How To Sail From California To China

How To Sail From California To China | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

September 29, 2022

Sailing across the Pacific Ocean to arrive in Southeast Asia is a huge accomplishment. Learning how to sail from California to China would be your first step.

You will need plenty of time to prepare your trip, especially with the amount of distance between the two locations. So how do you travel from California to China?

Sailing from California to China is estimated to take 5,345 nautical miles. This is about two months of traveling. You will likely need to make stops along the way to Hawaii, the Marshall Islands, and potentially the Philippines depending on the route that you choose.

You will need to be efficient with your supplies and able to handle being out on the ocean for long periods of time. The weather will also play a factor and might potentially stop your travel plans for a few days.

Like other experienced sailors, you want to travel the  Pacific when the conditions are best to sail in. You also do not want this to be your first sailing trip, or at least have a handful of experience before embarking.


Table of contents

Navigating from California to China

Both your beginning and ending ports in California to China most likely will not be the same as this example. So depending on your situation and what you are wanting to accomplish along the way, you will need to adjust.

This example trip is starting in San Francisco, California to a port in Shanghai, China. It is an estimated distance of 5,345 nautical miles total for shooting across the Pacific Ocean.

Assuming the weather is perfect, you move at 10 knots or more, and no stops are made, you could expect to reach China in about 29 days. Keep in mind that everyone travels at different speeds, so allowing 35 to 60 days to do this would be ideal.

San Francisco to Ports in Hawaii

San Francisco, California and Hawaii are a little over 2,500 miles apart. However, it is recommended you make a stop here since it will be a little more sailing until your next stop.

Hawaii has beautiful beaches, great food, and perfect sailing conditions. You should check out Na Pali Coast State Park, Hanalei Bay, and Kalalau Trail if you have the time.

Hawaii has 35 accessible marinas that you can stop at throughout the islands. This is the best opportunity to take on more food and fuel.

Hawaii to the Marshall Islands

Leaving Hawaii, your next stop could be the Marshall Islands. There are roughly 2,100 nautical miles separating Hawaii and Marshall Islands, so planning ahead is crucial for food and fuel.

Marshall Islands are known for their abundance of marine life and excellent diving opportunities. While the islands are only about 70 square miles of land, they are spread out to nearly 750,000 awaited miles of the ocean.

While they do not have much to offer in terms of marinas or tourist spots, this might be a good opportunity to stretch your legs or wait out a storm. Definitely call ahead of time to see where it is best to park your boat.

Marshall Islands to Ports in the Philippines

Upon leaving the Marshall Islands, there are different locations you could visit. The Philippines are arguably your best bet, but other locations might attract your attention.

The Philippines offer the chance to refuel and stock back up in food. They also have plenty of opportunities to explore. Places to see include the Chocolate Hills, Banaue Rice Terraces, and Malapascua Island.

Philippines to Ports in Shanghai

The Philippines are located just under Hong Kong on the map, so this is a shorter distance than trying to go to Shanghai. Whichever location you choose, you will still be in China.

You could continue sailing on China’s coastline to reach any port you wish. Depending on your goals, this will fluctuate with places to stop.

Places of interest to see in Shanghai would be The Bund, Shanghai Tower, and the Oriental Pearl Tower. In addition, you also have rich and flavorful foods that you would not see in California.

Tips for Sailing from California to China

Long distance sailing trips are a rewarding experience to see tons of marine life, try new food, and see exotic locations. However, you must prepare well in advance before taking off.

You will need to make a list of everything you need completed so you do not miss anything. These include checking the condition of your sails, doing an oil change to the engine, and bringing the correct gear.

Best Time for Sailing

For East Asia, the most ideal time to travel would be the spring months or fall. The summer months, from June to July, bring a lot of rain while the winter months average freezing temperatures.

You would need to coordinate that timeframe with California since you are potentially traveling for two months. From November to March, this is the best time to travel in the Pacific since you can avoid typhoons. The weather will be warmer in places like Hawaii and the Marshall Islands, so prepare for a change in the weather.

What Condition is Your Boat?

You need to be honest about the condition of your boat and if it can handle a long distance trip. You will likely not have any marinas to visit in some locations that could help you out if issues happen with your boat.

This means you need to completely walk around your boat and inspect it for cracks, look at the sails, and do an oil change on the engine. In addition, you might want to bring additional oil to do another change.

The type of boat you have will make a difference too. Your vessel needs to be at least 25 feet long to store the proper amount of gear, food, and potentially more fuel. This means any monohull, catamaran, or trawler that can handle tough conditions is your best bet.

Visas and Passports

As you leave the US and head to Southeast Asia, you will experience various border entries. Passports and visas are needed, but do your research ahead of time to see exactly what you need for all potential stops.

This might be more time consuming with planning in advance compared to other parts of the trip. These can take roughly six months to obtain a new one.

The Right Gear

The climate is going to change from hot to cold depending on when you are able to travel. California, Hawa, and the Marshall Islands are going to have warm and sunny weather.

While you will have optimal sailing conditions, it is best to bring something to protect you from the sun. This means long shirts and pants that will block the sun’s rays, as well as a hat.

If you reach China by the fall, they will have much cooler weather. You might want to bring base layers to wear under rain gear to keep yourself warm and dry.

Other important gear to bring would be GPS or navigational charts, VHF radio, and a heavy-duty anchor system. There will be times you can go without a marina, so an anchor setup is handy.

Storing Food, Water, and Fuel

You need at least a month’s supply of food on board, whether it be canned or dry. Making runs to the grocery will be difficult in places like the Marshall Islands for example. When given the chance, always stock up fresh food.

With every 450 miles, you should look into refueling. Your boat might be able to carry more, so adjust based on your needs. If you can, bring approved containers to carry more fuel on board.

A desalination device will allow you to transfer saltwater into water that you can drink. While cases of water are great short term, they take up space and add weight on the boat.

How To Sail From California To China
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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