In 1973, three adventurous Europeans planned to build a luxury ship to cruise the Mediterranean. The ship was barely finished when they ran out of money and sold her to a shipyard in Aberdeen. For one and a half years, Huan was left neglected among the more practical and less impressive fishing junks in Aberdeen.

Dr. Philip Ney


The Huan


One day, Dr. Philip Ney, a Professor of Child Psychiatry at Hong Kong University, spotted the Huan in Aberdeen Harbor and immediately recognized her potential as a training ship. Undaunted by her state of neglect, Dr. Ney and his friend Graham Bell, a ship surveyor, were convinced that the Huan was made for the purpose they had in mind: a floating classroom at sea for Hong Kong children. They combined their resources to buy the vessel in January, 1977. Later that year, Adventure-Ship registered as a charitable organization, beginning the first educational sailing program for young people in Hong Kong aboard the Huan. After a year of hard work by volunteers repairing the junk and refurbishing it using funds from donations and contributions from benefactors, Huan set out on its first sea voyage in February 1978. Symbolically, the ship’s first voyage included a group of underprivileged children.

Adventure-Ship has continued its tradition of service and social integration through the years since that maiden voyage. Though several new training programs have been implemented to improve the experience for participants, and even though a new ship has replaced the Huan, Adventure-Ship’s unwavering mission for positive personal change and continued impact on the lives of Hong Kong youth have remained constant.

In the Words of the Founder, Dr. Philip Ney

Ney Huan

In September 1996, our former Executive Secretary Ms. Mimi Yeung interviewed Dr. Philip Ney, the founder of the Adventure-Ship Project, on board Robinson II, a sail training ship at Vancouver Island, Canada. For more on the history and philosophy of Adventure-Ship, read the following excerpts.

Mimi: Why is the project called Adventure-Ship?
Dr. Ney: In English, adventure means doing all kinds of daring things that young people like to do. Adventure-Ship (with a hyphen) is a play on words, to describe having a great time doing daring things on board. For the Chinese name, Huan, we understood that Chinese are very careful about names. In order to choose the right name, we paid a handsome fee for a Chinese name consultant to choose a name for us. I still hope that we did choose the right name.
Mimi: What were Hong Kong’s social needs in 1977 when the project started?
Dr. Ney:

I was a Child Psychiatrist at Queen Mary Hospital and in my work I came across lots of young people who were psychologically ill, delinquent, and disabled – all were young people who had problems.

I had decided long ago that I have to put more emphasis on preventing the problem rather than treating the problem. Through sail training, people could build up a good sense of themselves, learn new skills and see the beauty of the place they live in – all these things can prevent problems.

The young people who came to me led a restricted life – the only life they knew was the streets of Hong Kong. That was such a shame, because there were lots of interesting places – the beautiful waters, wonderful islands and lovely beaches! The streets of Hong Kong are only a small part of Hong Kong. I wanted to give them the chance to appreciate what Hong Kong is like.

Mimi: How does the training help?
Dr. Ney:

I have always emphasized prevention, and healing is designed to prevent. You will notice that the longer you take young people out at sea, the greater the effect will be because the ocean is healing. In the ocean, there is the rhythm of the sea. Putting human bio-rhythms back in touch with the rhythm of nature – this is healing in itself.

When you live in a big city, you work and sleep when you turn on and off the light. When you live at sea, you have to adjust your bio-system according to the rhythm of nature – tides come and go, the sun comes up. The beauty of the ocean, the fresh air, the activity, learning how to cope with new skills, learning how to get cooperation to make the ship operate, are all healing qualities.

To most of the young people, authority comes from policemen. When you are at sea, authority is the ocean – storms, nature. If you expose young people to the force of the sea and wind, they realize they are relatively small and insignificant. They become afraid and will turn to adults for assistance. The trainer will become a friend instead of an authority figure. In this way, you can change the attitude of delinquents from being against authority to cooperation with authority.

Mimi: Why did you decide on sailing?
Dr. Ney:

The ocean is large and there are many types of activities you can do on the ocean, but not on land. On land, you eventually will come across a border, a street, a building or some other limitation. They are all confining. At sea, there are no limits and this will give children hope. They can see as far as their eyes can take them. They will think – “I can do that. Someday, somehow, I will move out and not be confined.” They will realize the wonders of the ocean.

Most training you can do on land you can also do on a ship, such as cooking or repairing an engine. But training on a ship provides a lot of variety. A sailing ship in particular allows you to learn to harness natural forces. The forces of nature you don’t have to fight – they can work with you and for you.

Nowadays, too many children are exposed to TV programs and computers, and their enemy is nature. Nature is not an enemy. If you want to fight with it, you will be defeated eventually. But if you learn how to adapt to it, it can be your good friend. God made this world for us to enjoy, to learn from and to gain from it. 
Sea training has been around for centuries – brought their children out to sea. It will continue to have a great future, especially for building character and confidence.