Destiny STILL not delivered

Almost a year ago to the day, I wrote a blog with an update on our boat. At that time, we had no idea how long we would be separated and when the boat could be finished. We certainly did not expect that a year later we would still be sitting in limbo. With endless boat delays and time wasted in quarantine, Destiny has still not been delivered. But – we do now have a confirmed shipping date in a few days’ time on 4th May. Everything is crossed – we are hoping there are no more delays.

More lockdowns and more delays

As everybody knows, the Covid-19 pandemic has given us several more waves of infection and we have been through several periods of lockdown. China has not relaxed the rules for entry into the country, so Chris has not been able to get to the shipyard.

At the shipyard, Ed has continued to work on our boat and found ways around the issues of supply shortages and specialists not able to travel to China. Surveyors have learned to work remotely – by instructing local people by video. The engineers for the machinery have also trained local partners, and they completed commissioning with remote supervision.

At the Europe end

Back in Europe, Chris managed to complete the renovation of our house in France with the help of local contractors. She fixed up the rental properties again, and put them up for sale. In July 2021, she moved us out of France and back to Malta, putting all our excess possessions into storage. It’s been a difficult time but we have succeeded in selling all our properties except one – which we leased instead. So, we are now almost closed down in Europe and there is no pressure for us to go back in the short term.

Finally Hong Kong opens the border

In August 2021, Hong Kong announced a new set of rules for inbound travel. They would be allowing non-residents to enter the country, as long as they complied with a very long list of requirements. Of course, full vaccination was essential, as well as PCR testing just before departure. However, the test could only be done by a laboratory with specific accreditation which is not widely available in Europe. It was also necessary to have a confirmed booking at a designated quarantine hotel for 14 days on arrival in Hong Kong. These hotels are in very short supply and very difficult to book.

All sorts of other forms had to be completed and every document had to exactly match your passport details, or you would be refused boarding. Who uses their middle names on day to day documents?? There were also different rules depending on which countries you had been in for the previous 14 days, and these rules were changing on an almost daily basis.

Chris’s situation was complicated – she has dual nationality and some documents are registered with her Dutch passport and other documents with her British passport. She also had vaccinations in France (where the name on the certificate was not exactly the same as her passport), and living in Malta (where the required accreditation for the test lab did not exist) – so the mixture made things more complicated too.

Flying to Hong Kong brings us closer

We booked a flight for 5th September from Malta to Hong Kong, via Paris. We had managed to get a quarantine hotel in Hong Kong for that date. After talking to several embassies and other advisors, eventually the documents seemed to be in order, although it took several weeks to organise.

But then Hong Kong placed France into group “A” which meant they banned travel for non-residents! So, we changed the flights via Frankfurt instead, and there followed several weeks of praying that Germany would remain on the “B” list, permitting travel. The options to fly from Malta without transiting an “A” list country were very limited.

Fortunately, all went well, and Chris managed to catch the flight and spent an enjoyable 12 hours on a Cathay Pacific business class seat, after a relatively straightforward transfer in Frankfurt. The volume of luggage was an issue – since effectively we were moving everything we owned to Hong Kong for transfer to living on the boat! We used the services of SendMyBag for half of the luggage and we highly recommend them. You do have to be careful what you pack since they have some strict rules – so you need to read the instructions carefully.

On arrival in Hong Kong, it takes about 4-5 hours to get out of the airport. There are endless queues and document checks. Then they do further PCR tests on arrival – even though everyone had one just the previous day. You sit for 2-3 hours in an unused part of the airport, set up like an exam room. When the test is negative, you are allowed to leave to board the government shuttle bus to quarantine.

Hong Kong Quarantine …..

The two weeks of quarantine was also quite pleasant. The Crowne Plaza hotel in Causeway Bay was a nice choice, with a good sized room and all the necessary facilities. We had prepared very well in advance and knew what to expect. Chris treated it like a small holiday! Being locked inside was not so unusual for her, as she is quite used to working at home and not going out for days on end anyway. The food was not too bad, but did get a little monotonous after a while. The hotel allowed outside food delivery services to the rooms. With an M&S food shop just over the road, and FoodPanda and Deliveroo delivery services, things were not too bad.

Over the water in China

At the same time, in China, the authorities had finally had enough of Ed continually renewing his visa each month. In addition, his passport was running out of pages and needed to be replaced. He was told he had to leave the country with very little notice so there was a panic to get things organised and return to Hong Kong.

The timing worked well and he was able to make use of the “Come2HK” scheme. This gives special exemption from quarantine for non-residents of Hong Kong to cross the border under certain conditions. The scheme was mainly designed for Chinese nationals to be able to travel from the Mainland to Hong Kong. As a result, Ed was subject to lots of different checks as the authorities could not believe that he qualified. It was unusual that a foreigner would have been in China long enough, or have had Chinese vaccinations in China. Eventually he did pass through the controls after interviews with numerous immigration officials at both ends. The timing was perfect as he arrived in Hong Kong the evening before Chris was released from quarantine. He checked us both in to the Nina Hotel Kowloon East, in the industrial area of Kwun Tong.

Reunited at last …. but it’s not over yet

Finally, on 19th September, we were back together again after almost exactly 18 months of not seeing each other. We were both very stressed from the difficulties of the last few years. It is hard to explain how hard this time has been. We’ve never experienced anything like this before with several years of emotional and physical turmoil. Some of it is to do with the boat project, but also with other areas of our lives. It has taken its toll on both of us in different ways.

For Chris, the anxiety and stress were caused by several things. Earlier problems with the sale of our business, lockdown, obsessive worry about catching Covid-19 because of her risk factors, separation from Ed, other distressing family problems and dealing alone with the tasks needed in France and Malta. It has seemed to be one thing after another for a long time.

For Ed, however, the situation was more serious – even though he didn’t realise it at the time.

Unexpected shock

Just days after arriving back in Hong Kong, Ed suffered a heart attack in the hotel and was rushed to hospital by ambulance. Fortunately, he had the presence of mind to take aspirin as soon as he realised what was happening which probably saved his life. He stayed in the public hospital for 10 days where he had surgery. They placed a stent in one of his arteries and put him on a cocktail of permanent medications. Thank God he survived and will be fine – but this has had a huge impact on his mental state. He has never had any medical issues in the past, and was convinced he was as strong as an ox. Mr Invincible!

Once the hospital released Ed , of course he had a period of rehabilitation. He was in no condition to return to China and continue the stress of completing the boat. Chris was also struggling with the added stress of worrying about Ed. So, we were both in a bad place for some time. We stayed at the hotel and just tried to relax and talk. We took short walks to the local harbour and gradually got ourselves straight again. But, of course, this meant a further delay to our plans.

Alone again …. Back to China

By December, Ed felt he was ready to return to China and the cardiologist cleared him for travel. He arranged his new passport and applied for his visa. At the time, and still now at the time of writing, China is only granting visas for people vaccinated with Chinese vaccines. This meant Chris could not get a visa so we were forced into separation again.

At this time, China and Hong Kong were on the point of agreeing quarantine free travel between the two regions. An announcement was widely expected at Christmas so we held off making firm arrangements in the hope that Ed could avoid more quarantine. However, before the new agreement could be implemented, a new wave of Covid hit Hong Kong. Several cabin crew members of Cathay Pacific ignored the quarantine regulations to meet friends on Christmas Day. This started a wave of infections which sent Hong Kong spiralling into a serious situation again.

More quarantine ….

Eventually, we decided that we could not wait for the crisis to be over. Ed had no choice but to cross to China and go into quarantine. The only border crossing open was via Shenzhen Bay, and on 24th January he crossed back over alone again.

Another 21 days of quarantine again – but this time in a nice hotel and well prepared for the experience. He packed his suitcase with ready-made food and a small cooking plate and managed to survive the quarantine this time without any problems.

Once again, we expected to need only a couple of weeks to finish the boat. But with the latest Covid-19 wave, there are still supply chain issues. Ed discovered that the shipyard had not really made any progress since he left in September. Sales has picked up again and they have several yacht orders in production. So, with us not being there, Destiny had become a lower priority.

So what happens now?

Ed’s 90-day visa ran out last week – and he is still in China. He has been granted an extension again, but this is not what we had planned. He is desperate to come back. In the meantime, Chris had to move house alone again in Hong Kong as the government took over Nina Hotel as a quarantine facility. So, another house move under the belt and we now have a serviced apartment in North Point which is actually very convenient. Chris’s 6-month permission to stay in Hong Kong also ran out at the start of March – but the government have agreed to extend it on a monthly basis. Costs are rising as living this way for the last two years for both of us comes at huge expense. Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

But – we are getting there! Destiny will arrive in Hong Kong on Wednesday 4th May. She will cross the Pearl River Delta by tug and we should be taking possession by late evening. It’s hard to believe it will really happen – and still every day brings new challenges. We have made the arrangements with the shipping and customs agents. We’ve booked the marina. We’ve insured the boat and completed the flag registration. Ed has his travel quota and return bus tickets. We’ve booked a chase boat which will collect us and take us to the anchorage where Destiny will be delivered. We have arranged a local captain, because we are not allowed to drive our own boat in Hong Kong waters. All ready to go ….

Yet more changes

However, in the last week we have changed all the arrangements three times. First of all 28th April, to 6th May to 3rd May and now to the 4th. Every change is difficult as Ed has to apply for a quota to return to Hong Kong without quarantine. He also needs to buy a bus ticket – both of which are in great demand and limited supply. And I’m sure the marina is sick of hearing from us and we haven’t even arrived yet!

It has also been difficult to work out the process for bringing the boat to Hong Kong. Normally the shipyard is transferring yachts to a freighter, for shipping to another part of the world. Or, they are selling to an owner who is registering the boat in Hong Kong and importing it. What we are doing is new to everyone – a foreign yacht, which will be staying in Hong Kong for a few weeks before leaving. With a lot of WhatsApp chats and emails, we have got to the bottom of it and everything is ready to go ….. we hope.

All we need now is our boat!