We Had Enough of Life in Public

We’ve left Kaohsiung, at least for few days. We couldn’t stand the place anymore. We had enough of our life in public. It was on our minds for quite some time now, but there was always an excuse or two, which stopped us from leaving. True, our berth in Kaohsiung is really convenient. Everything is within the reach of a hand. Food, tools, material for the never ending repairs. In fact, we don’t have that much to do anymore and for what we still want to do, we have everything we need. Janna’s waterline had risen a bit already. After all we have loaded 30l of paint and epoxy, rest of wood that we still could use in the future, 20l of backup diesel.

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Most important reason for getting out of Kaohsiung is that we are starting to forget what silence sounds like. We do live in the Chinese society, so there it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a bit more noise. The Chinese are by nature playfully noisy, which is cute and most people are just unbelievably friendly, but we grew up on the Bohemian meadows, groves and peripheries of small Czech towns, we simply need a good helping of silence and quiet.

We have also received the worst Christmas present ever. In December, they closed the public toilets just next to the marina, where we stay, so we had to go to the public toilets at the ferry station across the bridge.

The walk, we didn’t mind. The eyes (and mouths) wide open stares of the local bums and their taxi driver friends, the same guys every morning, we soon started to detest. Especially Jana. I tried to walk with my chin high up, making a strenuous effort to show that I don’t care.

One day we said enough. We wanted to leave on Friday, but our departure was delayed by troubles with LPG. We were expecting to burn the rest of the gas in our last cylinder any day now, but it just wouldn’t oblige. For almost ten days we were waiting for the gas to run out, baking breads and pizzas, frying, brewing tea and coffee. Nothing seemed to be enough to deplete the gas.

Finally, Friday evening, the gas ran out. What a relief! Naturally, it was in the middle of cooking a well-deserved dinner.

We recanted the gas from a Taiwanese bottle into our American cylinders. Gravitation rocks! It usually takes us about three hours to fill our five kilo cylinders. In the meantime, we have re-sewn the cover for our roller-furling genoa, finished lazy-jacks and baggywrinkles. We had also chance to practice our machine sewing skills on a new cover for the LPG cylinders. We still need a bit of practice to get the stitches even, but the result is functional.

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In the end, we’ve spent another weekend being monitored by the hysterically curious mainland Chinese tourists.

Monday morning, we have stocked up some fresh produce, packed some stuff that we stored under the dinghy on the pontoon and set out to sea to test not only our downsized propeller but most importantly our new mainsail.

We’ve complained about the problems with our propeller before. After the latest adjustment we were almost certain that it’s fine, but just to be sure we asked Volvo Penta people from Kaohsiung to come and have a look. We are hopeless amateurs after all. On the phone we first inquired, how much they charge for an hour. Well, if there is nothing wrong with your engine and we don’t have to repair anything, we can’t charge you, can we? You just got to love Taiwan! Last time engineers from Volvo Penta touched our engine was in Singapore and their negligence lead to a broken engine mount and big repair. But this time it was different. The engineers were really helpful.

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Turns out, our engine was OK, the good men only suggested we ask the company to make our propeller even smaller. So back into the water (luckily the Kaohsiung harbour was quite clean those days), take the prop off, jump on the ferry to Qijin and cross our fingers hoping the grinder gets it right. He did.

Monday morning we woke up to a nice breeze and just about the time when we got everything packed, the wind died. We strolled to the breakwater where a lovely breeze slapped us on our cheeks and lifter our spirits. We ran back to the boat, too excited to walk, cast off and finally got out of the polluted harbour.

Once we passed the coast guard station, we revved the engine up and looked at each other totally amazed. Do you hear what I hear? The engine is much quieter than before. No vibrations, no nothing. The new prop worked perfectly. Also the fuel consumption should drop, we have to test it someday.

Excited about the engine we hoisted our brand new mainsail. We saw her up few times in the harbour to test the boom hardware and our lazy-jacks.

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Jana was steering as usual and once the sail was up, she pushed the tiller slightly to one side, the sail filled up with air and the camber bellied out. We gasped for breath. We were completely exultant over it and we remained in the state of total joy for the next few hours, days in fact. We rolled out our genoa and struggled slowly in a light air. We allowed the engine to help us for about an hour and take us out of the shadow of the Firewood hill, which was obviously ruining the nice breeze that was blowing further out. The hill likes to do it every time. Then we began to glide over the almost flat surface of the sea, speed above three knots, north by west, towards our new abode in a small fishing harbour Xingda, about fifteen miles north.

We didn’t have to touch the sails for the next few hours. We were conveniently following the west coast of Taiwan, only once or twice we gave way to a fishing boat, mostly by slowing down.

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Right before our destination there is a huge gas loading structure, which extends more than a mile to the sea, where the big tankers tie up.

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We were getting closer and closer and started to discuss whether we are going to make it. We played with Janna at the borderline of the no-go zone, but soon it became apparent that we won’t be able to head high enough and will be blown down on to the structure. Quick tack and ten minutes of heading away from the coast. Suddenly the wind moved more to west. Seems like we would have made it around that gas tanker after all.

We tacked back and following a slow curve while easing the sail, we passed behind the breakwater.

From the breakwater it’s about another mile to the inner harbour. We were told that the coastguard might come to check upon us when we get there, but being a foreign boat, we watched the coast guard station and surely enough, two guys in orange overalls ran out waving and watching us in the binoculars. We responded by the same — binoculars and waving. But the guys on the other side didn’t seem to be satisfied with our waving and signaled that we should go to them. We started the engine and rolled the genoa, because the station is in a narrow passage and it was time for fishing boats to get out through there. We drifted in front of the station for a while. We refused to tie up to a nasty looking wall, about three meters high, coated with truck tires tied with thick chain.

There is rather sophisticated system for foreign yachts to register their coastal passages. But the problem is that the coast guard stations don’t have access to that system. So these guys knew nothing about us, were asking for a form that you are supposed to leave with the coast guard station at the harbour you are leaving from. In the end we persuaded them that they could call Kaohsiung and check that we really came from there.

Just a little hassle. Nothing major. We let the engine revolve slowly and sailed in a beautiful breeze into the inner harbour basin where the floating pontoon and our new base camp is.

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We were greeted by our old Taiwanese friends, who own a lovely sailboat S2 9.2. They were so kind to take us for a dinner (nice Korean restaurant in Tainan) and show us around a little. The Taiwanese are extremely lovely and helpful, but don’t trust their judgment of distances. “Very far” can turn into an easy 15 minute bike ride. But these distance warnings are definitely a great way to a pleasant surprise!

We finished the day by a lovely pu-er tea on a Lagoon cat in the new Tainan An-ping marina. Thank you Brian from Lucky Grass.

The next days were like a dream come true. No people. Complete silence. During the day we revised our translation of the novel Magic garden by Taiwanese author Li Ang, at about four o’clock we would finish and set out to explore the country around on our folding bicycles. There is a wonderful fish market nearby, which sells fresh and deep fried delicacies of the sea. You walk through a narrow street, stalls on both sides. At every stall you are attacked by outstretched hand offering a taste of fish tiny and small, sushi, shrimps, small crabs, squid and what not. At the end of the street you turn around and walk along the other side. When you get back from where you started, you are stuffed!

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Two days ago we returned to Kaohsiung, to give a talk at the center of the Buddhist humanitarian organization Tzu Chi. Their theme for this year is “living simple life”, so our way of life seemed quite appropriate there. The talk went quite well, apparently. Before the talk we were treated with a delicious lunch by our other Taiwanese friends Jessica and her lovely family. Another thank you!

We also wanted to meet Swiss cruisers on a cat Celuann that arrived to Kaohsiung just when we left. They came from the Philippines were they spent two years, so we were eager to get some information from them, and possibly help them arrange any repairs they might need to have done here in Taiwan.

It is national holidays because of the Chinese New Year, so we are once again living in public, this is with capital P. And capital A. In fact, it’s a big ass PUBLIC and I feel like a little startled kitten, eyes wide open, gasping for air and wishing I was somewhere far far away.

Fortunately the date of our departure and return to the quiet Xingda harbour has been set for tomorrow!

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