A lunch with some cruisers who have been to SE Asia

Roberta and I lead complicated lives, and the past couple of weeks have been busy, even by our standards. We live primarily between the boat, wherever it may be, and our home in Mexico. We also have a condo, here in Seattle, that we pass through as we move between the boat and Mexico. When we are here in Seattle, it is usually to do all those things we can’t do when we’re outside the United States. We get haircuts, go to the dentist, visit the doctor, see the accountants, meet with the bank, open months of mail, open boxes, pay bills, and more. We’re usually only in Seattle for a few weeks, and our days are overloaded with errands.

One project which I need to start focusing on is the trip planning for next year’s GSSR trip. I’ve done a bit this past week, googling to find information on cruising Japan’s inland sea, Okinawa, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Mostly, it has been a dead end. There aren’t many boats that cruise that part of the world, and most of the few cruising guides that exist aren’t in English. I’ve found a few blogs, which I’m studying, but that’s about it.

The best source of information is to hunt down people who have been there before. When we were traversing the Aleutians, I heard rumor of a trawler that was running our same route the opposite direction, a 50 foot Diesel Duck named DavidEllis. We passed each other about half way across the Aleutians, but never met. With a little research I was able to track down DavidEllis’ owners, David and Dorothy Nagle, who live in Seattle. I swapped a few emails with David, and discovered that he had spent years cruising in the same areas where the GSSR is heading.

Our discussions led to a lunch between Roberta and I, and David and Dorothy, earlier this week. They were a wealth of knowledge!

David is a retired police officer, who picked up his trawler in Hong Kong, and then spent a few years cruising the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. David and Dorothy lived in Hong Kong for a year and a half. In addition to wanting to learn all I could about cruising in the area, I also wanted to see if he had any contacts who might be able to help us with our dog Shelby. Roberta and I have been working for weeks trying to figure out the issues associated with taking Shelby into South Korea, Taiwan and China. David had a puppy onboard all the way from Hong Kong to Seattle.

A major topic of discussion was safety in the region. David was very encouraging with respect to Hong Kong saying that he could live there quite happily, and felt completely safe. However further south, in Malaysia, the Philippine islands, and Indonesia, he said that piracy is definitely an issue. There is a lot of poverty, and any time you have poverty, piracy is a factor. I asked if he had ever been attacked, and he said that he was happy to report that he had not been. However, he did have some incidents which were suspicious and could have been a problem. He was boarded a couple of times by locals who looked threatening, but whom he was able to ‘talk’ into leaving. He felt his experience as a police officer helped him in his attempt to defuse a potentially threatening situation. I asked what he did and he said that he just blocked their path into his boat while smiling and encouraging them to sit down and relax. He also related an incident where his boat was scouted by dangerous looking persons in a panga. Once again, he was able to defer an attack by smiling and waving, even though he could read in their body English what they were planning. As soon as the boat had turned the corner he headed deep to sea, despite rough seas and high winds, knowing the panga would have trouble following. As a civilian I don’t know that I’d have his ability to spot or defuse these situations. There are skills taught to police officers that they don’t teach at software developer school, one of which is the carrying and use of firearms. I did ask if he thought we would be safe traveling as a ‘fleet’ of three boats, and he said that he thought it would add significantly to our safety.

David had a lot to say on the topic of typhoons. One comment in particular caught my attention. He said that although there is a typhoon season, every month of the year has experienced a typhoon in the region. There are months when typhoons are less likely, but no months when you are completely safe. He also mentioned that as we get far enough south to venture into the southern hemisphere, the typhoon season will swap. We’ll need to time our travels such that we leave the northern hemisphere before typhoon season, but reach the southern hemisphere after their typhoon season ends. David mentioned getting clobbered by a typhoon in the Philippines which put two of the three boats in the bay, where he was hiding, onto the beach.

Because we’ll be leaving our boats in Hong Kong next winter, I wanted to learn all I could about Hong Kong. I’ve been there a few times, but arriving on a plane, and staying at a hotel, is a completely different experience than arriving on a boat, with plans to stay for several months. During our search for marinas, I had ruled out several places on Hong Kong island, because the boats sit on mooring balls, not in a marina. We did find a marina that we have reservations at, but it will be a 45 minute drive from the heart of Hong Kong. To my surprise, David said that we should reconsider our decision, and not rule out the mooring ball-based marinas. This to me sounded loony. “How do you get to shore?”, I asked. David said that sampans (little shuttle boats) run regularly to shore. “What about shore power?”, I asked. He said that some moorings have shore power which comes from under the water, but that most boats survive without power. He said that he simply ran his generator as needed, and that once you get accustomed to this, it isn’t a big deal. I asked what happens when he leaves the boat, and he said that he hires a local guy to come about every few days to run the generator. I forgot to ask about what happens on hot days, when air conditioning is required, but I know the answer. Air conditioning means running the generator. It would be nice to be closer to the action, but I can’t imagine leaving the boat sitting on a mooring ball all winter.

David and Dorothy’s website is at: http://www.sailblogs.com/member/sempergumbi

And, on a completely different topic…

Nordhavn is hosting an event in Dana Point next week. It’s open to boat owners, and non-owners, and provides a chance to see some of the boats up close, including the newest models; the sport fisher and the motor sailor. I have been too busy to consider attending, but have now decided to be there. Nordhavn has asked that I speak to the group.


I’ll post the slide show from my speech early next week.

And, I’ve started working on my book about our GSSR trip. I’m still working on the copy for the back cover, and don’t know if this will be the cover I go with or not, but here’s the latest thinking:

Lastly, here’s a bit of silliness…

Seattle is a bit of a tourist town. There’s an attraction, called “Ride the Ducks” that uses old amphibious vehicles from WWII to shuttle tourists around town. http://www.ridetheducksofseattle.com

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The tour is about 90 minutes of which about an hour is around town, then 30 minutes in the water. I’ve watched the tours go down the street for years, and finally got curious. Roberta and I did the duck tour yesterday. Don’t tell anyone here in Seattle, or we’ll be horribly embarrassed, and written off as tourists. However, it was actually very fun. I wanted to sit up front to watch how the ‘captain’ drove the thing into the water.

The drivers really are ship’s captains, and apparently Coast Guard licensed. Our captain mentioned that he had cruised through 31 countries on a sail boat. He was in a good mood, and our 30 minute cruise lasted over 45 minutes. It was pretty impressive. He just drove down a boat launch ramp, and we were cruising. We hit the weather lucky. He mentioned that the prior day there had been high winds and strong rains, and he had to deal with seasick passengers. I would like to have been in the truck/boat while it was pounding, just to see how it took the seas, but it felt much better than I expected. He was able to get it up to 7 knots, and at the end of our ride, he just drove it back up the boat ramp. The steering wheel was controlling the rudder, and it (the Duck) appeared to have a variable pitch prop.

And, lastly, I mentioned Snubbers in my last blog update.

There is been a terrific discussion on snubbers on the Trawlers and Trawlering board:


Thank you,
Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci
www.kensblog.com, and www.kensotherblog.com

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Credits     |     Video produced by: Rock Steady Media     |     Teletype photo: Arnold Reinhold     |     PDP-11 photo: Trammell Hudson