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Historic sailing boat coming home to Taiwan

2012/05/01 20:10:58

San Francisco, April 30 (CNA) The century-old wooden vessel Free China was loaded onto a container ship owned by Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp. in San Francisco Monday and is scheduled to arrive in Taiwan May 16, according to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, which is helping to arrange the delivery.

Former crew members of the ship, who now live in the United States, were on hand at the port to see their ship being loaded, the office said.

The vessel, which was built around 1890, made a historic trans-Pacific journey from Taiwan to the U.S. 57 years ago, according to the office.

It was the first boat to make such an epic voyage by the power of wind and manpower in Chinese maritime history, and the last of its kind in existence, the office said.

The boat, 23 meters long and 5 meters wide, left Keelung Port in northern Taiwan in April 1955 with a crew of six, including Calvin E. Mehlert, then-U.S. vice consul to Taiwan. It arrived in San Francisco in August that same year.

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

Since then, the Taiwanese government has sent a team to assess the boat's value as a cultural asset and has spent over NT$12 million (US$409,497) to repair and bring the vessel back, according to Stanley S.L. Wang, director of the Administration of Cultural Heritage under the Council for Cultural Affairs.

The boat will be put on display at the National Museum of Marine Science and Technology in Keelung to highlight the country's maritime history, the office added.

(By Oscar Wu and Maia Huang)