Comparing Shelter Cove with Middle Island rowing is a little like comparing American humour with British jokes... one is often subtly funny, the other frequently raunchy.
Middle Island is pretty much guaranteed to be traffic free, has some nice long ‘lanes’ with little chance of big wakes until the meeting at the East Lamma channel (assuming ocean rowing). Shelter Cove however, especially for the ocean boats, presents some interesting and often formidable water: frequent wake from ...well, wake boats.. luxury vessels from Hong Kong Marina and of course the confluence of sailing and stink boats from Hebe and Marina Cove. Considering there’s a 4kts speed limit inside the cardinal buoy and tamer water beyond Trio beach, boats will often power up with little consideration to dinghies, sailboats, paddle boards and kayaks. So, what’s the real rowing attraction in that Hebe Haven bowl..? Given the new norm of midday traffic, even on weekdays, the secret is to pick the early hours or dusk for a choice row. Mirror calm waters right up to Trio are pretty much usual, leading to choppier tops towards Shelter Island and it’s there that the Ocean boats can really have fun and a solid workout.
What I might call .. the ‘Hanselman route’, takes shape from launching off the clean slip at Shelter then through the moorings to the channel markers. From there it’s straight out past the myriad of mostly moored yachts, the scout camp where a wild pig, barking deer or even a swimming python might be seen, then out onto more open water. The Trio ferries from Pak Sha Wan pier will cross your route (but generally they stay well behaved). At mid channel, Shelter Island becomes the dominant horizon and it’s to its left side and The Cows Tail you need to aim. This is a reef system that often shows some interesting manners with even 10kts of wind. A bit of surf, (big and surfboard visited in typhoons) and an excellent point to begin rounding the Island to the south, onto Little Palm beach, past Pik Sha and Clearwater Bay, then backtrack to Shelter. The water here ‘changes shape’ frequently making it a fine stretch for ocean work and developing good oar technique. Flying mullet, even the odd breaching rays are not unusual sights and then coupling the geology of the route to this row can make this gig a fab day out.
Currently, little rowing exists in these waters, other than local hire boats out for a day’s line fishing but skiff and outrigger paddling is starting to become more popular. Despite pushing HHYC to wet their oars with an Ocean 4, little movement has yet to be seen but with a more visible rowing profile from the Club at Shelter one would hope that the competitive spirit inter-club can be encouraged and the start of an extension to Middle Island rowing may very well be seen.
Clean blades and wet bows!
Words: Stuart Pryke
Image: Ben Rowe