Loading
Dec 15

The Princess Tai Ping Crosses the Pacific Ocean

Written by Steve on Monday, December 15th, 2008 at 8:26 pm
Filed under:culture, education, Environment, technology |
Add comments

And now for something completely different!

After sailing across the Pacific Ocean in a 15th century Chinese junk, Captain Nelson Liu and his crew of seven on the Princess Tai Ping spent their last few days at the San Diego Maritime Museum before making their way to Hawaii and eventually back to Japan and Taipei.

The 54 foot, 35 ton Fujian style warship, built and launched from Xiamen using the same materials as their ancestors, is following the conjectured route of 15th century Chinese admiral Zheng He who, according to some theories, may have arrived on the North American West Coast long before Cabrillo.


The voyage across the Pacific took 69 days along a route following the easterly trade winds north of the Hawaiian Islands. Though they had planned to make landfall in Seattle, a wild storm pushed them further south to Eureka and from there to San Francisco. From there they sailed south to San Diego where I had a chance to see the ship and visit with the crew.

The crew, a mix of Taiwanese and Chinese along with one American, showed a warm hospitality to visitors, taking them onboard and explaining the workings of the vessel.

Captain Liu, who is from Taipei, said that most of the crew had never sailed before, but it wasn’t an issue since no one has experience sailing a 15th Century junk! He had a calm personality and it was easy to see that he would be a joy to sail with; no Captain Bligh here! The ship behaved quite well as it sailed with the wind, though he found that if the starboard gunwale was a bit higher, they would have taken in considerably less seawater. I asked about sailing into the wind, since those ancient Chinese junks had that capability long before the European vessels. He said the way they rigged the sails wasn’t ideal for tacking, and he would have configured it differently based on their experience.

The Princess Tai Ping is quite small; about the size of a bus. Captain Liu believes the size of Admiral Zheng He’s vessels was similar to this vessel, and not the behemoths some have described. You can see bamboo poles stored horizontally next to the mainmast. These are spares in case of breakage; seven were needed on the voyage east.

As you can see, the living quarters are very cramped, yet the crew got along well. After talking with several crew members, I could understand why. They were all very kind, intelligent and understood the historic value of their quest. Unfortunately, one of the women in the crew, though holding up her end, was seasick on the entire voyage so they were looking for a replacement in San Diego for the return home. Too bad I couldn’t take five months off!

Both China and Taiwan share a seafaring history. Sailing together helped illustrate to me what can happen when politics takes a back seat and newfound friends come together in scientific discovery.


There are currently no comments highlighted.

30 Responses to “The Princess Tai Ping Crosses the Pacific Ocean”

  1. admin Says:

    Hi, Steve,

    Welcome back and nice post!

    I am a little puzzled by the estimation of the size of Zheng He’s ships. It is quite possible that his vessels were not the behemoths some have envisioned, but according to Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zheng_He ), the length of many of the ships has been estimated at 59 m (200 feet) by modern scholars. That would be several times larger than Cpt. Liu’s junk.

  2. Steve Says:

    admin, that is true. When I was in Danshui, Taiwan, there was a museum that had models of Zheng He’s ships and they were enormous, almost as large as the English dreadnoughts of the early 20th century, but apparently there is no proof of that size. Captain Liu seemed to think 59 meters was an exaggeration based on the style of ship and how it would sail. I hadn’t heard that theory before and that is why I mentioned it. I find it hard to believe that ships this small could have had such an effect on those they came in contact with, even if the fleet was composed of several hundred ships.

    I found it interesting when reading about Zheng He (also called San Bao, where the name Sinbad ‘the sailor’ comes from) that when his fleet arrived at Sri Lanka, they found the northern tribes at war with the southern ones, no different than today. He imposed a peace that lasted for awhile but eventually came apart. Some things never change…

  3. Allen Says:

    @Steve,

    You wrote:

    The crew, a mix of Taiwanese and Chinese along with one American, showed a warm hospitality to visitors, taking them onboard and explaining the workings of the vessel.

    tsk, tsk tsk… not very politically correct use of ethnicity/nationality (i.e. Chinese v. Taiwanese).

    But you’re excused – since I’m assuming you are still jet lagged and all! 😉

    P.S. nice post by the eway…

  4. Steve Says:

    @Allen, I was speaking culturally, of course!! 😛

    BTW, when do we find out all about your trip? Seems you were going to some pretty interesting and exotic locales… and you made it back alive, ha ha!

  5. HongKonger Says:

    Very nice post Steve. Thanks !

    Coincidentally, I recently wrote a song and “We’re sailing back to Simpli – City,
    Would you bail or sail with me?” is a lyrical line on the repeated chorus of my song.
    I have never actually had the pleasure to sail the high sea, so I dunno why these words
    came to me at the time. Perhaps the spirit of San Bao /Sinbad happened to pass by at that moment. Spooky huh?
    🙂

  6. Steve Says:

    Hongkonger, there can only be one explanation… you must be the reincarnation of Mazu’s father! 😀

    My dad had a 22 foot MacGregor sailboat docked on the Hudson River just north of New York City when I was growing up, so I’ve sailed a lot in littoral waters, but never in the open ocean. Because I had some knowledge of sailing, I was probably able to ask Captain Liu more pointed questions than most reporters. These days, the only sailing I do is occasionally rent a Prindle 19 catamaran along with a friend on Mission Bay and when we’re done, just hand it back. Unfortunately, owning a sailboat is like having your wallet marry a black hole.

    I was sorely tempted to ask if I could join them but if I had, I think my wife would have waterboarded me. 🙁

  7. george Says:

    such a similar story to this one:

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gzlL53kkUA6ej7iEpWojoZf0yMLgD952L7PO0

  8. Father Christmas! Says:

    Isn’t ‘Chinese’ the common term for citizens of the PRC and ‘Taiwanese’ the common term for citizens of the ROC? And yes, in different contexts both terms can have different meanings.

    I’m confused. . .

  9. HongKonger Says:

    ” I was sorely tempted to ask if I could join them but if I had, I think my wife would have waterboarded me. ”

    Oh, Steve, haven’t you heard, haven’t you read, your current VP, Cheney approves of waterboarding? You know, the same guy who almost shot his buddy’s head off during a goose hunt.

  10. HongKonger Says:

    HK’s typhoon storm shelters for chinese fishing boats and junks in Aberdeen and Causeway bay used to be populated and popular slums catering wonderful fresh seafood – what we called the poor man’s floating restaurants – They are all gone now along with (unsightly) streetside hawkers which served the best HK style tea and coffee etc….. Rumor has it that there are plans to bring them back. Who knows, with the global economic disaster, some of the enterprising poor folks and fishermen may revert to the simple tried and tested basic forms of making a living – as long as the gov’t get out of their ways or better still, lend them a helping hand.

  11. TonyP4 Says:

    Zheng He could be the greatest navigator in his time. History does not give him the credit he deserves. Unfortunately most official records were destroyed due to superstition by the Ming court.

    Officially, he traveled to SE Asia and Africa with a lot of artifacts that I saw some in my SE Asia trip last year. The sizes of the ships could not be that big, but far larger than Columbus’s.

    Unofficially he or his crew could sail to Australia and America. They had the technology that were possible to do so and were far superior than the west. The fleet was very organized. It was rumored that Columbus used the map by Zheng He.

    It is possible that the abandoned ships of Zheng’s fleet could travel and discovered America. For the joke (please do not argue with me on jokes), the Chinese cook in Colombo’s ship saw America for the first time and said in Taishanese, “Ah Mud Li Ka (roughly translated as “what is this?”, and that’s why it is called America. 🙂

    Chinese history could change for the better if Zheng He went to Europe and saw the more advanced civilization. At that time, Chinese did not think they need to learn anything from outside (salvages in their term).

    Chinese tradition is not to colonize new land and load all the treasures. They did ask the countries like Ethiopia to send them treasures every year. It is for the “face”. In return, they sent them treasures too. There is one reason for the fleet to exchange treasures and the envoys.

  12. Steve Says:

    @Father Christmas!: Don’t be confused, Allen was just welcoming me back with a little dig, since he is deep, dark blue, as they say in Taiwan, and knows my wife is light green. 🙂

    @Hongkonger: Oh, you have seriously misrepresented our VP!! He wasn’t shooting at geese, which would have actually required some skill, but quail; small birds that run quickly and don’t fly very high. I believe they had beaters to rouse the quail so they’d fly up out of the grass. These weren’t even wild quail, they were domestic! So in order to shoot your buddy in the face, you’d need to be incredibly incompetent… uh huh!

    I hadn’t realized the junks were no longer in Causeway Bay. They were used as backdrops for movies shot there; usually the good guys running from boat to boat to evade the bad guys. I’m with you; I hope they come back. I think when you sanitize a city too much it loses its charm; which is the main reason I would not want to live in Singapore. I like it a little crazy…

  13. HongKonger Says:

    Steven #12

    ::LMAO:: So it was quails and not geese, huh? A thousand apologies for spreading anti-west disinformation 😉 Good thing Cheney had the presence of mind to pull-off in time and saved his friend from losing his face, which, in the west – is not a thing .(Disinformation II)

    Talking about glory days, glory days…Bruce Sprinsteen.

    http://www.pbase.com/anubis_photo/image/25855247

  14. Ted Says:

    @Steve #12: “So in order to shoot your buddy in the face, you’d need to be incredibly incompetent… uh huh!”

    Hmmm… Trigger-happy without respect for environment or consequence… he couldn’t have provided a better analogy for the past eight years. Welcome back 🙂

  15. Richard Karl Says:

    The book, The Junks & Sampans of the Yangtze, by C.R.G. Worcester, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Md. 1971, includes a Shaoxing chuan (he calls it a Hangchow Bay Trader) 60 to 85 feet by 20 feet and a Foochow pole junk for transporting timber (Hua P’i Ku) which he says range in size from 60 by 22 to 180 by 28 feet.

    Worcester was a river inspector in the Chinese Maritime Customs Service for 30 years, who includes sketches and descriptions, plus plans and measurements. I believe he actually measured many of the craft. The book cited above is a reprint of his four volume works published betweem 1940 and 1948 in Shanghai, “by order of the Inspector General of Customs” of the above-mentioned service.

    I am in Seattle, and would love to have seen the Taiping.

    There is a Chinese trader which looks like a Hangchow Bay trader to me, in the National Maritime Museum in Mokpo, Korea, which has been raised and the hull partially reassembled. I think it is from the Ming dynasty. It is very large and carried an enormous cargo (to a landlubber), part of which is also on display. I can’t recommend the museum highly enough, if a person is interested in old watercraft.

    Zheng He’s fleet very likely included ships up to 200 feet in length.

  16. Steve Says:

    @ Richard Karl: Thanks for that information. I had read that Zheng He’s largest ships were enormous compared to European ships of that time, and had seen a model featuring that same style of ship in northern Taiwan. For me, the most interesting design aspect was the sail layout, but apparently no one knows exactly just how the rigging was set up. I believe the records of all seven voyages were destroyed when the Ming dynasty turned inward after Zheng He’s death and the reign of the new emperor.

    I’ve been to Korea several times but never heard of Mokpo. Where is that located?

  17. admin Says:

    Sailing junk on quest for record sinks off Suao, all crew safe
    http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=931114&lang=eng_news

  18. Richard Karl Says:

    http://mokpo.info see “national maritime museum.” There is a map at the bottom of the page.

    I guess I remembered incorrectly– says it is a Yuan dynasty junk (even older!). They also have a yet older korean trader, too.

    Worcester’s book is exhaustive on rigging/sails, too. Almost exclusively Chinese (battened) lug sails.. one or two spritsails in the bunch. I am not a sailor, but I did make one for my canoe. It works but it scared me to death.. and I recall reading one time about a western sailor observing Chinese junks (in the hands of experts) “splitting tacks with (someone)…” in Hongkong’s harbor. This exhausts my knowledge of things nautical..

  19. Richard Karl Says:

    http://mokpo.info
    see the National Maritime museum. Map locating Mokpo at bottom of webpage.

    The site refers to the junk as from the Yuan dynasty. So much for my memory. But it is big, as well as yet older, so it would have been available as a type.

    Worcester’s book is extensive on rigging/sails as well. Most were Chinese (battened) lug sails..one or two spritsails in the bunch.

    I am not a sailor. I did make a battened lug sail for my canoe. Haven’t used it that much– the canoe is pretty tender, but it does tack, with a leeboard. I remember reading a couple of different things–one had a westerner in HK harbor observing junks (which used leeboards too) “splitting tacks with..(european boats?).” I also recall an Engish sailor named Blondie Hasseler (?) who experimented with chinese lugsails back in the day, and Tom Colvin in the US built boats with lugsails on the Chesapeake in the 1960’s and later. I think Colvin said they tacked very well, although it didn’t look like they were.

  20. Richard Karl Says:

    @Steve #16 Google National Maritime Museum, Mokpo, Korea. One of the cites (exhibit 2) shows the Yuan dynasty trader. Indeed it is reported as 34 meters long– landlubber that I am it looked huge to me when I visited there.

    Worcester’s book is heavy on sails and rigging, i.a. Most of the sails are (battened) Chinese lugsails. They are capable of tacking, if not pointing too close to the wind. I am not a sailor, but my wife sewed a Chinese style lugsail for me for my canoe. The canoe is not all that stable, but with a leeboard I could tack, and with a not too stiff wind it really moved. Scared me to death, anyway.

    When I was looking into making the Chinese lugsail, I read about a Blondie Hassler (?) in England who experimented with them (for singlehanded boats) and Tom Colvin built boats on the Chesapeake Bay in the 1960s and later. He said they tacked well, even if it didn’t look like they were.

    That’s my entire knowledge base on the subject.

    Mokpo is a port city on the extreme Southwest of Korea.

  21. Steve Says:

    @Richard Karl: Thanks for the info. The closest I’ve been to Mokpo was Jeonju on business, but we drove down from Seoul and then back that evening. It looks like a very interesting city. I hadn’t heard about that Korean naval victory before; pretty impressive.

    You hit upon one of my first questions to Captain Liu on the Princess Taiping; how well he was able to tack. I’ve always been fascinated by the Chinese being able to sail into the wind centuries before the Europeans. But his rig setup didn’t allow him to try it, along with the fact that they sailed with the wind both to and from North America. As you mentioned, I was curious how close to the wind he could actually tack. What was also interesting to me was that though the wind was coming from leeward, he was taking in water on the starboard side above the main cabin. I would have liked to have seen that in person.

    He did admit he would have set up his rigging differently if given the opportunity to use what he had learned on the voyage. Since no one had any experience sailing a junk of this style across an open ocean, they had to use a lot of guesswork before they set out. I guess you can see it was a “Kon Tiki” style adventure, except this time with GPS and better radios. They also learned a lot about what foods to bring along and how much they could rely on fresh fish. I’m hoping they write a book about their experiences and what they learned.

    I’m not sure what if any differences there were in Yuan dynasty ships as compared to early Ming dynasty. I would suspect very little. I’ve read that some of the river ships were huge, and I can’t see how a river ship would be bigger than an oceangoing vessel. But Captain Liu felt that the size of Admiral Zheng He’s ships was exaggerated and that they were not much larger than his junk. Looking back, I should have questioned him in more depth about that point.

    Oh well, live and learn. This was my first “reporting” venture anyway. 🙂

  22. sinbad Says:

    Dear Steve please allow me a few words about your article.

    You write: “Captain Liu, who is from Taipei, said that most of the crew had never sailed before, but it wasn’t an issue since no one has experience sailing a 15th Century junk!”

    Well ‘captain’ Liu and his crew manifested their ‘qualification’ by sinking Princess Tai Ping to the ocean ground near Taiwan. Surely great seamanship, LOL!

    You write: “He had a calm personality and it was easy to see that he would be a joy to sail with”

    Well, why don’t you ask the crew who sailed ‘captain’ Liu on ‘New Era’ (1999-2002) around the globe? I’m certain they, as well as the many guests, would tell you a quite different story, not only about his personality but also regarding his qualification as a skipper.

    Anyhow, even your article is smooth reading but an experienced sailor would have written it differently.

  23. Steve Says:

    @ sinbad: Yes, I also read that they were rammed and capsized while in the waters off Taiwan. However, Captaini Liu WAS an experienced sailor. I talked to the crew while they were in San Diego. I also happen to be an experienced sailor.

    Since you seem to be well informed on their travails, would you care to let us know who in the crew you talked with and what they said about Captain Liu? Were any of the crew lost at sea? Would you care to document your sailing experience?

    Sinbad, frankly I find your comment condescending. You make an accusation with nothing to support what you say. Until you can add more and give all of us some verifiable facts concerning the voyage and the opinions of the crew, you’re just blowing smoke.

    Incidentally, they didn’t sail around the globe, they sailed across the Pacific.

  24. sinbad Says:

    Dear Steve,
    I’m sorry that I assumed that you are not an experienced sailor yourself.
    Based in San Diego I assume? Where 10 knots wind is already a ‘storm’ and a cruise to Catalina Island’s isthmus is an achievement.
    Pleas don’t be offended but I sailed with ‘experienced’ sailors from San Diego who did not like to helm the boat anymore in 35 knots of wind while sailing downwind. I’m sure that there are qualified heavy weather sailors too.

    Beside is sailing in low wind conditions quite challenging as I assume you know. I personally admire Dennis Conner (San Diego Yacht Club) as one, or maybe the best ever light wind sailor.

    But I still wonder that you KNOW that ‘captain’ Liu was/is an experienced sailor.
    How do you know?

    I’m not well informed about ‘captain’ Liu’s travels with ‘Princess Tai-ping’ but know that he did not avoid a commercial ship and is therefore also responsible for the accident, or is there something like ‘right of way’ in the ocean?
    How could that happen to an experienced sailor like ‘captain’ Liu?
    He and none on board had experience to sail an ancient junk. The junk was to my knowledge not equipped with an engine. Was then ‘Princess Tai-ping’ at least equipped with an active radar reflector so that other ships could ‘see’ her since her ability to avoid a collision was restricted? NO, not at all!
    And that you call a responsible and experienced ‘captain’?

    You write: “would you care to let us know who in the crew you talked with and what they said about Captain Liu?”

    That refers only to the circumnavigation with ‘New Era’ in 1999-2002.
    Find out more about ‘captain’ Liu’s sailing achievements before you make any more statements regarding his qualification as ‘captain’!

    You write: “Would you care to document your sailing experience?”

    I don’t think so, since my remarks already speak for them self.

    You write: “Sinbad, frankly I find your comment condescending. You make an accusation with nothing to support what you say. Until you can add more and give all of us some verifiable facts concerning the voyage and the opinions of the crew, you’re just blowing smoke.”

    I’m just responding to the unfounded story you wrote. If you like to find out more, which you should have before writing an opinionating article, you can and should.

    You write: “Incidentally, they didn’t sail around the globe, they sailed across the Pacific.”

    I was referring to the 1999-2002 circumnavigation of ‘New Era’.

    Dear Steve, just stay focused, read comments clearly and don’t accuse a messenger of “blowing smoke”.

    All the best to you and good luck…

  25. Steve Says:

    @ sinbad: Your assumptions are entirely incorrect. I grew up sailing a 22′ MacGregor off the waters of New York/New Jersey, not San Diego. The only sailing I’ve done in San Diego is on 18′ Prindle cats. So you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

    You say that Captain Liu had sailed around the world, yet you also imply he was not an experienced sailor. Isn’t that a contradiction? If he had just sailed this junk across the Pacific when I interviewed him, something that hasn’t been done in recorded history, you don’t think that qualifies him as an experienced captain? What exactly are your qualification guidelines? The New Era was the first Chinese sailboat to circumnavigate the globe and he was its captain.

    Collisions at sea are far more common than you might realize. Your comments indicate to me that you don’t have much if any sailing experience. My conversation with Captain Liu was mostly about sailing; the characteristics of the boat, especially during gales, how the sails were set up, etc. I was curious since this type of boat hadn’t been sailed over long distances in hundreds of years. Since it was supposed to be an exact replica and I was familiar with Zheng He’s voyages, I was curious how the boat performed in certain kinds of weather and how it handled with the wind coming from certain directions. I didn’t talk about this in the article since anyone who hasn’t sailed would have been bored to death.

    You don’t seem to get the point. There isn’t anyone who has experience sailing an ancient junk. That was the purpose of the voyage. And no, a junk doesn’t have an engine. Really, the need to even wonder about it makes me question where you’re coming from. You think they had engines in the 15th century?

    I find it interesting that you didn’t answer either of my questions. Which crew member on either voyage did you talk with about Captain Liu? You did not give me one person or one comment. You gave me a non-answer. So I’ll ask again, exactly who did you interview from any of his crews?

    Then I asked you about your sailing experience. Another non-answer. Every comment you’ve made sounds like your only sailing experience has been on the good ship Google. Oh, maybe you’ve taken out a Sunfish before, but you haven’t mentioned anything that would indicate you sail on a regular basis.

    Per the China Post: “The skipper was asleep when a crew member woke him up and warned of an unknown freighter coming too close to the Princess Taiping. “I contacted the freighter by radio,” Liu went on. “We talked in English and I was told to keep my ship to the starboard side of the freighter,” he added.

    Liu obeyed. Two minutes later, however, the freighter split his vessel. “The only identification I have of the freighter is its christened name, Champion Express,” Liu recalled. The Coast Guard confirmed the Champion Express was off Suao. But it did not stop to look for those thrown overboard, they said.

    “As a matter of fact,” a coast guard lieutenant said, “the Champion Express, which was heading north, stopped only a few minutes, and then continued to sail northwards.” Alerted by the call for help from the Princess Taiping, the air force search and rescue center dispatched helicopters, which located the shipwreck at 5:16 a.m.”

    For people who are not familiar with the voyage of the New Era: “A multitude of people gathered at the Star of the Ocean Plaza with enthusiasm to join the welcoming rally for the homeward voyage of sailboat New Era. The rally symbolic of the merger of Kaohsiung city and harbor was organized by KCG. After two and a half years of sailing, New Era finally returned to Kaohsiung Harbor on May 19. Mayor Hsieh welcomed Captain Nelson Liu and his six crew members received a hero’s welcome by Mayor Hsieh as they completed the dream tour of circling the world. Renowned painter Liu Chi-wei gave his son Captain Liu a big hug as they reunited. With chocked voice, the father said, “You’ve come a long way!”

    “Now that you have set foot on the land, you need a pair of shoes.” Hsieh said as he gave each crew member a pair of shoes. “Kaohsiung citizens are so proud of you!” he continued. Hsieh also shook hands with the boatsmen to extend his warm welcome.

    New Era set sail from Kaohsiung Harbor on December 24, 1998. For the past two and a half years, the odyssey of more than 28,000 nautical miles traversed three oceans, seven seas, and over twenty countries and sixty ports. It is the first Chinese sailboat to have successfully circumnavigated the globe.”

    I don’t have a problem with someone disagreeing with me, since everyone has an opinion but your accusations have nothing to do with opinion. They are distortions of the captain’s sailing experience, distortions about what happened that night, and distortions about my sailing experience which you know nothing about. Maybe you get your kicks writing nonsense and posting it on blogs but if you want to post on this blog, have a higher standard. Back up what you say. Don’t be so quick to make assumptions. If you want to write about sailing, know something about sailing before you do.

  26. sinbad Says:

    Even though I don’t like your slightly aggressive tone and a have to believe that there is no merit in writing you again, I still try one more time.
    But please be so kind and pay attention to what I write this time, will you?

    OK, let’s do it step by step.

    I wrote (entry 22): “Well, why don’t you ask the crew who sailed ‘captain’ Liu on ‘New Era’ (1999-2002) around the globe?”
    Emphasis on: WHO SAILED, who was actually in charge.

    You answered (entry 23): “Incidentally, they didn’t sail around the globe, they sailed across the Pacific.”
    My comment: NONE, just pay attention to what I write.

    You wrote (entry 23): “I also happen to be an experienced sailor.”
    I answered (entry 24): “I’m sorry that I assumed that you are not an experienced sailor yourself. Based in San Diego I assume?”
    My comment: I’m sorry that I was wrong; it was just an assumption since you met ‘captain’ Liu in San Diego.

    You answered (entry 25): “Your assumptions are entirely incorrect. I grew up sailing a 22′ MacGregor off the waters of New York/New Jersey, not San Diego. The only sailing I’ve done in San Diego is on 18′ Prindle cats. So you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”
    My comment: Now I know who you call an experienced sailor. Your last sentence I don’t like to comment.

    You wrote (entry 25): “You say that Captain Liu had sailed around the world, yet you also imply he was not an experienced sailor. Isn’t that a contradiction?”
    My comment: I’m sorry; I did not say that, on the contrary. You again didn’t pay attention.
    Remember, I wrote (entry 22) “The CREW WHO SAILED ‘captain’ Liu around the globe.” Does that say anything to you?

    You wrote (entry 25): “The New Era was the first Chinese sailboat to circumnavigate the globe and he was its captain”.
    My comments: Firstly: ‘New Era’ was registered in Hawaii as ‘Christine’ and sailed with US flag. Hardly the first Chinese sailboat to circumnavigate the globe.
    Secondly: Mr. Liu was in fact the registered master of ‘Christine’ but according to his crew not by merit.
    By the way, there are already several Chinese who claim to be the first circumnavigator.
    Well, I don’t like to go into politics…

    You wrote (entry 25): “If he had just sailed this junk across the Pacific when I interviewed him, something that hasn’t been done in recorded history, you don’t think that qualifies him as an experienced captain?”
    My comment: Maybe, but no necessarily. Unlike you, as it seems, did I not make up y mind, but have many questions.
    Beside is it interesting that you said that no junk in recorded history did sail from China to America. (‘The Americas’ as the USA insist to put it…)
    I agree, since there is no scientific evidence at all that any ancient Chinese sailors ever conquered the Pacific Ocean or even sailed to the American Continent.
    Guess you are smart enough not to believe that a fictional novel like 1421 (Gavin Menzies) is prove they did?
    But was then the whole ‘Princess Tai-ping’ project nothing but a poor joke or do I miss here something?

    By the way, not that I want to belittle Zheng He’s historical achievements but he sailed with his fleet mainly near coast and basically also most of the time downwind. Why?
    Take the three oceans and dived them in north/south parts. Now one has 6 large ocean bodies. In 5 the prevailing winds doesn’t change (roughly speaking) all year around accept in the north Indian Ocean. There does the Monsoon change the prevailing wind direction twice a year. Interesting is that this occurs from east Africa until up to south Japan. With other words the South China Sea is seasonal wind wise part of the north Indian Ocean.
    Zheng He was therefore able to sail from China to Africa (Red Sea) and back mostly downwind while navigating relative near a coast. Never mind.

    You wrote (entry 25): “Collisions at sea are far more common than you might realize. Your comments indicate to me that you don’t have much if any sailing experience.”
    My comment: Yes you are right; collisions at sea do happen, but luckily not that often. You as an experienced sailor (you comment) should know that are those unfortunate situations are governed by the ‘International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.’ Basic rule: No vessel has a right of way! Meaning; BOTH ships have to avoid the collision.
    The second part of your statement I don’t comment.

    You wrote (entry 25): “My conversation with Captain Liu was mostly about sailing; the characteristics of the boat, especially during gales, how the sails were set up, etc. I was curious since this type of boat hadn’t been sailed over long distances in hundreds of years. Since it was supposed to be an exact replica and I was familiar with Zheng He’s voyages, I was curious how the boat performed in certain kinds of weather and how it handled with the wind coming from certain directions.”
    My comment: Your interest of how such ancient junk like ‘Princess Tai-ping’ wound behave in different point of sail and weather/wind conditions is admirable.
    Am I too bold to ask you what you have learned when you talked with ‘captain’ Liu about the sailing performance of ‘Princess Tai-ping’?
    OK, you said that you didn’t like to mention it in your article (you didn’t like to bore the readers…) even though it presumably is the key to understand why ‘Princess Tai-ping’ had so many problems during her voyage.
    Because of her sailing characteristics, her poor pointing ability, her extreem leeway, etc.?!
    Why ‘Princess Tai-ping’ was not able to call Seattle as planed but ended up in Eureka? (Eureka!!!) Why did ‘Princess Tai-ping’ not sail straight from Okinawa to Keelung where she was expected to finish her voyage, but ended up east of Suau?
    And why she was shipwrecked there?
    Check the charts and the weather/wind conditions at the time if you still don’t get my point.

    Anyhow, don’t you at least agree with me that a historic junk like ‘Princess Tai-ping’ is extremely difficult to sail?
    If so, isn’t it then that a responsible, knowledgeable and experienced skipper, as you say ‘captain’ Liu is, should have executed extensive sea trials in various wind/sea conditions before departing China for the Pacific crossing?
    That ‘captain’ Liu didn’t according to my Taiwanese sailing friends.
    According to my understanding is that especially important when considering that
    ‘captain’ Liu was not only responsible for an experienced crew but worse, for enthusiastic but mostly inexperienced people?

    And another question does emerge, at least to me.
    Why nobody who sailed with ‘captain’ Liu before, didn’t join ‘Princess Tai-ping’ on her historical voyage?
    That is especially interesting to me considering the fact that ‘captain’ Liu is portrayed as a sailing hero. It should be then a privilege to sail with such distinguished ‘captain’ again or am I mistaken?

    Please don’t misunderstand me again, there is no excuse for the action (or better the non-action) of the ‘Champion Express’ after the collision happened, considering the available reports are right which I have no reason to doubt.
    But my point here is a different one. I ask myself who could/should have avoided the collision?!
    The commercial ship probably. But there is still the question what could ‘captain’ Liu have done or should have done to avoid the collision. Why did ‘Princess Tai-ping’ not move at least the crucial 20 meters to avoid the collision, which she also was supposed to do by law?
    And then I ask myself, would a truly experienced skipper have allowed himself to be in such a hazardous situation/position in the first place?
    Never mind, I guess that is ‘captain’ Liu’s secret…

    As a matter of fact it is, like it or not, that ‘captain’ Liu didn’t have the knowledge and skill to sail a junk like ‘Princess Tai-ping’ safely and successful. Not to mention that he failed to prove with his project that 15th century Chinese sailors could have sailed across the Pacific Ocean.
    Was it not so that ‘Princess Tai-ping’ needed always ‘towboat’ assistance at every landfall? Remember you enlightened me with the fact that she didn’t have an engine which I in the name of Otto and Diesel can confirm.
    You wrote (entry 25): “And no, a [ancient] junk doesn’t have an engine.”
    Anyhow, our ‘savage’ ancestors could do without, or didn’t they?
    Was it not so that ‘captain’ Liu used for his ‘historic’ voyage modern navigation tools like up-to-date charts and GPS etc.?
    Wasn’t it then so that the whole project was nothing but a series of short cut’s and incompetence?
    I wonder what for example Ben Finney would have to say to ‘captain’ Liu’s achivements?

    You wrote (entry 25): “I don’t have a problem with someone disagreeing with me, since everyone has an opinion but your accusations have nothing to do with opinion. They are distortions of the captain’s sailing experience, distortions about what happened that night, and distortions about my sailing experience which you know nothing about”.
    My comment: I don’t really understand, that you as you say, don’t have a problem with someone disagreeing with you but at the same time your responds are according to my opinion not on the point but even quite hostile?

    By the way, do you dear Steve know the difference between a scientific, a religious and an esoteric person?
    Well, confronted with the statement that are two beers in the refrigerator they act differently.
    The scientist opens the refrigerator and check’s if it’s true.
    The believer doesn’t open the refrigerator but take it as fact.
    The esoteric opens the refrigerator, checks and denies that there are two beers.
    Who are you?

    You wrote (entry 23): “Would you care to document your sailing experience?”
    You wrote (entry 25): “Don’t be so quick to make assumptions. If you want to write about sailing, know something about sailing before you do.”
    You wrote (entry 25): “So I’ll ask again, exactly who did you interview from any of his crews?”
    You wrote (entry 25): “Back up what you say”.
    My comment: Even though I have here nothing to prove, not to you or anybody else, I try to please your curiosity now.
    I’m now 63 years ‘old’ and from Europe. I started sailing 1951. Since then I sailed many dinghies/sailboats.

    As high-school and University student I sailed various regattas in Europe but quit the ‘circus’ 1977. It surely was a great experience where I learned a lot but was unable to continue it as I didn’t have the time anymore.
    At the same time I bought my first own sailboat, a HR 31’, but I still continued sailing on others sailboats too.

    My first circumnavigation I joined as ‘first mate’ on my friend’s 58’ sloop.
    Sailing from Holland southward around Cape of Good Hope, exploring Australia and New Zeeland as well as various Islands in the South Pacific. Visiting South American countries before ‘sailing’ trough the Panama Canal to sail to the Caribbean Islands, including Cuba (aren’t the cigars with a bottle of good Chateauneuf-du-Pape not something?). Not that I’m a devoted Roman Catholic considering my choice of wine or even a communist considering my preferred cigars, before returning home via the Bahamas and the USA (Charleston and Annapolis).

    With my various sailboats I sailed the North Sea up to Iceland and Svalbard, the Baltic Sea and of course the Mediterranean Sea. I circumnavigated Africa and crossed the Atlantic several times beside many other long distance journeys.
    I did that after I learned to understand/calculate GHA, LHA, etc. enabling me to sail open waters.
    Well, isn’t it not just nice, but also necessary to be able to know where one is without only relying on modern electronic gadgets?
    I’m sure you understand what I say as the ‘experienced’ sailor you are, right?

    On my second circumnavigation (with my then Oyster LW48, westward through the canals) I met ‘Christine’ several times (Spain, The Caribbean and Panama). Since then I kept contact with some of the crew and guests.
    All on board where from Taiwan, accept one crew was from Germany, who actually was in charge to ensure that the ‘Taiwanese’ circumnavigation was conducted in a safe and sound way according to the Taiwanese crew.

    I’m not 100% sure now, but I believe if I remember right, was the same German who actually was in charge of ‘Christine’ during her circumnavigation was also in charge during ‘captain’ Liu’s first Pacific crossing (27’ sloop) where both of them encountered a typhoon.

    Anyhow, not a single one I met respected ‘captain’ Liu. Everyone, I stress every single one, complained his poor sailing skills and worst, his personality.

    I was also told that ‘captain’ Liu sold ‘Christine’ a few years ago to a French guy and was supposed to help with the delivery from Taiwan to Malaysia (Thailand). The new owner unscheduled stopped before in Singapore to kick-off ‘captain’ Liu and his companion Mrs. Chao.

    OK, that’s all hearsay you might say or at best circumstantial but it’s still telling or don’t you agree?
    Are all those people (at least 80 of whom I ‘know’) who sailed with ‘captain’ Liu in the past lunatics? Why not one of them ever sailed with ‘captain’ Liu again?
    Because they call ‘captain’ Liu a self centered poor skipper.
    They might be of course wrong, but just in case they are not, be in the future more careful to write again, as you did in your article, “He had a calm personality AND IT WAS EASY TO SEE THAT HE WOULD BE A JOY TO SAIL WITH” before you talked with enough people who sailed with ‘captain’ Liu extensively and know/experienced him a little better than you.

    Yes I know, you will say now that the crew you interviewed in San Diego enjoyed sailing with him. Maybe that is true. Maybe they enjoyed his personality and even his performance as skipper. But maybe, just maybe, they didn’t like to tell the whole story/truth, like people often do when they don’t like to admit that they didn’t make the right choice.

    The frequent change of the foreign crew (no Taiwanese) might also indicate something if you allow me to argue as advocatus diaboli in order to find the truce.
    (Not that I would like to have Ratzinger’s job before he became Pope Benedikt XVI).

    I don’t like to get too philosophical now even though it’s not wrong at all but quite
    illuminating….
    Just check the ‘refrigerator’ seriously before making statements.

    However fact is that ‘captain’ Liu’s project was not only poorly prepared/executed, it did not prove its merit and many people almost paid the ultimate price under his commandership.
    Isn’t it?!

    Anyway, I have to get back now on my sunfish48 and google… LOL!

  27. Steve Says:

    @ Sinbad: Thanks for documenting your sailing experience. It would have been nice if you had done it the first time I asked.

    So you’re in Europe. You seem to hate Nelson Liu. You seem to think he’s a lousy captain. You’re an expert on 15th century Chinese junks. So if you have such a problem with the guy, why don’t you address him directly? I just went down to see the junk, met the entire crew, asked a bunch of questions and took photos. I haven’t sailed around the world and never claimed to. Well after the fact, you get on this blog, make all sorts of accusations and have zero evidence to back anything you say. Where were you when I wrote the article? Why weren’t you commenting then? Did you also write the various American and Chinese publications that wrote positive articles about the junk, captain and crew?

    I attached the article telling about the ship to ship collision. According to the article, the two ships had decided on how to avoid the collision but the merchant ship did not do what was discussed. Was that the true story? I have no idea. Do you? Do you have evidence that the news writeup is incorrect? Did the Taiwan navy arrest and charge the captain with negligence at sea?

    I’m familiar with the voyages of Zheng He. I don’t need a history lesson from you. I never said anything about his sailing around the world, so why did you bring it up?

    You’ve come across as a pompous know it all with precious little to back up what you say. I don’t like your attitude either. It’s obvious you have a personal beef with the guy. Fine, but don’t use this blog to settle it, be a man and settle it with Nelson Liu.

    If you’re European, why are you hiding behind the name Sinbad? At least I use my own name.

  28. sinbad Says:

    Dear Steve.
    I don’t ‘hate’ Mr. Liu. How could I? I don’t really know him.
    I’m sorry but your accusation is baseless!

    I just dared to ask questions which are not answered by the articles in the ‘American’ and ‘Chinese’ publications I and some of my sailing friends have read.
    I guess that it is appropriate to ask those questions, or not?

    And yes, I draw conclusions, which might be right or wrong.
    But be fair, I didn’t make any accusations at all!

    Anything else I wrote already and don’t like to comment further.
    If that makes me in your mind a ‘pompous know it all’ hobby sailor so be it.

    Beside do I not use this blog to settle anything, nor am I ‘Blogging for China.’ I’m sorry, but I’m also not so naive to ‘move mountains’ here, nor do I have other ‘foolish thoughts’.

    But I have, if you allow, a personal question.
    What please is your surname name?
    Might it be that it is: Lee, Chen, Wu or so?
    If not; errare humanum est.

    However, let the readers make up their own mind!
    Don’t you agree?

    Good luck and always happy sailing.

Trackbacks

  1. China Journal : Best of the China Blogs: December 16
  2. The Princess Tai Ping Crosses the Pacific Ocean | Fool's Mountain … | NavalArts.Com

Leave a Reply


Warning: fsockopen(): php_network_getaddresses: getaddrinfo failed: Name or service not known in /home/chenlc03/blog.foolsmountain.com/wp-content/plugins/sweetcaptcha-revolutionary-free-captcha-service/library/sweetcaptcha.php on line 81

Warning: fsockopen(): unable to connect to www.sweetcaptcha.com:80 (php_network_getaddresses: getaddrinfo failed: Name or service not known) in /home/chenlc03/blog.foolsmountain.com/wp-content/plugins/sweetcaptcha-revolutionary-free-captcha-service/library/sweetcaptcha.php on line 81