With just $21 he sailed to a new everyday living in The us with a tiny wood boat

(CNN) — Sitting in Eddie Fong’s dwelling area in Palo Alto is a 55-year-aged product of a classic 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, many thanks to a prospect come upon with a retired Oakland detective that produced into an formidable approach to sail across the Pacific Ocean to California on a life-sized junk boat.

Ahead of speaking to CNN Journey, Fong texted us a spoiler alert: “I need to have to notify you forward of the time. We didn’t make the whole excursion to California.”

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

Born during the Next Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), Fong missing his mother when he was a toddler. His father and elder brother labored in the delivery marketplace so had been away a lot of the time.

“Even though my phase-mother and my elder sister had been there for me, I acquired to be independent at a younger age,” Fong remembers.

When he was all-around eight yrs aged, Fong borrowed 20 cents from his landlady and enrolled himself in a community university operate by a Christian missionary, wherever he analyzed for a couple of years.

At 17, he dropped out and started operating to assistance aid his relatives.

Fong joined the police drive ahead of quitting to become a travel information at Grand Lodge, a now-demolished colonial-model resort that when stood in Hong Kong’s touristy Tsim Sha Tsui district in Kowloon.

Assembly 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 Hotel, he approached the counter to ask for a private tour. Fong took place to be doing the job that working day.

“Mr. Treadwell was 6 foot 4 though Mrs. Treadwell was 5 foot 2. So Mr. Treadwell had to lean down to speak to his spouse all the time,” states Fong.

He led the pair from Kowloon to the New Territories to Lok Ma Chau, the border between China and Hong Kong. In advance of coming into Lok Ma Chau, the group handed by a massive duck farm.

Out of nowhere, Treadwell instantly shouted, ‘Oh, small duck!’

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

Eddie Fong talks to CNN Travel via video call from his home in the US.

Eddie Fong talks to CNN Journey by means of movie simply call from his dwelling in the US.


Fong was naturally curious. He failed to even know accurately where by California was — “I didn’t study very long more than enough to consider geography course” — but he right away requested Treadwell, “If you have to have a crew, can I assist you?”

Treadwell replied: “Absolutely sure, you’re in.”

Fong dismissed it as a joke as he didn’t see Treadwell yet again — right until the next calendar year. All-around springtime in 1966, a tall American came to Fong’s counter and claimed, “Are you prepared to go? You promised me you would go to California with my boat.”

“I considered it was a further private tour scheduling, I failed to remember his face at all,” Fong recalls nowadays with a mischievous smile.

All aboard the “Minor Duck”

Practically ready a 12 months immediately after Treadwell’s 1st go to to Hong Kong, the Chinese junk boat he requested and did without a doubt title “Minimal Duck,” was all set to sail.

It did not choose lengthy for Fong to say of course, in spite of the actuality the American was basically a stranger.

“At that time, it was like a aspiration to be able to sail to The usa,” suggests Fong. “Mr. Treadwell mentioned he prepared to go to Japan and we could make a end in the Philippines wherever we would swim and dive and fish. It sounded very enjoyable.”

The following working day, the two went to the American Consulate Basic Hong Kong so Fong could use for a vacationer visa.

“But I failed to have a financial institution account then,” he recalls. “I wasn’t married. I failed to have any authentic estate or any standing — I am a human being with absolutely nothing on paper. In ordinary conditions, I would not be capable to get a visa, but on that working day, a wonder happened.”

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

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

Courtesy of Eddie Fong

Fong claims the counselor took a leap of faith and instructed him: “For an unfamiliar motive, I think I’m heading to give you the visa. I don’t know why.”

The duo quickly started off planning for their voyage by collecting food items materials and hunting for far more crew members.

Treadwell believed they should have 5 crew members on board.

They very first fulfilled John Bass, a health practitioner from the Uk. Then they recruited Ralf Wolpers, a young traveler from Germany, and Brian Frecker, a different younger traveler from Australia equally have been vacationing in Hong Kong.

“The five of us reported, ‘let’s gang with each other, and then we can go,'” says Fong.

Around May perhaps of 1966, they set out from Pak Sha Wan in Hong Kong’s mainland Sai Kung District. Households and regional media arrived to send out the 5 sailors off.

“It was the longan and lychee season. Everybody gave me a bunch as they said there would be no lychee or longan in America,” Fong claims.

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

Tough seas in advance

From there they were being on their very own, and set system for Japan. Sailing was smooth right up until dark, when the wind kicked up. At about 10 p.m., they sailed into a massive storm. Wind and waves tore some of the boards and just one anchor away.

Fong says Treadwell retained a diary of his journey for his spouse and children, which his daughter-in-regulation typed out.

The previous Hong Kong resident now has a duplicate of that journal and examine a couple excerpts to CNN Vacation: “Everybody was seasick, definitely seasick. It was really tough. But Minimal Duck rode the waves like she must. It was a difficult evening, but we designed it as a result of. Every person was superior sporting activities. We would leaned above the rail we’d vomited, come back again, lay down, aid in steering, guide 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 relaxed as a lake.”

The crew then restarted the 36-horse-electric power Lister diesel engine and continued their journey.

But Frecker, the Australian, failed to get well as speedy as the rest, suggests Fong. Bass, the medical doctor, inspected the boy to make guaranteed he was nutritious ample to keep on. The group then had a meeting and resolved to go on for yet another working day.

Right after the storm, there was a further challenge: No wind.

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

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

“I don’t forget I was emotion unsure about my very own future and I skipped my relatives and pals,” says Fong, as he squeezes his eyes shut to remember the recollections of his journey.

“I also try to remember the longan and lychee. As I was the only Asian, I was the only 1 taking in them. I would vomit from seasickness. And I would then consume some a lot more as I failed to want to waste them.”

At a single place, the boat drifted absent from its training course when Treadwell was asleep. They awoke to locate by themselves close to Chinese shores.

“All through people days, People in america and Chinese ended up really from each and every other,” claims Fong as he reads from Treadwell ‘s notes. “If we were caught by Chinese, we would be in great danger.”

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

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

Courtesy of Eddie Fong

They turned the ship all-around and headed for an island ahead of them.

But 24 hrs later, the island stayed precisely where it was — Minor Duck did not development at all.

“Turns out our diesel was going six knots up towards an 8-knot recent. We laid there several hours soon after hours, and we repeated the exact factor the upcoming working day,” suggests Fong.

At last, Wolpers the German arrived to Treadwell and said, “If you do not take the Australian boy back, I feel he is heading to die. He started out vomiting once again. Don’t forget you might be the skipper so it is your accountability.”

Treadwell called out to Bass, declaring: “Pay attention, doc. We are heading to go again. I’m not using any probabilities.”

As they reversed study course, they found even extra terrible information.

There was a leak in one of their pumps and it was spilling oil over the h2o tank. They experienced stocked more than enough foodstuff, but this development pressured them to dread for their drinking water supply.

The good news is, the currents worked in their favor but fog made it tough to navigate. They experienced to inquire passing fishing boats to level them in the appropriate route.

“Then at evening, I could see Hong Kong from afar conveniently as it was really dazzling,” suggests Fong. “We went back to Wung Kee and amazed everyone there. They imagined we were being 50 percent-way to Japan by then.

Although shipbuilder Wung Kee established about correcting the embattled Minor Duck, Frecker and Wolpers dropped out from the challenge.

The remaining 3 posted a notice at a neighborhood YMCA, searching for replacements. When that failed to perform out, the three decided to established sail once again on their have.

But history repeated by itself — opposing currents and sturdy winds pressured them to return once again. This time, they went to the Hong Kong Observatory for solutions.

Fong suggests the Observatory’s chief pulled up a chart and informed the trio that from May well to the close of Oct, a great deal of Asia — from Hong Kong to the Philippines to Japan — would notice their hurricane seasons. He encouraged them to hold out till November to established sail again.

“Mr. Treadwell couldn’t wait around for one more several months,” says Fong. “He was homesick and he was jogging out of dollars to remain in Hong Kong as nicely.”

So one early morning, Treadwell took Fong to the business of American President Traces, a cargo transport corporation, and asked if they could get a experience back to California — Tiny Duck incorporated.

‘I only experienced $21 on me’

“The good thing is, there was house on President Harrison. They place Little Duck on the deck and we have been on board of President Harrison to San Francisco on June 16, 1966,” claims Fong.

“I did not have significantly but I gave my family members all my 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 greenback he experienced.

“President Harrison was a cargo ship with only 14 paid out passengers onboard. We ate jointly with the captain and the officers. The food was good and plentiful. I had entertaining on that voyage. It was also the incredibly to start with time a white server served me food items and identified as me ‘sir.’ It manufactured me experience extremely important,” claims Fong.

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

Immediately after arriving in the US, Treadwell determined 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 “Little Duck.”

Courtesy of Eddie Fong

In accordance with American labor legal guidelines, they posted a occupation listing and circulated it among all the labor departments all more than the country for two weeks, to show that no a single else was skilled for the career.

“Then they manufactured this job title a bit additional interesting: Chinese Junk Working Expert. So I was the only specialist Chinese junk operator in The usa, then,” Fong chuckles.

Treadwell didn’t stop up finishing the e book. But eventually, Fong satisfied “a lovely woman” at a church in Sacramento who grew to become his wife. The two wedded in Hong Kong.

“I advised my spouse that I essential to transfer again to San Francisco to consider care of Mr. and Mrs. Treadwell at their outdated age. She agreed so we moved to Palo Alto, just six miles absent from exactly where they lived,” suggests Fong.

Treadwell and Fong continued to sail alongside one another on Small Duck for a long time to arrive. They often sailed to Florida, Santa Catalina Island or just took her out for a whirl in the close by San Francisco Bay region.

“We experienced these types of a very good time viewing other people today seeing us from their boat. Most most likely, they experienced by no means found a actual Chinese junk in their daily life, not to point out this is in SF Bay. Quite a few waved their hands with a smile. We felt incredibly very pleased,” states Fong.

“Mr. Treadwell brought me to The usa and I think I failed to disappoint him. I have been a very good American citizen.”

Eddie Fong

On these outings, they shared tales from their earlier life as police officers. In some cases, Fong would enable with the heavier get the job done on the boat. They’d then quit for a sandwich following anchoring Very little Duck.

“We stored Minimal Duck for two decades. Mr. Treadwell bought Tiny Duck to a further few when he could no more time acquire care of it. He was about 88 decades old,” claims Fong, once more shutting his eyes. “Oh, that was pretty much 40 decades in the past by now!” he provides with a snicker.

Treadwell passed away a couple of decades right after he offered Tiny Duck and handed the design of the boat to Fong. Right now, it sits in entrance of a framed photograph of the initial Little Duck crew.

Fong states the few took treatment of Minor Duck for a although right before offering it to a collector. At some point, the port in which Minimal Duck was anchored was reclaimed to make way for a bridge. Fong no extended knows wherever the boat is.

“From there on right up until these days, I still send Xmas cards and pocket funds to Mr. Treadwell’s 4 great-grandchildren, to exhibit them that I take pleasure in what their wonderful grandfather did for me,” says Fong.

“Mr. Treadwell brought me to The united states and I consider I failed to disappoint him. I have been a very good American citizen and labored for the Federal governing administration for decades in advance of retiring. I have two sons, just one is a clinical medical doctor and an additional a physicist.”

As for his “function” as a Chinese junk boat qualified, Fong laughs and says, “My spouse now calls me the lazy expert in the home.

“You know, outdated individuals like us like to brag a minimal. That’s the finish of the story.”