How A Krogen
54 And A Skipper, 45, Were Retrofitted
Captivated by Alaska, a decisive and savvy boating novice
from the high desert finds his dream boat in two days, has
it refurbished and heads north after about 50 hours of
Reid Glacier calving in the distance, humpbacks playing 100
feet from our dinghy, Stellar sea lions bellowing on North
Marble Island, and La Perouse, a pinnacle of majesty over
Dundas Bay, was all it took to get me hooked on the
adventure I hadn’t even known existed a week earlier.
Alaska was profound for me.
I got off an airplane in Juneau, found a friend’s boat in
Auke Bay and suddenly was immersed in scenery and wildlife
too moving for words. Best of all, there were no people
(don’t get me wrong, I like people, just not in volume).
My friend, Vince, has
a knack for introducing me to new ways of viewing the world,
whether in running my business in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or
cruising aboard his Krogen 42 in Glacier Bay. Where in the
world was I that I hadn’t a clue this trawler life existed?
A life that allows one to go anywhere the sea flows? The
answer was that I was building a business in the high, dry
desert of New Mexico. That’s hardly a place for an
ocean-going trawler-yacht experience. I had had no idea
what to expect in Alaska.
Unbeknownst to me, my business was to be forcibly acquired
within a few short months after that holiday aboard Vince’s
trawler in summer 2000. Initially, I felt as though a
tragedy had befallen me and yet, as the months unfurled, I
clearly realized the universe provides for us in strange,
often unexpected, but in ultimately perfect ways.
For several months my team of lawyers, accountants and
business consultants helped me negotiate through what felt
like business purgatory. I knew that once the divestiture
was completed, I needed to find a new life, or at least find
out who I was after nearly 20 years of business building. I
realized then the purpose of my time aboard Vince’s trawler
in Alaska, and I went off to the Lake Union Boats Afloat
Show in Seattle.
Walking along the docks at Chandler’s Cove on Lake Union,
salivating at my first-ever boat show, I was taken by the
first boat I
boarded, a Krogen 54, one of eight built in the late ‘80’s.
Beautiful teak aged to a light glow, an unusual canoe stern,
a portside interior passageway and a stately pilothouse with
forward-canted windows, all contributed to this greenhorn’s
sense of wonder and my overall positive impression of this
Alaska trawler. I was off to see other boats, probably even
more impressive, or so I though at the time.
My brother, Mark, and I spent a day meandering in and out,
up and down and on and off the many floating objects that
inhabited this wondrous new water world. As the first day
of sensory overload came to a close, I ventured over for a
last look at the Krogen 54. After seeing all the brand-new
boats of the show, I realized this Krogen looked a little
tired. Worn fabrics and carpet, sleep-dented mattresses, a
dingy engine room and tired paint lent a well-used aura to
her. Still, it had a curiously dignified presence, a salty
profile and beautifully lightened teak woodwork unmatched in
the newer boats I toured. I was smitten.
I could hardly contain my boyish excitement the next morning
as Mark and I ate a hearty breakfast complete with potent
Seattle coffee and waited for the 11 a.m. boat show opening
bell. Walking, nay jogging, to the stately Krogen at the
Passagemaker Yacht Sales dock, yet trying my damnedest to be
cool, calm and certainly not anxious (lest I reveal my
vulnerability to the broker-sharks!), I asked a handsome
silver-haired broker whose name tag read “Greg Matthes,” to
answer a few questions about this tired older Krogen.
North Sawyer Glacier sits
imposingly behind Europa. A cruise to Alaska was a
life-changing event for David Holland.
Stepping aboard, Mark, Greg, and I took seats around the
comfortable saloon settee and began talking trawlerspeak.
I warmed up to Greg immediately. He seemed atypical
compared to the gold-chained brokers crowding the new,
seemingly identical Tupperware boats. I asked Greg all
the boat questions my novice mind could think of.
“How well was this boat taken care of? How much life
expectancy is left on the hull, engines and major
components? How much “refit” money would this boat require
vs. buying a
After a few quick boating
lessons, Holland headed north for a voyage of self
I may have acted quickly but had experience making small
business decisions and I was careful and serious, and even
scared to death, despite my new love of boating.
boat-buying story would not be complete without a
discussion of marital basics, specifically
communication, and more specifically, the wisdom of
consulting one’s spouse before making a major purchase.
Now, my wife, Liddy, is a very understanding and wonderful
partner. However, marrying later in life, I’d never
As and aspiring
trawlergeek, what should I look for in buying a boat?”
Greg answered all my questions with an earnestness that
relaxed and disarmed me.
Never shying from important decisions, I had a strong
intuition this boat was just what I needed. “So,” I said,
“how do I take the next step?”
“What next step?” Greg asked.
“Buying this boat.”
“You want to buy this boat?” Greg asked incredulously.
“I think it’s the right boat, and I’d like to make and
offer. Is that a problem?”
“No, no! No problem, I just never had any trawler buyer make
up his mind so quickly. Most often it will take months,
even years, for people to make up their minds.” I smiled
and said I loved the boat and wanted to move forward with
the process. Greg grinned and just said “Great!” (Later,
he said he’d never seen anyone so determined, yet thorough
and cautious, and decide so quickly. It obviously was
more than impulse buying,
consulted anyone when I’d needed to make a
decision or wanted
to buy something. This character flaw was even further
exacerbated by all the entrepreneurial decisions needed as
one grows a business.
Upon returning home to Santa Fe and after properly greeting
my wife and cats, I told her about my great weekend and
blurted out, “Honey, I bought a boat!” Liddy, not knowing
much about boats and thinking “rowboat,” said things such
as, “that’s nice, tell me about it,” and “how much did it
cost,” to which I naively explained a little about my
To make a long story short, I have a new understanding of the
requirements needed to make a marriage successful. I also
learned that including one’s partner in a decision-making
process increases her interest in participating in the
cruising portion of trawler ownership. That was something
I would struggle with as I embarked wifeless on my initial
Over the next month, Greg helped me negotiate a purchase
agreement with the former owner and, on my 45th
birthday, I became the proud owner of a beautiful new ( in
my eyes) Krogen trawler. Now, all I had to do was learn
how to drive it. (Hmm, now let’s see, where exactly is the
Off and on, as my business demands permitted, I spent nearly
50 hours practicing boat handling and navigation with as
many seasoned skippers, including Greg, as I could con
(and sometimes even pay) into passing along their maritime
knowledge. I took my new boat through Seattle’s Ballard
Locks four times!
Luckily, Southwest Airlines had a non-stop flight to Seattle
from Albuquerque that allowed me to conveniently check on
the other part of my boat project, the refit.
Realizing I didn’t want someone else’s used boat to be my
first yacht, I embarked on a refit that gave me intimate
awareness of the term “boat bucks.” And, with the help of
Greg’s 20 years worth of messing about with boats in
Seattle, I became intimately familiar with the best
boatyards on Lake Union. I also became aware of how
expensive this process is, spending about $250,000.
I figured I had three major areas to upgrade: the engine and
mechanical systems, interior and exterior cosmetics and
the navigational and safety equipment (plus countless
minor details I wasn’t yet aware of). I began with lists,
and new and longer ones every month, as I came up with
more and more great ideas. Happily, I found myself
immersed in this boat project that was absorbing and
redirecting my life away from the transition that was
occurring in my business.
Over the course of eight months, Ken Morris’ crew at Ocean
Alexander Marine Center, the Krogen warranty boatyard,
spent hundreds of hours aboard Europa, my Krogen’s
new name. They installed Wesmar fin stabilizers, an
autopilot that interfaced with Nobeltec navigational
software, a rebuilt Espar forced-air heater, a new
water/engine heater system, a rebuilt windlass, a new
crane/wench system for the 13-foot heavy-duty Zodiac RIB,
a foredeck mount for a new rowing dory, an ICOM VHF radio,
a Force 10 marine stove, a Sub-Zero refrigerator and new
I contracted with others to replace fabrics throughout
Europa, including mattresses and covers on all six
beds, carpet throughout, new saloon and cockpit seating
and a new pilothouse watchberth and helm chair.
was made over from a faded sea-blue to a forest-green
color scheme. We added new dodgers and canvas all around,
including sail covers (yes, Krogen 54s are all
ketch-rigged). Europa was beginning to have a
different look about her. She was standing smart and tall
as if beginning a new life. I was, too.
A special Awlgrip paint color called barnacle green was
applied to sheer and boot stripes and a swim platform was
added. Europa’s plentiful teak work was revarnished and
white paint that covered the pilot and deckhouse’s teak
eyebrows and accent trim was removed. My Krogen was being
Top: An eagle sits
magestically atop Europa's mast. Above: Holland's crew
explores the wilds of the Pacific Northwest.
North Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm.
Europa’s 6068 John Deere engine was serviced and upgraded,
including a new starter, fuel-injection pump, heat
exchanger, crankcase fume-recirculator, wet-exhaust
system, injectors, as well as most belts and hoses. Bilge
and temperature alarms were added that helped keep me from
worrying, until I was able to develop an innate sense of
my boat. The Northern Lights 8kW and 20kW gensets also
were serviced and ready to go. Go, that is, to Alaska.
My previous year’s adventure had been such a turning point in
my life that I had to go back. But this time in my own
Never wanting to live life halfway and
learning best by immersion, a voyage to Alaska seemed the
logical next step. Preparing for a three-month cruise
took much planning because I never had cruised, aside from
my week aboard Vince’s trawler the summer before. The
other challenge was to organize a crew for the many legs
such a trip would require. Not everybody has the flex
schedule bestowed on me by my business transition.
It was a beautiful June day complete with occasional light
showers intermixed with bouts of sunshine, Liddy
me through the Ballard Locks from Salmon Bay to the
saltwater of Puget Sound with the help of Greg and his
landhands off at Shilshole Marina, Liddy and I headed
north to Port Townsend. We visited Friday Harbor and
docked at the floats in front of the Empress Hotel in
Victoria, British Columbia.
Because my wife loves Victoria we spent two wonderful days
enjoying this beautiful city, which never would be
complete without a visit to Butchart Gardens. It also was
a high point for a fitting and happy end to the first leg
of the journey. We were sad to say goodbye, but I could
tell that my wife, being somewhat uncomfortable with my
budding boat-handling skills and the rough ride across the
Strait of Juan de Fuca, was not altogether unhappy to let
me fine-tune my maritime skills before she ventured
farther on Europa. I could not help but agree.
The next crew to arrive was the women: my mother,
sisters, Beth and Rebecca, and niece, Ana. I think they
trusted me more than might be expected of such a new
captain, and because all of us were new to the water
world, a healthy optimism prevailed as we headed across
Georgia Strait to one of those cities that seem somewhat
otherworldly when one is moored in the center of downtown
beneath towering skyscrapers.
Drift ice floats menacingly throughout
Alaska's wintery waterways.
on Europa in the core of a teeming metropolis was
truly a surreal experience, especially when coming from a
high desert, mountain community of 65,000 people.
An enjoyable Vancouver visit, extended due to a dysfunctional
alternator, was nearing a close, as we looked
apprehensively northward to the area ominously called
Desolation Sound. Arriving at Refuge Cove, the hub of the
popular cruising area, we realized desolation was not an
apt moniker. We saw all descriptions of boats from
25-foot fishboats to 85-foot slick luxocruisers, crowding
the waterways. We even found a Starbucks sign hanging
near a funky outdoor café.
Wanting a bit more serenity, we cruised up Pendrell Sound
only to find nowhere to anchor comfortably because the
depth sounder registered 9 feet right next to the water’s
edge. Stern and bow ties seemed in order and having never
tried such a maneuver, I completed it with reasonable
success in just less than two hours (all the while the
women wondered what I was doing and why I was so
THE THRID CREW
After exchanging warm goodbyes to the wonderful, seafaring
companions the women turned out to be, I welcomed my third
crew at Refuge Cove’s float plane dock. David, his wife,
Kerry Ann, and their daughter, Teal, arrived from Austin,
Texas, and excitedly boarded Europa ready to
continue the journey northward. After cruising a few
short hours, we anchored for the night again, with a stern
Following a swim in the warm waters of Walsh Cove Marine
Park, we opened a bottle of vintage Cote du Rhone, and
toasted the beautiful July evening and the beginning of a
A voyage would not be complete without a
line-caught-in-the-prop episode. As I was backing down to
set the anchor in the mud of Port Harvey, off Johnstone
Strait, the engine slowed as I heard Kerry Ann yell to
stop. With the engine idling, I ran to stern to see the
small anchor line from the Zodiac, which we had been
towing extending into the murky deep. For the next two
hours, David and I took turns diving in very cold water
trying to free the prop.
Only able to stay under the water briefly, we would run to
the engine room to regain warmth. A friendly couple from
an older, but well-cared for Alaskan trawler pebbled
Snowy mountains rise above a valley that
drains into Tracy Arm.
belatedly over in
their skiff to offer a wetsuit as we wrenched the
final melted rope from the propeller shaft. Their gesture
was greatly appreciated, nonetheless.
It soon was time for Kerry Ann and Teal to return to Austin.
David was on sabbatical from a microchip-manufacturing
firm there, so he continued north with me. Poking
Europa’s nose in and out of waterfalls, and anchoring
in secluded coves surrounded by rain-drenched fir trees,
we journeyed ever closer to Alaska.
Leaving the northernmost British Columbia port of Prince
Rupert early one morning, we cruised on the most placid of
seas toward Alaska.
I’d heard of rough
waters in Dixon Entrance, but this morning the sea god
Poseidon was keeping a watchful eye on those new sailors.
As evening softened, we docked in Thomas Basin under an
unusual, cloud-free Ketchikan sky next to tough-looking
fishboats right out of the movie, The Perfect Storm.
I must say, being a newbie trawlerite, I felt like a
no-good yachtie next to the real men of the local fishboat
brigade as they observed my clumsy docking procedure.
Still uncomfortable in the water world, I was somewhat
intimidated by the larger workboats and was attempting to
masquerade as one of them. Learning by immersion has its
On to Fool’s Inlet and a Zodiac ride to Anan Creek Bear
observatory where we encountered not a soul, save a few
black bears gorging themselves on the special of the day:
fish heads and caviar. Certainly the bears weren’t
lacking in choice as scores of sluggish salmon turned the
Headed toward Wrangell and Petersburg, we dodged the Taku, an
Alaska Marine Highway ferry, while negotiating the water
slot called Wrangell Narrows. Plying the usually calm
waters of Frederick Sound, north of Petersburg, we turned
Europa eastward into Tracy Arm.
Tracy Arm is one of those larger-than-life places I’d heard
about that truly lives up to my mind’s image. With its
sheer walls of granite and ribbons of water cascading to
the greenish-gray waters of the glacial fjord, Tracy Arm
was a feast for the soul. At North Sawyer Glacier, I
lowered the kayak off the pilothouse roof and paddled
closer to the deep waters washing the blue-back crevasses
of the glacial face. A few calving bergs too close for
comfort sent me scurrying back to the good ship Europa,
but not before I snapped a few good photos of her in
front of the imposing glacier.
traveled to Juneau and up the Lynn Canal (read: dramatic
fjord) to the charming towns of Haines and Skagway. After
nearly running aground in Skagway Harbor
because of strong
winds, David and I sought refuge in a wonderful dockside
restaurant. We enjoyed dinner while listening to Bob
Dylan and Van Morrison tunes. That evening I understood
the boating term, “a port in the storm.
Bicycling the next day as far as we could up Chilkoot Pass,
made famous by a sort of death march to gold fever, we
literally ran into a black bear sauntering along the
trail. As we raised our arms to make us big in the eyes
of our startled foe, I couldn’t help but sense the sheer
terror all three of us felt. I can see how wars can be
consequence of our fear of each other.
Skagway, 1,000 miles north of Seattle, was the northernmost
part of our journey. From now on I would be steaming (too
fast a term I’ll say chugging) 8 knots in a southerly
direction. Next stop, Glacier Bay, where one year earlier
I had discovered the world of trawlering aboard Vince’s
Heading into Glacier Bay with my Santa Fe friends DB and
Gunter (my new crew), we anchored in Reid Inlet. Hiking
ashore, we kept a wary eye out for the local brown bear
whose home turf we were invading. Amidst a few crashing,
thundering ice chunks calving into the frigid water from
the face of Reid Glacier, we discovered a stream chock
full of spawning salmon that we could catch by the dozens
with our bare hands. (It was the only way we could fish as
our rods proved worthless in our inexperienced hands!)
Cruisers share Alaska waters with many of
the area's natural inhabitants. You don't see this sight
next day, we cruised to Margerie, the quintessential glacier
photographed in cruise ship ads promoting Alaskan holidays.
Approaching the 300-foot-high glacial face, we realized we’d
have to share this compelling and solitary experience with
the 2,000-odd camera-toting passengers on board the Dawn
Princess floating in front of Margerie. In spite of the
masses experiencing glacial wonder, I piloted Europa
smack-dab between the glacier and the cruise ship as
everyone shared the spectacular view of the calving ice
wall. I realized later the M/V Europa would be in
videos and snapshots all over America as our cruise-ship
companions viewed their summer Alaskan vacation mementos.
Continuing south down Chatham Strait, we sailed into Warm
Springs Bay where we enjoyed a relaxing soak in Baranof Hot
Springs before dropping anchor the next day in Berg Bay.
This beautiful and sheltered inlet in Alaska will remain
etched in my consciousness forever.
That quiet evening, we floated on what looked like glass
reflecting a crimson sunset sky, a rarity in Alaska. We had
not seen another boat for hours as we enjoyed our evening
meal and a late-night cigar with a glass of Irish whisky,
all the while feeling as if life couldn’t get any better.
Alaska empties of visitors in September, and I felt that
especially true this still evening of Sept. 10,2001.
I was awakened early the next morning by the incessant
ringing of the satellite phone. Bolting out of bed and
winding my way up to the pilothouse, I answered the phone,
still half asleep. My wife’s distraught, pained voice
penetrated with the sickening news of the 9/11 disasters.
Now fully and incredulously awake, I knew this news, relayed
by my Manhattan-born wife, marked the end of my journey. It
was time to high tail it back to Seattle, a journey of two
Arriving three days later in Ketchikan, we watched the news,
along with the rest of the town, on a big-screened TV in a
local sports bar. Resupplying for the remainder of our
voyage, we departed Alaska and entered the large body of
open water called Dixon Entrance and headed toward the
Holland's trip north aboard Europa was
more than just a summer cruise, it was an unforgettable
adventure that changed his life.
Leaving Alaskan waters, we were stopped mid-sea and boarded
by the U.S. Coast Guard. No sooner had we completed the
American high-alert check, we were boarded by the Canadian
Coast Guard for another full-boat inspection. Sufficiently
shaken with the knowledge that the world had changed, we
cruised southward, on a largely deserted, late-September
ocean toward Seattle.
Consistently gray skies reflected our somber mood as we
passed the coves, waterfalls and dramatic landforms that had
greeted us two months earlier. Passing Bella Bella, Port
McNeill, Campbell River, Nanaimo and the Gulf and San Juan
Islands, we crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca and, again,
were back in the United States. Oddly enough, we cleared
U.S. Customs near Port Townsend by VHF radio, a stark
contract to how we entered Canadian waters two weeks
As Europa entered the locks at Seattle’s Shilshole
Bay, completing our saltwater journey, I felt twinges of
sadness and apprehension, as well as a bit of optimistic
anticipation as I wondered how my terra-firma life would be
different. My business had changed and the world certainly
seemed a different place.
My voyage along the Northwest Passage initially was intended
to help me gain perspective on my life and help me navigate
the changes that had occurred. I hadn’t expected the whole
world to change. Ultimately, my personal Northwest Passage
was just one of my many metaphorical buoy markers I had
passed in my life. I loved the independence of a life I
never knew existed.
I only wish 9/11 had been a buoy marker, not a watershed
event in the history of the world.
Postscript: Holland, a real-estate investor and owner of
two Saab dealerships in Santa Fe, took Europa to
Desolation Sound and other popular anchorages during summer
2002. He also worked with Jonathan Edwards, host of
Cruising America’s Waterways, filming a segment in Puget
Sound, the San Juan Islands and Victoria, B.C., that will
air in the fall on the Public Broadcast System. In
February, 2003, he traveled to the British Virgin Islands to
learn how to operate a sailboat because he wants “to learn
all he can” about cruising. Another trip to Alaska, this
time with friend Vince, is planned for May2003.
Reprinted with permission from
Passage Maker magazine.