Shonandra North and South

14 August 2019 | Labuan, Malaysia
29 July 2019 | South China Sea
28 July 2019 | South China Sea
27 July 2019 | South China Sea
26 July 2019 | South China Sea
25 July 2019 | South China Sea
24 July 2019 | South China Sea
23 July 2019 | South China Sea
21 July 2019 | South China Sea
19 July 2019 | South China Sea
18 July 2019 | South China Sea
17 July 2019 | South China Sea
10 June 2019 | Lantau, Hong Kong
10 June 2019 | Lantau, Hong Kong
19 May 2019 | Hong Kong
14 May 2019 | Hong Kong
12 May 2019 | South China Sea
11 May 2019 | South China Sea
10 May 2019 | South China Sea
09 May 2019 | South China Sea

Labuan Marina, Labuan, Malaysia

14 August 2019 | Labuan, Malaysia
Virginia MacRobert | Hot and humid but fine
It's been a while since I last wrote. So now that things are settling to slightly boring stage I have the time. Let's see, what has happened since we arrived?
Yes. Like a movie, before arrival John and I were looking with longing at our lovely SE Asia cruising guide in the listing, Labuan Marina. 'A berth here will allow you to use the facilities in the Hotel in front of the Marina. You may use washing machines, shower, attend the bar and laze around the pool'. John's comment was that he was really looking forward to lazing around the pool with a book. On arrival it was getting dark so we anchored outside the marina in the bay next to a pretty, small beach. That night the wind blew so hard that we were worried about dragging anchor on to the beach. Morning came and we hadn't dragged but we decided to check out the Marina and Hotel next door. We upped anchor and the five minute journey took us right there. On entry we gasped, and our expectations evaporated in a poof. It was not because of the beauty but because of the amount of accumulated trash floating everywhere, and the falling apart marina. The hotel in front is abandoned, with broken windows, overgrown garden and empty pool. The surprise was total! We would have laughed, but the scene of devastation wasn't funny, especially the trash floating everywhere and the broken marina. We took the last berth along and found that at low tide the boat bounces or sits on the sea bed. Strangely there are lots of fish, and the water beneath the trash is clear and in about 3 meters of water the sand and trash at the bottom is clearly visible. In front of us is part of the abandoned garden of the hotel. There are many different birds and quite a few large monitor lizards, which could easily be passed off as the Aussie goanna. They are a little smaller and the skin markings are very similar too. They swim very well and also catch and eat fish. We often find small fish bones on the marina walkway and have seen one swimming lazily around our boat looking for a fish to catch. Hunter barks at them and we think Coco may have met one when he escaped momentarily to the land in front of us. He was severely traumatised and exhausted when he returned, with help from John! The local vet told us she has had many cat patients which have been attacked by the monitors and she said they are usually covered in severe lacerations which take a lot of repairing. With antibiotics as well she hasn't lost a patient yet.
We have plans now to return to Australia, probably via Indonesia and around Cape York. Our breakdowns have cost us dearly in not just time but also finances. We can always sail another day. All is not lost. Hunter and Coco de Mer will fly ahead home and we will follow as soon as we can. It may be a couple of months yet before the animals can get their Australian import license. They have already passed the necessary requirements with all vaccinations, and cleared blood tests needed. It is now waiting for Australian quarantine to grant the permits required. When ready, we will sail to Klang, Selangor and they will fly from KL to Melbourne.
Last Monday (two days ago) my mother, Pauline McKnight passed away. She was 97 years old and she has left my Dad, who is also 97 years. They have been married just short of 75 years, and one of the greatest love stories every told. They married right before my Dad shipped off to PNG during WW2. My siblings are with Dad at present and there are many of us, and many more including the extended grandchildren and great grandchildren. My Mum's last few months were very difficult as she finally succumbed to a brain disease. She is finally totally at peace. I may even try to write again and find some nice things besides trash to photograph. When we have the inclination we will get out and explore some more. Until then, John and Ginni


29 July 2019 | South China Sea
Pos 30/7/19, 05 16'N, 115 15'E. We arrived in port Labuan Malaysia at 1615 on Monday 29/7/19. We both slept like rocks last night after the routine of shifts thru the night. The way in kept us busy crossing many ships of all kinds related to the oil and gas industries. There are huge platforms out at sea lit up so that you can see them over 25nm away. Once entering the vast bay, which entrance is littered with coral heads, it opens out into a wide space and the distant shores are only just visible. Yesterday the visibility was limited to about 5-6 nm because of a tropical haze. The oil and gas platforms are also in evidence here as well with over ten we could see, but they may be in here for maintenance. We haven't been to visit the various authorities yet and will do that after breakfast. There are about 5 departments to go and see so I suspect that will take all day.

That's it. Better get hopping and check in. John and Ginni

Magic and Mystery

28 July 2019 | South China Sea
Pos 1630, 28/7/19. 06 23'N, 113 17'E. Now 129nm from WP at Labuan, Malaysia. The last couple of days we've had a great run. All day today we've hit a minimum speed over ground of 6.5 knots and up to a constant 7.0 knots. For Shonandra that's reasonably fast, after all, she isn't a catamaran (I wish!) Conditions have been sunny with a constant SW breeze of 10-17 knots. Perfect! Right now we are passing another small atoll of the Spratley group, but so far no disputes as to who this belongs to. I think it is Malaysia. We haven't seen a lot of wildlife but at about midday today John saw a fish boil and as we watched, up out of the middle came a smallish dolphin launching himself about 10 feet in the air, and landing with an almighty splash on his side. The rest of the pod must have been underwater. I have observed that some dolphins, mostly spinners, throw themselves on the water hard like this to move the fish along. They are great herders.

A great mystery to us is where all the fishing boats come from each night, and where do they go during the day? Last night the 'squidders' were on every horizon, too many to count. These boats look like giant floating porcupines with many bamboo rods sticking out from their sides, with lines attached to jag squid. They also shine blindingly bright lights to one side in order to attract the squid to the surface. In the north of the South China Sea the squid season has just finished, but it looks as if it is in full swing here. Here is the mystery. How do these hundreds of small squid boats get hundreds of nautical miles out to sea in such a short time, then completely disappear during the day? It makes you wonder if you imagined them all. Dodging them at night is a full time occupation so they can't just be imagined . Come daylight, not a trace of them is to be seen. Some magic has taken place and they have been spirited away, or Scotty has beamed them up. We expect that they will return again this evening. From where? and return to where?

Until tomorrow then, when perhaps, just perhaps, I may be writing this blog from an anchorage in Labuan. Bye for now. John and Ginni

Zhu Yi Wai Ji

27 July 2019 | South China Sea
Pos 1745, 27/7/19. 7 41' N, 11 18'E. At approximately 0730 this morning comes the commanding best regime voice over the VHF radio 'ZHu Yi Wai Ji' 'Attention foreign vessels' I caught the beginning, not the middle and then the end which said 'Leave Immediately' again in Mandarin. At first we thought it was the Chinese Navy telling us had entered their space illegally and to get out of here. It turned out to be Vietnamese and they had that message later in English as well, and then on 'loop' so it played over and over. What transpired next was pretty interesting. There were at least ten vessels behind us a bout 6 nm. According to the AIS identification scheme/gadgets two of those were a 600 foot long 'Law Enforcement' vessel. - Chinese, and a 300 foot long Coast Guard vessel also Chinese. Then bunched up were 'fishing vessels' about six and two 'Cargo' vessels - Vietnamese. The two Viet 'cargo vessels seemed to be patrols of some sort. They moved along at about 7.0 knots all close together in an armarda, the two Chinese vessels on the northern flank. We changed course to get away from them all in case we copped a stray shot across the bow. Fortunately they all headed south while we headed south east as best we could sail that angle. We could see them all sailing along until they and we disappeared in the distant morning haze. Their AIS signatures, all showing course over ground, speed over ground, and identification name and numbers blazed up on our screen. suddenly about six of them disappeared at once, including the two Chinese ships. Very strange indeed. We could still eyeball them in the distant horizon and see their 'shadows' on the radar, so they were not invisible. No one did visit us at all thank goodness as we were a bit worried that a big Chinese law enforcement ship would want to come alongside and question us. This happened to friends from Hong Kong recently when they were returning along the Philippine coast. According to this mornings Vietnamese broadcasts, the Viets claim this patch , The Spratleys, as their sovereign territory and continental shelf (which is isn't) . These tiny islands, atolls and reefs are the tops of very steep mountains with deep trenches in between them. China has built runways and military bases on some of these reefs ignoring the outcry of international condemnation. This morning on the VHF the Chinese said nothing except that they just went along for the ride intimidating the rest by the size of their vessels. This was all a little disconcerting for us, but I suspect it happens every morning around this islands where fishing is no doubt quite good and the temptation to fish here is irresistible.

We are making good progress, but this afternoon hit suddenly by strong winds and some rain. After putting in a 2nd reef in the main and furling the genoa the storms passed and took most of the breeze with them. Still, we don't trust what lies ahead as there are storm clouds everywhere and Shonandra and the storm cells have yet to clash. We could be in for a busy night.

On that note, we are safely past the special Vietnamese economic zone, which both China and Philippines say is theirs. We are now about 250nm from the island of Labuan where we are headed but may arrive on Monday evening, in which case we will hang around at sea until daylight before venturing forward on Tuesday morning in good light. John and Ginni

Good Progress

26 July 2019 | South China Sea
Pos 1745 26/7/19. 10 03'N, 110 40'E. We've bounced and rolled and pitched and splashed our way along all day today, and during the night. The boat is on a heel and we have eased sails, changed angles, furled the headsail some, and slowed down and sped up, but.....we still bounce along at a heel. Moving around and even just getting to the loo can be exhausting. We have managed to rest in the day and still get basic chores done. Cooking is out, as everything is required to be done with one hand. Leg muscles are challenged too, and it is such a relief to sit after even a short journey to a cabin or to get a glass of water. a moments inattention is at times punished by being thrown across the boat. I was between handholds a couple of days ago and in that split second was thrown from the nav desk across the boat and on to the hand railing in front of the oven. Luckily I have strong bones but I now sport a very deep purple bruise. Speaking of bruises, John's foot seems to be healing well. He can at least move more easily and doesn't complain of any pain now. The animals are taking to jostling rather well. Hunter is a bit too bold at ties and stands on the aft cabin roof, a dangerous spot in this swell and chop. Today he got another drenching while going to his toilet spot on deck. He looked around accusingly as if to say 'Right! Who did that?' Very funny.

There are still lots of ships passing by and now quite a few fishing boats around as well. We are more than 100nm from the Viet coast now as well. It appears as if most of the vessels are Chinese out this far. We have just passed as cargo vessel which is broken down and drifting. Someone from the ship has been putting out a 'Securite' message giving their Lat and Long and warning all ships to stay clear of him. I imagine an ocean going tug will turn up to assist if they don't get going again soon.

Short blog. Not a lot of news - no birds and no dolphins today. The chop and strong-ish winds are set to continue tomorrow as well. Until then. John and Ginni

Passing Gna Trangh

25 July 2019 | South China Sea
Pos 1600 on 25/7/19. 11 55'N, 109 39'E. What a variable day conditions presented to us today! We've had lots of wind, up to 18 knots and then down to 4 knots or nothing and in between. The directions have been changing too, from SE and around to West. The sea has been horribly rough since there is a current running South and the wind is generally opposed to it. We've had the motor on and off all day, and also sailed in between and had to adjust sails and boat direction to accommodate all the changes.Jjust when Shonandra gets sailing in a groove the wind changes strength and direction, again, and so must we. It has kept us on our toes.

Very shortly we will strike out to the open ocean again towards Labuan, on Borneo. It looks like a five or six day journey but could be less or more depending on the winds etc. So far nothing is guaranteed. The coast of Vietnam is dramatic and beautiful, with those imposing mountains as the backdrop. Today we sailed past Nga Tranhg and also past the resort to the south of there where my daughter Gabby and husband, Simon said their wedding vows. What a gorgeous setting that was for their wedding. The resort kept it simple and elegant, and the background of the ocean and setting sun was perfect.

As the daylight fades the 'night-stawkers' fishermen come out in all kinds of interesting vessels, mostly wooden and very colouful. One last night gave me quite a scare. We were just about to sail past it, when they turned their huge searchlight on Shonandra, blinding me in the cockpit. They turned it off, put their motor on and proceeded at speed right across our bow. I held my breath as I wasn't certain they they were going to hold that course and I got ready to swing Shonandra into the wind to stop, as we were under full sail. They increased their revs as I think they too thought a collision was iimminent. As they passed the bow they shone that horrible bright light at our boat a again, blinding me from seeing exactly where they were. They passed our bow by a whisker, and left me feeling really shaken. It's the closest I have ever come to having a collision with another vessel at sea. What goes through their heads when they do something like that, who knows? It was bad enough them cutting our bow but made worse by blinding us with their spotlight. It appears that the fishermen are not permitted to fish in the traffic separation scheme along this part of the Vietnam coast. John said he had seen other vessels going for their lives as we approached their positions. I suspect a very large fine or vessel confiscation the penalty to breaking the rules. It's a good rule that no fishing allowed in the traffic separation scheme as huge cargo ships ply this coast, as well as the odd sailboat! I wonder how many have gone to Davey Jones locker for not paying attention?

Farewell, until tomorrow. I trust you are receiving the blogs ok. John and Ginni
Vessel Name: Shonandra
Vessel Make/Model: Roberts Mauritius/Norfolk design ext to 14.37 meters
Hailing Port: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Crew: John Casey, Ginni MacRobert
About: John has extensive sailing experience around Tasmania and the East Australian coast. Ginni has sailed in Hong Kong waters and has circumnavigated the globe in a catamaran 1 1/2 times.
Extra: SV Shonandra has had a serious revamp in the last 18 months (2017 & 2018) with most of the work done by John, who is an engineer. All boat systems including keel, rudder and prop shaft, and the rig and sails are either brand new or renovated.
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