My new generator is going in today.
And, I just received this photo of my new batteries, ready to be installed. Lots of work is happening, and Jeff is saying my boat could be back in the water within two weeks.
I’m still focused on trip planning. Here’s a quick overview of where I think I’m at:
Our trip really divides into several distinct parts…
1) The run to Alaska – We’ve make the run north from Seattle, along the west coast of Canada, inside of Vancouver Island, many times. I’m not really doing any trip planning. Plenty of cruising guides are available, and except for several passes, where current is a factor, it should be an easy trip.
2) Southeast Alaska – I’ve never been to Alaska. I’ll certainly do some trip planning, but am not spending much time focusing on the run. I have several friends who cruise there regularly, all of whom have given me pointers, and suggested routes. I’ll have good cruising guides with me, and should be able to pretty much “take it as it comes.” We’ll be cruising early, in late April and May, so I’m guessing that we won’t have much trouble getting into marinas, and, that to the extent we do, there will be no trouble finding a place to anchor.
3) The Gulf of Alaska and Kodiak – Once we leave Glacier Bay, we’ll be making a 500 mile passage across the Gulf of Alaska to Kodiak. The port at Kodiak has said that they should have no trouble finding space for our group. Our plan is to spend a week “hanging out” in Kodiak doing various tourist activities. After we leave Kodiak we have a tricky passage to “Geographic Harbor” which is supposed to be an incredible place to see bears.
4) Dutch Harbor and the Aleutians – This area is rarely traveled, except by commercial fisherman, and there are no cruising guides other the Coast Guard prepared Coast Pilot. My primary focus has been on speaking with people who have “been there” before. Roberta and I set a goal to find someone who knows the Aleutians, who can guide us through with maximum safety. We now have someone who is sharing with our group plenty of “local knowledge” and may be able to accompany us. The Aleutians can never be taken lightly, but currently I’m feeling very good about them. We have done everything I can think of to ensure a smooth trip, and maximize the sightseeing opportunities. If it goes as I hope, and we have someone on board who has run the Aleutians many times, I believe they can be something to look forward to, rather than fear.
5) Siberia – Siberia is another area which is rarely traveled. There are no cruising guides, no Coast Pilot, and virtually no one to ask for “local knowledge.” We have contracted an agent, who guides cruise ships to Siberia, to assist us with fueling, moorage and all of the entry requirements. Despite stellar recommendations, and having no rational basis for concern, I will not really relax until we are tied safely to the dock.
6) Japan – This may be the toughest country of this passage. There is a lot of paperwork, and every time we move the boat we will need to clear in and out of port. Japan is off the beaten path for cruisers, especially large power boats. Finding moorage is likely to be a struggle. Language is a huge barrier. I’ve tried contacting marinas directly, but haven’t made any progress. Finally, I’m retaining an agent in Japan to help sort out all of the issues. Our dog adds a layer of complexity. Here’s an excerpt from an email from my Japanese agent this morning: “…Yes, This is special problem about animal quarantine matter in Japan. There is very strict restrictions here and must be needed about 7 months for arrangement . Pls advise if you have sufficient time for procedures – Anyway Pls read attached sheet. We think its better to stay in your country for you and your dog…” I’m sure the author didn’t mean that quite the way it was written, but you see the challenge.
Actually, the above represents only a small fraction of the trip planning. Everything that applies to a “normal” major passage applies to this trip, and more so.
– Weather is always a major factor in cruising. We need to study the weather everywhere we will be cruising, and find the best sources of local weather information, on the web, or otherwise. This includes finding any local weather resources (frequencies and times of regional broadcasts). For this trip we’ll have a weather router (http://www.oceanmarinenav.com ) and for the Aleutians we hope to find a second weather router who is an expert in the regions weather.
– I’m trying to find contact numbers for anything we might want along the way. We need to know who to call for: medical attention, emergency vessel assistance, fuel, moorage and clearances. We also need contact numbers for anyone whose knowledge might help us solve mechanical problems. For instance, I’ll want the contact numbers for technical assistance from Northern Lights, Atlas, ABT, etc (actually I already have them. I use http://www.seakits.com)
– Because we’ll be in a part of the world where we have to be self sufficient, I need to get the best possible medical kit, books on emergency medicine, and a healthy set of medical supplies. As a captain, I believe I can legally buy prescription drugs. At some point I need to focus on this, and decide what I’d like to have on board.
– I’ve already bought electronic and paper charts for the full route. This was painfully expensive.
– I’ve bought virtually every cruising guide I can find that covers a portion of our route.
– I would normally do a detailed waypoint list. However, this is a strange trip. We’ll be in a part of the world where weather will dictate our schedule, and our stops. When the sun is shining, we’ll be moving. When weather dictates, we’ll find the closest place to hide. It isn’t practical to identify every potential stop along our five thousand mile path. My focus is on making sure we have the resources available to make intelligent decisions when the time comes, not on predetermining our route in agonizing detail.
– We need to figure out the entry requirements and visa requirements for every country
– We’ll need a serious ditch bag. At some point I’ll need to think about what to put in it. All of our survival gear needs evaluated, and tested.
– Seakits has put together a recommended list of spare parts for me, which I already have on board. I have asked Jeff, who is managing all of the work on the boat, to also purchase anything he thinks we might want. This includes any tools we might wish we had. I know that no matter what we do, there will be parts we will discover we don’t have. Stocking a replacement for everything is impossible, but we’ll come darn close.
– My goal for this winter was to “tweak” the boat for this upcoming trip. The bigger picture is that this isn’t just a 5,000 mile run, it is the start of a circumnavigation. Once I leave the US, everything becomes difficult. Getting spare parts means long delays and fussing with customs. Getting a technician to look at something means airplane tickets, and huge expense. I need the boat to handle the extremes of tropical heat, and the extremes of cold found in the Bering Sea. There’s a lot of upgrading of systems going on this winter!
– I need to learn to use the systems on the boat much better than what I can today. I have a high-end Furuno 2127 radar, with hundreds of features. We can expect weeks of fog in the Aleutians. I am convinced I can take my radar skills to another level. I am sure there are radar features I’m not using that can make a difference. I also have Sonar on the boat, and have found it totally useless. The issue is not the Sonar (or, at least I don’t think it is). Sonar is not radar, and the training requirement is much higher. I thought I would read the manual and figure it out. This is not true. After all the experimentation I’ve done, I’d rate myself a 0 on a scale of 1 to 10. When moving into a poorly charted area like the Aleutians, becoming expert in the use of sonar could make a huge safety difference. I’ve also been upgrading my knowledge in other ways. I recently took and passed an ABYC course certifying me as a marine electrician! I’m half way through a book on diesel engine maintenance. Never in my life did I foresee myself studying fuel injection systems. Argh.
And, on a completely different topic…
I received an email which I’ve already responded to, but has continued to haunt my thoughts. The author was critical of all the money being spent on this trip, and on my boat. In a financial climate where much of the world’s population is worried about job security, how can I possibly justify what I’m spending on this trip? Or even, what I spent on my boat.
It’s a really good question, and these ARE difficult times. I have several friends who have been slammed hard by this downturn. My personal net worth has had a big chunk taken out of it. I don’t know much of anyone, in any country, who has not been harmed in some way by the current economic downturn. I received an email from a friend in Spain telling me how lucky I was to be in the US where the financial crash is so light. This seems to be a financial crisis which is affecting virtually everyone worldwide.
In response to the email, I had to admit that I have no justification. The honest answer is that I did my years of working and am now retired. I have been hurt, but not crippled. I haven’t been so badly impacted that I can’t continue with my cruising plans. Boating is expensive, but I control what I spend. This first year, the expenses are high, as we do some upgrades to prepare for the circumnavigation, but I do not see this as an ongoing issue. Once we get the boat dialed-in, as we want it, expenses will plummet. I’ll never get the costs down to sailboat levels, but compared to many of the boats we saw while in Monaco, our costs are about what some boaters spend on their tenders.
To stop our cruising, after planning it for so long, would seem wrong. I worked three jobs simultaneously in my early career, and worked virtually every waking hour during the nearly 20 years it took to start and grow our company. To not enjoy life, now that we finally have the time, and can afford it, would be wrong. And, it isn’t as if I didn’t see difficult times during my career. I can’t say that I witnessed anything like what we are seeing now, but I did go through times when I was borrowing against the house to make payroll, and in fact making payroll through max-ing out my credit cards. My guess is that the world will get through this financial crisis, and things will get back on track. And, that sometime in the next decade or two, there’ll be another financial crisis of some sort. I’ve seen several such cycles during my adult life. Bad times, like the good times, tend to come and go. Remember the crash of 87? The dot com collapse? Both cost me substantial money. To the extent I know anything about these things (which is CERTAINLY subject to question), it would be to advise people to work as hard as you can in the good times, recognize that good times won’t last forever, and tuck away all the cash that you can for a rainy day, or for retirement. Do not assume that good times will last forever, or that bad times will last forever. Build a plan that has provisions for both.
I do feel guilty writing a blog which talks about “wasting” money on a boat at a time when so many are wondering where their next meal is coming from. It seems inappropriate, and I’ve considered abandoning the blog for this reason. However, I’m not a great believer in meaningless gestures. Were there a way that I could solve all the world’s problems, I would certainly do so. If I thought that by my staying home, or selling my boat, I’d be solving unemployment in even one country, I might consider it. But, that isn’t the way the world works. What I can say is that I have done some very constructive things. I haven’t always been retired. Along the way I created several thousand jobs. I’ve tried to support politicians who I believe will make the right economic decisions for the country, and I’ve paid an awful lot of taxes.
And, to close on a much less controversial topic…
I noticed this message board posting on the Trawlers and Trawlering list:
“…The newest thing right now in Mexico is a wireless modem you can get from Telmex
for about 440 pesos a month (about $ 30-35 US) with unlimited use (cheaper rates
available with limited! use) and supposedly it is good for all the areas you have
cell phone coverage in Mexico. Several cruisers are trying it out right now here
wireless while in Mexican waters….”
I have no idea if this is accurate or not, but hope it is!