Hebe Haven, Hong Kong and the Story of How We Got There

I am in the Hebe Haven clubhouse overlooking the mooring field with over a hundred boats swinging in the cool north wind. Brian is out on the deck emailing, but I opt for the inside warmth. All is well with Laysan and crew, slowly working through our list and watching the weather. I need to go to HK marine department still for the HK cruising permit and then I can fly the US flag. So far we are still flying China flag with a temporary license issued in Doumen. Wifi is weak and only available at the club because we are out on the end of the floating docks.

Took awhile to get shore power hookup with special Hebe Haven plug onto our bare ended line provided by the yard. Much discussion and neighbors from Australia and HK Brits all lending a hand to figure it out including calls to Bill and Fido until finally we realize the power pedestal is shut off way up the dock. Lights on and everyone laughing. Aiden and Tjasa visited and offered advice and approval of the boat as well. Oh how I wish you were here.

I will try to attach the story I wrote of the journey across from Doumen. We do not have enough wireless connection yet to upload pictures from Brian, but maybe that will work soon. My phone is only spotty coverage in HK and almost zero here in Hebe Haven. Last night I had numerous calls with Bill and Fido that shutdown mid-sentence. Once I had Bill on line briefly to describe our 3 line hookup in the shore plug and all I heard was him say “oh no” and then click. Disconcerting to say the least. Later all was reaffirmed on the neighbors iPhone and Bill was very helpful. As you can tell, I am itching to get a HK phone.

Recounting events may have an embellished quality, and the experiences may change in their relative importance, but the sum can be justifiably greater than its parts when you are reliving life altering moments. These may be the ramblings of a romantic, yet I hold them up as real.

Saturday began with the slapping of waves driven by the cold north wind off the edge of a persistent high pressure system in the middle of China. This high watches our every movement and influences actions by the sailor and the bureaucrat. We had resigned ourselves to a day of isolation, pitching next to the friendly freighter, after Fido told us the weather was above the limits for a trip permit. While I had imagined hot chocolate and reading systems manuals could make for an easy day, I knew we could be further down river and done with customs. Fido recommended I accompany him to the grey fortress looming over the port to visit the marine police department. Sure, “let’s go” then involved climbing over 3 freighters rafted to the dock, each of which had a separate array of barking dogs that did not like me. The last ship had arranged 2 planks to balance across to the cement wharf. I mainly wanted to get ashore because I did not think those whelping guard dogs would ever walk those planks. Walking up the stairs and into the stark office which has no heat like everywhere here, except on my boat, I wondered how did i get here? And can I ever get back?

The officer listened, flipping the stack of boat papers that represented four years of effort by scores of people and tons of money and anguish, and just continued to chatter back and forth and back and forth with Fido until I think I was swaying back and forth with the sounds and thinking of sleeping on my boat rocking back and forth until I realized they were looking at me and waiting for me to say something. Right, show time, “I am sorry I do not understand anything you are saying but I just would like to get a little further down the river and on my way home please.” The banter began again and just before I was swaying again they said maybe tomorrow. Ok, back to the boat, cross the planks, say hi to the dogs who thought I had been shoved overboard and looked surprised to see me, and climb back into my warm safe rocking home on the water. This definitely called for a cup of tea.

Wait, look its Fido climbing aboard saying “the Customs, the Quarantine, the Police are all done and we leave, we leave now.” What? Sudden departure at 4:00 pm; get passports stamped by crawling over a different tug boat with many smiling sailors, walk through a parking lot of paper disgorging from shipping containers stuffed with christmas ads being sent back to China for paper recycling from US, boarded by immigration police looking in the lockers for stowaways, cast off and wave bye bye. Did that just happen?

The sun came out, the wind died, and we cruised down river by Macau at sunset and into the mist of the Pearl Sea with stars overhead, incredible. I took the helm and used the autopilot to hold a course parallel to the shipping lane with high speed ferries that looked on the plotter like missiles closing in on us. Brian and I put the main sail up which flew tight and gave us about 5 degrees heel and stiffened the ride. The boat’s motion is mild and we eat salami/cheese tortilla wraps with hot tea, too good.

We cruised into the night for hours with the islands of Hong Kong gradually appearing until we turned north between Lantau and Lamma island and then it was dodge ball for sure. Freighters at anchor, freighters under way, freighters unloading to barges, tugs with barges, sneaky fishing junks, and more high speed ferries zooming through. Eventually we turned east and there they were, one hundred story buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbor and we are cruising along the southern edge of the traffic lanes, sticking our heads out of the door to see up enough to view the city. An hour of this majesty passes by and then we go back into the mists of Eastern HK and turn north again toward Hebe Haven. Trolling into Hebe Haven with the security guard flashing his light, we spot the fairway and take the end tie on the floating dock. Engine shutdown at 0330, I am asleep in minutes. That is a big day for a microsurgeon.

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