A Mastery of the Canvas: A Dying Art

by Owen James Burke

Rather odd-looking as it sits so low at the beam with such a high set stern is the junk, a traditional fishing vessel of Asia.  Becoming more and more difficult to come across, the junk is revered by many as the most aerodynamically effective sail in the world, but is it going extinct?

Junks were most popular between the 10th and 13th centuries, but accounts of them date back to the 3rd century.  The spaced battens on the sails serve two purposes: they keep the sail flat in most conditions, allowing for the helmsman to sail very high on the wind (therein gaining more speed across the water); the other function is that when high winds tear a sail, the battens can contain the tear so that it did not spread all the way though, stopping the mariner dead in the water.

China has recently pushed out the craft, replacing it with motorized cargo vessels.  Vietnam, however, continues to hold the boat in high regard, still taking great pride in depending on junks for commercial fishing purposes in the South China Sea.

Although they are nearly impossible to find anywhere else in the world, plans are easily attainable, the materials are inexpensive, and they make for great live-aboard, seaworthy vessels.

*via indigenoussails and latitude38*

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