We made it to Qingdao – China’s sailing city apparently – a few days ago; the last couple of days of the trip becoming extremely cold. We left Sanya in tropical warmth, with the weather gradually dropping in temperature, although not in character – we had wind holes, downwind sailing, upwind sailing and all sorts. I think we used almost all of our sails.
In fact, on this leg we were promised constant banging upwind into 30 knots, instead we got varied down and upwind conditions, plenty of spinnaker sailing and wind holes. Similarly, on leg 3 we were promised exciting downwind spinnaker sailing all the way; instead we got banging upwind into 30 knots and wind holes. Coupled with Clipper’s omission in not telling us that water is wet and often cold, this represents a complete failure in the comms department.
One feature was the hundreds of fishing vessels at sea: our mapping software on the navigation PC, which includes full AIS tracking, regularly showed over 100 targets nearby – cargo vessels, fishing vessels, and deployed nets (which are given AIS trackers so that the fishermen can find them again).
Dodging through these ships and nets added an extra challenge on top of sailing. Especially at night: firstly because at night you cannot see a ship, only it’s lights, and it is impossible to determine distance since it could be a bright light far away or a dim light close bay; and secondly because some nets did not have AIS trackers, only tiny strobe lights which are very difficult to see. One night I drove into one whilst on the helm; it thumped down the starboard side of the boat and I turned around and saw a flash very close behind as we sped past – fortunately not snagging our keel or rudders on its nets. In fact we were fairly lucky, requiring some changing of course here and there to move past fleets and nets but no major gybes or tacks, and we never caught a net on our boat. Later on it turned very foggy as well, with visibility down to less than 100 metres: which made navigating through the fishing fleets and major shipping lanes extra interesting.
We are not berthed in the usual Qingdao city centre marina, instead we are in a brand new one (Qingdao Wanda Marina) about an hour out of the city centre, on an island that did not even exist a few years ago. In an area called Jiaonan, a new reclaimed island is springing up with flats and apartments and shops and malls – all of which are currently empty and partially constructed. The grand opening of the island is due in April; we are very early guests in the palatial marina building (thanks to Seamus Kellock for the picture).
Anyway, we are now doing hurried boat preparation and repair in the 7 days we have here before we set off across the North Pacific to Seattle on 23rd March. Probably a very chilly and fairly rough leg with the potential for some gale force winds, we are due in to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound about 18th April.
Roll on summer and the Panama canal…