Getting a new mainsail from Hong Kong

The approaching deadline for two translations, which we accepted recently, and the weather, which is going bonkers, made us bite the bullet and once again board a plane to Hong Kong. The main goal of the trip was to bring our new mainsail, which was waiting for us at the UK Halsey loft, extend our Taiwanese visa and pick up my diploma, which was stored for a couple of months at some binder deep in the bureaucratic jungle of Hong Kong.

Jana and luggage

Jana and luggage

As always we visit some of our dear friends – poor things, both of them work in time zones set several hours apart east or west. But they managed to find some time between their calls and they took a great care of us. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to repay them soon. Thanks, guys!

For the last time, we have visited my university where at the research office I asked for my diploma.

“Diploma?” asked the lady at the counter. “Oh you mean the parchment, right?”

Yes, that’s what they call it. That piece of A3 sized paper had a respectable weight, but call it a parchment?

Anyway, the main goal of the Hong Kong trip was to pick up a new mainsail and the battens, put all that on the plane and hopefully pay nothing extra for overweight.

We flew to Hong Kong loaded with two backpacks full of books, about 40kg of Chinese and Taiwanese belle letters, the remains of Jana’s PhD research, which we sent home by sea right from the airport. Due to higher costs in Europe, Taiwanese post does not offer cheap sea transport anymore. We were hoping naively that the new mainsail will fit into one of the backpacks.

After a lovely lunch at the university restaurant (my alma mater also offers courses on catering and hotel stuff, thus we were equipped with an arsenal of three pairs of cutlery) we took an MTR to that sailmakers’. The loft is in the 21th floor of an industrial building. We opened the ordinary looking door with the label UK Sailmakers and got hit by a piercing light. A large hall paved with waxed wooden blocks opened in front of our eyes, the floor mostly covered with sails of all sized, white, red, greyish tape, black kevelar, bags, battens, coils of threads and monster sewing machines.

Before we could catch our breath, Barry, the manager of the loft, was shaking our hand. First we thought that our sails will be lying somewhere by the door, we will grab them and be gone. But Barry was a great host. Same as in our previous email communication, he was very patient with us, took us around the whole loft, explaining the whole process of making a sail from the plotters, which cut the fabric, which are then sewn together, all the way to the hand sewing at the very end of the birth process of a sail.

We put the new mainsail and our old trysail which needed re-cutting into a big bag, which I put over my shoulder. Another advantage of a small boat is that both these sails weight only about 25kg. Jana grabbed a big box with battens coiled inside. The box was bulky, but quite light. From Barry’s expression it was obvious that not many of his customers carry his products away on their back.

“I would have sent it to you if you wanted,” said Barry with a grin.

We set out to the airport, little worried about overweight and oversize of our luggage.

At the check-in counter we laid our burden down on the scale. The dial blinked and stabilized on 24.5kg. I glimpsed at the stewardess at the counter. Her expression remained unchanged and asked for our passports. She typed into her terminal for a while, leafed through our passports, which have but two or three pages left. We explained that we get a landing visa in Taiwan. She nodded and asked about our return ticket. We have none, I said. She started to look worried. I went through this process few times before. Sometimes they let it pass, twice I had to produce a credit card and once I even had to sign a paper promising that I will pay for my own ticket if the Taiwanese immigration offices won’t let me into the country. So I was about to wait what’s going to happen. But Jana didn’t even let the stewardess start to think about the procedures and overloaded her with another bit of information: we don’t need an airplane ticket, we have a boat.

“You mean you have a boat ticket? Can I see it?” Her eyes were opened real wide now.

Then we have produced our boat papers including a boatcard with Janna’s picture on it and slowly explained the situation. Soon we were surrounded by a swarm of petit Hongkongese stewardesses that were chirping uneasily. The crowd attracted also their lady boss, who said calmly:

“Sure, I know about that. They travel on a boat. Where are you heading next?” The stewardesses seemed relieved. Nodding they returned to their posts. Our stewardess was still a little bit perplexed, so she forgot to weight our second luggage. Our sail bag was too big for normal cargo so she took us to the oversized luggage counter. I was still a bit worried about extra expenses, but apparently oversized is not the same “over” are in overweight and you don’t pay anything.

Dock test of our new mainsail

Dock test of our new mainsail

Then we only had to face the labyrinth of Kaohsiung tube and a short ride on a scooter to the boat. People load a lot of things on their small scooter in Taiwan, but there are limits. Sometimes our vivid imagination has to face the confines of our three dimensional world.

Now we can’t wait to test the sail at sea!

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  • James Lai

    Hi Peter ,
    I may go to Tai Wan on the 1st of march, but not Tai Pei , we go to the southern part for sightseeing and feel the life style of the countryside in the Republic of China .
    Happy New Year .
    James .

  • Hi James,
    we are sorry that we didn’t have enough time to sail to Hong Kong by boat and visit you by the Middle Island. We hope to leave Taiwan some time next month but one never knows :) In any case, we stay in the south in Kaohsiung so if we are still here (hopefully will be in the Philippines by then), you are most welcome for a visit! Happy New Year to you, too! Best, Petr&Jana

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