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How a failed journey to California aboard a Chinese junk boat led to a lifelong friendship

April 7, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 22.7%. 2 min read.

Eddie Fong, now 81, shares how a chance encounter with a retired Oakland detective developed into an ambitious plan to sail across the Pacific Ocean to California on a junk boat.

Its presence symbolizes a series of unlikely events that brought Fong, now 81, away from his birthplace Hong Kong to the United States in the 1960s, thanks to a chance encounter with a retired Oakland detective that developed into an ambitious plan to sail across the Pacific Ocean to California on a life-sized junk boat.

So Mr. Treadwell had to lean down to talk to his wife all the time," says Fong.

It turned out the American had ordered a Chinese junk boat in Hong Kong to sail to California and, seeing the little fowls, decided Little Duck was the perfect name for his new vessel.

Fong dismissed it as a joke as he didn't see Treadwell again -- until the following year.

Almost ready a year after Treadwell's first visit to Hong Kong, the Chinese junk boat he ordered and did indeed name "Little Duck," was ready to sail.

"At that time, it was like a dream to be able to sail to America," says Fong.

The next day, the two went to the American Consulate General Hong Kong so Fong could apply for a tourist visa.

Everyone gave me a bunch as they said there would be no lychee or longan in America," Fong says.

Fong says Treadwell kept a diary of his journey for his family, which his daughter-in-law typed out.

"During those days, Americans and Chinese were extremely against each other," says Fong as he reads from Treadwell 's notes.

"Then at night, I could see Hong Kong from afar easily as it was very bright," says Fong.

Fong says the Observatory's chief pulled up a chart and told the trio that from May to the end of October, much of Asia -- from Hong Kong to the Philippines to Japan -- would observe their typhoon seasons.

"Mr. Treadwell couldn't wait for another few months," says Fong.

So one morning, Treadwell took Fong to the office of American President Lines, a cargo shipping company, and asked if they could get a ride back to California -- Little Duck included.

They put Little Duck on the deck and we were on board of President Harrison to San Francisco on June 16, 1966," says Fong.

After arriving in the US, Treadwell decided to write a book on how to operate Chinese junk boats and hired Fong as a researcher.

Treadwell and Fong continued to sail together on Little Duck for years to come.

Mr. Treadwell sold Little Duck to another couple when he could no longer take care of it.

He was around 88 years old," says Fong, again shutting his eyes.

Treadwell passed away a few years after he sold Little Duck and passed the model of Little Duck to Fong.

Fong says the couple took care of Little Duck for a while before selling it to a collector.

"From there on until today, I still send Christmas cards and pocket money to Mr. Treadwell's four great-grandchildren, to show them that I appreciate what their great grandfather did for me," says Fong.

As for his "role" as a Chinese junk boat expert, Fong laughs and says, "My wife now calls me the lazy expert in the house.

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