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Vung La

Sailing from Qui Nhon on the 23rd December we had gale force winds and 5-6 metre high seas. As Safety is one of the three watch words of the expedition (the other two being Fun and Learning!), we decided to run down the Vietnamese coast and seek shelter in the secluded bay of Xuan Day. Here, we anchored off a small remote fishing village called Vung La ...
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The bamboo basket boats of Vung La, Vietnam

The fishermen and young people of Vung La

The contrast between Qui Nhon and Vung La could not have been greater ... Qui Nhon - a bustling bureaucratic port; Vung La - a small, quiet and friendly fishing community.

The fishermen and young people of Vung La welcomed us with open arms and seemed to derive great enjoyment spending hours perched on Precious Dragon's rail - watching what we were doing.

It was a pleasure to spend Christmas in this small community, all of whom have a close connection and affinity with the sea.

Bamboo basket boats

There are about forty small fishing boats anchored off Vung La, many of which go out each day to fish in the bay and in the open ocean.

In addition, many of the villagers - both adults and children - go out to fish from small bamboo basket boats. These boats are beautiful - a work of art. They are made from strips of bamboo woven together, and coated on the outside with what looks like a type of lacquer to make them waterproof.

To row or scull the basket boat, you have to stand at the forward edge and move the oar in a see-sawing motion. The villagers are very proficient at this, with even the smallest children able to propel the boats forward at a walking pace.

We bought a bamboo basket boat as a second tender for Precious Dragon, and received an afternoons instruction about how to row the boat. Unfortunately, none of the crew have yet mastered the technique; indeed, none of us have yet been able to scull the boat forward at all ! :)

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A bamboo basket boat for Precious Dragon
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Kevin makes a staysail, watched by local fishermen

Making new sails for Precious Dragon

It could only have been a matter of time before it happened ...

Having brought together a team of five sailors accustomed to sailing square-riggers, it was perhaps inevitable that Precious Dragon's junk rig would be enhanced with an additional square sail and staysail.

The team made the new sails from spare canvas on board. The square sail will be particularly useful for the 900 mile downwind passage to Singapore.

Sea trials of the new square sail

The day before leaving Vung La, we took Precious Dragon out into Baie de Xuan Day to try out her new square sail. The sail worked brilliantly - in this photo you can see that the sail is hoisted up to a yard of two bamboos lashed together. Later, we lashed a bamboo to the top/head of the sail and hoisted the whole lot up to the yard.

Whilst Zheng He sailed under junk rig, his ships would have had unstayed masts, enabling the sails to be let right out on either side of the ship when running with the wind from astern.

Precious Dragon is fitted with stayed masts, which means that it is not possible to let the sails "goosewing" right out. For a downwind passage like the Vietnam to Singapore leg, a square sail is therefore an excellent alternative to the traditional junk rig.

The sea trials also helped us to get some excellent film footage of Precious Dragon under sail.

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Sailing with the new square sail

E-mail  Rex Warner rex @ dragonvoyage.com Magnus Ström (exBerglund) magnus @ dragonvoyage.com.
Last Updated 31/12/10 Ship communications