Large red sails are expected to fly from Steveston’s waters this summer as a family begins their Hong Kong junk boat tours teaching people about Chinese culture.
Montgomery Gisborne, also known as Captain Shan Long, and his family plan to start operating sailing tours from his 38-foot long, 12-foot-wide authentic Chinese junk sailing ship out of Imperial Landing in early August.
The boat will sail through the Ladner marsh towards New Westminster and back.
While the eye-catching red boat may be a fun to look at, Gisborne said the main goal is to explain the history of Chinese culture, specifically the Ming Dynasty, to their passengers.
“For people who are very curious about Asian culture and appreciative of it, but don’t really know much about it, this is an opportunity to experience and learn from a wonderful perspective on the waters,” said Gisborne.
Gisborne, while not of Asian heritage, said he has been interested in the Asian civilization for as long as he can remember and given that his wife and daughter are Chinese, together they decided to share their love for the culture and its traditions on these tours.
Along with offering a history lesson, the tours serve up a variety of Chinese dishes, snacks and even tea service for people to learn about flower teas, he explained.
Hai Long, which is translated to “sea dragon,” was the name given to the boat when he bought it from the original owners in 2016.
The ship was built for a Canadian family in 1968. The construction took place in Hong Kong where the family stayed to oversee its production said Gisborne.
“It’s exactly as close to the only Chinese junk ship in existence during that period,” he said.
While junk boats were built as work boats, used for fishing, cargo and passenger transportation for hundreds of years, Hai Long was built purely for pleasure.
The iconic boats are now often used as part of harbour cruises and for onboard fine dining in Hong Kong.
Currently, Hai Long is docked at Shelter Island Marina for maintenance work.
Gisborne is anticipating to launch the boat from Imperial Landing during the first week of August.
“It’s going to be delightful to get back into operating Hai Long and celebrate the talented people and the Chinese cultural influence that built her.”
Gisborne began offering his summer tours with his family in Prince Edward Island since 2017.
The boat went into storage in October 2019 and the family travelled to Coquitlam, B.C. for a six-month contract work during the off season.
That’s when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and took the winds out of their sails.
“It was a terrible and stressful time for our family,” said Gisborne.
His wife and daughter had travelled to Wuhan to visit his wife’s family when the city went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The two were unable to leave Wuhan for two months until they were secured a spot onboard a flight for evacuees, organized by the Government of Canada, out of Wuhan in March.
“Our business got shut down and when COVID-19 restrictions were finally lifted, we paid a lot of money and had the boat hauled across Canada to Richmond.”
Now, Gisborne is ready to have Hai Long fixed up and return to their tours.