The Next Extreme Nordhavn Voyage
Three boats set for north-Pacific crossing to Japan
What is it about owning a Nordhavn that makes unlikely or unappealing passages quite the opposite? There was a time when traveling 2,500 miles non-stop from California to Hawaii was something to brag about. (Okay, so it is still a pretty nifty feat.) But so many Nordhavns have made that trek that we’re always looking to see who will up the ante. And our owners don’t disappoint. Dick and Gail Barnes doubled notoriously challenging Cape Horn in their Nordhavn 57 Ice Dancer; Fred and Chris Caron on board Nordhavn 46 Arcturus traveled the “wrong way” for 1,100 nm against prevailing westerlies from New Zealand to Tasmania; and Nordhavn 43 Kosmos owners Eric and Christi Grab, a couple of novice boaters, chose a global circumnavigation as their first cruise ever. (Note: stay tuned for more on the Grabs’ circumnavigation which they’re scheduled to complete this week.) Now we’re on the heels of the next “extreme” trip being undertaken by a trio of Nordhavns. In what’s been named the Great Siberian Sushi Run, two Nordhavn 62s and a Nordhavn 68 depart Seattle next week en masse bound for Japan via the Bering Sea with planned stops in the Aleutian Islands and Siberia. (Ante officially considered upped.)
Not exactly the pristine cruising grounds of Dubrovnik or the Marqueses that one traditionally thinks of when dreaming about passage making. But Ken Williams, owner of N68 Sans Souci, and the group’s ringleader, makes the 5,300-nm expedition sound oddly appealing…which is strange, considering his initial destination of preference was Tahiti. Blame it on a real sense of adventure, a passion for historical discovery, and the appeal of never being more than 500 nm from land. But soon this crazy idea to explore the remote and often inhospitable waters of the north Pacific had an entire group of Nordhavns attached to it.
The spark for the trip was actually ignited years ago. Williams received Sans Souci in 2007 (after selling his first Sans Souci, a Nordhavn 62, in which he crossed the Atlantic as part of the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally) and had always intended on going across the Pacific. He had tried for two years to organize an NAR-like Pacific-crossing rally, but could never get owners to firmly commit.
Meanwhile, John Kennelly, owner of Nordhavn 62 Walkabout, had recently completed a similar cruise of the Bering Sea with his wife and three young children and had such a tremendous time that he became an ambassador for the route. Hearing about Kennelly’s adventures intrigued fellow N62 owners Braun and Tina Jones and they decided it would become Grey Pearl’s next itinerary. In turn, they pitched it to the Williams and Steve and Carol Argosy, all of whom the Jones knew were itching to get across the Pacific in company – albeit by way of a more southerly course. It took some convincing but before long, the couples found themselves married to the idea.
So what is it about this Great Siberian Sushi Run that lured two sets of tropical heat-loving boaters away from their island ports-of-call? “Adventure,” say Williams and Steve Argosy. (They are Nordhavn owners after all.)
“Seeing the Aleutians is something few have ever done other than commercial fishermen,” said Argosy. “Whereas most boats are just passing by…we’ll be stopping to see military sites essentially no one has seen since World War II.” And he’s not exaggerating either. Careful and in-depth research of the area by Williams has revealed that as few as three privately-owned sailboats annually make the passage west to east and the numbers are far less for production power boats; Williams estimates one every couple of years. The trio, which has been dubbed “The Wrong-Way Gang” because they will be traveling east to west against strong headwinds, will be among the first to follow this track. “It’s possible John Kennelly was the first to make the passage east to west (in a private power boat),” surmises Williams.
Despite this, fears over crossing the Bering Sea have been greatly allayed due mainly to the guide who will be on board Sans Souci. Bill Harrington, a commercial fisherman from Alaska who routinely fishes the Aleutians (think The Deadliest Catch) will provide the group a wealth of knowledge including knowing where and how to hide from bad weather. “With Bill around, we’ll be fine,” says Williams. “Since he signed [on], I’ve totally stopped worrying about the Bering Sea.”
Instead, Williams is most nervous about the narrow passages in Alaska that he and Roberta will be navigating on their own – that, plus being able to manage his way around Japan with its language barrier and lack of VHF communications; a “general fear of the unknown” as Williams puts it.
Despite his confidence in traversing the Bering Sea, there remains an overall concern by the rest of the crews for the weather they’ll run into in the Aleutians which can be very hostile, and, as Argosy points out, “help is never near.”
In dealing with that realization, the group has taken steps to make sure their vessels are in top shape to handle the various rigors of the journey. “There are lists of lists!” joked Tina Jones. As might be expected, focus has been spent on spares and upgrades and making sure the boat can deal with the extreme cold and heat they’ll be experiencing, as well as upping creature comforts for the long days at sea. The Jones’ just installed a new hot water heater and new watermaker on Grey Pearl, plus all new appliances. On Seabird, the Argosys replaced every appliance and the generator, electronics, hatch and window seals, and ground tackle parts; they made upgrades to the hydraulics and a/c components and purchased new survival suits, among many other things. “We are a different boat now,” said Steve Argosy.
But it’s not just the boats that are being primed. Carol Argosy is taking a CPR/First Aid course to better handle any medical issues that might occur on board, while Braun Jones is preparing for potential land emergencies having recently completed a wilderness medical emergency course. Tina Jones just upgraded her USCG Captain’s license to Master 100 ton and Williams got his marine electrician certification. “I’m assuming there aren’t a lot of local mechanics in Siberia,” he said. “Self sufficiency is priority number one.”
While the three are each departing Seattle individually this week (Sans Souci left April 17), and will likely rendezvous periodically throughout Alaska, the actual group cruising will commence from Glacier Bay on June 7. Marina stops are planned for Hoona, Kodiak and Dutch Harbor, (Alaska); Petrapovlosk (Siberia); Hokkaido and finally Osaka (Japan). Otherwise, they will be dropping anchor. They plan to arrive in Osaka in mid-August. After that…well, the ocean’s the limit.
Both Williams and Argosy describe the trip as the perfect lead to their (separate) would-be goals of circling the globe, but neither is willing to commit to the concept just yet. The Argosys do have plans to explore South Korea, China and Taiwan. Williams more loosely confirms to “heading west until it stops being fun.” Meanwhile, the Jones consider themselves already in the midst of a “leisurely” circumnavigation, having departed their home in Maryland in 2008. “The plan for now is to enjoy the Far East and Asia,” says Jones, adding they hope someday to be able to “eventually make way for the Gulf of Aden, cruise the Red Sea and Suez Canal and pop back out in the Eastern Med.”
Each of the three boats will be sending updated log reports which will be posted right here on the Great Siberian Sushi Run section of nordhavn.com. While here you can track the boats’ course via Google Earth, check out the itinerary, view photos and video of the trip and learn more about the participants.
We hope that you – like us here at Nordhavn – will enjoy following the three Great Siberian Sushi Run participants every step of the way of their ground breaking journey.