Vivian McGrath tell us what the Super Typhoon shows us about our relationships.


I’ve lived through many dramatic typhoons in my combined 11 years living in Hong Kong but never a Super Typhoon, heading directly our way, which had just decimated parts of the Philippines.   

Not to mention, we live on a boat!

There was an eery calm before the storm, the bluest skies we’d had in ages, the waters still. My husband Trevor and I sipped on a Gin & Tonic wondering if we were crazy planning to stay on board. Hong Kong has its origins as a safe harbour…but my safe haven is with him.

My husband of thirty years and I battened down hatches and braced ourselves.

That night we slept soundly, despite the winds starting to pick up around us. By 4am I thought: Typhoon Mangkhut has been kind to us.  I mistakenly thought this was the time the worst was supposed to come. Boy, I was wrong.

Mangkhut hit us with full force hours later, with massive winds howling directly onto us. Each gust of around 175km/h sent yachts sideways on a 45 degree angle. One mast snapped.  A roof tore off a wooden junk nearby, furniture from other boats flew into the water and debris was floating everywhere. We prayed our mooring lines fore and aft held firm. I have never felt the power of Mother Nature like that in my life.  

Then disaster struck. The only thing protecting our boat from the Houseboat (or Junk) next to us was a speedboat wedged between us with fenders around it (like balloons). It’s rope snapped, sending it loose and away our buffer had gone.  Then the junk’s mooring line at the back snapped too. The wind direction turned and this boat came flying towards us with all its weight.

One corner started ramming us hard. With each gust of wind and huge bang, the wall bulged inwards and there was a loud crack. The boat tore along the side like a can opener.  If this side blows open we’re going to sink’, I thought.

Trevor threw a life jacket on me and without much discussion we went into action. I took one fender and held it out the window every time the ramrod corner of the Junk came towards me. I felt the weight of the boat as it came surging on the wind from 6 metres away towards me. The fender almost burst each time and I thought the weight of it would crush the wall in. But managed to stop some of the damage. Wherever it hit out of my reach, however, it tore another piece out of the side of our boat and then started cracking the structure of the wall itself.    

Trevor was desperately trying to secure our boat to this one to stop it slamming us, but the winds were so strong the rope just snapped. Then the storm surge broke the typhoon shelter wall.  

A wall of water, metres high, carried the boat more forcefully into us. Crack, crack, crack. Meanwhile, the speedboat would at times wedge sideways between us and the engine propeller cut into our hull. We were terrified it would gauge a hole and sink us. This went on for hours and hours.  

Trevor eventually managed to climb up to our rooftop, despite the turbo winds. With superhuman strength, he managed to lower a mattress down to absorb the blows of the junk’s lethal ramrod corner. It worked. Around the same time the wind changed and sent the boat in the opposite direction.   We opened a beer and collapsed with exhaustion. As the adrenaline wore off, I started shaking and only then realised how wet and cold I was.  

We survived what was one of the most devastating typhoons to ever hit Hong Kong. The next morning Trevor remarked on what an incredible team we made. We were and saved our boat from way more serious damage than it might have sustained. Others’ boats sank, or broke their moorings and floated away.

It brought me back to my thought the day before. We weathered the storm. We’ve weathered many storms in our years together. The way we’ve survived every one of them is to face adversity with calmness.

One such time was when the global financial crash happened and we almost lost everything. I had to close my dream TV production company in London down and was left with some debt. At the same time, Trevor was told he had to go to Shanghai or face losing his job. We had to live two years apart to keep our sons in schools and not foreclose on our mortgage. It was a tough couple of years.    

When I broke down one day, missing him and struggling to cope, Trevor said: ‘Life’s a marathon not a sprint darling. Sometimes you hit the wall at Mile 18. You just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll eventually hit the finish line’. That’s what we did.  

Our philosophy in life now is to keep calm and carry on. Life can be an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes life is hard and times may test even the strongest of relationships.  The most important thing is that you can work together as a team. You need to be on the same side to weather the fiercest of storms. If so, the sun will come back out again in time. If not and you’re not working together in each other’s best interests, then life’s too short.

Trevor and I now look after each other, let go and trust, what is meant to be will be. We can weather whatever together. Although we didn’t realise it at the time, when we look back at some of our darkest times, they turned out to be the sliding door moments that lead to some of our finest hours.

It sounds crazy I know, given the harrowing 24 hours we’ve just endured. But the sun came out again and we’ve survived yet another ordeal together. We kept calm in the face of adversity and carried on.