Visitors Visitors « The Joys and Sorrows Of a Life At Sea


Once again we’ve left our sanctuary at Xingda fishing harbour and returned to Kaohsiung. Main reason being that Jana was asked to share few of her delicious “instant meals” with few friends.

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At the beginning of last week, still in our oasis of quiet, we finished the last version of the translation of Li Ang’s novel “Magic Garden”, put it aside for a week to read it one last time before we send it to the publisher and submit it to a scrutiny of a proof-reader. Have you ever noticed that every time you read what you wrote, there’s always an error to be found? We’ll soon know how many we’ve left behind.

Anyway, we felt good about the work done, and the rest of the week just flew by. We cleaned the boat and became hosts to couple of groups of visitors.

First was Jessica with her family. Jessica was responsible for our talk at the Buddhist foundation Tzu Chi. We wanted to take them around the harbour first – it’s spacious, mostly good wind, and there are no waves. If our guests like it, we can take them out to the sea. Naturally there was no wind at all and they were eager to head out right away.

The entrance to Xingda harbour is quite shallow so even before nice fresh fifteen knots of wind filled Janna’s sails, we began to beat into half meter waves. Our guests remained calm. It’s not that bad, they said. Then Janna heeled, they popped their eyes and grabbed anything within their reach. It was their knuckles that turned white first. Their faces followed soon after. Spray started to fly through the air and it was the men who succumbed first.

We knew from the beginning that they are the problematic group. Apparently they get motion sick all the time. This time they stood up to the elements with dignity, just fell asleep. The female part of the crew became suspiciously quiet and only from time to time their dozy eyes peeked out of the shadows of their wide-brimmed hats.

We were about five miles from the shore. We turned around and headed slowly back. The jibe woke up our friends and soon they felt much better and were quite enthusiastic about the drop in wind speed – the apparent wind speed. Quite naturally, the euphoria didn’t last long as the downwind rocking of sailboats can be rather unpleasant for the stomachs of some. The boat felt into silence again. We tried to ride Janna to ease the pain of our friends, which took us little below the entrance to the harbor. Another jibe was inevitable. The noise and jerking motion that accompanies jibing woke our friends again.

All of them were overjoyed to see that the calm waters behind the breakwaters are within reach. Their longing gazes were saying: Just a minute or two and our suffering will end. It was still more than half an hour, but who would have the heart to break theirs…

Everyone stood up to the elements and once we crossed the invisible line between the red and green beacons on the breakwaters, Janna swayed down the last wave, our friends jumped up and started to fight over the tiller and sheets. We had fresh wind and even though the next item on our itinerary was cooking and eating – the Taiwanese are well-known epicureans – we crisscrossed the harbor for another two hours.

Me and Jana just set in the cockpit and enjoyed the enjoyment of our guests. From time to time we help with crossed line on the winch or to get the boat out of irons.

Those who were hungry – everyone – had a few bites of banana bread we baked in the morning and when we finally docked, in about fifteen minutes Jana fixed up a delicious chilli with tortilla chips, rice and fresh bread, which was then also used to clean plates. The early dinner was followed by a lovely sunset. What a nice day.


This week we actually baked three banana breads and three regular breads. There were just that many visitors. The very next day, our friend A-Cheng, owner of the sail boat Limei, came with his wife and mum. This was a payback dinner for the Korean feast we had with them the first time we arrived to Xingda. The banana bread was gone the first, then half of the bread which was served with the main dish. During the dinner, Jana showed our friends how to make both the banana bread and our regular bread, which were baked the same evening.


Both breads were ready for our last guest that week. A reporter, a cameraman and an assistant from the DaAi TV station came the next day to shoot a feature about a simple life on a small boat. The plan was to shoot for about three hours, but they stayed till five. And we didn’t mind. We didn’t feel quite right in front of the camera, but all of them were very nice people so we enjoyed ourselves.

The cameraman was a man around forty-five and from the beginning it was obvious that he is capable of anything to get a good shot.

“I don’t see any seagulls. How am I going to get the song of a seagull on tape?”

“Actually, seagulls don’t so much sing as they caw,” I offered my expertise.

“Can you imitate a seagull then?”

When I confessed that I haven’t been practicing seagull caw lately, he lost interest and ran away to shoot our boat from few more angles. Once we set sail he ran around the deck to get all the possible angles and kept nagging the others to get out of the scene. The waves were much smaller than two days ago, so he was able to keep his balance. Unfortunately, constant peeking into the viewfinder didn’t do much good for his stomach and soon he followed others to the cockpit and with resignation closed his eyes. This was a signal for us that he’s got enough of the sea and of shot.

Once back on the calms waters of the harbor, everyone became cheerful again. The assistant stretched on the bow, the reporter continued her questioning, and the cameraman began to stare at our mast.

“I would like to climb up there. Can I?” His colleagues opened their mouths and opened their eyes wide.

We happily agreed, because it is quite rare that people wish to get up the mast, but the view is so grand that we are always happy to share it with anyone. Particularly with people whose job is to look.

The cameraman didn’t waste any second and started to climb. I pulled him down quickly by his belt. His lady colleague, the reporter, immediately gave him a good dressing-down: you’re going to break something and will have to pay for it. I explained that I am more concerned with his and more importantly my well-being, because if he falls down and breaks his neck, I might very likely end up in jail.

I wanted to get him my climbing harness, but he would probably get up there once I let of him, so I simply tied a bowline around his chest. Bowline was good for the old climbing gurus of the last century and it should be good enough for a Taiwanese cameraman.

The cameraman climbed up to the spreaders when he realized he forgot something.

“Oh my heaven, I forgot the camera!”

We sailed smoothly with full main sail, small jib and a cameraman in the rigging.


Cooking on board was supposed to be another part of the movie. But everyone liked sailing for a little longer – we feel like on a vacation, they told us – so Jana suggested she can cook while we sail back. The cameraman found a good angle to shoot all the cooking as I tacked slowly through the harbor.

“Can we do it again? I didn’t get the sound right, when you were chopping the peppers.”

“I was going to chop another one anyway,” Jana smiled. “We hope you all will eat with us.”

It turned out that the cameraman and the reporter were on a Buddhist diet, which forbids onions, which was already sizzling in the pot. But the assistant expressed a sincere wish to help us with all that food. Nothing should go to waste.

“That’s a wonderful smell,” said the reporter.

“That’s the onion,” laughed Jana.


After the lunch, we unfolded our bicycles to shoot “low key” shopping for water and groceries. We tied a basked for veggies on one bike, a ten litter jerry can on the other and met with the crew in a small town about fifteen minutes ride from the harbor. At about five p.m. after the last interview about our life aboard, the crew left and we fell tired into the cockpit. Can you hear the sound of a beer can being opened? Psshhhh… exhale.


Friday was a resting day. Except that we scrubbed the whole bottom. No wonder we were so slow when coming up here the last time, there must have been an inch of growth, particularly those tube worms, tough SOBs.

In the afternoon we got a call from Jessica, who was apparently quite taken by Jana’s efficient cooking and organized a cooking workshop.

Originally we were planning to go to Kaohsiung on Sunday, but now we were supposed to meet for lunch with Jessica, so we decided to go on Saturday. Sailboats are known for not being on time.

Then we met Mark, who was just finishing antifouling on his Mumm 36 and was planning to go back to water on Saturday. That also meant that our Taiwanese friend Hermann will haul out his boat and we wanted to stick around and give a hand. And since Mark is a nice guy and we were playing hosts the whole week, we had him for dinner of spaghetti Bolognese and few drinks.

The next day, the crane arrived and around lunch Mark’s boat was again safely afloat. What a relief when the straps on which the crane lifts the boat are taken away and she starts to rock free again. Boat on land and particularly in the air is an unnatural phenomenon.

<img title=”Po čtyřech hodinách snažení konečně vodorovně ve vzduchu” alt=”” src=”https://fbcdn-sphotos-e-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/31450_4651877615158_1606395247_n.jpg” width=”461″ height=”346″ />Success!

Hauling of Hermann’s boat was a tad more difficult. It was his first time. There were hauling marks to follow, which were supposed to show where to put the straps, but it soon became obvious that the straps cannot be of the same length. After four hours of hopeless trying, the whole gang under the command of Mark, who had the most experience with cranes, the boat was up in the air, well balanced and safe. Then came the scrubbing and washing and soon it was five and we were all wet and cold.

The hot-pot that Mark suggested really hit the spot.

It was naturally too late for us to sail to Kaohsiung. We didn’t feel like going anyway. We’ll get up early in the morning, should be able to get there before noon.

Do I have to describe the wind speed that morning? I think not. There was no wind of course. But it was quite a while since our engine ran for couple of hours, so let’s call it engine maintenance motoring and we were on a tight schedule.

“It’s boring to motor,” said Jana. “But even with the engine on, it’s so beautiful at sea. Better than being landlocked.”

To make our short, four hour trip, even shorter, we decided to take a good shower. It’s been a while since we washed at sea using a bucket and sun shower to rinse the salt water off. Oh, that freedom. No crouching and hiding from the ever watchful eyes of passers-by on the shore and passengers of the ferry behind. All that being wrapped in a towel. Of course, it’s much better in Xingda, but even there, we can’t just walk freely around as the evolution made us.

At sea again, just for a while and being harassed by a noisy mechanical contraption, but alone and the scenery. The scenery is always great!


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