Update #14 – Hanging out in Ixtapa

Greetings all!

Roberta and I are still here in Ixtapa. We’ve been relaxing and enjoying our time here.


The crocodiles have been an unending source of amusement. Roberta and Ingrid (our guest) spent yesterday afternoon feeding a crocodile at the back of the boat. Dean and I reminded them many times that crocodiles are wild animals and dangerous, but I don’t think they got the message. We rolled our eyes several times as we heard the girls saying “Come here baby!” Dean and I played the golf course here in the marina and landed a golf ball inches from a crocodile. We’ve also been exploring a bit, and walking the beach.

Here’s a picture of the beach in Ixtapa…

And, of the beach in Zihuantenejo…


We’ve been surprised by how many Nordhavns there are here in the area; Wayward Wind, an N43, Alter Ego, an N47, Sally G, an N50 and our own Sans Souci, an N68. Dean and Ingrid have now flown home, but here’s one last picture of Dean and I checking email while the girls shop:

On Thursday we’ll be joined on the boat by Jeff Sanson, of Pacific Yacht Management, and a couple of his guys. We made the decision to bring on crew, because we’re starting to get tight on time, and want to run around the clock most of the way between here and Costa Rica. Roberta and I would like an entire month in Costa Rica just to wander around from anchorage to anchorage.

We have a large freighter (Yachtpath) set to pick up in our boat from Golfito Costa Rica, around April 15th, and transport it all the way north to Victoria Canada. This means arriving by mid-March in Costa Rica, a little over two weeks from now.

Below, you get a bit of an overview of the run we’ll be making. Our goal is to nearly 1,800 miles over the next two weeks!

 We run approximately 200 nautical miles a day, meaning we will be running almost non-stop once we start moving. That said, we do hope to spend a couple days each in Hualtuco Mexico, El Quetzal Guatemala, and El Salvador. It will be tricky to make this work, but with the assistance of Jeff and his guys, we’ll figure it out. Once we arrive in Costa Rica, Jeff and team will fly home and Roberta and I will start cruising alone.

Following is an excerpt from a message board posting by Scott Bulger, on a Nordhavn 43, which is on the same course as us, but a couple weeks ahead. In it he talks about running over “long Lines”, by which he is referring to a long fishing line. In this fishing technique a fisherman dangles hooks in the water, hanging from a long line, that could stretch for miles. Wrap one of these around your prop, and you might need to swim with large fish hooks, and possibly some very angry fish who are not too happy about being hooked.

“…last night at sunset we were about 25 or 30 miles south of Puerto Madero when we started to encounter long lines. We navigated around the first one after the panga skipper freed up a line from one of the boats stabilizers, but about an hour later I picked up a line in complete darkness. The panga operator made no effort to guide us around his lines. As we passed over the line it hung up on my port fin, but didn’t get caught in either prop. I quickly grabbed it with a boat hook as we were bleeding off speed and could feel that it might pull right through the hang up once cut. Sure enough I cut the line, dropped both ends in the water and 10 seconds later we were long line free! We made the decision to head another 20 miles off shore and only encountered one more line in the entire evening. We have been told the long lines in Guatemala and El Salvador are often lit at night, so they should be easier to navigate around. Few things are as stressful as managing being caught in a net or line at night. Fortunately for us it was a quick fix, I believe the Gods are with us on this voyage…”

I have three things that I’ll be thinking about over the next two weeks:
1) Pirates – Luckily, none of the countries we’ll be passing through are prone to piracy. That said, I want to run 50 miles or more off shore of Guatemala and Nicaragua for added safety.
2) Weather – We’ll be running the Bay of Tehuantepec. This 200 mile long bay is situated where the land dividing the Pacific and the Atlantic is very flat and narrow. Dangerous wind storms sweep across the bay 200 days a year. We’ll be watching for a weather window, and running “One foot on the beach” (close to shore).
3) Fishing – I NEVER want to hook a fishing net. Sans Souci has a cutting blade in front of the stabilizers, and on the props – but, I don’t want to test whether it works or not.

The photos above were taken from Google Earth, which I’ve found to be extremely valuable for trip planning. Here’s a tip I think other cruisers will find valuable. Google Earth has an option to create a large local “cache” on your computer. For those non-geeks out there, I’ll explain. When using Google Earth, the satellite pictures are on Google’s computer, and are downloaded to your computer via the internet as you explore the planet. In order to speed up Google Earth, you can tell Google Earth to use more of your hard drive space to store images, so that if you display the same place more than once, it doesn’t need to be down-loaded through the internet. Roberta and I do a little “trick” which utilizes this feature. We’ve told Google Earth it can have a 2 gigabyte space on our hard drive for caching pictures. We then zoom in on everywhere we’ll be before leaving shore. If during our trip we want to see an overview of a bay or marina we are entering we bring it up on Google Earth – EVEN WHEN WE DON’T HAVE AN INTERNET CONNECTION. It’s amazing. Google Earth works perfectly with no internet connection, and we can see everything just fine – because it is pulling the images from my own hard drive (from the cache).

Lastly, here’s a picture I thought some of you might find interesting:

The laptop-sized thing sitting on top of my printer is a satellite internet antenna. It’s a Hughes 9201 BGAN terminal. With it I can get broadband internet from virtually anywhere in the world, at a tenth the cost of the Fleet 77. Unfortunately, it’s not a stabilized antenna, meaning that I need to be sitting still to use it. The antenna seems to be very forgiving. I haven’t tried it yet at anchor, but do believe it would work fine if there isn’t much swell. I’m using it here at the Ixtapa marina because the internet in the marina has been very poor. It’s frustrating to have such unreliable and slow internet in such a nice marina. I use the marina’s internet whenever it is working, but then use the BGAN terminal when I need access and it isn’t.

That’s it for today. My next report will be late this week when we start our run south.

Following my update are your emails, and my responses (preceded by +++). I enjoy receiving your email! Just remember not to send me my own update back. Text emails are fine to send me, but anything with pictures is expensive for me to receive.

Thank you!

-Ken Williams Kenw @ seanet.com
Sans Souci www.kensblog.com

PS If you would like to sign up a friend for my blog, go to http://www.kensblog.com and click on the link on the home page. You will also see a link in the menu on the left that says “BLOG”. This link will take you to all my old updates, in case you missed one.


You mentioned a distress call. I wanted to drop a short email to let you know, my uncle lost a 104 Ft. in 1986 answering a distress call. Pirates.


+++ I am 99% certain the call I heard (See Update #13) was someone up to no good. It sounded wrong in several ways. I’m glad we were a long distance from where it originated. This all raises the bigger question of what I would do if I overheard a ship sending out a distress signal. Under maritime law, as I understand it, ships are required to offer assistance to other ships in distress. Unfortunately, pirates have used this to lure in victims. Should I ever hear a distress call, while off the shore of some third world country, I’ll have to form an opinion on whether the call is legitimate or not. Worse yet, if I am ever in need of assistance, I don’t want some other boat ignoring my calls out of fear that I might be a pirate.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity, through your blog, to address the questions and concerns of those who want to know why we have decided to sell our Nordhavn 64 “Samurai”.

The most frequently asked question is, “Why are you selling the boat less than a year after taking delivery?” The long and short of it, is that we have been cruising and living onboard boats for eight years. First on our Cherubini schooner “Amazing Grace” and now onboard “Samurai” logging over 36,000 miles. From the time we signed the contract with Nordhavn to build one of the first spec 64’s until our delivery date in May of 2007, it has been 2 years. So we are really in our third year of this adventure. In those 3 years, many things have changed. Mostly we realized that being away from family for so long was becoming more difficult for us and that we haven’t had a house in the United States for nearly 11 years. We’ve been “living the dream” for a very long time and feel it’s time to try to stop being global nomads for a while.

Other questions center around whether we’re disillusioned with Nordhavn or the 64 and if that’s the reason why we’re selling. The answer to those questions is an emphatic “NO”. Nordhavn has been completely professional and has gone above and beyond from day one until now while we’re sitting in Mexico. Our commissioning and warranty issues have been dealt with the emphasis on getting it done right the first time and getting us on our way as quickly and as safely as possible. The 64 has performed extremely well for us and has been a joy to live aboard. If our land based lifestyle does not work out, we will definitely purchase another Nordhavn. We already contemplate great boat names for the 76 or 86.

Thanks again, Ken. If anyone has any other questions or concerns and would like to contact us directly, please email us at trawlertrash6404@aol.com Rich and Ann Rinaldi “Samurai” currently docked in Barra de Navidad Mexico

+++ Thank you Rich and Ann.

Ken, great blog. I follow all updates.

You have talked about not having the right kind of boat to going ashore in Mexico. Is it that you want to light weight boat that can be maneuvered in the surf where a 1500lb boat is too heavy to move around on the beach? We have a 400lb boat with an outboard and I would think that it should work OK as we can get out and turn it around, etc. basically, what are the criteria for the shore boat?

Thanks again for your great insights. Keep up the work while cruising so we have something to read while we work.

Pete P San Francisco

+++ I’m the wrong guy to ask this question, as I seem to be the only boat in Mexico without an appropriate tender for getting to the beach. I asked David Sidbury, the owner of the second Nordhavn 68 what he bought, and received this response: “… an AB 11 alumina that is a 239 pounds with 20 hp yamaha 4 stroke motor and big wheel barrow type pneumatic flip up wheels….” I don’t know if a solid-sided tender, or an inflatable is better – but, I definitely think you want something with wheels.

Hi Ken- Yeah, I did get 2 copies of the update – no big deal – enjoyable. Sorry you didn’t have that great a time in Manzanillo. We’ve found much in that area to be variable over time – particularly Las Hadas.
We’ve probably been there 6-8 times – each different. I also got 2 copies of the Oops note – just FYI.

+++ I will be sending this update in a few minutes, and sincerely hope that it only sends ONCE. My apologies…

You expressed concern that your updates were becoming boring. I wanted to take a moment to reassure you that my wife and I both very much enjoy reading about your adventures. And, from the looks of the correspondence you include with your updates, many others do as well.

If, however, you ever find yourself in need of topics, as a toy-loving boater myself (and thus very interested in your boat systems) I would thoroughly enjoy reading about your experiences learning how to use your sonar. I’ve read Steve Dashew’s articles and, at least in theory, think that SONAR would be a fantastic tool in poorly charted areas. I’ve read your posts in the past where you stated that the learning curve is steep, but it would seem to me that the several shallow channels you’ve encountered lately would have a been a great opportunity to practice with the sonar.

On a side note – I saw that you referenced your night vision system in the last update. Are you now satisfied with it or do you continue to view it as disappointing?

+++ I researched the Dashew’s articles, and agree they are quite useful. For those who haven’t read them, here’s a link

Using Sonar for Navigation – Part 1 by Steve Dashew (1M)

Using Sonar for Navigation – Part 2 by Steve Dashew (1M)

I also found this booklet by Furuno of Sonar Tips helpful:


As to night vision – I am still disappointed with the unit I purchased, but growing to appreciate it more. On the run south we dedicated a monitor to it and ran it non-stop. If a panga had been out fishing we are likely to have seen it, whereas with night vision binoculars, we almost certainly would not be looking through them at all times.

Hi Ken,
Thanks again for the e-mail today. Your blog and the photos continue to entertain and are most informative.

I know you enjoy the sunshine and warm weather, soak up all you can. Your upcoming trip to Alaska will be not quite as warm. You can only hope for a repeat of the summer of 2004 when SE AK enjoyed a 3 week period of temps in the 80s and 90s. This was very unusual to say the least. One can only hope for a repeat.

Weather today in Greater Kirkland (including Mercer Island): 52 degrees, overcast, no wind. Not bad for February.

Greetings to your crew from one of your “little Sisters”,
Chuck & Antje Conway Arctic Tern N3505

+++ Thank you! It seems impossible that we’ll be in Alaska in just four months!

+++ [Note from Ken] In my last blog update (#13) I had a picture from my nav software showing a bunch of strange marks labeled “Base Station”. Here’s an email that explains what they are….

Ken, These are shore stations that are used for calibrations of the AIS system as well as your vessel. You can cross check one or more of the stations against a paper chart for accuracy of your AIS system.

Some of these “Base Stations” are part of the DSC rescue system. When you push the red button on your VHF the “May Day” signal would go to these stations as well as other vessels in the area. Some, mostly those with 000 as the last three digits, are probably IMARSAT satellite stations. You can bring the data stream up that will identify the Base Station as to Lat/Lon, name etc… As you know the first three digits of a vessel MMSI number relate to the country where number was issued. 338, 366, 367, 368 & 369 are USA numbers. A full list is available from The International Telecommunications Union. We keep a list onboard so we can say, “Oh! 345, that’s a Mexican vessel”, by looking at the AIS MMSI number and looking up the first three digits in the list. BTW, I like to have internet service too. Some people like semaphore and some don’t like to communicate at all. Hope this is of some help, Bob M/V Messin’Around

+++ Thank you! I’ve always wondered what these were….

Hi Ken, I am a retired financial consultant in Atlanta but I am still waiting on my wife to retire and my last kid to graduate high school and head off to college so we can cast off and join the Nordhavn party. In the mean time I am making do on a 100′ foot custom houseboat on Lake Lanier. The problem, of course, is I am stuck on a lake with nowhere to go. If you ever need a hand on a passage let me know. I can cook and know a nautical term or two from my years of land locked boating. Billy D +++ Thank you! I hope you achieve your goal of owning a Nordhavn someday!

Please don’t think I’m being nosey but when you described your main engine transmission heat issue, my mind went to work. I have many years of experience with hydraulic systems and thought of a few questions: Is your hydraulic pump PTO before the transmission, on the transmission itself, or after the transmission? If it’s before, there may be another reason for the extra heat. One of which may have been the sea conditions, wind, current etc. Having two pumps is great in case of a pump failure but usually a failure like that would mean the possibilty of debris (metal shavings) in the system and the second pump would soon go the way of the first, if not simultaneously. Keeping the second pump offline as a backup would probably mean its demise as well when brought into servive due to the debris already in the system. But at least you’d have more time to make it to port safely before the failure of the second pump. Just a thought.

Smooth Sailing to You,
My Friend,
Ray M 

+++I do have two hydraulic pumps, on two different engines. I am fairly certain, but not positive, that the pumps are AFTER the transmissions. If one pump failed, I might have to kill the engine that it is attached to, but in most failures, I should still be able to use the other pump (I hope!). You’ve raised a good point about the pumps, and how to take them offline. I should learn more about them… For now, the total of my knowledge is knowing which button to press to turn them on or off. < ” target=”_blank”>http://www.panga.com/index.html >

They look to have the “rocker” of a real panga. Heavy fiberglass to beach on. But, the 14LX may be too heavy for your purposes.

+++ When I get ready to buy a new tender I will certainly evaluate these. Pangas are everywhere in Mexico, and seem virtually indestructible.

Ken, I’ve been reading your updates and blog for the last year and have enjoyed them both immensely. I also found your description of the cruising nets to be eye opening! I was reading through the document you put together on long range cruising in a twin engine boat and was surprised to find the windmill effect of the unused prop to be so difficult to mitigate. Now, I’m a sailor as well as a power boater (or is the PC term ‘cruiser’?) so I may be completely off the deep end, but the thing that immediately occurred to me is: do they make feather-able props for such large boats? Such a prop, used exclusively for such lengthy passages, would seem to take care of the problem. It would, however, be a pain to put on/take off. I’m sure there is a very good reason why they aren’t used, but can’t really think of it. Take care and enjoy for us as we slog through another Seattle winter, Sam M

+++ I don’t know, but assume that feathering props in large sizes are not possible. In any event, I believe them to be less efficient than a fixed prop. As an emergency get home device they make sense, and the loss of efficiency is fine – but, as a normal prop, I don’t think feathering props are practical.

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