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Flying Dragon Grounded at Paradise

There’s almost always some sort of action on the broad sandy beach in from of Nuevo Vallarta’s Paradise Village Resort. But the grounding Monday of a 48-ft Chinese Junk — directly in front of the main swimming pool — was a first.

“All together now. . .” Despite the best efforts of local Mexicans, resort guests and cruisers, the initial attempts to refloat Flying Dragon were fruitless.

© 2013 Jay Ailworth

Although we have not yet had a first-hand report from the owners, Frenchman Marini Réfis and his Mexican wife Sibyl Gomez, the hearsay around the adjacent marina’s docks is that the boat, Flying Dragon, was skirting the coastline of crescent-shaped Banderas Bay early Monday evening when its engine died. As the prevailing wind and swell pushed the junk toward the beach, her crew’s attempts to raise the boat’s traditional lugsails in time to reach deep water were unsuccessful. An anchor may have been deployed, but apparently was also ineffective, given the conditions.

Everything from ballast stones to bicycles was offloaded to lighten the load.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

No sooner had the junk gone hard aground than a massive effort by cruisers and locals began. Volunteers worked through the night — the high tide was at 2 a.m. — to kedge the junk off the shore, but to no avail. Yesterday, however, the boat was turned toward the sea using heavy equipment, and during the wee hours this morning she was finally pulled free and towed to Paradise Village Marina.  

Cruiser Craig Shaw (right) — who knew the junk from Portland — discusses options with Paradise Village Harbormaster Dick Markie, who was instrumental in facilitating the junk’s refloating.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Turns out this vessel has a history that’s as unusual as her design. According to a former yacht sales listing she was built in Hong Kong in 1925 (of wood, of course), and used initually for fishing. In the 1960s she was bought by an airline pilot who converted her to a cruiser, then she was shipped to Spokane, WA to serve as a floating pavilion at the 1974 World’s Fair. She was later used as a floating brothel in Astoria, OR, before being renovated to seaworthy condition. In December of 2011, apparently shortly after being sold, she was rescued by the Coast Guard seven miles off the Columbia River after her engine died.


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