Dispatch: Greetings from the South China Sea!

Posted by Keith on August 14, 2007 at 2:33 am  

17:30 Local
August 14, 2007

Smack Dab In the Middle of the South China Sea

We are about 400 miles east-northeast of Kota Kanabalu, East Malaysia, and about 325 west-southwest of that southern-most tip of Vietnam located at the southeastern corner of the entrance to the Gulf of Thailand. When we reach that point we’ll take a more northerly heading past the Vietnam and Cambodian coasts toward Bangkok. But for now our course is 282 degrees true (west-northwest) – straight across the South China Sea.

We’ve been at sea for two days.

The water was dead calm when we left Kota Kanabalu. We enjoyed a serene and picturesque sunset the first night as we slipped between the many brightly-lit off-shore oil rigs and fishing vessels scattered along the East Malaysian-Brunei coast.

After an equally spectacular sunrise, the sea presented a light chop from the southwest yesterday, and has continued to build today. Winds have increased a bit but are still only in the teens. The skies are blue with little sign of storms on our radar. We are surrounded by an endless blue horizon.

Our weather routing service has warned us that seas and winds may continue to build a bit, but to nowhere near threatening levels. Still, this is typhoon season here so we continue to watch the weather carefully. We will not linger out here, even if fish start biting by the dozen the two lures we usually have out!

Today is Tuesday. We should arrive at the Ocean Marina Yacht Club near Sattahip, Thailand – about 30 southeast of Bangkok — by Saturday, August 18 (My birthday!).

Our intrepid Nordhavn 55, The Global Adventure, is heading almost directly into the wind and waves, so things are a bit bouncy, but not too uncomfortable. For example, at this moment, with Alida on watch, Brian is napping in the forward crew’s quarters, Wolf is here with me in the Salon reading, and I’m sitting in one of our two leather recliners typing this dispatch. Obviously, we are not suffering.

Before we left Kota Kanabalu, the crew did a particularly exceptional job of cleaning the interior and exterior of the ship. While she is now covered with salt spray outside, the ship’s interior remains so neat and clean that life is particularly comfortable onboard. It’s like traveling in a five-star resort.

Before we shoved off from San Diego April 1, my family gave me the “Complete Alfred Hitchock” DVD set. I had forgotten we had it, but earlier today I rediscovered the set and enjoyed the film classic Rear Window.

We have two flat-screen TVs on board: One on the wall in my stateroom, and another larger set that emerges from the starboard cabinet in the main salon with the push of a button. As I said: Five stars.

Our Watch Schedule

With four persons aboard, we each take two three-hour watches during each 24-hour period. This leaves every member of the crew 18 hours per day to sleep, take photos and videos (see yesterday’s postings) write blogs, cook, read, attend to minor repairs or equipment adjustments (everything is working splendidly), eat, sun bathe, talk and watch movies.

Here’s the watch schedule we’ve maintained since Pohnpei, Micronesia:

00:00 – 03:00 Engineer Brian Wallace
03:00 – 06:00 Crew and Steward Alida Christiansen
06:00 – 09:00 Me
09:00 – 12:00 Captain Wolf Petrasko
12:00 – 15:00 Brian
15:00 – 18:00 Alida
18:00 – 21:00 Me
21:00 – 00:00 Wolf

Wolf sleeps right behind the pilot house and is available 24/7 to assist the watch person with any issues that may arise.

We use local time, and when we pass into a new time zone we typically adjust the schedule accordingly.

The South China Sea

The South China Sea covers almost 1.5 million square miles, at an average depth of 4800 feet. But there are many sea mounts, reefs, and small islands here as well. While not difficult to avoid, they force us to stay alert, as well we should under any circumstance.

The Sea extends as far north as Taiwan opposite the central coast of China, and as far south as Singapore at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Below that is the Java Sea that extends to Indonesia. The South China Sea is bounded on the east by Taiwan, The Philippines, East Malaysia and Brunei on the island of Borneo. The islands and land masses occupied by these nations separate the Sea from the Pacific Ocean.

To the west, the South China Sea is bounded by China, Vietnam, and the Malay Peninsula. Cambodia, arguably also fronting on the South China Sea, is oriented more toward the Gulf of Thailand, as is Thailand itself. The Gulf of Thailand is the comparatively small gulf in the northwest corner of the South China Sea.

For some reason — perhaps the adventure stories I read as a boy — I always thought of this Sea as dark and foreboding. But it has been very kind to us, offering up blue skies and fairly gentle seas.

Unfortunately, even out here there are logs and debris floating by with regularity – an indication of man’s carelessness, particularly on the Malay Peninsula. But it is truly beautiful out here. There are fish that fly and birds that swim, warm breezes and plenty of sun. Even the Sea’s water temperature is comforting: close to 90 degrees.

Adventures await us in Bangkok and in all of Thailand, as well as in Cambodia and Vietnam.

But for today, with gratitude and excitement, we embrace the adventure of crossing The South China Sea.



2 Comments so far

  1. dlblanton on August 14, 2007 9:53 am

    Thank you so much for your detailed descriptions of your journey/adventure. May you continue to have a safe trip — happy birthday on the 18th!

    Thanks, Dixie! (Alida is doing fine.)

  2. conrad zaenglein on August 22, 2007 4:07 pm

    Thanks so much for continuing your radio show
    while you are on the global adventure.I always look forward to it on Sunday morning.I attemded one of your conferences years ago &
    thoroughly enjoyed it.You imparted a lot of information to us then that is quite appropriate in today’s financial climate as well.
    Do you intend to stop in Hawaii again on the return trip?

    Hope to head straight home, Conrad. See my August 26 dispatch.


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