Update #6 – Life is good! (Sans Souci)

Note: This update is a little longer than usual. It is also probably my last update for a bit. I’m not sure how long “a bit” is, but currently, we are sitting still and there isn’t much to talk about. I don’t like garbage email cluttering my mail box, and don’t want to clutter yours.

Greetings all! We are now at Roche Harbor. For those not familiar with Roche, it is a very unusual marina, and a personal favorite. It has set itself up as a world class resort destination. There is a hotel, spa, swimming pool, two restaurants, gift shops, fuel dock, customs dock, etc. In the mornings you are awakened by classical music and each evening there is “Colors”, a flag ceremony which they’ve been doing since I can remember.

Aerial view of the marina and surrounding moorage


At Roche, everything is done with style – even the pump out. This is the “MV Phecal Phreak” the sign says “We take crap from anyone” (and they do!)

In my last update I mentioned that I’d be doing “driving school” to practice entering and exiting my boat slip. We are in a tight slip, which is made tighter by a boat next to me that is poking out well beyond the end of the slip. No one was in the mood yesterday morning to untie the boat and go out, but it had to be done. I wanted to go in and out of our slip a few times with Captain Jeff Sanson giving me tips. I alerted the harbor master: “Roche Harbor Marina, this is Sans Souci, I just wanted to advise you that we’ll be practicing going in and out of our slip. This is a tight slip, and I didn’t want you thinking we were crazy as we practice.” They responded “Roger Sans Souci. We completely understand. Good luck!”

To the disappointment of the crowd of onlookers, I had no problem. This boat is amazingly maneuverable. I brought the boat in (and took it out) twice, and heard no loud expensive crunching noises on either attempt. The theme Jeff hammered me on most was to not rely so much on the thrusters. Our 62 had only a single engine, so I had to use the thrusters for all sideways movement. For those not familiar with thrusters, they are little sideways propellers at the front and the back of the boat, which allow you to rotate, or sidestep the boat, at slow speeds. When you are moving slowly, there isn’t enough water flowing over the rudders to turn the boat. Jeff wanted me to get used to using the twin engines to turn the boat, and then use the thrusters as a last resort. I’m not sure I completely understand why this is important, but it worked well, so I’m happy.

Nordhavn would be very proud of this marina. We have seen two Nordhavn 40s, a 55, and a 62. The 62 (called Island Greeting) was anchored in the bay, and we couldn’t resist boating out to say hi. This morning I ran into Dennis Fox, from the boat Sea Fox, which accompanied us across the Atlantic, wearing his Nordhavn Atlantic Rally t-shirt. Unfortunately, mine has long-since worn out….

Speaking of Nordhavn, someone sent me a link to some cool pictures of our boat that Nordhavn posted on their website. Here’s the link:


A couple of people have asked about what life is like on a long passage, so I suppose I should comment…although I’m not sure there is any one answer.

Life on the boat tends to reflect the personality of the captain, and the crew. I’ve heard some people say that passages are their favorite time, and perhaps they are for some people. I said at the end of the Atlantic crossing that I didn’t want to do another major ocean passage. Specifically, I said “OK. I’ve done my macho thing and don’t need to do that again. For any passage over five days I’ll put the boat on a freighter or hire a delivery crew.” For me, long passages are very stressful. For instance, on this passage north, we had a dream crew. Everyone on board knew what they were doing. Even with this, I could never really relax away from the pilot house. I noticed that Jeff (our delivery skipper) was the same as me. I refused to sleep for more than a couple hours at a time. Even though I knew there were perfectly competent people at the wheel, I couldn’t resist wanting to keep an eye on things. This is the last thing I should have been doing. I really should have been resting for my shift, but it’s too engrained in my personality to want to control things. Yes. I know. I should work on this. It’s easier said than done. Thus, my vision of a 14 day passage is “14 days of very little sleep, accompanied by extreme fatigue, at a time when mistakes can not be permitted”. This said, I will make exceptions for rallys. The Nordhavn rally was incredible, and I’m working now to assemble a group to cross the Pacific together in 2009.

We had the luxury on this passage of having six people. That is very unusual. By comparison, a Nordhavn 43 recently did a 21 day passage to the Marquesas with just three people aboard. Regardless of the number of people, the procedure is the same. Someone always has to be at the wheel. This is a bit of a misnomer, in that only rarely are you actually steering, and almost never do you actually touch the steering wheel. Most of the time at the helm is spent fiddling with the radar and saying things like “Do you see that green dot? Do you think it is really something, or just a bird?” Probably the single biggest difference between regular boating and passage making is that you run at night. Most boaters run only in the daytime, and the radar doesn’t get used, except when surprised by fog. On longer passages the radar takes center stage.

On this passage we ran the entire 1,500 miles in sight of land, which meant the probability of finding a target on the radar was much higher than in an ocean crossing. I divide the world of radar targets into three categories: AIS, ARPA and floating. All commercial vessels are required to have AIS transmitters which transmit to other boats in the area some very handy data about the ship: vessel name, length, width, course, speed, destination, and my personal favorite “Closest Point of Approach (CPA)”. The CPA of an approaching vessel is the single most important piece of information. If the CPA for an approaching freighter is 5 miles, you know that unless you or he change course, you’ll never get within five miles of each other. If the CPA is .5 miles, you pay much closer attention. Smaller boats generally do not have AIS. They just show up as random blips on the radar. This said, there’s a cool new technology, built into newer radars, called “ARPA”, which provides much of the same benefit as AIS. Once you spot a target on the radar, you simply click on it, and the radar starts studying its motion, and within a minute, the radar starts predicting the course and direction for the vessel, and computes that ever-important CPA. You need to constantly monitor the CPA and course on any target, because course changes do occur, and a vessel you thought was safe can decide to attack (veer your direction) at any time. Smaller vessels, particularly fishing boats, are very subject to frequent course changes, so the ARPA data helps, but isn’t the whole solution. Lastly, there are the objects which appear on radar, but do not appear to be moving. These are the most annoying. They can be nothing, such as birds. They can even be a low hanging cloud. Or, they can be something much less fun, such as a floating buoy attached to a crab pot on the bottom (we saw a LOT of these!), a log or even that most sinister of floating objects: the dreaded steel container that has fallen off a freighter. Much of the time spent standing watch is spent staring at the radar, and trying to decide which green dots, if any, require altering course.

There is serious risk, while standing watch, of falling asleep. I am aware of many incidents where watch standers have fallen asleep, or stepped away from the helm, with disastrous results. Personally I wouldn’t want to be on a boat where there wasn’t at least two people standing watch at all times. Someone has to drive, and someone has to keep the driver awake, and run fetch coffee. Additionally, we do hourly engine room checks. Someone has to go into the engine room and physically look at all kinds of things: the bilges, the pressure on the filters, the shafts, the fuel levels, smell to see if anything smells wrong or different, feel the heat to see if it has changed, sense any vibrations that are different, etc. With only three people on board, and one driving, and one assisting, this means the third person should usually be sleeping. In other words, when someone says “what is life like on a passage?”, the answer really depends on the size of the crew and the calmness of the sea. When the seas are calm, reading and playing with your computer are options. When the seas are rolling, your only options are talking, watching a movie, listening to music or sleeping. If the seas are flat, and the crew is large, all kinds of fun is possible.

I’ve noticed that having a predictable routine seems to make a huge difference in the happiness of the crew. After a few days at sea a routine sets in. Once this is established everyone is suddenly much cheerier. For instance, on this trip, 8pm became dinner time, usually with a barbecue on the back deck. Everyone looked forward to dinner time, and enjoyed discussing what we’d be eating. I hadn’t really understood the cultural significance of little details like this. Movie time also became a hit. At about 10pm the entire crew (except the watch stander and assistant) would assemble in the main salon for a movie. On this most recent passage life seemed to get better each day, and I think that by the time we finished the run, we were in a rhythm where we could have crossed any ocean.

On a sad side-note, I noticed this posting by Milt Baker. Milt has a Nordhavn 47, and was responsible for all of the logistics on our 2004 Atlantic crossing, and just led his own rally across the Atlantic last month. He has been cruising in Spain,

July 28, 2007

Just a quick note to let you know that we’re doing just fine after a frightening experience while we were at anchor in Puerto Torrent, a cala (cove) near Puerto de San Antonio on the island of Ibiza. We awoke yesterday morning to discover that during the night thieves had boarded our boat while we were sleeping and made off with three laptops, a cell phone, an old camera, an iPod and my wallet. These were skilled and stealthy thieves and clearly had no interest in confronting us–they did their dirty work silently in the main saloon, galley and pilothouse and as far as we can determine made it a point not to go down the forward stairs where we were sleeping. Our best guess is that two persons were involved and aboard the boat. We never heard a thing, though any noises were probably masked by the “white noise” of a fan running in our stateroom.

The incident was frightening only when we began to think about the “what ifs”. What if one of us had come upon them . . . what if our dog had heard them and barked. . . what if they had been drunk or high on drugs . . what if they had been the kind of people who enjoy personal confrontation, to name a few. The truth is we let our guard down and we suffered the consequences. We always make it a point to lock up the boat at night before going to bed, but the next morning we found a pilothouse door unlocked–did we mistakenly leave it unlocked or did they enter through one of the two overhead hatches we trustingly had open? Either way, we feel a real sense of “invasion,” thinking of intruders roaming our boat at will with us blissfully asleep just a few feet away.

The bad news is that they got our Nobeltec computer which is central to our all-important navigation and our e-mail computer which is one of our principal links to the rest of the world. The good is that they left behind the Nobeltec “dongle” that was plugged into the computer, without which I would have no Nobeltec. I had a backup navigation computer up and running in an hour or two. They also left behind the hard-wired Iridium phone and docking station, so I was able to get e-mail Ocens/Iridium running on the backup nav computer, but we lost all e-mail since our departure from Fort Lauderdale in May.

Of course, we spent much of yesterday on the satellite phone cancelling credit cards and notifying the credit agencies and others like the cell phone provider. Unfortunately, there was a good bit of personal information on our computers–SSANs, bank account numbers, etc. etc.–so there’s the possibility, though probably remote, of identify theft. We’ll make more phone calls on Monday when we can reach businesses in the USA.

Let this be a lesson to you: ask yourself what would happen if your principal laptops were stolen? Do you have a backup navigation plan if your nav comnputer (and dongle) are stolen? Backup communications if your cell phones and Iridium phone are taken? Don’t feel sorry for us–learn from our misfortune!

Lessons learned? You can bet there are a lot of them! Meanwhile, we find a sense of real irony that we spent a winter in Venezuela which is known for this kind of stuff and had to come to Spain to have it happen to us.

To be sure, yesterday was a singularly depressing day for us, but we see the glass as half full–it could have been so much worse! We have resolved not to allow this to ruin our summer; we keep reminding ourselves that a single isolated incident has to be taken in perspective. I hope we can soon close the door on this incident.

–Milt Baker, Nordhavn 47 Bluewater, Cala Santa Ponsa, Mallorca

My sympathies to Milt! One very surprising thing about this is that they were robbed while at anchor. This means the bad guys had to tie along side Milt’s boat, find a way in, get everything off, and get out, without waking them. Very scary. Something similar happened to Roberta and I while in the marina at Beaulieu France. We slept through being robbed. When I woke up and went to my computer it was gone, as were a lot of other things. The robbers left a large butcher knife sitting on the counter. Our dogs did bark about 2am, but fortunately we were too groggy to do more than just encourage them to be quiet and go back to sleep. The French police were useless. I had to twist arms to get them to fingerprint the boat, after which the police indicated how hard they would work to solve the crime by forgetting to take the finger prints with them. The months following the incident were very uncomfortable as I thought about all the personal financial data, correspondence, family photos, etc that were on my hard drive, and now being scanned by the butcher-knife wielding bandits.

As to our cruising schedule looking forward, it is roughly:

  • Cruising in the Pacific NW until Sept 9th.
  • Put the boat on a freighter to go to Ensenada Mexico
  • Join the Fubar Rally (http://www.fubarodyssey.com//) in Nov 2007. We’re an escort vessel, and will be making way, along with 60 other boats, to La Paz Mexico! I’ll be sending out daily reports throughout the rally
  • In Dec, we’re going to cruise locally around Cabo, but mostly just hang out and enjoy life.
  • Starting in Jan 2008, we’re heading south from Cabo to Costa Rica. This will be a very exciting time!
  • In April 2008, we are somehow going to the boat back to the Pacific NW to travel to Alaska with several other Nordhavns.
  • And.. then comes the Pacific Crossing!

My primary problem now is trying to figure out how to get our boat from Costa Rica to Seattle in April of next year. This topic has dominated my thoughts recently. My preferred method is to put the boat on a freighter with Dockwise. I definitely do not want to make the long uphill run back myself, but Dockwise says that aren’t running the west coast this year. We are meeting up with four other Nordhavns in Costa Rica, all of whom have the same issue. We’ll sort it out, but these sorts of logistical issues are never-ending.

That’s it for now. Thank you for your vicarious participation in our voyages! I can be reached at: kenw @ seanet.com if you have any questions, and I “may” post from time to time on my website, http://www.kensblog.com/. A project of mine for today (along with many other projects) is to take some pictures of the boat. We finally have all the various protective covers off, and the boat is stunning. Thank you Nordhavn!

-Ken Williams Nordhavn68.com, Sans Souci

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