[KensBlog] Preparing for the 2012 cruising season

In this update

  • Sans Souci’s 2012 Cruising Plans
  • Traveling to Turkey with dogs
  • 2012 – A big maintenance year
  • How to sign up, unsubscribe, change your email address, refer a friend
Greetings all!

I hope that everyone has had a great winter.

This is the first of my cruising blogs for 2012, and the adventure is about to begin. Roberta and I will be leaving Seattle, for Turkey, on June 6th.

2012 Cruising Plan

I’ll start my discussion on our cruising by talking about what we’re NOT doing. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a few years will remember that we departed Seattle, in 2009, accompanied by two other boats; Seabird and Grey Pearl. After traveling together to Hong Kong, our boat, Sans Souci, decided to split from the pack. Sans Souci was transported by freighter from Hong Kong directly to Turkey.

We did this for a variety of reasons:

1) I was in a hurry to get to the Med
2) We were getting close to where there could be pirates, and I am distinctly anti-pirate
3) Asia is less dog-friendly than the Med. We were having difficulty figuring out how to get the dogs to/from the boat

Our hope, and expectation, was that the other two boats would continue without us for one season, going to Thailand, and then transport their boats to Turkey. However, two major events occured.
  • Grey Pearl caught on fire while sitting at the dock. It burnt to the waterline. We crossed the Pacific, and the Atlantic, side by side with Grey Pearl. Very sad!
     
  • Steven and Carol, on Seabird, seem to have fallen in love with Thailand, and with good cause. It has the attributes that boaters love: A long cruising season, calm seas, no wind, shallow depths for anchoring, great diving, plenty of bays, good restaurants, and LOW prices. Steven has been taking advantage of those prices to almost completely overhaul Seabird. New paint, new decks, new interior, etc. If I ever see Seabird again, I don’t know that I will recognize her!
Braun and Tina (Grey Pearl) are likely to buy a boat this year, but with me in Turkey telling Braun: “Come to the Med! We have high prices, a short cruising season, high taxes, visa problems (in the EU) and lots of wind!,” and meanwhile, there is Steven, still in Thailand, saying the exact opposite, I won’t be shocked if Braun and Tina head to Thailand.

So … I’m very sorry to see the GSSR breakup, and have thought seriously about shippig the boat back to Thailand, to rejoin our friends, but, the dog issues are real, and we’re enjoying life in the Med. I have no complaint. We will have plenty of fun cruising Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Italy, France, Spain, etc!
 
 
Sans Souci will be five to ten years in the Med, working our way west, a year at a time.
Even though we’re only a couple of weeks from departure, Roberta and I really don’t know where we’ll be cruising this year, other than to say, “West of where we are.” The map above was taken from one of the many sailboat charter companies in Turkey, and it has some very good news in it.

Last year, as we headed east along the southern Turkey coast, we were disappointed by the small number of places to drop the anchor. Heading west, at least if the map above is correct, we’ll have plenty of places to explore.

As may not be apparent above, we are actually quite close to Greece, and this summer’s cruising plans are likely to take us there.

There are a few problems associated with cruising in Greece though…

Greece is part of the EU, at least for the moment, whereas Turkey isn’t. This means I have to do the various paperwork to clear out of Turkey, and then clear into Greece. Clearing into Greece, may be easy, or it may be hard. I’ve never done it before, so I’m not sure what challenges lie ahead. My guess is that I’ll find a limited number of places where I can clear in, and a random set of “fees” associated with the clearing. Rumor has it that Greece is being aggressive in seeking revenue oportunities and yachts are on their radar screen. There could also be issues associated with Greece’s financial problems. For instance, when we were in Athens last year, the taxis were on strike for a week, and our hotel was surrounded by protesters.

The other, more serious, concern is the “Meltemi Wind.” This is a very common wind in the region we’ll be cruising, that Wikipedia describes this way:

“…During hot summer days, this is by far the most preferred weather type and is considered a blessing. They are at their strongest in the afternoon and often die down at night, but sometimes meltemi winds last for days without a break. […] Meltemi winds are dangerous to sailors because they come up in clear weather without warning and can blow at 7-8 Beaufort. Some yachts and most inter island ferries cannot sail under such conditions.”

Personally, I would like to invite the person who wrote the words “…most preferred weather type…” aboard Sans Souci on a day with Beaufort 7 or 8 conditions, and ask them if they still think the wind is a “blessing.”

As I’ve been looking at the charts for Greece I keep remembering a conversation I had with another well-traveled boater friend, Braun Jones, a few years ago. I asked Braun for his favorite, and least favorite, cruising grounds. I’ve forgotten what his favorte was, but I remember that his least favorite was Greece. It seemed wrong, because Greece has always been near the top of my bucket list. The problem is the wind. On shore, high winds are a mild annoyance, whereas at sea, they are miserable and can be dangerous. I don’t like the idea of being in a new place, where I don’t know the good anchorages, where anchoring is difficult (unprotected deep bays), and winds rise rapidly.

Getting to Turkey is always an adventure in itself…


Doggie Passports?
Of course, before I can even think about cruising, I need to get from Seattle to the boat (which is in Gocek, Turkey).

As long-time readers of my blog know, we have two little puppies. I should emphasize the word little, because they both weigh under seven pounds. Roberta and I travel often, and our lifestyle mandates small dogs, who are permitted to fly in-cabin with us on some flights, whereas larger dogs would need to be flown with the cargo. In summer, many airlines refuse to fly dogs, because they sometimes get left sitting in the heat for extended periods, on the tarmack, with fatal results.

Booking flights usually means hours of dialing airlines, to check their policies on pets. On more than one occasion we’ve had airlines agree to fly the dogs, only to refuse later. Also, flights have to be kept as short as possible, to give the dogs a chance to rest (and use the restroom) between flights.

To reach Turkey this year, we’ll fly Seattle to Chicago, then to Paris, stay a couple of days, then fly to Istanbul, and, then ??? We’re not sure. It’s only a 90 minute flight to Southern Turkey, but we’re not sure the Turkish airline will take the dogs. Our guess is that we’ll wind up driving the last five hundred miles ourselves.

There is a second reason why we are stopping in Paris. The younger of our two dogs needs an EU pet passport, in order to be able to return to the EU after having been in Turkey. It’s a long boring story, but studying the pet regulations of a multitude of countries is a big part of our lives. In this particular case, there is a test, called a “titer test” which is required by the EU if the dog is coming into the EU from a country which is defined as a “rabies country.” Going to the EU from the US is fine, but returning there after being in Turkey is trickier. We need to prove that our dog has been certified to be rabies free, with a proper titer test performed, and have it written into a pet passport, prior to entering Turkey. Traveling with dogs is never boring!

Zen and the art of vessel maintenance

Even though we haven’t been on the boat, I’ve been having daily (or more frequent) conversations with both my Seattle and Turkey mechanics.

Different boat owners deal with boat maintenance in different ways. What follows is a description of how Roberta and I handle maintenance.

Each year, at the end of the season, as we leave the boat, Roberta and I prepare a long list of things to be fixed or maintained.

While cruising, if something major breaks, I fix it, or have it fixed, immediately, but if there is a way to put something on the list, to be done by the mechanics during the off-season, that is my preference. It isn’t that I am lazy, although, I wouldn’t deny that laziness is a factor.

However, there are three other very important considerations:

  1. I believe in hiring experts and letting them do their jobs. I know how to do virtually all repairs on the boat, and this knowledge does come in handy when I need to do things myself (remember, at sea, it’s all about self-sufficiency). It also comes in handy when discussing repairs with mechanics, or checking their work. But, am I the best person to make the repairs? No.
     
  2. There is wisdom at times in delegation. If I am doing the work myself, and I look at a hose that is a few years old, I may or may not replace it. If the hose looks good to me, I will decide to replace it ‘later.’ I confess to being guilty of ‘human nature.’ In reality, hoses are cheap, and they are mission critical. If a cooling hose to your engine blows, the engine will quit, and the boat will take on seawater. Mr. Murphy’s law clearly indicates that this will occur at the worst possible time, in 30 knot winds, and 20 foot seas, with a 130 degree engine room. I’ve been there, done that, and it isn’t fun. By outsourcing maintenance, I can just say, every couple of years, “Replace all hoses, thermostats and belts.” I’ll be a few hundred bucks poorer, but the odds that a hose will break at the wrong time will decline enormously.
     
  3. More importantly, a boat can become a full-time job if you let it. Roberta and I are only on the boat four or five months a year. I really don’t want to spend the majority of that time in the engine room. When Roberta and I were discussing what size boat we could handle as a couple, I spoke with couples running boats as large as 110′ without crew. Their message was consistent: The problem with a couple running a large boat isn’t the “running” part, it is all the cleaning and maintenance! Roberta and I are capable of cleaning, maintaining and repairing Sans Souci ourselves, but … is that what I retired to do??? Many owners get around this by having crew. Perhaps this works for them, but Roberta and I value our privacy too much to have crew onboard, except for long passages.
     
In short: Our preference is to minimize maintenance, while we are on the boat, and maximize fun.

2012 pre-season preparations


This is the team I sent to turkey to work on the boat
Jeff Sanson (Pacific Yacht Management), Sam Stokes, Doug Janes
Anyway, I mention this because this was a very unusual year for the “pre-arrival maintenance/fix-up” for Sans Souci.

When Sans Souci left Seattle, with a vague intention to circumnavigate, I had the entire boat tweaked out to be in perfect condition. In 2011 and 2012, we attempted the usual pre-season maintenance, but this was compromised by the location of the boat.

For instance, in 2010, the boat wintered in Osaka Japan. I did send a mechanic to the boat, but even tasks that would ordinarily involve a quick trip to a West Marine were painful. I remember trying to get a simple patch kit into Japan to fix a leak in my inflatable raft. Buying something locally seemed impossible, and shipping in glue was impossible. We did find that most things could eventually make it to Japan, even glue, but it would take weeks or longer.

Last year, as Roberta and I were cruising, I saw signs that my batteries needed replaced. Sans Souci has a large battery bank; 2,000 amp hours, at 24 volts. This should be plenty to last 12 hours, while sitting at anchor. However, I tried a few times last year and noticed that the batteries wouldn’t last more than three or four hours. The batteries were purchased new in 2009, so I didn’t know what was going on.

This past winter, there were dozens of occasions where the electricity went out at the dock in Turkey. When this occurs I receive a phone call, and an email from the boat, no matter where I am. I have a system, from the company Skymate which uses satellite communications to call and email me, whenever there is something interesting happening on the boat. I receive a message when the power goes off, and another when it comes back on. For instance, here is a message telling me the shorepower has been restored:

Received Friday April 20 2012 at 11:06 AM GMT.
Assistance Button is NORMAL.
Battery voltage = 23.209 volts.
Shore power is connected.
Bilge level is OK.

I noticed that if a power shortage lasted even a couple of hours, the battery voltage would drop dangerously low. In March, I had a mechanic in Turkey cut power to the boat, and send me the voltage readings every hour. Before Jeff and his team even left Seattle I knew what they would find. My batteries were dead.

 

This is the battery that caused all the problems. As you can see, the top popped off of it, and the battery cracked! When one battery fails, it destroys the rest of the battery bank.

The battery tester we used to test the batteries. As you can see, this battery is ready for the junk pile.
Whereas I knew the batteries were probably dead, I didn’t expect what we found when the batteries were inspected. One of the batteries had the top blown off, and a crack down the side. My guess is that this was the original cause of the problem, and that the failure of this one battery dragged down the entire battery bank.

With 20/20 hindsight, I should have more closely inspected the batteries last year, when I first suspected problems. I did look at the batteries, but from the top, with the battery in the bank, the problem wasn’t obvious. I periodically run a heat gun across the tops of the batteries, and terminals, to look for any excess heat. At the time, all seemed good.

My best guess is that this battery failed last winter, when the boat was hit by lightning.

Out with the old. In with the new.
I thought seriously about replacing my batteries with the new technology Litium batteries from Mastervolt.

Mastervolt makes some impressive claims about them on their website:

http://www.mastervolt.com/marine/products/li-ion/mli-24-160/

The claims that caught my eye were: “Uses 70% less space” and “Lasts three times as long.” This will be San Souci’s third set of batteries, in only four years. It is a headache to replace the batteries, and expensive.

My efforts to get the Mastervolt batteries failed. I knew they were expensive, but the cost was still shocking. Here’s an email I received when I decided to place an order:
 
Hi Jeff and Ken-

I did some checking on these batteries. It sounds like there are only Qty 3 in stock with Mastervolt Netherlands and any quantity over 3 is a 2-3 month lead time, no matter what country we order them in. Also, the cost about $6000.00 a piece.

Let me know if I can help with anything else.

Thanks,
-Adrienne

At $6,000 each, I’d be spending $60,000 on ten of them. Instead, I ordered the same AGM lifeline batteries as I already had, and paid only $12,000 total. Hopefully, the next time I need batteries the Lithium batteries will have fallen in price, and will be more readily available.

My “strange project of the year” award goes to this one: CLICK HERE [NOTE: Ignore the spelling and grammer. The notes are from the team in Turkey. Their english is much better than my Turkish!]

It appears that my boat somehow contracted termites! I have no idea where they came from. This meant teak repair. Luckily we caught it before it spread.

Runner-up, for strangest project was that I had my hydraulic alternators removed from the boat. These alternators generate 8kw of DC current which is intended to provide battery charging, without running a generator, while the boat is underway. I did some testing, and it seemed to me that the extra fuel consumption by the the main engines, to power the hydraulics, was actually higher than just running a generator. In any event, I haven’t used the hydraulic alternators in several years, and I wanted to reclaim the space they were taking, for more storage for spare parts.

Overall, this was an expensive year, but not as bad as it looks. The “conventional wisdom” is that one should set aside 10% of the cost of a boat for annual operating cost. I may have gotten there this year, but overall, my guess is that I average well under half this amount.

And, here’s a few other random pictures from the work done on the boat…

Zincs, like this one, are my first line of defense against electrolysis. For those not familiar with zincs, marinas tend to have 100s of boats, some of which have perfect electrical systems, and some of which don’t. When a boat leaks electricity into the water, surrounding boats will find anything metal, beneath the water, eaten away. The softest metals tend to be eaten first, so the goal of the zincs is to the absorb the electrical action, and be eaten, rather than my props, thru-hulls and shafts. Whenever the boat is hauled out, I have all the zincs replaced. I also pay a diver to go under the boat, at least once a month during the off-season to verify that the zincs aren’t eroding.

The “68” you see here represents the temperature of the chilled water loop circulating throughout the boat. I’ve had these installed in several places, and they have been enormously helpful in identifying, and diagnosing, air conditioning problems.

The largest project this year was an overhaul of my davit. We’ve taken a lot of seaspray over the bow, and the davit has been looking tired. Last year it failed several times (electrical and hydraulic problems). The time had come to pull it off and make it new again.

They say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” This is the makeshift spraybooth put together to paint my davit.

The spray booth may not win any beauty prizes, but it worked just fine.
LED Lights
As long as the boat was out of the water, I decided to upgrade my underwater lights. One of the lights had failed, and all of them had crud obscuring the glass. I now have color LED lights. I can set the color based on my mood, and because they lights are LED, they run cool, and last a very long time. I realize that these are somewhat useless, but they do attract fish, and make for fun viewing while having dinner on the upper aft deck. Not everything on a boat has to make sense!

I had the team make some “pig tails” for me. This year I’ll probably enter a few different marinas, in both Turkey and Greece. Sometimes, I am lucky and everyone has the same style shorepower connections, but often I need to rewire my connectors as I enter new marinas. By having a series of short adapter cables I can avoid my shorepower cables constantly being hacked into, and increase the odds that I have a cable ready to go as I enter new marinas.

Jeff and team replaced the starboard side anchor roller. Over time it had become oblong and would no longer spin correctly.

Sans Souci has a twin anchor setup, but I use only the starboard anchor.The port-side anchor could be setup for use fairly quickly, but I prefer using the port anchor locker, which is enormous, to hold scuba gear, spare line, and fenders. 

The bottom of the boat, with everything freshly painted, and the new zincs in place.

Putting Sans Souci back into the water.

And, in closing

I’ve set a goal to send blog updates more frequently this year, and to make them shorter. That said, I make no promises. I tend to alternate between writer’s block, and sudden bursts of writing. My other goal is to blend more history, and a sense of the local culture into my blog entries. Realistically, I don’t know if this is possible. I ran a creative company for twenty years, and always tried to focus my writers on subject matter they were passionate about. My strategy was to reassign them, if I didn’t like their writing, rather than to try to change them. Great writing happens when the author cares about what they are writing. History was never my best subject in school, and I’m not likely to change now. So.. expect me to try, but forgive me if my efforts are lame.

Also, before I go, I should mention that this is a good time to verify that you are registered to receive email updates to the blog, and that they are going to the right email address. It’s also a good time to register any friends, neighbors or anyone you think should be reading the blog. The best way to do this is simply to go to the website: www.kensblog.com, and click on the register button in the upper left corner. On the other hand, if you find these updates annoying, and would rather not receive them via email, look at the bottom of the email. There should always be a link for unsubscribing. And, if you change your email address, just register the new email address, and don’t worry about the old one. After a few attempts to deliver to a dead email address we’ll remove it from the system.

Thank you! Expect my next blog update around the second week of June, when we arrive in Turkey!

6 Responses

  1. Ken,

    I noticed that San Souci is for sale and not listed with Nordhavn. You didn’t mention it in your blog. Care to expound?

    ————Response by Ken – June 18 2012

    Michael,

    Sans Souci is NOT for sale. I was as suprised as anyone when I saw that. It is another N68 owner, whose broker needed a picture of an N68, and grabbed a photo of my boat from Nordhavn’s site.

    I’m working on a blog entry now. I’ll put something in it letting people know that it isn’t my boat.

    No worries. We’re here in Turkey and having fun!

    -Ken W

  2. What an amazing adventure! I sure enjoyed reading your blog and looking at the photos of Sans Souci. Gorgeous! Please say hello to Roberta for me.

  3. Ah, Ken, it’s so pleasant for me to read your blogs and know that you’re going through all the delights and challenges of serious cruising! That’s because, like me, I sense that, on balance, it all is fun for you as you not only see the world from this perspective, but you overcame the problems in some satisfactory way.

    Have a wonderful time traveling. We’ll look forward to seeing Sans Souci again in Roche Harbor just as we did a few days before the “Sushi Run” began!

    And as for the bureaucrats, just “kill ’em with kindness!”

  4. Great post Ken! I’ve been anticipating an update on Sans Souci. Maybe it’s the level of detail, your(Roberta’s) choice of destinations, or your writing style, but I enjoy reading your blog more than any other boat blog out there. Looking forward to more from The Med!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Be the first to know when

the game releases!

Plus, receive special insider, behind the scenes, sneak peeks and interviews as the game is being made. Don’t worry. We will not spam you, and we will not flood your box with too many emails.
 — Ken Williams

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