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

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