HISTORY OF THE JUNK
THE MALAYSIAN BUILT “JUNE HONG CHIAN LEE”
The June Hong Chian Lee is one of several Junks built in Penang, Malaysia, and is a 30 meter, 140-ton three mast Junk with 330 square meters of sails.
Built in 1962 for charcoal transportation the June Hong Chian Lee was part of a small merchant fleet that traded up and down the coastline from Burma to Malaysia. She was mainly used to transport mango wood charcoal till 1985 then she was restored and redesigned for the first time to serve as a classic yacht.
In 1997 she changed owners and she was completely restored and set up as a liveaboard vessel. The June Hong is constructed mainly from a hard teak wood called Takien Tong.
The keel of the June Hong Chian Lee was laid in 1961 in Penang, Malaysia and the boat was launched a little later in 1962.
Six similar cargo ships were constructed at the same time together with The Junk. These ships all displaced about 120 tons and had a cargo capacity of 45-60 tons.
The construction wood of the ships is called takien tong (Hopea Odorata) and comes from Langkawi Island.
Initially, no engine was installed on The Junk; instead she and her sister ships were equipped with 400 square meters of sail each. According to Malaysian government rules, this kind of cargo ships belonged to the ‘native sailing vessels’ category. Therefore, they had a separate registration system from motorized vessels and pleasure craft. These cargo ships were not allowed to have an engine, as not to compete with modern motorized ships.
After her first engine had been installed in the early 1970’s, she continued to operate for another ten years as a commercial cargo vessel.
In the early eighties, she arrived in Thailand where she was redesigned as a pleasure craft for the first time. She then spent a little over ten years doing day and party cruises around Koh Phi Phi.
In 1997, she was fully converted into a diving liveaboard vessel. Currently, you will find no other vessels of her age or heritage left in the entire world; a truly unique boat!
During the year of 1985 she was restored and redesigned for the first time to serve as a classic yacht.
The new owner was a young man who had just finished his studies in the USA. His father set him up with a hotel on Koh Phi Phi and he acquired The Junk in 1984.
For the first time in the history of The Junk a deck was implemented on her. On top were two master cabins and below deck a kitchen, one toilet and many bunk beds all in one open space.
Life was still very communal on The Junk. Every now and then there would be parties from the owner and private charters by guests from his hotel.
During that time she was also chartered a couple of times for diving liveaboard trips to the Similan islands. An ordinary long tail boat was chartered to transfer divers to and from the dive sites. They took a portable compressor with them on deck and that was it.
During one of those cruises in 1991, the next owners saw The Junk and had an opportunity to get on board and have a look around. Little did they know that in 1998 they would have a chance to change this boat’s history.
In 1997, The Junk changed hands again. The next owners spent the whole of 1998 restoring and rebuilding her.
An old Chinese carpenter came out of
retirement to oversee the job. It took a team of about 15 carpenters more than a year to rebuild The Junk. More than 60 tons of teak was used for her restoration.
In December 1998 she set off on her first cruise with friends and owners to Myanmar.
From January 1999 onwards, she received her first paying customers who happily went on a truly unique liveaboard cruise to the Similan Islands and beyond.
Since October 2014, the Junk has been operating under her new owner. He is part of the well known dive liveaboard company Master Liveaboards that operates a fleet of several different vessels around the world.