Re: What is a Taiwan Turkey?
I apologize that I had written this for an earlier discussion on Asian boats but I think it applies to your question.
All too often pejorative nick-names get painted with way too broad a brush and the term 'Taiwan Turkey' is one of those terms. But like many stereotypes, there was a kernel of truth that created that term (and worse nick names) for boats from Taiwan. Over the years I have spent a lot of time around these boats, including working with Charlie Wittholz on the design for a boat that built by Cheoy Lee (technically from Hong Kong and not Taiwan, but one of those companies that also got stamped with the 'Leaki-teaky' appellation). But also my mother and stepfather had a business that had boats built in Taiwan and imported to the States so they were in and out of the yards, contracting for boats. Working with them, I learned a lot about the Asian yards.
To begin with, many of the Asian yards were capable of doing extremely fine woodworking and pretty fair glass work. But many of the boats built in Asia were targeted at the bargain basement price range. Often those boats contained items that would never be considered acceptable as good boat building practice. This included counterfeiting knock off hardware which lacked interchangeable parts, using questionable metallurgy, using locally produced inferior grades of plywood throughout the boats including sub-decking, decks and cabins that were essentially built as a wooden boat deck and cabin structure, but without the same structural details that would be considered critical proper practices in wooden boat construction, installing black iron tanks and so on. Often the designs were pirated, with molds being splashed from a finished hull and constructed by a yard that was not authorized to use the original designers design. Interior, rig and equipment layouts were often altered without the benefit of a proper yacht designer resulting in boats that did not behave as designed.
Often the glass-work was crudely done and while excessively thick, was not especially strong due to poor resin to glass ratios, poor fabric handling, and excessive use of non-directional fabrics. Yard workers sometimes added solvents and accelerators to the resin to bring down cost and make the layup faster and easier. This resulted in boats that were especially prone to blisters and unexpected structural problems.
On many of these boats corners were cut in a thousand hidden places, both large and small. Sometimes it was use a cheap copy of the proper below the waterline hose type. Sometimes it was knock off brass through-hulls and seacocks. Wiring was often untinned, and improperly installed. Light fixtures might be a cheap knock off with ferrous components and so on.
And it is very hard to know which corners were cut on any particular boat by any particular yard. For example, on one boat an owner might hire a representative to inspect their boat while it was being built and may specify ballast weight and materials and so on. That boat might have lead shot in a polyester resin ballast, with the ballast weighed out as it was being prepared and installed. The same exact model from the same exact yard may not have those stipulations and so may have ballast consisting of steel boiler-punchings in concrete with the result being a much lower density ballast and a lower overall ballast weight. The first boat might feel pretty normal for a traditional boat, while the second boat may roll you to death and need to be reefed much sooner.
Another ubiquitous part of the bad reputation is that a large percentage of these boats came with teak decks and wooden spars. Often the decks were laid over non-marine plywood and fastened with thousands of locally made brass (rather than bronze) or worse yet galvanized iron fastenings. Often the decks were caulked with locally made caulking that did not have the life span of higher quality products. Often the teak was not properly bedded to the sub-deck. At some point these decks would leak and water would get into the cabin, and into the sub-deck and rot it out. In the worse cases, the water rotted out deck beams and cabin structures.
The Asian yards had a practice of relabeling wood species with some grand sounding name, like Asian mahogany, or Thai Fir. Sometimes these were actually decent species of wood, but more often than not these were species of wood that were not all that well suited for their purpose having mediocre rot resistance or strength. Because of the largely wooden construction and poor choice of materials these boats were very labor and material intensive to maintain.
Lastly, many of these boats were built to outdated designs; designs which were closer what might have been done in the 1930's than in the second half of the 20th century. While many people simply just do not care above about performance and are perfectly comfortable motoring or making really really poor passage times, by any relative standard, many, if not most of these boats are slow on all points of sail, including reaching, even as compared to more modern dedicated cruisers from that same era. Because of their high drag and displacement many of these more traditional designs carry a huge amount of sail area making them physically hard to sail. They do not sail to weather well and many of the more lightly ballasted boats are not all that great in really heavy going either.
And so cumulatively, that is where the nickname ‘Taiwan Turkey’ originates. But in reality there were also a lot of Taiwanese built boats for which the above descriptions would be totally inaccurate. Skilled designers like Gary Mull, German Frers, Bob Perry, Ray Richards, Charlie Wittholz and Doug Peterson penned some wonderful boats that were built in the Asian yards. Some of these were updated variations on traditional design principals that produced boats that sailed very well and which were also good cruising boat designs. Others were a more modern take on a cruising boat (Kelly Peterson 44/46 for example) and were also good cruising designs.
In the mix were boat importers that set high standards for their boats and enforced them. These were importers who contracted with individual designers, individual yards and selected high quality materials and methods. These Companies like Kalik (who also built in Europe and Korea) and Jack Kelly imported pretty much all of the boat building materials including the basics like resin, deck hardware, engines, wiring, spars, and even imported pallets of marine plywood. They personally might be at the yard or hire a personal representative to supervise the work and make sure that tabbing was done right and that the materials that they bought for the boats were actually used on their boats.
There were also builders who understood proper construction and worked hard to produce properly built boats. My sense is that Tayana falls in that category.
In conclusion, as I see it, when someone asks me about some particular boat or make and model that originates from Asia, I can only answer, there is no way to know whether that specific boat is well built or not. I can often look at a design and say, by any objective standard that boat will slow, and cranky to sail. What I can’t say is whether those sailing characteristics are acceptable to any specific potential buyer.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay
Last edited by Jeff_H; 02-09-2018 at 03:01 PM.