After the dust had settled on the typhoons of August, we had to decide as the Paddle Section if we would proceed with the planned Dolphin Quest on 9th September. Although the club facilities had sustained substantial damage we found that all of our OC6’s had come through in pretty good shape in stark contrast to a lot of our fellow paddlers at other Hong Kong Clubs, some of who had lost whole fleets with others taking severe damage.
Dolphin Quest is more than just a fund-raising event and the format is such that it creates friendships between individual paddlers while strengthen bonds between all of Hong Kong’s Paddling Clubs. With this is in mind we did not have to think too long and decided that this community event was exactly what we all needed, an opportunity to put thoughts of club facility clean ups, equipment repairs and new equipment purchases on hold and spend a day doing what we do – PADDLING!!
With over 90 paddlers (and a few LBC rowers) signed up, the usual meeting point at the Discovery Bay Ferry steps was buzzing with excitement as paddlers from all of Hong Kong’s clubs starting turning up in their club colours. After a quick briefing and the start crews being dispatched to the beach to load up the four Standard Outrigger Canoes the rest of us made our way to the two support junks that would follow the canoes around the 72km of Lantau Island. This would be the last time the clubs would be together as a team, as Dolphin Quest involves all the crews being jumbled up so that you find yourself in a boat with members of other clubs. Considering that we spend the rest of the year looking over at each in opposing boats while we compete for honours in the rest of Hong Kong’s races, sitting behind or in front of these same people, working together to achieve a goal that is not achievable on your own, is I suppose the true meaning of a quest.
As we pulled away from Discovery Bay the sky was a typical September day, sunny and warm with the chance of showers. Every 7-9 kilometres the junks would come to a half and crews were changed out and a new set of paddlers continued with the task, with those finished their leg jumping back onto the support junk to refuel and swop stories.
As we made our way down the coast of Lantau in a clockwise direction it was not long before we were out of the normal range of LBC weekly paddling activities and approaching South Lantau’s ‘patch of Pui O. Passing Cheung Chau is always a fun part of the day, with the Macau Ferries coming very close to our route at this point, giving us a chance to ride some of the large swells that these boats produce in their wake.
Once past Pui O we entered what must be one of the most beautiful sections of the whole day, with the peaks of Lantau and Sunset towering over us and the beaches of Cheung Sha and Tong Fuk in the distance, you really feel quite far from shore. After powering through this section and on towards Shek Pik, we caught glimpses of the Pink Dolphins in the water. They were a little further round the coast than we have seen them in previous years, perhaps they prefer this area of no construction and relative peacefulness. The number of Dolphins we saw was hard to tell as they tend to just show themselves briefly, before diving into the murky water again. In most years those in the junks get the best views of the Dolphins but this year they came quite close to the canoes and added to this we even had one jumping out of the water ensuring that most, if not all participants got to see these magnificent mammals.
With the clock ticking and more than half of our planned distance covered, it was off again, leaving our Dolphin friends in peace in the hope that we will see them again in years’ time and that they do not succumb to pressures of living in the congested waters of Hong Kong.
Before long the water began to darken as we approached the Southern Tip of Lantua as the wash of the Pearl River began to show itself. The sky was also starting to look very ominous at this point and junk coordinators were cautiously looking at the weather radar while trying to urge the fleet on.
As the boats approached the runway of Hong Kong International Airport, a storm appeared and the lightning was suddenly all around us. A decision was made to call a halt to the event and all paddlers were brought back on board of the junks and the canoes tied up and slowly towed passed the airport.
By the time we got to Tung Chung the sky had cleared so it was back in the canoes for the push through back to Discovery Bay. The slack tide under Tsing Ma bridge meant it was an easy paddle through what can often be a very challenging section and good progress was made to towards the last crew change just before Disney. Always a great time of the day, the last crews powered on back into Discovery Bay to complete the circumnavigation.
As the participants shared drinks in the pub after the event, with the heavens opening outside, everyone was still on a such a high over what we had all collectively achieved and reflecting on the friendships that had been forged during the long grueling day.
Huge amounts of effort go into organizing and event like this and I would like to thank all of LBC who pitched in to make this such a special day and also to all the clubs that sent paddlers to join us on the unique adventure that is the Dolphin Quest.