On the west coast of Taiwan there’s a ship of unlikely origin. The ROCS Te Yang served with the Republic of China’s Navy for nearly 30 years, but that’s not where she started. She was built on the far side of the world in Bath, Maine, over 70 years ago, as the USS Sarsfield. For the US Navy she spent 20 years as a test platform for new equipment, served as a recovery ship for the Mercury space program, and saw combat in Vietnam.
When many of her sister ships were being decommissioned, the Sarsfield found a new life on the other side of the Pacific. After more updates and modifications, the newly christened ROCS Te Yang served until 2005. In 2009, she became Taiwan’s first and so far only museum ship. I’ve toured a lot of ships, and the Te Yang’s long service and fascinating history has certainly made this one of the more interesting tours I’ve done. Here’s a look on board.
It’s hot. The kind of hot where you think “why am I even outside right now” and “is it possible to sweat so much you turn to dust?” Conveniently, everything in Taiwan is air conditioned. Everything, apparently, except museum ships.
Most museum ships only have a handful of visitors at any one time, but during my visit the Te Yang was hoppin’. I have to wait in line 10 minutes just to buy a ticket. As difficult as this is going to make getting the photos I need, I love the Taiwanese enthusiasm for their ship.
The Te Yang nee Sarsfield is a Gearing-class destroyer, not too far removed from the Forrest Sherman-class USS Turner Joy I toured a few months and many dozens of degrees colder ago in Washington. There are certainly some interesting aspects right away, like the helicopter landing pad on the stern.
On board it’s as busy as the park implied. It’s a wonderfully varied group of visitors, everything from the expected parents with kids to young couples on dates. And one exceptionally sweaty American. As hot as it is outside, inside is sweltering. It’s all fascinating to explore, however, not least to see what remains of the original English signs and labels, and what had been converted to Chinese.
Mercifully, the former helicopter hanger had been converted to a cafe, so I was able to get some very strong and cold tea. The lack of air conditioning on the ship is likely a big reason why below decks were off limits. That was a bit disappointing, but there was plenty else to see.
From Bath to Tainan
Three things stood out to me about the Te Yang. The first, as I mentioned, was the mixing of English and Chinese on panels and placards. The second was the equipment. The Sarsfield/Te Yang had an exceptionally long service for a destroyer, and was updated multiple times. There’s an interesting juxtaposition seeing WWII-era and Cold War-era gear side-by-side. Lastly, it was awesome to see the enthusiasm the Taiwanese have for their ship.
Tainan is connected to Taipei via high-speed rail, and like everywhere I visited in the country, it had amazing and inexpensive food. Go to Taiwan to try the food, and if you have time, this ship is a great tour as well. There’s even a bus stop right out front and the tickets are cheap… though you might have to wait in line.
As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, airplane graveyards and more.