[KensBlog] Many decisions to make

Greetings all!

For those of you who may have missed my last blog entry, the quick story is that Roberta and I have listed Sans Souci for sale and are in the process of ordering a new boat. The quick reason is that we are planning to cruise “the Great Loop” (an inland journey on America’s rivers). We chose our Nordhavn 68 as the best possible boat for ocean crossing and now we’re building a boat that is built for a completely different flavor of cruising.

We’re now deep into the process of ordering the new boat. It’s a more time consuming process than you might imagine. And, whereas for now, ordering the boat seems like a full time job, once we actually submit the order there will be nothing to do but wait. And, wait. And, then wait some more.

The new boat is scheduled to start the molding process early next year. Once the molding process begins it will take at least a year for the actual boat to be constructed. Grand Banks will then need to find a freighter to transport our new boat from Malaysia to America. It will take several weeks for the freighter to slog its way to the east coast of the United States, after which we’ll go through a commissioning process (final installation of things like drapes), and then the real fun will begin, hopefully in the Spring of 2020.

Yes. Boats can hitchhike. It’s cheating, but works.
A brief bit of background

Roberta and I have now run over 50,000 miles on our various boats. We have lived three to five months a year on a boat every year for the past twenty years. Some boats are used only on nice sunny days for a quick picnic on the lake, but that’s not us. We consider our boat a second home and once we leave the dock at the start of a cruising season, we only occasionally return to the dock over the following months.

Our current boat, a Nordhavn 68, was designed with the idea of off-grid cruising. We can survive for months without taking on fuel. We make our own food and water. We have satellite for internet and television. We even have our own hot tub.

Nordhavn owners are a different breed from most boaters. Many, if not most, spend extensive time on their boats. The boats can go to remote locations, and are capable of traveling in seas, that most boats can’t. There are comfort, safety and navigation needs that are somewhat unique to Nordhavn-style cruising. I remember being on the helm of an enormous megayacht a few years back and being surprised to see that the navigation systems weren’t in the same league as what we have on our Nordhavn.

Our Nordhavn has spoiled us
Downsizing isn’t easy.

It will be tough to give up all the comfort and safety of our current boat. The deeper I get into the ordering process the more this point is driven home.

To cruise the Great Loop, you need a boat capable of going under low bridges, and with a shallow draft (not too deep). Our current boat is over forty feet tall and we needed to find a boat that could go under a nineteen foot bridge. Specifically, our mission was to find a boat that wasn’t too tall but which could get us reasonably close to the comfort and safety we have become accustomed to.

How we chose the Grand Banks 60

In our quest for a new boat we looked at smaller Nordhavns as well as many other brands. Nordhavn sells a model which would work for the river cruising of the Great Loop (the N59CP). We are Nordhavn fans, and may return to the family of Nordhavn ownership someday. But, for this particular purchase we decided to go a different direction. I mention it only because I’ve received so many emails asking, “Why not the Nordhavn 59cp?” The quick answer is, “There wasn’t really a reason”. And, to tell “the rest of the story”, we arrived at the final boat we chose obliquely. Our initial search resulted in our selecting a boat quite different from the Nordhavn 59CP.

Our search was quickly narrowed to a small number of boats. We decided early on that safety was the one area where we wouldn’t compromise. Although our short-term plans are for river cruising, we will probably own our next boat for five to ten years and our cruising plans extend well beyond inland waters. I don’t see us crossing oceans, but trips through the Caribbean, or shipping the boat to Europe and then cruising the Med and/or Northern Europe are definitely part of the plan. We want to know that whatever we buy will deliver us safely in rough seas and have an anchoring system capable of holding us securely in strong winds at anchor.

After looking at lots of different boats (including Nordhavn, Fleming, Hinckley and others) we selected the Palm Beach 55 (aka the PB55).

The Palm Beach 55 (PB55). We liked the look, speed and low height
Several people had recommended we consider another boat available from the same company as the PB55 which is based on a slightly larger version of the same hull: The Grand Banks 60 (aka the GB60). However, we ruled it out early and firmly. We didn’t want something that looked like a trawler. We love trawlers, but preferred the fun look of the PB55.

The PB55 tender garage
Surprisingly, it was the tender that made the difference, both in why we selected the PB55 and why we later passed on it. The PB 55 hides the tender in a garage under the cockpit floor. We liked that aspect! The tender garage, cool look, speed (over 40kts!) and low height were the primary reasons we selected the PB55. However, to “hide the tender” the PB55 tender garage constrains the maximum size of the tender at around ten feet. When we thought about the fact that we are at anchor using a tender to get to/from shore almost daily, and asked ourselves if we’d really be happy with a ten foot tender: We decided it would NOT work for us.

Thus, we swapped to the larger GB60 which retains much of what we liked about the PB55 but with room for a larger tender.

Selecting the boat was only the beginning. The next step: Picking the equipment

We have the option of simply writing a check and ordering the boat as Grand Banks designed it. However, my guess is that very few (if any) buyers actually order a boat without making changes. The GB60 is not a “starter boat”. It is of a size, cost and complexity where the buyers tend to have owned several prior boats and have definite ideas about what they want. I’m sure it is frustrating to Grand Banks and all boat manufacturers in the category, but each buyer has very specific demands. Unlike buying a car, no two boats are built alike.

Our first step was to define the layout of the boat.

The people at Grand Banks are amazingly easy to work with. Roberta and I displayed their suggested layout on our huge projection screen at home and agonized over every detail and every appliance. Ultimately, we decided their suggested layout was just fine and asked for only very modest changes. The only significant change we made was that we converted a third stateroom into two independent rooms; an office for me, and a laundry room for Roberta.

The standard layout And, our revised layout

The biggest difference was on the appliance side of things. Roberta wanted Sub-zero and Wolf appliances. She also wanted a separate washer and dryer rather than a combo-unit, and we both wanted a gas barbecue in addition to the electric barbecue that comes standard with the boat. It is a major headache to find propane for a barbecue, but: Barbecuing just isn’t the same without real fire.

The IPS drive system
Pods or straight shafts

The latest evolution in marine propulsion is the IPS drive, or “Pods” as they are sometimes called.

Pod drives deserve their popularity! They free up space inside the boat, increase maneuverability, and increase efficiency (extends range 10-20%).

As great as pods are, we rejected them from the beginning. It is a new technology and as a rule of thumb, boats are a great place for “tried and true”. The pod drives are large complex pieces of equipment hanging beneath the boat. If you hit a log you’ll have to wait for an expensive repair from a difficult-to-find pod-certified engineer.


Similarly, I really wanted Lithium Ion batteries for the boat, but decided to pass on them. Lithium Ion batteries are new and have many advantages over AGM type batteries. They last much longer and are lighter weight. But, they are very sensitive to the surrounding temperature, and overcharging or undercharging. Managed properly they are awesome, but managed wrongly they can be a fire hazard. This is true of any battery, but more so for Lithium Ion batteries. To counter this Lithium Batteries need a “Battery Management System” (called a BMS) which intelligently monitors the batteries. For now, I’m sticking with old technology, but it’s a close call.

Because we run the generator non-stop when away from the dock, it isn’t clear that I need much of a house battery bank. That said, I can’t imagine being without batteries. I’m compromising on a medium sized bank: 765 amp hours at 24v, or approx. 18kw.


Our next big decision was to select the engines for the new boat. My choice was between the 1000hp Caterpillar C12.9 engines and the 900hp Volvo D13 engines.

This was a decision where I had no idea what to do. I phoned a series of experts and received conflicting, but very firm and passionate, opinions.

Ultimately, I went with Grand Bank’s recommendation for the Volvo D13 engines. They are smaller and lighter.

The GB60 helm compared to our current helm. It will take some time to get used to

On Sans Souci, I’ve always taken our navigation equipment and radar extremely seriously. We have dual PCs with Nobeltec TimeZero Professional, dual top-of-the-line Furuno black box radars, Sonar, a Satellite compass, etc. I think back to a passage in Japan where we had to move through a ultra-dense crab pot field, in the dead of night, in heavy fog. My Furuno blackbox radar spotted every pot and guided our tiny fleet of three ships through the maze safely. How can I possibly give that up?

We took a test drive on the PB55 which had the same Garmin navigation hardware and software as Grand Banks is recommending for my new boat. To my complete and total surprise, I liked it! It isn’t what I’m accustomed to, but the truth is that for cruising close to shore, it would be extreme overkill to outfit a boat with the kind of equipment that is on Sans Souci. And, I was impressed with the Garmin setup. The chart plotter seemed responsive and felt well engineered. I didn’t try plotting a route, or trying to spot crab pots, but I suspect we’ll be fine.

The helm is much smaller than on our current boat, with only two monitors, whereas I currently have four. Ouch. But, we are downsizing, and it is what it is.

On Sans Souci we have up-sized our anchor twice and currently carry a 330 pound monster Rocna anchor, here seen sitting in the back of an SUV waiting to be installed

One thing we’ve asked for that hasn’t been greeted enthusiastically is: “Lots of chain” on the anchor. On our current boat we have 600′ of half-inch chain with a big-ass 330 pound Rocna anchor at the end. Most of the smaller boats we looked at have anchors that weigh under 50 pounds, connected to the boat by rope (and, perhaps fifty feet of chain). We spend most of our time on the boat at anchor, and have survived winds over 60 knots. We’ve watched more than once as boats around us land on the beach or slide into other boats due to inadequate ground tackle (the anchor and rode).

Unfortunately on the GB60 and similar boats, weigh matters, whereas on our Nordhavn weight is largely irrelevant. Grand Banks would do virtually anything I’d ask, but strongly recommended that I go with no more than 325′ of chain accompanied by 75′ of rope. When complete, the boat needs to be seaworthy. Thus, it is the gods of physics with whom I’m negotiating, not the boat builder.

Here we see Sans Souci with our flopper stoppers deployed. You can see the shiny giant plate dangling beneath the water from a pole poking out the side of the boat. It helps keep the boat from rocking back and forth while at anchor

As a general rule, the smaller a boat is, and the lighter it is, the more it will roll when at anchor.

Those of you who read my blogs while we were in the Med recall how frustrated we were with the lack of calm anchorages. Sans Souci had a stabilization system that consisted of giant plates we hung off the side of the boat called Flopper Stoppers. This worked well, and given our 120 ton weight we were usually the envy of all boats around us. But, it was far from perfect. After the journey we spent a ton of money upgrading Sans Souci to a better solution for stabilization that uses the stabilizers (fins under the boat) to keep the boat flat in a rolling anchorage. We were planning a trip to Hawaii and felt we needed something better than just the flopper stoppers. Unfortunately, our marina in Hawaii rejected us without explanation at the last minute, and our cruising plans have changed.

For our next boat we absolutely want stabilization at anchor. Our choice was between a Stabilizer-based at rest system, like we did on our current boat, and a gyro-based system called Seakeeper. Both are great systems, but each has pros and cons. The Seakeeper, which is essentially a giant top that counter-acts the motion of the sea, is better at anchor and the fins are better underway.

Seakeeper a giant top
We initially asked to have both, but gave up on this idea immediately as we looked at the physical space requirement.

We then chose the fin-based system. Our thinking was that it would take up less space inside the boat, would be better underway, and realistically, other than when we were cruising the Med, stabilization at rest just isn’t a big deal. Over the past two years we haven’t used our flopper stoppers at all!

This decision didn’t last long. After thinking it over we swapped to the Seakeeper system. The new boat will be running in waters with frequent crab pots and the idea of having fewer appendages beneath the water appealed to us. My research indicated that the Seakeeper is ineffective underway, but only when going fast. In actual practice, when the seas are rough we slow down. Plus, we don’t see ourselves crossing oceans in this boat. We’ll be doing short daytime runs most of the time. And, to ensure that we’d be 100% comfortable at anchor, we are upsizing the Seakeeper from the standard Seakeeper 9 to it’s big brother the Seakeeper 16.

The Electrical System

Our current boat, Sans Souci, has an international power converter (called “the Atlas”) that allows it to accept virtually any shore power from any country in the world. We have plugged into shore power without problems in over 20 countries, including both US 60hz and European 50hz power. It has been VERY convenient.

That said, the Atlas is a large, heavy and complex beast.

We considered an Atlas type device for the new boat, but decided on a simpler solution that the two boats we traveled with on the GSSR employed. (Note: the Great Siberian Sushi Run was a trip from Seattle to Japan we ran in 2009). Both Seabird and Ocean Pearl (Nordhavn 62s) used a simple transformer that took up less space than our Atlas. It didn’t do everything our fancy system on Sans Souci did, but they got by just fine.

For the electricians amongst you .. I can describe briefly what I’m planning

The biggest problem with shore power in Europe is that is that the boat receives 240v at 50hz over two wires, whereas in the US we use three wires (a neutral plus two hot wires with 120v at 60hz). A transformer can make the wiring and voltage appear to the boat to be American-standard, but not the frequency. To get around this, I need to split the boat’s electrical system so that those devices that are frequency insensitive can be run off 50 or 60hz, and those that must have 60hz will either be run by powering my generator, or powered by the batteries via my inverters.

Here’s a document I sent to Grand Banks which outlines what I envision


The GB60 comes standard with a 25kw Fischer Panda generator. Grand Banks likes the Fischer Pandas because they are very compact and lightweight.

Roberta and I like to run our generator 24×7. We spend months at a time on our boat and like to be as comfortable as possible. A single Fischer Panda generator was not going to suffice.

Grand Banks suggested installing twin Fischer Panda 15kw generators, but given our non-stop generator usage I wanted a generator I knew could be run for weeks at a time reliably and that I had a history with. The We decided to add a second generator and chose a Northern Lights 20kw, the same generator as we have used so successfully on Sans Souci. If space permitted, I would install two of the Northern Lights generators. But, given the smaller equipment spaces all I could do was install one of them, along with a 15kw Fischer Panda which will be used as a backup.

And, even that was going to be tight.

Air Conditioning / Heating

On Sans Souci, we have a fairly complex air conditioning and heating system. Cooling is provided by two 60,000 BTU Technicold chillers that cool a loop which circulates around the boat. Heating is provided via a Kabola diesel furnace. The same loop is used for both cooling and heating.

Sans Souci Cooling and heating
I put this together to remind myself how our current boat works

The Kabola is a key piece of the system. It provides virtually unlimited hot water for showers, heats the hot tub in under an hour, and provides space heating to the boat, all while using very little diesel fuel.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that it is another piece of gear I need to find room for, and it puts heat into the equipment spaces.

That said: There is room to put the Kabola. It would require a bit of squeezing, but can be done. However, before I decided to embark on building this boat I promised myself that I was going to keep the equipment spaces as open as possible (for easy maintenance).

The fact that we are a “generator always on” boat gives us an alternate way to generate heat: Electricity. I can use heating elements inside the air handlers (the little radiators that transfer heat from the chilled water loop into the interior of the boat. For water heat, I can use an electric water heater. And, it should also be said that we are warm water cruisers. We are typically in warm water climates, and if we are somewhere cold, it would be in the warmest part of the year.

Thus, at least for now, we are not installing a Kabola.

One of the many Maretron screens on Sans Souci

On Sans Souci I have an extensive Maretron monitoring system. It measures hundreds of things around the boat several times a second. It checks equipment temperatures, room temperatures, shaft temperatures, inverter temperatures, tank levels, and far more.

The Garmin system on the GB60 does do some monitoring, but not near as much as I get from the Maretron system.

I haven’t gotten to it yet, but I definitely will want to do some monitoring. At a minimum, I will want to know the shaft temperatures.

GB60 with tilting mast

The GB60 is only 18′ 6″ tall. This is to the top of the hard top on the fly bridge. In order to do “The Great Loop” a boat needs to be under 19′ 6″ tall. So, you would think I’d be fine, but that’s not the whole story. The hard top is where the antennas and radar are mounted. Together they put the top of the boat closer to 23′.

Grand Banks recognizes that if they want to sell the GB60 to persons considering the loop they need a solution. This topic was amongst the first ones discussed and Grand Banks said, “No problem. We can build you a mast that tilts.” The mast would hold the antennas and radar, and could be lowered when going under a bridge. We haven’t discussed the mast, and I haven’t seen a design, so I don’t know what Grand Banks has in mind. I’ve asked that it be fairly simple to tilt down, and am very curious to see what they come up with. The Loop is completely new territory for me, so I don’t know if I’ll be tilting the mast once a day, once a month, or once for the entire Loop. My guess is that there will be a lot of bridges and that the lower I am, the less I will need to wait for bridges to raise, or water levels to lower.

The GB60 draft is under 5′, which is the maximum for doing the Loop. I will need to pay attention to depths, and do some careful planning, but .. I should be fine.

Vsat internet. Not the best internet, but works everywhere

I am still uncertain what to do about internet. On Sans Souci we have satellite internet via the KVH Vsat. I am compulsive about having internet and on those rare occasions when I’ve been offline for even an hour, it has made me crazy.

In reality, even though we have Satellite internet, we rarely use it. The Vsat is slower than a cellular internet connection and extremely expensive. I spend thousands of dollars per month for a connection we rarely use.

We will not be cruising very far offshore with our GB60. That said, we will be cruising “off the grid”. I do see us taking the boat to Northern Europe or around the Caribbean. We will be places where there is not good cellular connection and we will want internet.

No decision has been made, but I need to decide quickly. If we do want Vsat the dome will need to be on our tilting mast, and it is being designed now.

Our new hot tub!
Hot Tub

One of our favorite features on Sans Souci is the hot tub. I’m fairly certain we are the only Nordhavn owners ever to actually wear out a hot tub! (Ours was replaced with a new one last year).

I’m not sure whether or not our new boat will have a hot tub. My guess is “maybe”. Not having a Kabola makes it difficult, although I have ideas for a workaround (electric heat). I also have an idea for where to put the tub. I am working with another GB60 buyer, who also would like a hot tub, to find something that works for both of us and that we think Grand Banks can easily build.

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

Ordering a boat is a lot of work. This blog entry only mentioned some of the more major items. There are long lists of other fine details. I am being helped in this process by Jeff Sanson of Pacific Yacht Management (and his team) along with Steve D’Antonio of Steve D’Antonio Marine Consulting, both of whom have been invaluable in this process. My thanks (and, a well-deserved plug) to them both!

My email tends to get flooded after I post a blog entry, oft-times with multiple people asking the same question. The best way to ask questions is to post them on my blog directly. To do so, go to my website:

  1. www.kensblog.com
  2. Click on this blog entry
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the blog entry
  4. Look for the button that says, “Post Comment”
  5. Check back the next day. I’ll have responded
Thank you all!

Ken and Roberta Williams
Toundra and Keeley (crew-dogs extraordinaire)

19 Responses

  1. Hi, Ken and Roberta. Long time, no see. 

    When you were speaking of heat, since you use the generator 24/7 as I do on the commercial boats, have you thought of running a loop off the generator cooling system? I install what are commonly called bus heaters to capture this otherwise wasted heat. 

    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 12/14/2018

    Greetings Bill! 

    It’s an interesting question…

    On the new boat I’m currently planning electric heat for space heating, water heating, and hot tub heating. Given that the generator is running .. why not capture the heat from it? 

    I’ll ask Grand Banks, but my first reaction is that it just isn’t practical. The GB60 has a fairly small engine room and lazarette. I’ve already squeezed in more than I should. The idea of adding a circulation pump, hot water loop, and heat exchangers, to already over-crowded equipment spaces just doesn’t appeal. Also .. like the idea of keeping my generator busy. I’ll have a 20kw generator with about 1kw of demand most of the time. I like the additional load for the generator.

    -Ken W

  2. Ken; Just when I thought I had you figured out, you changed the status quo – good for you!  ALL of your articles have been well thought out and informative, and I enjoy your post crisis analysis (grin).  Since you have some time I would recommend hitting one of the Loop seminars as they seem to be very informative.  I am still a sail boater for a few more years, and while a Nordhaven isn’t in the cards for me, a Loop voyage is.  I am looking for your reporting to be better than the GSSR (no pressure though).  When you hit Hampton, VA would love to host you all for a dinner.  You are going to like the bow and stern thruster combination!  Regards John

    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 12/6/2018

    Greetings Bruce!

    Roberta and I do plan on hitting the various Loop seminars, and have already started reading the forum postings daily. 

    I saw some sailboats have done the Loop. I don’t completely understand how. I guess that the mast can be taken down when needed, and as long as your keel isn’t too deep, it is possible. You probably need to motor 99% of the time… 

    A lot is going on with ordering the new boat. I probably should blog about it. I’m always worried that I am spamming people when I  write a blog article. In some ways it was better when my blog was tiny. I could write what I wanted and not worry about boring or offending anyone. Now, if I say the wrong thing … it can create havoc. Oh well … 

    See you in Va!

    -Ken W

  3. Hi Ken,

    In reading your previous blog entry and this one, I notice you mention high speed a few times. On the Great Loop, there will be few opportunities to take advantage of speeds that leave a wake unless you wish to be arrested or sued. On the Intracoastal Waterway, where it is essentially a ditch, wakes damage the banks and docked boats. In my Willard 40 at 6 knots, locals have accused me of leaving a wake (NOT). If you do sections outside in the Atlantic, or run in Chesapeake Bay, up the Hudson, and the Great Lakes for example, you can open her up. Here in NC, there are a few places people go fast and there are yards which handle insurance jobs replacing the running gear. Outside the ditch, the channel can be confusing and not something to be run fast. People go outside in Florida to avoid the many bridges. You want to read carefully where the Loop books discuss the steps necessary to avoid Florida tax, a Florida DNR fetish. One must carefully consider where to take delivery of your new vessel as certain states are much cheaper when the vessel is documented. At Intracoastal speeds, you may only cover 50 to 80 miles, marina to marina. There are blogs to guide you to cheaper fuel and well-run marinas. Except on the Chesapeake and perhaps Maine, you won’t be using your dinghy much. As you plan, you will see that your previous cruising practices will not apply. You will get a chance to improve your docking skills (twin screws and a thruster should make it easy). You will be backing into slips in all types of conditions. For all this, you will find enjoyable fellow cruisers and lovely people ashore.

    Welcome to the “right coast”,


    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/27/2018

    Grin — you are right that speed will be largely irrelevant on the Loop. I suspect we’ll find times where the speed comes in handy, but it will be when we are on the ICW, or running off shore, or dashing back to a marina when bad weather catches us by surprise … or .. after we get the boat to Europe. It won’t be on the Loop.

    I am definitely worried about all the marinas we might need to go into on the Loop, and the tight and infrequent anchorages. I do not claim to be good at maneuvering in tight places, and dread going into marinas. I also like plenty of swing room at anchor.

    Oh well .. one of the reasons for doing the Loop is to try doing something new and different. It sounds like we’ll get all of that we can eat! (and, a bit more!)

    -Ken W

  4. Congratulations for your new boat. In my opinion you made the
    right decision of selecting the Grand Banks over the Palm Beach. Being used to
    the Nordhavn you would have missed the fly bridge.

    Not having the IPS are you going to have both bow and stern

    I can’t wait to watch your future videos while flying the
    blue GB flag. 

    Arnaldo Dallera

    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/27/2018

    I should have put that in the blog entry .. I meant to and forgot. I’ll send another blog soon and include it…

    We are getting hydraulic bow AND stern thrusters, plus the full joystick setup. I didn’t need the joystick, but apparently it is required in order to have the feature to hold the boat in position (gps-based positioning).

    With 20/20 hindsight .. the PB55 would have been WAY too small for us…We’re TOO spoiled.

    -Ken W

  5. At least for the European journey, the Elling E6 (65′) meets all your specifications: gyro stabilizer, dinghy garage, room for office, etc. It has a unique AC/DC power system, Kabola heat, Webasto A/C, 900hp Volvo, Raymarine electronics suite, and low vertical clearance. It is an extremely seaworthy, Dutch built boat:


    —Reply posted by Ken WIlliams on 11/27/2018


    Good to hear from you. Been a while.

    The E6 looks good! We may have taken a look at it a few months ago, but we’re too far down the road at this point to consider changing. 

    It’s amazing they are getting 20 knots from a single engine boat!

    -Ken W

  6. SUBJECT: Mikelson NOMAD in 59” or 62”

    Ken….did you consider a Mikelson NOMAD when searching for your next yacht?

    See http://www.mikelsonyachts.com/m59 <http://www.mikelsonyachts.com/m59>

    Tom Fexas design with very proven track record for less……Thanks, Patrick Sullivan

    From: Passagemaking with a Nordhavn [mailto:blogcomments-V1IOI@[…]]
    Sent: Monday, November 26, 2018 2:54 PM
    To: patsul@p…
    Subject: [KensBlog] Many decisions to make

    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/28/2018


    No – I never considered Mikelson at all. I think of them as a sportfisher brand and didn’t realize they made a cruising boat. I just looked at the specs and it does look like it could have been worth looking at. The truth is that when we came upon the PB55 we liked it so much that we stopped looking. We then flipped over to the GB60 from the same boat builder without restarting the search. And, now we’re committed. Looking at other boats would just make me crazy…

    -Ken W

  7. SUBJECT: RE: [KensBlog] Many decisions to make


    I’ve done the loop twice, and have logged over 20,000 miles on the interior waterways of the US. So with that experience, I’ll share a couple comments.

    · Depending on how high your antennas are when they are up…you will be surprised how little you will be dropping them. The bridge that is the most concerning (that won’t raise) is just south of downtown Chicago, just off of Lake Michigan.

    · Having followed your emails since the beginning, I understand how you like to anchor, but I think you will be very surprised how different this trip will be. Most of the places you will anchor will be less than 20 to 30 feet deep, and many places less than that. We had a 50 foot boat with 50 foot of chain and another 200 feet of rope, and I never believed I needed more. Plus…in most cases there is very little swing room.

    · Also keep in mind that many of the places you will go have great marinas…and very little places to anchor. Much of these waterways are narrow, and I’m sure you will be disappointed at the number of great anchorages along this 6000 mile trip.

    · I understand your feelings on the generator, but here is another thing to think about. Because you will be so close (almost all the time) to marina’s with plenty of good power, do you really need a backup generator? My opinion is (in order to have the extra space) to install a great single generator, that is easy to work on, and has parts that are very easily obtained, and if you have an issue most any marina can fairly quickly fix it. We spent 1 year doing the loop the first time, and 2 years the second time. In both cases we had a single generator (Onan – Cummins) and had no issues.

    I really enjoy your emails/blogs. You do a great job of explaining things, and I especially like how you discuss electronics, and maintenance. I’m sure you’ll love the new boat.

    Thanks for sharing.




    From: Passagemaking with a Nordhavn [mailto:blogcomments-V1IOI@[…]]
    Sent: Monday, November 26, 2018 4:54 PM
    To: bob.koerner@[…]
    Subject: [KensBlog] Many decisions to make

    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/27/2018

    Thank you Bob. I’ll want all the feedback I can get as I start planning our Loop. Currently, it is 18 months away, so I haven’t started studying (but, have bought lots of books).

    Behind the scenes, we’re not sure how much of the Loop we’ll do. There’s some possibility we’ll just do the north and northeast, and then ship the boat to St Martin. 

    Or .. maybe we’ll do the whole loop. We change our mind often, and won’t really know until we start doing some planning. A lot will depend on timing. We are just moving into a new winter home. We live in Seattle, and just completed the construction of a new vacation home near Palm Springs. Like any kid with a new toy, we are looking forward to the new home and want to spend time there. I’m guessing the novelty will take two or three years to wear off, but for the foreseeable future we will want to be winters in Palm Springs. 

    Thus, we are left with at most five months on the boat, probably from June to October. We’re not sure how much of the loop we can do with that timing, and it may not make sense to divide it over two years because we can’t be south during the winter. It’s why we’re thinking two years in the north, then ship to St Martin, do a winter in Caribbean, return the boat to St Martin and ship it from there to Europe. 

    Or .. not. My guess is that our plans will change many times between now and when the boat is delivered.

    As to the generator and anchoring… If the boat were ONLY going to be used on the Loop, I’d agree. But, for the Caribbean and Europe we’ll want the biggest beefiest anchor we can get .. and a backup generator.

    -Ken W

  8. Ken many thanks for sharing your new GB60 plans. Very interesting and wish you every more success and enjoyment on your new boat. How long do you expect waiting to sell Sans Souci? Because of its history you might have sold it already. All the best

    Jo, a dreamer…

    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/27/2018

    Thank you Jo! 

    No — we haven’t sold Sans Souci yet as I am typing this. My suspicion is that we’ll be the next N68 sold.

    We have 18 months until the new boat arrives, and are somewhat hoping it doesn’t sell before May so that we can do at least some cruising this summer.

    -Ken W

  9. Thanks Ken and Roberta for you exceptionally entertaining and informative blog. I’ve been following your movements ever since your first Nordhaven. Your decision together a new boat is almost an emotional “bitter sweet” for many of your blog readers – I’m sure. 

    Getting rid of a boat, that I’m guessing is probably the most comprehensive and well equipped Nordhaven on the water “ever”. Only a techno-geek will be able to control such a bunch of instruments that make life easier at the command post.

    Your new boat will no doubt have all the bells and whistles that space allows. Being a sailing yacht owner, I’m always interested to see what the latest and best “toys” are, and one has to look no further than your blog. 

    Looking forward to following the new build

    Regards Allan

  10.  How are you dealing with the closure of the Illinois River in 2020?

    —Reply posted by Mike Caldwell on 12/2/2018

    The Illinois River is one of those places that cannot be bypassed.  If you make it to Chicago and turn around, that works as long as you have plenty of time to do so.  Consider wintering the boat in inside heated storage and using a second summer to explore.  Georgian Bay and the North Channel is worth two or three summers.

    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/27/2018

    We have done zero planning at this point. I’m assuming the whole Loop won’t be shut down and there’ll be some way of bypassing any closures. 

    Plus .. it is unlikely we’ll do the full loop. I mentioned in another posting that we may only be cruising the northern portion of the Loop and then backtracking. 

    All that said, I really shouldn’t say anything, because I really don’t know what I’m talking about .. at this point I’ve done zero planning. I am heads down getting the boat spec’d and into production. Once I get that done I’ll start thinking about where we’ll take it. We’ve never done the east coast of the US at all. It will all be new to us, so … there is no lack of places to go.

    Thanks! – Ken W

  11. Hi Ken, 

    You posted another so well thought out blog on your decisions.  We and many others have found that an I pad with Navionics does the trick for the second source of mapping and GPS information.  We know several boaters who have done the entire loop with only an I pad as their navigation tool.  We use two I pads–one for the Navionics, and the other to mirror the information on our primary multiple function displays.  Your use of Maretron for monitoring also brings up the possibility of using their N2Kvision also on an I pad for your monitoring.  Plus the really great feature of doing this allows “repeaters” (via I pad) in the stateroom–and it is a lot easier to have an I pad handy, vs running all of the wiring and complexity of the LED readouts there.  

    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/28/2018

    Bob – Good to hear from you. Been a while…

    Yes — I use N2kvision on my ipad with Maretron, both when on the boat, and from at home (using a VPN). Maretron has a remote monitoring package but it is expensive, so I just use Teamviewer to connect to the boat and view Maretron from my PC or Ipad when traveling. 

    I just found a radar from Furuno that works with Ipad, so I am considering it as my radar backup.

    And… I am planning the Ipad with Navionics as my navigation backup … as well as Time zero Pro running on my laptop.


    -Ken W

  12. http://cruisingodyssey.com/2018/11/18/bad-news-on-the-great-loop-army-corps-of-engineers-will-close-six-locks-on-illinois-river/

    Not sure if you have read about this.

    —Reply posted by Ken WIlliams on 11/28/2018

    I saw that, and not sure what the effect is. I monitor the Great Loop message boards and haven’t seen the Loopers discussing it, so I’m assuming there must be some route that bypasses the closed locks. 

    I still haven’t done our route planning .. so I really know very little about what lies ahead at this point. Spec-ing the boat has been a full-time job!

    -Ken W

  13. SUBJECT: Re: [KensBlog] Many decisions to make

    Darn. I was hoping you would opt for the Searay L650 Fly !!


    Sent from my iPhone

    > On Nov 26, 2018, at 5:54 PM, Passagemaking with a Nordhavn wrote:
    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/27/2018

    We never looked at Searay, and I don’t know much about them. Several of the boats we looked at were Pod-Only .. which we ruled out fairly early on. 

    Seaworthiness was a big deal for us, and we limited ourselves to only boats with an Ocean Category “A” rating. 

  14. Ken,

    I live near Grand Banks HQ in Stuart FL and I see  GB 60”s running by our place regularly. They move through the water fast but with little fuss — no bow rise — they look great.

    One suggestion for navigation gear — go with two different GPS brands. Garmin for one but place one alongside it with a different charting software. Having two different views of the water  from two charting softwares can clear up tricky channels/inlets/canals very well.  I had a Garmin GPS black out on the west coast of FL in a very tricky spot and was saved by the Raymarine unit next to it which worked without a hitch. Be sure to get one GPS that uses  “Explorer” chart data for the Bahamas.

    Although the GB 60 is definitely “downsizing” I think you and Roberta will grow to appreciate the maneuverability and relative ease of management of the Grand Banks. The living space looks pretty comfortable. Given your added generators, heavier Seakeeper and appliances,  the planing hull of a GB 60 might start to waddle if you add weight  of a hot tub.

    My only quibble with your power choice was foregoing IPS drives — I have friends who’ve had them for years with zero problems. The “skyhook” feature alone is worth it — being able to stop before you dock and leisurely set out fenders and dock lines  is wonderful. Skyhook could save a life in a man overboard emergency. The unique ability of IPS units to walk sideways to or from a dock makes all docking situations a breeze. Because they turn the water flow directly instead of diverting the flow of water, they provide much more responsive steering control, great when you are entering a tough inlet. If you do the Great Loop you will be running in endless canals and rivers with very tight docking situations and  IPS units would eliminate much of the stress. For most boats they are also more efficient and will push the boat faster. 

    Looking forward to reading more about your choices for the GB 60.

    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/26/2018


    I should have mentioned it, but I AM getting the joystick system, and the “hold in place” feature. It’s an expensive add-on with the shaft drives, but I’m going for it. The truth is that I am not that great at parking boats in a current or strong wind. I’ll take all the help I can get. 

    It’s a twindisc system and allegedly gives even better control than with pods.

    As to a backup nav system — a good thought. Maybe, to have the best of both worlds, I’ll go with the Garmin, but also run a small PC running Time Zero professional. It should be possible…

    -Ken W

  15. Ken

    I was impressed by the large number of projects you will have to handle and I can see you many times on flights to Malaysia no matter what Grand Banks says.

    On the matter of Garmin navigational equipment I would explore some other options including an all FURUNO set up

    Garmin has this nasty habit of changing the electronic format of their charts and forcing you this  way to change or ” upgrade” as they say the hardware

    I do no think they offer a warranty to cover these future changes.

    Furuno takes care of their system no matter how old they are.I have had very good luck with their radar and the chart cartridge they use on their dual  display.

    For commercial grade systems I think FURUNO is the way to go

    Even the US NAVY uses their equipment for approaches in foreign ports when they do not want to display the electronic signature of their main radar.

    For the tilting mast idea I would urge GRAND BANKS to give you more details

    Antennas for Radar are heavy if you add a satellite antenna handling the rig by hand is out of question.If they are going to do it with hydraulic actuators  I would go in every detail of the rigg which has to work even in cold weather as I am sure you will encounter in your loop navigation.

    So far this is what comes to my mind after a first read of your blog

    Good Luck


    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/26/2018

    I love my PC-based Furuno setup. I have twin PCs running Time Zero Professional and couldn’t be happier.

    This is a topic on which I’m extremely unsure what to do. I like the idea of “doing what Grand Banks does and has experience with”. And, as I said in the blog, the Garmin system didn’t seem bad. But … I do like Time Zero. I’ll sleep on it…

    As to the mast…

    Grand Banks has said they’d give me a design before we sign the contract and I’ll hold them to that. As you said, it will be HEAVY. There will be two domes (tv and vsat) .. plus a radar .. plus some gps units, and various antennas. They need to come up with something simple….


    -Ken W

  16. SUBJECT: Re: [KensBlog] Many decisions to make

    Ken, congratulations on the new boat. It’s fun reading about your selection process.

    We went from a Nordhavn 55 with John Deere engine and Furuno electronics, to a Ranger Tug 31 with a Volvo D4 and Garmin electronics.

    The Volvo was very expensive to maintain (all filters had to be replaced at every oil change (200 hrs)) and is very difficult to do non-PM work on. In addition, its lifetime was rated in thousands of hours, while we were used to engines expected to work for tens of thousands. Big difference. The Volvo was a nice engine to run, but no more so than the John Deere. I know nothing about Catapillar engines, but expect them to be more like the John Deere’s than the Volvo.

    The Garmin suite was highly integrated with the Volvo engine, and was pretty functional. It was frustrating to use after the Furuno and Nobeltec, because of the lack of flexibility in configuring the display. I lived with it, but missed my Furuno!

    Have fun,

    Sent from my iPad

    On Nov 26, 2018, at 2:54 PM, Passagemaking with a Nordhavn > wrote:

    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/26/2018

    Hmmm.. when you say, “Change all filters” .. are you including the fuel filter? What other filters are there? 

    -Ken W

  17. Ken, I have followed you on an off since you did the  Nordhavn Atlantic rally and we even had a deposit on a Nordhavn 68 at one time. We currently own 3 sailboats (Swan 76, Sunfast 3600 and J88) for racing and cruising and I have some comments on your fascinating equipment selection process:

    Panda generators have a fragile reputation and I would be very wary for your kind of usage

    We had a motor boat in Amsterdam like a Tesla with Lithium only power a complete Mastervolt system and now my Sunfast is Lithium only and I have also halved the battery capacity and run a fuel cell for constant quiet charging at 8 amps.  I did a sailing race Round Britain and Ireland over 12 days and didn’t need to run the engine once for charging. single battery was flawless.

    Like you I have gone for a big Rocna on the Swan and I need to be able to rely on it when we are 2 up in particular. We have a 70kg one with 100m of 13.5mm chain and it hasn’t dragged in 3 years

    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/26/2018

    Thanks — I do think I’ll put a Rocna on this boat. I doubt Grand Banks will want me to go with 70kg … Or, that I need to go that big (although, I would happily!) 

    This boat should have MUCH less windage than Sans Souci. And, it only weighs 30 tons as opposed to 120 tons.

    GB is currently being managed by an Australian (Mark Richards) who has quite a sailing heritage. I’m trusting that he knows what he is doing on some of this.

    Although… like you … I’m not a fan of Fischer Panda generators. On a lightly used sailboat .. maybe. But, they aren’t designed to be run for months at a time.

    -Ken W

  18. Ken, been following your adventures for a few years, enjoyed reading about them, as a fellow 42″ grand Banks owner, And owner of inflatable Boat 

    Center since 1973, primarily a Zodiac Inflatable boat dealer. We also have http://www.inflatableboats.com & have helped many customers with many questions, 

    issued and tenders of many size, type and power. I offer my services, if any questions, opinions, directions I can help with. Check out our web site.

    Thank you for your Blog, it has been very interesting and educational..

    Ron mauselle 

    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/26/2018

    Thank you! I know your store and have bought a couple of tenders from you in the past…. 

    -Ken W

  19. Congratulations! I followed you (by reading) across the Atlantic (bought the book), avidly awaited the emails about each next blog, from the Sushi run on, struggled with the mechanics of the Med. felt worse than I might about Cabo (my most distant sail unless you count La Paz as more distant), and generally enjoyed your adventures, even if on a powerboat. I expect to continue. Vicarious is better, far, far better, than not at all. One snarky, but not meant as unkindly as it will in the raw comment: Yes, this does not look like the Grand Banks for my grandfather (or father in my case. since I am on the older side), but rather one designed by Bentaneau. Too slick for a GB. Keep plugging, I’ve thought about the Great Loop many time, and even done in in my mind in both directions. Thanks for sharing.

    —Reply posted by Ken Williams on 11/26/2018

    Grin — thanks!

    -Ken W

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