Chinese captain revisits Maritime Silk Road

By Wang Zhe
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 1, 2015
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Zhai Mo set sail on his journey to explore the ancient Chinese Maritime Silk Road with sailors recruited from around the globe.

"Man is not born to be defeated – you can devastate him, but not defeat him." On April 20, 2015, Zhai Mo, known as one of the top motorless sailing vessel navigators in China, set sail on his journey to explore the ancient Chinese Maritime Silk Road with sailors recruited from around the globe. Their route starts in Fujian Province and travels to Italy via Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Egypt, Greece and Malta in a 10,000-nautical-mile voyage.

"Northeasterly winds, wind level 3-4, speed 7 knots, course 250 degrees, BAP [barometric pressure] 1020, N18°48.065′ E110°59.071′. Today is the seventh day since SETV and Fengyuanhong set sail. From the stormy Taiwan Strait to the torrid South China Sea, sailors are getting over nausea and seasickness, and we are excited to see flying fish clustered on the sea," according to his latest logbook entry, published by his sailors on a microblog on April 26.

Zhai Mo used to be a painter. He first became familiar with sailing through painting, and his interest in the sport has grown since then. Interestingly, Zhai does not see these two seemingly unrelated things as contradictory but rather as complements to each other. Zhai Mo says that he has learned more about culture, customs and art by sailing and that these new elements motivate and inspire his artistic work.

Ever since Zhai became familiar with global sailing in 2009, the first thing on his to-do list has been to re-experience the Maritime Silk Road. He has been preparing for this voyage for 6 years. According to the captain, maritime culture in China dates back to the Han Dynasty. Another of his goals for this voyage is to remind the world of the maritime civilization and history of China over the past 2000 years. The reality is that most Westerners don't know much about Chinese maritime civilization and marine navigation history, so Zhai hopes to introduce Chinese maritime culture and some of its most famous figures to the rest of the world.

The experienced captain seems very confident while talking about the challenges of this voyage. "This voyage is not difficult from a technical point of view, not as challenging as approaching the Antarctic Westerlies. The more challenging part is the threat of pirates who often appear around Aden and Somalia," he says.

Sailors are recording their feelings and experiences along the way in the logbook shared on microblog. "It has been seven days since my last shower. The sailors want to go ashore as soon as possible and take showers!"; "Everybody is in a good mood and has gotten used to the jolting of the boat. The diet is simple: instant noodles, mixed congee and pickles"; "Hear how my sailors feel on the third day of the journey: ‘How do you feel?' ‘Awesome! This apple is delicious.'" From these pictures and words, we are able to sense both the pain and the joy of the long journey. As the "Painter Captain" says, long-distance sailing requires overcoming seasickness, disruption of one's daily routine and both physical and psychological torment.

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