A day in sail
THE Hong Kong Branch were very fortunate in being able to arrange a day out for members and their families aboard the auxiliary brigantine Ji Fung, which is owned and operated by the Outward Bound Trust of Hong Kong. She is of wooden construction and as a brigantine has two masts with square sails on the foremast and normally operates from her base in Tai Mong Tsai, near Sai Kung in the New Territories. She is of 174gt, with registered dimensions 28.88 x 7.64 x 3.72 m and an overall length of 33.44 m, and has a 163 kW auxiliary diesel engine. She can carry up to 50 people on board, including the captain and crew.
Various types of courses are offered including adventure courses for young people and leadership courses for business executives and management trainees. Although mainly engaged on day runs and short passages in and around Hong Kong, she does several foreign-going voyages each year, mainly to the Philippines and Sabah but occasionally as far afield as Japan.
Before sailing all Nautical Institute members and families and guests gathered on the foredeck, where Captain Scucek laid down the policy for the trip and introduced the remainder of the crew and the sailing instructors. We were also given a safety demonstration and told where to find the safety equipment in case of any emergency. By 1130 the moorings were cast off and we were on our way out of the harbour using the ship's auxiliary engine. We had all been invited to help with the sailing and navigation of the ship as much as we wished and many of us were soon assisting (if that is the right word!) in setting the sails. When this task was done the engine was stopped and we proceeded under sail alone.
I lost no time in going aloft after receiving advice and assistance from Bill Cornish, one of the instructors. I was glad enough of the security of the safety harness which had to be clipped on to the safety wire before I made my tentative way out on to the lower yardarm. This would be a bit different to life in one of the old Cape Horners, I thought to myself while trying to take a photograph from my precarious perch. There would have been no safety harnesses then and the only time anything resembling one might have been used would have been when you were lashed to the wheel to prevent you from being washed overboard. Fortunately Hong Kong waters are a far cry from Cape Horn and the weather was certainly far superior to typical Cape Horn weather and remained so for the remainder of that day.
Thanks to Mr Wong, the cook, we enjoyed a very good lunch, and by the time this was over we were well on the way down the channel towards the group of islands in the eastern approaches to Hong Kong harbour called Kwo Chau Kwan To or the Ninepins. At one point I took the wheel and saw from the log that the ship was doing about 7 or 8 knots when steering due south on the port tack - not very fast, perhaps but the wind was only about force 4 on the Beaufort scale.
All too soon it seemed to be time to head in towards base again. The Ji Fung was being steered on this homeward passage by nine years-old Lakmeesh Rao, with the able assistance of his father, Captain B.B. Rao.
Soon the motor was in use again and the sails were being lowered and furled as we approached the jetty at Tai Mong Tsai. The last task which was carried out alongside was the furling of the fore topsail and passing the gaskets to make it secure. We then all trooped ashore to Captain Scucek's house where an excellent barbecue had been prepared for us. This was indeed a very social and enjoyable ending to a superb day out which was thoroughly enjoyed by the writer and his family and I am sure by all those who participated.
On behalf of all those present on the Ji Fung, I would like to record our thanks and appreciation to Captain Scucek, chief mate Greg Tonnison, and all the instructors and crew for helping to make our day such an enjoyable one.
Contributed by Captain M. Pickthorne, MNI
Seaways February 1994