Weybank – fog in Hong Kong harbour – a true account with illustration!

How it might have looked!

The Weybank‘s opening scene commenced as we approached Hongkong Island from the south between Cheung Chau Island and Ap Liu Chan (Lama Island) and picked up a pilot. Our troubles started when we soon ran into thick pea-soup fog. Apart from having a pilot aboard we had our radar running as we slowly turned east into the strait known loosely as Victoria Harbour. We were moving at „slow-ahead“/“half-ahead“ intermittent speeds and keeping our eyes glued not only outside but on the radar screen. On the radar we could pick out vessels (steel targets) moored at bouys in the harbour but small vessels such as junks, being built from wood and therefore bad radar beam reflectors were another story. We could pick out the larger cargo junks but smaller ones would only appear as a smudge with luck on the radar screen with every two or three revolutions of the radar antenna. I was standing on the bridge half-asleep staring ahead like all the rest of us into the soup, almost drowsing off until the next blast from our fog horn would cause me to jump out of my skin before slowly drowsing off again. Suddenly, all hell broke loose, „F…, F…, What the F…!“. I and all the others in the wheelhouse saw hard on our port bow a red/orange flash of colour rise up above the f‘ocsle. A junk had cut across our bow but with our slow speed we didn‘t just slice through her. Our bow rose up on contact and with our weight pushed her down as we went over her. We had hit her close to her bow section and this caused about two thirds of the rest of her hull on our port side to rise and twist out of the water smashing her hull, masts and sails against us in the process. We all ran to the port bridge wing just in time to see the crumpled wreckage scrape down the length of our hull before being given a final farewell whack from our propellor. I can‘t remember seeing any of the junk‘s crew, not even any that might have jumped or been thrown into the water but I remember to this day seeing the wreckage disappear aft into the fog surrounding us. We were in territorial HK waters and therefore by law not permitted to transmit in MF or HF. The question of sending an SOS or XXX type of signal however never arose. We were in VHF contact with the pilot station.The pilot picked up the VHF handset, did his thing and then we continued on our way. No „Stop Engines“ or any other such command. To be pragmatic about it, it was a sensible decision. Stop engines and become unmaneuverable in the middle of Victoria Harbour in thick fog? A no brainer! I still though to this day wonder if anyone in the HK harbour authority bothered to try to locate the wreckage/possible survivors or if they just took the stance „ one f…… junk less“. 
We crept along our way until we somehow reached our delegated mooring buoy where a couple of small sampan boats were waiting (who needs radar on a sampan?) to pick up our mooring lines. The fog didn‘t lift for the rest of the day, our gloomy introduction to HK”.


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