If someone had told me that I would someday be the author of a book on ocean crossing, I never would have believed them. I am not a writer, and much less so someone who might ever attempt anything that could be considered dangerous. My wife Roberta and I have owned increasingly large boats throughout our 30+ years of marriage, but have never attempted a run of more than eight hours. We’ve cruised some of the greatest places in the world, including the Pacific Northwest, and even the Mediterranean, but always limited our cruising to short day-time runs, on calm seas.

Our boat, a 62’ Nordhavn, is a serious boat, meant for crossing oceans. We bought it, not because that was our intent, but because we wanted the safest possible boat that could be run by two people. Our thinking was that if we had a boat that could handle huge waves, it would REALLY be safe for coastal cruising, or should we ever get surprised by an unforeseen storm.

At least, that’s how things were prior to my receiving this email from PAE (the makers of Nordhavn):

Dear Ken:

Planned for the summer of 2004, Pacific Asian Enterprises, Inc. (PAE) will sponsor the adventure of a lifetime for NORDHAVN owners and their guests. In convoy with escort support, a fleet of NORDHAVNs will sail from New England to Gibraltar, via Bermuda and the Azores.

PAE will staff specifically selected escort NORDHAVNs to lead and follow the group. The finest of the PAE staff and associates will provide assistance to the fleet including the following:

  • Mechanical and technical support with mechanics on lead and chase vessels for en-route repairs
  • Emergency fuel reserves with boat-to-boat transfer capability
  • Towing capability
  • Diver for underwater repairs
  • 24-hour monitoring of designated VHF and SSB frequencies
  • Daily roll calls
  • Daily weather briefings
  • Physician for medical emergencies
  • Shore side staff at Hamilton, Horta and Gibraltar to assist owners with government formalities, provisioning, fuel and shore side group activities
  • Preferred group rates for transatlantic return aboard specialty yacht carriers

The Rally will kick off with a rendezvous at our Portsmouth, Rhode Island office beginning in May. Each vessel participating will be required to pass a comprehensive inspection for condition and meet minimum equipment requirements.

The fleet will travel within two groups dictated by the vessel’s speed capability and the owner’s desire. Larger NORDHAVNs may elect to travel up to 9 knots while the smaller vessels will run slower – particularly on the mid-Atlantic passage. The two groups will stay together with their respective escort vessel. During the day, vessels may run close together – sometimes closing to within 100 yards. At night, in reduced visibility or during periods of rough weather, greater separation will be maintained. The distance between lead and trailing vessels should not open up to more than 7 or 8 miles; this will ensure complete VHF radio coverage. Varied departure times for each group will allow the entire fleet to arrive at each destination together.

May 15th will be targeted as a weather permitting departure date for the 600-mile voyage to Hamilton, Bermuda. PAE staff will await arrival of the fleet and provide assistance with government formalities, provisioning and refueling. PAE will provide technical and mechanical assistance as needed by members of the fleet as well as acquire and ship any parts required. The escort vessels will inventory a wide variety of spare parts and have the tools on hand to deal with most problems that might occur. The fleet will enjoy approximately one week in port with numerous group activities planned.

June 1st will be targeted as a weather permitting departure date for the 1,800-mile passage to Horta, located within the Azores Island Group. This passage will be completed by the larger NORDHAVNs in as little as eight days while the smaller boats could take up to 11 days. As done in Bermuda, PAE shore side staff will be on hand to assist and welcome our fleet into port and to arrange for on-shore activities and fleet parties.

Weather permitting, the fleet will leave Horta on June 25th for the last leg across the Atlantic into the Mediterranean and on to Gibraltar – a distance of 1,100 miles. After lots of celebration and fun, the official NORDHAVN Atlantic convey will be complete and each NORDHAVN will be in position to enjoy the Mediterranean individually or within groups.

To make the Rally even more exciting, renowned circumnavigating yachtsman and television and film director Bruce Kessler will be accompanying the fleet to create a documentary film of the voyage. Bruce, together with t.v.producer Jo Swerling Jr., hopes to generate television network interest in the documentary. The film will not only cover the transatlantic voyage but will focus on the individual experiences of the participants and how they perceive this great adventure as it unfolds.

Finally, PAE has negotiated discounted return shipping rates for transatlantic shipping service from Europe to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The commitment will include multiple sailings, which can coincide with each individual’s return itinerary.

Non-NORDHAVN Participants

The event will be open to other qualified vessels. A criterion will be established in the months to come, which will define the term “qualified”. Some preliminary requirements are very basic. For instance, each vessel must be capable of at least 2,500 miles at about 7 knots (deck fuel will not be tolerated). The slow fleet will probably run below 7 knots (possibly around 6.5 knots on the Bermuda to Azores passage – 1,800 nm).

Additionally, minimums will be developed for glass thickness vs. surface area (this can be rectified with storm plates) and we will probably require auxiliary propulsion on single engine vessels – adequate to maintain 4 knots in calm weather. Each vessel will have to pass a survey for condition and suitability for a long ocean passage. This will include a stability study which will require an inclining experiment to determine the relationship between the vertical center of gravity and the vessel’s meticenter (a minimum safe number will be developed). This relatively easy study which takes only a couple of hours, will ensure that each vessel has adequate stability for such a voyage.

The Rally will be officially introduced at the Miami International Boat Show, February 13-18, 2003, where participants can pick up a preliminary brochure. More information will be posted on the Nordhavn website( as it becomes available. Interested participants will be put on the Rally mailing list and will receive periodic updates via e-mail.


Jim Leishman

Roberta and I had already been talking about stretching ourselves as boaters. Specifically, we were planning what seemed to us like a major undertaking; circumnavigating the island of Corsica. We had spent the previous three summers cruising the south of France, jumping from island to island, but had always feared going to Corsica, as this would require us to make a crossing of over 100 miles. When I received the notification of the Atlantic Rally, I almost hit the delete button, but instead forwarded it to Roberta. I was confident that we wouldn’t really participate, but knew it would make for some interesting dinner conversation.
I was wrong. What started as dinner conversation became a major project. We had a chance to do something extraordinary, and historic, but in a way that seemed relatively safe.

This book started as a series of daily emails to my family and friends. As the trip progressed, my emails started being forwarded to other participants’ families, then to their friends, and then to their friends. The level of interest in the rally, and in Nordhavn was amazing. During the course of the rally, daily distribution of my emails grew to nearly five thousand people!

Why did so many people read these emails, and why would you want to read this book?

Trust me, it’s not because I’m a great writer. What I am is a happily retired software entrepreneur. My suspicion is that most people were reading my emails because they were curious to see if we were going to sink. It’s somewhat like when cars slow as they pass accidents.

As to why you should read this book, I’ll tell you what the book is about, and then let you make your own decision.

This book answers questions about long distance cruising that you won’t find answered anywhere else.
  • What is it like to live in a very small space, for a very long time, with complete strangers (our crew)?
  • What do you do at night in the middle of the ocean? Is it scary?
  • Can you really swim in the middle of the ocean?
  • What are flopper stoppers? Stabilizers? Thrusters?
  • What do you do with your trash?
  • What happens when you encounter a fleet of fishing boats? How do you avoid their nets?
  • Do they wear clothes on the beaches in Europe?
  • What happens when you are 1,000 miles from shore, and the toilets stop working?
The crossing was an extraordinarily amazing learning experience. At the start, Roberta and I were nervous at the idea of not seeing land. At the conclusion, we felt confident enough to tackle a four day crossing of the med essentially alone. We are now planning a crossing of the Pacific, and have started talking about circumnavigating.

If you have ever wondered what it might be like to spend serious time on a boat, then you will find that this is the closest you’ll ever get, without casting off lines, to doing so. And hopefully, you’ll discover what Roberta and I now know: long range cruising is addicting. There’s a magical feeling “out there” that once sampled never lets go of you.

-Ken Williams
December 16, 2004
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Credits     |     Video produced by: Rock Steady Media     |     Teletype photo: Arnold Reinhold     |     PDP-11 photo: Trammell Hudson