The Marco Polo expedition was set up to recreate Marco Polo's return to Venice in a 13th Century junk, but there are no up-to-date example so it had to be recreated from wood carvings and was to be named Princess Cocachin after the Kublai Khan's Daughter.
Marco Polo left Hangzhou to take the Princess Cocachin to the Persian king at Hormuz. Then overland to Constantinople and finally home to Venice.
The expedition was to sail with the winds and tides and carrying out various experiments and observations and compare them to Marco Polo's account.
I was taken on as 2nd Mate (I had gained my Skippers certificate (coastal waters) and to help out with the programming as I was proficient in DB3.
I was met at Kai Tak airport by the Leader of the expedition and taken to Aberdeen where the Princess Cochin was being prepared for the journey. For what ever reason it was very clear that we did not hit it off and things did not improve as time went by.
Getting up the first morning and going to breakfast gave me my first challenge - eating cornflakes with chopsticks ( I quietly thanked my parent who had introduced me to chopsticks at the tender age of 11 - China Town, London). The best thing was eating the local cuisine and in the evening we went to the local fisherman's cafe just around the corner. It was a corrugated tin building that was ill lit. It was interesting to observe the local population eating as I had always eaten my chinese dishes with the rice but not so here. In Hong Kong they eat the bowl of rice followed by the meat/fish dish. Another habit whilst eating the seafood was to spit out onto the floor - no wonder why it was crunchy - it was not the pebbles I had imagined
The days working went by very quickly as there much to do before her sea trial. Getting the Cocachin was quite a task as there were only 3 of us working.
Once work was finished - usually by about 10 pm the time was our own until 6the next morning not much time for sight-seeing but I did manage to go up Victoria peak using the funicular tram. We were late but persuaded the conductor to let us up for 10 minutes and the night time view from 500 meters up at night was breath taking. On another occasion we took the ferry and went to Kowloon and to see all the bright lights. Eating in the street markets. On one occasion I don't know what I ate but it was deep fried and tasted horrible like the intestines of a pig. For lunch we ventured to the floating restaurants (Jumbo, Star & Jumbo Kingdom) which were cheap at lunch time to attract business customers but very expensive in the evening for the tourist. We could see these from the Princess Cocachin.
As things were not going well and the Expedition Leader wanted to spend the donation I had brought with me from Texaco Tank ships on Decca navigation, which I felt was not in the spirit of the expedition I left after only 3 weeks going home via the Philippines to see friends.
After I returned to my job in Bristol as I received a phone call from reception that a gentleman, who had no appointment wanted to see me about the Marco Polo expedition. Well if you can image a portly sea captain of the 19th Century clippers and a bushy beard then you can imagine Cedric. He was my replacement and wanted my opinion which I was reluctant to do as I did not want to cloud his judgement. Any he left but was back about 5 months later to give me his tale. He had completed the sea trials and was taking the Cocachin to Hangxhou and came under fire from the shore batteries (the photos were very impressive) who had not any information about the Expedition and despite having Papers from the Chinese Government they were thrown into prison. A few days later on the return trip the Cocachin ran into problems and pulling in to the shore Cedric decided to walk to the local village for help and again ran into problems with the authorities. Eventually the Cocachin and her crew arrived back in Hong Kong and the departure of Cedric for the UK. Our meeting some time later was very interesting.