Watching For A Window

Sans Souci is still sitting in Newport Oregon, only about 325 miles away. As soon as the weather permits, Jeff and crew will be bringing her the rest of the way to Seattle.

Unfortunately, winter is now here in the Pacific NW, and the storms seem to be back to back.

On Friday, we received an update from Bob the weather forecaster advising that we might be seeing a 24 hour window tomorrow. However, in reading it, the window is bookended by ugly weather.

Here’s what I wrote to Jeff, and his response:

Jeff: I definitely am in a hurry to see Sans Souci, BUT … don’t rush on my account. This is a tiny window, and not a particularly great looking one. If you have any hesitancy whatsoever, don’t go. There’ll be sunshine sometime in the next two weeks. No need to beat yourself and the boat up just to save me a few bucks. – Ken W

Ken: I am on board with you on that. Wind will be dropping tomorrow and will keep a close eye on things and if it doesn’t look good we won’t go. I feel like we are so close but yet so far. I know it’s not going to be flat but should at least be travelable and don’t want to beat up the crew and the boat. I want to see that swell drop. Thanks, 


Roberta was copied on the emails, and she reminded me that this is winter, and my vision of an uncoming long weather window is a naive one. This time of year, the weather windows are short, and you have to think in terms of small bursts of movement. Jeff may need to start running north, and be prepared to stop again half way. This is certainly true, and 100 miles north of Jeff’s current location is the Columbia River. If Jeff starts running tomorrow morning, and the weather looks good, he can keep running, and if not, he can duck into the Columbia River. 

Roberta: That exactly what I am thinking. Every little bit is going to help to get us that much closer. I think that I am going to put a little more fuel on for weight. WE are now down to around 900 gal. More weight will be a better ride. We are leaving this AM to go back and get ready. I will not go if it does not look safe!





Technically, that might be easier said than done. I’ve never been into the Columbia River, but there is a bar you have to cross at the entrance. It’s not a place I’d want to arrive at, in the dark, and in rough weather. Personally, I’d want to arrive at high slack. If Jeff has to hide from the storm, he’ll have all of this working against him. On the positive side, he has been in before, several times, and knows the drill.

This morning I received a new update on the weather from our weather router:

 Tue/04-pm: Westerly 12-18kts, waves 3-4ft. Swells WNW-W 5-7ft, upto 8ft possible closer to midday. Winds tending to ease/back WSW-SW 08-15kts with waves 2-3ft and WSW-SW swells 4-6ft during Tue/night-overnight.

That’s darn good, and should give us the window we need. However, by Wednesday we need to be somewhere safe. Weather Bob goes on to say: “…Winds tending to freshen ESE-SE to SW-ly 20-30kts, gusty 35kts during Wed/eve-night…”

If this is how it plays out, we’re in great shape. Jeff can work with this. Reminding us of the tightness of the window, Weather Bob concludes his weather update with this cheery note: “…If you can’t arrive/pass Cape Flattery by early to late Wed/aftn or are not comfortable with such a tight weather window, you will need to consider a delay until a “possible” weather window Sat/aftn-Sun/aftn. To be honest, the possible window for Sat-Sun may be just as tight as the window develop Tue/aftn-Wed/aftn. Watching/updating. B/Rgds, Bob/OMNI”

-Ken W

13 Responses

  1. Hi Ken,

    I just got back from the Ft Lauderdale show last night, so I am catching up with e-mail and the postings on your blog. I was chuckling when I read your comments from Nov 3 recalling our departure from Coos Bay 12 years ago. What you didn’t know at the time was that the lasagna that your father ate was the last piece left over from the previous night’s dinner. I had my eye on it all day and when I finally went to grab it, it was gone! Of course, your father didn’t know that I was coveting it, so I didn’t say anything. When I later saw it go over the side, I thought to myself… I would have taken better care of it!

    I know that you must miss your father, but I also know that those great memories of adventure must give you comfort..



  2. Sam said: “…If you NEEDED the boat in Seattle ASAP, do you think Jeff could ethically leave port with crew aboard?…”

    I would never ask Jeff to go out in any weather I would not personally run in. However, there are owners who would. More than one accident has happened because an owner “encouraged” a delivery crew to head out into weather, and the crew needed the money, even though common sense was telling them to stay put.

    Now, if you ask the question the other way around: Let’s say that Jeff or I were on the boat, 200 miles from the nearest port, with a weather forecast of calm seas, and a freak storm came along, that looks like what we’re seeing now. If you were a passenger aboard my ship, and were to ask “Am I ever going to see my kids again?” I would say “No worries, we’re fine. Go watch TV and relax.” And, I’d mean it. If caught in these conditions, the boat would have my full attention, and I’d certainly do a quick double check of all the safety equipment, but I wouldn’t be worried that we’d be getting home.

    As to the impact of the stabilizers failing: Boats have run for a very long time with no stabilizers, including ocean crossing boats. If the stabilizers fail, you need to alter course to avoid getting beam to the seas, whereas with stabilizers it can be quite comfortable running in a beam sea.

    I just had this discussion with a N62 owner. He was running the west coast of Nicaragua, with just his wife and himself, when the cooling pump for the stabilizers failed. The wind and swell were high, and blowing him into shore. He was caught in horrid conditions, and had a real problem. If he continued north, he would be beam to the sea, and a candidate for rolling.

    No problem. He turned into the weather (pointed the nose offshore), slowed the boat, put his wife in command, and headed into the engine room. Swapping the pump in the rocking seas turned out to be a much bigger project than expected, and he spent 3 hours getting baked in the engine room. Finally, with a new pump in place, he turned the boat back north, and completed the passage.

    If, for some reason, he had been caught without a spare pump, and couldn’t get his dead pump going, he probably would have been stuck heading out to sea for as long as it took for the weather to subside.

    So… in summary, if the weather router says to “stay put”, my advice is always “stay put” and there are no exceptions. On the other hand, if you are unavoidably caught at sea, and conditions turn nasty, which does happen from time to time, be thankful you spent the extra money to buy a solid boat, and do what you have to do to stay safe.

    -Ken W

  3. Ken, I appreciate the nuance of the response. I agree that you have to build in a certain cushion for the weather to deteriorate without endangering the boat.

    Maybe I could pose the question differently…If you NEEDED the boat in Seattle ASAP, do you think Jeff could ethically leave port with crew aboard?

    Out of curiosity, on the N68, how much would losing stabilizers affect it? I’m guessing it’d be impossible to put out flopper stoppers

  4. Sam No 2: I’m not sure which boat is more seaworthy. My personal opinion is the N62, but then I just had an N62 owner argue strongly that my memories of the N62 are tainted by nostalgia, and that the N68 is the more seaworthy boat. Neither of us has facts, so I’m not sure opinions count.

    I’ve never been in seas, in either boat, that test the limits, so I have no way of knowing. I’ve chatted with Jeff Leishman (the designer of both boats) many times, and I’ve always forgotten to ask his opinion.

    My guess is that he would say the N68. When he designed the N62 he was fresh out of design school. It’s tough to believe that his skills haven’t gotten better over the past 15 years. On the N62, in heavy seas, the forward-most compartment is 100% unusuable. (Imagine an elevator dangling from a loose spring as it rises and falls 20-30 feet rapidly). Whereas I’ve been many times in the nose of my 68 in similar seas, and it isn’t bad at all. The N68 has a much gentler motion. It’s like comparing a sports car to a cadillac. Weight makes a difference.

    There are actually a couple issues here, which are perhaps related, and I’m not smart enough to know it. One is how comfortable the ride is in rough seas, and the other is: If you were to get beam to the seas, and take a nasty wave, which boat would be more likely to get knocked down, and perhaps not come back up. I can attest to the first issue, but haven’t the vaguest idea on the second. Because of the height of the N68, and things like the hot tub 22′ off the water, I have to believe I’d rather be knocked down on the N62. Then again, the N68 is a much heavier boat, and I have 50 more tons, most BENEATH the water line on the N68 .. so, the nod might go to the N68. One way or the other, I intend to avoid any situation where I would ever find out.

    To an extent, it’s not a fair question, because it implies there’s a winner and a loser, and that’s not true. It’s a little like asking who the prettiest girl is in the Miss Universe contest… both are incredibly seaworthy boats.

    The next time I am next to Jeff Leishman I’ll ask his thoughts…

    -Ken W

  5. Good story Ken, those kinds of experiences really make you respect the sea! Just out of curiosity, do you think the N62 or N68 is ultimately more seaworthy? Which is more sea-kindly?

    Sam (different Sam than before)

  6. OK .. one more “Pacific NW weather story” …. I’ve already recited this story a few times, so if you’ve heard this ten times before, my apologies.

    About 12 years ago, when I was taking delivery on our first N62, Dan Streech, Nordhavn’s CEO, agreed to deliver the boat personally. I was to meet the boat in Coos Bay Oregon for the final ride home to Seattle.

    For a year, while waiting for the boat, my dad and I had corresponded daily, excited about the chance to travel together on the delivery of my new boat.

    When the time came, my dad and I flew into Coos Bay, and met Dan at the dock. We were ready to go! But, Dan said we should check into a hotel and relax for a few days, “to wait for a weather window.” Both my dad and I were deeply disappointed. I remember my dad being upset and challenging Dan. “Don’t you build these boats to go in conditions like this?” said my dad. Dan responded, “The boat would do fine in this. But, you wouldn’t like it.” And, then Dan said the line that I still remember most: “You will give up long before the boat does.”

    After considerable pushing, Dan backed down, and we all jumped on the boat. Within an hour we were in 20 foot seas, and high wind (I’ve long forgotten how high). I remember the waves were large enough that we would literally surf down them, and the nose of the N62 would bury itself in the trough, and then the boat would shudder, and the nose would pop back up.

    Because we had been in a hurry to leave the dock, I grabbed a bunch of french fries at a local fast food joint. And, we had some microwaved vegetable lasagna. I do not want to get graphic, but let’s just say that the food came out looking much worse than it went in, and that no one on the boat did not get sick.

    Amazingly, I don’t remember ever being scared. As Dan predicted, the boat did just fine, and we didn’t. In the 20,000+ miles since that cruise I’ve never been in seas as rough. Once you’ve done it, and seen what the boat can take, and what you can take — you aren’t in a hurry to do it again (or, at least I am not). – Ken W

  7. Sam: There is nothing in any report I’ve seen that Sans Souci couldn’t take easily. I’m usually over-conservative, especially when it comes to weather.

    The problem with going out in bad weather is that there can be a variance between the weather you are promised, and the weather you receive. Plus the weather forecasts tend to represent “the middle of what you are going to see, not the maximum”. There is a tendancy when reading weather reports to think that if it says “Wind at 20 knots, and waves at 10 ft” to believe that this is what it will be. In reality, it means, most of the wind will be 20 knots, and most of the waves will be around 10 ft. But, it doesn’t preclude their being occasional gusts that are significantly higher, or occasionally swells that are higher. Nor does it take into account what I’ll call “local conditions”. There are times when the weather forecaster is right about the big picture, but a particular feature of the local geography causes what you are seeing out the window, to vary enormously with what he sees on the internet.

    My policy has always been: If there’s any question, and you aren’t in a hurry – don’t go. And, if you ARE in a hurry — you probably still shouldn’t go.

    I say this because there is another layer of complexity here. What my boat can take is not a constant. Things tend to break on a boat. This is a Nordhavn, and made to withstand heavy seas. But, I think even Nordhavn would agree that things break from time to time. And, murphy’s law clearly states that if the stabilizers are ever going to fail, it won’t happen on a sunny windless day. No way. Stabilizers, steering, rudders, all of the important bits, tend to fail when the wind passes 30 knots, the waves pass 20 feet, and you are thinking how well the boat is handling the weather … and then in an instant your world changes.

    Different captains have different opinions, but my opinion is that “even with a boat made to take it”, if I don’t have to, I don’t want to. – Ken W

  8. Dave: Jeff did mention Westport as a possible destination. I don’t know the pros and cons of Westport vs Columbia River, but I’m sure Jeff does. I’ve gone by there a few times, but have never had to stop.

    Jeff tends to be active on the radio, speaking with the fishing boats. He has spent time doing commercial fishing, and run a charter boat, so he feels a bit more comfortable than I do talking to them. The local fisherman tend to have a very good feel for what the weather is going to do, and the best places to hide. I talk to them sometimes, but always have this fear that it’s a “closed community” and that us yachtees aren’t completely respected. -Ken W

  9. Ken,
    Rather than move into the Columbia during rough weather, Westport might be a better option if the bar is out of shape and it’s only 40’ish miles north of the Columbia. Just a thought.

  10. Obviously the comfort of the crew is important, I’m just curious if the weather is dangerously bad, or if the boat can take it safely.

  11. Are you sure? The guy who sent me the pictures seemed to know what he was talking about , and said: “Here is the view at the moment . . . . Should be in the water by late Spring…”

    I looked on Dashew’s site, and you are right that it doesn’t completely match.. so, perhaps it isn’t.

    One way or the other, I like what the Dashews are doing. Their boats aren’t for everyone, but anyone who plans on spending the majority of their time doing serious ocean crossing, and who wants to move in virtually any conditions, should give them a look. -Ken W

    PS I just looked at the Valdermar 52 … you are right… it almost certainly is the Valdermar. Sorry for the confusion.. I’m pulling down the pics until I get confirmation.

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