Home / Travel Aboard / With just $21 he sailed to a new everyday living in The united states with a small wooden boat

With just $21 he sailed to a new everyday living in The united states with a small wooden boat


(CNN) — Sitting in Eddie Fong’s living space in Palo Alto is a 55-year-old product of a standard Chinese junk boat.

Its presence symbolizes a sequence of unlikely events that introduced Fong, now 81, away from his birthplace Hong Kong to the United States in the 1960s, thanks to a probability experience with a retired Oakland detective that produced into an formidable program to sail throughout the Pacific Ocean to California on a life-sized junk boat.

Just before speaking to CNN Vacation, Fong texted us a spoiler notify: “I want to notify you forward of the time. We failed to make the complete trip to California.”

But although their sailing journey was unsuccessful, it led to a long lasting friendship and a life time of adventures.

Born during the 2nd Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), Fong dropped his mother when he was a toddler. His father and elder brother labored in the shipping industry so had been away a good deal of the time.

“Whilst my stage-mother and my elder sister ended up there for me, I acquired to be unbiased at a youthful age,” Fong recollects.

When he was all over eight years old, Fong borrowed 20 cents from his landlady and enrolled himself in a general public faculty operate by a Christian missionary, where by he studied for a several a long time.

At 17, he dropped out and started operating to enable support his household.

Fong joined the law enforcement pressure just before quitting to develop into a vacation tutorial at Grand Hotel, a now-demolished colonial-design and style lodge that when stood in Hong Kong’s touristy Tsim Sha Tsui district in Kowloon.

Conference Mr. Treadwell

In 1965, Arthur Treadwell, a retired Oakland detective in his late 60s, traveled to Hong Kong with his wife. A guest of the Grand Lodge, he approached the counter to request a private tour. Fong happened to be doing work that working day.

“Mr. Treadwell was 6 foot 4 even though Mrs. Treadwell was 5 foot 2. So Mr. Treadwell experienced to lean down to converse to his spouse all the time,” says Fong.

He led the pair from Kowloon to the New Territories to Lok Ma Chau, the border among China and Hong Kong. Ahead of entering Lok Ma Chau, the group passed by a massive duck farm.

Out of nowhere, Treadwell abruptly shouted, ‘Oh, tiny duck!’

It turned out the American experienced ordered a Chinese junk boat in Hong Kong to sail to California and, observing the minor fowls, made a decision Minimal Duck was the perfect title for his new vessel.

Eddie Fong talks to CNN Travel by using online video connect with from his property in the US.


Fong was by natural means curious. He did not even know exactly exactly where California was — “I didn’t research lengthy sufficient to just take geography course” — but he immediately requested Treadwell, “If you require a crew, can I help you?”

Treadwell replied: “Confident, you’re in.”

Fong dismissed it as a joke as he did not see Treadwell again — right until the pursuing yr. All over springtime in 1966, a tall American arrived to Fong’s counter and explained, “Are you completely ready to go? You promised me you would go to California with my boat.”

“I assumed it was a further non-public tour scheduling, I did not remember his deal with at all,” Fong recollects right now with a mischievous smile.

All aboard the “Minimal Duck”

Pretty much prepared a 12 months immediately after Treadwell’s initially visit to Hong Kong, the Chinese junk boat he purchased and did indeed name “Little Duck,” was ready to sail.

It failed to take extensive for Fong to say indeed, in spite of the actuality the American was pretty much a stranger.

“At that time, it was like a desire to be able to sail to America,” states Fong. “Mr. Treadwell reported he planned to go to Japan and we could make a quit in the Philippines the place we would swim and dive and fish. It sounded quite enjoyable.”

The next day, the two went to the American Consulate Typical Hong Kong so Fong could utilize for a vacationer visa.

“But I failed to have a lender account then,” he recollects. “I was not married. I did not have any serious estate or any standing — I am a person with practically nothing on paper. In normal situations, I wouldn’t be in a position to get a visa, but on that working day, a wonder took place.”

Eddie Fong worked as a travel advisor at a local hotel in the 1960s.

Eddie Fong labored as a travel advisor at a community hotel in the 1960s.

Courtesy of Eddie Fong

Fong says the counselor took a leap of faith and explained to him: “For an unfamiliar motive, I believe I am heading to give you the visa. I never know why.”

The duo quickly began getting ready for their voyage by gathering food provides and searching for a lot more crew associates.

Treadwell imagined they should really have five crew users on board.

They very first satisfied John Bass, a physician from the United kingdom. Then they recruited Ralf Wolpers, a youthful traveler from Germany, and Brian Frecker, a different youthful traveler from Australia the two had been vacationing in Hong Kong.

“The five of us said, ‘let’s gang alongside one another, and then we can go,'” claims Fong.

All around Might of 1966, they set out from Pak Sha Wan in Hong Kong’s mainland Sai Kung District. People and neighborhood media arrived to send the five sailors off.

“It was the longan and lychee season. Every person gave me a bunch as they reported there would be no lychee or longan in The united states,” Fong says.

Wung Kee, the proprietor of the shipyard, and Eugene, the builder of Minimal Duck reportedly followed them as much as Ninepin Team, a selection of islands about 15 kilometers offshore, in advance of they shook hands and bid them farewell.

Rough seas forward

From there they had been on their personal, and set training course for Japan. Sailing was smooth till dark, when the wind kicked up. At all around 10 p.m., they sailed into a major storm. Wind and waves tore some of the boards and one particular anchor absent.

Fong suggests Treadwell kept a diary of his journey for his family, which his daughter-in-legislation typed out.

The former Hong Kong resident now has a duplicate of that journal and read through a couple excerpts to CNN Journey: “Every person was seasick, definitely seasick. It was incredibly rough. But Tiny Duck rode the waves like she should really. It was a tricky night time, but we designed it as a result of. All people was fantastic sporting activities. We might leaned above the rail we would vomited, occur again, lay down, guide in steering, assist in sailing. When the evening went by, the wind dropped. In the early morning, the wind dropped down the sea dropped down. It was as serene as a lake.”

The crew then restarted the 36-horse-power Lister diesel motor and ongoing their journey.

But Frecker, the Australian, failed to recuperate as rapidly as the relaxation, says Fong. Bass, the medical doctor, inspected the boy to make confident he was nutritious adequate to proceed. The group then experienced a conference and decided to go on for one more working day.

Just after the storm, there was yet another challenge: No wind.

“You couldn’t even raise a pocket-handkerchief,” famous Treadwell in his journal.

For miles and miles, they could only hear the pounding of their diesel motor.

“I keep in mind I was experience uncertain about my have potential and I skipped my spouse and children and buddies,” states Fong, as he squeezes his eyes shut to remember the memories of his journey.

“I also remember the longan and lychee. As I was the only Asian, I was the only a single ingesting them. I would vomit from seasickness. And I would then consume some a lot more as I did not want to squander them.”

At one level, the boat drifted absent from its class though Treadwell was asleep. They awoke to uncover on their own in close proximity to Chinese shores.

“For the duration of those days, People and Chinese were exceptionally against just about every other,” says Fong as he reads from Treadwell ‘s notes. “If we had been caught by Chinese, we’d be in great danger.”

Fong, 81, remembers the journey that brought him to America.

Fong, 81, remembers the journey that brought him to The usa.

Courtesy of Eddie Fong

They turned the ship all over and headed for an island forward of them.

But 24 several hours later, the island stayed particularly the place it was — Minimal Duck didn’t development at all.

“Turns out our diesel was relocating 6 knots up towards an eight-knot present-day. We laid there hours after several hours, and we repeated the exact same detail the subsequent day,” says Fong.

Ultimately, Wolpers the German arrived to Treadwell and claimed, “If you never get the Australian boy back, I consider he is heading to die. He started out vomiting once again. Remember you’re the skipper so it is your responsibility.”

Treadwell called out to Bass, saying: “Pay attention, doc. We’re going to go back. I am not using any possibilities.”

As they reversed class, they found even more undesirable news.

There was a leak in one particular of their pumps and it was spilling oil in excess of the h2o tank. They experienced stocked sufficient foods, but this improvement pressured them to panic for their water source.

Thankfully, the currents labored in their favor but fog created it hard to navigate. They had to talk to passing fishing boats to point them in the right route.

“Then at night time, I could see Hong Kong from afar easily as it was very vibrant,” states Fong. “We went again to Wung Kee and astonished anyone there. They assumed we have been half-way to Japan by then.

Though shipbuilder Wung Kee set about correcting the embattled Small Duck, Frecker and Wolpers dropped out from the project.

The remaining 3 posted a see at a regional YMCA, wanting for replacements. When that didn’t work out, the three made a decision to set sail yet again on their individual.

But historical past repeated alone — opposing currents and sturdy winds pressured them to return once more. This time, they went to the Hong Kong Observatory for solutions.

Fong says the Observatory’s chief pulled up a chart and instructed the trio that from May perhaps to the finish of Oct, much of Asia — from Hong Kong to the Philippines to Japan — would notice their typhoon seasons. He advised them to hold out until eventually November to set sail again.

“Mr. Treadwell couldn’t wait for yet another handful of months,” claims Fong. “He was homesick and he was operating out of dollars to remain in Hong Kong as effectively.”

So a single morning, Treadwell took Fong to the business office of American President Strains, a cargo shipping company, and asked if they could get a ride again to California — Very little Duck integrated.

‘I only experienced $21 on me’

“Thankfully, there was space on President Harrison. They set Minimal Duck on the deck and we were on board of President Harrison to San Francisco on June 16, 1966,” suggests Fong.

“I failed to have a lot but I gave my household all my price savings. I experienced with me $21. The $20 was from Mr. Treadwell. And the journey assistant who I worked with gave me the only US dollar he experienced.

“President Harrison was a cargo ship with only 14 paid out travellers onboard. We ate collectively with the captain and the officers. The foodstuff was fantastic and abundant. I had exciting on that voyage. It was also the really to start with time a white server served me food items and named me ‘sir.’ It produced me feel really crucial,” suggests Fong.

“It took 16 days to vacation from Hong Kong to San Francisco. I obtained 16 lbs in 16 days.”

Immediately after arriving in the US, Treadwell decided to write a book on how to work Chinese junk boats and employed Fong as a researcher.

Treadwell and Fong stand with the model of "Little Duck."

Treadwell and Fong stand with the product of “Minor Duck.”

Courtesy of Eddie Fong

In accordance with American labor legislation, they posted a job listing and circulated it amid all the labor departments all more than the place for two months, to establish that no 1 else was capable for the work.

“Then they built this career title a little bit far more enjoyable: Chinese Junk Functioning Pro. So I was the only specialist Chinese junk operator in The united states, then,” Fong chuckles.

Treadwell did not conclude up finishing the book. But eventually, Fong fulfilled “a attractive girl” at a church in Sacramento who became his wife. The two wedded in Hong Kong.

“I explained to my wife that I required to transfer back again to San Francisco to take treatment of Mr. and Mrs. Treadwell at their old age. She agreed so we moved to Palo Alto, just 6 miles away from the place they lived,” says Fong.

Treadwell and Fong continued to sail alongside one another on Tiny Duck for several years to occur. They typically sailed to Florida, Santa Catalina Island or just took her out for a whirl in the nearby San Francisco Bay region.

“We had these a good time observing other people today watching us from their boat. Most possible, they had by no means found a actual Chinese junk in their lifestyle, not to mention this is in SF Bay. Numerous waved their hands with a smile. We felt quite happy,” says Fong.

“Mr. Treadwell brought me to The usa and I believe I did not disappoint him. I have been a good American citizen.”

Eddie Fong

On these excursions, they shared tales from their previous life as law enforcement officers. At times, Fong would aid with the heavier perform on the boat. They’d then prevent for a sandwich following anchoring Small Duck.

“We held Small Duck for two a long time. Mr. Treadwell marketed Small Duck to a further couple when he could no extended just take treatment of it. He was around 88 a long time previous,” states Fong, once again shutting his eyes. “Oh, that was virtually 40 years in the past previously!” he adds with a laugh.

Treadwell passed away a handful of yrs right after he bought Tiny Duck and passed the design of Little Duck to Fong. Now, it sits in front of a framed photo of the primary Minor Duck crew.

Fong says the couple took care of Minor Duck for a though ahead of promoting it to a collector. At some point, the port where by Minimal Duck was anchored was reclaimed to make way for a bridge. Fong no for a longer period is aware of exactly where the boat is.

“From there on until eventually currently, I still mail Christmas cards and pocket income to Mr. Treadwell’s 4 terrific-grandchildren, to exhibit them that I appreciate what their fantastic grandfather did for me,” claims Fong.

“Mr. Treadwell introduced me to The us and I feel I did not disappoint him. I have been a good American citizen and labored for the Federal authorities for decades in advance of retiring. I have two sons, a single is a healthcare doctor and a different a physicist.”

As for his “position” as a Chinese junk boat skilled, Fong laughs and suggests, “My spouse now phone calls me the lazy skilled in the home.

“You know, aged people today like us like to brag a minor. That is the conclude of the story.”

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