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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

December 28, 2005-Passage to The Philippines

The Crossing gets rough

We are back in The Philippines, to the bright colors of the banca fishing boats and the heavily forested hillsides, to the chrome plated jeepney busses and tricycle taxi cabs, and the endless sound of boats with lawn mower engines. The putt putt putt of these un-muffled engines can be heard anywhere there is water, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some people would complain about the sound of so many lawn mowers, but to us, it means "The Philippines"

Our crossing from Hong Kong, just 490 miles, was a bit rough. Actually, our heading was a close reach and it was wet and bumpy for two days, but no problem, then for the next 20 hours it was the roughest ocean we've ever sailed in. This is not an exaggeration; the roughest ever! We had 45 knots of wind and mountainous waves. It was all unexpected; the weather forecasts when we left Hong Kong, and the ones we picked up underway, were all predicting mild conditions and they provided no clue that we were in for a bashing.

But Judy figured it out. On Sunday afternoon (Christmas Day) we were actually having some good sailing. The winds were down from the 25 we had been having to 18; the waves were not too bad, things were good. We ate some stew, I had a beer.

But Judy was looking at the sky. She said, "I don't think we're through with the wind."

BIG Waves!

Boy was she right; by sundown we had triple reefed the main and struck the jib. It was blowing 30+. By eight o'clock: 45! The waves were huge. Big breakers hit the boat like buses, heavy water crashed into the deck, dodger, and cockpit. Dropping off the waves sounded like landing on concrete. We stopped sailing and hove too. A Korean Ship passed closely by and talked to us on the radio, "Are you OK out here tonight in these conditions in such a small boat?"

I answered, "Well my friend, going to sea is never safe, but we're OK".

We chatted for a few moments, and then they sailed on.

I wasn't so sure about what I'd told him. Were we OK?

For one thing, we busted the wind vane. All the bashing and slamming, even while we were hove too, was just too much and the leg just shattered. Hanging by the safety ropes it began to slam into the stern of our boat. I went back aft, hanging over the stern on the end of my safety tether, swept continuously by waves, and brought the pieces on board. It was definitely not fixable and that was devastating news. We still had a long way to sail and WINGS is not easy to steer for long distances with its racing tiller, the electric autopilot definitely wasn't going to handle these conditions either. We lashed down the tiller and considered what next.

Next was a job on the foredeck. Our jib lashings broke and I had to go forward and re-secure it. This actually happened three times until I had it tied down with so many ropes I didn't know if I'd ever get it untied again. Judy wondered why we didn't just take it below. Good question. But we didn't.

With the weather like this, and not knowing how long it would last, we decided that we'd give up on Vigan, our planned port of call, and divert to Bolinao. It was too rough to continue a close reach. Going to Bolinao the sailing angle would be better and we would have a better chance of fixing the windvane there. It was 115 miles away and Vigan was only 79, but never mind.

At dawn we turned downwind and, steering by hand, headed for Bolinao. Sorry we don't have any photos, but neither Judy nor I were willing to risk our cameras in that whiteout; there was saltwater everywhere. Under triple reef main alone we were doing sevens and above. Steering was hard work, but doable. Could I hold out for 115 miles? Could Judy steer? Maybe.

Well, to we didn't have too. By noon the wind had dropped as suddenly as it came up and we were back to 25's and 30. It seemed like a blessing. After a while I put on the autopilot, which handled it OK, and we sailed into Bolinao, no problem.

Tonight we are in a mill pond anchorage, sipping champagne and listening to the sound of putt putt fishing boats. We made it through another eventful crossing, and our wonderful WINGS got us in safe and sound.

Such is cruising.

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, Hong Kong

This news letter was posted by sailmail via the HF Radio. Sorry no photos at this time, Check the blog later.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

December 23, 2005 Merry Christmas

We send you this greeting just as we are signing off of the internet and setting sail for The Philippines. We'll do more updates as soon as we can.

Click Here for all the Hong Kong photosred & Judy, SV Wings, Hong Kong

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

December 15, 2005-Visiting Chinese Villages

Tap Mun Village

We've just completed a short shake down cruise, sailing three days north of Hong Kong and back and doing a bit of touring along the way.

We hiked around the hills in the places we visited, and found abandoned villages hidden in the forests, and other villages, still active, but quiet.

This village is on a small island where there are no bridges, no roads, and there is no airfield. If you want to go there you go by boat.

Between stops we had some great coastal sailing.

Cold Morning

Sailing was cold and at times rough. Judy was happy that we only had to sail for a few hours at a time before we could drop anchor again.

For the shakedown we checked everything from A to Z, and fixed quite a few; of course we know that problems will still occur, but maybe we've prevented a few.

The boat fixed, and our need for walks in the woods fulfilled, we came back to Hong Kong and returned to our berth at Discovery Bay.

Now we're waiting for better weather before we depart for the Philippines. The winter NE moonson is howling out there and we're going to wait. It's one thing to encounter 35 knots of wind on a passage, and it's another just to head out when we know it's there.

We've posted a few more images, click here to see them.

Click Here for all the Hong Kong photos

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Hong Kong

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Monday, December 05, 2005

December 2, 2005-Sailors Must Wander

Just say they are sailors, and sailors must wander.

Just say that they’re out there, in search of the wind.

Just say they are sailors,

Just say that they’re gone.


my apologies to Mary Gautier.


Our life at Discovery Bay, like that of countless other ports, is behind us. 


We untied the dock lines there on December 2, 2005, and began the next phase of our cruising life.


Tonight we are still in China, in Pak Sha Wan, hanging not off an anchor, but on a yacht club mooring. We tried to anchor but Pak Sha Wan is crowded, filled with sailboats of all descriptions, there just isn’t much room. We did find one spot to drop the hook, but the next morning we woke to sound of the keel bumping on some unseen high spot on the ocean’s floor below us. So we signed a temporary membership with the Hebe Haven Yacht Club and moved to one of their moorings in deeper water.


We’re glad we are here tonight. On deck the anchor light is dancing in the rigging and we’re listening to the howl of a cold North East monsoon which is blowing down from Beijing. And it is cold. We’re colder here tonight than any time since we visited Korea over a year ago and it’s hard to believe that this bone chilling cold is happening in Hong Kong. We wonder when it will again be warm enough that we’ll feel like braving it and making the next jump, to a spot farther up the coast.


We are not on our way to the Philippines, not yet. Even though the weather in PI is bound to be mellower this time of year than here, we need to complete a bit of a shake down before we head off to places where marine stores and boat parts are hard to find. After all, it’s been over a year since we did any cruising. When you are sitting around in port, or doing only harbor races and day sails, like we have been doing, you just don’t know what things have quietly given up the ghost. We’ve found a few already: the outboard motor has been a bit troublesome, and a couple of lights on deck don’t work and we’ve only been out for a couple of days, so there are probably more gremlins waiting to be found. We’ll sail around in Hong Kong waters for a week or so and make a list. Then, after attending to those items, we’ll be ready. Oh, there is a Christmas party on the 15th. Maybe we’ll head south after that.


The medical issues we were so focused on last month have just sort of evaporated. After lots of check ups and tests all the sawbones agreed that we’re healthy. We are, however, still talking to the dentist. Don’t want to head off to the Philippines with a toothache.


So that’s the life of cruisers when they get to a certain age: boat problems and doctor’s appointments carry equal weight when it comes to keeping you in port, but we’ll make it; we’re sailors and sailors must wander.


Technical Note:

Since we are no longer connected to the broadband Internet connection we've had for the last year, and are now operating on a cellular telephone connection, please avoid sending us large attachments and emails with photos inside them. Soon, even this level of connectivity will be gone, as we leave Hong Kong entirely and have to rely on the radio for email. We’ll let you know before then and give you that email address. For now you can still write to us at our regular email address, or use the one shown on the "Email Fred & Judy" link at the top of this page. We'd love to hear from you, as usual just leave out the attachments, photos, and fancy email backgrounds.


Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Hong Kong

Click Here for all the Hong Kong photos

Passing Through Victoria Harbor, this is a typical sight.

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