Junk boat Vietnam
Therina Groenewald: Junk boat Vietnam – Professional photographer
Junks first appeared in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). A small, shallow-hulled vessel with one or two masts. The boat’s narrow shape was designed to allow it to glide quickly across the water. The flat bottom made it possible to dock in shallow waters.
The Chinese-style ships also featured ‘battened’ sails, meaning that they incorporated bamboo spines for stability. These spines served several purposes. First of all, it sectioned the sail, protecting small rips and tears from compromising the rest of the sail. Secondly, they were linked in such a way that sailors could adjust the sails from the deck, without having to endanger themselves by climbing up the mast.
The earliest sails were not made from canvas but from woven grass. Ihad to be dipped in tannins in order to be toughened up. This resulted in a reddish-brown hue, which was carried on when canvas masts were invented. The bright crimson masts seen in Hong Kong’s harbor today still bear this historical hallmark.
The junk, one of the strangest and most fascinating indigenous sailing craft, can hardly be found anymore in the country where it was born. In the last 25 years China has aggressively pushed for the introduction of modern motorized cargo vessels. The story of the junk, with its efficient sail, is a classic example of the demise of a maritime tradition as a byproduct of a booming economy. However, all is not lost for the junk afficionado. Because along the shores of the South Chinese Sea there is a country that can be regarded as the last junk frontier: Vietnam.