biggest news for last. On Dec 22, Roberta and I took delivery of TWO NEW PUPPIES! Sadly, in early November our best friend, and constant companion over the past 14 years, Shelby (our dog), passed away. Her passing was not unexpected. She was suffering from a fatal decease from which there is no escape, called ‘old age.’ We had always said that should Shelby ever not be a factor we would immediately point our boat at Australia and New Zealand, which are virtually impossible to cruise with pets. However, when the day arrived, the idea of cruising with just Roberta and I, didn’t sound that fun. It wouldn’t be the same without Shelby. We are ‘dog people’ and our lives revolve around our dog. We know that there are those who might fault us for adopting new puppies so soon after losing Shelby, but if they had seen us moping around the house, in the weeks after Shelby left, they would understand.
During Shelby’s last years she had heart issues and couldn’t move too fast. Thus, we over-reacted a bit in choosing a new dog, and placed an order for a Jack Russell Terrier. Roberta likes long walks and we wanted a dog that could keep up. After putting a dog on order with a breeder, we bought a host of books on raising Jack Russell Terriers. When the books arrived I grabbed one and started reading. The book did an amazing job of convincing me that Jack Russells are the WRONG breed to have on a boat. I read many pages from the book to Roberta, talking about how the Jack Russells need big spaces to roam in, love to hunt and kill things, and need walked several miles a day. None of this is possible in the middle of the ocean on a 68 foot boat. I then did some surfing on the internet, and found this website: http://www.knottydog.com/ about a couple cruising with their Jack Russell, Ziggy. It convinced me we wanted a Jack Russell all over again! I showed Roberta the site, and we relaxed. But then, we were at a party with some neighbors, who own, and love Jack Russells, who lectured us on why the Jack Russell would be the wrong breed for on a boat. It rang true, and I had to be the one to phone the breeder to ‘unadopt’ our new friend.
Roberta did some more googling, and stumbled onto a little known breed, the Russian Toy. They are much smaller than it looks in this picture. A full-sized adult is only about 5 pounds. We considered Shelby a small dog, and she weighed only 16 pounds! We had talked about getting a small dog, because we took Shelby with us everywhere, and it would have been easier with a purse-sized pooch. In particular, flying internationally would be much simpler with a dog that could easily fit into a carry-on bag. After we arrived in Hong Kong we had a heck of a time getting Shelby home to Seattle. Most airlines won’t fly dogs in cargo during the summers, because of heat. Our choice of dog has to match our life as boaters.
Our new friends are Toundra, eight months old, and Lilly, eight weeks old. Lilly weighs only one pound, and is a burst of non-stop energy, 24 hours a day. We’ve barely slept since the puppies arrive. As mothers will tell you, of humans, or dogs— no one sleeps when there’s a baby in the house!
Merry Christmas everyone! We wish you a prosperous and happy new year.
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci