Update # 25 – Last Update From Costa Rica

[Golfito, Costa Rica, 8 37.271N, 83 09.123W]

Greetings all!

Our friends, John and Gloria Buchan, joined us at Los Suenos for the final week of our trip. John is a life-time boater, both power and sail, and he and Gloria have crossed the Pacific (Transpacs to Hawaii) twice in their own sailboat. John spent this last summer in Europe racing his TP 52 sailboat (http://www.buchanracing.com).

Our original plan had been to end our adventure at Los Suenos, and let a delivery crew take the boat 200 miles south to Golfito, where it would load on a freighter for delivery to Victoria, Canada. However, the surge in the marina at Los Suenos was bothering us. We didn’t like the idea of leaving the boat unattended in a slip where the dock lines needed constant adjustment. Luckily John and Gloria are flexible, and love boating. They agreed immediately to a change in plans.

The run from Los Suenos to Golfito is only 200 miles. We had two options; take our time and anchor along the way, or just do it in one overnight run. After a group discussion, we decided to take our time and anchor along the way.

Our first run was a short 40 miles south, where we dropped anchor in a bay, that we had all to ourselves, at Manuel Antonio state park.

When we went to sleep on Friday night, the plan was to sleep late on Saturday, and spend all day Saturday swimming, diving and hiking. On Saturday morning (8am) , as we were sitting on the boat watching the waves break on shore, and thinking about what it would mean to “swim in” and then try to hike in wet swim suits, the conversation shifted to “Maybe we should just get going.”

Actually, I’ll digress for a moment to talk about something that I was thinking about last night. My friend John is someone who knows boats better than I ever will, and who has had a wide range of both power and sail boats. I had been looking forward to showing him our boat, and cruising with him and Gloria. What caught me by surprise is how both John and I share a love for boating, but come at it from such different perspectives. I tend to think of our boat as a portable home. We’ve tried to create something that gives us all the comforts of being at home, but which can be teleported to exotic places. I once said, while defending what we spend on boating: “What would it cost for a water front home in Tahiti, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, France, Spain, and more? Our boat takes us anywhere we want to go, in extreme comfort. It also allows us to explore when we get there.” I think John looks at boating differently. We both agree that boats can move you from point A to point B, but whereas for John the excitement happens between points A and B, I tend to focus on what happens when you get to point B. I tend to think of boating as swimming, diving, barbecuing, exploring, and living, in exotic places. There’s something that is “different” about arriving at a place on your own boat, and staying a while, versus flying in, taxi-ing to a hotel and hanging out by the pool. It’s a minor, but we think important, distinction. I do believe my friend John does appreciate all of these things, but I also believe that when he thinks about boats, his real passion is for the subtle nuances that I don’t, or can’t, appreciate. For instance, John talks a lot about speed. As we were turning the pages together of a yachting magazine, John pointed at a 100+ foot boat, and said “See that Ken, that boat can do 25 knots.” I responded: “John. I’m fairly certain that if that boat and our boat left Seattle traveling together, headed for the Panama Canal, we would arrive first.” Actually, I have no idea if that is true or not, but my experience has been that Nordhavn’s may not always be the fastest, but we do tend to get there first. We usually have longer range, and have fewer trip interruptions due to weather or mechanical issues. I’m not saying that my approach to boating, or John’s approach to boating, is “best”. If I have a point (which is sometime doubtful), it would be that I found it interesting that two people can dedicate such a large portion of their lives to boating, yet see it so differently.

Our next anchorage was “Bahia Drake”, another 50 miles south. If we were going to get going, we had to get going right then and there. Thus, while Roberta was still getting ready for the day, John and I started prepping the boat to go. When I started the engines, Roberta called me in the pilot house, to ask “Did you just start the engines?” She quickly agreed that it was time to move on. Not only was there the issue of swimming to the beach, but there were clouds on the horizon (literally). There’s a boating saying: “You got to go when the going is good.” In other words, if you have flat seas, and calm weather, it’s a good time to move. None of us wanted to be in a position where we’d be faced with running in tough conditions, or missing a flight.

As you move south in Costa Rica, the landscape gets greener. We are in rain forest country, with an emphasis on rain. There’s also an emphasis on lightning. From Manuel Antonio we could see the lightning to the south east, our next destination. Drake, our next anchorage is near Cano Island, which is famous, and considered by some sacred, for receiving more lightning strikes each year than any other point in Central America.

I confess to having an irrational fear of lightning. Or, perhaps it’s not irrational, depending on who you ask. When lightning strikes a boat, nothing may happen, or you may lose all electronics, or, you may blow a hole in the bottom of the boat. Anything can happen. Allegedly, my motors will keep plugging away if we lose all power, but I’d be willing to bet that they wouldn’t. In fact, I am unshakably convinced that if we took a lightning strike bad enough to fry electronics, the engines would be dead, and we’d be stuck floating. Our prior boat, a Nordhavn 62, had a “mechanical diesel engine” which really only needed fuel to be happy. But, emissions regulations are now such that newer engines are computer controlled. I asked if I could have an old engine instead of a new fancy engine, and was told that it is now impossible. I asked a representative of the engine manufacturer if my motors would still run if lightning fried the computers, and whereas his lips were saying “it’s very likely”, his eyes were saying “No way in heck.” Of course, just frying the electronics is amongst the best you can hope for. The reality can be much worse. During construction I did ask for every anti-lightning safe guard I could, but ultimately, these are probably placebos. If lightning strikes, and you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, you are going to have a bad day. Statistics would indicate that your chances of being hit by lightning are right up there with winning the lottery, and I can say with great confidence that I will never win a lottery. Nor can I say that I know anyone who has won a major lottery. However, I know PLENTY of people who have lightning stories. Personally, my philosophy on lightning is a little like my philosophy on hurricanes: avoid areas where lightning strikes. Whereas hurricanes are nearly 100% avoidable, lightning is tougher to avoid, but I do what I can. In this particular case, it meant traveling during the day, and moving fast through the area.

John fished on our way south, and as always Sans Souci proved herself a perfect fishing platform.

We arrived at Drake at around 2pm. I had really just thought of it as a stop-over, but it turned out to be a great anchorage! The bay is huge, and although I had heard there can be swell, we found it quite calm. Thirty minutes after dropping anchor we had the tender in the water and were off exploring.

As we were heading to shore, we noticed a panga coming out of a river to our right. This looked interesting, so in we went. Once inside we discovered a resort with a dinghy dock. This was too good to be true!

We had arrived at an “Eco Lodge” of which there are many in Costa Rica. It was a very cool looking place, although we noted that the rooms didn’t appear to have air conditioning. I don’t know that I’d want to be quite that “rustic.” After stopping for at the bar for “refreshments”, we decided it was time for a jungle hike.

Our next day’s journey would be Sans Souci’s last on this trip. We would be running 85 miles south to Golfto. I had never been to Golfito before but had heard rumors of shallow water and currents. Thus, I wanted to arrive at high slack. By this I mean that I wanted a high tide, for maximum depth, and to arrive before the tide would turn, while the water was slack. Looking at the tide chart, this would occur at 11am. Question: How does one run 85 nautical miles and arrive at 11am. Answer: You wake up very early….

Although we could see lightning around us in every direction, Roberta and I woke at 3am to start the run south. We had the anchor up and the boat moving by 3:30am. Daylight, and clear skies arrived by 5:30am. By the time our guests woke up, we were running in calm seas, and having a great time! The weather gods had decided to reward our journey with a smooth last leg! We even had a bit of a current pushing us. I ran at low (1175) rpm and still averaged 10.5 knots. For a while I was seeing over 11 knots. Even the dolphins stopped by to guide us south.

[Note: don’t look too closely at the picture above or you’ll see some mud on my anchor. That’s what happens when you pull anchor at 3am while half asleep. This is my first boat with anchor wash, and I strongly recommend it. However, in this case, it missed a spot.]

Looking at the charts, I had expected a tricky, and narrow, entrance to Golfito. In actuality, it was nice and wide, and relatively well marked. You need to pay attention when entering, but it was easy, and our marina, the “Fish Hook” was a pleasant surprise.

Before entering our marina, we passed by the Banana Bay marina where another Nordhavn was sitting – the GREY PEARL! In 2004, the Grey Pearl and Sans Souci (our Nordhavn 62) crossed the Atlantic together. Soon we’ll both be heading to Alaska, and the Pearl will be on the same freighter north, from Costa Rica, as Sans Souci.

As we were backing into the Fish Hook marina, my lines were caught by another set of Nordhavn owners: the crew of Paloma, a Nordhavn 43; Patrick, Susan and Jonathon.

Note the sign for the Restaurant at the Fish Hook (Lucy’s): They describe themselves as a “Retired Surfers Bar and Restaurant”. How can you not like a place that like that?

I should say a bit about the Golfito area, and how unusual it is. Golfito is located at the back of an enormous bay (50+ miles deep). The bay is called Gulfo Dulce (the sweet gulf). The name was certainly justified in that we had dead calm seas throughout the Gulfo Dulce. Golfito itself, is a smaller bay (perhaps 5-10 miles long) which pokes off from the Golfo Dulce. In other words, imagine a nice calm bay, within a larger calm bay, and you get the idea.

After our stay at Los Suenos, and its surge, we prepared for tying at the dock by putting six fenders on each side of the boat, and four across the back. We tied the boat with six lines, including criss-crossed spring lines and stern lines. We were ready for war! Later, we realized this was silly. Golfito is a safe, calm, secure moorage. It’s a perfect place to leave a boat. The marina staff are terrific, helpful, and good people. Both Fish Hook Marina, and Banana Bay Marina are highly recommended. I should also mention that all of Costa Rica is a hurricane hole. Hurricanes do not hit Costa Rica (at least not on the Pacific side).

Although Fish Hook and Banana Bay are great marinas, I’m using the word loosely. They are small marinas, holding only about 20 boats each. Here you see Sans Souci sitting at the end of the dock at Fish Hook.

When I asked at the marina office about site seeing, one of the office-workers, Collin, offered to take us around and give us the town history. As it turned out, Collin was the sales manager for a new condo and 217 slip marina project at Golfito. This was fine in that he wasn’t at all pushy, and was quite passionate about Golfito and the upcoming marina. He said they would be selling the slips, and have slips up to 120’. I asked what a slip would cost and he said “$350,00 for a 60 foot slip”. The condos would range up to a million dollars. We visited the site of the marina, which is making progress, but looks several years from completion.

Although I generally avoid talking about local history, the Golfito history seemed so wrapped up in the town’s personality that I’ll pass it along. As described by Collin (I heard slight variations on the story from others), Golfito was at one time the hub of the banana trade in Costa Rica. Golfito was essentially a “company town” for a company called “United Fruit Company.” The center of the bay in Golfito holds an enormous dock; meant for the freighters that used to load bananas for export all over the world. Essentially everyone in Golfito worked for United Fruit, who provided their housing, medical care, and even milk.

In 1985, for market, labor, or political reasons (depending on who you ask), United Fruit abandoned Golfito. The homes were sold to the people at essentially no cost, but they had no jobs. Since that time, Golfito has been trying to re-establish itself, and provide jobs for its 3,000 or so inhabitants. We saw Palm Oil production, teak farms, pineapples, rice, etc. Costa Rica even put a huge duty free shopping center in the heart of Golfito, hoping to lure people to the area and create jobs. We also saw signs that they want tourism to be part of their future, but many people said “We don’t want this town to ever become a big touristy town like Jaco or San Jose. We still leave our doors unlocked, and everyone knows everyone. This is a nice little town, and we want it to stay that way.”


As part of our explorations, we took a taxi a couple hours away to a small surfer town, Pavones. We were told that the waves were such that you could “ride a wave for a mile”. It was a very cool little town, and we enjoyed the day. I even noticed a sailboat anchored out, and was depressed that it wasn’t us.

On our last day, I contacted the port captain to see if there was anything I should do to ensure that the delivery crew would have no trouble taking the boat out of the country. He said “I’ll come get you. This is going to be a major project.” Normally, Port Captains fancy themselves as Kings of their territory. I was shocked to have one offer to pick me up at my boat. He said it was lucky I had called him. Had the delivery skipper shown up to take the boat out of the country without my having done all the proper paperwork, customs could seize the boat. This meant going to an attorney for a power of attorney, which turned out to be a longer process than expected. We then called a couple of customs agents who agreed to come in after hours and process the paperwork.

I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, so I will not comment on which country or port this applies to (although the answer is “more than one”), but I would recommend that anyone dealing with officials in foreign countries do the following:

1) Have plenty of boat-logo t-shirts available. These make great gifts for port captains, customs agents, marina staff, etc.
2) Carry plenty of cash. American bills work well.
3) Be polite and friendly. This is off the subject, but relevant. I asked one port captain to describe the boaters he dealt with. He divided the world into: Sport Fishers, power boaters, and sail boaters. He said his favorite were the power boaters. They were polite and “generous.” The worst were the sail boaters. He then said, “I’ll take that back. 2% of the sail boaters are really nice people, but some are grumpy and most are cheap.” He went on to say that he had just had a sail boater yell at him for his borderline English. The sail boater said “If you people are going to work with Americans, can’t you at least learn the language?” The port captain smiled and said “I am sorry sir, but because we are having language difficulties, our talk has ended. You must hire a local attorney and a translator before we can continue.” The sail boater was out over $1,000 before he received his clearance. I do not mean anything derogatory to sail boaters or port captains. My only point is that in third world countries SOME port captains, and customs officials, will expect gifts. We had a customs agent that sent me back to the boat when I showed up without a proper t-shirt. It’s tough for me to know what is appropriate, or legal. Most are happy with nothing more than a smile and a thank you. I had one that wanted an envelope with $40 in it. If in doubt, go with the smile and hope it works. If it isn’t enough, they have ways of letting you know….
4) Learn at least a few words of the local language. I speak very little Spanish, but the little I speak helped immensely. Most of the forms I had to fill out were in Spanish, and most of the officials speak little or no English. Being able to communicate at least somewhat make a BIG difference.

And, that was that. Our trip had ended. It was sad to leave Sans Souci sitting at the dock, and even sadder as we were flying away, over the Golfo Dulce and I looked down at the flat water, and realized how many great anchorages we had missed.

But, my story doesn’t end there.

I get questions virtually every day from people who are building their boat, and want to know what we did right or wrong on our boat. This was Sans Souci’s first major trip, and I’d have to say that it performed amazingly well. We finished the trip with some maintenance items, but they are essentially the same items we left Seattle with 5,000 miles ago. Our boat exceeded all expectations.

Following are a few random thoughts on the boat, and things I might or might not do again:

· I have mentioned a couple times that we went to a Rocna anchor. We still haven’t really had an anchoring situation where we have put the anchor through its paces. We’ve had a few nights at anchor in 20+ knot winds, but no serious blows. So, I can’t comment on its holding power, beyond saying that it held us reliably under all conditions with only perhaps one instance, where it MAY have dragged 50 feet or so. Importantly though, it set EVERY time on the FIRST try, and I’ve never had an anchor do this. I am confident that if it ever did drag that it would be highly likely to reset itself instantly.

· We blew it ordering tenders. Our larger tender, the 15’ AB tender, exceeded expectations, but our smaller tender is the wrong tender for the job, and will be sold as soon as I can unload it. We need a 10-12’ lightweight inflatable with wheels, and a hard bottom, appropriate for beaching in any conditions.

· I would do Sans Souci’s electrical system differently. This is a larger boat than we’ve had before, and needs thought about differently. On our N62 we never used the generator. When we sold the boat, after eight years, we had only about 300 hours on each of the generators! The vast majority of our time was spent sitting at anchor, and using the generators for an hour a day to charge the batteries. Underway we had a “cruising alternator” that would charge the batteries. We didn’t like the sound of the generator wrecking the tranquility at anchor, and did all in our power to avoid running a generator. I have been told that on larger boats the right thing to do is to “just start a generator when you leave the dock, and turn it off when you reach port.” I never understood this, and designed our boat with a large (14kw) complex inverter system, and a huge (1500 amp hour, 24 volt) battery bank. We never used either. They are unnecessary weight and complexity. Sans Souci really belongs on a generator at all times. That said, we’ve been cruising in a warm climate where air conditioning is critical at all times. In Alaska I may feel differently. I’ll wait until after Alaska to decide if I want to toss the inverters and batteries overboard.

· Sans Souci is a huge boat. Everyone who tours it says “Ken – there is no way this is only a 68 foot boat.” The captain of a 120 footer said that it felt just as spacious as his boat.

· We overkilled the entertainment systems on Sans Souci, and it was worth it. We have a DVD jukebox (Kaleidescape) that everyone loves. Our goal was to create a boat that felt more like a portable home than a boat. We perhaps overdid this, and it feels more like a floating Ritz Carlton. Our guests have been very happy.

· We put in a diesel furnace for space heating, heating the hot tub, and for water heating. It has been 100% reliable, uses little, if any, electricity, and has been wonderful.

That’s it! My blogs have ended, at least until they start again. Expect that around June 1st to 15th we’ll get going again, this time headed north to Alaska.

Thank you for your participation, and all the great questions. [Note: Make sure you read the Q&A that follows for some interesting emails]. I hope that I haven’t bored you.

Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68 Sans Souci

PS My friend John gave the ultimate compliment to Sans Souci. We were moored next to a beautiful old classic sailboat in Golfito, which was just returning from six years in the South Pacifiic. All of us were impressed by it, but also noted that while we were watching TV in air conditioned comfort, the sailboat’s crew was sitting on deck sweating their tails off trying to read. I can’t imagine how they sleep below deck at night. As we were walking by the ultra-impressive sailboat, on the last day, John looked over and said “Ken. I really got to get into this ‘cruising’ lifestyle. Maybe I’ll think about a Nordhavn someday.”


Your Email Q&A – Write me (Ken Williams) at: kenw @ seanet.com

NOTE: When writing me DO NOT include my update. I often have limited internet bandwidth and have trouble receiving large emails. MY RESPONSES TO YOUR EMAIL ARE PRECEDED BY +++

Hello Ken,
You said: “…I should periodically put some sort of anti-barnacle solution into the sea chest and strainers to kill any growth in them and the hoses…..” Ken, what is an anti-barnacle solution? Do you have a specific product name? Also, I’m crossing the Gulf soon….what is the fartherest you have ever been from shore, unless making a long range trip?

+++ I don’t know the answer to this. Perhaps others can suggest something. We’ve been out of the US, where there are no West Marine stores. My plan is to ask this question as soon as I get home. I did ask a smart boater friend, who recommended using Muratic Acid. This seems strong to me, but he insists it will work fine, and he has been doing it for years. Form your own opinion on this one.

+++ As to how far we’ve run off shore, we once stopped in the center of the Atlantic for a swim! However, you seem to be asking about coastal cruising. Generally, I favor running at least 10 miles off shore, to avoid rocks, crab pots, and other boats. However, several smart boater friends are constantly trying to convince me to run the beach for generally smoother weather, and a shorter ride to shelter should the weather turn. I ran Nicaragua 5 miles off shore, and it felt too close.


No one asked about the incident I reported in Mexico, and what happened, although I did receive an email from someone claiming to have the inside scoop. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost the email, but following is my summary of what it said:

+++ I received an email regarding the Mexico incident I referred to in my last blog update. It was an incident where a power boat (BESAME) was stopped for boarding by a boat claiming to be Mexican Military. Besame stopped, and was approached by a tender full of masked men carrying automatic weapons, who refused to identify themselves. Besame’s Captain decided that the boarding party could be terrorists and drove away, escaping without incident. I wish I could find the email, but the gist of it was that the boarders were in fact Mexican Military, and that it is their policy to board wearing masks. The West Coast of Central America is frequented by drug traffickers who can be quite nasty people (have you seen the film ‘No Country For Old Men’?). The Mexican military likes to conceal their identity rather than risk retaliation against the families of their soldiers. It is easy to forget that these “encounters” can be as stressful, and dangerous, for the military as they are for us. All I can say is “I’m very happy it wasn’t me who was approached for boarding.”


Thank you so much for allowing us to live the cruising life vicariously through your blogs. My wife and I have enjoyed reading them through-out your entire trip and we are looking forward to the Alaska trip as well. My wife and I currently have a 400DB Sea Ray that lives in Portland while we live in Phoenix so we both miss the boat and boating a lot. Your blogs have provided both of us with many hours of enjoyment. The good news is, I think my wife is finally convinced that the Sea Ray needs to transform itself into a trawler. She’s actually talking about possibly participating in another FUBAR if it comes up again…………. I can only hope.
We wish you both fair winds and following seas!

Dave & Joy S

+++ Thank you! See this recent announcement. You may get your chance!

The “FUBAR” Odyssey Is Back … Fall 2009

The San Diego Yacht Club and the Mexico Tourism Board are sponsoring the next rally for power boats to Baja, Mexico. They will be assisted by Del Rey Yacht Club and California Yacht Club in Marina del Rey. The event will be held late 2009.

The boats will gather in San Diego and travel 900 miles to La Paz. This cruise is planned for mid-sized powerboats capable of traveling at least 450 n.m. at eight knots without refueling. FUBAR stands for Fleet Underway to BAJA Rally.

The FUBAR is designed to support powerboats that need refueling while traveling down the Pacific side of Baja, and the FUBAR is arranging fuel. Vessels with larger fuel capacity have no trouble doing this route on their own, but are welcome to join the FUBAR as well.

Escort vessels manned by experienced skippers, mechanics, doctors and other experts will accompany the FUBAR. Boat manufacturers and makers of major marine engines, electronics and other related equipment will lend their expertise. Safe routes will be prearranged, and a weather-routing service will oversee the cruise.

Stops along the route include Ensenada for fuel at optimum prices and clearing into Mexico. Turtle Bay is another fueling stop with stops at Santa Maria Cove, Mag Bay, Puerto los Cabos, Muertos Bay and La Paz, the final destination. The number of participants will be limited.

Participants will have the opportunity for fishing or whale-watching. Some may opt to depart at Cabo San Lucas for Puerto Vallarta and the Mexican mainland, while others will want to continue with FUBAR up into the Sea of Cortez as far as La Paz before branching off on their own.

Applications and signups will be first quarter of 2009. Sponsor inquiries are welcome. Check for updates on the website at www.sycy.org/fubar.


Hi Ken, A quicker ( not as thorough, but much easier) way to unclog your hoses is to run a coiled snake from the strainer (unscrew the top) back to the thru hull. The point of worst restriction seems to be the elbow screwed into the strainer. You’ll know you got it with the increased water flow. I have not had any clogging from the strainer to the sea chest. Be careful with biocides, etc if your water maker pulls from the sea chest. The snake you can buy at any plumbing store. I cut it down to about two feet long and chuck it in my cordless drill motor. Also check the business end to make sure it’s smooth enough to not tear the hose up.

Jacob M
Nordhavn 55 owner

+++ I thought about using a snake, but have been in places where it’s a LONG drive to the nearest Home Depot. I do plan on buying one and putting it on the boat. My thought was to see if I could find one that I could insert from the outside, through the thru-hull, although I’m not sure how I could do that logistically.


Ken, We met on Fubar…we were on the light green Northwest 45, “Nor’wester”. Are you planning on stopping in Anacortes for Trawlerfest on your way north? Jan and I will be departing on Nor’wester for points north some time after Trawlerfest ends. If you are going to be here, stop by and say Hi.


Peter Whiting, CPYB
American Expedition Yachts Northwest Trawlers
Cap Sante Marina
Anacortes, WA 98221
(360) 317-7456 (cell) 

+++ Our current schedule is such that we should be there! I doubt our boat will be back from Costa Rica yet, but we’ll take at least one day to see the show. I look forward to seeing you again!


I have had fowling problems on 90 degree elbows from growth and salt. If possible eliminate the 90 degree elbow and use a straight coupling. The flow rate at the inside of the elbow is low compared to the rest of the fitting and things readily collect there and start growing outward.
Marv S

++++ Yes – I should eliminate the 90 degree elbow. I’ll see if it is possible. One other thing I need to fix: A mechanic who was “helping” me in Costa Rica snapped off the handle on a couple of my thru-hulls. I need to replace them. It wasn’t the mechanics fault. I haven’t been good about “exercising” the thru-hulls and they welded themselves shut. Ouch.


Hi Ken,

surge at a marina. I have a bit of experience here, we dealt with a major surge at Ocean World in the DR two times.
A) we upgraded to 1 1/8 Double Braid spring lines – keep them long, tighten the 2nd one with the engine. (our normal lines are 7/8″ double braid), If you have to use lighter diameter lines, you will need to double each of them. B) Chafe gear – needed for where the line cuts the dock and around the cleat if not perfectly smooth. http://ropeinc.com/c. – This stuff is balistic nylon and Velcro’s over a line. We have about a dozen of these each about 36″ long.
C) T docks are not as good as one that permits you to tie the boat off from the opposite side. This is easier on the fenders.
D) we use Blow Up fenders from Prostock, http://www.prostockmarine.com/products.html These are used on Mega Yachts – much stronger then Haypolin. We have (4) 18″ x 48″, (4) 18″ x 60″, and (1) 18″ x 120″ for the stern or special situations. [we also carry blow up fenders from Avon – a carry over from the last boat (7) 12″ x 34″. Prostock fenders can take more pounding and abrasion then any other fender I have ever used. The added advantage is that take hardly any space when stow them, done with the same pump in reverse.

Nordhavn 64 owner

+++ Thank you Richard. My boat came with three quarter inch line, and it is too small. I ordered the 1 and 1/8 inch line as you suggested, from Rope Inc. I also ordered some replacement fenders from Prostock, and their anti-chafing gear.


Hi Ken, I have enjoyed receiving your updates very much, sounds like you had a great time. I do agree that groundings do unfortunately happen, if you travel far enough you will encounter the bottom on occasions. While we all hope when this happens it will be a soft grounding, it seems reading your comment and mention of rock, u encounted the unwanted form of grounding. Did you dive the hull and inspect for any damage or gouging, hopefully it is not too serious. I guess you will have it hauled when you get back to Seattle to do a proper inspection and carry out any repairs before the trip to Alaska. I would definitely like to hear your story on the “Vultures” sometime. Looking forward to more blogs, safe cruising.

+++ Darn. I hoped no one would ever ask about my grounding. Oh well. Now that the cat is out of the bag, here’s the story:

Within a few weeks of taking delivery of our boat, Roberta and I had just successfully navigated a very tight, high current channel, and were congratulating ourselves on making it look easy, when things went wrong. The sun was directly in front of me, and reflecting off our anchor (our prior anchor, a new stainless steel CQR). I was suddenly blinded and couldn’t see out the window or on the Nobletec screen. I asked Roberta to fetch my sunglasses and threw the boat into neutral. Suddenly, I saw a silhouetted buoy in front of me, but couldn’t figure if it was red or green, and couldn’t find it on the chart. Things were happening fast, and the current was moving the boat, even though in neutral. I pointed the boat at the buoy, thinking I’d have time to figure which side to pass it on, a serious error. To make a long story short, I incorrectly determined the color, and passed it at 1 knot, within inches, on the wrong side. The starboard side of the boat was immediately aground. Making things worse we were at high tide. This meant waiting for a new high tide might not solve the problem.

I immediately called the Coast Guard on the VHF radio, and they asked my cell phone number, to call back. Within seconds the phone rang, and it was “Vessel Assist”, which I understood as being the Coast Guard. They asked if I needed assistance, and said they were in the area, and would respond in minutes. This had me feeling better. When I hung up the phone rang again. It was the US Coast Guard calling! I was confused, and they explained that independent contractors monitor channel 16 for calls to the Coast Guard, hoping to make money providing assistance. The Coast Guard asked if we were in danger or if anyone was hurt. I said we were all fine, and I just needed to be pulled off the rock. They said Vessel Assist was my best option, and explained that the US Coast Guards role is to prevent loss of life, not loss of boats. If we weren’t in danger, their job was done. I tried to persuade them to send out a boat, and did my best begging, but they weren’t coming.

An hour later Vessel Assist arrived, with a small 30-footish boat. By this time the tide had dropped, and Sans Souci was starting to lean. Apparently the starboard side was sitting on a ledge and the port side was still floating. Roberta, Shelby and I moved to the small boat. The gentleman on the boat said that in his opinion Sans Souci was going to soon start taking on water, and that it should be pulled off right away. I said “Great, let’s do it.” He then explained that he wasn’t permitted to tug us off the rocks without a signed “Salvage Agreement.” I asked to see the agreement he wanted me to sign, and didn’t like what I saw. I was never given a copy and don’t want to mischaracterize it, but my recollection is that it essentially transferred ownership of the boat over to them. He said it was the standard agreement. He argued that signing the salvage agreements is standard, and that all that would happen is that it would lead to a negotiation between his company and the insurance company, where he would get a piece of the value of the boat, in return for rescuing us. I said I would not sign anything without speaking with my insurance company and he said he wasn’t pulling me off the rocks without a signed agreement. We had a stalemate. Meanwhile, Sans Souci was leaning over farther and farther as the tide fell.

After a half hour of this, he said that he couldn’t pull Sans Souci off with the boat he had anyhow, and needed to go trade for his larger boat. I said he should go get the other boat, and I would continue to try calling my insurance company. Another small boat from Vessel Assist arrived and we transferred to it, while I continued making calls. I knew that there was no way I would be signing a salvage agreement unless Sans Souci was truly taking on water, and I just didn’t think that was going to occur. I consulted with several friends, and tried negotiating a rate with Vessel Assist to have them pull me off the rock. I was more than happy to pay a fair rate, but I was not going to sign a salvage agreement. It was NOT going to happen. We had a magic deadline hanging over our heads. This was all a long time ago, so I’ve forgotten the precise details, but I had gone aground at a fairly mild tide cycle. The upcoming cycle would be for a higher tide (which I liked), followed by a much lower tide, which was a real problem. We went aground around 5pm, and the next high tide wasn’t until 3am. It was our best chance of coming off the rocks. If we missed it, the following morning’s low tide would be a SUPER low tide, and possibly create a dangerous situation.

I started phoning tug boat companies, and they all had the same thing to say. They could not pull private boats off the rocks. Their insurance company wouldn’t let them. I was getting VERY worried. Finally, Jeff Sanson, from Pacific Yacht Management, who does maintenance, and deliveries, on Sans Souci, started making calls, and calling in favors. Jeff did the un-doable, and persuaded a tug company 75 miles away to charge a reasonable fee to tug us off the rock. The bad news was those 75 miles. They would be arriving right at 3am, when we needed to be pulling the boat off the rock. Meanwhile, I was stuck sitting on a Vessel Assist boat, while their other larger tug was being sought. They still wanted me to sign the salvage agreement, and weren’t giving up on their possible big payday. For nearly 10 hours I sat on the Vessel Assist boat, hoping that the tug Jeff found would get there in time. As we reached 3am, Vessel Assist’s larger tug showed up, as did the tug that Jeff ordered. The Vessel Assist team looked very disheartened. Although they upset me with their “Sign this now or your boat will sink” tactics, they were actually very nice people, and just doing their jobs.

I asked Vessel Assist to back off as the other tug attached a HUGE rope at our bow. During the preceding hours, I had gone back aboard Sans Souci several times, and felt it make a major shift while I was crawling around the engine room. My hope was that we would float free on the high tide, and that is somewhat what happened. As the tide came up, the boat returned to an upright position, and the line barely went tight when we drove off the rock.

To Vessel Assist’s credit, they had absolutely no agreement from me to pay them a dime, yet their guy came aboard my boat, to help guide me in the dark to a smooth anchorage he knew of. Along the way we worked out a fair “consulting fee” that included his coming back the next day to dive under the boat to look for damage. On his return the next day he reported that my starboard stabilizer was banged up, but that he could find no other damage. Roberta and I ran the boat another 80 miles or so to Seattle, where the boat was hauled out, and verified that the props had never been touched, and that no water had come in. We had escaped with essentially no damage! Thank goodness for the twin keel on twin engine boats! And, thank goodness for Nordhavn quality!

I don’t like being defensive about this, but should mention that we are not the first boat to have gone aground in that particular location. A larger boat had gone around in exactly the same spot the night before, totally destroying its running gear. Another boat had gone aground the prior week in the same location. One person told me that people buy houses on the nearby hill just to watch the excitement as boats go aground. I hope that isn’t true….

Oh well. If there is a message to this story, it is to read any paperwork you are given before signing, even if things look tough. Signing a salvage agreement, except in the worst of circumstances, is probably a bad idea (my personal opinion).


I had read that at one time you had a 15′ Boston Whaler as a tender. I am thinking about getting a 13′ Boston Whaler Sport to use as my tender when the time comes to get my N55. Other than the inflatable not needing fenders, do you still see any advantage to the RIB or would you go back to a tender like the Boston Whaler? I would be interested to hear your comments since you have had the opportunity to use the RIB and all the problems with getting it to shore etc…

Thanks, Jim E

+++ Boston Whaler will not like my saying this – but, I didn’t like mine at all. Try to get a test drive in one and see what you think. Mine was heavy, and didn’t plane well. It also was at the limit of my davit, and I didn’t like the creaking noises as the tender went up and down. An inflatable can be a pain (they can get leaks or punctures easily), and wear out faster than a Whaler which has hard sides. Having had both, I prefer the inflatable, and most others I have spoken with, who have had both, feel the same way. I like the idea of being WELL below the weight limit on your tender. I have had inconsiderate speed boaters pull water skiers within feet of my boat while lifting the tender, and seen my tender bobbing like a cork. With a tender near the weight limit of the davit, I’m positive I’d have lost the tender, and possibly have had injuries. I’ve also had damage to the side of the boat while lifting or dropping a hard-sided tender. With just two people it is tough to stop a tender from spinning while it is dangling. It’s a tough decision, with no perfect answer. Good luck!



I just wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed your blog and reports. I was supposed to do the run from San Diego with FUBAR with my Mom and Dad (Phyllis and Marty Fliegel) but work got in the way. Then getting to hear about the rest of your trip, was almost like being there (not quite, but close)

Thanks again for taking all the time.

Have a safe journey back and enjoy Alaska.

Bryan F

+++ Thank you!


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