Despite the fact that it is now about 20 years since I have actively worked in Taiwan my time there starting in about 1977 remains a very important part of my life. I connected to Taiwan. I was half way across a very busy intersection one Sunday afternoon when it flashed on me, “I am happy here.” I enjoyed the country, the people and of course the food. I maintain a huge collection of Taiwanese Facebook friends. I do my best to try to keep up on what is going on over there.
My Chinese name is Pang Roa Bor although I’ll answer to Da Beedse ( big nose).
My third client came to me with an idea of building a boat in Taiwan. This was probably 1973. He said we could do a boat in Taiwan quite cheaply and he would market the boat. I lay out this story in great detail in my book. The short version is that boat evolved into the CT 54 after the client, not the most scrupulous of men, was given the boot by the Ta Chaio yard. Ta Chaio went on to build 100 of the CT 54’s and I was on my way. The CT54 was the very first professionally built boat built to my designs. I was overjoyed at the job they did. I consider the Ta Chaio yard in Pali my second home in Taiwan.
Over the years I worked with many Taiwan yards and at one time my Taipei pal, Tim Ellis counted 16 different boast being built in Taiwan that I had designed. Not sure if this is accurate but I like the sound of it.
During my very first visit to Taiwan, courtesy of the Lafitte group, I felt a bit handicapped not being able to communicate. It never occurred to me that my hotel, had both Chinese and English names. So the first time I jumped in a Taipei cab and said, “Santos” I got a confused look from the driver. He slowly went through the hotel options for me and finally delivered me to the correct hotel. Santos was the English name and “San Der Da Fun Dien” was the Chinese, or Mandarin name. I thought to myself, “This will never do. I need some Mandarin language skills.” I carried a book SELF TAUGHT MANDARIN but once the people around me found out I was trying to learn to speak Mandarin I had no shortage of expert teachers. So from then till this day I struggle along trying to teach myself Mandarin. I do OK. I can usually say what I need to say but I often have a hard time understanding what is said back to me. “ Ching ni, man man tso” “go slowly please”. Then I like to follow that with, “Woa sher igga da ben dan.” Loosely translated this means, “I am just a big dummy.” That always gets a laugh. I love the language. It can be very beautiful and the Taiwanese speak it with a very subtle four tone accent compared to what you might hear in Beijing. I can vividly remember the first time I gave cab directions to the hotel in Mandarin. The cab pulled up at the hotel and I thought to myself, “I actually spoke Chinese and a Chinese person understood me!”Today I am usually able to impress waiters in Chinese restaurants in Seattle but that’s about all the practice I get. I still keep my SELF TAUGHT MANDARIN book next to me here in my office.
When we started building in Taiwan the word in the US was that Taiwan built boats are junk. A few were. But in no time we were building some very well built boats in Taiwan. I remain very proud of my work there. If it had not been for my early work in Taiwan I would have probably starved. I am in debt to my Taiwan clients.
I like to think a big part of me is Taiwanese.
I have asked my good friend and sailor Wayne Shen to translate this into Chinese characters for my friends in Taiwan.
Tsai chien. Woa hen shi huang Taiwan.