Starting to think about trip planning for the 2010 GSSR

Greetings all!

This is my first blog update in over a month. I would have written sooner, but there’s really been nothing to say. Roberta and I, probably like most of you, were kept busy by the holidays. I haven’t really had time to think about the boat over the past month.

There’s a new blog I’m following that you might want to register for…

It’s for a 4-man delivery crew (three professionals plus a captain) running a Nordhavn 55 from San Diego to Florida through the Panama Canal. The run is interesting because they are trying to make the trip non-stop other than the canal. They’ll be testing the range on the N55, and also their own endurance. It should be interesting.

As to our boat …

Sans Souci is still sitting in Osaka Japan, as are the other two GSSR boats (Seabird and Grey Pearl.) While we were in Japan we asked an American who lives in Japan, and works as an interpreter, to look after the boats in our absence. He knows very little about boats, but is fluent in both Japanese and English. Prior to our departure I trained him on how to start Sans Souci’s main engines and generators, and on how to run the watermakers.

I decided to have him start the engines periodically, even though it isn’t clear that this is a good thing. Starting a diesel engine, running it for 15 minutes, without letting it get warm, leaving it unloaded, and then shutting it down, is almost certainly tougher on the engine than just leaving it shut down. At the time it seemed like a good idea, but now I’m having second thoughts.

This process did discover a problem though…

Within a couple of weeks of our departure the 20kw generator on Sans Souci refused to start. After a bit of testing, we decided the problem was nothing more than a dead battery. One would think that buying a new battery would be a quick easy project. But, that’s not how things work when multiple countries and languages are involved.

Image gpl-4da_a.jpg

As a first step to diagnosing the problem we bought a battery charger, which required at least a dozen emails. I wanted a trickle charger that we could trust to not overcharge the battery, because no one would be on the boat. Once we located a charger, and charged the batteries, the generator started fine, but after 24 hours the battery was dead again.

Finding a replacement battery turned out to be a nightmare. At least 30 emails went back and forth. It’s a bigger issue than just getting the right voltage. I needed an AGM starting battery of roughly the same size as the old battery. Despite having a good interpreter I was never able to get a battery that would work and gave up in frustration. Instead, I’ll ship a battery over from the United States.

One of the other GSSR boats has been trying to work remotely to diagnose a possibly transmission problem. I shared with the owner the effort I had gone through, unsuccessfully, to try to obtain a simple 12v battery, and asked how he thought he was going to get a transmission diagnosed and repaired. He understood the problem and is doing what he can, but is not very optimistic.


I asked to have a diver take pictures of the bottom of the boat because we had noticed something that looked suspicious on one of the rudders. I need to decide if a haul-out of the boat is necessary or not.

This is a link to the pictures I received:

There is a bit of white visible around where the rudder connects to the boat. I couldn’t tell if it is some sort of bearing that has come loose. I posted these pictures to other Nordhavn owners, and to Nordhavn, all of whom said that it was just normal barnacle growth, and nothing to be concerned about. I also sent the pictures to the Delta shipyard, who said that they definitely thought I had a problem, but that they thought I’d be fine to wait another cruising season before getting the boat hauled-out. Whether or not I have a problem, I still don’t know.

On a different topic…

Trip planning has started for the 2010 GSSR run. Here’s a picture showing our route, which stretches from Osaka, in Japan, to Hong Kong, in China:

(Click the map above for a close-up)

The route shows as 2,000 nm, which is a huge drop from the 7,000 nm we ran in 2009. Whereas our goal in 2009 was to get across the Pacific within a fairly short weather window, this year we’re hoping to be able to do a lot more relaxing and sightseeing along the way. Also, last year we were on the boats for five months, and this year we’ll only be on the boats a little over three months. We’d prefer more time on the boats, but we’re moving into an area known for typhoons. As the water warms, typhoons will become more frequent, and more ferocious. Typhoons can happen virtually any month of the year, but August and September are the worst. Our goal will be to have the boats safely sitting at a marina in Hong Kong before the end of July.

Traveling with a dog in Asia has become a huge problem. We have given up on getting Shelby into Taiwan or China. The best we’ve been able to do is to receive conflicting information from Taiwan. We now believe that we MIGHT be able to enter the country, as long as Shelby doesn’t leave the boat except to travel directly to the airport in the company of customs agents. China will not allow Shelby into the country at all without a long quarantine.

Roberta and I discussed stopping our cruising in 2010 at the southern border of Japan, and just having a delivery crew run the boat to Hong Kong. We also discussed flying Shelby home from Taipei (Taiwan) and then returning without her. Our current plan, which we believe is what will occur is that a friend of ours will be meeting us in Ishigaki Japan, the southernmost island in the Ryukyu chain of islands. Our friend (Phil, who crossed the Atlantic with us in 2004) will fly with Shelby back to Osaka, where they’ll stay for the three or four weeks it takes us to get the boat to Hong Kong. This is an expensive and complicated solution to the problem, but beats any other option we’ve come up with.

I mentioned in my last update that I was evaluating various nav software packages. It has been a tough decision, but I’m going to go with Maxsea Time Zero. It was a very tough decision, but the bottom line was that I like how Time Zero feels. It is fast and responsive. I was also able to get charts for Japan which seem very good. The major downside is that the other two GSSR boats are still using Nobeltec. I’ll need to also use Nobeltec so that we can continue to swap routes.

And on a completely different topic…

The GSSR group may be growing! Some of you may recall that the GSSR was originally scheduled to be four boats. The fourth boat, Starr, a 75’ Northern Marine, dropped out just prior to the start of the trip.

Instead, Starr, and her owners (Don and Sharry Stabbert), headed to Hawaii. Don and Sharry have recently made the decision to catch up to the other GSSR boats, and hope to travel from Hawaii to Japan over the next few months, arriving in Japan in time to rendezvous with our group.

Don and Sharry will be a great addition to our group. They have cruised 10s of thousands of miles including two trips to Polynesia and this most recent trip to Hawaii.

Don and Sharry MAY be sending out a blog as they go. I have them set up to send a blog, but I don’t know if they plan to blog or not. The website that recounts their past voyages is:, and to the extent that they do blog, you should sign up at: to receive them.

And lastly…

Bill Harrington, the Kodiak Alaska based commercial fisherman who was along with us on the trip across the Atlantic, sent me this picture of a new boat he bought for doing scallop fishing. Congratulations Bill!

That’s it for today,

Thank you!

Ken Williams

PS A note about my books….

I just released a Kindle version of my most recent book which is now available at Just search for “Great Siberian Sushi Run”. To find the printed versions of my book you can go to:

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