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Early life 1962-1984
The Junk “June Hong Chian Lee”
was build in Penang Malaysia. The keel was laid in 1961 she was launched in 1962. Her registration in Penang was P27. In total there were in that period 6 sister ships build all about the same dimensions. They all were about a 120 ton displacement capable of about 45-60 tons of cargo. When she was build there was no engine installed and she had around 400 square meters of Sail. The wood (kayu chengal (Hopea odorata) came from Lang Kawi Island. In Malaysia these ships were called native sailing vessels and had a separate registration system from motorized vessels and pleasure craft. They were not allowed to have a engine as not to compete with modern motorized ships. Later in about the seventies the first engine was build inside and there was still a limitation on the size of the fuel tank to make sure these ships would/could not compete with motorized vessels. This was conforming the desire of the Malaysian government to stimulate cargo operators to modernize their commercial fleet. She worked another ten years as a commercial cargo vessel untill the early eighties. In the early eighties she arrived in Thailand and she was redesigned for the first time as a pleasure craft. She spends a little over ten years in Phi Phi Island and in 1997 she was converted to a diving liveaboard vessel. Currently there are no vessels her age or heritage left in the entire world.
Rituals Another link with the past is a daily ritual of offering fruit, tea and incense before a small Chinese temple in the Captain's quarters. According to Chinese tradition, the goddess of the shrine, if honored, will protect the ship. At the entrance of the temple, two small wooden soldiers stand guard. They are named Chian and Lee-the last two names of the June Hong-and they represent the Ying and Yang.
A second altar is on the junk's bow. Fresh flowers are placed there each week. Below the bow are the Eyes of the ship. According to the Captain, the bow is a sacred part of the junk and sitting or standing there is a sacrilege. Sometimes guests sit on the bow, it makes the crew nervous. You can see it in their faces, says the captain.
At the start of each season when the June Hong Chian Lee is launched, a Chinese shaman or priestess performs an ancient seafaring ceremony to call ashore the spirits.
The junk June Hong Chian Lee (Respect Wind Travel Forever) is now restored to her old glory to serve as a liveaboard in the Phuket area. Therefore she is renovated to meet today's divers expectations.