How things can change in 24 hours. Have I said that before? After the storm winds of up to 118 knots, we then sat in perfectly still waters in a wind hole. Flat calm, not a ripple to be seen. The windseeker had to come up to try to get us going again – when we hit just over one knot per hour everyone cheered. The arrival date of 10th March was fast becoming pie in the sky. What I had failed to mention in previous blogs was the cold. It was absolutely bitter. It went from one day being sunny and some even got out their shorts again, to bitter cold. The balaclava, hat, thermals, extra layers of almost everything I had brought came out. Some were only able to stay on deck for thirty minutes at a time – I, on the other hand, have an extra layer of my own insulation and was able to stick it out for about two or three hours. When, that is, I was able to sit in the pit and put my hands in my pockets to keep out of the wind. When I was on the helm, and in the direct path of the biting cold wind, thirty minutes was my limit too. One of the boats had actually reported snow falling on the deck for a short while. Whilst we didn’t have snow, it was very frosty. My sleeping bag was the warmest place on the boat!
After almost a full day of nothing, we did get some wind and was able to put a spinnaker up. but because we had no main sail, as soon as the wind picked up it had to come down. With no main sail, we also had trouble going in the direction that we needed to go to. Backwards and forwards we went up the coast of China. What a palaver! With our speed was restricted, we were just hoping that we weren’t going to be overtaken by too many other boats.
Another day came and went – that is two days off of the time we get to spend in Qingdao. At last the wind picked up, we got two head sails up, and off we went in more or less the right direction at a sensible speed. The finish line was about 30 miles outside of Qingdao, which we crossed at about 7am. We then had to motor for the next 30 miles, but had to wait in line to get in to the marina. As the boats came in, there was an arrival ceremony which took about an hour per boat. We were not able to get into the marina until about 1.30pm. That meant that I could get all the food inventory done on the way in. One less job to do whilst on land. Luckily, we only had one day of food left, so not much to count. Apart from all the “pantry” things that people get very tetchy about if we run out – like if there is no strawberry jam only grape. All very important to keep up the morale! Oh, and the sugar we had ran out of was found – where it should have been – and we only had about three kilos. We found another bag of granola – someone missed that one too. And the dried milk powder we ran out of – there was seven kilos where it should have been.
A “Man look” comes to mind!
For several on the boat this was going to be the last day. Quite a few had joined for this leg only – and some will be missed considerably. Kirsty is now getting off after completing three legs – although she has not been well for the last few days and probably is glad to be going back to normality. Pete with his big personality, Chris with his “nicest person we have ever had on the boat” (not my words, but some that I have overheard), and Phil with his own brand of humour on life on the boat. All will be missed in their own way, although I am sure the new leggers that will replace them will have their own mark to make on our team.
I am now back to calling them my team. Apart from being unwell at the beginning of this race, it has been a much better leg for me. Strange, considering that we also had one of the worst storms so far encountered. And I don’t do bad weather very well. I do feel that a little of my confidence has returned, although not sure that the North Pacific is going to be quite my cup of tea!
On our way in a pigeon decided to land on the boat, and made itself comfortable under the cuddy. It puffed up its feathers to keep warm, and Marc (the bird man of Da Nang) got some water for it – which it subsequently drunk. And then pooed all over the boat. And all over the Chinese flag that we were about to raise. Don’t think that would have been seen as politically correct, seeing that Vietnam and China do a bit of sabre rattling every now and then. The flag was scrubbed clean before it was hoisted!!
We arrived into the marina with a very sad looking main sail having been flaked and put on the deck ready for a quick unloading to take away to be repaired. A few points lost there, I feel. We had the mandatory photos taken coming into the marina – but no orange shirts here. Full foulies, hats, gloves, thermals and all the other layers that we had come to putting on every time we got up. As we were entering the marina, we had fireworks accompanying us in. That was a first! We could hear our boat song “Wild Thing” being played, and could see a huge sea of colour on the dock.
Once we had tied up, and the immigration people had verified we were who we said we were and that we looked as near to our passport photo as possible, we were given flags and led down the jetty. Pete’s wife and two children had been let on the jetty, and they were there to meet him. What a lovely family! I think they will remember that for the rest of their lives, and I hope they are very proud of their dad. We could then hear a cacophony of drums that got louder and louder. We were led up a slope that was lined with about fifty ladies in red satin playing the drums. We thought Da Nang was a special welcome, but this outdid it. We were then taken to a stage, where the great and the good of Qingdao welcomed us.
Wendo was presented with a red robe with white fur around – I think she may now been known as Santa Tuck! She also was presented with a huge Da Nang banner that Phil took for her. Someone did suggest we could use it as a boat hook – we have lost three so far over the side. Getting a little embarrassing now! We all got beautiful red scarves and a furry monkey – we have just entered the Chinese year of the monkey. At least they don’t weigh much – twenty extra heavy monkeys on the boat setting off for Seattle would not be appreciated by the skipper!
We had the mandatory champagne, and were then taken in to the warm for food and drink. What a lovely welcome to Qingdao – shame we only came eighth!