GSSR 2010 – Quick Update – One down, One To Go

Sans Souci has completed the first day of two day passage to Hong Kong. We’re currently running along the south coast of China, in heavy freighter traffic, and smooth seas, about 15 miles offshore.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s update, we are in the unusual circumstance of racing towards a typhoon. This is a time when I’d like all the speed I can get, but the boat has been running at only 5.5 to 6.5 knots.

Seabird turned back to port, and discovered their props were caked with crud. At first, I couldn’t decide if our boat had the same problem, or if we were in a current.

I was fairly certain it was our boat, not current. When Seabird turned around I asked if they sped up, and they hadn’t. Also, our engines were running hotter, and burning 15-20% more fuel, than usual.

It was impossible to relax without knowing, and I started looking for a shallow place where I could dive under the boat. The run from Taiwan to Hong Kong is over mostly shallow water. Some is 400 feet deep, but the middle third is under 75 feet deep. If I held out I could drop anchor and clean the prop. However, the seas were too rough for diving, and Steven mentioned that he got slammed diving under Seabird. Roberta was convinced our problem was current, and didn’t want me beneath the boat in rough seas, 100 miles from shore. As the person who needed to do the swimming, I liked her thinking. 

Before I had to make a decision, I received an email from another Nordhavn owner (Milt Baker) with the chart above. I had googled to try to find current information for the South China Sea and struck out, but Milt read my blog and hunted it down. In the chart above, the index along the right hand side is the current speed. We were in the worst possible position for current. The good news was that we were working our way southwest and the adverse current would be reducing to 1 or 2 knots soon.

Actually, it turned out even better than this. When we hit the long, nearly 75 mile long stretch of shallow water, the current turned for a bit and was pushing us. We accelerated from 5.5 to 10 knots in minutes! The high speed only lasted a few hours, and then dropped to no current for another eight hours (allowing us to make 9 knots). I noticed that during the time we had no current, or a pushing current, the water temperature dropped significantly, from 88 degrees all the way to 73 degrees. This was very welcome and the entire boat ran much happier on the cool water.

We are now following the South China coast, and have a 1 to 2 knot current against us, which we expect to continue for the rest of our run. We’re making 7.1 knots and estimate arrival about 18 hours from now into Hong Kong. 

It is amazing to think that just out our starboard window is China, and we started in Seattle. I’d have never thought it possible! The only disappointing thing is that our friends on Seabird and Grey Pearl aren’t with us. The radio seems dead without them to talk to and share the experience. They’ll be along in a few days, but it would have been nice to finish the season as a team. We miss them!

We should start feeling the effect of the typhoon sometime later tonight, but I’m confident that we are far enough ahead of the storm that any impact will be minimal. And, hopefully, I’m right!

Sans Souci’s present position can always be found by going to and click on the menu entry for “Current Location.”

Thank you,
Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci

PS Many of you have sent emails and posted comments on my blog. I apologize for not responding. There are only three of us on the boat and it is tough to find time to get on the computer. I’ll answer everyone when we’re safely in port.

7 Responses

  1. Ron Rogers:

    The approach to Hong Kong was wild. I haven’t seen it during the day, and perhaps during the day it is easy, but at night it was anarchy! I wouldn’t do it again for any amount of money (at night).

    The local, a lovely young lady named Karen, was incredibly helpful. She mentioned that she has run the approach at night in a little sail boat several times. I can’t imagine it without all my fancy electronics. It was handy being able to ask her, “How far does that net stretch back?” Or, “Should I stay in the lane, or try to run the side of the lane?” And, that old favorite, “Is that boat coming at me?” Karen was awesome and her help is much appreciated. On a daytime run I think I’d have been fine without her, but for a night arrival, she was needed.

    As to Shelby… Shelby has a horrible desease which has a bad record of being fatal. It’s called old age, and they still haven’t found a cure. She’s now 14 years old and not moving as fast as she used to. She’s not handling the humidity, and rolling motion of the boat very well. It’s a sad situation, but we all get there sooner or later.

    Ken W

  2. Eric:

    Thank you for the tip and the kind words. We will be going into Kowloon for a week at a hotel and be seeking every great restaurant we can find. Finding a great italian restaurant is always a priority.

    Even though we’ve hardly been off the boat, Roberta and I have already fallen for Hong Kong. We both said last night that we want to rethink the schedule with a goal of spending more time here.

    As to budget … go to http://www.nordhavndreamers ( .. there are links to popular topics on the Nordhavn Dreamers message board on Yahoo. The topic of budgets for boats has come up many times and there is a long discussion by me on the topic.

    To paraphrase my thinking….

    The biggest cost is depreciation, but then after that you have insurance, and moorage. Fuel is actually fairly tiny in the schmeme of things. Then there are the potentially huge items that you control — such as upgrades, crew, agents, dockwise etc. Maintenance is a bit of a wild card, and depends on how much you can do yourself, and how lazy you are. I like to know how to do everything, but then get out of all I can. I rank high on laziness. Someone is washing the boat as we speak, and it isn’t me. Thus my maintenance budget is much larger than others.

    Look at the nordhavn dreamers board, and then let me know if that answers your question.

    I’d err on the side of buying less boat than you can afford. If you can afford an 86, consider a 63 or 68. Boats are prone to hidden surprises (blown transmissions, unexpected moorage costs, etc). I know too many people who were clobbered by surprise bills and had to sell their boat. Boating is a lot of things, but cheap isn’t one of them.

    -Ken W

  3. Hi Ken,
    Your blog is rich with information that is both relevant and technically juicy. I am also a vicarious viking of sorts, thanks for inviting us to your world. If you get a craving for really good Italian food, go to the Grand Standford Intercontinental hotel on Kowloon, it’s in the basement. I would like to ask a somewhat personal question re. your travel budget. I have the means to obtain a Nordhavn and like most I have researched to find the best balance in a good sized boat that I won’t grow out of with just myself and my young son for the time being. I know you have been asked before but could you please provide an idea of what your operating expenses for the last 5000 miles or so. This would give me a better idea of what to expect for budgeting purposes on a 68,72 or 76 Nordhavn.

    Thanks and enjoy HK.

  4. Ken
    My little week end runs in my little 30 footer are so tiny to what you have accomplished….congratutaion on arriving in Hong Kong. I have only recently accidently stumbled upon your blog while researcing the Great American Loop…..a dream someday. I have enjoyed following your progress and I have been also enjoying reading your blog archive. Looking forward to todays update on your crossing

    Bluenose’r from the Maritimes


  5. Thank heavens you in safely before the typhoon. It is supposed to miss Hong Kong by passing to the South – perhaps as close as Macao. Hopefully Shelby will buck up when ashore. Was your Hong Kong local of assistance in finding your way in? It looks like a very complex approach over and above the traffic!

    Sleep well,

  6. John K:

    Thank you!

    We’re all going to sleep now. The last four hours, arriving in the dark into Hong Kong, were tense. I’ve never seen so much traffic and most of it seemed to be pointed at us. I would never attempt a night arrival into a major port again.

    -Ken W

  7. Hey Ken,

    I just watched your Spot all the way to the dock, congratulations on making it to Hong Kong! I know is must be bitter-sweet as you throw the lines on this last leg of the 2010 GSSR without Grey Pearl and Seabird at your side but rest assured that those of us who are living vicariously through you are with you in spirit. Now, go walk Shelby, fill up the hot tub and crack open a bottle of wine, you have earned it.

    – jdk

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