August 22, 2007
By Dan Streech
Many of you already know of Ken and Roberta Williams through their participation in the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally in their beloved Nordhavn 62, "Sans Souci ". Ken’s blogs during the rally and his book Crossing an Ocean Under Power, which was written after the rally, have made him a cult hero among Nordhavn aficionados.
Ken’s style of writing is very candid, self-deprecating and humorous but at the same time is gripping and keeps you turning the pages. Ken is not a spokesman for PAE and we sometimes cringe at some of the things that he says, but despite that, the reader soon realizes that Ken is a huge supporter of PAE and the Nordhavn experience.
Not long after the NAR in 2004, Ken and Roberta sold their N62 and embarked on the purchase of a new Nordhavn 68. While the Williams are a reserved and somewhat reticent couple, they have given us the opportunity to observe the purchase of their Nordhavn 68 publicly through their web site at http://n68.talkspot.com
The Williams’ experience with the purchase and building of their new “Sans Souci” is chronicled on their site. You can see photos, plans, manuals and chat dialog and follow the purchase and build process of the new “Sans Souci” from start to finish as well as follow their upcoming cruising adventures.
To give you an idea of the typical style of Ken’s writing, please see blog #7 posted below:
Yesterday was a bit of a milestone. We’ve been living aboard the boat for a week, but today is the first time we’ve gone out to anchor. As I’ve mentioned before, our only goal for our first month with the boat is to learn all of the systems.
Leaving port was a non-event. I had Roberta’s mom, and my son Chris, armed with large fenders, ready to plunk them between our boat and any other boats we might ricochet off, but everything went perfectly. I asked the marina about a more appropriately sized slip, and they said “No problem. Expect a three year or longer wait.”
Early yesterday morning, we dropped anchor about 20 miles east of our marina, in a little bay on the island of Sucia. This isn’t much of a first trip, but our goals are modest. I always believe in a crawl-walk-run strategy. For this trip, all I wanted to do was drop the anchor, drop the tenders, and see how everything works. I’ve already hit several surprises, all of which we’ve worked around. As I type this paragraph I know that there are people who will read this who will be totally confused. I have a 100 ton US license, plus a European Yachtmasters license, and over 10,000 boat-miles under my belt, and see going to anchor as a meaningful exercise? Yes it is bizarre. All I can say in our defense is that we are cautious people, and this is a complex boat. Plus, this is a boat that is leaving the US in 90 days, and once we are in international waters, there won’t be anyone to help us when things go wrong. We’re trying to be somewhat disciplined in our effort to learn all we can about this boat.
There are a couple of things worth noting in the picture above.
- The fenders are down. Don’t worry - we didn’t forget to pull them in. This was just to get them out of the way. I have giant inflatable fenders. My plan is to deflate them when not in use. We have an air compressor on board to make inflation fast and easy. The inflatable fenders are feather light, extremely durable and are a big hit with all who see them. That said, for now, it is easier to flip them overboard to get them out of the way.
- There is a ladder coming down from the bow, just in front of the forward fender. When dropping the tender, you are about 12 feet off the water. My son Chris confidently announced that we didn’t need the ladder, as he would easily be able to climb down the side of the boat and into the tender. As you can see, the ladder is in place, and Chris now has a healthier respect for heights.
The first tender dropped was the Zodiac Projet. It’s my first experience with a 2-cycle engine, and I can see why 4-cycle has now taken over the industry. At slow speed it puts out a huge cloud of smoke. It allegedly will run at 40+ knots, but in my trials yesterday, at about 20 knots it acts like it is out of fuel, and I have to restart the engine. Another thing to add to the list…
Dropping the tender was amazingly simple. On our prior boat we were never really happy with the davit (the crane used for raising and lowering the tender). We had a 1,500 pound capacity davit that seemed to have a heck of a time lifting our 1,100 pound tender. It make screeching noises like it was about to fall apart, and we didn’t have a ladder like we do now. Once the tender was in the water, it would be dangling from the davit at the bow, 20 feet in front of the nearest point of access. Other than swimming, the only way to get someone into the tender was to drop it most of the way, have someone climb down into it, and then lower it the rest of the way. This was unsafe and not something we should have done, and not something I would do today. For this boat, one of our “must have” items was a powerful davit. Thus, we installed a Marquipt 2,500 pound davit, which lifted the Projet like it wasn’t there. This, combined with the ladder for climbing down, has made me a very happy (and, much safer) guy.
Roberta made tacos for our first dinner at anchor. Her parents, and our son, are on board. We set up for dinner on the outside upper aft deck, even though it was cold and windy. Since it was our first ever dinner at anchor, I wanted the experience to be as special as possible. We broke out the good dishes, the crystal wine glasses, even the fancy silverware (that we NEVER get to eat with). There were a few grumbles from our guests as I explained they’d have to wear a jacket to dinner. As I was carrying things up to the back deck, the wind was rising. At 19.7 knots of wind, one of Roberta’s good plates, which I had placed in position just minutes before, crashed to the deck, and luckily didn’t break. That ended the dreams of dinner on the back deck. We still enjoyed dinner, but at the dining room table in the main salon. Dinner on the back deck shall have to wait until the boat is farther south.
The wind became a factor again later when we went in the hot tub. Filling the hot tub was simple. We carry 500 gallons of water, and the hot tub uses around 200. I topped off the water again using the water makers. We heated the water using the Kabola furnace, which also went smoothly. Going in the hot tub should have been, but was not perfect. The weather projections were for no more than 10 knot winds, but as usual, the weather gods seem to do whatever they want, regardless of the forecast. Any body parts poking above the waterline were quickly miserable.
As evening set in I had to make a decision: run the generator, and have a wealth of electricity over night, but put up with the sound of the generator running, or kill the generator and let the batteries power the boat. Our battery bank is sized to be more than adequate for overnights at anchor. That said, I don’t believe anything until I’ve tested it in actual usage. I was tired, and feeling lazy, so my gut said to just leave the generator running, and do the testing on another night. But, the decision was complicated because I was running the 25kw generator. We have a big (25kw) and a small (16kw) generator. The small generator is a long way from the staterooms, and barely audible. The big generator is much closer, and much louder (although still not really bad – just loud enough to be annoying if you are trying to sleep). Unfortunately, while doing some load testing a few days ago I managed to blow some fuses. Even more unfortunately, the particular fuses that I blew are required for the small generator to run, and I’m having a hard time hunting down new ones. Thus, until I get to a bigger city, I am stuck with the big generator. I still wanted to put off trying to run all night on batteries, and had just made the decision to let the 25kw generator run all night, when I noticed the load – 10 amps (at 240 volts). Generators like to have a load which is somewhere close to their rated output. Under-loading, or over-loading, a generator is not a good thing. The big generator wants a big load; like 100 amps, and would be quite disappointed to find only a 10 amp requirement. The writing was on the wall. This would be a good night to test running on the batteries.
Two events converged to insure that my first night at anchor would be “restless.”
- Because I didn’t know if the batteries would really last all night, I wanted to watch them through the night to see how long they would last without being charged. On many smaller boats, nothing is going while you sleep except an anchor light. On this boat, there are water pumps that kick in from time to time, two refrigerators, two freezer drawers, a BIG freezer, the circulation water pump for the water heating, the wine cooler, the dvd jukebox (Kaleidescape), the computers, the radar and more.
- The high wind earlier in the evening caught me by surprise. It wasn’t in the forecast, but it had been there anyhow. As we were turning in, the wind had died completely, and we had enough chain out to withstand most hurricanes. But, with a new boat, and a new anchor, I thought it might be smarter to monitor things closely.
This all adds up to what I call “anchor watch”. I set my clock hourly, and each time it goes off I take a quick look around, and assuming the boat hasn’t moved, or the batteries died, I get to go back to sleep. In actuality, I was 99% certain there was no need for anchor watch, so I cheated and set my clock to go off every two hours. As expected, the batteries not only lasted all night, the indications are that I could have easily gone another six to eight hours. And, not only did the anchor hold, the wind never came back, and the anchor chain hung straight down all night. Our next time at anchor will be much more relaxing.
This morning, I wanted to lower the other tender: “the big tender”. I quickly discovered that the bridle required to lift it off the deck was missing. I put in calls to Nordhavn, but given that it was raining, I decided to put the small tender back on the deck, and head for port. As we were heading back, I received the call from Nordhavn. The lifting bridle for the big tender was there all along, and I’d been looking right at it. I saw a blue plastic line, which looked like fender line, or a line for pulling skiers. That was it! It didn’t even vaguely look strong enough to lift a tender, but I guess it is spectra (or, something like that) and is as strong as steel. Oh well. I learned something, and that’s what this month is all about…
Our return to port was without incident, and even parking the boat went well. Overall it was an uneventful trip, and that’s exactly what I wanted! Our next time out we’ll be more adventurous.
Nordhavn68.com, Sans Souci
PS I’ve received a lot of email asking what we would or wouldn’t do again, if we had it to do all over again. We only took delivery of the boat a week ago, and are just starting to learn it, so I don’t really know the answer to this question. Here are a few “off the top of my head” thoughts. If there is something more specific you’d like to know, email me, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
||There is no doubt in my mind. We made the right decision to go with twin engines. I like the maneuverability and the full redundancy. Fuel consumption is higher, which is certainly a negative, but the positives easily outweigh this. I can still run 1,800 miles at near-maximum speed. For trips to Hawaii, I’ll have to slow down to extend the range. This doesn’t bother me: Realistically speaking, how many times will I cross to Hawaii?
||Those who know me will understand why I put internet #2 after the engines. I actually have many different ways of getting internet. Here’s a quick summary:
Blackberry – I have Verizon and an 8830 cell phone that I use for both voice and data access. It has been amazing. I have rarely had trouble getting my email. I have a cellular retransmitter on board, which takes in cell phone signals and retransmits them. I don’t know how much effect this has had.
Syrens Wireless Internet Amplifier – This is basically an exterior antenna for connecting to a wireless connection. It only works when you are somewhere where there is a signal to find. It is most useful when anchored near a marina that has wireless and you can’t quite get the signal. With Syrens, you probably can. On the journey north to Seattle from Dana Point (approx 1,300 miles), we ran most of the time only about three miles offshore. Whenever we were near a city I could see plenty of different wireless connections, and even connected to them from time to time. Unfortunately, because we were on the move, I always lost them within 10-20 minutes.
Cruisenet – this is essentially a cell phone, like my blackberry, in a box. It is essentially a cell phone with a big antenna on it. It is the same technology as that used to provide email and web surfing on cell phones. It works reliably most of the time, and gives an “OK”, but well below broadband, connection to the net.
Fleet 77 – this has three different modes, and works reliably essentially anywhere on earth. The speed ranges from really slow to mediocre, while the cost ranges from really expensive to prohibitively expensive. Because we plan to circumnavigate, I absolutely need the Fleet 77, but always hope I use it as little as possible.
||We put teak decking EVERYWHERE around the boat. It looks very nice, but has been a headache. The teak is easy to stain, and takes hard work to keep clean. If I had it to do over again…
||We have a monitoring system on board, called Simon. Simon is a computer, which is constantly looking at various sensors placed around the boat, and Simon let’s me know if something isn’t right. For instance, I can tell it “let me know if the engine coolant temperature rises about 185, and it will do so. Simon is monitoring 200+ different items on this boat at all times: portholes that are open, shaft temperatures, fuel tank levels, fresh water levels, shore power voltages, fuel pressure, etc. All of this information is presented on one monitor, in a very well organized layout. I’d put a monitoring system on any boat I owned. I still have some calibrating work ahead, but it was money well spent.
A side story: while sea trialing the boat, I brought a boat-expert with me from Seattle to Dana Point. The expert was in the engine room when Simon decided it didn’t like the shaft temperature. In actuality, there wasn’t a problem. The system was still being dialed in. But, in this case, Simon decided to trigger the “FULL ALERT.” A siren went off in the engine room, and red lights started spinning. My expert who was enjoying himself in the engine room was blind-sided by all the theatrics, and assumed something really bad was happening. After he exited the engine room in a fraction of a second, with heart racing, we broke the news that it was a false alarm. Oops
||Most Nordhavns have dry exhaust (a big exhaust pipe that rises from the engine room, through the salon, and out the roof of the pilot house). We didn’t like the idea of a hot exhaust pipe running through the boat, and mostly, we didn’t want to give up the interior space. The bottom line: Nordhavn likes dry exhaust, and believes it is better for the boat – but, I still think we made the right decision.
||We have a system that provides US-standard shore power, regardless of where we are in the world. It will take about anything you throw at it, and give nice clean 60 cycle, 240v power. Were we not planning to cruise internationally, there’d be no reason to have this. It was expensive, and takes a ton of space, but for us, it was a necessity.
|14kw of inverter
||An inverter allows you to run the boat off of the batteries. I wanted a huge amount of inverter capacity, so that I wouldn’t have to start a generator every time someone wanted to make coffee. On our prior boat the generator was noisy. On this boat, you barely hear it. I still think I made the right decision, but would be hard-pressed to justify it today. As I type this, the generator is running. It’s just really easy to start the generator and not worry about it. The generator doesn’t use much fuel, and makes life very easy. I’m thinking that maybe I didn’t need all the inverter capacity. Ask me again later. As I type this, I would do it again, but there’s a darn good argument for keeping things simple. The inverters add a layer of complexity that may not be needed.
||I was going to put a dive compressor on the boat, but then decided that I’d be happier with a simple air compressor with an air hose attached (a hookah system). It allows me to dive without wearing tanks. There are limitations, and there will still be times when I’ll want tanks for a dive. But, for day-in, day-out diving (cleaning the boat bottom, or checking the anchor), I’ll prefer the hookah. I’d try it now, but I forgot to buy a wetsuit – and, this is the Pacific NW. The water is freezing! In November I’ll have the boat in Cabo, and the hookah will get plenty of usage.
||We are the only Nordhavn (as far as I know) with a “real” passarelle. Actually, us, and my prior boat – so, there are two Nordhavns. Until I get to Europe, the Passarelle will get no use. In Europe everyone parks by backing up to a wall and hovering six feet off, requiring a gangplank (passarelle) to reach shore. In Europe it will be essential. Here, it is wasted space and money – but, Europe is definitely in our cruising future, so I’d do it again
|Dual 800 gpd watermakers
||I wanted plenty of watermaker capacity, because of the “need” to fill the hot tub. I wanted twin watermakers, so that if one failed, I’d still have the other. The Village Marine units we put on board are surprisingly easy to operate, and take less space than expected.
||A hot tub on a boat is silly. Actually, I’m not sure how one could justify boating as the best possible way of moving from point A to point B. The truth of the matter is that this is done for fun, and we have already had some incredibly fun nights in our hot tub. Note to future N68 owners: if you like hot tubs, you want a hot tub on your boat. It is incredible.
||We’re from Seattle. Of course the expresso machine was justified.
|Dual anchor setup
||I wanted dual anchors, and I have them – kind of. Unfortunately, we havent’ found a way to place two anchors side by side on the bow pulpit. The best I have been able to do is to have one anchor mounted, and another sitting in a locker waiting to be installed. I can’t quite justify this, but would do it again. I know there will come a day when I’ll be happy to have a fully redundant backup for my anchor (windlass, chain, ground tackle).
||We decided to replace ALL exterior doors with sliding doors. They are cool, because they can be locked down in any position. We’re still solving some issues with them, but they were worth the effort and cost.
|Kabola Diesel Furnace
||We have a diesel furnace (the Kabola) which serves three different purposes here on the boat: 1) Space heating. The Kabola can heat the water loop that is used for the air conditioning system. This water loop carries hot water through the boat. In each room, the same air handler that blows air across the loop for chilling now blows air across the same tube for heating. It works perfectly, and requires very little electricity. Heating via heat strips is an electrical nightmare (huge electrical consumption). 2) Water heating. It feels like we have infinite hot water on the boat! The Kabola heats the water so fast that we haven’t yet run out of hot water. And, 3) Yes. The Kabola heats the hot tub. Ninety minutes from filling the water is hot. Amazing.
||We installed a pressure wash system that is plumbed to all exterior decks. Very handy. We also put in fittings everywhere for fresh water, and compressed air. Definitely worth doing.
||We have a dvd jukebox that holds something like 1,000 dvds. It is set to accept both US and European-standard dvds. Every television on the boat can be watching a different dvd at the same time. This was really expensive, and there are much cheaper ways to do the same thing. Kaleidescape has a slick interface, and is the best way to go, if money is no object (which it was – but, given that we’re planning to circumnavigate, and will be without tv most of the time, we decided to splurge anyhow)
||Awesome. Go for the extreme duty. www.praktek.com
||Silly, and a waste of money. Happy I did it, but not clear I’d do it again.
||I wanted super high-resolution for running Maxsea (the navigation software). I’m running Maxsea at 1920x1200. It looks great, but the monitor won’t dim for running at night, and Maxsea has proven tough to learn. I think I’ll like it when I learn it, but for now, I’m not loving either Maxsea or the monitor. Navnet on the other hand has been great. I actually have two Navnet systems on the boat. I’m leaning towards just rearranging things so I can run both of the Navnet computers in the pilot house, and forget Maxsea.
|2127 Blackbox radar
||I have a large and a small radar. The “small” radar that I have with Navnet has been great. My big fancy expensive radar has yet to work reliably. I am confident that the large radar is going to be great, and that the problem is nothing more than some loose wires, but for the moment, I am frustrated with it.
||This is really nothing more than an ultra-reliable GPS unit (actually someone told me that it includes eight GPS units). I had heard rumors that these are not as reliable as they are advertised to be, but mine has been absolutely rock solid. After a couple of weeks of usage, I’d still be hard pressed to explain why this is better than a standard GPS. Perhaps I’ll be smarter later, but for now it feels like a solution in search of a problem.
||I haven’t fired it up yet. My gut says that until I get to the south pacific I won’t find use for it. That said, I need to get used to using it. Soon….
|NVTI 5000 night vision camera
||I bought a fancy night vision camera that is supposed to be incredible. Currently, it isn’t working very well, and I’m wishing I had bought a nice pair of night vision binoculars. The company is asking that I remove the camera from the boat and send it back for repairs. I do perceive a real need for good night vision, and am hoping that when I get it back from them I’ll be blown away. We’ll see.
||One of the more “controversial” things we did (at least for us), was to go with an electric stove and oven. We prefer cooking on gas, as we assume most people do. The problem is that because we are planning to circumnavigate, we know that getting propane outside the US can be a challenge. After lots of agonizing, we believe we came up with something that is a good compromise.
Inside the boat, we are all electric. On the back deck (in the cockpit), we put a huge, really awesome, DCS barbecue. The barbecue is propane powered, and a delight to use. I just finished cooking dinner, for five very hungry people, 100% on the barbecue (filet mignon, corn on the cob). When I can get propane we will cook on gas, and when I can’t we will use electricity. I put the gas outside, and the electric stove inside, because I prefer the idea of keeping flammable gas OUTSIDE the boat. In actuality, if the propane tank ever blows while we are in the middle of an ocean, it won’t matter if it was inside, or on the back deck, we’ll have a bad day – but, it makes me feel better not having gas inside the boat, so that’s what we did.
Coming north from San Diego to Seattle, we were slammed by waves breaking up to the pilot house, but the barbecue is placed such that we used it every night. Perfection.
||I’ve already mentioned that this is worth its weight in gold. I really like it. The problem is that as soon as we leave the US I’ll be back to hunting for weather information the old way (argh!) The system really spoils you.
|Buying A Nordhavn 68
||Probably the ultimate “would you do it again?” is the selection of the boat itself. We sold our Nordhavn 62, and invested that money, plus a bunch more, and several years of waiting, in the effort to trade up. For us, the unequivocal answer is ABSOLUTELY. This is an incredibly comfortable boat. We made the command decision that if we were going to spend most of the next 10 years anchored off remote islands, then we were going to do it as comfortably as possible. With this boat, going home will be a step backwards…