Ken Williams

Writers on the Water

Writers on the Water

Okay, so it’s not quite as memorable (yet?) as “Riders on the Storm,” the 1971 hit by The Doors, but a new blog by writers Christine Kling and Mike Jastrzebski  called Write on the Water, is a place to talk about the intersection of writing and living and working on the water. I was the guest author there today and I’m thrilled and honored that they asked me to write something for them.

New Blog Write On The Water

New Blog Write On The Water

Chris is already a famous (to me at least) author of a great mystery series featuring the fictional tug captain Seychelle Sullivan. And Mike is a full-time writer living on his 36′ sailboat, Roughdraft. OceanLines’ own guest author Victoria Allman, who writes our “Sea Fare” series of recipes for the cruiser and who wrote “Sea Fare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.”

I know from talking with readers of OceanLines that many of you are also writers. Remember, the definition of “a writer” is “someone who writes.” Don’t buy the stodgy nonsense that you have to have been published to be considered a true writer. Writers write. Period. And from what I’ve read, some of you are very good writers.

One definition of a good writer is someone who can tell a compelling story. Our community has those by the drove. People like Ken Williams, John and Maria Torelli, and others who have compiled their writings into books.  And others, like Milt Baker and John Marshall and a host of other current cruisers, tell great stories in their blogs.  Of course, there are also the classic “nautical writers” of the age of sail, like Melville, Conrad and Dana. They were all seamen before they were writers. Derek Lundy points that out in his great book “The Way of a Ship,” which is is a fantastic account of his ancestor’s passage aboard the Beara Head, an iron-hulled square-rigger, that took a load of coal around Cape Horn.

If you’ve written about your time on the water, we’d like to hear about it and share it with our other readers. Send us a link to your blog or a book you’ve written and we’ll put together a page with everyone’s links on it. I know you’re out there, typing away on some kind of keyboard. Let’s hear about it! And stop by Write On The Water when you get a chance.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boats, Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Industry News, Passagemaking News, People, Powerboats, Sailboats, seamanship

Sushi Run Boats Prepare for 2010 Continuation

Original 2009 Route Map of the GSSR - Courtesy Ken Williams

Original 2009 Route Map of the GSSR - Courtesy Ken Williams

Ken Williams, who, with his wife Roberta, owns the Nordhavn 68 Sans Souci, reports that the 2010 cruising season for the boats of the Great Siberian Sushi Run (GSSR) is approaching. In an email today to followers of his blog, Williams reports that the boats, which traveled from Seattle, Washington to Osaka Japan last year, will this year explore more of Japan and finish in Hong Kong. You can read our coverage of the start of the GSSR last year here.

Williams says, remarkably, that the 2,000 mile voyage will likely include only one overnight passage — that from Taiwan to Hong Kong.  Here’s a quick summary of the trip from Williams’ e-mail:

2010 Route Plan of the GSSR From Osaka to Hong Kong -- Courtesy of Ken Williams

2010 Route Plan of the GSSR From Osaka to Hong Kong -- Courtesy of Ken Williams

“Our journey this year “should” be much easier than last year. We’ll be traveling from Osaka Japan, into Japan’s inland sea, where we’ll visit Hiroshima and Fukuoka. Somewhere along the way we’ll visit South Korea, but we won’t be taking the boats. It’s too complicated, and expensive, to clear the boats out of Japan, into South Korea, and then back into Japan. Instead, we’ll park the boats somewhere and take a ferry into South Korea. Once back on the boats we’ll explore Nagasaki and Kyushu Japan, then head south along the Ryukyu Island Japan, visiting Okinawa along the way. Allegedly the Ryukyu islands are a chain of tropical islands, reminiscent of Hawaii. We’ll then leave Japan from the island of Ishigaki and head to Taiwan, where we’ll visit the factory where our Nordhavn boats were born. Our group will be the first Nordhavns to ever return to the factory, so everyone is very excited. After that we’ll head to Hong Kong.”

To read more about the run, including who else will be in the group this year, you can read Ken Williams’ blog here. And if you haven’t already picked up his books on cruising, you should. They’re a great mix of journal-like entries with a narrative that let’s you share his learning experiences along the way. We have a link to the online store where you can order them over on the right sidebar (that link is not a paid ad; it’s there because I like Ken’s writing and hope to expand his readership even farther).

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boats, Cruising Under Power, Destinations, Maintenance & DIY, Passagemaking News, People, Powerboats, seamanship

GSSR Reaches Japan: Sushi Must Wait

GSSR Route Map Showing Progress to Date  -- Image Courtesy of Ken Williams

GSSR Route Map Showing Progress to Date -- Image Courtesy of Ken Williams

Ken Williams aboard Sans Soucireports that the Great Siberian Sushi Run has reached Japan, although the arrival there apparently had a number of unexpected events.  In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, the crewmembers of Sans Souci, the first Nordhavn 68, and Seabird and Grey Pearl (both Nordhavn 62s) couldn’t find an open sushi restaurant on arrival day and some of them, at least, ended up dining on Chinese cuisine.  More alarming was the fact that Sans Soucicrewmember Shelby (the dog) was not allowed to immigrate into Japan due to what Ken describes as a stunningly bureaucratic paperwork issue.  A “Free Shelby!” movement has begun within a Yahoo discussion group known as the Nordhavn Dreamers, with a groundswell (seaswell?) of support for the sole canine aboard.

The GSSR fleet is moored at a marina in Tomakomai on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.  The three ships made a five day passage south from the Russian port city of Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka peninsula.  Ken Williams reports in his latest blog entry that the passage was without bad weather and that the worst complication was navigating through fields of fishing buoys.  His post has some interesting screen shots taken from the radar displays that nicely illustrate the navigational challenge.

Next stop for the group, and last official stop on the GSSR route, will be the huge port city of Yokohama, on the “main” island of Honshu.  Yokohama is the big industrial port inside Tokyo Bay.  Readers who are considering a stop in Japan should read the latest blog entry from Ken as he describes in typical high-resolution detail the challenges of international immigration; not just for crew but also for the boat. 

Copyright © 2009 OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in Destinations

Sushi Run Boats Reach Kodiak

GSSR Route Map -- Image Courtesy of Ken Williams

GSSR Route Map -- Image Courtesy of Ken Williams

The three-boat Great Siberian Sushi Run has reached Kodiak, Alaska, 1,892 NM along its planned 5,276 NM journey to pick up sushi in Japan.  If you haven’t followed this convoy since it left Seattle more than a month ago, you’ve missed some pretty cool stuff.  Owner and captain of the lead ship, Sans Souci, a Nordhavn 68, is Ken Williams, an über-prolific blogger whose practical prose over the past several years has educated and entertained many thousands of armchair explorers.  Ken began his blogging with the famous Nordhavn Atlantic Rally (NAR) during the summer of 2004 and hasn’t ever stopped.

Nowadays, Ken and his wife Roberta, who may someday challenge Samantha Brown for a spot on the Travel Channel, are also taking and posting video from the trip.  Have a look at the latest posting from Sans Souci in this Youtube clip:

 

If you haven’t read the rest of the blog entries, or would like to sign up for Ken’s regular e-mail updates, stop by Ken’s blog here and sign up.

 

Copyright © 2009 OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in Destinations, People

Great Siberian Sushi Run Reaches Alaska

Sans Souci (far right) in the Petersburg, Alaska marina -- Photo courtesy of Ken Williams

Sans Souci (far right) in the Petersburg, Alaska marina -- Photo courtesy of Ken Williams

Ken Williams and his three ships, the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, eh. . . .Sans Souci, Grey Pearl and Seabird have arrived in Alaska and are deliberately making their way up the coast.  Earlier this week they reached Petersburg, only a day’s run from Juneau.  In his blog on the trip, Williams reports that things have gone very smoothly so far, and the Inside Passage seems to have lived up to its reputation for spectacular scenery.  As of his report #14, the GSSR had completed 913 NM of its planned 4,363 NM voyage.  In his latest entries, he also has interesting interviews with the couples aboard the other two boats.

Williams spends some time discussing his passage through the Wrangell Narrows en route to Petersburg.  This is the channel between Mitkof Island and Kupreanof Island in the Alexander Archipelago in Southeast Alaska.  The Wrangell Narrows is one of the six Listed narrows in South East Alaska.  There are about 60 lights and buoys to mark it because of its winding nature and navigation hazards.

In the picture below, Williams has captured one of the unique features of the waters in this region.  First-timers to boating in the Pacific Northwest are often shocked to see how deep the waters are, given how close to land they are.  You can see in the photo below that Sans Souci is traveling in a very narrow channel, with high mountains all around, and yet the water is more than 1,800 feet deep.  I’m not sure my depthfinder would even read the bottom that deep.  Naturally, Sans Souci is fitted with the ultimate in marine electronics, as it should be for this passage.

Sans Souci in Very Deep Water in Alaska Passage -- Image Courtesy

Sans Souci in Very Deep Water in Alaska Passage -- Image Courtesy of Ken Williams

If you haven’t visited Ken Williams’ blog on the Great Siberian Sushi Run yet, you should.  Visit it here and consider picking up a copy of Ken’s book here.  Yes, I know I’m advertising for him, but he is a compelling storyteller and talks about great destinations as well as the cool geek side of boating (which we particularly love).  We’ll continue to give you status reports, but consider signing up for Ken’s e-mail subscription and you’ll never miss a stop along the way.  This will end up being one of the classic passagemaking stories except that this time you can follow along in real time.

GSSR Route Map -- Image Courtesy of Ken Williams
GSSR Route Map — Image Courtesy of Ken Williams

Copyright © 2009 OceanLinesith S

Posted by Tom in Destinations, Passagemaking News

“Great Siberian Sushi Run” Prepares to Weigh Anchor

Late next month, an interesting convoy of sorts will depart the protected waters of Seattle for a nearly 6,000 NM trek across the North Pacific to Russia and Japan.  The three Nordhavns — the first Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci, owned by Ken and Roberta Williams; Grey Pearl, an N62 owned by Braun and Tina Jones, and Seabird, another N62 owned by Steven and Carol Argosy — are taking the unusual northern route and have dubbed it the “Great Siberian Sushi Run (GSSR).” 

A Wide View of the Route of the GSSR.   Image courtesy of Ken Williams

A Wide View of the Route of the GSSR. Image courtesy of Ken Williams

Williams is something of a minor celebrity in passagemaking circles, having blogged though the Nordhavn Atlantic Rally (NAR) in the summer of 2004, when a fleet of 18 Nordhavns (and a couple of others), sponsored in part by Nordhavn and other marine companies, transited the Atlantic from Fort Lauderdale to Gibraltar.  You can read the Nordhavn summary of that rally here.  Williams eventually compiled his blog entries into a book, entitled “Crossing an Ocean Under Power.”  Williams and his wife were the co-founders of the computer game company Sierra On-Line, from which they were able to retire and enjoy what has been, off and on, a full-time cruising lifestyle.

Passagemakers of all kinds, including no doubt, many potential Nordhavn customers, have enjoyed reading Williams’s blog entries in the years since the NAR.  He documented the sale of their original Nordhavn, a 62 also named Sans Souci, and their decision to become the launch customer for the Nordhavn 68.  In the kind of excruciating detail that many of us absolutely devour, Williams detailed nearly every major decision along that buying process — everything from engine selection to electronics and the myriad of other systems aboard a big, fairly complicated boat.  You can read many of his posts at his current cruising blog and much more detail about the Nordhavn 68 at the website he established when building the boat, here.  The Argosys also have a blog about their travels aboard Seabird.

The GSSR is taking a far-northern route from Seattle to Japan, in part to ensure the little convoy is never too far offshore.  Williams explains how they decided to do the trip in the first place and why they chose this particular route in a recent blog entry this way:

“We all wanted to cross the Pacific, and this gives us a way to “get to the other side” without ever being more than about 500 miles from land. Instead of a fifteen to twenty day cruise across open ocean, we instead have a spectacular trip with plenty of places to stop.

We have a “once in a lifetime” chance to visit a cruising ground that few, other than commercial fishing boats, have ever visited. How many boaters can say they’ve docked in Siberia?

It’s tough to get three highly opinionated captains to agree on anything. We wanted to cruise together, and couldn’t agree on Tahiti. I don’t know why.”

The legs of the trip, as currently planned, are tabulated in the following whimsical illustration, which has become a sort of logo for the trip.  Click on the image for a larger, more readable look at the leg distances.

Great Siberian Sushi Run Route Map   Image Courtesy of Ken Williams

Great Siberian Sushi Run Route Map Image Courtesy of Ken Williams

Ordinarily, a trans-Pacific run is made from near-Equatorial latitudes in order to take advantage of the prevailing trade winds, which can add a knot or two, sometimes more to westward boat speed.  In this case, the GSSR is more likely to face headwinds and seas which crossing the infamous Bering Sea.  Williams says the planned departure date, April 23, was chosen to improve the odds of relatively benign conditions in the Bering. 

Nordhavn 68 Sans Souci at Anchor.  Photo courtesy of Ken Willaims

Nordhavn 68 Sans Souci at Anchor. Photo courtesy of Ken Willaims

Williams promises to keep up his blogging, so make sure to stop by his blog and sign up for the regular GSSR updates.  He’s a great writer and his prolific blogging means there is something for everyone; whether it’s route planning, outfitting, navigating, anchoring, marinas, or restaurants and shore visits.  And for those of you wondering how to bring your pet with you, Shelby Williams, a Norwegian Lundehund, will be aboard, just as she has for the many of thousands of miles the Williams already have under their Nordhavn keels.

Copyright © 2009 OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in Destinations, Passagemaking News, People

The SeaKits Advantage for Spares Management

The dark, crushing ocean depths traveled by nuclear submarines are perhaps the most unforgiving environment we know.  It does not require much of a mistake to exact the most premium of penalties.  As a young nuclear operator aboard one of those submarines, Barry Kallander was trained to understand that harsh reality, and to do what he had to in order to ensure the safety of ship and crew.  And in some ways, Kallander is still at it.
Seakits MMS Homepage

SeaKits MMS Homepage

Kallander is the founder of SeaKits, a company that provides customized maintenance planning, record–keeping and spare–parts provisioning for large boat owners.  The service is designed to eliminate home–grown maintenance and parts logs in favor of a more organized – and more advanced – computer–based system.

While there are many software programs designed to help owners track maintenance and parts, SeaKits offers premium service at a premium price – and it may soon be the gold standard.  Just a year from its launch, the system has received plenty of recognition, earning a Best New Product award at the Newport Boat Show in 2007.  Manufacturers too are seeing the value – Kadey–Krogen, Selene, Fleming, Outer Reef Yachts and Real Ships all include the SeaKits system with each new boat delivered.

Seakits MMS Spare Parts Quote Page

SeaKits MMS Spare Parts Quote Page

Kallander’s Marine Maintenance System (MMS) is a thoroughly modern, internet–based application that takes a custom approach to each boat. It tracks every system aboard in great detail, based on simple inputs by the owner or captain, and then uses this data as a resource to inform the crew. For example, MMS can remind the user of upcoming maintenance and the actions required, based on information such as engine hours and manuals for the boat and its systems that are stored digitally. It can list the parts needed and their location – or help the owner order them. It even notes warranty expirations.

Ultimately, it is the content within the system – not the software itself – that becomes the asset, Kallander says.

“Frankly, how much value is there if you’re just getting a couple of spreadsheets and you have to fill in all the data yourself?  With SeaKits, you’re getting the fully populated database, customized for your specific boat and your systems,” Kallander says.  “We actually get the specs from the builder or we walk the yachts down ourselves.”

BIRTH OF A COMPANY

A typical Seakits spare parts package

A typical SeaKits spare parts package

Kallander started SeaKits in January 2007 and currently has approximately 80 customers, most of them powerboat owners with boats in the 50 to 80–foot range.  There are also a handful of customers in the 40–50–foot range and Kallander has his sights set on the 80 to 120–foot market and, eventually, the larger superyachts.

“Today we sell to the owner–operator,” says Kallander, though with larger boats, “you have to sell to the captains. The owners are typically much more arms–length.”

Kallander’s inspiration for the business was his own yacht, a Nordhavn 40 called Commander, which is featured in many of the company’s print ads. When he bought Commander in 2005, Kallander traded in his Catalina 42 and realized he needed a more organized method of keeping track of the boat’s maintenance requirements and spares.

“So as I got into it, I got into a more disciplined approach…outfitting the boat, keeping detailed records, talking to other Nordhavn and other yacht owners out there and I soon came to the conclusion that there was a business opportunity there,” Kallander says.

SeaKits Fluids Analysis Kit

SeaKits Fluids Analysis Kit

SeaKits’ original offering was a simple damage–control kit, with plugs, patches, fasteners, tools and a flooding damage control guide.  These are still available, but now are also sold by retailers for about $325.  The kit includes soft wood plugs for filling a hole in the hull, as one might experience with a damaged thru–hull opening, as well as a camp ax to shape and hammer in the plugs.  A variety of hoses, fasteners, sealants, ties, clamps and a flashlight with batteries are also included.

The company also offers fluid analysis kits to test engine and hydraulic oils, fuels and coolants.  A typical oil analysis kit includes a vacuum pump, three sample bottles, mailers, tubing, test packages, instructions and prepaid shipping to the lab.  It lists for $95.  A single hydraulic fluid test kit retails for $49 while a single–sample coolant test kit is $39.

But Kallander saw much more opportunity in the field and quickly decided to expand his operation into maintenance, spares and provisioning.

THE MMS ADVANTAGE

The result is the Marine Maintenance System, which goes beyond what most software can offer in several ways.  For example, the MMS can recommend the type and quantity of spare parts necessary for different kinds of cruising.  For the coastal cruiser within a day or two of a port where repairs can be made, the system might suggest a more modest inventory.  For the ocean passagemaker, who requires a higher level of self sufficiency, it would be more expansive.

Kallander also says that his MMS system better accommodates today’s boats, which contain complex systems and may be intimidating to owners.  MMS will provide a scheduled maintenance plan for all the equipment on board, from oil and filter changes to cleaning the condenser coils on the refrigerator.

MMS also makes use of documentation: all parts catalogues, data sheets and manuals are available on the website.  The customer can also receive a disk with a copy of these documents.  With the documents available online and on disc, there is little chance of loss or damage.

Another benefit is the ability to order parts by simply logging into the system.  “They go online, request a quote, we give them the quote, they approve it and then we get the parts,” Kallander said.

One benefit of this system is that all spares ordering and provisioning can be done by SeaKits, eliminating the need to work with multiple vendors.  Kallander notes that the owner of a typical 55–foot vessel might have to deal with 15 to 20 suppliers in order to outfit the boat with all the spares needed for a cruise.

“Our value proposition is that that customer can come to us for anything on the boat, from a simple water filter under the sink to a spare water pump for an engine,” Kallander says.  “All the parts come to our shop first.  We tag them with part name, number, manufacturer and which kit it goes into – engine, stabilizer, plumbing, etc. – and then we assemble them into packages.”

WHAT IT COSTS

The MMS service is not cheap, but customers paying a premium for the help are offered premium service.  The initial fee to sign up, which covers documenting the boat’s requirements and assembling and kitting the parts, is based on length of the boat.  Kallander says a 50– to 60–foot vessel might cost in the $4,000 range, and that does not include the cost of the actual spares.  Thereafter, a more modest annual fee is charged. For example, an owner might pay $196 for a 55–footer.

The system can be used with an existing boat or it can be added to the commissioning process on a new boat, as it is for Kadey–Krogen, Selene and Real Ships.

“With Kadey–Krogen, for example, every boat that is sold comes with MMS and we start working with the customers a couple of months before commissioning,” Kallander says.  “At commissioning, then, we turn over a completed system.”  The system also allows owners to use it while underway, which can be a substantial help when ordering parts outside the United States.

“They can call us for anything from oil filters to the most substantial piece of equipment,” Kallander says.  “We had one client headed down the Mexican coast, for example, and he needed some emergency parts from his list.  He gave us a five–day window at a specific marina and we had the parts waiting for him when he arrived.”

Kallander says the typical owner will arrive in port and, unless they have reliable internet access at sea, log onto the system.  They will then provide engine hours – including generators and watermakers – and the system will calculate which maintenance requirements are coming due and provide alerts for those.  When maintenance intervals are time–based, the system will track those as well.

PUTTING IT TO USE

One customer of SeaKits is Ken Williams, who owns the first Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci.  Williams is well–known in the trawler community, thanks to his participation in the Nordhavn–sponsored Atlantic Rally, which saw a group of trawlers travel en–masse from Florida to Gibraltar during the summer of 2004. 

Ken Williams uses SeaKits MMS Aboard Sans Souci, his Nordhavn 68

Ken Williams uses SeaKits MMS Aboard Sans Souci, his Nordhavn 68

His blog entries from that trip were turned into a book.  Williams is still blogging and planning big cruises.  His latest plan involves a group of four boats, which plan to leave from the Pacific Northwest next year and follow a northern route to Japan, via Russia.

Williams is an unabashed supporter of the SeaKits MMS concept.  “First,” says Williams, “the effort they made just to get all the manuals and documents as PDF files is clearly of value.  I can look up whatever I need on the website.  ” Williams said he also has the original manuals onboard the boat but now doesn’t have to be on the boat to look something up.

“The maintenance interval stuff,” confesses Williams, “I’ve been really bad about it.  I tend to just tell [the captain] about it and he takes care of it.”  He says he is impressed at the level of detail in the maintenance recommendations, citing as an example, a reminder to grease the windlass – “stuff I would have completely forgotten about.”

Williams says the maintenance documentation and records will be of significant value when boats are sold, but he reserves his highest compliments for the spare parts management inherent in the MMS.

SeaKits re-labels and re-packs all parts for tracking and efficiency

SeaKits re-labels and re-packs all parts for tracking and efficiency

“That part alone justifies the purchase,” he says.  “When you get your spares, they’ve taken the time to shrink wrap and label them and pack them in Pelican cases.  Then, when you need replacements, they’ve got all the information.”  Of particular value, he said, was SeaKits’ experience getting parts moved through customs in foreign countries, a task that can often be a stumbling block for cruisers.

Williams’ captain, Jeff Sanson, who helps move Sans Souci between cruising regions and handles the maintenance and logistics for the boat, said he too is a proponent of the MMS system.

“I wish that all my owners had the system,” Sanson says.  “I wouldn’t have to spend the time I do on those boats.

Sanson says he probably doesn’t need the maintenance reminders and scheduling help as much as most owner–operators, having been doing yacht maintenance for the last 30 years, but acknowledges that the reminders are a good backup to experience and memory.  “I can always decide not to do something” he says, “but at least it is a conscious decision.”

Sanson’s company, Pacific Yacht Management manages 10 yachts, the biggest at 90 feet and the smallest 38 feet. His bottom line?

“If I was building a new boat, I wouldn’t even think twice about that system,” he said. “It would be on the boat.”

Copyright ©  2008 by OceanLines

Posted by Tom in Industry News, Technology