Update #2 – Sans Souci

Greetings from Sans Souci!

We are currently just south of San Francisco (lat/long: 37 25.921N 122 33.163W) running at 8.7 knots.

Run so far: 412nm Distance to go: Approx 800?

The distance above is inaccurate because I’m feeling seasick, and can’t find the energy to do much of anything. As I type this I’m remembering an incident from almost exactly ten years ago. I was taking delivery of Roberta’s and my first Nordhavn, also named Sans Souci. I was still working at the time, and couldn’t run the boat north to Seattle myself. I wanted to do at least a portion of the run, but couldn’t open a week in my schedule. Nordhavn was a much smaller company in those days, and Dan Streech, their President, agreed to run the boat north himself. Dan brought along his son Trevor. I think Justin Zumwalt, who was project manager on our new boat, and would have been a young dock hand at the time, was also along for the ride. I agreed to meet Dan in Coos Bay Oregon for the last two days of the run.

My dad had been talking to me daily about our new 62, and was as excited about it as I was. He also flew into Coos Bay to make the run. Dan and crew arrived in Coos Bay a few hours before my dad and I. After exchanging greetings, my dad and I said “let’s go!” All my dad and I could think about was getting rolling. Dan on the other hand said that he had been fighting rough conditions all the way up the coast, and that we needed to wait a day or two for the storms to subside.

Try explaining to a kid who wants his Christmas presents, on Christmas morning, that Christmas is delayed a day this year. It doesn’t work. I’d like to think I’d make a different decision if it were today, but on that day 10 years ago, I asked Dan “Is it safe to go?” Dan said “Absolutely.” He then said “You will give up long before the boat. These are tough conditions, but not unsafe conditions. We certainly can go, but I’d like your first experience on your new boat to be a positive one and if we go out there now we are going to get beat up.”

The only part of that sentence I really heard was “We certainly can go.” That was mistake number one.

Running to the boat, overnight bag in hand, I made my second mistake. We hadn’t had time to eat, and there was a stand selling French fries. I bought plenty for everyone.

By now, you can guess where this story is going. Mistake number three was the vegetarian lasagna we microwaved as we were leaving port. I have no precise memory as to what the seas were, but I can say with 100% accuracy that in the 10,000+ miles I’ve run since that date, I’ve not encountered seas anywhere near as bad. We would ride up a wave, only to accelerate down the back, burying the nose of the boat The entire boat would shudder like it was going to fall apart then the nose would free up we’d start climbing the next wave.

I will spare you the details, but it wasn’t pretty. Within an hour of departure, the entire crew was violently ill, and stayed that way. The Technicolor lasagna was not a good idea. After 24 hours of hell, the boating gods decided we had been punished enough, and rewarded us with 24 hours of the flattest water I’ve ever seen.

It is now ten years later, and the boating gods still appear to be in a good mood. The weather outlook is as good as it can be. That said, it is not a fun ride. The truth be told, this is the kind of run where if I didn’t have a reason for being here, I’d have been thrilled to leave the run to a delivery crew. Within a few weeks of this boat arriving in Seattle, it ships right back to San Diego (Dana Point). As quickly as the boat returns to San Diego we leave the US, and continue all the way to Costa Rica before returning to the US. Given that this is a new boat, I wanted to put it under some serious stress, so that if something is going to break, I can get it fixed before leaving the country. I’d rather be dealing with repairs at Nordhavn’s docks in Dana Point than in Guatemala.

Even with good weather, the run north along the west coast is “challenging”. We have had 10-25 knots of wind on the nose consistently since leaving the dock. It’s a relentless pounding that never lets up. It has only been a wild ride for perhaps 12 hours over the entire two days we’ve been running, but it never been what I’d call comfortable. Even now, I’m not really seasick as much as I’m lethargic and queezy. I’ll try to shoot some pictures tomorrow. That said, I’m not sure I’ll find many pictures worth taking. Unlike the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally where there were plenty of other boats around us, we’ve been alone most of the time. During Roberta’s and my shift earlier today we never saw another boat. As I type this, we are seeing a lot of freighters (I’ve been calling them ‘bogeys’ or ‘enemy targets’). We just arrived at the entrance to the San Francisco bay and are weaving our way through an endless stream of freighters. Without AIS (the system that tells us about other ships, and tells us about them), this would be very scary.

Before I leave the discussion of traveling up the west coast, I should relay a story told by Scott Strickland, a Nordhavn 47 owner. Scott said that he overheard some other Nordhavn owners talking about how tough it is to make this run. He said that when people do that, you should ask them “what did you break?” If the answer is “Nothing,” then they had an easy trip. He said that on his trip north he broke an engine mount, a dish washer popped out of the wall, and more (or, so I remember his saying). Scott says that his experience is not unique. This coast is famous for being hard on boats, and harder on crews.

I was too sick yesterday to say much about the commissioning effort, the crew OR the boat.
I cannot say enough nice things about all of the people who worked on my boat. We were in and out of commissioning in 10 weeks. Given that this is the first of a new model, and that Nordhavn’s commissioning team was already overloaded when my boat arrived, and that my boat has virtually every possible option, this is impressive. Nordhavn is on a roll. The commissioning crew mentioned that they had been on mandatory overtime for months. Yet, many of them offered their home and cell phones so that I could call with questions or problems. A couple of them offered to come in on their own time to help train me on the systems. I hesitate to name names, because I’ll forget someone and feel bad later. That said, I have to mention Justin, Joe, James and the guy whose name I’ve forgotten who spent an entire morning training me on the oil change system. Everyone in senior management at Nordhavn gave me their cell phone numbers, and encouraged me to call anytime 24 hours a day if they could answer a question.

Given my respect for the west coast waters, I “overkilled” it on crew. Whereas I technically am the captain, our crew is led by a 1600 ton licensed captain, Jeff Sanson, who is far senior to myself. We have a total of six persons on board; Roberta, myself, Jeff and three other crew. Everyone on board has logged thousands of miles of sea time. Our dinner the night prior to departure was a highlight of the trip. We went through safety procedures, what still needed to be secured prior to departure, medical backgrounds (all healthy), evacuation procedures, ditch bag contents and more. To add a serious tone to our discussion one crew member discussed his experience swimming for 17 hours after being hit by a rogue wave and watching his boat sink in under three minutes.

As to the boat: What can I say? It is a Nordhavn. We’re now off Pt. Reyes and getting slammed by 21 knots of wind on our forward port beam. We’re taking so much water over the bow that the windshield wipers are running non-stop. Inside the boat Roberta and I are driving, and downstairs everyone is watching the Mariners game (we’re losing….). Jeff mentioned that he had taken this boat in 100 footers and that this was the smoothest ride he’d seen. The boat is taking a fair amount of abuse. We’ve tied everything down, but things still find a way to come flying when we slam into the seas.

I’ll talk in detail about how great this boat is in the days to come. Now that I have more experience with the boat I am starting to see things I would have done differently. Seas permitting, I’ll discuss those tomorrow.

I would like to thank everyone who has sent me varying notes of congratulations on our departures, and the dozens of people who have sent questions. To be honest, I haven’t opened all of the emails. I’ll do that tomorrow, and respond to the questions as part of tomorrow’s update.

-Ken Williams
Nordhavn68.com Sans Souci

PS As I type this, it is Sunday morning. I didn’t have an internet connection last night, so I couldn’t send my update. I’m feeling much better, but overall it was a very rough night. We’ve been hugging the beach in 25 knot sustained winds. A sailboat 20 miles out from us sunk last night, with the captain in a life raft (two tugs are on their way for rescue). We keep telling ourselves that in another 20 miles things will calm down, and I’m sure we’ll be right sooner or later.

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