Southeast Asia Pilot by Andy Dowden & Bill O’Leary

Incorporating the Andaman Sea, Gulf of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia… and more

Southeast Asia Pilot by Andy Dowden & Bill O’Leary

Vietnam

Apart from the Hong Kong to Nha Trang Race and a few intrepid cruisers, there has been very little activity for private yachts in Vietnam, although several superyachts have been able to explore Vietnam waters in last few years − in the opposite season to Phuket.

The country opened its waters up to cruising yachts and commercial charter activity in 2006 with the establishment of a Sunsail base in Nha Trang. However, the operation was suspended in 2009 due to local difficulties.

One problem of cruising in Vietnam is that boats must check in and out of each port (sometimes even within the same province!) adding significantly to the costs, usually having had to give an advanced itinerary as well.

There are no separate regulations for pleasure boats, nor even recognition of their existence. Instead, Commercial Shipping Regulations apply, which also means the regulatory necessity for a Commercial Shipping Agent. Some small yachts have managed to get in and out on their own but the internet is strewn with their tales of “hassles & woe” and the inability to go to the more inaccessible places of greater interest, such as Van Phong Bay, 31 nautical miles north of Nha Trang, an anchorage of great beauty, without parallel in Southeast Asia.

Van Phong Bay is populated by many small islands and has a massive sand dune along its northeastern side. Hidden away here is Whale Island, an eco-friendly resort that has done much to re-grow coral destroyed by dynamite fishing. In the past, yachts have based themselves here for weeks to take advantage of the excellent nearby dive sites, perfect protection in all weather and wonderful sailing conditions.

Khanh Hoa Province’s 60-mile coastline encompasses 70 islands. With constant 8-15 knot afternoon breezes, clear calm waters and friendly locals, it has been a big hit with the yacht crews and guests on boats of all sizes.

Nha Trang is Vietnam’s premier beach resort town and its location and geography give clear skies and good weather between May and September. The town has many hotels and restaurants ranging from the basic to luxurious − and provisioning here is easy.

Within the cruising area there are several resorts. Seafood can be bought or bartered for at one of the hundreds of fish farms. The islands S/S.E. of Nha Trang offer dozens of protected anchorages for any season and the diving in the Hon Mun marine park area is equal to the best in Asia.

Photo by Thien Nhan Vietnam Yacht Agency

It is still early days for marine tourism in Vietnam and entry procedures can be time-consuming, if not overly expensive. The authorities do place restrictions on boat movements but are loosening up slowly − and local pilots are no longer required on foreign-flagged yachts full time.

Former superyacht manager, Allan Goodman, is based in Nha Trang and is the best contact for any yacht wishing to cruise these waters. Big yachts have cruised from Ha Long Bay, near the Chinese border, to Phu Quoc Island (the former property of Cambodia) in the Thai Gulf with the assistance of his Company, Thien Nhan Tour & Trading Co. Ltd.

Allan has been instrumental in encouraging a more open-minded approach towards visiting yachts by the Peoples’ Committees and local military officials. He can arrange all the necessary clearances, provide visas on arrival and, more importantly, fuel bunkering for foreign-flagged yachts. Small quantities of fuel do still remain tricky, though, in the smaller ports owing to the regulation that calls for a special licence to supply any foreign-flagged vessel, making the fuel a bit expensive when small quantities are called for. There are, however, enterprising locals to find another solution for those of an adventurous nature. In general, the ‘Change and Renewal Principle’ (Doi Moi) has brought numerous changes in attitude and outlook. The overall willingness of the government and people to embrace new business opportunities bodes well for the future of the country.

A marina is hopefully to be developed further north at Da Nang and with this comes an expectation that soon the 300-mile stretch of coastline between Nha Trang and Da Nang will be open to cruising. There are eleven separate, safe anchorages on that stretch of coast.

For more information and assistance, email Allan at: allanRgoodman@gmail.com or visit his superyacht agency website: www.yachtagentvietnam.com

Anchorages in Vietnam
Below, we list the main anchorage locations for Vietnam that are featured in the book – together with one sample anchorage. For a complete list of all 533 anchorage locations, go to Southeast Asia Pilot index
Majestic superyacht at anchor in Bao Dai Photo by Thien Nhan Vietnam Yacht Agency
Beach at Nha Trang Photo by © VascoPlanet.com, http://vascoplanet.com
Thien Nhan Vietnam Yacht Agency Photo by © VascoPlanet.com, http://vascoplanet.com
  • NHA TRANG & HON TRE
  • Na Trang in Khanh Hoa Province is a major port on the east coast of Vietnam. The town itself is considered Vietnam’s most charming…
See sample Vietnam anchorage
Around Hon Tre
  • VUNG THUC BAY
  • This large bay on the mainland is mostly shallow. Our only recommended anchorages are at the mouth...
  • VAN PHONG BAY
  • …the famous and unbelievable all-year playground... A large deep, inland-sea protected by two outer islands and the 17 km sand dune, with many channels and inlets…

Hon Lao (Monkey Island)

12°22.16N, 109°12.74E

Hon Lao is close to the mainland and famous for its monkey show with daytime resort ashore. Anchor on the west side of this small island in 2-4 metres to shelter from the southeasterly swell.

Best to head toward the large green Chinese Pagoda on the shore, which will lead you away from low ground immediately west of the island.

Hon Dung & Hon Cau (Le Pyramid)

Northeast of Hon Tre, these steep islands rise up out of 60 metres of water and are riddled with fissures and caves which are home to tens of thousands of swallows.

Both islands are managed by a birds’ nest collecting agency and are jealously protected. It is safe to sail close by the islands and marvel at how the tiny shacks clinging to the cliff faces are actually someone’s home. Attempting to anchor here is not recommended. The guards have shotguns. Millions of dollars for the owners are at stake for these bird‘s-nests, so do not go too close.

To the east of these islands, approximately five miles north of the Black Rocks Cardinal Mark (northeast of Hon Tre) is the Grand Bank Shallows. At high tide, there is no danger to yachts; but there is no good snorkelling and net fishing makes it an area to be avoided.

Passage-making to & from Vietnam

Two islands off the coast of Vietnam are useful stopovers en route to the main cruising area.

Con Son (Con Dao Islands): 8041N, 106037E

Lying 120 miles due east of the southern tip of Vietnam, this small group of islands has an indented coastline and gives opportunity for shelter from any wind direction. The largest island is about eight miles long. The main town is best accessed from the south bay, but there are good roads around the coast. The town itself is extremely basic but has an interesting museum in the old prison where political prisoners − and eventually American servicemen − were incarcerated during the Vietnam war. There is an airport and a few small resorts.

There is an airport and a few small resorts.

Phu Quoc: 10014N, 103056E

Lying only 10 miles south of the Cambodian coast, this is a port of entry and the officials can be found in the main town on the northwest coast. There is an airport connecting to Ho Chi Minh City and the island is being developed as a tourist destination. On the southern tip is a large fishing port in a deep bay with good markets and provisioning. Fuel is available.

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While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this book is accurate, the charts of anchorages are based on personal experience and satellite imagery and are intended as a guide only. They should not be used for navigation. Please refer to Official Hydrographic Charts of the respective countries.

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