SOKO UNDER THE STARS - November, 2020
With some trepidation from the building street Protests, a crowded boating season, a clash with popular Picnic in the Park and DBYC membership still reeling from the unseemly closure of its home base in Discovery Bay Marina, we decided to soldier on with the 12th year of SUTS. In the event numbers started to build as word spread and an impressive fleet of 9 yachts, 2 motor boats and David Hopgood’s Hobie finally joined this years rally to this magical destination.
Familiar to many yachties as a remote rounding mark on Hong Kong’s western seaboard, in fact the Soko Islands offer a mini archipelago of pristine beaches, sheltered anchorages, jungle walks and a fascinating history. A quick Google Earth shows southern China ravaged by the scars of ‘development’ and evidences the importance of this unique place. Several years back Living Islands Movement led activist sailors and others to fight for its survival against the ambitions of CLP which was determined to build a massive LNG storage terminal on South Soko, under the convenient Scheme of Arrangement and its financial attractions.
Our sailing yacht Soko is currently based in Indonesia exploring stunning Raja Ampat, but our lovely old motor launch Lady Soko was delighted to steam west and prepare for the weekend frolics. First stop was to collect the BBQ, especially constructed from an oil drum by Glyn from Paradise Point, Silvermine Bay. Next tasks were a pier clean up, locating a suitable ‘Pipers Corner’ and collecting wood for the bonfire. After a highly competitive rally finish in light winds the fleet arrived in good time to help drag logs and driftwood from the nearby beach, set up BBQ’s and the various trappings for the festivities ahead.
As the sun set, our floodlit pipe master David Maitland Gardner, suitably adorned in full Highland Regalia, fired up his bagpipes to pipe all Salts ashore for the handicap pursuit rally prize-giving. After a nail biting finish, the SUTS Cup was awarded to XX, second to YYY and third place to WWW. The coveted Rear End (toilet seat) Trophy was proudly claimed by ZZZ for Upside down spinnaker abuse.
The evening settled into its well trodden format with campfire yarns and songs and highland dancing (of sorts) led by our indefatigable Piper. The singers covered the SUTS standards, including Itchykoo Park and Bobby Magee, sadly missing the Pickles, who were holed up in UK pending Andy’s ongoing recovery. Another missed resource was our ferryman Myles Winter, who traditionally sweeps up those salts, including the convenor, too challenged to make the trip back to mother ship in the wee hours under the bright moon and twinkling stars.
The dawn broke fair and, ignoring sore heads, shore parties soon cleaned up the nights excesses into black bin bags. Richard gathered the curious for his traditional history and geography island tour, albeit shortened this year by the encroaching jungle blocking the path around the ornamental lake. Richard regaled the salts with his tales of piracy, pre war pig farming, WW2 defences, the abandoned Vietnamese Refugee Camp, the current Marine Helicopter Rescue training facilities and various ongoing battles against avaricious developers.
The fleet slipped away at noon, homeward bound after another classic weekend, reminding us how important it is to fight for our amazing heritage. We must all continue to pressurise HKSAR to gazette Soko Islands as a protected Marine Park on our Western Seaboard to complement the Tolo Harbour Geo Park and Marine Reserve of Double Haven on our East.
Richard Winter - SUTS Convenor.
1st. Nervous Breakdown