Disconnecting on the South China Sea

We needed to scale down, disconnect, and escape.
By Beau Flemister


We drift away toward the hazy fingers of the Ninepin Islands in search of fishing and diving spots but instead discover perfect ledges and inverted lines above water. 

The old harbor town of Sai Kung outside of the city in Hong Kong’s New Territories province radiates violently, even at mid-morning. It’s been about an hour since the bus dropped us off and everyone seemed to scatter like cockroaches in search of trip supplies or other immediate necessities. Beer. Breakfast. Water. Beer. Another tent. Illegal makeshift Hawaiian slings. Another sleeping pad. Beer. But when we finally all make it to the charter boat floating like an aquatic getaway car on the last concrete pier — we knew we were in the right place.

Young Mikey C looks at us seriously as we arrange the last bag of gear and palette of Tsingtao and says to us all, he himself also dripping with sweat: “Prepare to disconnect. Any service will be patchy near the islands.” Prepare to disconnect. The message echoes within our collective chest cavities like a Gregorian chant. Like a Tibetan mantra. Like a Communist anthem. Like a haiku spotted in the cumulonimbus clouds from the top of a distant snowy peak.

“Now that’s what I like to hear,” smiles Jamie, peeling away a drenched shirt to hang off the starboard railing.

So we drift away from Sai Kung toward the hazy fingers of the Ninepin Islands, snoozing on the horizon. It’s nearly noon now, so we all crack open celebratory departure beers, rotating the warm ones back into the icebox. It’s been five minutes since we left and although we all know those beers won’t last longer than the first day of this three-day jaunt, some things are better left unsaid.

We had to get out of Kowloon, if only for a few days. There were too many lights, too many roads, too many buildings, too many options — too galore. We needed to scale down, disconnect and escape. We needed to set up camp.

The captain appears on the main deck, introduces himself, and I wonder who’s at the helm at the moment. His name is Sun, a small wiry Cantonese man who could be either 45 or 75, it’s very hard to tell. Captain Sun is always: barefoot, in black overall shorts with a crisp white tee, wearing high fashion sunglasses over a permanently bronzed face. He speaks no English, smiles often and looks like he’s rarely if ever stepped foot on dry land. We are instant soul-mates with the man.

Not far off one of the Ninepins both Elvis, Rod and Jerry get in a skiff to fish while the rest of us do backflips and gainers off the upper canopy into the warm, translucent South China Sea. I see Parker standing pensively with his heels off the rail, getting his stance right. “I’ve actually never done a backflip before,” he laughs, nervously. Ivah hops over him while he adjusts his feet and then Parker giving it a go landing perfectly. “It took me 22 years to do that?” he shouts from the water.

We motor around the small vacant islands looking for some good fishing and diving spots but instead discover perfect perches and ledges above deep water. Mother fucking jump rocks. We proceed to explore the low cliffs and volcanic rhyolite columns finding one inviting cove with a tight, deep landing. Ivah immediately puts his heels over, not giving it a second thought and launches backwards stylishly.

Lazing in the cove, we marvel at an afternoon where all we really needed to do was jump off some rocks into the sea. It was the opposite of galore. Or maybe it wasn’t. It was a soul galore.