HISTORIC BOAT RETURNS TO TAIWAN AFTER 60 YEARS: REPORT

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TAIPEI, May 1, 2012 (AFP) – A vintage Chinese boat that set sail on a historic voyage from Taiwan to the United States nearly 60 years ago is heading home, a report said Tuesday.

The Free China, built around the turn of the century, is the oldest surviving wooden Chinese sailing vessel in existence and the last of its kind, according to Chinese Junk Preservation, a non-profit organisation that has been trying to save it.

The Chinese sailing boat, or junk, was put in a cargo ship in San Francisco witnessed by two of its original crew members and is expected to arrive in Taiwan in two weeks, said Taiwan’s state Central News Agency.

The boat and six crew left northern Taiwan’s Keelung port in 1955 to cross the Pacific and arrived in San Francisco via Japan’s Yokohama after 54 days, the report said.

The vessel, which was in need of an overhaul upon arrival in San Francisco, went through four owners and was left in a shipyard while it continued to deteriorate until Taiwan’s government stepped in to save it.

The Free China will be preserved in a maritime museum in Keelung.

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