Kensblog Offseason – Return to Hong Kong

Greetings all!

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 (, 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 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:

– Vsat
– 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, 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.

And lastly…

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!

-Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci

29 Responses

  1. Greetings Chris!

    We decided not to buy the Coastal Craft, although it came within inches. We were looking at a used one, and at the end of the day, I voted Yes, and Roberta voted No. In our household, Roberta breaks all ties. There were some boat-related issues, such as that we decided that we’d rather have a new boat with the IPS system (pod drives), and there were some personal issues, in particular that Roberta couldn’t convince herself that we’d use the boat enough to justify the pain associated with having a second boat.

    As to the blog…

    It was confusing having two blogs last year, and during the offseason I don’t really do enough boat-related things to justify doing a blog. My plan is to just post on the NordhavnDreamers board whenever I can think of something to say, and then post a few “real” blog entries to my full list, as things happen.

    We’re very close to finalizing our Turkey plans, so probably sometime in the next week or two I’ll post to say what we’re doing (although I’m stumped as to how I can make it interesting).

    Thank you!

    -Ken W

  2. Ken,

    How are you going to install the “video game” into this Coastal Craft? Doesn’t look like much helm space? You wouldn’t want to disappoint Bill.

    Also on a side note you going to start up your other blog in the off season?

    Chris Hallock

  3. Sam:

    We did the sea trial, but didn’t buy the boat. It was VERY close, and I do still think we’ll buy a boat, but probably not imminently. We’re wrestling with the size boat to buy, and whether we want a new boat or a used boat. The boat we looked at was a couple years old, without the pods. The new pod boats have greater range and speed.

    Thus far the Coastal Craft is the closest we’ve seen to what we want. We liked Sabre, which we saw at the boat show, but I don’t know much about them. They seem to be a lot cheaper than the Coastal Craft, but I don’t know how their speed and range compares.

    We don’t fish, so we don’t need a large cockpit. We want comfortable accomodations, with a cruise speed as close to 30 knots as we can get, and a range over 350 nm.

    Perhaps we’ll wait and look at the Miami boat show. It would be a fun excuse to go to the show!

    -Ken W

  4. Coastal Craft seems to build a pretty unique boat. Most of the other Aluminum builders in the PNW are much more fishing oriented and don’t offer anything close to the accommodations that Coastal Craft does. There are lots of manufacturers that make cruising boats with similar layouts, but they generally aren’t as fast or well built as Coastal Craft. Boats like Hinckley, Eastbay, and San Juan make gorgeous boats, but they don’t seem as practical as cruising boats as the Coastal Craft and generally aren’t as fast. As far as I can tell, most boats that have cruise speeds in the 30 knot range are generally either express cruisers, which I don’t think work very well in the PNW if they don’t have a pilothouse, or fishing boats, which sacrifice cruising accommodations. Ken, out of curiosity, what other manufacturers are you considering?

    I love boat shopping, too bad I can’t do it for myself enough!


  5. they are able to trailer a boat that size? it looks like it would stand 3 stories high to the top of the mast. would be quite a sight seeing that meandering down the pacific coast highway twice a year! good luck with the decision and thank you for considering buying canadian. jon

  6. Hi Ken, A really good friend of mine has owned a Coastal Craft, somewhere between 38 and 42 feet, for several years and loves it. I’d be happy to put you 2 together if you want. Tom

  7. Sam:

    Yes. The plan is to regularly move whatever boat we buy back and forth between Seattle and Cabo. I haven’t quite decided yet how I’ll do that. Yachtpath owes me a TON of money, so that may be one option (although I suspect they probably would rather forget my name). More likely is to truck the boat from Seattle to San Diego, then have a delivery skipper take it the rest of the way. I’m mentally thinking of it as $20,000 a year to move the boat back and forth. I haven’t confirmed the numbers but believe I’m in the ballpark.

    We did sea trial the Coastal Craft 420 yesterday, but didn’t buy the boat. We still consider Coastal Craft our #1 option, by a mile, but couldn’t quite pull the trigger. They have a smaller boat, with the pod system, the 40ips, which has greater range, is faster, and has the ‘pod drives.’ They have both a new boat and a used boat available. We like the greater size of the 420, but the goal here is to get something small and fast. Then again, we loved the idea of the washer/dryer on the 420.

    The bottom line.. we’re puzzling this over, trying to decide what we really want, and how much we want to spend.

    -Ken W

  8. Ken, good luck with the decision, I’d love to see a blog post about the boat if you decide to buy it. I assume it’s the 42 that is listed as “Sale Pending” on the Coastal Craft site. She certainly looks like a well equipped boat. If you do go ahead with the purchase, how will you transport the new boat to Cabo? And will you regularly move the boat between Cabo and Seattle?


  9. Mike:

    Thank you for the feedback. I have been very public that we are looking at the Coastal Craft, in the hopes that if anyone had anything particularly good, or bad, to say about them, I would hear it. I know a fair amount about Nordhavns, but am very un-knowledgeable about Aluminum boats, Coastal Craft as a boat builder, and even inboard/outboard boats. I’m happy to have all the input I can get on this topic.

    We did do our sea trial today, and it went very well. The owner of Coast Craft was onboard and is a smart, friendly guy. We headed out into the Strait of Georgia, but were disappointed to find the flat-est seas I an remember seeing in the Strait. I was hoping to get bounced around a bit.

    Roberta and I are thinking it over tonight, and will see how we feel tomorrow…

    One way or the other, from all I’ve seen, they are great boats from a great company!

    -Ken W

  10. Below is the message I tried to send but I see that someone has beaten me to it

    Ken this off line because you might not want to be public about your intent
    ions, however it sounds as if you either buying or have bought a Coastal Cr
    aft, built very close to us in Gibson B.C.

    There are a number of the in the area and everyone seems happy with them.

    I am sure, knowing you that you have done due diligence twice over.

    If I am right the congratulations, if not tell me to mind my own business.
    Mike Pearce
    Corsaire Roughwater 41

  11. Greetings Sam,

    Yes. I think we are buying a 42′ Coastal Craft. We’re flying up to Vancouver today for a sea trial, and unless there is a surprise, we will own one by tonight.

    It’s a beautiful boat, but probably not a very wise decision for us to own a second boat. We’ll use it in Cabo, but the cruising in Cabo is fairly weak. How many times can we make the run back and forth to La Paz? There is great cruising in Seattle, but we’re rarely in Seattle.

    We still have nostalgic memories from a trip we took to the Bahamas, a few years back, with a small 28′ power cat. It was fun being able to get places quickly, and the small size made it easy to get onto any dock. We even went to the dinghy dock at some places. The only thing we were missing was a shower. We’re hoping that the Coastal Craft has all of the good things that we remember from our power cat, without being so large that it has the complexity of our big boat.

    A funny side story … We’re buying a used boat, and the idea appealed to both Roberta and I. It’s hard to explain, but we didn’t want all of the baggage that comes with picking a new boat. When we were considering a new boat, the dealer (Coastal Craft) said, “Our buyers average six trips to the factory during construction!” This didn’t appeal to us at all. Neither of us want that kind of emotional attachment to this boat. We’ve got that with our Nordhavn. We want this just to be something small that we have fun with. We don’t want to turn it into ‘a project’ of any sort.

    I’ll report back on what happens today…

    -Ken W

  12. Hi Ken,

    From reading the Nordhavn Dreamers site it sounds like you are buying a small boat for the PNW and Mexico. Are you going with the Coastal Craft, or something else? I remember admiring the Coastal Craft boats a few years ago when I was docked in Gibsons where they are boat. They sure look like a top quality boat and would be an awesome boat for cruising the PNW.

    Thanks for the blog and good luck with the new boat,

  13. Doug:

    Thank you for reading my books!

    Both Roberta and I have always read adventure travel books. Roberta wanted to be an archeologist and loves studying ancient religions and cultures. I was a fan of sailing books, and read every book written by anyone who circumnavigated.

    I would have bet a million dollars that I’d never be on a boat, in the middle of the ocean. It just isn’t in my personality. I enjoyed reading about other people’s adventures, but adventuring on my own — never!

    -Ken W

  14. Andy:

    Roberta and I have talked about heading south to Australia. Dockwise ships to the Med from Brisbane, and we’ve shipped with them a couple of times flawlessly.

    We are still talking about it, but the arguments against going to Australia are:

    – The other two GSSR boats don’t seem to be interested. We’ve mentioned it several times and can’t seem to get them excited.

    – Australia is not dog friendly

    – We’re hoping to reunite our GSSR in 2012 in Turkey. Roberta and I just arrived in Hong Kong and want to spend a few months just cruising locally in Hong Kong before heading to Turkey

    All of that said, we still talk about heading south, so .. it is not impossible!

    Ken W

  15. Why don’t you head SE to the South Pacific for some island hopping and warm water cruising since you’re in the ‘area’?
    You could then ship with Dockwise either from Tahiti or Auckland to the Med.

    Andy B

  16. Great reading your books i just finished the GSSR book and also purchased the pacific coasts of mexico i will start reading this week. My dream in 10 years is to do what you are doing and greatly enjoy your adventures. what books do you like to read and did they set you on this life long adventure.



  17. SUBJECT: Suggestion

    Hi, Ken,

    If you haven’t read it, you might find the book by Don Brown, “The Malacca Conspiracy” of interest. It is available

    at Amazon in the Kindle format.

    Jim Ahlquist

  18. Sans Souci would make a perfect command post for a group of pirates, especially since they could get it for free. You have made an intelligent decision. If you want to see those waters, try a cruise ship. I so enjoy your blog and would worry it might come to an end going through pirate waters. Have fun in the “off-season” boat. Do you have any interest in doing the American loop in the second boat?

  19. SUBJECT: Your webcam

    Hi Ken,
    I always enjoy your posts, so thanks for keeping us up to date on your doings.
    On your webcam, how do you “sign into” your webcam? We’ve been talking about a webcam but can’t think how we’d get the images.
    Peggy Bjarno

  20. It’s great to hear from you again. Your blog is staple during my lunch time. Skipping waters with pirates operating in them is the safest thing to do. You never know when they will change mind and start targeting smaller craft.

  21. I don’t write often as I hate to waste your valuable time.

    A few things:

    1. I shipped my boat from the Netherlands to the US and used Seven Star line. I had no complaints. I recently shipped another boat from Yokosuka, Japan to Houston, Texas with a different carrier and again had NO problems. Both of these shipments went as deck cargo, which meant I had a cradle built for them and then had them securely strapped to the cradle and the cradle welded to the deck. I would NOT use a yacht shipping company.

    I had both boats pass customs while on board and had both boats dropped from the ship deck directly into the water.

    2. Friends just came east from the Suez Canal and the Red Sea and they said the pirates were not a concern for them, however, the totally obnoxious beggars that came and banged their boats into his boat, 24 hours a day, demanding money, cigarettes, clothes, etc were enough to drive him insane.

    3. Last year my friend and his daughter returned from sailing around the world on their 56′ ketch. He said they towed their 16′ dinghy the ENTIRE way, sometimes 1/4 mile back. They had no problems.

    GOOD luck,

  22. Hi Ken. Thanks for the update. I think you are correct in your assessment in traveling to Singapore and the Malacca Strait. As we stated before the web sites only indicate “the reported” incidents of piracy and conditions are only worse across the western Arabian Sea.

    We will be standing by whenever you need us for forecasting, whereever that will be. Hopefully you will have less of a problem getting the boat from Turkey compared to getting the boat from Costa Rica to Seattle last year……

    B/Rgds, Bob/OMNI (

  23. Wow – That is a big decision, but a smart one in our opinion. I’ll have to say, we were a little worried about you going through that pirate area, so we are relieved that you are not. You will probably now be worried about your friends as they navigate those pirate-laden waters. The brief amount of time John and I spent in Turkey, we enjoyed very much. I think you will like that area.


  24. Hi Ken – sorry to hear you’re not going to be able to cruise to Singapore, but I have to admit, the pirate picture is mighty scary!


  25. The Coastal Craft is nice, Ken, but I’d hate to see you in a pedestrian boat.

    For real fun coastal cruising, I don’t think you can beat the speed and stability of a power catamaran. You should order up a cruising version of the Wildcat 40 and be safe at any speed in any seas: ( (


  26. First, the dropping of the motorsailer had nothing to do with slings, it was poor coordination between two, separate shipboard cranes – not something found in yards. Tai Shing seems to use a large hydraulic crane to load their boats on low-boys for road transport.

    The Travelift in the Caribbean used all fabric straps – one of which had worn. You want to know the yards strap replacement schedule. As depicted in your photo, big boats are hauled by combination rigs with steel cables attached to slings – many cables and many slings. The other two methods you show are a marine railway and a dry dock. In both cases, you would want to know how they move the wooden blocking to allow the painting of the entire bottom. Jacks are not a good answer and in both examples, the boat remains supported on the blocks. The Travelift offers the best access for a pressure wash of the bottom.


  27. Hi Ken,

    I aspire to own a Nordhavn, a dream which I hope to realize soon. The Coastal Craft 30+ looks at close inspection to be a well built, fun boat. I have seen one at the dock in Anacortes and the workmanship looks stellar. I also watched one running into a two or three foot chop at speed from a ferry crossing Puget Sound and It was cutting along very smoothly at cruise speed like a hot knife through butter. I’m not sure where ther is to cruise with one in Cabo, but it would be a great boat to have in Seattle for day trips to Poulsbo and week-end trips to Roche Harbor, even if you stay in the hotel.Good luck and happy shopping. Let us know whatt you find.


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