Mon, Feb 06, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Old Chinese-style sailboat returns to Taiwan from US

Staff Writer, with CNA

The boat “Free China,” which was the first traditional Chinese vessel to cross the Pacific Ocean in 1955, is seen in an undated photo.

Photo courtesy of Chen Ling-li

A Chinese-style wooden sailboat will soon return to Taiwan for the first time since it made a historic trans-Pacific journey to the US 57 years ago, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Wen-yen (邱文彥) said yesterday.

The boat, Free China (自由中國), which was built and launched in Keelung in 1890, was found abandoned in San Francisco in 2009. Taiwanese boat enthusiasts wrote to then--premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), telling him that the vessel was about to be dismantled, Chiu said.

Free China left Keelung Port in April 1955 to take part in a sailing competition in the US, but missed the race because of its lack of modern equipment and storms along the way. It arrived in San Francisco in August that year.

The boat was donated to a US museum after the journey, but later ended up in a private shipyard, where it was found in 2009.

The Taiwanese government’s decision to ship the vessel back was announced in November last year by Chiu, who was part of a team sent by Liu to assess the boat’s value as a cultural asset.

Chiu said ownership of the boat has been transferred to the government, and the estimated NT$7 million (US$237,360) needed to bring the vessel back has been secured.

Apart from its historical value, the vessel can help shed more light on ancient boat-building techniques and can be of benefit to archeological studies on shipwrecks, Chiu said.

Free China is set to return to Taiwan this year once the details have been sorted out, Chiu said, adding that he hopes it can be unveiled on the World Ocean Day on June 8, or the Taiwan’s Maritime Day on July 11.

The boat will be on display outdoors at the National Museum of Marine Science and Technology in Keelung, Chiu said.

More money will be needed to fund an indoor display in order to protect the boat from damage by natural elements, he said.

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