A historic sailing boat that left Taiwan 57 years ago to embark on a voyage across the Pacific Ocean was brought back yesterday to cheers from an excited crowd that included the boat captain’s brother.
Teddy Chow (周傳鈞), the brother of the boat’s captain at the time, Paul Chow (周傳基), said he never thought the Free China would make it back to Taiwan after all these years.
The wooden sailing vessel was transported back to its home onboard a Yang Ming Marine cargo ship from Oakland, California.
“I really appreciate the help given by everyone- to bring the boat back to Taiwan,” said Teddy Chow, 88, who made a last-minute decision to also return home from Chicago to witness the event.
A retired Beijing Film Academy professor, he also arranged for some of his former students to be at the port to shoot footage for a documentary about the boat’s history.
The 23m long and 5m wide vessel departed from Keelung Port in 1955 on what was the first trans-Pacific voyage by a Chinese sailing boat, heading for San Francisco, California. It was carrying then-US vice consul Calvin Mehlert and five Taiwanese fishermen, three of whom have since passed away.
The boat is believed to be one of the oldest Chinese sailing boats built by ancient methods in existence and the only remaining one to have made the voyage across the Pacific.
It will need extensive renovation after having been abandoned at a private shipyard, before it can be put on display at a marine science museum in Keelung, said Stanley Wang (王壽來), director of the Council for Cultural Affair’s Headquarters Administration of Cultural Heritage.
Wang, who is in charge of the boat preservation project, appeared overcome by emotion as he watched the boat being lowered from the deck of the vessel that brought it back from the US.
He said he “felt like crying” when he touched the derelict sailing boat and thought of all the difficulties encountered over the past three years to get it back to Taiwan.
The voyage in 1955 represented the adventurous spirit of the nation, Wang said.
The boat’s return “not only signifies its value, but also embodies the history, culture and spirit of Taiwan,” he added.
The three surviving crew members and the relatives of the other two members are expected to attend a grand welcoming ceremony on July 11 in Keelung, said Lwo Lwun-syin (羅綸新), director of the preservation evaluation program for the boat.