Here you will find tales of voyages past and present on our trusty Pacific Seacraft Dana 24, "Sockdolager," and more recently, our Bigfoot29 powerboat, "Raven," from Port Townsend, Washington, USA. In 2009 we sailed north from Puget Sound up the west coast of Vancouver Island to the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii.) In 2010 we went back to the west coast of Vancouver Island. In July 2011 we left the Northwest, sailed to Mexico, and in March 2012 we crossed the Pacific to French Polynesia, then on to the Cooks, Niue and Tonga. We spent several months in New Zealand, and in May 2013 loaded the boat (and ourselves) on a container ship for San Francisco. In June and July 2013 we sailed north along the California, Oregon and Washington coasts, and in August we arrived home. In October 2016 Sockdolager found new owners, and we are now enjoying Raven, a unique wooden 29' powerboat. In 2018 we cruised up to Glacier Bay, Alaska, and back. We hope you enjoy reading about our adventures as much as we enjoy having them. (And there will be more.)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Shipping News, Part 1

Tauranga, New Zealand:  Sockdolager is strapped into her cradle and loaded onto a flat rack, all ready for her speedy voyage across the Pacific to San Francisco Bay.  She is currently in the boatyard at the Bridge Marina awaiting transport to the shipyard. 

Sockdolager, all strapped down, buttoned up and ready for shipping
Our ship, the Hugo Schulte, will depart on Sunday, May 19 (Saturday the 18th for folks on the other side of the International Date Line) and will steam at a leisurely 14-17 knots for… MEXICO!  Woot!  Instead of Hawaii, the ship will make a six hour early-morning stop in Ensenada, which may just be long enough for us to burn through the 300 pesos Jim found buried in a drawer, to buy a stack of tacos, maybe even a Margarita.  Although the schedule says the ship will stop in Suva, Fiji, the agent has confirmed she’ll go to Mexico.  

Hamburg-Sud container ship Hugo Schulte.  Photo credit:  Andrew McKinnon
In case you’re new to this blog, we have decided to ship our Dana 24 home from New Zealand via container ship.

We look forward to resuming our cruising in our familiar home waters, an unparalleled archipelago of islands stretching from the Salish Sea all the way to Alaska.

Our home waters, southern portion
Shipping:  Where do you start?  There are a lot of ways to ship a yacht these days, including specialty companies like Yacht Path, Dockwise, Sevenstar, and others whose ships are designed to transport yachts.  But limitations we found from New Zealand included infrequent scheduling and no direct routes from NZ to where we want to go; for example, several make stops in Costa Rica and Florida enroute to the Mediterranean, but we found none going from here direct to the US west coast.  

We also learned that if you ship your boat to the USA from Hawaii, it’s different.  Our friend Chris Humann has done this after Transpac races, by shipping a trailer to Hawaii, loading his Dana 24 aboard it and then driving the trailer onto a Roll-On-Roll-Off ship.  However, that wasn’t possible for us this season from New Zealand, unless we were willing to send the boat on a circuitous long route that included Hong Kong, Shanghai and other Pacific Rim ports.  Plus, fewer freighters take passengers these days than before.  We wanted to ship ourselves as well as the boat.  Everyone’s solution will be different, but here’s ours.

First, our passenger booking was a separate transaction with another agent who specializes in what used to be called "tramp steamer" travel but that now includes large ships, mostly container.  We used the services of the witty and delightful Hamish Jamieson, who operates a specialty travel agency called Freighter Travel NZ, out of Napier.  He made it easy for us to book our cabin aboard ship and coordinate it with shipping the boat.  These non-cruise ships carry no more than 12 passengers maximum because of a rule requiring a doctor when more than that number are aboard.  The Hugo Schulte carries 6 passengers, and we will be allowed unlimited access to the bridge and pretty much anywhere on the ship except, understandably, the engine room, where someone will need to escort us.  

We are bringing charts and our GPS so that we can plot our daily position just as we did on the big crossing.  Jim is hoping to be able to send the occasional blog update via the ship's radio, but don't count on that because we're not sure it'll be possible.

We've always wanted to travel on a freighter; it's one of those bucket list things that cost a bit more than first class air tickets might, but when you realize that 18 days' worth of food is included, it can be rationalized in Karen's mind, together with the boat shipping, as cheaper than a whole year at sea.  Well, maybe not cheaper.  Definitely not cheaper.  

The Bridge Marina in Tauranga.  Choice of originating port figures heavily into shipping decisions.
We spent a lot of time doing research, and found that to ship a boat you need an agent to handle the arrangements and paperwork.  We called several, and settled on the extremely dependable and highly regarded Richard Thorpe of TNL GAC Pindar.  A circumnavigator himself, Richard understood our questions and concerns, and was generous with his time and availability.  While most quotes came in at similar dollar amounts, his was the only quote we received that included a marine surveyor supervising the strapping in the boatyard and loading aboard the ship, even signing off in acceptance of full responsibility.  We can recommend this surveyor, Trevor Sandilands, with whom Richard Thorpe often works.

While Auckland is a perfectly good choice, Richard recommended that we sail to Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty, because the logistics are easier here—the marina is right across the river from the shipyard—and because Bruce Goodchap and his staff at the Bridge Marina Hardstand (boatyard) are among the best anywhere when it comes to prepping a boat for shipping. 

Port of Tauranga in NZ's Bay of Plenty
And besides, who wouldn’t want to have the jolliest Travelift driver in all of EnZed?

Brian, Travelift Genius and new Grandpa!
Let’s do a photo series from the beginning, to show you how we got from boat-in-water stage to the finished photo at the top.  The Bridge Marina’s Travelift has a crane on it, very handy for unstepping the mast, which we did right after hauling the boat.  We removed all the standing and running rigging and stowed it in the cabin, along with the folded-up inflatable dinghy, sails, cockpit cushions and other items.  The dodger didn’t need to be removed.

We then bubble-wrapped and shrink-wrapped the mast, taping the vulnerable ends with bright tape and reminders not to lift from there. 

The mast, stripped and shrink-wrapped
The genoa furler extends beyond the end of the mast.  To be extra safe, we shrink-wrapped the boathook there to reinforce it just in case. 
Our boat cradle arrived, ready for its custom fitting.

A cradle for a Dana 24, before the fitting
Sturdy tie-down rings are welded at each corner.  

Brian drove the Travelift over, picked up our boat, and transferred it carefully to the new cradle, holding it in place in pouring rain with straps and a brace, while the welder custom-fitted four carpeted pads to the frame. 

With Bruce operating the crane this time, we lifted the mast and slid it through the opening panel in the dodger, to rest fore and aft aboard the boat.  Jim rigged up the small sturdy spinnaker pole aft to serve as a brace on which to rest the mast. Whoops, I (K) just noticed the mast is not wrapped yet in the above photo, which means it happened in reverse order to what I just said.  Okay, I'm tired.

Good thing we had Leah Kefgen make us a dodger with a front-opening panel!  It was handy in the tropics, too.
Stern view, mast aboard. 
Now it was time to pick up the boat again, only this time she was strapped to the cradle, so it came with her as if glued.  Bruce made sure the Travelift lifting straps were secure and could not slip. 

Lift-off!  The cradle added a thousand pounds to the boat's weight.
In the slings and heading toward the flat rack. 
Time to lower the boat and cradle onto the flat rack.  This took some precision driving.  A flat rack is simply the bottom part of a container, with flip-up ends.

Next, Brian flips up the end of the container while Jim watches. 

The surveyor ordered 16 long, heavy-duty lashing straps, each with its own come-along, and with Bruce’s expert instruction, we spent a day making sure the boat was securely lashed to both the cradle and the flat rack.  Here’s a detail from the bow.

View from the stern of the flat rack, cradle and lashings.

Meanwhile, Bruce and Brian used chain and hooks and levers to chain the cradle to the flat rack.  When Trevor the surveyor arrived to inspect and adjust our work, he was pleased.  Some boats use only 4 straps, which makes the ship crews nervous.  Ours he pronounced to be “a good amount of overkill” that should please the ship's crew.  

Finally, Trevor gave us a special solid paint stick so we could mark where lift straps should go for the ship crews in Oakland, highlighting what to avoid.

Our friends Alison and Stuart Cuthbert, from whom we rented the flat in Devonport and who gave us a ride from Auckland to Tauranga when we returned our campervan rental, joined us at our favorite Tauranga pub, the Crown and Badger.  We are enjoying their company and also the company of our friends Rich and Cyndi West from S/V Legacy (who sail for Fiji on Monday) plus Mark Graves of S/V Cheers, who with his wife Michelle (currently at work in Australia) is shipping their boat home to Puget Sound, on a different freighter in another week.

Our Shipping News Part 2 will continue in a few weeks on the other side of the Pacific. We expect to arrive in Oakland, California around June 6.  

It’s been a busy time, and we’re a bit tired and sad to part with so many new friends, but also happy to be on our way back home.  We love New Zealand and plan to visit again.


  1. Very interesting. I wish you fair winds, good food, and good rest on your return passage... As for your "unparalleled archipelago of islands" we will have to compare with those of Maine :-) Although I'm sure you see more interesting wildlife there. Cheers!

    1. Thanks, Richard, we are looking forward to the "lack of distractions." And though I love Maine and have happy sailing memories, the two areas almost can't be compared because they are each so unique and lovely. That said, we're stickin' to the west coast! Enjoy your summer of sailing.

  2. Just a reminder--we've had to enable comment moderation due to some unrelenting spam. We will be able to check the blog before departing aboard the ship, but not after that for the duration of the voyage. So if you comment after we depart, expect a delay in seeing it posted. Dadgum #@!& spammers.

  3. Excellent, hope to see you kids in PT soon! :)

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.