Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Life in Hong Kong

Wendy celebrating her birthday at Ocean Park

We spent a day at Ocean Park, an amusement park on the
south side of Hong Kong Island. While Disneyland has a
park here in Hong Kong, everyone around here has
concluded that Ocean Park is superior. The park is
stretched between two larger areas connected by a
scenic gondola ride.

The view from the gondola at Ocean Park

One side of the park overlooks the incredible view of
the South China Seas and we saw ship after ship wind
through the islands heading towards Victoria Harbor.
No wonder we were overwhelmed with traffic amidst the
fog upon our arrival. In the light of day, it is
obvious that it is one of the busiest shipping ports
in the world. We had a gorgeous sunny clear day (a
rare thing lately) and the view was stunning.

Rides at Ocean Park

We enjoyed the many rides, spinning around corners and
taking dips with the most amazing views. We had to
ride on the Dragon rollercoaster, since I was
celebrating my actual birth day in the year of the
Dragon, going back again and again. We saw a great
dolphin and sea lion show to rival anything I've seen
before. An interesting jellyfish exhibit featured
lighting which really enhanced our appreciation of
these unusual sea creatures and we saw more types of
koi fish than we realized existed.

Panda at Ocean ParkWendy celebrating her birthday with a new acquantance

We also saw giant Pandas and a fun caribbean musical
review, during which I got dragged up to the stage to
dance (reminding me of yet another birthday
celebration 4 or 5 years before in Moorea where we
were celebrating with old friends and the same thing
happened during a Tahitian dance performance!). After
a full day in the amusement park, we met a couple of
friends for a fancy Spanish tapas dinner downtown.
After a fine dinner we walked around a bit and then
stopped into a night club to listen to some live
music. There is an incredible night club scene here,
with all sorts of live bands playing every night of
the week and no cover charge.

Lan Kwai Fong on a Tuesday night

The following day a group of people were planning to
go our on the yacht club boat for a day of swimming
and socializing. Since the Typhoon warning signal #1
had gone up the day before, I wondered if it would be
cancelled, but it was still a go. Our sunny respite
was all too brief and we set off amidst gathering
clouds. Shortly thereafter it began to pour and the
wind and waves gradually picked up. Swimming seemed
less inticing, but many went anyway. The buffet feast
was impressive and the liquor flowed and we all had a
great time anyway. Late in the day, the Typhoon
warning signal #3 went up and we were called back in.
Since sampan service was cancelled I couldn't exactly
get back to the boat where our dinghy and Garth were
stuck, we continued partying in the club with the
leftover food and bottles of champagne, until the
party began to break up and I lucked into a ride with
a friend in his private motorized dinghy (since my
other option was to swim I was pretty relieved). It
was a wet ride, but worked out fine despite the

A friend's boat joining in the rainy celebration

The following day we spent on the boat in gusty wet
conditions, yet again, as a typhoon passed to the
south of us, headed for Vietnam. The Hong Kong
Observatory never raised a higher flag, though was
criticized severely when conditions were reported to
be 200 kilometers in some areas and Hong Kong suffered
some damage. I understand that they are reluctant to
raise the typhoon warning flags since forecasting bad
weather is bad for business in this commerce intensive
place. Friends who are weather gurus joked with us
that we had a large bullseye on us, since we've had so
many typhoon near misses this season. Each time one
is forecast, we go through a bit of a drill to prepare
the boat for the potential of strong winds and rains
with waves. And of course, whether a typhoon comes
close or not, they always seem to bring a significant
amount of rain. The dinghy sometimes gets so full,
we're afraid it'll sink before the rain stops.

Waiting out yet another typhoon near miss; a common view from Velella these days

Perhaps our first clues about the torrential downpours
in Hong Kong were the extensive retaining walls and
extremely deep gutters we noticed throughout the city.
I've started to conclude that Seattle weather, a
steady cloudy drizzle, beats the weather of Hong Kong
with its oppressive heat and humidity, heavy rains and
intense thunder and lightening. We have days of hazy
weather that are very still. Everyone assures us
October and November will be ideal weather here. (I
think everyone privately volunteers for the chamber of
commerce in their town, but we have our fingers
crossed for some great weather sometime soon.) We had
lovely weather upon our arrival here, so we've seen
some potential. We've had nearly a week of sunny
clear weather and it's been such a relief. It does
wonders for our spirits and makes it much easier to
get things done and enjoy where we are.

View in the rain
I now have a vivid mental picture of what the concept
"acid rain" means. Each week I wash the boat and am
dumfounded at the black streaks down the hull and
cabin sides that can appear within only 24 hours after
a little rain or dew. After all our hard work sanding
and painting, I was very disheartened when many
streaks didn't come off with a washing.

Wash me!

Finally I found a product that seems to take off the streaks,
though I don't know how well the paint will hold up in
the long run.

Streaks down the dodger, cabin and topsides

Our white dodger and awning is no
longer white and streaks run down the fabric. I'm not
sure what I can do to remedy that. I've washed it and
put a fabric guard on it a few times, but the fabric
doesn't seem to withstand the steady onslaught for
long. Sitting through the rain is that much harder to
bear when we know that the paint and sunbrella are
getting wrecked while we wait for the rain to stop.
The rain is particularly dirty with a northerly wind.
The black water inside of our clean dinghy is very

Black water in what was a clean dinghy, all from rain

We've also seen a few days during which the
air is thick with haze. The morning dew seems to
clear the air a bit. The mornings often start out
relatively clear, but by afternoon the air is thick
with haze. And we just know that we are breathing
that air and that we'll be cleaning it off of our boat
after the next rain.

We have hauled out our mast to do some projects we
didn't get to in Kwaj . . . and because Wendy was
missing boat yard life. Not! We're having some fun
now! Garth is enjoying having a project, but I am
really looking forward to getting back to a little
tourim. This doing boatwork in places around the
world is certainly not why I am out cruising. We have
friends coming soon, so we'll finish up and then have
some fun sharing this place with them. We had a
frozen jib sheev, we had wanted to haul the mast in
Kwaj for a little preventative maintenance and we
discovered the price for hauling a mast and the
facilities were pretty good.

Hauling the mast

The club has a cadre of tools that can be borrowed and
used by members. We found that the rig was in
acceptable shape, but there were places where
corrosion had gotten bad where dissimilar metals met
and paint had chipped away. Our light fixture and
windex had suffered significantly from UV damage and
were very close to breaking or had cracked in spots.
So we decided to strip the mast and boom and spray
paint it, and then polish all the stainless and
replace worn parts before replacing the mast.

Spraying the mast

We've done some great racing here in Hong Kong. It's
really reminded us of the incredible racing we used to
have at Corinthian Yacht Club in Seattle, and we still
miss racing at that level.

Downtown racing venue

I've been racing the last few weeks in the evening on
a flying 15, a 2 person dinghy with a keel, out of
Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club downtown on Victoria
Harbour. The harbour traffic, the tide and the waves
make it a very interesting venue, plus racing dinghies
is always fun. We got 2nd place on our first time
out, walking away with a gift basket of coffee and
flavorings. Yippee! And we've gotten to know some more
great sailors.

Flying 15 at Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club

Garth and I have also been racing on Magic 25s
(, a one design fleet with
active boats from both Hebe Haven and Royal Hong Kong
yacht clubs. The 25 foot boats have a large sail area
and can sail very fast with without a great deal of
wind. The boat counts on moveable ballast (crew
weight out on a trapeze), which is great fun and is
the best way to stay cool in this oppresive heat. I
really enjoy sailing out on the trapeze wire, going so
fast and sailing tactically once again.

Magic 25 racing (not us on this one)