Roberta and I have some big news…
At the end of my last blog entry I mentioned that we had made the decision to take our boat, Sans Souci, to Singapore. However, after returning to Seattle, Roberta and I gave it more thought, and changed out mind. Instead, we are going to load Sans Souci on a freighter and ship her straight to Turkey.
There are a few reasons, but the biggest one is nervousness about piracy. I’ve been spending time staring at this website that tracks piracy reports:
On the picture below, each of the markers represents one attack. The red markers are successful attacks, and the yellow markers are attacks that failed. The yellow line represents our intended GSSR route from Hong Kong towards Thailand.
As you can see, most of the route is safe. However, there are many flags towards the end of the trip, around Singapore, and in the Strait of Malacca. On the piracy website it is possible to click on each of these attacks and read the report. All of the attacks are against freighters, with most resulting in the freighter being boarded by armed attackers who robbed the ship, or held the crew ransom.
None of the attacks this year have been against private yachts. However, I’m not taking much comfort in this. Thousands of boats safely transit the area, including (I’m guessing) hundreds of private boats. But, our boats are not representative of the boats that normally transit the region. Private boats in the area fit into two categories; small sailboats, who are not big profit opportunities, and large mega-yachts, carrying heavily armed crews. Neither of these groups are as appealing to the pirates as the typically unarmed freighters. Whether or not our group of three boats would attract the pirates interest, I do not know, but my sense is that the lack of attacks shouldn’t lure us into feeling that an attack is unlikely.
Over the past month I’ve found myself researching topics like: carrying arms, hiring armed guards and buying kidnap insurance. Am I being paranoid? Perhaps. I’ve spoken with experts who assured me that we would be totally safe, and with other experts who have said that the risks are real. Interestingly, I noticed that on one of the kidnap-insurance websites I went to (http://tinyurl.com/25z8g85), that the first place listed was, “The Malacca Strait near Malaysia & Indonesia”. Insured or not, I do not want kidnapped.
Ultimately, Roberta and I decided we were probably safe to make the trip, but probably isn’t good enough. We wouldn’t relax if we had to spend the summer looking over our shoulder.
Instead, we’ll ship the boat to Turkey, and be the “advance team” for the GSSR. Our plan is to cruise locally in Hong Kong during the spring of 2011, then load the boat on a freighter for shipment to the Med.
I plan to be in Hong Kong to throw off their lines, as Grey Pearl and Seabird depart for Singapore without us…
It will be very sad seeing them leave while we’re stuck standing on the dock. But hopefully, we’ll reunite in Turkey for cruising in 2012.
That said, It will be interesting to see what happens with shipping Sans Souci to the Med. I am a bit of a pessimist when it comes to shipping boats, and suspect it will take longer than I think, cost more, and perhaps involve a different destination than desired. As regular readers of my blog may recall, a few years back I had a horrible experience with Yachtpath, which left my boat sitting for months in Costa Rica, and led to expensive litigation. I now have a large six-figure judgment against Yachtpath, but I’ll never get back the lost season of cruising. I have spoken to shippers who say that I’ll have no trouble getting Sans Souci to the Med. Hopefully they are right!
And, on a different topic…
I have just returned from a week on the boat in Hong Kong. Jeff Sanson from Pacific Yacht Management, and Sam Stokes, from Sat-Com.net accompanied me. My goal was to check on the boat, and start getting ready for next season’s cruising. Roberta and I normally cruise four or five months a year, and I like to have the boat trouble-free while we are cruising. My strategy is to have Jeff maintain the boat in the off-season, so that Roberta and I can focus on having fun. The plan worked perfectly this year. We cruised from Osaka Japan to Hong Kong, over 2,600 miles, with no boat problems.
Jeff really doesn’t have much on his “to do list” this year. All of the projects are of the “ordinary annual maintenance” variety, things like changing the oil on the main engines, and generators.
As part of maintenance we wanted to drop the tenders, and run them around, but hit a major problem…
I was working the controls to drop the tender when the davit suddenly froze and started spraying hydraulic fluid. At the time, the tender was suspended above the railing, half over Sans Souci’s bow, and the other half over the dock. I had been planning to lift the tender, which was on the port side, and drop it in the water on the starboard side. Instead, I had it hanging dangerously in space, with a broken davit.
Luckily, the tender seemed to be stable, hanging in the air, and not in danger of dropping. But, how would I get the tender down? The good news was that the davit could still raise and lower the tender, but side to side motion was impossible. Studying under the davit I could see that the hydraulic fluid was spraying from a chafed spot on one of the small metal-braid covered hoses. An un-clipped-off wire-tie from a nearby rubber hose had managed to rub a hole through one of the metal hydraulic hoses!
My first priority was to get the tender safely onto either my bow, or into the water.
I had some magic ‘rescue tape’ on board which claimed it could handle pressures to 700 psi. I doubted it could be used to seal the leak, a) Because the hydraulic pressure was probably higher than 700 psi, and b) because the metallic hose wasn’t a very good surface to apply the tape to. I had nothing to lose and tried an experiment, which failed. There was too much pressure. Darn.
Finally, lowering the tender turned out to be simpler than I had thought. We pushed the boat away from the dock, and pushed the tender overboard as it was lowered to the water. In minutes it was in the water. And the repair also turned out fairly simple. The staff from Asia Yacht Services, who is looking after my boat during the offseason, cut a wood block for us, that we were able to use to hold the davit while the hydraulic hoses were removed. I decided to replace both hoses as long as we were doing surgery anyhow. New hoses were fabricated, installed and the davit operational again within a few hours.
Of course, this was in Hong Kong, where good marine services are available. Had the same hydraulic leak happened while we were at anchor in the middle of nowhere, it would have been a much messier situation, and I’m not sure what would have happened. I’ve towed tenders many hundreds of miles, but in protected waters. Towing a tender hundreds of miles in open ocean might not be possible.
While Jeff and I were working on mechanical issues, Sam was focusing on updating the ship’s electronics. Earlier this year I purchased new computers for the boat (64 bit, windows 7) only to find that they couldn’t be installed due to problems with finding 64 bit device drivers. Six months have passed and the upgrade is now possible. Everything went smoothly with the computer changeover.
Sam’s bigger project had to do with Internet on Sans Souci…
We have four different ways of getting Internet on the boat:
– Fleet Broadband
– Wifi Amplifier
– USB-based 3G Dongle
My work involves the Internet, so I need connected at all times. Four different internet methods might seem overkill, but each of these is needed, and gets used, aboard Sans Souci. Both Roberta and I are Internet-centric. Unfortunately, connecting four different potential internet sources to a boat’s network is more confusing than it sounds. The network has been unstable, and needed restarted several times a day. Whenever I switch from one internet source to another I need to shut down all of the computers and routers, and there are always problems.
Prior to this trip I did some research and found a router that I thought would be perfect for the boat. The router is made by www.peplink.com, and from the specs I thought it would do what I needed. I don’t want to bog down my blog with all the techy details, but let me just say that it has exceeded all expectations. I can now have all my internet connections on simultaneously, and establish rules as to how they are used. Amazingly, I can even use multiple internet connections simultaneously. This gives me more bandwidth, which in my household is a big deal. I also get stats, by user, showing how much data each person or computer is consuming.
And, as long as I was messing with the boat’s network, I decided to add a webcam…
While I was wandering through a computer store in Hong Kong I saw a cheap ($180) webcam, and decided it might be fun to put one on the boat. I set it to be motion sensitive, and I now get emails whenever anyone is on the boat. I can then sign into the camera, and watch them (if I want). The black and white picture above was taken in near total darkness. Amazing! It’s a useless thing to do, but helps me feel in touch with my boat, even though it is nearly 10,000 miles away.
Lastly, with respect to maintenance…
Jeff and I put together a maintenance list, for the local firm watching over Sans Souci, which details precisely what we want them doing over the next few months. The list can be found, HERE.
Jeff will be returning to Hong Kong, for a couple of weeks, next March, to run through everything on the boat one last time prior to Roberta and I starting our cruising. During that visit, Jeff will haul-out the boat and get the bottom painted. Thus, we wanted to travel around and inspect the haul-out facilities.
To my surprise, we have three different ‘flavors’ of haul-out facilities available…
The first type is the conventional haul-out via straps. I am very familiar with these kinds of lifts, and a little nervous about them. A Nordhavn 47 was destroyed when a strap broke on a lift a few years ago, and a Nordhavn 56 motor sailor was destroyed last year when it dropped from its straps. Sans Souci had its own struggle with a strap-based lift, when a failed attempt was made to lift the boat by an inadequate lift in Santa Monica, a couple of years ago.
These pictures are of a lift that uses railroad tracks to lift the boat. The boat is driven onto something like a giant wooden train car, blocks are set in place by a diver, and then the train car is winched along the track, slowing lifting the boat from the water.
This approach is amazingly inexpensive. My estimate for haul-out, including several days out of the water is under $1,000. Labor is also very inexpensive, by boat yard standards, at under $20 per hour.
We also checked out a lift that works by submerging a giant floating platform. In the picture above, a huge part of the platform sinks to the bottom, the boat is driven onto the platform, where blocks are arranged on a movable wheeled ‘car.’ Air is then pumped under the platform and the entire thing lifts back to the surface, bringing the boat with it. The boat can then be wheeled along train-track type grooves in the surface of the yard, to somewhere that it can be worked on. I liked the facility and the approach, but the cost would be closer to $3,000 plus a higher labor rate for the workers who would be helping with the bottom painting.
Roberta and I are probably crazy to be considering this, but we’re thinking about buying a second boat. I’m in a partnership now on a sportfisher (a Cabo 52), but we rarely use it. We don’t fish and owning a boat with a partner just isn’t the same as having your own boat.
I don’t know if we will actually buy another boat or not, but here’s a look at what we’re considering. It’s an all-aluminum boat, but painted and finished out to look much prettier. It’s a 30 knot boat and perfect for just the two of us. It wouldn’t have the comfort of Sans Souci, but would be fun for running around Cabo (where we live in the winter), and the Pacific Northwest (where we live on those rare occasions we are actually home).
That’s it for this blog entry, and, as always, thank you for reading!
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci