CHANGES its value in navigation. Within a few hours of entering the channel, we felt the cold north wind funneling through the Taiwan Straits, and saw the approach of big black clouds. We quickly added layers of clothing, battened the hatches, and switched to hot chocolate to ward off the chill. As the wind and seas built, the fog rolled in, and the shipping increased tenfold! We saw container ships, cargo ships, cruise ships, and a kazillion different types of fishing vessels zigzagging in unpredictable ways. We relied on our hand-bearing compass to help us track the positions of ships on the horizon. Noting the bearing of a ship helped us to determine its heading sooner than we could have with our naked eye, and it prevented us from being fooled by optical illusions created by our bouncing around in the seas. At one point we counted 26 lights on the horizon, and had to resort to triage, reacting to only the most immediate threats. Once a ship got close, we'd make whatever evasive maneuvers were needed. But as the fog closed in, we had less than two miles of visibility to go along with the gale force winds and boisterous seas. Keeping track of all the shipping while being tossed around in such seas was challenging. Bioluminescence made each breaking wave look, out of the corner of our eyes, like another ship until the moon rose. The fishing boats were so brightly lit that they made container ship lights seem dim. The huge container ships are fast, and would suddenly appear out of the fog barrelling down on us at 20 knots or more, giving us little time to react. As each of these huge hulks of steel passed within a half mile, we'd breathe a sigh
Garth and Wendy seen setting the chute on their way out of Turtle Bay during the 2000 Ha-Ha. They've covered a lot of miles since then.
of relief that we hadn't gotten creamed. But the relief was short, as another ship would soon appear to occupy our attention. After two very long days and nights, the wind and waves abated, the shipping traffic dropped, and we saw fewer fishing boats. Because of the fog, we didn't spot the high rocky islets around Hong Kong until we were fairly close. By that time there weren't so many container ships, but there were more ferries and tugs towing small container barges. As we slowly sailed through uninhabited islands in the mist, Garth tried to figure out why the engine kept dying. It turned out to be a clogged fuel intake line. Garth was completing the repair while we were in a narrow channel, when a trawler, which had been sitting still, suddenly began to motor in an erratic fashion in front of us, giving us one last scare. The last boat we saw before entering Hong Kong Harbor looked like a racing sailboat. Finally, a vessel that couldn't kill us! Once into the bay, we were greeted by the sight of hundreds of private yachts on moorings — a boating mecca. The visibility was still fairly poor, so we could barely make out Hong Kong's majestic skyline, but what we could see was impressive enough. Before long, we'd safely come alongside a fancy new dock at a fine yacht club. In contrast to the hovering officials of Saipan, who couldn't even wait for us to finish tying the docklines before beginning the paperwork, the Hong Kong officials gave us 24 hours to check in at their offices. It was hard work to get here from Saipan, but we think we're going to have a great time exploring this exciting place. — wendy & garth 05/18/06 Swell — Cal 40 Liz Clark The Surf Safari Under Sail (Santa Barbara) On our last morning in Zihua, I turned the engine over to warm her up, and it sounded like a garbage disposal rumbling beneath my feet. I immediately shut her down and ripped off the cover to assess the damage. I must have lodged the throttle cable between the cover and the alternator during my previous night's midnight engine maintenance routine. The cable was a bit mangled, but still functional, so I zip-tied it to the exhaust to prevent it from happening again. But I managed
to change the oil and flush the cooling system, and we even found a place to recycle the used stuff. There's a lot I don't know about sailing, including flying the spinnaker. I'd had a pole put on the boat in Oxnard before I left, but never got a chance to use it. As such, it's remained attached to the mast ever since, and almost seems to mock me, like a cocky opponent before a game of one-on-one. When the wind went so far aft that the main was blanketing the headsail, I knew it was time to confront my nemesis. The wind was blowing 18 to 20 knots, and we were doing 7 knots under main alone. Nonetheless, I slowly talked myself through the process of setting up the pole, and once satisfied all was right, slowly unrolled the headsail — and took off! I shrieked with joy as we flew downwind, as I know a Cal 40 like Swell is supposed to do. We hit 10.8 knots! It was a beautiful moment, and I felt one step closer to being a real sailor. Having become comfortable with
The August 2006 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.