Last month I had the privilege of meeting one of our clients, Garry Hubbard, and his new-build consultant and representative, Phil Friedman, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The purpose of the trip was to complete the final inspections and performance sea trials of Garry’s new 80 Pilothouse. We have always urged our clients to visit their boat while in production, but few actually make the trek.
I want to share with you what an adventure it can be and how fun it is to add this experience to the building process.
Let me start with the obvious first hurdle to overcome. IT’S A LONG WAY AND A LONG FLIGHT! Suffice it to say that flying business class helps ease the burden. I fly “Premium Economy Class”.
There are ways to enjoy it. Snoozing, watching all the movies you’ve missed over the past six months, or read an entire novel. I like to blend of all three and the wonderful in-flight meals. My China Air flight left LAX at midnight, so I had a 1AM dinner, watched a movie, and then snoozed for about 6 hours. Not bad. two more movies – breakfast – and the next thing I know I am in Taiwan.
One of the fringe benefits (thankfully) is that our project manager, Jeff McDowell, and/or our Q.C. expert, Alan Hsu, is always there to greet me at the airport. No driving in Taiwan (pretty crazy) and no worries about fumbling my Mandarin. I am good at saying Xie Xie (shay shay) thank you, and ni hao (knee how) hello. The good news – that’s all the mandarin you’ll need, along with many nods and smiles.
But if you like to be in control and think that driving is something you would like to try in Taiwan. I suggest Taiwan’s the most popular mode of transportation – the scooter. Don’t forget to bring your phone.
I arrived a day earlier than Garry and Phil in order to meet with Jeff “Mack” and Alan. The day started with a review of P.O.s for two 76’s also in production and familiarizing myself with the itinerary for the sea trial and inspections. We met in Offshore Yachts offices on the premises of Kha Shing (the builder) and then headed out to inspect 76033 and various parts in the wood shop.
Off to Kaohsiung Harbor – near the fishing fleet for lunch and some delicious sushi. And then on to Garry’s 80 Pilothouse, which is already in the water at the Harbor. The Taiwanese government is very supportive of the Yacht building industry and has provided manufacturers with this pier and a lift for testing purposes. Another great thing is that Kha Shing was awarded the contract to operate the lift and control the scheduling for all of the builders. What does that mean?? It means we go first!!
After a cursory visit to the boat, the effects of my long journey hit home. Take me to the hotel! A beautiful view of the Love River, an early dinner, and lights out.
The next morning, Mack and Alan picked me up at the hotel and we were off to the Taiwanese version of Starbucks on the street corner for a kick start. (Lots of Starbucks there, not to worry)
Afterwords, more of the same for us on P.O. review for the 76s at Kha Shing. In the afternoon, we were set for a mini trial of the 80 as CAT and ABT technicians made a few final adjustments. This was exciting for me, as we were going to run the ABT “at rest” stabilizers. New technologies that make yachting even easier and more comfortable never seem to stop coming. More importantly, the “at rest” system is of great import for Garry’s wife. This is Offshore’s first install of the system, and the key requirement to run the system is that you must have a generator running. While in Kaohsiung Harbor, we shut down the mains and tested the system. My concern was with fin and motor noise and whether the cost/benefit ratio be met. The results on both counts. We still had to check the efficacy the following day in open water, but the pretest was a success. One less concern..
Off to dinner with Alan for Japanese cuisine. Bueno! From there, we went to Kaohsiung Airport to pick up a somewhat bleary eyed Garry arriving from Dallas. Phil arrived shortly thereafter. We arranged to have a breakfast meeting. Nothing wrong with the breakfast buffet – you can have good ole bacon and eggs or an omelet, or one of many Asian styles. I am usually good for three plates worth. Not concerned about dieting in Taiwan. Hotel view for Garry pretty awesome!
Garry seemed to have plenty of sleep, but I think the anticipation of seeing his new nautical beauty in the flesh, as it were, provided most of his energy. Off to the dock we went for our 9:00 AM sea trial in the Taiwan Strait. As we drove up the street, seeing the boat in the distance you could feel the excitement. What a great thing to share. Garry seeing his 40 year dream becoming a reality. With each step, his grin just kept growing, and I’m thinking, “How cool is this?” That moment made the long trip worth it!
We went aboard, and we were not alone. Technicians from CAT, ABT, etc… were all around us, maybe 20 plus people. After a few minutes of Garry taking in his gorgeous new boat, we pushed off the dock into the bustling Kaohsiung Harbor. This is fascinating, as I am reminded that the movement of containers, heavy lift ships, and all the activity and commerce in international ports is what makes the world go round.
After much preparation of paperwork, a manifest of each crew member, passports, etc., the Coast Guard was the required first stop on the itinerary so they could greenlight us for the sea trial. It was my understanding that the authorities would board and check all IDs. The firing range for the military is on the premises and was very active with the staccato of gunfire, so I am thinking – let’s do whatever they ask. The officer in charge approached the dock, taking in the twenty or so crew in their company green shirts, and seemed to be weighing whether to check IDs or go back to the office for his morning coffee and donut. The coffee must be good, because with a wave of his hand we were off to the Taiwan Strait for our test.
Conditions were great for a real test. About 15 knots of wind, a bit of chop and a mixed-up 3 to 5’ sea. We put her through the paces. CAT required tests at certain RPM intervals and ran at each for about three to four minutes, both down swell and heading into it. We topped out at just over 20 knots and easily achieved our performance parameters. Garry and Phil were delighted by the lack of vibration or noise, not one door rattle or drawer squeaking and all the joints, gaps edges, corners and sole flooring were meticulously fitted. Remember they are no “soft” furnishings yet so, no padding or carpet, no blinds or curtains, bedding or seating to deaden any untoward sounds. The boat was tracking down swell extremely well, and I was anxious for the opportunity to assess the “at rest” system. We had an opportunity to do so on a pause after a following sea trek.
We put her in the trough, and by turning off the ABT stabilizers got her rolling pretty good, I got my video ready and the captain engaged the system. After about three rolls, the brains of the system figured out the rolling moment and made its adjustments to curb it. The boat settled in nicely with minimal roll and you could visually see it even on camera. Garry was very pleased, as this would make for a “Happy wife, and happy life”.
We also enjoyed the moment that Garry tested his Kahlenberg horns. They work!! For the second test, all were pre-warned and we had our fingers in the ears to protect the drums.
For the final test, we dropped the hooks, set both, and retrieved them. All OK. Garry was so happy with his yacht that he made sure he shook hands with the entire working trial team.
After about three hours on the water, we were back at the pier, just in time to have a fun lunch. If you ever visit, Alan is great at ordering the local fare. He chooses items that are exotic enough that folks from the States aren’t likely to have seen or tasted before, but not so exotic that they we won’t try it.
That evening, Wendy, the administrative assistant, arranged for an amazing dinner at the Ambassador Hotel. We had Peking Duck, which must be pre-ordered. The chef brings it to the table and carves it up masterfully. First taste, crispy duck skin with a thin, sugared lemon wedge on top – marvelous. A great way to start the meal, and it just continued on and on with delicious flavors through eight plus courses.
In the end, about 90% of Alan’s selections were really good. Only one dish the entire trip caught me off guard – I liked it and was preparing for a second bite – until Alan told me what it was. No Mas!! Bu Hau!! (no good) If you make the trip, I’ll tell you what it was after your first taste!!
We celebrated that evening with Garry authorizing his acceptance of vessel. A great day!!
An unexpected bit of excitement was in store for us on this day. We headed back down to the boat to review a few more details. We test fitted a template of the new yacht’s name, “Let it Bee,” on the transom and talked about commissioning activities coming up in Fort Lauderdale. After yet another great tasting lunch in a street corner restaurant (wonderful vegetables in a terrific broth) we were back to the boat again. She was coming out of the water to be made ready for shipment in the next couple of days. We were able to witness the lift as she was loaded (sitting in her purpose built cradle) onto the flat bed. Her transport ship was scheduled to arrive in a couple of days and she would be trucked to the ship and loaded for her trip to Port Everglades. Great fun and a good way to cap it all off. I headed back home that night.
Garry and Phil stayed a few more days, and headed off to the southern coast of Taiwan to get out of the big city, and witness some of the beautiful beaches and coastline resorts. I have never had the privilege of doing this, but plan on carving out a day or two on the next trip to do so. All in all, this is quite an adventure. Keep in mind you could visit other areas of Taiwan like a previous client did, Or; say “Hello” to your boat and head off to Hong Kong or Bali. Sounds pretty good to me, and certainly a trip worth considering.
If it’s me and my boat, I would be all in!!