Under the scorching sun and on the raging seas, a group of sailors with an average age of 50 rowed a traditional balangay (or cinedkeran ) named Si Mangavang , the largest one ever built in the past century in an ancient style, across the Kuroshio. They braved all that heat and dangers on an 18-day journey of challenge only to write a page in history for the marine spirit belonging to Lanyu (Orchid Island) and Taiwan.
Their daunting adventure to Taiwan not only marked a significance in the country’s centennial, but demonstrated superb nautical wisdom and marine culture of the Yami.
The Warriors Set Off
In the early afternoon on June 28, 2011, Si Mangavang set off from Dongqing Bay and sailed a 15-km voyage to Kaiyuan Harbor as a warm-up. Though just sailing along the coast of Lanyu, the sailors still faced some turbulent part of the route at the northeast corner, where two ocean currents merged, before they safely arrived at Kaiyuan Harbor.
This somewhat chal lenging warm-up had foreboded an even greater difficulty ahead that’d require extraordinary skills and wisdom to overcome. But all the warriors were still poised to take on the mission.
In the wee hours at 4 a.m. on June 29, the cinedkeran was getting ready in a launching ceremony, when the tribe’s seniors sang their prayers and the sailors concluded their final preparations for the upcoming 18-day visit across the seas. Their first stop: Dawu in Taitung.
Under the escort by the Coast Guard, Si Mangavang and its logistics ship departed from Kaiyuan Harbor, heading toward the boundless glittering ocean. Ahead lies the bumpy Kuroshio hidden beneath the calm sea surface, posing a tough barrier between Lanyu and Taiwan.
First Challenge : Crossing the Black Tide
Considering the main current of the Kuroshio flows from southwest toward northeast, it’ll be a much rougher route to cut across the 100-km-wide and 300-m-deep strong current that flows at a speed of 3 nautical miles per hour if they try to take a shortcut toward the southwest to Eluanbi. So the senior sailors decided to go northwest first to pass the Kuroshio and reach Shangwu Harbor at Dawu and then sail south along the countercurrent along the coast.
The cinedkeran finished this leg of voyage at 11:30 a.m., spending less than 8 hours to cross the Kuroshio, a record much faster than that of 11 hours set by another balangay Ipanga na in 2007. Si Mangavang sailed at an average speed of 5.5 knots. (The knot is a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile, which is defined as 1,852 m, per hour, roughly 0.5144 meter per second.)