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Arrival in Taiwan

Tainan, other than being the third largest city in Taiwan, is the home of Ta Shing Yachts, the company that built all three of the Nordhavns in our group.  Of all the Nordhavn boats that they have produced, all were exported and not a single one has ever returned to the factory for a visit.  We were the first and, boy, were they ever excited!  So were we.  The coast guard met us outside the harbor along with another private boat to lead us through the entrance to An  Ping Harbor.  I was told that we were going to get a warm welcome and fully expected to see 4 or 5 of the managers waiting for us to welcome us and help us tie up.  What a miscalculation that turned out to be!!!! Click here to see a short video shot by a Ta Shing employee showing our arrival:

We were greeted by a
good portion of the factory personnel, large welcome signs, a tent, a
band complete with dancing dragon dancers!!!  There were champagne toasts, lots of laughs and an introduction to the warmest, friendliest people we have met.

They could not have been more hospitable.  We had a 130 kw land based generator waiting for us and they had all three boats wired up for power in a few hours.  It may not seem like a big deal, but we have been running our generators for several weeks since leaving Nagasaki. 

Tim Juan, the president of Ta Shing, hosted several lunches and dinners for our group in the first few days. The highlight was the barbeque dinner at the factory one evening that included us as well as all of the Ta Shing employees.  There was great food, good friends and, …….a Karaoke Machine with a huge stage!!  Most of us participated.  Some sounded good and some not so good!  I actually did it for the first time, doing a duet with Tina Jones which roughly resembled the Everly Brothers “Bye Bye Love”.  My understanding is that the “Bye Bye Love” song was ok but before that I sang a solo of “The House of the Rising Sun”  and if the Taiwanese used the hook, I would have gotten it. Hey, I was just tuning up!!
Tina also did a duet with Roberta and Jonn Merrill had a hard time putting down the microphone once he got going!! Jeff Merrill did a hilarious version of Tina Turners “Proud Mary” complete with dancing girls!

What was really exciting for us was the factory tour.

Ta Shing has two factories in Tainan. One that produces the 72 and 76 and one that produces the 64, 68 along with the 56 foot motorsailer ( .  It also “used to” produce the 62 like ours.  Production was supposed to end years ago but orders kept flowing in. They are now telling me “no more 62’s” but I did notice a twinkle in Tim’s eye and noticed that there was no plan to immediately cut up the mold.

I pleaded with them to at least mow the grass around the mold but I don’t think they took me too seriously. I for one, hate to see the N62 phased out, but I also understand that they want to spend their time on new models. 

I could not have been more impressed with the quality and craftsmanship and engineering at Ta Shing.  They have something that other manufacturers do not have, and that is 50 years of experience in building yachts.  Their woodworking expertise is incredible.  I watched them carving out elaborate pieces and finishing them by hand.  I come from a manufacturing background and appreciate computer produced products, but what they are doing can only be produced by 50 years of experience.  I came away thinking that if I were looking to buy a new boat, I would look no further.

As long as we were here at the factory, the three of us decided to take advantage of being here by having them repair and add things to our boats.  What better place to do it than the factory that built the boat?   We had some nagging issues.  Our ceiling fabric was 13 years old and it was starting to separate from the panels.  There is a foam backing which, over a period of time, starts to deteriorate, making the fabric sag.  Ta Shing removed every panel in the boat (all 66 of them), brought them back to the factory and made them just like new.  At the same time they rewired all of the ceiling lights with quick disconnect plugs.  We also had them fix many old fiberglass issues, shallow stress cracks, leaking deck prisms etc etc.  They did a magnificent job.  They are such proud workers and good enough is not in their vocabulary (in Chinese OR English!)

Well, all good things have to come to an end and our departure date was coming.  Braun and Tina, along with their guests Wayne and Pat, had left for a side trip to mainland China.  Braun was having more extensive work done on his boat and needed to stay longer.  Sans Souci and Seabird had made plans to leave….and we did……sort of…..

Our departure was similar to our arrival, sans dancing dragons and the band.  Everyone showed up.  It was very sad to be leaving.  We had made such good friends here.   We departed the dock and headed out for Hong Kong at 7am.  About 20 minutes out I noticed that my exhaust temperature, which had been running high anyway, was running at the max, but at a very low (1400) rpm.  This alone was problematic as it would delay our arrival in Hong Kong to late in the afternoon.  I attributed it to growth on the prop and bottom and figured it would wash off over time.  I went down into the engine room and  I noticed that the oil temp on the main engine was running about 15 degrees warmer than normal along with the transmission oil temp doing the same.  I didn’t like the situation and after a few hours, I radioed Ken and told him I needed to turn back.  He wanted to do the same but we encouraged him to continue on as he had guests flying in and hotel reservations.  Normally, we don’t like to leave each other but I was in no danger and we were within a   few hours of land.  The plan was to turn around, head back to Taiwan but anchor outside the harbor so that I could dive down and  check out the running gear, particularly the prop and keel coolers.  We found a suitable anchorage just outside An Ping Harbor.  It was a bit rolly but we anchored and I dived down using my compressor and regulator.  The first thing I noticed was that the prop was completely fouled with these tiny white worms, coating the prop with about ¼ inch on both sides of the blades.  I scraped as much as I could but the water was very rough and the boat was bouncing up and down creating a dangerous situation for me. After about 20 minutes of getting pounded under the boat, I came up, did a brief sea trial and decided to come back into the harbor and get it resolved. 

We checked in again, which was painless with the assistance of Rachel, at Ta Shing who arranged everything.  We were hooked up and checked in within a hour or so.  They offered to get us a diver, which we did, to clean the bottom better.  To make a long story short, we ended up staying for another week because of weather issues.  It seems that you only get 3 day windows and then a tropical Cyclone pops up or a Typhoon.

We plan on leaving tomorrow morning with Grey Pearl (July 24th) transiting to Hong Kong.  We have a good weather window so we need to take advantage of it.

Yesterday was a day of odd experiences.  In the early morning hours, sadly, a man in a minivan drove off the pier, committing suicide about 100 feet in front of our boat. When we got up in the morning, a bunch of fire trucks were there and they had divers pull the body out of the water.  A short while later, they pulled the van out and left it for the police to check out on the pier.

 About 4 pm we had a severe thunder and lightning storm.  The wind and rain were whipping by the boat at about 50knots.  I was beginning to wonder if a Typhoon had developed.  Carol and I were sitting in the pilothouse watching out the windows when I noticed that the wind was beginning to move the driverless van. It picked up speed and was heading right toward our boat!  There was nothing that we could do but watch and hold our breath.  I could not imagine what was going to happen next.  Fortunately, at the last second, the van veered off to the right and plunged off of the pier, into the harbor, about 5 feet in front of our boat! As it turns out, the van went underneath the boat after plunging into the water and we were asked to move the boat back so that they could hoist it out again!

 It was a very close call and all I could think about was how in the world would I explain to my insurance company that I was in a collision with a truck?

Tim and his team surprised us by inviting us for a “Goodbye” dinner.  It was so nice of them to do that as they had already done too much for us.  As in every lunch and dinner we had with them, it was very special.  Places that you would never find on your own.

We look forward to leaving in the morning but are sad to leave such great friends. Thank you Tim, BK, Rachel, Lillian, Cooli, Al, Mr. Tung, Eric and everyone else.

Thank you Ta Shing!

Zamami to Taiwan (and in between)

The original idea was to head directly to Ishigaki from Zamami.  The problem was that there was a storm coming in the next 24 hours that would keep us hunkered down for the next three or four days.  We decided to call our agent and see if h…

Nagasaki to Zamami

Nagasaki to Amami North
We were a little sad to leave Nagasaki.  We were only supposed to stay for a week but it seemed that every time we planned on leaving,  one of us would come up with an excuse to stay.  Not that it was hard to …

Ashiya to Nagasaki

It does not seem that we have gotten very far.  If you check the “Live Tracking” button on the web page you will see that we are docked in Nagasaki, which means we traveled about   450 miles in 3 weeks. We still have about 1250 miles…

GSSR 2 – Departure from Ashiya

GSSR 2 Underway!

This is just a very short blog entry to let everyone know that we have now left our winter port of Ashiya and have begun the journey that will lead us to Hong Kong. 

This is a relatively tiny journey compared to last season’s o…

April 2010 – Ashiya, Japan

Weather has been downright crappy since we got back to Japan.  I don’t know why, but we were expecting a bit of balmy weather and sunny skies.  People here tell us that “normally”, March and April are fairly nice months with moderate te…

Winter 2009-2010

This is my first update since just prior to Thanksgiving and the reason is that we had left Japan by air back to the US for ………vacation??  It has been a nice getaway for Carol and me.  We spent time with our families, caught up with old friends and, of course, went to a boat show!! We put the boat “to bed” in Ashiya, Japan for the winter months.  The temperature there is fairly moderate and rarely gets below freezing so we did not winterize the boat and left it in the water.  We hired a person to continuously check all three of the boats periodically and report back to us on any issues. So far so good.

All of the time here in the US has been spent between California and Florida.  Here in California, we have spent time with Carol’s father which has been just great.  It is always fun to visit with him and we spent Christmas with him, Carols two sisters and three of my nephews.  I was kind of in charge of their entertainment and we went on ATV’s in the desert and go-carting too. Supposedly, the intent was for me to be a positive influence on the boys but that ended when I got into a fierce battle on the go-cart track with some other drivers that ended with me being escorted off the track.  My nephews thought it was kind of cool, but their mother was not amused. She inferred that I would never be trusted again….

We traveled to Florida to see my Mom and my sisters.  We surprised my Mom with a 90th birthday celebration. She still plays golf several times per week, drives her car, is as sharp as ever and fun to be with. We then traveled from Miami to Stuart to Vero Beach to Ponte Vedra to Naples to Vero Beach to Bonita Springs and finally ended up in Miami at the Boat show. I think we slept in 9 different beds in the three weeks we were there!

 We are just now preparing to return to Japan and prepare our boat for the next segment along with our good friends, Ken and Roberta on Sans Souci and Braun and Tina aboard Grey Pearl. 

If you read Ken’s blog you know that we have a ton (literally) of stuff being shipped to Japan.  Pleasure boating in Japan is nowhere near as big as it is in the US, so spare parts and boat stuff in general are hard to come buy.  Boat stuff for little ships like ours is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find.  Braun has this friend who ships stuff overseas all the time and advised us to get a small (20 ft) container and load it on to a ship with all of our stuff inside.  We all shipped hundreds of items to Seattle over the winter to load into the container  which ranged from coffeemakers to anchors, gallons of oil and coolants, computer parts, ropes, screws, hose clamps and a PTO.  What’s a PTO??  I will get to that in a minute.  It requires its own story.


Just before we left Japan, we spent a lot of time thinking about how we should spend Thanksgiving.  The biggest hurdle was the Turkey.  I am not even sure there is a word for Turkey in Japanese and I had NEVER seen one in a store! One day Carol looked at me and said “COSTCO!!!!!!”  Sure, why not?  Anyway, we made the multi vehicle trek (bus, train and another bus) to Costco (in Japanese, they call it Cost-ee-co). ..Cute….  Well, sure enough, they had plenty and we invited some friends over for the feast.

Our good friend Olivier, who is a pastry chef by trade and a great overall chef, suggested we brine the turkey which involved soaking it in our wash down bucket in salty water for a day and then cooking it. We were a bit wary but it came out just fine. Olivier also made the dessert, which rates a picture of it’sown (see above)!

We also invited our friends Karin (from Bristol, CT) and Paul and his wife Emiko.  Everyone brought something and it turned out to be a wonderful feast shared with great friends, which is what Thanksgiving is all about!

Mechanical issue

The extended downtime for boats is a great opportunity to get things fixed or refurbished and we wasted no time in fixing what has been a perplexing problem for the past year and a half.  Boats are a bit like your children and after you have been around them long enough for extended periods, you can sense when things are not running right.  Some of the symptoms were glaring while others were subtle.  First, before we left from Seattle on the trip, I noticed that the engine, when started from cold, was running rougher than normal and we were spewing an inordinate amount of soot from the dry exhaust.  Once warm, the engine would run fine (seemingly), but would not idle correctly when in gear.  It was almost as if some big huge guy was down in the bilge with his hands around the shaft, trying to stop it from turning.  We also had a substantial amount of vibration while at cruise speed.

While in Seattle, we had the boat hauled, the shaft and propeller removed and inspected.  We also had the cutlass bearing removed and replaced as well as aligning the engine.  We also had the injectors replaced, the fuel pump rebuilt, the compression checked etc etc. All of this had a minimal effect on the performance and I was being convinced by many that there was nothing wrong and that I expected too much from the drive train. They said it was running fine and it was the cold weather (or maybe my imagination?).  Based on that, we left for Alaska. 

I still felt, with all the work done, that the engine was running poorly.  My exhaust was hotter than normal and the entire engine room was hotter also.  Just as we were approaching Ashiya, Japan, I decided to check every item in the engine room with my laser heat gun.  I found that the PTO, which is a device located on the aft side of the transmission and used to power the hydraulics, was running about 100 degrees above normal.  When we got to Ashiya, I had local mechanics pull it off and we found a shot glass full of metal ground to the consistency of coffee grounds and big chunks inside!

 We sent it back to Mill Log Marine in Kent, Washington and had it rebuilt.  They commented to me that it would be smart to pull the transmission also, as the core issue may be inside there.  Ok, now we have a BIG job…..but they were right to suggest it as it turns out.

We gave the job to Mizuno Marine and their excellent mechanics who took great care (see pics) to make sure that there would be no damage to the inside of the boat as they pulled the 700lb transmission out through our salon! We decided that as long as the transmission was out, we may as well do a complete job and are replacing all of the bearings, clutch plates, seals and oil pump. The worst thing that could happen is to get it all back together only to have to tear it apart again at some point.

Inside they found not only worn clutch plates, but a bearing had spun in the housing.  I contacted an old friend of mine at Sikorsky Aircraft who works in engineering and he suggested how we should repair it by boring the housing oversize and inserting a sleeve.

The biggest problem now is that the PTO is on a ship not due to enter Japan until the middle of March. With a little luck, we should have everything back together shortly (hopefully before we arrive!!).

Upcoming Trip

All of us are getting a bit anxious and excited about the next part of the trip to the Inland Sea, Okinawa, Taiwan and Hong Kong.  The trip to Taiwan should be especially exciting as that is where the three boats were built, by Ta Shing.  No Nordhavn has ever returned to the factory and my understanding is that they are very excited to see us.  Jeff Merrill, who works for Nordhavn, plans on catching up with us in Japan and travelling with us to Taiwan.

So……..Here is our approximate path for the coming cruising season starting in April and ending in July. The total length is about 1600 Nautical Miles.Click on it to Enlarge>

Until next time….

Steven Argosy

MV Seabird

Ashiya, Japan update

We are only 4 days away from Thanksgiving Day (depending on whose time zone you use) and I just realized that we have been living in one place (Ashiya, Japan) for almost three months!  We have seen and learned so much here that it is difficult to put …

Yokohama to Ashiya

We just survived Typhoon number 2 while in Japan last night.  Ken and Roberta on Sans Souci and Braun and Tina on Grey Pearl have long gone back to the US, storing their boats here for the winter months.

You usually get three or four days o…

Yokohama Bayside Marina

Yokohama was really a terrific place and we had mixed emotions about leaving there.  Our last few days there were spent dithering about securing lines and fenders preparing for the impending Typhoon that was supposed to hit. The Marina had come and po…