Unique sailing opportunity available in Matlacha
Those who have ever dreamed about sailing in an original Chinese junk won’t have to dust off a passport or make plane reservations because this same experience can now be found as close as Matlacha. Frank and Doreen Schooly of Tropical Kitchens is offering special cruises aboard a boat they call the Concubine, which is docked at their Matlacha home.
“During the ’80s, when we were living aboard the boat in the Virgin Islands, we chartered for sunset sails and day sails for many years. Lately we have been thinking, ‘Why not offer the same service to the people here?'” said Schooly.
The sailing ship was first purchased by Frank at an auction he attended in New Orleans in 1980. The Schoolys have no idea as to the age of the boat as no formal records are kept with regard to the construction of these crafts, however, he does know that it was made near Hong Kong Island.
“The boat had been wrecked, sunk and abandoned and needed to be totally rebuilt when I found her,” said Schooly. “It was love at first sight. When I first saw the boat, I knew she was in trouble but I knew I had the skills, the tools and the desire to fix her. She was just calling out for help.”
After taking the 3 1/2 years to restore the vessel, the Schoolys set sail for the Caribbean where they lived and worked from the boat for 13 years.
“Our first trip took us from New Orleans across the Gulf of Mexico to Key West and then to the Bahamas as we made our way to the Virgin Islands in 1983,” Schooly said. “After spending a few years in the Virgin Islands, we returned to New Orleans to rebuild the boat one more time.”
According to Doreen Schooly, while on land, the couple brought their daughter, Kathleen, into the world and then prepared for their next adventure.
“During our first excursion, we had no air conditioning, refrigeration, hot water or entertainment as we had no source of electricity,” said Doreen. “Before our next trip, I really wanted to be more comfortable so Frank installed generators and I could actually watch television and have ice for my drinks.”
The second journey took the Schoolys to the Yucatan and Belize area and they only returned to dry land when their daughter turned 5 years old.
“We first arrived at Burnt Store Marina and began looking for a home,” said Doreen. “We decided to settle in Matlacha and Kathleen was enrolled at Pine Island Elementary School. We have been here ever since.
“Many of the furnishings in our home come from the boat and so much of the both of us are in the Concubine,” she continued. “There is a lot of joy to be had in living a simple life like we did for the 13 years we lived on the boat.”
Frank said the Chinese junks are very simple to captain, but when piloting a vessel like the Concubine, all the rules are different.
“The rigging is very different and anyone wanting to captain a junk must re-learn everything they know about sailing in order to sail a junk,” Frank
Frank also said that his boat has fully battened sails that are not only simple to operate but to repair as well.
“Nearly every working part of this boat is easy to repair. All of the parts are very simple and replacements are as easy as finding another piece of rope,” he said. “The sails are designed so that it is nearly impossible for them to tear and could be made out of grass and still perform the way they need to.”
The term “junk” simply means ship in the Chinese culture, but it is most commonly associated with a sailing ship of a particular design. By design, the rear of the hull is swept up. The stern is designed in this fashion to keep the boat stable in a storm as the higher rear section will catch the wind, keeping the boat on course. Unlike most sailing vessels, the sails on the junk are ribbed with battens which provide the shape and add strength to the sail. The battens also help to prevent large tears. As a rule, a tear will occur in just one panel and can be easily mended or replaced without scrapping the entire sail.
Frank also explained that the construction of the hull of the ship is like no other.
“Here in the states we construct a boat by first building the keel and putting on the ribs before putting on the skin, or outside walls of the boat,” he said. “In Hong Kong, however, they begin with a keel and then build two bulkheads. The planking for the exterior is done next and only after that are the ribs installed.”
In addition to three sails, the Concubine also is powered by a large diesel engine in the event that the wind dies down while out on the water.
The 37-foot-long Concubine can carry up to six passengers and is available for special occasion cruises such as birthday and anniversary parties,
For more information or to arrange passage on the Concubine, call Frank and Doreen Schooly at 823-0651.