The Flying Dragon

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On the vey last day of Georgie and Beo’s trip to PV, we were very lucky to get a tour of an historic sailing vessel called, “Flying Dragon”. Owned by a fellow named Regis, along with his girlfriend, Cybil and her son Emi, the Flying Dragon is an official Chinese Junk. Built in Hong Kong in 1924, she is a flat bottomed, junk rigged, teak planked virtual museum. She has a long and colorful history having been used at different times as a fishing boat, a brothel, a platform in a 1970’s “World Fair”, a private yacht with onboard hot tub (which commenced to rot the entire front upper decks), and more recently as a rebuilt private yacht (sans hot tub) that had an amazingly pimped out living space! However, being a nearly 90 year old vessel, she has probably always had her fair share of leaks, simply due to the nature of her construction. Ever since we met the Flying Dragon folks, this past December, there was talk of needing to deal with her continuous leaks. Equipped with junk rigged sails and no keel, sailing any direction but downwind was all but impossible, from what I could gather. Unfortunately, a couple of days after our tour of the maritime artifact, the Flying Dragon floundered due to a mechanical issue, and ended up beached, directly in front of the main pool at Paradise Village Resort.
Deidre and I were anchored out in the La Cruz anchorage. With our broken antenna limiting VHF reception to vessels who are relatively close, we started to hear one side of a conversation of a vessel in distress. We had no idea what was going on, and it was well into the evening before we were able to deduce that it was our friends aboard the Flying Dragon who were desperately trying to stay off the beach. First thing in the morning, we were somehow able to reach Cybil on the radio. It sounded like it was turning into a salvage mission, and they needed help getting things off the boat. Stuart and Karen from s/v Fantasia were already underway from their anchor spot and were coming over to get us, so we could all go offer whatever assistance we could. As we were approaching Paradise Village, we rescued a fishing panga, whose motor quit on them, and towed them into the marina. It was also becoming quite clear that Flying Dragon was no longer in the water at all, she was totally on the beach at low tide!!!
We let go of the panga in the river next to Marina Nuevo Vallarta, then Stuart commenced to show us a proper parking job of a large sailing vessel. We needed to be parked on the Paradise side of the river so we crossed over and in all of about 15 seconds, Stuart shoved, well, he quickly maneuvered, his 65′ long ketch into what I swear ended up being a 66′ long space with a vessel both fore and aft! The whole while I was questioning aloud, whether there really was enough room for us to fit. Yes, he has a bow thruster, but regardless, it seemed absolutely brilliant to me.
Approaching the “beached dragon” was a sad sight. Already, her floor was lifted up, and all the rock ballast was being removed. There were many local cruisers there already, with more and more showing up by the minute. Not only were all the mostly familiar faces of the local boating scene arriving to help, but the throngs of people who were staying at the Paradise hotel complex were also starting to come and gawk at the scene. Photos were being taken. People were getting in the way. Apparently, some guests even thought that the beaching, the evening before, was somehow part of the welcome ceremony!
We quickly got to work unloading the boat of anything valuable, and everything heavy. Nobody had any idea whether the boat would stay afloat or not, and we all figured it was better to remove it than leave it for the ocean to take. Many hours were spent removing everything from the boat, then hauling it up the sandy beach, and over to either a car or the boat dock. As the tide worked its way in, along with the help of a back-hoe digging around the disabled ship, hundreds of people pushed and pulled and were able to inch the bow of the boat back out towards the ocean.
There were lines being rigged to attempt to pull the boat out. One line went to a huge ferro-cement ketch anchored out that was trying to keep constant tension on the dragon. Another line went out to a large power boat, that would, when the boat was afloat, pull the dragon out. With so many things that could go wrong, 1,000’s of feet of huge lines with tons of pressure applied to them, and hundreds of people standing around, it’s a wonder that no one was hurt during the operation.
There were so many people helping in so many different ways, it was absolutely an amazing coming together of the boating community. As the sunset and the evening sky took over, 30 or so hours after the initial mayday, the Flying Dragon, was successfully pulled out through 5-6′ breaking waves. Taking on water badly, she was towed into Marina Nuevo Vallarta, where she was left to the owners accord. Pumps were, and needed to be kept going continuously.
It was an absolute miracle that the Flying Dragon was removed from the beach at Paradise Village. However, with no insurance and no money, the fate of the Flying Dragon is still a huge question mark. The last we had heard, she was still afloat and for sale. I imagine she is going cheap. Anyone interested in a piece of maritime history?