Monday, April 19, 2010

Mon Lei

I have seen many unique and interesting boats on Long Island Sound, but a 19th century Chinese junk was never one of them. I first saw the Mon Lei this past February when I visited the oyster docks in East Norwalk. Except for a partially exposed transom, she was covered under her winter tarps which prevented me from getting a full view. I made a mental note to return in April. 
At first, I was highly skeptical that this was the 150 year old ship which has sailed the world. Built near Hong Kong, she is 50 feet long and was once owned by Robert Ripley. She also served time with an airline company that used her to promote their flight service to the Far East in 1959. Unable to find much current information on her, I suspected that this ship was either a replica, or simply had the same name (for example, there are lots of boats named Kon Tiki).
The trouble with online research is that misinformation gets repeated just as often as accurate information.To paraphrase an old Chinese proverb: One website tells a lie, and hundreds of others repeat it. While I am not totally convinced, I am starting to believe that this may indeed be the original Mon Lei. It sure would be nice to find out for sure.

Tugster: Other Harbors
Frogma: Mon Lei Photos (scroll down)

Note: Mon Lei means 10,000 miles, and can be used to imply infinity.


Lily Hydrangea said...

It sure would be interesting to know if that is the original boat and not the replica.
Whatever the case may be, that is one cool looking boat.
Also, I never knew about Callahan Beach. I can't wait to take a trip there to walk along the bluffs. The photos you took are beautiful!

will said...

matt- i agree totally about the difficulty of getting reliable info. i'm inclined to believe the late 1930s build date in hong Kong. See you one of these days.

Whitemist said...

That is incredible!
BTW, just visited Norm Blooms place in Norwalk and did a short post on it.

Larry said...

The photos of the boat had my interest before I read your post.

jeannette said...

Whether this is the real thing or a replica, they're nice shots, Matthew!

Just to alert you I posted today pics of the Star of India in San Diego -the one you've been waiting for:).

matthew houskeeper said...

It is right off 25A west of Sunken Meadow. In the summer you need to be a resident of Smithtown. That restriction probably starts sometime in May.

I am going to post an update with some info from Mystic that helps clear a lot of this up.

Thanks. I like the photos of the sorting going on. Nice!

Thanks Larry.

I'll be right over.

bonnie said...

Looking forward to the Mystic info! I remember the Mon Lei from when she was up by the Intrepid; I'd been told that she had an interesting history but didn't recall details. I ran across her in Norwalk too, was on my way to work at the Small Boat Shop's fall warehouse sale back when they still had that event at Ascension Beach. Pix here!

BTW why I REALLY stopped by was because I wanted to alert you to Be Kind To Gilgo Day on the 25th. See Peconic Puffin for details!

matthew houskeeper said...

Thanks for the photos Bonnie.
I posted the Gilgo info on Twitter.

julanne said...

I recently found a photo of the MON LEI. It is not dated nor signed. Is this photo of any significance to anyone? If so, please email me.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I lived at the Worlds Fair Marina in Flushing, NY from 1968 to l973. The Mon Lei was a neighbor for several years. The owner at that time was Adam York and he told us Mon Lei, as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside, is indeed the original. It was owned by Ripley (believe it or not!)and it sunk in (?) harbor. Adam bought it and had it raised and restored. Thank you for the pictures. It brought back many great memories of living aboard. Nora

Rob Giordano said...

She's real. I worked on her 1978-81. These are not her real colors. My cousin was captain on her for several years while she was docked at 23rd street marina NYC. I've sailed her and she handled really oddly. The inside was awesome teak carvings. She was owned by Ripley but she was much much older than that I believe. She was owned by Allen York for many years.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Was owned by A. York, spent alot time E. 23rd st. Marina NY. Sailed aboard her from Miami to NY. Have alot of time on her, was a great time and loved every minute. She is original and there was alot of love given to her by her captain Richard. Miss her alot.