Source： Taiwan Today
By Grace Kuo
Photo: Council for Cultural Affairs Minister Lung Ying-tai studies a model of Free China, a boat that sailed across the Pacific in 1955 and will return to Taiwan in May. (CNA)
Free China, an old wooden boat that journeyed across the Pacific Ocean from Keelung Port in Taiwan to San Francisco in 1955, will soon sail back to Keelung, according to the Cabinet-level Council for Cultural Affairs April 28.
“The 114-day voyage was a miraculous international incident during the Cold War era (1945-1991),” said CCA Minister Lung Ying-tai. Relations between the Kuomintang and the mainland’s Communist Party were tense at the time, and the implementation of martial law during the period meant that no one could leave the country without government approval, she added.
“It’s incredible that the five Taiwanese crew members—single fishermen without any special backgrounds—were able to obtain the government’s consent as well as U.S. visas,” she said, stressing that the journey is a reflection of humanity’s yearning for freedom.
According to crew members, they made the trip to San Francisco to participate in a world sailing competition.
Paul Chow, one of the crew members and now in his 80s, said that as a sailor he did not want to sail only from Keelung in northern Taiwan to Kaohsiung in the south. Instead, he wanted to be a free mariner and explore the world.
Recalling the trip, he added: “Everybody onboard reached a consensus that if we lost any member on the way, our journey would not continue. This spirit helped us carry out our plan.”
Calvin E. Mehlert, former U.S. vice consul to Taiwan and the only foreign crew member on the boat, said the voyage resulted from a youthful impulse to seize an opportunity before it was lost forever.
According to Lung, the vessel was built during the late Qing dynasty in mainland China’s Fujian Province and is the oldest existing Chinese sailboat constructed according to ancient methods.
After returning to Taiwan, Free China will be repaired and showcased to the public July 11—Taiwan’s Maritime Day—at Keelung-based National Museum of Marine Science and Technology, Lung said. (HZW)
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