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Typhoon Mangkhut: an unwelcome visitor in Hong Kong

by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia 19 Sep 2018 07:04 BST 16 September 2018
Maiora on the bricks. Aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut, 16 September 2018 © Guy Nowell

Three days after being walloped by Typhoon Mangkhut – the strongest storm to hit Hong Kong since records began – the city is licking its wounds. No deaths have been reported, so that’s a mercy.

In the city it was flying debris and falling cranes that caused the damage – and flooding, lots of flooding. In the countryside it was airborne trees and other vegetation that did the damage – and flooding, lots of flooding. Along the shorelines, wind and wave action ripped out beaches, battered homes, and tossed boats around like toys. Some of them ended up where they shouldn’t be.

Hong Kong’s yacht and sailing clubs have all been affected. The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club sustained damage at each of it three locations (Kellett Island, Middle Island, Shelter Cove) with the training dinghy fleet being swept off the hard standing at Middle Island. The Aberdeen Boat Club at Middle Island lost a lot of small boats, and the clubhouse was described as “practically destroyed”. Hebe Haven Yacht Club had water clear across the car park and huge numbers of speedboats blown off the three-tier outdoor racking. The Hobie Club in Tai Tam Bay just got swept up to the back of the beach in a repeat performance of typhoon Hato’s visit. You can tie ‘em down to sand anchors as tight as you like, but they are still beach cats on a beach, and when typhoon rollers and a storm surge come powering through…

Now there will be insurance claims, and some claimants are going to be disappointed. My friendly broker (I buy him drinks occasionally) tells me that the very simple rule is this: it you do not take “all reasonable and practicable precautions to prevent loss or damage”, your claim is likely to be void. That includes leaving sails above deck – rolled, parcelled, or otherwise, it is still better to take them off and stow below.

I was in charge of an X-99 whose owner is absent from Hong Kong. I installed new anti-chafe hose on the main mooring lines, added two more pairs of mooring lines, ran additional lines back from the sole foredeck cleat to the primary winches, took the cover and main off the boom, lashed the boom to a runner winch in the cockpit, and moved the spin, gen and main halyards from their usual place on the spinnaker ring to the toe rail. Anything less would not have been “all reasonable and practicable precautions”, but next morning there were any number of boats that had evidently not got the call.

Here’s a very basic message: do take precautions, and don’t mess with typhoons. I have seen lots of them go by, and occasionally visit, over the last 37 years. Sometimes the warnings are over-rated, but they should always be heeded – so much better safe than sorry.

Standing by on 72.