[Kensblog] It’s starting to look like a boat!


Greetings all!

Roberta and I are still awaiting the delivery of our new boat. This will be our first summer to be stuck on land in over twenty years. Even though we miss our boat, I must admit we are looking forward to a summer on land. As much as we love boating it will be good to take a break.

That isn’t to say we haven’t been thinking about boating! Hardly a day goes by that we don’t have an email from the factory building our new boat or one of our various experts with questions about the new boat.

Anyway .. the biggest issue I’m agonizing over now is what to do about an anchor.

 But before I get to that, here’s an overview of this blog entry
  • Picking colors and the logo for the boat
  • Construction Pictures
  • Technical Discussion Selecting an Anchor
Roberta has taken the lead on picking the colors for the boat. All of our prior boats were white and we wanted to try something new. This is just a digital mockup showing what the new boat will look like. It’s amazing how real it looks
It doesn’t show in the picture above, but we are eliminating the wood paneling that normally appears on the back of all Grand Banks boats.

Wood paneling on the transom (but, not on our boat)
Behind the scenes our new boat, the Grand Banks 60 (GB60), has more in common with the Palm Beach series of boats than the Grand Banks trawlers. Grand Banks has been building boats since 1956 but went through a major transition a couple years ago when the company merged with Palm Beach Motor Yachts  an Australian company that made fast cruising boats.

Grand Banks wanted to build a boat that would bring the technological advances and carbon fiber construction of the Palm Beach boats into the trawler market. The GB60 straddles both camps. It has the 30+ knot speed and light weight of a fast cruising boat, but also the over-2,000 mile range and Category A (ocean seaworthy) rating of a trawler.

Roberta and I started this process looking for something different. We loved our Nordhavn trawlers and it’s very possible we’ll have another someday. But, for right now, we wanted to shake things up and do something new. We came to the GB60 by looking at the Palm Beach boats and even ruled out buying a GB60 initially because it looked too much like a trawler.

Technically speaking, the seas don’t care what color your boat is, or whether it looks like a trawler or a school bus. All that really matters is that it delivers you comfortably and safely on your journey. But, that said .. we are seeking a sportier look.

The GB60 has far more of its DNA in common with the Palm Beach yachts than with the trawlers that Grand Banks has been producing. To give the boat a more trawler-ish look Grand Banks added the wood paneling at the stern and the side grooves which give a faux wood boat look.

We said, “No wood panel”. Similarly, we asked to be rid of the grooves, but they can’t be removed.

We now have a logo for the boat!

We conducted an online contest to find a logo for the boat. Amazingly we had 369 potential logos to pick from.

I wanted to do raised steel letters and a back-lit logo for the back of the boat, but Roberta thinks the logo will look better painted. I said that I didn’t like the idea that the boat name would be invisible at night and she suggested trying to do some sort of lighting from the swim step. I don’t know how practical that is but hope to find a way.

Roberta has been focusing on both the inside and the outside of the boat. The picture above shows the various materials Roberta and our interior designer Kate Seremeth  have selected. Cygnus will be beautiful inside and out!

We have some construction pictures of the boat, taken just a few days ago

The captions on this picture may not be correct. They represent my best guess as to where the rooms will be.

This picture was taken from the stern of the boat looking forward. In the prior picture the lazarette is hardly visible, and here you can see that it is actually huge. Those two round circles you see at the front of the lazarette are for Delta T fans that will pull air through the engine room.

Having visited the factory a few times to watch our Nordhavn be built I was somewhat surprised to see how thin the hull is. But, then I reminded myself that “that’s what I am paying for”. This boat is all about being strong, despite being light weight, through the use of materials like carbon fiber.

Diagram showing the equipment placement in the lazarette and engine room.

There are a few changes that have been made since my last blog entry.

The Seakeeper, a giant gyroscope that will keep the boat stable at anchor and while underway, has been shifted forward in the engine room, swapping places with the generator. We were worried there was too much weight in the back of the boat. This also gives me easier access to the generator for changing oil.

We also added a second chilled water compressor. We had originally planned a single 60,000 BTU Technicold chiller but by adding a second 36,000 BTU unit We’ll have a backup unit, plus the option to run the smaller chiller, the larger chiller, or both together.

This diagram above shows a 30 gallon water heater tank. I’ve upsized it from when this diagram was made to 40 gallons. Even that will be smaller than I like. On our Nordhavn we had a diesel furnace that provided virtually unlimited hot water. I came very close to adding a diesel furnace but the equipment spaces are tight and we’re trying to keep the boat as simple and maintainable as possible. I fully expect I’ll be whining about the inability to take long showers for as long as we own the boat.

And, speaking of the water heating 

Most marine water heaters can be heated by electricity or by heat exchange from the main engines or generators. I elected NOT to do any heat exchange to the water heater, even though it is a free source of heat. There are a couple reasons I made this decision:

  1. We will have a generator running at all times when away from the dock. It can shorten the life of a generator to constantly underload it. I’ll have a 1kw and a 3kw heating element in the water heater and can run them to create extra load whenever I want. And,
  2. You have probably heard the old saying that the definition of cruising is, “Fixing your boat in exotic places.” I’m very aware of that saying and have come up with a different saying that I’m trying to think about as I spec the hardware for this new boat: “I’ve never had to fix something that wasn’t on the boat.” I’m trying to look at each wire, belt, hose or piece of machinery and ask myself if I can live without it. By no means will this boat lack features, but .. there are a lot of features it could have that I’m forcing myself not to order.
Here we see the deck of the boat.
The video above shows someone else’s GB60 deck being mounted.

I have not seen a detailed schedule but assume we are at least a month or two from when the deck and hull will be joined. It will be after the equipment (main engines, generators, watermaker, chillers, etc.) have been installed in the boat.

I’m assuming this is the bottom of the fly bridge roof.
I have no idea what this is, other that it appears to be some portion of the fly bridge roof.
Actually .. the interesting thing I’m waiting to see is the tilting mast. One of our goals with this boat is that it be “Great Loop capable”.

The Great Loop is a system of waterways that encompasses the eastern portion of the United States and part of Canada. It is made up of both natural and man-made waterways, including the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, the Rideau Canal, and the Mississippi and Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
The Great Loop requires that the boat be under 19.5′ tall, in order to go under bridges. Thus, one of the trickier design goals for the boat is to have a mast which can be easily laid down so that the boat can reduce height long enough to pass under a bridge.

Or, perhaps this is the top of the fly bridge roof?
And, on a completely different topic

Seachest (not my boat)
Here’s a picture that is from a friend’s boat. I happened to be in his engine room and saw this sea chest and loved its simplicity. I sent this picture to Steve D’Antonio, an expert who is helping me with my boat, and asked if we could do a seachest like this on my boat. Steve reminded me that this will be a plane-ing boat (rising above the water), and that a seachest doesn’t work. You can’t keep a sea chest full of water. I’m still adjusting to the idea of this being a go-fast boat. Roberta and I made the decision to get a new boat by saying to each other that we wanted to experiment with something completely different. It’s easier said than done at times.

Let’s talk anchoring

The people at Grand Banks have been incredible to deal with. They listen to ideas and improve on my ideas. It really has been a fun experience building this boat.

That said, there is one very important issue that has been difficult and that we are still sorting out.

The GB-60 comes standard with a very attractive anchor and the whole bow setup looks great. Someone spent a lot of time making the bow and anchor look good.

That said, Roberta and I could care less how the anchor looks. This is one area where if people want to avert their eyes when we drive into marinas rather than be forced to look at our ugly-as-hell big-ass anchor, so be it.

We rarely enter marinas once we leave the dock at the start of a season. We prefer to be anchored out. Unfortunately, this means that at least once or twice each season we get caught at anchor in a storm. We have lots of stories to tell about sitting at anchor watching boats around us dragging anchor and sometimes striking other boats or winding up on the beach. These are scary times that you never forget. People have asked whether we are frightened when cruising a thousand miles from the nearest shore. The answer is, “Not really”. The times we’ve worried most is when we are close to shore, and conditions are such that boats are starting to drag. On Sans Souci (our Nordhavn) we always anchored away from boats, sometimes in a worse location than other boats, knowing that we had enough chain to anchor deep and an anchor that would allow us to hold in winds that would send other boats drifting.

We have always used a Rocna anchor. We first selected Rocna after reading an article by Steve Dashew (a famous sailor and author) saying that he used Rocna. I figured that if he used Rocna, I should use Rocna. Our first Rocna treated us well, but after spending some nights in rough anchorages I upsized the anchor. And, then I upsized the anchor again, and then I upsized it even more. Our last Rocna anchor on Sans Souci was a 150kg monster that just barely fit on the front of the boat. We loved it!

Despite our massive anchor, we have dragged. It has only happened a couple times but both could have been disasters. In the first case, we had just completed an overnight run between two islands in Greece. We had gone through hell with over-50-knot winds and no place to anchor, finally anchoring against a near vertical cliff on a tiny ledge where we could hide from the wind. Our arrival at our new destination was a pretty bay in perfect windless conditions. Roberta and I were exhausted and went to sleep. Soon after going to sleep we heard Steven Argosy (from Seabird, a boat we were traveling with) calling on the radio, “Sans Souci. You are dragging!” The wind had come up, but not that much. It was still a pretty day, but the anchor had dropped on weeds and perhaps we had gotten too cocky and didn’t dig the anchor in firmly enough. Whoops. The only other time we dragged was once again on a beautiful day. We were anchored off Hyeres France along a long spectacular sand spit. In the afternoon the wind came up and our idyllic anchorage turned into six foot chop in minutes. The anchor pulled loose and should have reset but didn’t. The area was filled with weeds and once the anchor came loose it found itself on seaweed and we started dragging towards shore. I didn’t want to move the boat in such conditions but we had no choice. And, whereas when I dropped I could look for a patch of sand, the water was now too stirred up. I couldn’t find sand to anchor in. We figured it out, but it wasn’t fun.

I mention these two incidents only because seaweed was involved both times, and I was caught by surprise when Steve D’Antonio asked me what I thought about a video he saw that showed Rocna anchors having trouble re-setting when the boat rotates around the anchor.

As a long time advocate of Rocna anchors I wanted to immediately track down the video, and here it is

The video is overly long at eleven minutes, but it’s worth watching every second.

I found the video on this website (www.morganscloud.com) by John Harries, a cruiser with a hundred thousand miles under his keel and a long history of Rocna support.

There are a series of anchor reviews and comments on the site and I wound up reading all of them. I finished the process more confused than when I started.

John Harries, ultimately comes to the conclusion that he would no longer use or recommend Rocna anchors. His new recommendation is SPADE anchors.

Following is an excerpt from his site, which hopefully he is ok with me repeating here:

At this point I could pick on one or two anchor tests and dissect the techniques used and show how little they resemble what we experienced voyagers actually do out there in the real world, particularly setting technique. But I’m not going to. Why? Because arguing that stuff is a pointless exercise. Too little data, too much emotion.

Here’s what does matter: If the conclusions of an anchor test are at odds with reliable real world experience, then the test is at least partly flawed and should not be relied on. 

For example, there was a recent test that concluded that the Rocna and SPADE were both very poor anchors, even dangerous, in soft mud.

Great, except for one thing. Thousands of sailors have been using those two anchors in soft mud over tens of thousands of sets with good results. I personally have laid to a SPADE in gale force winds in the same creek where the test was done twice.

Not only that, we have had articles up on this site for years that actively solicit real world experiences with the Rocna and SPADE. Said post has been read by tens of thousands of unique people (Google Analytics) and not one has commented on problems with either of these two anchors in soft mud.

Despite this overwhelming evidence, testers will typically claim that their results are good science and our experience is nothing but anecdotal information. They will tell us about their soil engineering experts, their calculations, their rigorous tabulation.

But you know what? None of that matters. How can I say that with such conviction? Well, although I’m not a scientist, my father was, and one fundamental thing I learned from him was: when the results of an experiment don’t agree with real world experience, always, always, suspect the testing protocol first.

John Harries www.morganscloud.com

I could not have said it nearly as well

Roberta and I are currently planning a Rocna anchor (55kg) for our new boat. I not only read through the comment’s on John H’s site, but also watched the video tests of several other brands of anchors:  https://www.youtube.com/user/flygoodwin/videos

I’m sticking with Rocna because our Rocna has treated us well and I don’t think I’d be exaggerating too much to say that it has saved our lives. We’ve dropped it in virtually every kind of bottom the ocean can throw at us; gravel, mud, hard packed dirt, seaweed, sand, etc.

The problem with anchor testing is that it usually doesn’t match real-world conditions. Unless you are matching a particular boat, with a particular amount of chain (or rope) rode out, on a particular kind of bottom, in a given set of wind conditions, with the anchor set a particular way, the testing may be indicative, but it isn’t definitive. Whereas, experience with an anchor counts. Anchors have personalities and after enough drops you get to know them. I can’t say that the video above didn’t get my attention, but I’ve dropped our Rocna enough times that I feel safer with what I know works than what someone else might say works.

And, that does it for this issue of the blog!

If you would like to comment on anything I said in this blog entry, you may do so by visiting Roberta’s and my website: www.kensblog.com Scroll down the homepage until you find this blog entry, click on it, and then look for where it says “Post Comments” towards the bottom of the page.

Happy Cruising!

Ken and Roberta Williams (with our best-friend cruising companions; Toundra and Keeley)

Cygnus, Grand Banks 60, coming soon! (Spring 2020)



8 Responses

  1. Just wanted to say that I found this after a late night thought and subsequent search of “what ever happened to Sierra and the Williams family?”

    Ken and Roberta – I have to tell you that you two created some great games and, subsequently, the “spark” that kept me hooked to PCs during very formative years. You guys made these things cool to us kids, and in a way that our parents could even see the benefits. As a result I stayed a techie through my youth and ultimately became an engineer. I now write software myself to fly satellites, and can't help but make the occasional Roger Wilco reference in my code.

    Enjoy retirement, you guys more than earned it! 

  2. I see that you and your wife are set to travel and I wish you the best.  The reason I am posting is that I have been trying to find someone to help me with finding a modern (updated) version of one of your older products.  I was very found of Civil War, Robert E. Lee General.  That software does not run on my current machine with Windows 10.  Do you have any suggestions?  This is probably not a very popular software now, but I enjoyed it then and would enjoy it now if I could run the program.

    Thanks for any help you can provide and have fun on the boat.  

    —Reply posted by admin on 9/2/2019

    Technology has changed a lot over the 30 years since the Civil War game came out. It's no surprise that the game won't run.

    I've seen that some people buy old computers on ebay just to run the older games.

    It's too bad Activision, or whoever owns the rights these days, hasn't updated the games.

    A bit of “behind the scenes” info… I remember doing the game because it was a small vertical niche that no one was serving. It was very profitable for us! Once the company was acquired and I wasn't running it, a decision was made to stop all of the games that didn't have a large market. I wouldn't have done that… 

    -Ken W

  3. Glad to see you and Roberta are having fun! Thanks for keeping in touch with everyone, and thank you again for creating some of my favorite games when I grew up

    —Reply posted by admin on 6/14/2019

    Thank you! 

    We miss the Sierra days! But … retirement definitely has its advantages…

  4. Ken, Roberta’s gray is going to make folks think that you are law enforcement or the Navy.?? You could guarantee that misapprehension by placing a white or black two-digit number on the bows. “33” would be my favorite. Shiny gray metallic might disabuse people of your “official” appearance

  5. Ken, although I am NOT advocating the Ultra, Ultra offers: bow roller assemblies, swivels, and chain. Perhaps GB need not fabricate anything? I assume that the chain is stainless. Do your experts think that your windless should be electric or hydraulic? The best way to self-rescue from a grounding (usually mud, but also sand) is to take an anchor out astern or off the bow and inch oneself off. Using the dinghy alongside often works, but those winches exert far more force. I recall your saying that you will have sheet winches aft to aid in docking.

  6. Don’t forget the Groco intake scoops with the removable screens to permit cleaning. In my brief ICW experience from New Bern to Annapolis and back. My ordinary A/C intake got clogged by tissue, a minnow, and a Tampon. On your future boat, I think that the only active intakes at rest will be the A/C and generator intakes. I have assumed that your toilets will be fresh water flush.

    Your radar can be used to see the ICW markers including those without radar reflectors (my commercial radar sees those w/o reflectors.) The charts may not reflect the actual position of the channel, but the radar will. In NC at least, ICW junctions with local channels are confusing in a few spots. If you are lucky enough to be behind a tug, they will serve as guides. Because I talk to tugs in a respectful tone and ask them “Where do you want me?” they often offered me advice and once a 6000 HP towboat pulled me off some stumps when my rudder arm broke and I went charging off outside the channel! They said that they would not have stopped had I been “one of those speeding sportfishermen.” WORD.

  7. As someone else mentioned, you may want to take a look at the Ultra anchors. They appear to hold extremely well, be well-engineered and the stainless steel finish is quite spiffy.

    —Reply posted by admin on 6/9/2019

    GB recommended an Ultra anchor. Unfortunately, the Ultra that fits the existing bowsprit is borderline acceptable. I’m working with them now to see if a larger anchor, preferably Rocna, can fit on the bow.

    It’s tough to swap anchors after years of experience with a particular anchor.

    In all scenarios, I want an anchor that is one or two sizes up from the manufacturer’s sizing guide. 

  8. I’ve seen videos of some Steeler yachts and a few others and they are painted a dark silver similar to Roberta’s gray. Wirth a look. Although I too have relied upon my oversized Rocna, I’ve seen mention of the Turkish Ultra anchor. Bright stainless with the general Roca appearance (no rollbar) but with a weighted tip.  Interesting, buy pricey.

    —Reply posted by admin on 6/9/2019

    When we were in Europe we saw a lot of Ultra anchors. My recollection is that it is very similar to the Spade anchor that John Harries recommends on the Morgan’s Cloud website. 

    GB is struggling to fit an anchor of the size I’d like (Rocna or Ultra) onto the bow. It will require modification to the bowsprit, so we’re still trying to find an anchor that is as large as I like and can be made to fit on the bow of the boat. 

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