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Thursday, June 03, 2004

June 3, 2004-Arrival In Hong Kong

Arrival in Hong Kong, June 03, 2004

We arrived in HK on Thursday. Now it is Saturday morning. I am typing, and Judy and Carol are both still asleep. The "Wow!" factor of this place far, far, exceeds anywhere we've been. We've planned this stop for over five years, and have so much riding on it, that now that we are here we are feeling pretty overwhelmed. It seems that we must be junkies for this kind of thing though, because we are always doing it: always landing in this foreign country or that, with barely a clue where we are or what we are doing, knowing little of the language, and instantly getting this feeling that we have really done it this time; we're never going to figure out this place. But then we start to cope. In Hong Kong so far, we have completed our check-in and clearance, have a temporary mooring in the city (will move to suburbs in a week or two), temporary membership in Royal Hong Kong YC, a few hundred HK$ in our pockets, new phone numbers, and have been exploring some of the neighborhood. I found a street I recall from the 60's. It could be a different one but it feels right.

To clear in we stumbled ashore right into the busy streets of central Hong Kong. A rabbit warren of shops and crowded streets with overhanging neon signs, double-decker busses, and 40-story high-rise apartment buildings with bamboo laundry poles sticking out next to soaring, futuristic, office buildings and 5 star hotels. We rubber-necked continuously, just about got run over, and couldn't make heads or tails of the vague directions we had: "Go to the MTR and take a train to..." Then a train station appeared before our eyes and we went underground and got more lost, but we got on a train and by some stroke of luck it was the right one. When we got off four stops later, we really got lost. We wandered around for two and a half hours, with our poor tired feet getting sorer by the minute, following first one and then another set of confusing directions (the office had moved), mostly in Chinese, but somehow we made it to Port Control just as our feet were giving out completely. There some 10-15 busy immigration guys barely gave us a second look, but one nice fellow issued us a clearance and stamped our passports. Cost: Zero. Education: Just started.

On the way back, a harried tourist ran by towing a suitcase on wheels, and asked us for directions to the Macao ferry, and we knew the answer! Like a local expert, Judy pointed the way and as the lady thankfully hurried off we cracked up. Somebody asked us for directions in HK, what a hoot.

There is a collection of sampans tied to the guest pontoon here in Causeway Bay, where the yacht club is, and where WINGS is moored, with a look right out of "The Sand Pebbles": Each one is twenty five feet of fat, low, cluttered, overhanging, canvas covered, swaybacked teak, bumping side by side with more like it and with a few dozen battered punts, (fiberglass dingys) floating nearby. There are dogs barking and filth in the water, and a toothless old Chinese lady is organizing some buckets and cleaning supplies on the dock. She, and the other people living in these sampans do boat maintenance for the moored yachts. To clean the yachts they fill their punts to the gunnels with fresh water, a kind of floating tub, and they drive out to the yacht and use a pump to run a hose. Very quaint...or is it? When we first arrived we walked by the sampans and their maintenance punts. Glancing inside one sampan I saw a lady watching a flat screen TV and typing on a notebook computer. Three sampans down a small generator purred and some extension cords looped between boats. On a post I saw a Wi-Fi antenna. Things aren't what they seem.

The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club is nice. It is an up-scale joint a bit like Seattle Yacht Club with efficient staff, mahogany paneling, soft carpets, and about 200 Lexus and Mercedes sedans in the parking lot. They welcomed us, gave us a shower key, and imprinted our credit card.

So, we're getting settled bit by bit, and we know we are in for the adventure of our lives. Stay tuned.

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, Hong Kong

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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

June 2, 2004-On Passage to Hong Kong

On Passage to Hong Kong June 02. 2004

I'm sitting at the chart table writing with one hand and hanging on with the other to keep from being thrown out of my chair. The boat has a wild motion, the result of 20 knots of wind and pretty big cross seas, and the fast reach they have produced for us. We are flying along, making great time to Hong Kong. Before we reefed last night we were sailing in the high eights, but Judy and Carol (our crew member for this trip) voted for a reef, which we put in at ten PM; now we are just hitting eight knots.

The sky is clear, the sun bright, and we are sailing right up the rhum line to our destination. Sometimes it amazes me how wrong the weather forecasting can be. These days, on board WINGS, we have weather forecasting from Taiwan, Tokyo, a weather router in Malaysia, and the weather computer model results, in near real-time, from NOAA's big system in the US. They all said there was going to be no wind in the South China Sea on our way to Hong Kong, So we stocked up on fuel and were prepared to motor. Well, they were wrong. We've got solid wind, between 18 and 22 knots, and we've got great sailing, so I'm not complaining, but, like I said, I'm still amazed.

We left The Philippines on Monday, a couple of days earlier than planned because the forecast, while bleak, didn't look like it was going to improve, and there was an area of low pressure out east which could turn into something in a few days, so we decided to get underway rather than get pinned down later in Bolinao, in the North of the Philippines. The low hasn't done much yet, but this high in China showed up and turned out to be stronger than anticipated, and the wind filled in on Tuesday afternoon. We've been on this fast sail ever since then.

We are hoping to get to Hong Kong tomorrow, and we'll be glad to get into port. Even though this is nice sailing, the motion is tiring, you spend all your time holding on for dear life, plus, it has been hot and humid on this trip, and the boat is stinking; we can't air it out in the rough seas. Oh well, that's sailing.

Fred & Judy & Carol Pearl, SV WINGS, On Passage to Hong Kong
19 deg 29.3N 117 deg 08.1E

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