Update #9 Welcome to Paradise

Isla Navidad (Barra) – 19 11.716N, 104 40.865W

Greetings all!

Yesterday, we departed our anchorage at Tenacatita, headed for the marina at Barra.

Before I discuss Barra, permit me to digress for a couple paragraphs, to talk about some trip planning I’m doing for our 2009 cruising….

Because it was a short two hour run, I decided to do some experimenting with running at slow speed. We are planning a run to Hawaii next spring. Although Sans Souci is capable of running at 10.6 knots (a little over 12 mph), the fuel consumption rises disproportionately to the speed. I haven’t spent much time running at maximum, so I’m not sure of the exact consumption, but I’m sure it is over 20 gallons per hour. Most of my cruising has been around 9.5 knots, consuming around 15 gallons per hour. I wanted to check the consumption at 7.5 knots, to see whether or not this would give us plenty of fuel for a passage from San Francisco to Hawaii. I discovered that I could go 7.5 knots, at 1050 rpm, consuming 7.3 gallons per hour of fuel. By doing a little math, I see that my miles per gallon, at 7.5, 9.5 and 10.5 knots works out to .97, 1.6 and 2.0 nautical miles per gallon respectively. I carry 2,900 gallons of fuel. Doing a bit more math, I see that I can go approx. 3,000 miles at 7.5 knots. It is 2,100 nautical miles to Hawaii, so I can even run a bit faster and still have a healthy reserve. As to time, 2,100 miles, at 7.5 knots, works out to about 12 days. This all sounds great! Faster would be better, but these numbers are acceptable. I might load on some fuel bladders (eg. http://www.turtlepac.com/superdetails.htm) so that I can make the run faster. These are very preliminary numbers. As we get closer to the trip, I’ll tie these numbers down more precisely.

I’ve been seeking other boats who want to make the crossing at the same time as us (http://www.rtwcruising.com/). Thus far I have only around 10 boats signed up, most of whom want to cross directly to the Marquesas. As spectacular as Hawaii is, it doesn’t seem to have a great reputation as a cruising ground. Too much wind, and too few great anchorages (or, so I’ve been told). Roberta’s and my problem is our dog; Shelby. She goes everywhere with us. I’ve had a heck of a time getting good data on how hard she would be to get into Polynesia. Whereas, we know we can get her into Hawaii. Also, I like the idea of starting our circumnavigation with a little “civilization.” I like the idea of spending a season with great restaurants, a good marina, golf courses, etc. before entering the south pacific, where things will be a bit more primitive. I’m hoping we find a few other boats who want to cross to Hawaii, as I’d rather not be out in the middle of the Pacific alone …

Anyway, it’s probably bad luck to think about next year’s cruising plans, while this year is still just getting started, so …. Back to Barra….

I was very nervous about entering the Barra marina. My slip assignment swapped three times in the final hours of arriving at the marina, and I had heard rumors of shallow water in the entrance to the marina. Things changed again as we were on the final approach to the marina; they now wanted me to camp out at the fuel dock for a couple hours until they could find a place to put us. To my great relief, another Nordhavn owner, Bill from Wayward Wind, overheard our exchange with the marina, and offered to jump aboard ship and help guide us in. We were warned that there was very shallow water in the middle of the channel on the way to the fuel dock, and that an 85 foot boat had gone aground the prior day. Bill showed us the correct path to stick to deeper water. We were also being guided by two other Nordhavn owners, Neil from Senjero, and Rich from Samurai, who were monitoring us from on shore. Arriving at the fuel dock, they were there to catch our lines.

Within 20 minutes of tying up at the fuel dock, the call came that they had a place for me in the marina! All three other Nordhavn owners jumped aboard Sans Souci for the short ride to the marina. We were told we were going into a temporary slip, just for the night. To my delight it was a huge slip, right at the entrance to the marina, and probably the easiest slip in the marina to get into. This morning we found that we’ll be able to keep the slip we are in. Yay!!!


How do I begin to describe Barra? I’ve been in a lot of marinas, and can say with no hesitation that this is my favorite. Here’s a quick list of reasons I’m saying that:

– The marina has access to all the hotel’s facilities. We are welcomed guests at the hotel. This means the: spa, restaurants (there’s even a Thai restaurant!), pool, tennis courts, gym, bars, etc.
– Each morning, the first thing you hear on the VHF radio is “Good morning. This is the French Baker. I will be on the docks in a few minutes.” This is said in a thick French accent, and the pastries are incredible.
– There is a water taxi, that runs 24 hours a day, that is fast and inexpensive and takes you to the charming little town of Barra and the beach there
– The staff at the hotel and the marina are very friendly and helpful
– We are near great anchorages.
– There’s a world-class 27 hole championship golf course here at the hotel
– The water is warm enough and clear enough for swimming, diving, snorkeling, etc
– There’s a lagoon just behind the marina, if you prefer to anchor
– There’s a fuel dock

I’ve heard Barra described as like “Disneyland for boaters”, and can’t argue with this. It’s almost too good to be real… Here’s a few more pictures, of the hotel, and the small town. These pictures just give a small taste, the reality is better!:








My first project on arriving at the marina was to solve a problem with my electrical system. For some reason my 25kw generator was refusing to operate the air conditioning. I also have a 16kw generator, so it wasn’t a big deal – UNTIL, I discovered that the a/c would not work with shore power. As we will be in the marina for nearly two weeks, this was not going to be acceptable. I know that I will get no sympathy from most of you, who are probably shivering as you read this, but getting the a/c going was a priority. I called Nordhavn who put me on the phone with their electrical guru: Mickey. He walked me through diagnosing the problem, and identifying a relay that needed replaced.


Mickey said that Nordhavn would ship me the part I needed replaced, but I needed an immediate fix. He then devised a way for me to install some “jumpers” in the electrical panel that would jerry-rig thinks until a replacement part could be found. I explained several times that I am a software developer, not a hardware guy, but my options were to fix it myself, or explain to Roberta and her parents that there would be no air conditioning for at least a week. This quickly overcame my fear of electrocution, and soon I was cutting and stripping wires, and screwing them into the electric panel. When the a/c came on, I was quite proud of myself.

And, on a completely different topic: I mentioned a few days ago that I had followed my own tracks to work my way out of a marina. I received an email asking me to clarify what I meant. Here is a picture of my navigation software screen showing my entry to this marina, with the side trip to the fuel dock:


There are a few things to point out about this picture. The most obvious of which is that the boats are a half mile inland. The lack of accurate charts here has taken some getting used to. You’ll also notice the red line. This red line is generated automatically by Nobeltec and shows exactly where I have gone. If you follow the path traced by the red line, you can see where I bypassed the marina to go to the fuel dock. One boat is at the fuel dock in this picture. You can also see how I retraced my original path almost exactly. The “L” turn you see is the shallow water that I would not have known about had Bill not jumped aboard my boat to assist.

That’s it for today, and actually for a few days. I only send out my blog when we are actually cruising, and it isn’t clear when we’ll next leave the marina. My guess is that we won’t be out of here until the 12th, nearly a week and a half from now. In the meantime we’re going to enjoy life here, and sight see. I’m in no hurry to leave this marina…

I will probably post a paragraph or two every few days to the “what’s new” page on my website: http://www.kensblog.com/. So, if you are really curious what we’re up to – check there.

Thank you,

Ken Williams
Sans Souci, Nordhavn68.com

PS Just as I’m about to press the send key on this email, I’m listening to the radio chatter from the boats anchored in the lagoon. We’re having a surprise burst of wind. One boat is slowly but surely dragging anchor, and could strike some other boats. The boat that is dragging isn’t answering on the radio, and the other boats are offering “helpful” suggestions. I have overheard “fire a flare gun at it”, and most recently “Someone fire a torpedo at it.” Life is never boring on a boat….

Email (my comments preceded by +++ — my email address: kenw @ seanet.com)

Disclaimer: Nothing here should be considered definitive. These are nothing more than the “opinions” of the persons who wrote the emails (myself included). I do believe there is some good information here, but you should triple-confirm anything you read here, or for that matter, anywhere, before making cruising decisions.



We just want to send our thanks for allowing us to share in the “Ken & Roberta Excellent Sea Adventure” through your daily blogs.

We started our adventure with you beginning with the Fubar rally in San Diego and followed all the way to the finish in La Paz. To our enjoyment, we continue to share your adventure all the way down the coast to Costa Rica. I can’t begin to tell you how much enjoyment and information we receive from your reports. The pictures and maps make it even more enjoyable. We spread the maps out to visually see where you are and, where you are going next, and the obstacles that might be encountered along the way.

We are real novices to motor cruising, having just been introduced to it by our son Jim, and his wife, Lori. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to fly to La Paz to meet the fubar and enjoy a week of wonderful sights and extraordinary people. Thanks again for sharing your extended adventure!

James W, Sr and Sandie

+++ Thank you!

Hey Ken,

Just wanted to let you know how much I love following your adventure. The pictures are great, and you provide enough of the story to get the feeling of being there. What is the water temperature at this time of year ?

Enjoy yourselves, be safe and thanks for sharing.

Jess R

+++ The water is 81 degrees! It isn’t as perfectly clear as I’d like (I’ve been spoiled by the Caribbean), but it’s not bad, and I’m sure not complaining!


Glad that you stopped at Tenacatita–and hope you get to explore the river. There is a restaurant on the first bite on the North when you first enter the bay–you can get there either from the beach or from the river. I suspect it still is there and has great fish tacos!

The portaboat is a bit difficult to put together. You have the room on deck to open it and press the thwart in place. It is quite durable and “OK” for a surf boat if the waves are not too big. Getting a Panga is probably safer considering the older folks aboard. You don’t want to swamp the Portaboat with 4 people in it. I have personally liked a small light weight inflatable as the second boat.

Any of the ham radio frequencies, you have to have a ham license: Lower side band:1800- 2000 MHz, 3,500 -3,600 Mhz, 7,175- 7,300 Mhz, Upper side band: 14,225-14,350 MHz, 21,275 – 21,450 Mhz ranges.

No license necessary (assuming that you have the ship’s license) for Marine SSB These are all upper side band: 2000- 2600 MHz, 4,000 – 4451 MHz, 6,200 – 6519MHz, 8,195 – 8,812 MHz, 12,230 – 13,179 MHz, 16,360- 17,380 MHz, 18,798-19,773 MHz, 22,000–22,831 Mhz, I have left a few out. Generally the simplex (one frequency for send and recieve stations are at 3 Mhz intervals in the Marine band to prevent interference to adjacent station. The duplex stations, you need the exact frequencies, and if you have a Reed’s Almanac (required on my boats–it will have the specific countries communications channels with the authorities and phone numbers of port captains etc) or the Icom manual, it should show specific stations. This is all very generalized–and you have to “explore” the dial. But well worth it.

Take care!
Bob A

+++ Thank you. This helps! I’m disappointed to hear your thoughts on the Portabote. My current thinking is to see if I can buy a small inflatable, with wheels, to tow behind Sans Souci. I’d like to find something small enough and cheap enough that I can give it away or sell it at the end of this trip.

Hi Ken,

As usual, I’m enjoying your daily reports. Sure beats the 2.5 hour snow drive I had to get to work this morning! Yikes!

I’m not sure if you’ve mentioned this or not and I’ve just missed it, but I was wondering….now that you’ve spent some time cruising in Sans Souci II (SS2), how do you find it compares to SS1 as far as ride and handling? I’m sure the added weight and length helps with stability, but the hull shape of the N62 is quite different than the N68 and there’s a bit of a height difference as well. Does that have much of an impact on SS2’s stability, or is the ballast sufficient to offset that?

Thanks again for your blogs…..a lot of fun to read and helps take my mind off of the crappy weather I’m dealing with!
– John S.

+++ Grin. I wish I could tell you more about how the new boat (an Nordhavn 68) compares to our older boat (the Nordhavn 62). The N68 is a much heavier boat, and has the twins, and much beefier bow and stern thrusters, for better maneuverability. I guess the ultimate question is “which boat would you rather be on if caught out in the middle of the Pacific during a heavy storm”. It would be fun to hear how Nordhavn would answer this question. The added weight of the 68, and its greater size, probably makes it the winner, but the 62 is much lower to the water, with less windage. Thus far both have been incredibly seaworthy. We’ve been through seas, on both boats, that I’d never tackle on any other make of motor yacht, and I’ve never felt unsafe for one minute on either our N62 or N68. Ultimately, I’m very nostalgic for the N62, and if my life depended on it – I’d probably want to be on the N62, but whether or not this is the right answer, I have no way of knowing. Both are incredible boats.

Hi Ken.

Regarding your at anchor roll stabilizers. How long are your poles, and what are the dimensions of the plates that go in the water? We are building a similar system …. We are enjoying your emails.

Don S

+++ This is the company that made mine: http://www.primefabrication.com/products/roll_stabilizers.htmlMy guess is that they could help you figure out exactly the right size for your boat. I think mine are slightly undersized, and have thought about going to larger ones, but these do a “more than adequate job” and I like the size that they are. Anything bigger would be a pain to stow and heavier. My poles are 14.5’ long, and the plates (which fold in the middle) are 42 inches by 30 inches.


I really enjoy reading the emails you receive from others. Some I already know about, some is new, like the info about the changing the angle of the bow by moving the anchor chain to midship. I’d like to talk to Art and Judy more about this if you can connect us

I had a porta-boat and did NOT like the way it handled in any weather other than calm.

Yachtpath do not own their boats, to the best of my knowledge.

I just shipped my Duck from Japan to Houston on Rickmers-Linie and am very pleased.


+++ Thank you for the feedback. I believe Yachtpath acts as booking agents for several freighters, whereas my understanding is that Dockwise owns their own boats. I’m sending you Art and Judy’s email address seperately.


We have used our SSB extensively for the nets and weather. The frequencies you are authorized to use (without an amateur HAM ticket) are very specific. The simple way to figure it out is to listen to the net – if they are identifying themselves with their regular (VHF) call sign, you can join in . If they are identifying themselves with their HAM sign, you are listen only.

Obviously it is more complicated than this, but this will get you rolling. I listened for 4 years and finally got the urge to join the fun and got my amateur ticket this year.

Eric B

+++ Thank you – I’m still getting started, but enjoying it!

Hello Ken,

I am really enjoying your blog emails, they are great!

I own a Nordhavn 40 in Sidney B.C.,Canada will be heading up Alaska way this summer too, so I very much look forward to meeting you in the PNW

Now a question, I see you are having a tender size/weight dilemma and I too am in a similar situation, so I thought I would ask your opinion. I have a 10 foot caribe with a 15 hp Honda and Baja wheels on it as my tender, this boat has been to Mexico twice and sounds like it would be about perfect as a beach tender there, however it is getting worn out, I would like a bigger tender and could go 12 maybe 13 feet lengthways on my boat deck, with a larger ,I am thinking 40hp Yamaha on the boat. Is it too big? Would you have another shore tender with a console etc…?

Would love your opinion. Continued safe Travels!

Curt R

+++ If you can ship your tender here, I’ll buy it! As to your question, I guess I’ll just say “I don’t know.” I’ve always thought that “bigger is better” until this trip. The trade off on motor size is weight. A larger motor weighs more, and will move you faster. If you have no need for speed, then you are adding weight and fuel consumption with no real payback. Personally, I like having the speed. It does come in handy at times. We tend to anchor away from the pack, and have long tender rides to shore. Unlike a sailboat we’re not raising and lowering the tender by hand. A larger tender is more comfortable, and being able to go 30-40 knots (as our AB Inflatables 15’ does) allows us to explore far from the boat when we want (we’ve often gone 5-15 miles away exploring). In a perfect world, I’d want both; a small tender that can easily be lugged up on the beach, and something more stable, with a large motor, for long distance cruising. Currently, I don’t have a small beachable tender, and it is being a real headache. The compromise you’ve suggested: a 12-13 foot inflatable, with a 40hp motor and wheels, probably works in all situations. It sounds good to me. But, I’m a computer programmer … so, no guarantees.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Be the first to know when

the game releases!

Plus, receive special insider, behind the scenes, sneak peeks and interviews as the game is being made. Don’t worry. We will not spam you, and we will not flood your box with too many emails.
 — Ken Williams

Credits     |     Video produced by: Rock Steady Media     |     Teletype photo: Arnold Reinhold     |     PDP-11 photo: Trammell Hudson