Wednesday, October 29, 2003

San Francisco Bay Shrimp Junk Project (舊金山海灣捕蝦船案)

San Francisco Bay Shrimp Junk Project (舊金山海灣捕蝦船案)

San Francisco Bay Shrimp Junk Project

Launching October 25, 2003, 10:30am at China Camp State Park!

From March through September 2003, the Small Craft Department of San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, in conjunction with China Camp State Park, is endeavoring to build a full-scale reconstruction of a hard-working San Francisco Bay Area fishing boat: a Chinese Shrimp Junk.

These single-mast vessels, ranging from 30 to 50 feet in length, were built almost entirely of local redwood. The long and narrow junks plied the waters of the shallower regions of the Bay Area from circa 1860 to 1910. The fishermen worked large triangular nets staked to mudflats, and brought their catch of shrimp ashore to small fishing villages. The shrimp was boiled, dried and processed for shipment to Hawaii and Asia.

Working from historic photographs, oral histories, and archaeological information, the largely volunteer crew, led by San Francisco Maritime NHP curator and boatbuilder John Muir, is reconstructing a forty-two foot junk. The junk is being built outdoors at the site of one of the largest of the Chinese Shrimp fishing villages: China Camp State Park, in San Rafael, California.

The SF Bay Shrimp Junk Project boatbuilding team is reconstructing the junk using, as much as possible, original materials and traditional Chinese boatbuilding techniques. The team is hand-forging its nails, as well as mixing its own caulking putty. They are also using the traditional Chinese method of bending wood through the direct application of fire.

The completed junk will be launched at China Camp State Park in the Fall of 2003, and will then become a working sailing museum vessel on exhibit to the public and available for special historic events around the Bay Area. The junk will share exhibit time between the historic Chinese village site at China Camp State Park and the Hyde St. Pier boat exhibit basin at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco.

Editor's Comments:

The San Francisco Bay Shrimp Junk Project is a worthwhile project that will, hopefully, enhance public awareness and appreciation of Chinese contributions to ship building technology. These contributions are not limited to dusty history books and museum glass cases. As previous articles I have posted prove, they remain highly relevant even today.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: SF Bay Shrimp Junk Project
Illustration(s): Bay Shrimp Junk along SF Waterfront circa 1892, China Camp State Park Point San Pedro Shrimp Fishing Village circa 1888, The Shrimp Junk Taking Shape
Author(s): Unknown
Affiliation: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, China Camp State Park
Publication Date: October 14, 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Monday, October 27, 2003

Walt Disney Concert Hall (迪仕尼音樂廳)

Walt Disney Concert Hall (迪仕尼音樂廳)
[創意組織 ]

Catherine Fox of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution joins a chorus praising Frank Gehry's recent Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Walt Disney Concert Hall as great architecture. The editor begs to differ. Let's first hear what Fox has to say.

Architect Infuses Disney Hall with Grace, Glamour

The $274 million Walt Disney Hall complex fronts Grand Avenue in Los Angeles and occupies a 3.6-acre city block.

LOS ANGELES -- The 1997 Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain established Frank Gehry as the premier architect of his generation. He affirms his position with the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The latest incarnation of Gehry's exuberant and distinctive vision rises above neighboring buildings in a thrilling concatenation of billowing, swooping forms.

The stainless-steel roof, a mix of matte and polished surfaces, shimmers in the sun -- a little Oz, a little glamour in Los Angeles' bland downtown. And a little mystery. The unpredictability of the shapes as well as the size of the building -- it occupies a 3.6-acre city block -- ensure that visitors cannot possibly conceive of the whole composition from one vantage point. It's a structure that entices a visitor to explore, offering the possibility of perpetual surprise.

Like "Rashomon," what one sees in Gehry's graceful shapes depends on one's viewpoint. They suggest ship sails or drapery in the wind here, a ship's prow there. Some read as a friendlier version of a torquing Richard Serra sculpture. The shell over the Founder's Room might be a Jell-O mold in an earthquake.

Sculpture meets architecture with such masterful inevitability that it's shocking how little faith the Los Angeles Philharmonic trustees had in Gehry after he won the commission in 1988. The stalled project was revived only after the success of his Bilbao museum, and it took some strong individuals to go out and raise the money needed to push the project forward. Even then there were wranglings about artistic control; at one point, the Los Angeles architect resigned. Luckily, the Disney family intervened.

The $274 million hall, which fronts Grand Avenue, is actually a complex. It includes a two-story rectangular administrative building, a public garden and two amphitheaters (seating 350 and 150) that wrap around the south and west sides of the main structure. The hall houses a streetside restaurant and a cafe off the lobby, as well as back-of-the house necessities and an underground parking deck.

The fabric on the hall's seats features a leaf pattern that was designed by architect Frank Gehry. The fabric is also used in a larger-scale pattern for the carpet outside the hall.

Disney Hall is big, but it's not a bunker. The main facade, which hugs the street, has plenty of glass and a welcoming entrance. The garden, which is accessible by stairways on two sides, ought to be a popular respite from concrete and asphalt. The only jarring note there is the concrete, flower-shaped fountain Gehry designed, Its clever surface -- a mosaic of blue and white Delft porcelain fragments, an homage to the late benefactor Lillian Disney -- can't disguise its ungainly proportions. The lobby is open to the public as well, providing access to the cafe, deck and box office. Even the Green Room, where performers greet guests, is visible from the lobby.

But no, this isn't a piece of urban infill. It is -- intentionally, of course -- a landmark. Whether the hall will spur urban regeneration a la Bilbao remains to be seen. Certainly it ought to be a draw. With the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art by Arata Isozaki and Rafael Moneo's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, L.A.'s downtown is becoming a hot spot for contemporary architecture.

Though punctuated with unusual wooden columns that curve like a tree trunk and branch and terminate in a swirling, skylit ceiling, the lobby is more like a conduit to other destinations than a grand room. Gehry saves that designation for the concert hall itself, which is, after all, the heart and soul of this community of spaces. And it is a gem, a space that is both inviting and exciting. The audience is made to feel that this is a place for special experiences.

The hall is paneled in Douglas fir, a wood commonly used for cellos and violas. The fir also ripples across the ceiling. The floors are oak. The upholstery is a lovely leaf pattern in red and orange, designed by Gehry and used in a larger-scale pattern for the carpeting outside the hall. Natural light seeps in through skylights and a large rear window.

Although the hall seats 2,265 and Atlanta's Symphony Hall seats1,750, the Los Angeles room is infinitely more intimate. The warmth of the wood and the palette of the upholstery play their part, but the effect is largely achieved by the vineyard seating (in the round), which means the hall can be narrower and shorter, and more people get a closer view.

The organ is the focal, and exclamation, point. In an ebullient gesture, Gehry encases the pipes in wood and arranges them as if they are a just-flung batch of pickup sticks. According to composer John Williams, Gehry likes to call them "french fries," but they are too elegant for that.

Disney Hall should assuage any concerns that the world was in for a flock of Bilbao clones. Although there is no confusing his work with anyone else's, Gehry proves here -- and in an exhibition of projects-in-progress at L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art -- that his vocabulary is as flexible as his imagination. (Thank goodness his ungainly Experience Music Project in Seattle was a blip.)

Gehry's oeuvre is a model of how technology can be harnessed to keep pace with vision. His staff uses CATIA, a computer program used in the aeronautics industry, to draw plans from cardboard models, and it employed a global positioning system to help plot the roof's curves.

The future Atlanta Symphony Center has an architect who pushes the envelope as well. The similarities between Santiago Calatrava and Gehry don't stop there. Both are known for their distinctive sculptural visions. Both studied urban design and try to combine the "wow factor" of their iconic forms with accessible public spaces.

As in Los Angeles, the clustering of important buildings (the future Symphony Center and the High Museum -- both the original by Richard Meier and Renzo Piano's expansion) ought to create a synergy. That depends, of course, on the success of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's as-yet-undisclosed design. One thing is sure: Walt Disney Concert Hall sets the bar high.

Editor's Comments:

As much as I hate to inject a dissonant note into the chorus of approval, I do not consider Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall to be an architectural masterpiece. Far from it. Neither his concert hall in Los Angeles nor his museum in Bilbao qualify as masterpieces -- certainly not in the sense that Frank Lloyd Wright's 1959 Guggenheim Museum in New York or Mies van der Rohe's 1929 German Pavilion in Barcelona qualify as masterpieces.

Why not? Because a work of architecture deserves elevation to the status of masterpiece only if it expresses the architectonic forces that birthed it. Gehry does not even acknowlege these architectonic forces, let alone express them. The shapes of the Guggenheim Museum Bilboa and Walt Disney Concert Hall reflect neither the structural logic, nor the functional logic, nor the symbolic logic that brought them to light. They are utterly arbitary, and they look it.

What's wrong with being arbitary? Plenty. To say that an architectural design is arbitrary is to say that it need not be the way it is -- that it could just as well be some other way. It could be larger or smaller, taller or shorter, wider or narrower -- it really doesn't make any difference. Can anyone imagine a more damning indictment of a work of art than to say that the way its creator left it makes no difference?

Gehry's design comes across best on its LA Philharmonic Office and Founders' Room elevations. These elevations communicate Gehry's parti with the greatest clarity. Lightweight, brightly-polished titanium curves float weightlessly above the heavy, coarsely-textured, masonry podium below. A bold study in contrasts, right?

Not quite. Take a closer look at the street level, west elevation, where Gehry's castles in the air are forced to return to earth. How will they make contact with the podium below?

Nobody knows, least of all Gehry. Gehry apparently lost sight of a well known truth: architecture is not painting, least of all surrealist painting. Gehry might indulge his whims by drawing metallic curves floating weightlessly in mid air, but he had better not try to build them.

Is it necessary to point out that this constitutes a major conceptual blunder, and is not something any self-respecting architect can sweep under the rug?

So how was this dilemma resolved? It wasn't.

Instead, finding no solution, the modelmakers in Gehry's office furtively hid the unresolved interface behind greenery, aka "growies." Unfortunately for Gehry these fig leaves must be interrupted at the entrances.

Nor are Gehry's shapes particularly inspiring as pure art divorced from functional considerations. Richard Serra? I hardly think so. Contrast Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall with Jorn Utzon's expressionist masterpiece, the Sydney Opera House, and you'll see what I mean. Utzon's building is not only more rational structurally and functionally, it is more attractive sculpturally and compositionally.

Some may say that Utzon's design benefits disproportionately from its magnificent, breath-taking setting, poised between earth, water, and sky. Anyone who thinks this need only perform a simple mind experiment. Visualize Gehry's building situated on Bennelong Point in place of Utzon's. See what I mean? Gehry's design is not even in the same league as Utzon's. Leave aside the bitter controversy over unauthorized design changes for the moment. Uzton's forms work visually because they work conceptually. They have no growies, because they need no fig leaves.

The conclusion is depressing, but unavoidable. Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall is indeed significant, but only because it illustrates a steady decline in architectural design standards that began with the passing of first generation modern masters Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Architect infuses Disney Hall with grace, glamour
Illustration(s): Walt Disney Concert Hall Exterior
Author(s): Catherine Fox
Affiliation: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Publication Date: October 27, 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Chinese Sampan Teaches Much to Designers (中國舢舨啟發現代造船技師)

Chinese Sampan Teaches Much to Designers (中國舢舨啟發現代造船技師)

Chinese Sampan Teaches Much to Designers

C. Andrade, Jr., recently came across an old model of a Chinese sampan. It is an odd piece of work, full of interest and instructive, too. Mr. Andrade lent the model to George B. Douglas, who has taken off the lines, and these lines, pictures of the model and an article written by Mr. Andrade, are given herewith in THE RUDDER.

THE accompanying lines and sail plan illustrate a very interesting model of Chinese sampan. The model from which this was taken is an authentic piece of work, evidently made by a Chinese shipbuilder, as it contains all the peculiarities of design and construction that belong to the Chinese system of naval architecture. It is a fact not generally known that the Chinese are, and for many centuries have been, very successful sailors, and the model shown herewith is a good illustration of their ability as designers. It will be noted that the lines embody many of the refinements which are found in the most up-to-date boats in the United States. For example, the wetted surface of this model is reduced almost to the theoretical minimum for the displacement shown. There is not a single square inch of surface wasted in any projecting keel or skeg or deadwood.

The sheer line of the bottom of the boat also illustrates a peculiarity which naval architects in this country have just begun to appreciate, and that is, that the run can be carried out quite full, almost to the stern, and then come up, with a sharp turn, without hurting the boat's speed in any way. This fact has been known for a number of years to the torpedo-boat builders of England, who carry their displacement curve very full, almost to the stern. The same thing is shown on the Herreshoff small steamers of the type of the Mirage, and other boats of that class, where the keel line is carried out with an easy curve, about to the point where the shaft leaves the hull, and then turns up rather sharply to the stern. This same feature accounts for the very short overhang, with strong upturned buttock lines that are found in the last two or three years' designs of the Herreshoff sailing yachts.

There is no planking across the stern of the boat, but there is a big open space somewhat like a well all the way from the transom to the heavy after bulkhead, which is shown in the sail plan and also in one of the photographs.

I have known of this peculiarity of Chinese construction for many years, but only recently have I been able to evolve any theory which would account for it. This method of construction must have some great advantage, or the Chinese would not have adopted it originally, or having adopted it, would not have adhered to it for centuries, as they have. It is my belief that the purpose of this stern construction is this:

It will be observed that the stern of this model is very full. The half-breadth plan shows that the waterlines are carried out to their full beam, almost to the transom. This, of course, gives the model great stability, and also great ease in driving, but it has the disadvantage of making a stern with too great buoyancy, that is to say, if this boat were planked solid across the transom, and were driven off in a heavy following sea, the enormous surplus buoyancy of the stern would make her pitch to a dangerous degree, and would tend to bury her head. It is at this point that the reason for the peculiar stern construction becomes apparent, for it is obvious that if this boat is running off with a heavy following sea, the instant that a wave strikes her stern, a very large volume of water will be momentarily held in the space between the stern proper and the after bulkhead. In a large boat, this weight of water would probably amount to a ton or more, and the weight of this water momentarily holds down the stern and prevents it from lifting unduly on a following sea.

The effect is just exactly as though a very large weight of ballast were placed in the stem of the boat. Every one knows that this is the only proper and safe way to trim a small boat when running off in a heavy following sea. But the Chinese stern has this advantage over the permanent ballast, and that is, that the moment the sea has passed the water runs out of the space at the stern, and the boat is left light and free to travel with much greater speed than if she were loaded down with a ton or so of ballast at the stern.

There is quite a marked flat portion on the bottom of the hull, so that she can go aground and rest at low tide without heeling over. Indeed, the whole boat appears to be designed for this contingency, because it will be noted that she depends for lateral plane on two features; first, a dagger-board forward, which can be lifted, and, second, a very large rudder aft, which also can be housed entirely within the hull, when not in use. It will be observed that the daggerboard contains the great essential which is necessary in a member of this type, i.e., narrow width with great depth.

It is well known that the former edge of the keel, or centerboard, is what does most of the work, and the Chinese apparently have grasped this fundamental principle. Therefore, while the daggerboard seems to have a very small lateral area, it will be noted that its area is of very high efficiency, particularly as the board is located right under the fore-foot, where it works in solid water, which is undisturbed by any portion of the hull, and which is not affected by any lateral movement that would be gathered by the hull further aft. This daggerboard has two different holes and a stop, so there are three different adjustments at which it could be carried, thus changing the balance of the boat very materially, as desired.

The rudder, as is common with Chinese rudders, has five diamond-shaped holes in the blade, and the blade itself is of very thin wood. The purpose of these diamond-shaped holes is undoubtedly to permit dead water to run through to the back of the rudder blade and prevent the accumulation of dead water along the after edge of the rudder. As already stated, the rudder can be completely housed in the hull, simply by setting it straight fore-and-aft, and then drawing it up through a slot, which is cut for the purpose in the deck. This construction is shown in detail at the stern of the hull in the sail plan.

"Transom" timbers removed for clarity to show end of planks. The grey bulkhead is partially hidden behind the ends of the planks since it is located at the second section line in from the stern. A sampan will typically have a flat bow timber, often tapering from small at bottom to wider at the top - COD

It will be observed, on reference to the buttock lines, that the boat carries a long and very efficient floor practically from station No.2 to the very stern of the boat. This feature will, of course, make the boat very fast on a reach, and will make her very easy to drive.
It is quite apparent from a glance at the body plan that the boat will have to be weighted with a generous amount of inside ballast before she will acquire much stability, but as she is built for carrying weight, that feature is really an excellent one.

The anchor is an interesting detail, as it will be noted that it is quite large, in comparison with the rest of the boat, and is made entirely of wood, the only metal being on the single fluke. It will also be noted that the stock is placed at the end of the anchor, next to the fluke, and not at the cable end. As soon as the anchor strikes the bottom, the weight of the metal fluke brings it down, and as soon as it takes hold, the stock lies flush with the bottom, and makes an anti-fouling anchor.

There are a couple of little hand windlasses of primitive type, one on each side of the mast, as shown in the half-deck plan. The mast is set in a tabernacle, so that it can be lowered when going under bridges, etc.

It will be noted that the rig is very simple, and very efficient. The mainsheet rigging is quite interesting, consisting of a single length of sheet, which is rove in an unusual manner, as will be noted from the sail plan. The wooden block through which all the parts of the sheet run has a little becket at its lower end, and this becket runs along the wooden traveler on the extreme stern.

I believe that a boat built exactly on these lines, including the unusual stern construction, would make a very comfortable and useful small boat for cruising. I can see no objection to building such a small cruiser with a jib set on a stay running to the stem-head, and a mainsail which might hang over the stern a foot or so, so as to be easily reefed.

As the lines are drawn, it shows the stern a little higher than the bow. This is a peculiarity of Chinese construction, and is a feature that was common on ail old types of sailing ships, as it will be recalled that Columbus's ships, and the Half Moon, and all the sailing vessels of that time had the stern considerably higher than the bow. Many theories have been advanced for this, but modern practice, of course, has gone the other way. I suppose one reason for making the stern higher was so as to give the steersman a better view; second, so that the vessel would ride head to the wind, in case she was left to drift in a gale; and, third, to avoid the danger of being swamped by overtaking waves in a heavy sea. With this high stern, and the daggerboard down all the way, this sampan should lie head to the wind in any kind of a gale, without any sail at all. I will be glad to hear of any boat built to these lines.

Editor's Comments:

The invention of the Chinese junk/sampan hull and sail archetypes required creativity and originality. Their subsequent evolution over the centuries that followed required patience and perseverance. Modern sailing enthusiasts are the happy beneficiaries of both processes.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Chinese Sampan Teaches Much to Designers
Author(s): C. Andrade, Jr
Affiliation:The Rudder
Publication Date: July 1917
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Canadians Take a Fancy to the Chinese Junk (加拿大人愛上中國帆船)

Canadians Take a Fancy to the Chinese Junk (加拿大人愛上中國帆船)

Batwings and Bamboo

Even the dog beside me was quiet while the old man rowed his dory towards us. Minutes earlier our on-water party had been laughing. My father and I had just sailed from the Comox Marina to Newcastle Island, and our neighbours wanted to hear of our adventure. But we were silenced.

The old man looked thoughtfully at each of us.

"Which boat you in?"

My father nodded vaguely towards Nanaimo Harbour, "Not ours. We're bringing down someone else's to Sidney. Just a white boat."

Alan Farrell, builder of the legendary Chinese junk China Cloud grinned. Behind him, the colours of his orange-red and black boat shone. "Another one of those white boats with blue sail covers?" he asked mischievously.

Between Victoria and Port Hardy, Lasqueti Island and Vancouver, boat builders have embraced the colourful Chinese junk. West Coasters build modern day junk rigs because they are affordable, "beachable" and maneuverable in the water.

"A flat-bottomed junk can be built for the price of a modern day kayak," Dan Prain says. He finished his own junk rig on a Herreshoft Meadowlark hull four years ago.

"Boats of 30-plus feet [19.5 metres] can be made. Paint comes from paint exchanges, lines from government wharf dumpsters and sails cut out of plastic tarps," Prain says. While the materials can come cheap, the form of the rig varies artistically with each builder.

Michael Parker, who has built 10- to 13-metre beachable West Coast junks in a "funky" style, agrees. In 1966, Parker was fishing on a junk, The Lotus Princess, near Sooke, B.C. He was amazed at the spaciousness of it and the simple catwalk that bordered the cabin. His life has never been the same since. Junks make him feel, "overwhelmed, touching nostalgia."

Years later, when Parker was building his own junks, he was handed a piece of yellow newsprint. The article was about an old fishing boat that had come from Hong Kong. It was The Lotus Princess. Parker was astounded that the junk had come so far. This confirmed his belief in the strength of the junk form. He sums up a 2,000 year history simply: "Chinese junks are practical. Built to take abuse [and] water damage."

Since 221 BC, during the Ch'in Dynasty, the Chinese junk has dominated the world's sailing fleets. A thousand years before European ships dominated the seas, the junk was already using maritime innovations such as the balanced rudder, watertight compartment and spoon-shaped stern.

In China, spotting a junk on the horizon was considered a symbol of good luck.

Certainly for Hong Kong, the junk not only symbolized luck but also industrial and financial security. Hong
Kong has a long shipyard history, producing junks for industry and pleasure. Although fewer junks are being built there today, fishing junks are still being shaped with heat and charcoal.

Given its various forms, it is no wonder that the shape of the traditional Chinese junk remains a mystery. Chinese shipbuilding has long been recognized for an absence of written plans. Expertise was passed down between generations. This verbal exchange of instruction continues among builders in British Columbia.

"If it looks right, then it probably is right," says Prain, citing a general rule of thumb for building a junk.

Those who build junks share newspaper clippings and out-of-print books. It is this dialogue that makes the junk form stay alive.

When Prain is asked what distinguishes the junk's body, he says, "It is not so much a hull form, but a state of mind."

Steel is becoming more common in the Gulf Islands as the material of choice for junk hulls, though they are traditionally made of wood. Wooden junks on the West Coast have mostly been flat-bottomed. Sailboats generally have a keel that descends from the hull to a drop of approximately 0.6 to 0.9 metres. The longer the keel, the deeper the water needs to be when the boat anchors. Thus, a boat without a keel not only anchors easily in shallow areas, but also beaches on sandy shores. Most junks have a detachable rudder that can be raised when beaching the vessel.

Red and yellow cedar, fir and yew are the primary woods used to build junks. Natural crooks and knees are used as latches, rudder handles and joints. The Chinese junk is an expression limited only by the imagination.

The junk is environmentally safe. "I'd rather be an attraction than a detraction," Parker says of the junks beached near his home on Hornby Island. By keeping his boat on the beach, Parker avoids painting the underside of his hull with fouling agents. The more time the boat spends on the beach, the more time the bottom has to dry, warding against marine growth.

In addition, "The [lug rig] sails don't flap and all the other sails in the wind flap a heck of a racket," says Parker. He claims that a silent lug rig can be orange tarp or Dacron. Traditional junk sails are Chinese red, an orange-like mix of white, black and red, or deep green. The sail rigging uses multiple lines. The more lines there are in a rig, the less chance of stress on any one line. The battens (the crossbeams of the rig), are made of bamboo or fir. Parker insists that the sails can be put up easily in the wind, just like an "automatic transmission."

Junk rigs are used on boats other than the traditional flat bottom junk, such as Colvins' Gazelle and St. Pierre Dories.

Rolf Zarr lives aboard his 13-metre sailboat at Stamps Landing, B.C. He has had success adopting a junk lug rig to his sizable boat, making it manageable for one sailor. His initial rig plans came with a Pelican design. He had never seen a junk. When asked about first raising his junk sails, Zarr's face lights up.

"Some people don't like junk rigs at all," says Zarr, "but it suits my personality."

Junk rigs come naturally to some people. "It felt like something I'd done before. It doesn't make a lot of practical sense, but" Parker hardly pauses in his thoughts when describing the first time he saw a junk, "it felt like coming home."

Editor's Comments:

Recreational boaters in well to do countries in Europe and North America agree. The Chinese junk hull and junk rig are inexpensive, easy to build, practical, and fun. For those who have longed to own their own sailboat, but assumed they simply couldn't afford it, the Chinese junk may be the answer to their dreams.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Illustration(s): photographs by Lynn Vanherwaarden and Dan Prain
Author(s): Leanne Prain
Affiliation:Pacific Rim Magazine
Publication Date: 2000
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Blondie Hasler's Jester (名英國探險家的中國風帆)

Blondie Hasler's Jester (名英國探險家的中國風帆)

The Ship Would Not Travel Due West

The Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race

From the late 1800s until the 1960s, the development of the modern sailing yacht was an evolutionary process, occasionally interrupted by a flash of insight. Racing and cruising yachts were little more than refinements of the last sail-driven fishing schooners. In the first half of the 20th century , measurement rules and conservative owners were slow to accept the Bermudian rig or the fin keel, despite their proven efficiency. That conservative attitude finally began to change forty years ago when five daring pioneers set out from the southwest of England on an adventure that would forever change the face of yachting.

In June, 1960, with no fanfare, five sailors left Millbay Docks, Plymouth to race across the North Atlantic in the first Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race. At that time, the voyage they were embarking on was viewed by many in the yachting community as not just challenging, but practically impossible. The gale-swept ocean with its prevailing westerly winds was seen as an overwhelming force that no small yacht could prevail against for 3,000 miles, let alone a singlehander.

Most of the technologies we take for granted had yet to marketed. Dacron had just been introduced, wood was still the accepted material for hulls and spars and gentlemen sailed to windward as little as possible. A 25 footer like the Folkboat (with 4'-8" of headroom) was universally considered the ideal size for a solo ocean crossing, although this itself was viewed as a somewhat eccentric pursuit. Self-steering was a matter of lashing the tiller and hoping for the best, so solo ocean racing was simply inconceivable, a pipedream that would result in disaster and bring disrepute on the whole yachting community.

If the critics had made the effort to learn anything about the two men who were behind the race, they might have realized that this was no publicity stunt. H.G. "Blondie" Hasler and Francis Chichester knew exactly what they were getting into. When all five entrants completed the course, conventional wisdom on sailing and seamanship had been turned on its head, and the sport had entered a new era. Within a few years, Hasler's self-steering and junk rig would become an accepted part of the cruising scene, and thanks to Chichester, sponsored record breaking and radio reports would bring the adventure to the homes of millions.

Blondie Hasler: Soldier, Yachtsman and Inventor

Lt.Colonel H.G. Hasler DSO, MBE began his adventures on the water not in a yacht but in a kayak during World War II. In December 1942, he led a ten-man team of Royal Marines in a daring attack on the occupied harbor of Bordeaux in western France. They launched five folding kayaks at the mouth of the Gironde from the deck of submarine and paddled 75 miles upriver under cover of night. Only two kayaks reached their goal, a loading dock, where they attached limpet mines to four German merchant ships. When the charges went off, the ships sank at the dock, blocking access for many months.

The Germans might never have found out how this bold attack had been carried out, but the British submarine was unable to remain in the area to pick up the marines, so they were forced to find their own way across occupied France. Eight of them were never seen again. Hasler was the only one who spoke French and he and a Private named Billy Sparks managed to return to Britain via Spain with the help of the Resistance. Although still in uniform, the other eight men were shot as spies on direct orders from Berlin. (This cowardly act was later mentioned at the Nuremberg trials and is said to have ended the "gentleman!|s agreement" between the English and German high commands.)

These gallant men became familiar to everyone in post-war Britain as the "Cockleshell Heroes," the name of a book and a film about the raid. After the war ended, Hasler took up sailing, first in Petula, his gaff yawl built by William Fife in 1899. His innate curiosity then led him in a completely different direction, and he purchased a Thirty Square Meter named Tre Sang. Although it was designed for racing in sheltered waters in Scandinavia, Hasler entered the boat in some RORC races in the late 1940s and proved this low, light needle of a hull was capable of fast passages in the right conditions.

To test more radical ideas, he had another Scandinavian design, the Folkboat, built in the early 1950s. He had to patiently explain to the builders that he didn't want any form of cockpit. The whole boat was to be decked over, with just two small circular hatches in the cabin top. This was to be his floating laboratory and he called it Jester "because it was such a bloody joke." Perhaps because of wartime experience, Hasler was no dilletante, he was totally committed to making his ideas work. So unlike most nautical inventors, he rejected anything that wasn't absolutely seaworthy.

In the following years, he cruised around the Channel with different kinds of self-steering vanes on the Jester's stern and an unstayed wooden mast carrying variations on the Ljungstrom (lapwing) rig. This consisted of twin Bermudian mainsails set on a single luff. While closehauled, the two sails acted as one, but downwind the twin booms were goosewinged out giving port and starboard mainsails.

The idea showed promise and Hasler spent a couple of seasons thinking he had a workable, offshore system. But he reluctantly concluded that the risk of the booms flying out of control in strong winds was too great, and there were also two mainsails to reef. The Jester was living up to its name. He ditched the project and adopted an even more obscure rig, the Chinese junk sail.

Hasler soon proved to himself that the Chinese rig was a marvel of engineering. The fully-battened lugsail could be raised, lowered or reefed in any weather without leaving his circular main hatch, which was protected in bad weather by a small pram hood. He knew instinctively that his search was at an end; he had found a rig that could stand up to his ultimate test; solo passage across the North Atlantic without leaving the cabin. Thus began the modern junk rig movement!

With the rig questioned solved, he now was free to tinker with his self-steering vane and dream of his next goal. "It seemed that a race is always the best inducement for developing anything, and if I was to get people aiming at ease of handling and comfort, it would have to be a demanding race," he recalled in later years. "Going to windward across the North Atlantic seemed the most demanding thing to do!"

He defined the prospective race as follows: "A sporting event to encourage the development of boats, gear, supplies and technique for single-handed passages under sail." There was a dramatic lack of rules: no handicaps, no compulsory equipment, no marks to round. When asked about safety and the need to carry a radio transmitter, Hasler merely replied "It would be more seemly to drown like a gentleman."

Editor's Comments:

Lt.Colonel H.G. "Blondie" Hasler of the Royal Marines was a determined man. His audacious scheme to paddle kayaks 75 miles up the Gironde to plant limpet mines on German shipping anchored in Bordeaux proved that. But Hasler was an eminently practical man as well. His practicality was fully consistent with his determination. In order to successfully sail across the Atlantic, the second widest ocean on the planet, and to do it windward, "the hard way," Hasler knew he needed every advantage he could get. Not surprisingly Hasler chose the Chinese junk rig, the most ergonomic sail configuration ever designed.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: The Ship Would Not Travel Due West
Illustration(s): Blondie Hasler's Junk-rigged Folkboat Jester
Author(s): Peter Marsh
Affiliation: Sea to Summit
Publication Date: NA
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Friday, October 17, 2003

Modern Norwegian Yachts with Chinese Junk Sails (摩登挪威游艇裝配中國風帆 )

Modern Norwegian Yachts with Chinese Junk Sails (摩登挪威游艇裝配中國風帆 )

Modern Norwegian Yachts with Chinese Junk Sails

Arne Kverneland was unhappy with the usual Bermuda rig on his single-masted sloop Malena. He tried the gaff rig and found it promising. But when Kverneland tried the junk rig that's when he found what he had been looking for. The Malena has since been sold. Arne is currently constructing a larger boat, also junk rigged.

Svein Magnus Ueland's 50 foot ferro-cement schooner was designed by Samson Marine. Its junk-rigged sails feature stiff battens of aluminum tubing and full panels.

Nils Johan Aksdal's ferro-cement schooner is a Colin Archer design, with its topsides raised one foot. Its junk-rigged sails feature stiff battens of aluminum tubing and full panels.

Editor's Comments:

Even modern yacht hulls designed by naval architects using sophisticated computer programs can benefit from ergonomically designed, easy to use Chinese junk rigs. Long waterline, heavy-displacement sailing ships with multiple masts can be sailed with only a handful of crew members, providing they are junk-rigged.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Modern Norwegian Yachts with Chinese Junk Rigs
Illustration(s): Malena with Gaff Rig, Malena with Junk Rig, Samson with Junk Rig, Samson with Junk Rig, Colin Archer with Junk Rig
Author(s): Victor Wintherthun
Publication Date: NA
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Monday, October 13, 2003

Thomas Colvin's Chinese Junks (名美國造船技師Thomas Colvin 的中國帆船)

Thomas Colvin's Chinese Junks (名美國造船技師Thomas Colvin 的中國帆船)

Thomas Colvin's Chinese Junks

About Thomas E. Colvin

Thomas E. Colvin was born in 1925 in Chicago and, for him, life became boats. At 5 he built a boat by mating together oilcloth-covered apple and orange crates; at 6 he rigged a rowing skiff and made a sailing boat from a discarded cement mixing trough; at 7 he designed and built his own 10 foot catboat; all through grade school he worked in boat shops, starting as a handy boy, greasing machinery; on weekends, he crewed on racing boats, learning what makes sailboats go fast; he was drawing journeyman foots pay before entering high school; in his first year of high school, he sold his first professional design, a fish tug that was built and worked; at 14 he quit school for the sea, serving in sail and steam, moving up from Ordinary Seaman to Master of both. (This may sound young to have been constructively working on different projects. A surprise government inspection at my shipyard one day found my 6 year old son working on a project using the bandsaw and circular saw. My 8 year old son was welding up an art project for which he received a first prize. My 12 year old daughter was up on a scaffolding painting the name and scrolls on the hull we were building. The year before she won second prize in the national Singer Sewing Machine contest with a complete pants and jacket outfit she had made. I was informed by the man from OSHA that the children could not work in the shop because it was heavy industry, whereupon I asked when they would be allowed in the shop in order to learn shipbuilding. I was informed that it was 18 years of age. I told the gentleman that, at 18, they would be too smart to want to do that kind of work. I was correct.)

Since 1952, he has been a senior designer for the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company in Virginia; Consulting Naval Architect for Kaiser Aluminum Company in Chicago; president of Colvin Manufacturing Company and Colvin Sailmakers, Miles, Virginia; and now maintains his design office along with being president of Sidereal Offshore Logistics & Analytical Research in Alva, Florida. He has designed everything from aircraft carriers to fishing vessels, barges, sailing vessels, motor and steam vessels for commercial and pleasure use, as well as constructed vessels in his own shipyard up to 100 foot in wood, steel and aluminum alloy. At this time, he has produced over 300 designs, ranging from 12 foot to 150 foot in length. He still builds boats for his own use.

Several times during his life, he has taken time out to go cruising on vessels that he designed and built, and he also lived aboard and cruised with his family on his three-masted 48 foot aluminum Chinese junk, KUNG FU-TSE, for 16 years. He has written many articles and technical books, trying to help others to achieve their dreams. Hundreds of ordinary people who have never undertaken such a task before have built fine boats from his designs, ranging from daysailers to around-the-world cruisers. One must always remember amateurs built the Ark and professionals built the Titanic.

Chinese Junks

My junk designs encompass many families from flat bottom to multi-chine and round bottom. I have no designs for V bottom junks. They fall basically into four families.

1. Flat Bottom Junks with Pram Bows
2. Multi-chine and Round Bottom Hainan Junks
3. Cargo Junks
4. Shoal Draft Fishing Junks

Flat Bottom Junks with Pram Bows

Flat bottom junks with pram bows range from 36 feet to 90 feet in length. The smallest one has leeboards, and all others have daggerboards. These are good ocean-going vessels; however, when modified for yachting purposes, a centerboard is a more practical solution for obtaining lateral plane.

Multi-chine and Round Bottom Hainan Junks

Multi-chine and round bottom junks, based on the Hainan junks, range from 42 feet to 150 feet in length. The most popular ones are OOTHOON at 41 feet, KUNG FU-TSE at 48 feet, and LUK CHIN at 54 feet which have been built in both steel and aluminum. The 54 foot junk has also been built as a round bottom steel hull. The larger sizes are usually round bottom since, in larger sizes, most builders prefer this type of construction and are equipped to handle the bending of round bottom frames. These are excellent sea boats. The larger ones incorporate daggerboards, while on the smaller ones used for yachting I have substituted a long shallow keel which opens up the whole interior to an infinite variety of arrangements. Most of them have made long voyages and, as such, I like to keep the engine and fuel tanks very close to the center of floatation and center of buoyancy. I also use the engine room with bulkheads at each end to isolate all machinery. This provides good working conditions around the engine. Most vessels have access doors for passage through the engine room; whereas, in others the engine room bulkhead is not pierced and access is from the deck only.

Cargo Junks

Shown is an 18.5 meter (60 feet) cargo junk displacing 42 tons in ballast, which is under construction at the present time in Timor. This family of cargo junks has a distinct type of hull form that has no direct counterpart in China, but is a combination of several types plus some modifications that stress performance to windward. They are modest carriers and are primarily used in the Indian Ocean. They range from 60 feet to 90 feet on deck. It will be noted that these junks are rather narrow and deep. Unlike the Hainan type of junk, these vessels are seldom used for bulk cargoes, but instead haul refrigerators, stoves, sinks, tiles and other building materials as well as other cargo that can be packaged. The windward ability at the expense of other points of sailing was necessary because she also ventures into the islands at all seasons rather than wait for the fair winds of a monsoon.

Shoal Draft Fishing Junks

Shoal draft fishing junks range in size from 40 feet to 75 feet the more popular ones being in the 50 feet to 60 feet length. They are flat bottom and can be beached, but are excellent sea going vessels. Out of season, many of them do carry coastwise freight. Like the sharpie, there are limitations on the amount of headroom available, depending on length. In trying to compare these with Western hulls, they are sort of a cross between a dory and a sharpie. Throwing in their Chinese ancestry, they have the wider stern galleries. Most have a daggerboard, but some have found it advantageous, even though it is foreign to them, to use a centerboard since the trunk then splits the hold in half longitudinally for better stowage of ice and fish.

Editor's Comments:

Thomas Colvin is a highly respected American naval architect. Sailing ships built to his designs are highly prized and sought after, sometimes fetching more than their original cost. According to Colvin "he lived aboard and cruised with his family on his three-masted 48 foot aluminum Chinese junk, Kung Fu-tse for 16 years." Colvin is a master shipwright. He is someone who could design, build and live aboard any kind of ship he wanted, power or sail, western or eastern. Yet he chose Chinese junk-rigged sails on a Chinese junk hull. Colvin knew a good thing when he saw it. This speaks volumes, about both Thomas Colvin and the unsung heroes who bequeathed the world traditional Chinese maritime technology.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Thomas Colvin's Chinese Junks
Illustration(s): Flat Bottom Junk with Pram Bow, Oothoon, Cargo Junk, Kung Fu-tse (Confucius)
Author(s): Thomas Colvin
Affiliation: Thomas E. Colvin, Naval Architect
Publication Date: NA
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Joshua Slocum's Liberdade (Joshua Slocum 的自由號)

< Joshua Slocum's Liberdade (Joshua Slocum 的自由號)

The Liberdade, by Joshua Slocum

Illustration One is a Cabin Profile and Sail Plan of the Liberdade.

Illustration Two is a Midship Section. Notice the bundles of bamboo on the gunwhales for flotation and to prevent capsizing. Some features, such as the planking, resemble a Cape Ann Dory. Others features resemble a sampan.

The full text of The Voyage of the Liberdade, in plain text format:

Editor's Comments:

On February 28, 1886, Joshua Slocum, a Nova Scotian sailor, his American wife and their two young sons boarded the Aquidneck in New York harbor, bound for Montevideo, Uruguay. Shortly after Christmas Day, 1887, the 25 year old, 326 ton Aquidneck ran aground on a sand bar off the coast of Brazil, near Guarakasava. Slocum watched helplessly as his recently purchased barque was dashed to pieces in the pounding surf. The now impoverished Slocum no longer had the means to get himself and his family back to America. In a scenario straight out of "Swiss Family Robinson," Slocum made a bold decision. He built a 35 foot sailing vessel on that remote Brazilian beach, and sailed his family back to America. The vessel Slocum built was a cross between an American dory and a Chinese sampan, and was fitted with Chinese full batten junk sails. Slocum referred to it as a "canoe." It was completed on May 13, the anniversary of the day the slaves were emancipated in Brazil, and Slocum named it "Liberdade," Portuguese for "Liberty." On December 28, 1888, after a journey fraught with peril, Slocum triumphantly sailed the Liberdade up Chesapeake Bay into Washington, D.C. He and his family were finally home.

Why did Slocum choose a modified Chinese sampan hull and a Chinese full battened junk rig for the Liberdade? Because in his words:

"Her rig was the Chinese sampan style, which is, I consider, the most convenient boat rig in the whole world."

Seven years later, in 1895, Slocum would depart from Boston Harbor, MA in the 37 foot sloop Spray. For the next three years he would sail single-handed around the world, a passage of 46,000 miles, eventually arriving back in Newport, R.I. in 1898. This feat, believed to be without precedent in recorded history, would make Slocum the patron saint of small-boat voyagers, navigators and adventurers the world over.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: The Liberdade, by Joshua Slocum
Illustration(s): Cabin Profile and Sail Plan, Midship Section
Author(s): Unknown
Affiliation: McAllen Memorial Library
Publication Date: Updated September 2003
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Monday, October 6, 2003

Michael Kasten on The Junk Rig (Michael Kasten 論中國風帆)

Michael Kasten on The Junk Rig (Michael Kasten 論中國風帆)

What About the Junk Rig?

Is the Junk Rig Suited to Modern Cruising?

The junk rig shares many of the virtues of the gaff rig. The junk rig or "chinese lug rig" is easy to handle, very easy to reef, easy and inexpensive to build, easy to rig, has no complex hardware, requires no winches, is easy to maintain, involves very low rigging stresses, provides a low center of effort so requires less beam or depth of keel, and at least in my view, looks great!

That is quite an impressive list of positive attributes... While the following is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to the junk rig, it is a brief introduction to a few of the advantages offered by the chinese lug, or junk rig. Due to its excellent qualities for blue water voyaging, I believe the junk rig has much to offer.

Some Advantages Specific to the Junk Rig

Reefing: The ease of reefing a junk rig is legendary. Perhaps it is best illustrated with a brief story about sailing one quite windy day off Port Townsend on Migrant, sister ship to Colvin's Gazelle. This was in 1979, and I was considering the junk rig for my own boat, then under construction. Naturally curious, I asked the skipper about reefing the junk rig. He had just passed around mugs of hot chocolate, so I expected a brief discourse on the subject. Instead, without saying anything he walked over to the main mast and with one hand released the main halyard just enough to let it slip over the belaying pin, paying out about half of it and belaying it again. The boat was reefed. He did not put down his mug of hot chocolate. He did not spill any.

Suitability to Cruising Boats: Many hull forms will handle the junk rig very nicely. As we are now seeing, fully battened sails are the "state of the art" on high performance sailing craft, for example on the America's Cup contenders. Given proper design, there is no reason the junk rig cannot be adapted to performance oriented cruising boats. An excellent combination is also the use of a fairly traditional hull form with the junk rig. As with any rig, there must be correct balance, and sufficient sail area, with an efficient plan form given to the sails. In my view, there will ideally not be any "western" sails such as a jib, and the rig should approach that of a true ocean going Chinese junk.

Suitability to Motor Sailors: A motor sailor can make excellent use of the junk rig. A motor sailor can be 100% sailing vessel, as well as being 100% capable under power. There are many other approaches as well, such as that taken by the Gulliver 46, the Greatheart 48 and the Greatheart 60 designs. These types have an emphasis on sail that is more on the order of around 60% to 70%. In other words, the sails are provided primarily for the purpose of auxiliary propulsion, rather than primary propulsion. The sails serve the function of being the "get-home" motive power in the case of engine failure. In addition, the sails provide extra boost while motoring when the wind favors. As a bonus, the sails and rig provide excellent roll dampening. For this purpose, the junk rig is ideal.

Simplicity: With a schooner or ketch configuration arranged in true Chinese junk fashion, therefore not having a western jib, there would be just two junk sails, therefore just two halyards total. For a larger vessel, a small mizzen or small fore sail can be used, also ideally a junk type of sail.

Ease of use: On any cruising vessel, be it a sail boat or a motor sailor, it seems particularly advantageous to have the ability to instantly reef the sails, or to lower them completely without any fooling around. Sail and battens collect neatly in the lazy jacks. Once down, you can go to the sail to throw a line around the battens if necessary.

Flogging / Luffing: There is no sail flapping and flogging when passing through the eye of the wind, either while tacking or jibing.

Safety: Individual "sheetlets" are lead to each batten, a full set of sheetlets on each side, so the sails are self tending. The sail shape can be controlled very effectively. This is quite a safe arrangement as well. The multiple sheets, one to each batten, make jibes very gentle, so there is no drama if someone inadvertently puts the helm too far over. This "soft jibe" effect is augmented by there being a fair sized portion of the sail forward of the mast, as a counter force. This makes the junk rig very forgiving for family sailing.

Sail Stress: Having multiple battens, the sails can be made of somewhat lighter material. Sail "cut" is not usually regarded as being critical, and most often junk sails are built "flat" rather than being cambered.

Appearance: In my view, the junk rig looks "right" on many vessels, especially so with a somewhat "traditional" hull form. Given the right match to the hull form underneath, in my eyes the junk rig is very handsome. This can even be stretched to the somewhat unusual in some cases. For example, the junk rig would be a perfect companion to a vessel like the 46' trawler Gulliver...

Spars & Rigging

Spars: Spars can be solid wood, or alternately, the junk rig can take advantage of welded aluminum tube or pipe for spars. These are perfect for the junk rig and when painted properly are nearly indistinguishable from traditional round wooden spars. Compared strictly on a strength to weight to cost basis, aluminum pipe spars are nearly impossible to improve upon.

Battens: Many types of battens have been tried, varying from the obvious use of wood, to the use of ABS pipe, and then to the use of fiberglass rods or bars. Each material has an advantage. Fiberglass battens are a bit heavier and more costly, but they will usually outlast the other types by a substantial margin.

Rigging: The junk rig is friendly to use. For example, just as with a traditional gaff rig, one will be handling soft lines rather than harsh stainless wire and winches.

Proportion: The junk sail drawing presented above is very generic, and is intended primarily as a schematic of a four batten junk (upper yard and boom not included in the batten count). In most applications, the sail's proportions would be stretched to be somewhat taller and less wide. In other words, the rig would ideally have a somewhat higher aspect ratio.

A Few New Terms

A minor advantage of familiarity with the junk rig is being able to impress dock side wags by knowing all about lizards, sheetlets, euphroes, snotters, and bowsing tackles....

Sail shape is controlled by the sheets mainly. Each "sheetlet" runs through a "euphroe" which acts as friction block to keep the tension set as intended. In my drawing, I've made use of a simpler arrangement using a fiddle block and separate "lizard" eyes in order to allow the sail to self adjust when it is reefed.

Once the sail is raised, if it is desired to tension the sail vertically, it is hauled downward by a "bowsing tackle." If it is desired to move the sail forward or aft, it can be done by controlling the "out haul" which in this case leads forward to the leading edge of the battens. The top yard can be controlled via a line called the "snotter" to move the spar forward or aft, or to snug it against the mast, as needed.

In Conclusion

There are many excellent resources for more information on the junk rig. Tom Colvin has written many good articles on the subject, as have Hasler and others. If this kind of thing is of interest, please inquire.

Kasten Marine Design, Inc.

Editor's Comments:

Michael Kasten is a modern enthusiast of the Chinese junk rig. Like many members of the junk rig fraternity, Kasten has come up with modern adaptations of the two millennia old junk rig using modern industrial materials.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: What About the Junk Rig?
Illustration(s): Junk Rig, Gulliver Junk Rig
Author(s): Michael Kasten
Affiliation: Kasten Marine Design
Publication Date: 2001
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

Friday, October 3, 2003

Brian Platt on The Chinese Sail (Brian Platt 論中國風帆)

Brian Platt on The Chinese Sail (Brian Platt 論中國風帆)

The Chinese Sail

Nobody could have designed the Chinese Sail, if only for fear of being laughed at. A device so elaborate and clumsy in conception yet so simple and handy in operation could only have evolved through trial and error. It is indifference rather than difficulty that has caused Chinese sailing craft to be so little studied in the West but the difficulties themselves are formidable enough.

For a start there have probably always been more varieties of sailing craft in China than in all the rest of the world put together. Furthermore:

"The study of everything connected with the Chinese junk is complicated by the most vexatious contradictions. No sooner is an apparent solution found, or a rule permitting of a particular classification arrived at, than along comes an exception of such a formidable nature as to wreck all previous conclusions."

So wrote G.R.G. Worcester, formerly of the China Customs. He is one of the very few Europeans to have given the subject some of the attention that it would seem to deserve.

In my small way I found the same difficulty and, for that reason, merely relate what I learnt from "High Tea" and from what I had seen of Hong Kong junks before I set sail. The letters E & OE (errors and omissions excepted) should be read beside any general statement I may make about the way things are arranged aboard Chinese boats.

Another difficulty I met with was the fact that some parts of the Chinese rig have no equivalent in the West. We have no name for them. I have done my best to adapt conventional terms - though some of those may be not too familiar to modern yachtsmen - but where I could find no suitable term I have had to invent my own.

The Masts, Hull and Standing Rigging

The Chinese Sail may be defined basically as a fully-battened balanced lugsail. There is one sail to each mast. Other sails may sometimes be rigged on booms or between the masts but a two-masted vessel normally carries two sails, a three-master three sails etc. The sailing junks around Hong Kong generally have two or three masts, not more. The foremast is stepped right in the bows, the mainmast about a third of the way aft. If there is a mizzen the construction of the Chinese rudder generally prevents it from being stepped in the centre line, in which case it is stepped to starboard.

A description of the rig is not complete without some description of the hull that carries it: and particularly so with the Chinese junk which is very much an integrated craft. There is no false-keel on Chinese sailing boats. Instead there is a great barn door rudder hoisted in chocks, which when lowered extends well below the level of the keel. To some extent this acts as a centreboard. It can be raised and lowered to adjust the balance when sailing and when beached. When lying head-to-wind under a sea-anchor the whole rudder can be lifted clear of the water. On the Hong Kong styles of junk there is frequently a projecting forefoot where the stem joins the keel, presumably to balance the underwater grip of the rudder. In addition most junks up to about 60 ft overall have a daggerboard between the mainmast and the foremast.

Inside, the hull is built around a system of watertight compartments. Whereas additional seaworthiness may be a consequence of this type of construction I doubt whether it was ever the object. The Chinese hull (if we are speaking of the seagoing varieties) is a seaworthy shape and in normal circumstances has no need for such aids: and the Chinese boatman, for his part, will rarely spend money on anything which he does not consider strictly necessary. The purpose of the bulkhead construction, I think, is twofold: structural strength and working capacity. Different types of cargo or the consignments of different customers can be isolated from each other in the different holds. On fishing boats some of the compartments are filled with water to keep the bait or catch alive.

The large stern of the Chinese junk provides a working and living area, which is frequently extended even further with an overhang. Indeed, if there is a mizzen mast the overhang is essential to stay it and to work the sheets. A couple of catheads which project on either side of the bow are linked by a crosspiece and serve, on Hong Kong junks, another multiple purpose: to stay the foremast, to ship the anchors (whereby I justify the use of the term "cathead") and perhaps also to provide a working platform at the bow.

In general the standing rigging of the junk appears unbelievably flimsy, but in fact the nature of the Chinese sail imposes such an evenly distributed strain that heavy rigging does not seem to be necessary. The big junks of Northern China often carried no standing rigging at all, the masts being strengthened instead with laminating strips clamped on by iron bands. With an unstayed mast the collar where it passes through the deck will act as a fulcrum and the butt of the mast will work on the keel like a crowbar: but the junks of northern China did not even have a keel, merely a thicker plank down the centre to take the mast stepping! The portion of the mast below decks, however, was braced against the system of internal bulkheads. The bulkhead type of construction not only would have made for a rigid frame but must evidently have distributed this leverage in the same way as standing rigging; perhaps more efficiently.

All the masts have a forward rake which, with the high poop, give the vessel the appearance of "slipping downhill". This creates the impression that the junk would bury her bows in a head sea, but I found it to be quite illusory. Some helicopters create the same impression that they are flying into the ground! The reason for the forward rake of the masts is probably to cause the sails to swing outboard in light winds. The rake of the foremast is much more pronounced than that of the others. Acting half as a mast, half as a bowsprit, it increases the sail area and brings the centre of effort forward. Another effect is to cause the foresail to "goosewing" of its own accord when running before the wind.

Charles Jarrett said:

"The forward rake of the mast takes any viciousness out of a gybe by making the sail swing uphill: also, if the sail does succeed in gybing, as soon as the after part gets into the lee of the mainsail, the balance part forward of the mast is swinging into the wind, an action which so deadens the motion of the sail that, as a rule, it comes back to its original setting." (Yachting Monthly, 1924)

The Sail

On Hong Kong junks the sail hangs always to starboard of the mast, though this varies in different parts of China. Sailing to windward the lugsail tends to be more efficient on the tack where it lies away from the mast than when it lies against it, which may explain why in some areas of China the mainsail is hung to one side and the other sails to the other - to give equivalent efficiency on both tacks. Possibly the local preference was conditioned in the first instance by the prevailing winds. In the South China Sea they blow half the year from the northeast and half from the southwest and the fishing junks from Hong Kong would tend to sail East out to sea and West back home, so that when sailing close-hauled they would nearly always be on the port tack: hence the sails are hung to starboard.

The battens (A-B in Diagram 1) are rigid lengths of bamboo with very little taper or flexibility. They are attached to the port side of the sail to take most of the chafe against the mast when on the starboard tack. On the starboard side, sandwiching the sail to the batten, there is usually a thin slat of bamboo (i.e. instead of the batten being held in a pocket as in Western rigs the battens are on the outside and the sail is held between them). The slat prevents the sail from bellying between its points of attachment to the battens and also acts as a chafing strip when the sail rubs against the shrouds.

On the port side of each batten there is a parrel (C) around the mast which holds the sail against the mast when on the port tack. Insofar as there is a "boom" at all on the Chinese sail it is not the lowest batten but the one above it. The distance between the true lowermost battens is only about half that between the others and in any case that portion of the sail is usually brailed up to enable the helmsman to see underneath. Even when the sail is fully extended the lowest panel seems to do hardly any work. It has no parrel to hold it against the mast at its forward end and sometimes no sheet at its after end, so that on the port tack it hangs loosely to leeward. That portion of the sail might be described as an appendix: the real foot of the sail being at the lowest batten but one, which I will call the "boom".

To the forward end of the boom there is an inhaul (D) by which the distance of the tack forward of the mast can be adjusted [often called the boom parrel]. The sail's centre of gravity, suspended from the halliard, is of course well aft of the mast and the weight of each batten tends to push forward. If unchecked the luff of the sail would be a convex line and there would be a transverse strain on the sailcloth between each batten. To control this a line or wire (E) runs from the forward end of each batten to about the centre of the batten below it. The weight of each batten hangs downward and forward and the lines at "E" (which I term "checks") opposed the forward thrust of the higher batten to the downward thrust of the lower.

Aboard High Tea I found that the checking action was not complete and there was still some convex line to the luff; not only pulling the sail out of shape (as the luff had been cut to fall straight) but causing the forward end of the battens sometimes to foul the shrouds. To control this tendency, I evolved a luff-line as illustrated in Diagram 2.

It worked very effectively and I thought I had made a real contribution to the Chinese rig until I discovered later that some North Chinese junks have an arrangement of combined parrel and luff-line to serve just that purpose!

The foot of the sail is carried on two buntlines (F), one forward and one aft of the mast [also called topping lifts or lazyjacks].
Each is a continuous rope, one end spliced to a block, the other running up through a pulley at the masthead, down the other side of the sail, round the foot, up through the block on the other end and thence down to a cleat.

Where it passes the boom it is seized to a ring to prevented it from slipping.

The buntlines take the weight of the sail and battens when it is reefed or furled. This arrangement provides a purchase which is useful to take the weight of the heavier sails or in a strong wind. Furthermore, they can brail up the foot of the sail, as another way of reefing or to enable the helmsman to see underneath, or to clear an awning or bulky cargo. When reefing or furling the sail drops down within the buntlines and is cradled in the curve of them like a Venetian blind. There are no reef points to tie and no need for them. Reefing is achieved by letting go a few feet of halliard until the lower battens lie on each other.

If it is blowing very hard the wind may belly out the panel in between and prevent the battens from meeting properly. But this is very simply corrected by pulling up the foot of the sail a few inches with the buntline.

Whereas the battens are bamboo, the yard of a Chinese sail is wood. It is possible that because the whole weight of the sail is suspended from the halliard at one point bamboo might not be strong enough: or it may be that a heavier spar is wanted along the head to bring the sail down faster. This would particularly apply to the Hong Kong sail and its comparatively short yard.

The arrangements connecting the yard with the mast are shown in Diagram 3. There is one halliard (no peak halliard) and a roving parrel [also called running yard parrel] is led from the same place on the yard as the halliard, passing round the mast, back through a block and down.

When raising or lowering sail it is necessary to adjust this line. Such, at least, was the arrangement as first rigged aboard High Tea. It had the merits common to the Chinese rig of low capital cost and ease of repair, but I found the extra line a nuisance to adjust. I experimented, therefore, with a brass ring and wooden parrel balls that encircled the mast and was shackled to the yard at the point where they crossed (somewhat forward of the halliard). It worked quite efficiently but being hard it tended to chew up the masthead, so I improved on it with a collar made of old fire hose liberally coated with paraffin wax to provide stiffness and lubrication. At either end it was riveted to a metal triangle and a bell shackle passed through the triangles linked it to the yard. It worked very well.

The Sheets

The sheets of a Chinese sail do two things. They control, as ours do, the angle of the sail to the fore-and-aft line of the vessel. They also control the shape and flow of the sail. The two functions are independent: the second being performed by thinner lines, "sheetlets", running from each of the battens to a euphroe connected to the sheet itself.

The sheetlets are as far as possible a continuous line (Diagram 4) starting from the top batten. There is no line to the yard and no need for a vang with such an arrangement, as the sheetlets give adequate control up to the top of the sail.

This arrangement requires a good deal of space so if the sail is to be close-hauled the sheet needs to be led to the windward side. When going about the sheet must be unhitched from the windward side, the sheetlets flicked around the leech as it comes across so that they do not foul the ends of the battens and the sheet hitched up again to the other side.

I had noticed on the foresails of some junks an arrangement of double sheets and sheetlets: one set on each side of the sail so that on either tack the windward set took up the strain. I reproduced this arrangement on all three of my sails, leading the fore and mizzen sheets aft and forward so I could control them from the cockpit. To discourage the sheetlets from fouling the end of the battens I attached them forward of the leech about 15% of the width of the sail. Going about, thereafter, became simply a matter of pushing the helm down.

The purpose in leading the sheetlets to and fro through the euphroe in a continuous line is to make for easy adjustment. A little familiarity with the lead of the sheetlets makes it very simple to adjust the shape of the sail (e.g. to flatten it when sailing to windward). To permit two further adjustments the lower end of the sheetlet is left free, either attached to the appendix batten or knotted to stop it running out through the euphroe. If the sheetlets become too long the sail cannot be fully close-hauled so by taking in on the lower end of the sheetlet adjustment can be made for stretch and for the lengthening effect when the sail is reefed.

Comparison with Western Rigs

Sailing Qualities

Comparisons are still being made and merits argued between the gaff and Bermudan (to Americans, "Marconi") rigs. The Bermudan is generally accepted as being superior to windward because of its long leading edge, but for cruising the gaff is sometimes preferred on grounds of a shorter mast and better distribution of sail off the wind. Short of conducting a controlled experiment, with an identical hull under identical conditions, it would be difficult to assess how the Chinese sail compares.

I remember once sailing a Dragon to windward in Hong Kong harbour, against a light but steady breeze and watching a medium-sized Chinese junk (50 to 60 ft overall) on the same tack. Lacking a deep keel the junk was making a lot more leeway than I, so his actual course was not so close as mine, but he was pointing as close and sailing as fast as I was. In such conditions, and comparing a work boat with one designed and maintained for racing, the comparison seemed to me to speak pretty highly for the junk.

Theoretically I would say that for sailing ability the Chinese sail must fall somewhere between the Bermudan and gaff. Its flatness would tend to make it sail better to windward than the gaff and not so well off the wind. I do not doubt that the long leading edge of the Bermudan sail makes it potentially the best to windward so long as it has been properly made and stretched (a Bermudan sail that has been allowed to get out of shape is not particularly efficient). Therein lies the rub. The shape of a Bermudan sail has to be built in and its retention requires skilful tailoring and high-quality materials. The shape of the Chinese sail, by contrast, is maintained and controlled by external features in the form of the battens and sheetlets. Anybody who can cut and stitch cloth can make a Chinese sail out of almost any woven material. If one had to make do with poor quality materials and workmanship the most efficient type of fore-and-aft sail that one could make would be the Chinese; which is probably why Slocum chose it when building his "Liberdade".

Handling Qualities

When sailing conditions are easy the Bermudan rig is probably a little less trouble to handle than the Chinese; though when conditions are easy the handling of the Chinese sail could hardly be described as difficult! By contrast, as conditions cease to be easy the handling of the Chinese sail remains much the same, while Western rigs become more and more burdensome.

This is due to the degree of control given by the battens and sheetlets. A sail presents few handling problems so long as it is kept full, which is why there is a temptation with Western rigs to hold on to sail in a rising wind rather than face the blood and sweat of trying to get it in; particularly when sailing single-handed. So the helmsman continues until something breaks or until the situation becomes so obviously dangerous that he prefers to face the lesser dangers, trying to bring under control a wet and flogging mass of canvas. With the Chinese rig you carry sail until the last possible minute for a different reason: because you know that you can reduce sail anytime you like, without trouble. The sail will always come down; it cannot flog because the area of unrestrained cloth between the battens is not large enough. For the same reason it does not slat in calms. All it can do is flutter and sway - and reefing is the simplest operation in the world.

The absolute control that you have over a Chinese sail lets you cope equally easily with other situations. You can do anything with it: reef it from the top down or the bottom up, spill the wind with the sheet or the halliard, adjust its shape or its balance, sail under as much or as little of it as you like; or brail it up to see underneath. It is a little more trouble to raise the sail (principally because of the number of ropes to snag) but this is more than compensated by the ease and speed with which it is dropped. The Chinese sail comes down like a pack of cards and is gathered into its buntlines, with no more work after that than pulling it inboard and making it fast.

There is no way of heaving-to a junk, but there are other things that can be done instead. Sail can be reduced progressively until just one corner remains to hold the boat steady against the wind or it can be dropped altogether, the daggerboard and rudder hoisted clear of the water, and a sea anchor thrown over the bows. The fact that the stern is higher than the bow and the low windage of the unstayed or lightly-stayed masts should certainly assist the Chinese sailing boat to lie closer head-to-wind than ours.

A controlled gybe is better executed with a Bermudan than with a Chinese sail because it can be sheeted-in closer. On the other hand an accidental gybe in a strong wind is liable to do less harm with the Chinese sail than with ours, because the shock is more evenly distributed.


Any sailing ship constantly at sea requires continuous running repairs to its rigging. This is probably more true of the Chinese junk than of our boats: partly because of the large amount of rigging but more because of the poor quality of the materials that are used. The junk is generally a family boat so that there is plenty of crew available for minor repairs. More important is that the materials be cheap and easily obtainable and repairs easily executed. On these grounds the Chinese sail suits its owner very well.

The materials and workmanship that go into a Chinese sail, if applied to a western rig, would blow to pieces in the first serious wind. The sail cloth is poor quality shirting-material, bound together with huge "homeward-bound" stitches. The battens are attached to the sail with a few strands of thin wire. There is no reinforcing in the way of the battens and no grommets. The wire is simply pushed through the cloth and round the batten a couple of times. The Chinese operates his boat on a very tight budget but he would use better materials if he thought they were necessary. In fact, the strains on a Chinese sail are so much less, due to the absence of flogging and slatting, that such materials are perfectly adequate. As for the workmanship, the Chinese sees no point in making it out of proportion to the materials.

My problem was slightly different. I was single-handed, I was by no means such a quick and able workman as the Chinese sailor, I was facing a long ocean passage in very rough conditions and I had more money to spend. It was worth my while to go in for better quality in the hope of reducing maintenance. Some of it was justified. I used Terylene rope for the halliards and nylon for the sheets and sheetlets. I used tough plastic hose for a chafing-strip where the battens rubbed against the mast and made the parrels of wire cable heavily greased and encased in plastic. Other measures proved to be a waste of time and money, but I had by no means reached the limits of experiment and had succeeded in cutting down the running maintenance at sea to almost nil.

I had anticipated a great deal of chafe in the Chinese sail. I found it to be much less than I had expected. Perhaps the worst chafe, and it was not important, was at the point where the after buntline passed round the foot of the sail. Otherwise chafe was only serious when the sail cloth was rubbed, wet, between two hard surfaces. I found that the sails suffered much more when reefed or furled than when extended until I had learned, when shortening sail on the starboard tack, to pull out the folds of cloth from where they might be caught and rubbed between the upper and lower battens or between the battens and the mast.

In my experience of both rigs under cruising conditions I would say that they compare differently from the point of view of maintenance, but by no means to the disadvantage of the Chinese. The Chinese sail is more liable to suffer small chafe-spots and they are much more difficult to repair at sea because the sail is so much more permanently rigged. There would be so much work in disconnecting all the battens and lines in order to get the sail comfortably stretched across one's knees out of the wind that it is easier, if the sail must be patched, to try to cope with it fully rigged.

What is lost on the roundabouts however is more than recovered on the swings. Because it does not flog the sail is less likely to tear, and if it does tear or chafe the hole will show very little inclination to spread, so that it can quite safely be left until the next calm or landfall gives leisure to deal with it. A broken batten must be repaired without too much delay; but so long as the battens remain intact the sail can be full of holes and yet retain a great deal of its efficiency. Further, although the patches may be more difficult to apply, even on dry land, they do not need to be applied nearly so well. Having learned my sail repairs on the Bermudan rig I could not bring myself to use homeward-bound stitches, but at the end I was experimenting with canvas cement - sticking on my patches - and the method gave every promise of working extremely well. Any tendency of the edge to lift might be checked with light stitching or staples.

At this point I can see the armchair yachtsmen, if they have followed me so far, rising from their seats in horror. Canvas cement! Staples! For my part I do not always equate what is seamanlike with what is old-womanish. Invisible mending is fine for those who like luxuries and can afford the time and money but in a sailing boat at sea the important thing is to keep sailing. I would not, however, advise anybody to try that technique on a western rig. The cement and staples will probably hold but they create an area of lesser flexibility, so that when the sail flogs it is likely to rip around the edges of the patch.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that there is no welded or wrought or cast or machined metal work in the Chinese rig - or none that cannot be replaced with a rope or wire - so there is no repair that cannot be executed at sea. Only simple tools need be carried, and an ample supply of bamboo and baling-wire in addition to the cordage and sail cloth and twine that are carried as normal spares.


It is difficult to make any sense out of the contempt with which the Chinese sailing boat is generally regarded in the West. This contempt stems from ignorance, but the ignorance itself, I think, has its roots in three main causes. The first is the almost unbelievable indifference displayed by most Europeans and Americans in the Far East to the races that live around them. Amazing the prevalence of misconceptions and the lack of any attempt or desire to find out the truth, the failure even to learn the language. If those living near China cannot be bothered even to explore Chinese cooking (the average white man in Hong Kong is acquainted with perhaps a dozen dishes out of the hundreds that exist!) why should they be bothered to learn about Chinese sailing boats? [emphasis added]

The second factor is that even in Hong Kong there are many, many varieties of Chinese sailing boat, each adapted to a different purpose. The average Westerner does not see much of the ocean-going varieties. The type mostly seen around Hong Kong harbour is the harbour lighter, a great high-walled craft with a single mast and huge tattered sails, which is built for load-carrying rather than for sailing. The sail is only an auxiliary for use with a fair wind: otherwise the vessel is towed by tug or propelled by sweeps. Anybody seeing those boats, and assuming them to be representative of the Chinese junk, would naturally conclude that the type had not very good sailing qualities!

Finally, it should be pointed out that the Chinese is not interested in the same things as we are. We, admiring their ornaments, laugh at the superstitions on which they are based. The Chinese, admiring the finish and materials that go into our boats and the care with which they are maintained, probably laugh just as much at the idea of lavishing so much sentimentality on an inanimate object. If the external appearance of a boat or vehicle or building is shoddy and neglected it creates an impression of a general unsoundness that may be quite untrue, just as a coat of paint can make something appear solid which is actually on the point of falling to pieces!

Bearing in mind the very small margins on which they work I think the Chinese are inclined to neglect maintenance beyond the point that is efficient or economic, but in this context I am concerned not with the fact but with the appearance of inefficiency, which can be deceptive. The same lack of spit and polish and the preconception that oriental dispositions are necessarily inefficient, led experienced military observers before the war to underrate the Japanese!

Comparing my experience aboard Chempaka (a Bermuda rigged cutter on which I sailed from Singapore to Manila) with that aboard High Tea I do not doubt that High Tea's was the better rig. During equally squally weather in the South China Sea the handling of Chempaka's sails became a real burden and progress was almost nil. Further, when repairs when necessary, there was almost nowhere I could find the proper quality of materials and workmanship to repair a Bermuda rig, whereas adequate quality for the Chinese rig could have been found in any large village. I do not know how Chempaka's rig would have stood up to the almost continuous winter gales of the North Pacific, and frankly I would not like to try; though I would not mind making the same journey again on a junk.

There is no such thing as an ideal sail for all conditions and I doubt whether there ever will be. Among most yachtsman the Bermuda rig has become generally accepted, and with good reason, because of its windward ability and its relative simplicity and lack of chafe. It is a good sail for easy conditions, which are the conditions under which most yachtsmen do their sailing. However, for all round cruising ability in difficult or unfamiliar conditions I think the Chinese sail is unbeatable.

Editor's Comments:

Junk rig enthusiast Brian Platt was a westerner whose mind was open. As a result of his open minded attitude, Platt was able to transcend a regrettable history of chauvinism. Platt learned to appreciate and make use of China's ingenious contributions to maritime technology. If westerners such as Platt can do this, shouldn't modern Chinese be able to do the same?

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: The Chinese Sail
Illustration(s): Brian Platt on his Chinese Junk "Sea Emperor"; Sea Emperor during Trials; Rigging, Port Side; Yard, Roving Parrel, Halyard; Sheets; Luff Line
Author(s): Brian Platt
Affiliation: The Cheap Pages
Publication Date: 1960
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect