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Old 26-09-2009, 11:18   #1
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Slow Boat from China ?

Hi all.

I'm after some advice on the feasability of sailing a small boat from Hong Kong to Taiwan, where I currently live and work.

I think Hong Kong is the closest source of small used sailboats to Taiwan. Yamaha's seem to be commonest, and I'm thinking in terms of something like a Yamaha 25, though something slightly bigger is a possibility.

If one were to attempt this, what would be the best (i.e. least bad) route and time of year? A direct approach is "only" about 400 miles, but against the prevailing winds, and I've been told it gets pretty rough in the winter, though there aren't any typhoons then.

I wonder if it would be better to head up the Taiwan Straight so the crossing is less exposed (though there are very powerful tides). I also wonder what the best time of year would be for such an attempt.

Any advice (including "forget it") would be appreciated.

Regards, Ed Lithgow (newbie)
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Old 26-09-2009, 11:41   #2
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Greetings and welcome aboaRD the CF, Ed.
You've posed an interesting question, the answers to which I'll be interested in reading.
Good luck !!!
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Old 26-09-2009, 18:34   #3
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Hi,
it's absolutely doable, but I would start with where do you keep your boat in Taiwan. I assume you have that solved. Where by the way?
Trip from HK to Kaohsiung should be alright even in NW monsoon if you get a good weather window. Penghu might be a bit more work. I have never sailed there, but I have been told that Taiwan strait is pretty nasty in NW monsoon. Of course the other side is exposed and you will have lee shore all the way up. Basically the whole winter is supposed to be very rough as you say, especially for such a small boat.
We wanted to do get our boat to Keelung two years ago, but we decided to wait and I have now moved to Hong Kong, where she is much safer.
I would certainly wait till SE monsoon.
I wouldn't "forget it", assuming that you'll be in Taiwan for some time to come, but in case you can get out with others, I would think twice. We lived there for five years and all we wanted was to have boat of our own, but considering the facilities there, the weather, currents, basically a complete lack of "romantic" (and safe) anchorages and of course strong typhoons, pollution in Keelung, the annoying bureaucracy each time you want to sail... I'm glad we haven't brought our boat there (of course I say that now, that I'm gone If we stayed, I wouldn't have stopped)
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Old 27-09-2009, 05:23   #4
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Thanks for your reply. Before I ask MORE questions, I'll try and answer yours, though I really don't know very much, and its quite hard to get information here, especially if you don't read or speak Mandarin.

Re moorings, there are one or two yachts based at Singda Gang, between Kaoshiung and Anping, and fairly near where I work, so I would probably keep a keelboat there. I don't really know the owners (or anyone else involved in non-dingy/windsurfing sailing here) but I've had a couple of conversations. Moorings are apparently free at the moment.

Its definately NOT a romantic anchorage, being a marina in an industrial harbour dominated by a huge twin-stack coal fired power station, but its a fully enclosed inner basin so should be sheltered, though maybe not very secure from theft.

The Southern Taiwan coastline has a lot of rivers and canals so, with shallow draft, there should be no shortage of shelter, assuming one could find one's way in, and were left alone once there. I imagine a keel boat might have problems, however, especially with bars at river mouths. A catamaran, eg a Wharram, would, I think, suit the environment quite well.

There are huge numbers of largely unmarked fish traps, fixed nets, and bamboo oyster-raising rafts in shallow water which would make inshore sailing difficult, and impossible at night without very detailed local knowledge.

One of my evening class students a couple of years ago was a CPO on a naval hydrographic survey vessel, and told me that inshore charts were classified and unavailable to civilians, which may well (still) be true, though I havn't confirmed it.

From my minimal contact with them the coast guard seem pretty officious so the formalities are likely to be a pain, as you point out. I don't yet know anything definate about current import taxes or licensing requirements. There used to be very steep charges for visiting yachts but I don't know if these still apply, since my impression is that the government is trying to develop marine recreation.

Having displayed my ignorance of the local Taiwan sailing situation, I'll do the same for the South China Sea. Do you know of any good summary or archive of past weather patterns that would be useful for passage planning? I can find reports and forecasts but not an archive or usefully detailed summary of the "normal" seasonal pattern
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Old 27-09-2009, 06:13   #5
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klubko,

You may have the wrong monsoons, NE and SW.
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Old 27-09-2009, 06:16   #6
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Sorry, I always had a problem with left and right
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Old 27-09-2009, 06:50   #7
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I remember when we started to dig out info about sailing in Taiwan. It's not easy even if you speak Mandarin
It's definitely a plus that you are at the south. Better weather and protection. Though my contacts and knowledge is restricted to northern Taiwan.
Yes, you are right about the rivers etc. Be sure to get a mosquito net
I don't know much about the charts. I think I saw some with good enough scale.
We were only importing 10' dighy and the duty was quite low. I think it's higher for bigger boat.
As for the license. To drive Taiwanese boat you need their small boat license, but I am not sure if the courses and especially the test is available in English. I never took it, so I don't know much about that. I know at least about one sailing school where they speak English, located near Keelung, though.

To sail your own boat shouldn't be a problem, but to have some paper to show them might be useful. I am sure you will find some nice people at the coast guard. As you probably know by now, lot of the alienation that Taiwanese show to foreigners is caused by shyness. At least that was always my feeling. You will need patience. But the latest news is that there should be less paperwork and as you point you, the government is trying to promote marine sports. There's project in Keelung for a new marina (actually just an upgrade of a very primitive pontoons in Bisha) and a new yachtclub with crane etc. I'm sure it must be similar if not better in the south.
I think that a foreign boat cannot stay in Taiwanese port longer than one month. But once you leave even just for a day, you have a new month and since you have to check-out every time you go for a sail, it should be no problem. That's what a coast guard suggest when we were planning to take our (big) boat there. Perhaps this has changed already.
As for the historical weather info. There has been a thread here just couple of days ago. The usual source are pilot charts (www.nga.mil/maritime then go to Publications and select Atlas of pilot charts, you need Pub 109 - Indian Ocean), which are statistical summary of more 100 hundred years of weather for the whole world, BUT due to recent weather changes, they seem to be less reliable. Still they will provide the initial planning guidance. There are historical weather archives, but most of what I have found so far is meant to be processed by computers and not humans, but I haven't spent much time on it. It's a good idea to follow the pilot charts and then monitor the weather a month or two ahead of the planned passage.
There is a regatta/race from HK to Kaohsiung, this year it was in July, I think.
I have very good friend, who is an important figure in Taiwanese sailing, but unfortunately he's in Keelung and only speaks Chinese.

There's also (at least) one foreigner with a boat, Tom Stamps (I don't know him personally), who was docked in Hsin-chu. I don't have his contact info, but you can get in touch with him through yacht club there (s˦|*Ѽֳ, the site is in Chinese, but the email contact is obvious )
I hope this helps a bit.
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Old 28-09-2009, 06:46   #8
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Phew!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vasco View Post
klubko,

You may have the wrong monsoons, NE and SW.
Thanks, that had me worried, but I was afraid to ask
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Old 28-09-2009, 16:32   #9
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Originally Posted by klubko View Post

The usual source are pilot charts (www.nga.mil/maritime then go to Publications and select Atlas of pilot charts, you need Pub 109 - Indian Ocean), which are statistical summary of more 100 hundred years of weather for the whole world, BUT due to recent weather changes, they seem to be less reliable. )
I hope this helps a bit.
It helps a lot, thanks, especially the above. Lots of free stuff from the US Govt. How unlike the govt. of our own Dear Queen, to which I actually pay taxes.

Now I just have to understand it....

Havn't found a source for local tides yet, (not an immediate requirement but will be of eventual interest) apart from some academic studies, one of which gives a Taiwan Strait stream speed of 196 m/s (!). I think that might be a proofreading problem, but the tides are apparently powerful (5m range) especially near Penghu where the channel is presumably constricted.

They refer to Admiralty Tide Tables as a general data source, which I'm guessing won't be free.

Anyhow, thanks again. Have to do some work now.....
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Old 28-09-2009, 18:51   #10
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Taiwan publishes tide tables, if I remember correctly, you can get them at one of the chart shops, there's one in Kaohsiung. There are several online resources though:
Long-term-Tidal- Prediction
XTide: Harmonic tide clock and tide predictor (also an offline application, but read the disclaimer)
EASYTIDE (also an offline app TotalTide, but not free)
Cheers
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Old 28-09-2009, 19:54   #11
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Passage to Taiwan

It takes a brave man to set out into the waters for Taiwan in a 25 footer, the sea traffic is heavy and unruly as most Chinese vessels are old and poorly crewed. That being said the there are a number of considerations to take in when planning such a passage: the state of the prevailing monsoon and tides are the most important, and the state of the fetch which is dependant on the timing of crossing. Traditionally the NE kicks at the end of September as it has this year, and lasts until just after Easter (end of April / May) any passage would be best planned on early to avoid the very rough seas that can form after a month or two of the monsoon.SW monsoon runs from endish of April until September, but be warned that Typhoons are not unknown even up to Christmas. The early Typhoons usually come in across the NE of Luzon and then up to HK, Taiwan or curl up to Japan with the late season storms travelling flatter across the South China Sea skirting the southern coast across into Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin. However, the weather patterns are for ever changing with global warming,as can be seen from the pattern of Typhoons originating in the South China Sea this year west of the Phillipines! If you are going to go for it the last piece of advice would be to wait until the 3 rd day of any monsoon surge out of HK so that you travel at he back end of the weather system.
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Old 29-09-2009, 06:00   #12
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It takes a brave man to set out into the waters for Taiwan in a 25 footer, .
Or perhaps just a foolish one. This is "feasability study"/information gathering at the moment, and, as you imply, it may not be a very smart idea, especially as I have very limited sailing experience and would probably have to do it alone.

It seems that the passage would be "really offshore" in terms of exposure, but with a lot of traffic and other clutter like nets and oil rigs, not ideal if one cannot keep a continuous watch. I havn't entirely given up on the idea yet but have sobered up quite a bit. Some risk is of course inevitable and acceptable but I'd like better than infantry odds.

Thanks for your tactical weather tips which are of great interest.

Other options to be investigated are shipping (though I doubt a fin-keeler can readily be containerised) and self-build in Taiwan (though my free time is mostly in the hot humid summer, my wooodworking tools are all in the UK, and, perhaps most importantly, I'm reluctant to invest in a long term project in a country where I don't have residency rights)
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Old 29-09-2009, 07:02   #13
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And have you tried to join up some guys there? Perhaps finding them is not very easy without Chinese, but I remember couple of nice boats in the small "marina" in Kaohsiung harbour. Maybe a note left on the boat would get you aboard. Or perhaps these guys could help sail.club@msa.hinet.net (|||e*|) They seem to be sailing keelboats too.
Btw. doing it alone would definitely be a bad idea. Usually you can't see them in a dark night even when you keep sharp lookout.
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Old 30-09-2009, 03:42   #14
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Thank for the suggestions and contact info. As you say, lack of Chinese is one of my problems. I did a windsurfing course at a club on Anping beach, where some English was spoken, and they were very friendly, but then I got busy with a new job and it sort of lapsed.

Also, in the last few years Anping beach area has been largely wrecked by knuckle-headed local govt "landscaping" and development. Makes me angry every time I go there, so I don't, but I should maybe try and revive the connection.

They have an Optimist fleet and a Hobie or two, launched by tracked vehicle across a beach which dredging spoil dumping has made unstable and hugely extended. Unsurprisingly no keelboats there but they might have contacts.

(Incidentally apologies to all for the local Taiwan chat. Its not exactly irrelevant to this thread but I suppose its way off the main cruising focus of the board.)

"Btw. doing it alone would definitely be a bad idea. Usually you can't see them in a dark night even when you keep sharp lookout."

I accept that going alone is not safe, and that is probably THE show-stopper, but I'm not sure I understand your second point. If the likely hazards (vessel? - implies unlit? oil installation? - ditto? nets? ) are invisible to a lookout, then it seems to imply (a) That it doesn't make any difference whether one is alone or not, and (b) that the area is not safely navigable at night, alone or otherwise. The latter objection seems to have no solution, even if one heaves-to at night, which would carry its own risks.

Forgive me if this sounds argumentative, thats not my intention, just trying to be clear. My night sailing experience is limited to a couple of short coastal cruises on the west coast of Scotland, (In a Seafarer, which is not much bigger than a dinghy. We went on the rocks at one point but were able to push off with no damage, which wouldn't have been the case with something larger) solo dinghy sailing in the Firth of Forth, and a North Sea crossing in a square rigger, where I was just a rope-puller/watchkeeper with no real responsibility.

Regds, Ed Lithgow
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Old 30-09-2009, 04:25   #15
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Sorry for being unclear. What I meant is that you don't see them even if you keep a lookout unless they turn on some lights, 'them' being usually small fishermen, but certainly there can be unlit structures around rigs. So you can't avoid them by a civilized and well thought out maneuver.
So the difference is that a good watch can (hopefuly) react within couple of seconds (you might spot a something like a shade at the last minute) or they turn on some light at the last minute. So the watch keeping certainly makes difference. Unless, of course, the fishermen is driving resolutely towards you in order to pass his bad luck onto your boat (Malaysian superstition).
I don't think that Taiwanese waters (where I haven't sailed over night) would be much different form Malaysia, Philippines etc. (where I have sailed a bit) in terms of unlit dangers. Of course then there are logs and other rubbish, which you just can't do anything about.
What actually comes to my mind is what would you do with the boat when you decide to leave. This is also a point to consider, I guess. Like ourselves, we bought a boat with the intention that we leave on her. (We have donated our Mirror dinghy to local yacht club).
I wish you get in touch with some group that goes out frequently and/or keep on working towards realizing the dream
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