Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pink Dolphins

Who knew that the sailing lessons in Macau would provide a wealth of experiences from entering foreign territories to exciting boat mishaps. In our first day crew lesson we made it down the river, out of the shipping canal and into the Macau-Hong Kong ferry lanes before all boats, except one, lost their engines. It feels like we are frequently almost run over by the Hong Kong -Macau ferries like Turbo Jet and Cotai Strip which are high speed jetfoils and cattamarans that provide service between Hong Kong and Macau.Turbo Jet has massive red red boats and Cotai Strip has big blue boats that lift out of the water onto what looks like skis when they reach their cruising speeds. As we neared the Macau airport tacking in and out of the ferry lanes and shipping lanes the engines on several boats failed. We then, much to the chagrin of the Macau Coast Guard, had to tack all the way back to the yacht club. They were annoyed because we had to tack through the shipping lanes that have heavy traffic coming from China. Also, in order to go up the river into the docks at the marina we had to tack into Chinese waters. We were all worried that the Chinese Coast Guard would come over and demand papers. I hadn't brought my passport so that would have been bad. I imagined the email home: Eva Taken to Chinese Jail for Sailing.

Or next trip out had a storm that snuck up on the forecasters and sailors alike. Morning forcast was: small to medium wavelets, clear, wind 5 knots. About the middle of the trip the northern sky darkened and moved steadily towards us. There was no rain smudge from the sky to the water so we knew that we were not going to get wet. Just as we storm sail up we got killer wind. This wonderful flirt of a wind left us after ten minutes with massive waves and no wind. Not even a breath to lift our flags hanging limp on the mast. Everyone (including the skipper who was below decks making friends with the head) was sick. I felt fine stomach wise but my lack of sleep from all-night sessions grading essays was catching up with me as I was steering. I had to stand up so that I would not fall asleep. That would have been another disaster email heading: Eva in Jail (again) After Running Yacht into the Macau airport runway.

Midway through the course my dreams came true. We went around the Macau airport on Taipa and sailed to the second island called Coloane where we put the anchor down and got picked up by a tiny black rubber boat which shuttled us to lunch at Miramar. Miramar is a Portuguese restaurant nestled next to the Westin Resort on Hac Sa (black sand beach). Our crew shared a ton of tasty Portuguese food including pig ears chopped into fine pieces doused in vinegar and served with cucumbers. Very tasty. After lunch we took the little black boat (getting totally soaked in the process) out to our yacht and started motoring back to the marina. I was at the rudder when I noticed smoke coming out of the cabin. Electrical fire! Our skipper, Jon, rushed into the cabin after turning the motor off. Gray black smoke was still billowing out of the cabin and we opened the front hatch so there was enough airflow that he did not suffocate. Once the power went off the smoke thinned by itself and Jon checked to see what the problem was. Turned out we had an electrical short and after fixing we were able to sail again. As we calmed down and got underway Rui called out that there were pink dolphins off starboard side. I was steering at the time and totally set us off coarse I was so excited to see them. A pod of 12. Pink dolphins (Chinese white dolphins) are endangered and, from what I understand, this type is found only in Hong Kong and Macau shared Pearl River delta. They look like a cross between a grey dolphin with the long snout and a Beluga whale with its shorter dorsal fin and forehead. I righted the course and Jon took control so that I could also watch them. They swam near the boat for some time then disappeared. I like to think that they felt we were in trouble and came to help. Wishful thinking, I know, but it makes for a good story. We saw one again as we entered the shipping lanes leading to the marina. Dolphins avoid the shipping lanes so I like to think that s/he was making sure we were OK till we got near other boats. My real email home: Pink Dolphins!

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