Mon, Jul 21, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Coast Guard wants Taiwan to `Befriend the Sea'

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Over 1,200 people swam across the Tamsui River mouth -- the first in a series of activities entitled "Befriend the Sea" being held by the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) for the purpose of bringing the public closer to the sea.

Tamsui River authorities used to ban swimming because of heavy pollution, but conditions have improved measurably due to enhanced waste-water treatment.

One CGA official said the last time he swam in the Tamsui River, it was dirty and smelled bad. He even implied that the river made him ill.

"I got a skin disease afterwards. That was a painful experience," the official said.

"The river is much cleaner now. That's why we endeavor to invite people to swim across the river," he said.

Twenty-three persons with disabilities, unaided, also completed the 800m swim yesterday.

Sixty-eight-year-old CGA director Wang Chun (王郡) lived up to the challenge, but he was not the most senior among the 1,200 people who crossed the Tamsui River. There were a few septuagenarians and one 80-year-old as well.

After yesterday's swimming event across the Tamsui River, the CGA will launch over ten aquatic Befriend-the-Sea activities over the next two months.

Befriend the Sea activities includes a long-distance swim from Kinmen island to Chinshan township, Taipei County, sea-going trips on patrol boats to the country's far-off sea territories and wind-surfing contests.

The CGA will provide as many as 36 boat trips for college teachers and students who are interested in experiencing what it would be like to be a coast guard sailor. The civilians will be dressed in uniforms and serve a very brief tour of duty onboard.

The 36 boat trips include six long-distance ones, which reach the country's furthest territories in the north, northwest and south.

These destinations include Pengchiayu islet in the north, Matsu islands in the northwest and Tungsha island in the south.

The long-distance boat trips will take three days and two nights and are likely to be an exhausting experience for participants.

As a send-off gift to the people at the end of the Befriend the Sea events, the CGA plans to open more coastline areas for leisure activities.

The coastline of the country used to be off-limits to the public, for national security reasons.

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