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?

3 thoughts on “The Flying Dragon

  1. My wife and I almost bought this boat when she was for sale in Portland. I regret it now because this guy is going to kill her. I see that her bow boards were already missing when they grounded. Where did they go? There were no leaks before they took her over the Columbia bar in the winter. Duh. You don’t do that to a boat you want to keep. Yes, she is a museum piece. Both the very traditional teak hulled junk and the interior designed and built by a professional artist. What a shame.

  2. I lived on the Chinese Junk Phai Lon for 10 years in Seattle, Tacoma, Vashion Island and the Columbia River. I had spent one year rebuilding Phai Lon at Pick’s Cove in Tacoma. I was lucky to find a old Korean Ship Builder who had served a apprentice ship with in China Building Boats. The first thing he taught me was the critical difference between Chinese Construction and western construction. He would always say no no Chinese way. I had sanded the hull to bare wood and replaced any bad spots in the planks using Chinese repair methods of edge nailing on the diagonal and making the boat into a unitized structure. The Chinese have done this edge nailing for over two thousand years. When you look at a traditional Junk or San-pan you will see triangles cut into the wood every few inches this is where the edge nails are. I caulked the Junk inside and out the bilges were dry. When the custom built interior, designed, and handcrafted by famous artist, Jerry Joslin was done a St Helens boatyard shipwright who was incapable of caulking a wide seamed Chinese junk convince Jerry Joslin to cut out every spike holding the planks together that would be over 1000 spikes (structural fasteners) and replace them using glued splines. This arrogant shipwright rejected over 2000 years of proven Chinese boat building. When Jerry Joslin changed Phai Lon’s name to the western Flying Dragon he had also changed the junk into a western yacht. The unknowing buyer did not realize the change, a western surveyor would not know. So when Flying Dragon took a large hit off of the Astoria Coast it opened up planks because they were no longer held by the edge nailed spikes. When a boat goes a ground it is banging on the bottom by the wave action before she is hard aground. More planks moved and more leaks happened. The new buyer did not realize this western yacht and former Junk should never be in the open ocean because the hull could not with stand the Ocean conditions because of cut fasteners.

  3. I see. I’m sorry I badmouthed the people who bought the boat. If they didn’t understand the structural problems when they bought her, then it wasn’t her fault. I was just upset because this boat, which really is a work of art, will probably end up destroyed. It should have remained in Portland where the structural weakness would never have been discovered. I wonder if they got a survey. If so, then the surveyor’s insurance should be paying. The reason we backed out was exactly what you mentioned. They cut all the nails and splined the whole hull with cedar strips. That just didn’t feel right to me. The surveyor should have felt the same suspicion and done some learning and investigation before producing his report. I wish them the best and hope they are able to save this beautiful boat.

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