| TAKING DELIVERY
This article appeared in Modern Boating in June,
1984 (pp88-92). They were heady days when we
were young and inexperienced but very keen.
Buying a yacht from
Taiwan is not the same as taking delivery from a boat builder nearby
in Sydney especially if you plan to save transport costs and
sail her home yourself. When dealings between my wife Lyndall
(our on-site negotiator) and the Taiwanese boat builder reached
a fractious stalemate we arranged for our yacht to be shipped to Hong
Kong where we planned to carry out the final stages of fitting out and
taking on stores. Our eldest son James and I flew from PNG to meet Lyndall there on the day prior to it's arrival.
Of any place on earth Hong Kong exudes life, a 24-hour carnival
of lights, noise, smells and millions of people. No wonder
I was in culture shock.
Everything was foreign to me: the people, whose business acumen
and ideas of social intercourse were on a plane far removed
from mine; finances where funds were transferred to an unheard-of
bank in the hope that the builder would deliver the goods;
customs and maritime procedures: import and export
licenses, surveys and registration papers, all might as well have
been in Chinese characters.
Without local knowledge, a venture such as this would be
lengthy, expensive and big on mistakes. Friends in Hong
Kong had been through all this before and now we’d taken over their
home with piles of junk only yachting wives can put up with.
Fellow Aussies, they’d already been run ragged clearing
items through customs, arranging a berth at the yacht club
and many other time-consuming errands. Their experience
A bill of lading snug in my pocket was the only tangible
link with my pride and joy, due in at 0700 in her cradle
astride the main cargo hatch of the freighter Alondra.
The task was to board, find the captain and convince him
that it was my yacht he had.
Six of us crammed in a Mini raced down Connaught Road zigzagging
and taking short cuts down alleyways, all the while hoping
we’d find a workboat at this time on a Sunday morning
to take us out to the Alondra before unloading began. At dawn
we’d seen her leaving the quarrantine buoy. If we weren’t
on board soon after she arrived, our precious cargo would
be lifted from over the main hatch and lowered to a lighter
alongside - a disaster since lighterage could run to over
$1000 a day.
With a minimum of decorum we roused the driver of a rickety
sampan and our friend Kevin bargained a fair price for
the trip. After what seemed like an age we closed the Alondra,
a black and dirty monolith with an equally grubby lighter
alongside. There was activity on the deck of the ship high
above us, where the yacht could be seen sparkling white
and out of place amongst all the rust and grease. There
was no time to lose. With a series of death defying leaps
from the sampan to the ship’s ladder, six Aussie
sailors bounded onto the scene waving papers.
“Hold everything, we want that yacht in the water, not
on that barge down there! The workmen continued to pass
the slings under the cradle as the deck officer looked at us impassively,
in the same way my bank manager does when I ask him for
“Oh my God, he doesn’t speak English.” A
pause, and then the deck of a Panamanian cargo ship was transformed
into a frantic theatre of mime. I don’t know what
he was laughing at, but a few moments later the yacht was
But talk about close! We scrambled up the cradle and on to
the yacht as the slings were taking the strain. Even covered
in ply and striped plastic she looked beautiful. The mast
was moved to one side to expose the steering pedestal and
free the main hatch. With a pounding heart, I climbed below
for my first look at our home for the next six years. It was
paradise. Everything smelled new: stainless steel, shining
bronze and the soft sheen of oiled teak and elegant upholstery.
Rudely, my world lurched sideways. We were being hoisted from
the Alondra towards our launching and a most unpretentious
christening. Remembering my prime task, I grabbed the steering
wheel, relieved to find the shaft key taped to one spoke,
and rushed on deck praying it would fit. High in the air,
we were swinging out past the lighter for our descent.
While I was fumbling with the wheel, Kevin was searching
for the ignition key while the others were securing the
cradle to prevent it disappearing into the murky depths.
With indecent haste the yacht splashed into the water and
was named Dulcinea while ship’s hands released the
slings and rode them back up.
We were free, but dangerously close to the side of the freighter.
The engine started on the second attempt and with all gauges
normal the gear was eased forward. For the first time in her
life Dulcinea propelled herself through the water - but alas,
backwards into the Alondra! Much fending off and cursing of
the builder ensued. Always quick with puzzles, I put the lever
in reverse and we motored forward and away - for 100 thrilling
meters - until the oil alarm sounded. There was less than
half the required oil in the sump. Even less complimentary
remarks in favor of the builder, as we bobbed engineless in
Hong Kong harbor. What a beginning to a glorious cruising
Our sampan driver, standing some distance off, was no innocent
bystander but a businessman who could sense a good deal
in the making. He motored over and made his too-good-to-refuse
offer of a tow back to the yacht club. Kevin’s reply
was brief and the driver motored off in disgust.
“He’ll be back,” said Kevin, and with a confidence
borne of long experience he stretched himself out on the
deck to enjoy the morning sun. And he did come back too, this time ready to negotiate
a more reasonable sum. It was a slow journey and ignominiously towed with cradle
attached, we eventually arrived some hours later at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht
Club where work for the journey home began in earnest.