Sans Souci gets checked out

I’ve been on Sans Souci the past two days doing a “checkout” run from Seattle to Victoria Canada.

Here’s an “off the top of my head” list of the work that was done.

– Swap 16kw generator to 20kw
– Swap Cruisair air conditioning to Technicold
– Repitch props
– Add dive compressor
– Replace batteries, with different size batteries
– Swap all lighting to LED
– Add extra shelving in chain lockers
– Swap jet tender for standard inflatable (with wheels)
– Remove Mini-M and Fleet 77, replace with Fleet Broadband and Mini-Vsat
– Remove Navnet2 system, and replace with Navnet 3 (required radar array swap)
– Fix slow draining shower
– Fix leaks in fresh water system
– Reroute exhaust for diesel furnace
– Add bypass for international shorepower system
– Swap directv receivers for Dish Network
– Relocate entertainment electronics, to resolve overheating and access issues
– Replace all fuses in lazarette electric panel with breakers
– Repaint bottom
– Add storm windows
– Major upgrades to the monitoring systems (more electrical sensoring, added flow sensors)
– Added additional remote display to the international power system
– Replaced remote display on hydraulic system
– Fix various fiberglass dings
– Upsized all plumbing for my sea chest from 2” to 3” (relocated, and up-sized the through-hulls)
– Added exterior strainers to the seachest intakes
– Replaced main pilot house monitor
– Major upgrade to my hydraulic cruising alternators
– Inspect all systems and safety equipment
– Added Tides dripless shaft seals
– Wall to wall carpet in the engine room (looks great, and easier on the knees)
– And MUCH more…

This may seem like a long list, but, that is only because IT IS! I had a lot of changes that I wanted to make, and assembled an amazing team to make them. By any rational standard, this much work should not have been possible in the limited time that we had. Jeff Sanson, of Pacific Yacht Management, in Seattle, worked miracles on my behalf.

Which brings me back to the test drive…

I asked a couple friends to tag along; Al Lowe a buddy from my computer game making days, and Dean Heathcote, a Nordhavn 55 owner. I wanted Dean and Al to run the boat, so that Jeff and I could spend the entire journey going system to system looking for problems. Having been a software guy, I know what it means to do “quality assurance” and how to pound on a boat. Poor Jeff. He was so proud of his work, and welcomed me aboard as though he were a proud parent showing off a newborn child. Which I then spent two days trying to pick apart.

Here’s a comment that was posted on my blog yesterday:

“…KEN-Not sure what your top speed is, but I noticed following your track on the AIS website that you were mostly below 10 knots coming and going. I thought you said you were going to do a sea trial to stress your systems….”

Speed was certainly tested. In fact, we tested, and quantified the performance at every increment of 100 rpm. I just didn’t run the boat very long at the higher rpms. Running at maximum engine load was only one of many tests. Generally, I don’t like running the boat at maximum speed. Although my engines are rated for continuous duty at 340 hp, the amount of fuel they consume rises dramatically with rpm. For my boat, the “sweet spot” for normal cruising is at about 9.5 knots. At this speed I consume around 13 gallons per hour. Hull speed is 10.6 knots. I can easily attain hull speed, but my fuel consumption jumps to nearly 30 gallons per hour. The extra fuel just isn’t worth the 1 knot pick up in speed.

Another of my fuel tests was to find the speed at which I achieve one nautical mile per gallon of fuel consumed. This number is significant to me, because I think of it as the “magic speed that gets me to Hawaii”. I’m not running to Hawaii anytime soon, so it is an irrelevant number, but it’s still one I like to focus on. Hawaii is approximately 2,300nm from the west coast of the US. My tanks hold 3,000 gallons of fuel. I would want at least a 500 gallon reserve, so to get to Hawaii I need to be able to go 1 nm for each gallon of fuel. Thus, I slowed the boat seeking this magic number, and was very happy with the result. At 1175 rpm, we were running 7.8 knots, consuming about 7 gallons per hour of fuel. The 7 gallons is really 8 gallons per hour, because of the one gallon per hour my generator would consume. But, the important thing is that the indications are that I could reach Hawaii running at 8 knots. Awesome!

If I were really going to Hawaii, I’d be much more scientific about the testing. These numbers should be considered “suspect” as they were computed quickly, and in possibly flawed conditions (uncertainty about currents). However, they do seem to indicate that the prop repitching has given me about 10% extra range. It’s too early to say anything definitive, but the early indications are very good. I left my notes on the boat, but will do a more thorough analysis as soon as I retrieve them.

While Dean and Al were running the boat, Jeff and I crawled every inch of it. I wanted to operate everything. This was a little frustrating for Jeff, in that many of the things I operated Jeff hadn’t even worked on. He said a few times “But Ken, I didn’t even work on that!” I said, “No worries, just add it to your list of things I want fixed before the trip.” I want the boat perfect, or as close as we can get it, before we leave for Japan.

We ran every system on the boat, many times. I ran the boat from every drive station, including the fly bridge. We turned on every monitor, and tried to press all the buttons.

The quick summary is that Jeff did his job flawlessly. We found only one major problem, which was a bit frustrating for Jeff. My boat has always had a small leak at the port stabilizer. It’s just a trickle, but it is the sort of problem that must be fixed. We hired a local outfit in Seattle to fix the problem, which was not easy. Unfortunately, the stabilizer has started leaking again. The company is standing behind their work, and will get it fixed, but it’s a major pain, and involves hauling out the boat again. Darn.

As to other things worth mentioning, here’s something that was very interesting to me….

I have hydraulically powered cruising alternators on the boat. These give me 8kw of power, without running a generator. I ran mine immediately after taking delivery of the boat, and they promptly overheated, and had to be shut down. We’ve had a busy schedule, and they were optional, so I’ve had them on a list of Nordhavn warranty items that could be done “whenever”. Recently, Nordhavn spent a couple days working on them. This was my first chance to try them again.

Within about 15 minutes of turning on the cruising alternators, I received a warning that my hydraulic system was overheating. I quickly shut down the hydraulic alternators, and ran to the engine room. The tape on the hydraulic hoses was melting! Argh. I had just added a flow meter to the raw water cooling system for the hydraulics, so I looked at the flow on the cooling water. Two gallons per minute. This felt low, but I didn’t know what it should be, so I called the owner of the second N68, David Sidbury. David is a walking encyclopedia, and I figured he would know the answer. Sure enough, he did – eight gallons per minute is the magic number. David explained how to turn up the flow, and I adjusted it up to six gallons per minute. Neither Jeff nor I knew the adjustment existed, and neither has ever touched it. My hydraulic system has been receiving inadequate cooling flow from the beginning. I thought about bringing it all the way up to 8 GPM, but my flow sensors are new, and I didn’t want to push the limits until I confirm with the hydraulics people the accuracy. I could see by the volume of the water being tossed overboard that I was in good shape.

I fired up (which would turn out to be a poor choice of words) the hydraulic alternators again, and after about 30 minutes, they overheated again. Once again, I quickly shut them down, and this time, we phoned ABT (the people behind my hydraulic system). They quickly said that the heat exchanger on my hydraulic system was undersized, and that they would replace the heat exchanger. So… I had two problems; an inadequate heat exchanger, and inadequate flow. I had thought the problem was the hydraulic alternators. Oh well.. ABT will be on the boat with me Monday, and we’ll get it fixed once and for all.

And… there’s another interesting bit to this story…

While the cruising alternator was running, we measured the impact on fuel consumption. The hydraulic alternators INCREASED main engine fuel consumption by 2 gph. For this I get 8kw of 24kw power (useful only for battery charging). Running my 20kw generator requires only about 1 gph. So, my decision is: burn 2gph for 8kw of 24v power, or 1 gph for 20kw of 240v power. Tough decision (not). Really, the only reason I can think of to use the alternators is to avoid changing the oil on the generator. Overall, I’m thinking the best solution might be to attach some line to them, and see if they could have a new life as boat anchors.

And… on to other topics….

This was my first use of Navnet 3d. Very cool!!!!!!!! Overall, there’s little it adds that I didn’t already have, but it is REALLY fun to operate, and very easy. I compare it to the iphone, and see it as a game-changer. It uses the same kind of 3-d hardware that makes the iphone so cool. Everything looks better, and is more fun to do. Other than being able to display radar, at two different ranges simultaneously, there isn’t much that is new functionality. The real improvement, from my perspective is in ease-of-use and how visually impressive it is. There were a few annoyances. It has a feature to take in video cameras, but then is so picky on what cameras it will accept, that unless I’m willing to swap all the cameras on the boat, this feature is worthless to me. Also, my navnet 2 system had a really handy Sirius weather system. Navnet 3 doesn’t support weather. Argh. These are really minor though. My current plan is to shift to using Navnet 3 as my primary nav system, and put Nobeltec to the side display.

And… another subject that is important to me…

This was my first use of the Mini Vsat system. Wow! It isn’t cheap, but I am thrilled with my new vsat system. It was rock solid during this trip, and has good broadband speed (not great, but amazing for a boat – 2 megabit). Everyone on the boat had their laptops, and they were all going, connected wirelessly to the boat’s network. We never lost signal. Ever. I could have swapped to the wifi connection when at the dock in Victoria, but felt no need. Allegedly, we’ll have non-stop wifi all the way to Japan. If it works like what we had on this trip, it will be incredible.

Here’s a “Big Brother” moment that really caught us by surprise as we were arriving in Victoria. We weren’t even at the dock yet, and this showed up in my email:

“…Sans Souci captured on webcam approaching Victoria Harbour entrnce. Looks like it calmed down a bit.

Curious about the “dodge” of the tanker flanked by the two tugs. Did they hail you on 13?


It’s not a particularly exciting story. As we were approaching Victoria, we needed to cross the outbound shipping lane. Unfortunately, there was a slowly moving freighter being escorted by a couple of tugs. Victoria Traffic called to ask that we pass behind it, but I would have anyhow. We could easily have positioned to pass a mile or more in front of it, but in my opinion, this is a sucker trap. My rule is NEVER pass within a couple miles of the front of a moving freighter, cruiseship or ferry. Even when the AIS is telling you that you have plenty of time, ignore it. Err on the side of safety. We decided to give the trawler a very wide berth, and turned sharply to let it pass.

We had negative weather reports, both going to Victoria, and returning to Seattle. As we were leaving the dock, it was snowing. The outlook was for gale force winds. However, none of this occurred. We had calm seas, with no rain or snow, and light winds, in BOTH directions. The current slowed us down all the way back, but other than losing a couple knots of speed, we had an absolutely smooth ride. I even ran the boat briefly from the fly bridge with no jacket!

I was testing one other device: “The Spot”. It’s a small position transmitter, that tracks your GPS position every few minutes, from anywhere in the world. AIS is terrific, but its’ range is limited. This should allow persons reading my blog to track us all the way to Japan. It worked perfectly. Once the GSSR begins for real, both Sans Souci and Seabird, will be broadcasting our position. I haven’t spoken with Braun on Grey Pearl about “Spot”, but he might also have one. It’s certainly not needed, in that we should all be together. If you find Seabird or Sans Souci, Grey Pearl won’t be far away.


This was my first time to do a lot of running the boat, in almost a year. It felt great! We had light winds, and no current, in Seattle or Victoria, so it made the docking simple, but it still felt good to be behind the wheel. The locks were a challenge though! There are two locks; a small and a large lock. We were behind one other similar sized boat, and entered the locks together. As we approached the lock, the line handler asked how long Sans Souci is. We said 68 feet, and he heard 58 feet. This meant that once in the lock, the mistake was discovered, and we didn’t fit. Or, at least, we didn’t easily fit. It was decided that we could fit if I snugged up to the boat in front. It was a bit stressful to have the lock people say “Can you pull it forward another few inches?” By the time we fit, we were significantly overlapping the boat in front. The owner of the other boat pointed out that our boats appeared to be dating (or was it mating?). All was fine, and as usual, the strength of Sans Souci’s thrusters, and the tight quarters maneuverability, were awesome.

A great trip! A few projects to be done, but overall – perfection!

-Ken Williams
N6805, Sans Souci


10 Responses

  1. Ken – re: NN3D and Sirius…

    NN3D does support (or more correctly, claims to support) Sirius weather using the BBWX1 receiver. I have it installed on my NN3D system.

    However, I have had continuing problems with receiving the Area Forecast and Marine Warning data. At times, sometimes for hours or even a day or more, no Area Forecast or Marine Warning data will be received though other elements of the system (e.g., NEXRAD; Tropical data, etc.) are being received. And I know of at least two others having the identical problem with the same installation.

    So far, neither Furuno nor my installing dealer has come up with an explanation or solution.

    So, NN3D does support Sirius weather but the implementation is not, at this time, satisfactory in my experience.

    Richard O.

  2. Drew: I agree with your math. I can imagine that the cruising alternators might by only 50-60% efficient, but 25% efficient indicates that something is wrong. And, actually, I believe that the situation is even worse, in that Nordhavn has governed them down from 8kw to only 6kw.

    My best guess is that something is wrong in the hydraulic pump on one of the alternators, or the plumbing to the alternators is somehow wrong. With 20/20 hindsight, I should have tried running one alternator at a time, and measured the fuel burn (I have two 4kw alternators). ABT (Arcturus Marine) designed the hydraulic system, and has great customer support. They are meeting me at the boat on Monday, and we’ll take it out for a spin with them on board. I’ll report their findings when I have them.

    I need to make a decision on if the hydraulic alternators will ever be used or not, as there is some re-wiring required to make them useful.

    It’s a long story, but currently, they have my a/c system wired such that it cannot be run from the inverters. Unfortunately, a subset of the system is required in order to have heat, and where we’re going, heat is a serious issue. I need to be able to run the main circ pump for the chilled water loop, to distribute heat throughout the boat. If running the hydraulic alternators, they only generate power for battery charging, so anything that can’t run off the inverters, can’t be run.

    -Ken W

  3. Your numbers on fuel consumption using the cruising alternator don’t make sense. You should get approximately 20 horsepower for each gallon per hour from a diesel and you are only getting a little under 11 horsepower (8 kw) from your alternators for the potential 40 hp in the 2 gph burn. I know that there are losses from efficiency but it sounds like something is wrong. I wonder how much horsepower/gallons per hour your stabilizers consume? BTW, Furuno released a significant update to the NavNet3D software a couple of days ago. I really enjoy your blog. As a long time boater of both power and sail, I had no idea how complicated boats at this scale are. I am learning a lot.

  4. Chuck: The Spot claims to be able to see out windows, but I could never get that to work. Finally, I got it to work by taking it onto the flybridge, and clipping it to one of the lines I use for Quarantine flags.

    My current “challenge” is that I forgot to bring it in when we docked the boat. It has been sitting in the rain for three days. It will be “fun” to see if it is still working. I’m hoping it is!

    -Ken W

    PS I’m having problems getting the map data to display reliably. I’m fairly confident it is something I’m doing wrong. I should get it sorted out by the start of the GSSR.

  5. Does your spot unit “see” out your pilothouse window, or do you have to take it outside to send a location I don’t see anything on their web site regarding external antenna.

  6. Chuck: We did run at WOT for 15-20 minutes. I usually run up the engines for at least 15 minutes once a day, as recommended by Lugger.

    I’ve never had the engines run hotter than 181 to 183 degrees.

    -Ken W

  7. Regarding my previous comment about a higher speed run, I need to clarify. I always do WOT to “stress or test” the cooling system. If the engines don’t overheat at WOT you know for sure the heat exchangers etc. are all working as they should. Often times a WOT run for 5-10 minutes will uncover things you won’t see at normal cruising speed. Just a suggestion before you go off into the boonies.

  8. Ken, a few comments. First, I have used the SPOT fairly extensively boating in the NW with great results. It is reliable, inexpensive, and fun to play with. I’m not sure if you have seen the coverage maps for your route, but they would be worth checking out to see if SPOT says you’ll get coverage. My dad used one in January when he was in Patagonia, and even though SPOT didn’t say it would work well, it seemed to work fine.

    Regarding Sirius weather on NavNet3D, I don’t think it will be a big loss. My understanding is the weather info is really only available for a few popular cruising grounds. It’s good to hear that you like NN3D, I wanted to get it for my boat but I needed electronics about two months before it was available.

    Good luck fixing the last few things.


  9. Ken
    The boat looks great and ready to go! If you have any photo’s of your storm windows, would you mind posting them either in the blog or on the site? Would be interested in seeing the solution. MJS

  10. Hi Ken,
    Watched your trip on live ships but they lost you as you hit Port Townsend and you did not reappear until approx Edmonds. Did you turn things off for some reason or what do you think it might be.

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