This is the last post, number 295, for the sailing yacht Flying Cloud. I'd like to devote this post to all the people who helped make this amazing journey a reality. They say it takes a village to raise a child; I say it takes an army of friends to help you sail halfway around the world. I'd like to thank people in chronological order, and save a very special thank you for the end.
There is no doubt that first on this list has to be Trygve and Anni Johnson of Largo, Florida. Meryl met Anni over forty years ago when they were both Pan Am flight attendants. Over the years we traveled the world with Tryg and Anni, from the Napali Coast Trail on Kauai and the British Virgin Islands to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Panama, and beyond.
When we initially bought the boat in Fort Lauderdale in May 2011, we needed a boatyard where we could refit and prepare Flying Cloud for offshore sailing. Without a skip of a beat Tryg said, "Why don't you bring it over to Tampa and put it in the parking lot of my factory?" Tryg even arranged for a buddy who owns a large boat transport company to pick up Flying Cloud in Fort Lauderdale and transport it to The Wood Company in Clearwater (outside of Tampa). We left the boat on the huge trailer, which solved the problem of how to engineer the boat stands and supports you would normally get in a boatyard. Also, if there were ever a threatening hurricane we could simply hook up a truck and take it someplace safe.
Although Tryg laughs about it now, I know he was thinking "Oh we'll have Walter here for about a month while he gets the boat ready." That month stretched from June all the way through December. Oh, and I forgot to mention, I was living with Anni and Tryg for most of that time. My routine was to fly down to Tampa from Seattle around Monday and work for a week or two, then fly back to Seattle to see Meryl. In Florida, my daily routine was to have breakfast, drive to work with Tryg, then walk across the parking lot to Flying Cloud to start whatever projects I had that day. Tryg graciously left me with the keys to his BMW in case I needed to go get tools, parts, etc. After work, we'd drive home together, grab a couple of beers, jump in the pool of their beautiful lakefront home, and tease Anni about what was for dinner. Anni is a fantastic cook and if it weren't for the heat and hard work I surely would have put on fifty pounds. Towards the end of the year, Meryl took early retirement and came down to help out. I'm sure Anni was delighted to have another woman to talk with after putting up with Tryg and me for all that time.
Meanwhile, back at Wood Company, I mentioned to Tryg and his brother Butch that it was around 110 degrees inside the boat. When I returned from Seattle the next week Butch had undergrounded a 220v line out to the boat and installed an air conditioning unit on the top. It was like I had died and gone to heaven. It was now a cool 76 degrees inside the boat all day. On another occasion, I was pondering how to run the diesel engine so we could do some maintenance.
Several days later Butch came back with an ingenious rig consisting of two 50-gallon drums welded together, with the top one filled with water. The height worked out perfectly with the waterline of the boat and we ran a hose down to the raw water intake under the hull. We could now run the engine at will (although the factory workers had to be careful of the exhaust water splashing out the side of the boat). Butch is a genius at "McGyvering" mechanical things together. Part of the success of Tryg's millwork company was all the innovations Butch made at duplicating much more expensive jigs and machinery out of found materials at the factory. I could go on for pages about other ways Anni, Tryg, and Butch helped out, but I couldn't have done this without them. A huge thank you to the Johnson family.
It was nice to be able to pay back a bit when we invited Tryg and Anni to help us transit the Panama Canal on Flying Cloud, a once in a lifetime opportunity for most people, and when Tryg flew to the Galapagos Islands to crew on the 18-day passage to the Marquesas. We learned a lot about each other on that trip and solidified what was already a good friendship. Another thanks to Anni and Tryg.
Our second shout-out goes to Jim and Chris Berry in Sammamish, WA. Jim and Tryg were childhood friends and we met the Berrys through the Johnsons. The three couples had a long history of hiking and camping trips, and our kids all knew each other. Jim has devoted his life to helping others through his volunteer work, and it was natural for him to be out at North Bend to help us pack up our house and move into a nearby storage unit. When we flew back from various parts of the world, the Berry's always graciously hosted us at their home and listened to our far-flung tales of adventure and discovery. They even babysat several pieces of our furniture, so much so that the bed in the guest room was our daughter's old bed. It was so reassuring to know that we had a welcoming place to stay during our Seattle visits and to wake up to the smell of Chris' famous coffee cake at breakfast time. Thanks, Berry's for everything you've done for us over the years,
There are also a plethora of people to say thanks to who helped get the boat ready: Carl Humbert and the crew at Elite Marine Specialists who helped with the installation of equipment and bottom paint, Andrew Cheney and the riggers at SSMR Riggers, and diesel engine specialist extraordinaire Dave McFarland at DEMPSI.
Leaving the Salt Creek Boat Yard in January 2012 and venturing out into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time, we quickly realized how little we knew about ocean sailing, and especially about transiting the waters of the Bahamas and the US East Coast. Our first major stop was Key West, Florida. We had barely anchored when a dingy flying the Conch Republic flag came roaring up. It was Capt. Bob Bloecher who lived in the anchorage on his Catalina 42 Digger Kat. He gave us the 411 (everything we needed to know about Key West) and several days later even took us into shore on his dingy so we could drive to St. Petersburg, Florida for a wedding. He also offered to watch our boat while we were gone. While we were amazed by his hospitality, we came to learn this was typical of the bluewater cruisers with whom we spent the next six years.
Our first set of guests onboard were old-time friends Paul and Irene Ballew, neighbors from our first house in Eastgate when Meryl and I were newly married. Paul and I had later worked together at Prepared Response and he and Irene were as good of friends as you can find in life. In 2012 they flew into Marsh Harbor, Abacos, and joined us on the boat for a week in Hopetown. We stayed in a marina and enjoyed the blissful buzz produced by too many Goombay Rum punches. In the later years, we stayed at the Ballews house in Issaquah (to give the Berrys a break) and were spoiled by Irene's incredible cooking and Paul's martini hours. We always talked late into the night getting caught up in each other's lives. Their hospitality is unmatched and we were always made to feel welcome. We ended our cruising trip with a wonderful visit with the Ballews in Australia. Thanks so much, guys.
It's important to note that in five of our six years of cruising we were in primarily third-world countries. Many times we (and other cruisers) were the only white people there. Many people have asked us if we were fearful during those times. Quite the contrary, we actually felt safer than when we were in the US because the local people always seemed to keep an eye on us and protect us. As an example, when we were in Coral Harbor, at one end of Providence Island in The Bahamas, we had to take a local bus up to Nassau to buy supplies. At the transfer point of the bus, in a rather sketchy section of Nassau, I asked the bus driver where we had to walk to catch the second bus. He was on his break at the time, but said, "Just follow me, and stay close." Since this native Bahamian was the size of an NFL linebacker, I wasn't too worried. He took us about two blocks (we would never have found the place) and told other locals to help us ID the proper bus when it came. He wouldn't accept a tip for his services. The same day, on the way back to Coral Harbor (which is off the normal bus route), two local ladies sitting behind us heard us trying to figure how to get home. One walked up to the bus driver and gave him specific instructions on where to take us, and then told us not to pay a penny more than $1 for the service. This was typical everywhere we traveled. We have literally hundreds of these stories. The bottom line: we found if you treat people with courtesy and respect, they will return the favor.
To help keep this post to a reasonable length, the remainder will be photos and captions of our sailing friends as we encountered them along the way.
|We met the crew from Field Trip during a "going south on the Thorny Path" seminar in Georgetown, Exumas. Mark, a recently retired tech executive, and his beautiful wife Sarah, a school teacher, were headed south along the Thorny Path, which involves some tricky early morning and night sailing off the coasts of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and typically ends at the southern Caribbean island of Grenada. Sarah and I talked about buddy boating and we began a casual "shadowing" of each other. Mark and Sarah had a pristine 44 ft. Antares catamaran straight from the factory in Argentina. With his state-of-the-art electronics, he could pull in weather charts via a satellite dish which was invaluable to us as we cruised south. Since the headwinds are notoriously strong along this route, we tended to sail during the night and anchor around 10 am when the winds got stronger. It's impossible to list all the help Mark and Sarah provided to us, and we are forever grateful.
|During our trip down the eastern coast of the US in 2012, we ended up on the Megadock in Charleston, South Carolina. We had a dock party one evening that was attended by a group of Europeans, Brits, and Aussies who had just crossed the Atlantic from the Med. This group included Americans Kurt and Katie on Interlude, a Deerfoot 74 and John and Deb on Moonshadow, a Deerfoot 2-62; Brits Chris and Sue (with kids Wilf and Sid) on Yindee Plus, Mark and Sue on Maculsha, a Bowman 40, and Steve and Carol on Innamorata II; and Aussies Andrew and Clare on Eye Candy (Bavaria 40). We ended up loosely sailing with most of this group all the way through to the South Pacific. The amount of expertise represented in this group was amazing, and once again, it's impossible to thank everyone who helped us along the way.
|While staying in Portsmouth, Virginia with Eye Candy and Innamorata II, we met one of the most helpful guys on our whole trip: Bob McBride (walking in photo). Bob ran a yacht chandlery called Mile Marker One where we all bought various gear. On the 4th of July he invited all of us over to his house to enjoy the pool and do laundry. He even ordered a bunch of pizzas and beer for the celebration. We'll always remember your kindness, Bob.
|We probably spent more time with Australians Andrew and Clare on Eye Candy than any other boat. We seemed to end up together at various anchorages from the Caribbean to South Pacific over our six-year voyage. Andrew, an engineer, was always available to help me with various problems on the boat. Miss you guys and good luck in your future travels.
|While in Portsmouth, we had a ton of boat projects to complete. I had to remove the traveler and I couldn't get the screws to budge. Someone mentioned there was a machinist who lives down the dock. I introduced myself to Paul Boggs and described my problem. He was busy working on his own boat and gave me some tips to do it myself. A bit later he came walking down the dock with his tool bag. He carefully showed me various techniques for removing frozen screws and got the screw out. He used to be an aircraft mechanic and said he spent all day removing screws from Navy Tomcat jets. Thanks my friend for helping us out.
|John and Deb Rogers from San Diego owned a beautiful Deerfoot 62 sailboat. We met them various times on our way to the South Pacific. They kindly invited us to sail from Papeete to Moorea on Moonshadow to enjoy the Pacific Puddlejump party.
|Brits Chris and Sue, with twins Wilf and Sid, on Yindee Plus, were part of the Megadock group we originally meet in Charleston. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with them and thoroughly enjoyed talking with their very knowledgeable boys. Yindee Plus ended up sailing around the world.
|Also part of the British contingent, Steve and Carol on Innamorata II wandered around Port Washington on Long Island Sound. Steve was a former rugby player and looked the part. A great fun-loving couple.
|The crew of Ednbal (name of a small tree frog in Australia), Roger and Sasha (on left) and Eye Candy (crew on right). Ednbal was another of the boats we spent a lot of time with across the Caribbean and South Pacific. Rodger and Sasha, both electrical engineers, were always helping us with various electrical problems on the boat. Thanks so much, guys.
|Our son-in-law's mother, Dottie, and her friend Dirck, actually visited us on the boat more than anyone else with visits in Block Island, St. Martin, and the Galapagos. We had a great time exploring and enjoying Meryl's delicious meals on the boat.
|Long time friends Jim and Mary Ann from Seattle flew down to Staniel Cay in the Exumas for a wonderful visit that included sailing and snorkeling in the James Bond Thunderball cave. Jim was a former crew member of mine on Phoenix, our first boat. Sadly, Jim passed away this November. He was an incredible guy and will be fondly remembered.
|We met Belgium Albert and his wife Josie in Trinidad when we hauled out at Peakes Boatyard. Albert helped me with some rigging issues and we ended up buying a drifter sail off his 50 ft. boat, Exbury.
|Escape Velocity, a Manta 40 catamaran, is another boat we spent a lot of time cruising with all the way to Sydney, Australia. We spent Christmas together and always enjoyed their company. Jack and Marce were great fun to be with and we admire that they are still out there cruising somewhere in Thailand.
|Long time sailing friend Rod Johnson and his wife Mary Helen flew to Antigua to visit Flying Cloud. It was just before Antiqua Rack Week so we enjoyed walking the docks at English Harbor and seeing all the superyachts and race boats.
|We met Pat and Carol on Songbird in Bonaire where Pat helped reintroduce Meryl to SCUBA diving. Pat was a former jet air-ambulance pilot when he met Carol. He had incredible levels of patience getting both of us back into diving and we enjoyed some great dives right off the back of our boat.
|Anchored in the famous pirate enclave of Portobello near Panama, Steve and Sondra on Yonder came over in their dingy and introduced themselves. Steve was the former spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute and Sondra had a rather interesting (but unidentified) government job. We explored the old forts and environs of Portobello, and later met up with them in the Galapagos Islands where they went on a tour.
|Linda (on right) and Chuck (not pictured) sailed on the vintage yacht Jacaranda. Linda was very talented and made stunning shell necklaces that sold at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Chuck was an old salt who had sailed the South Pacific as a young man. He came from a family of famous San Diego sailors known at Holihan's Navy. On the left is Sandra, a Swiss lady who sailed with her dad Franz on the yacht Kyory. They were both having the time of their life.
|Dave, a former American Airlines pilot, and Kim, a former AA flight attendant, sailed on the beautiful catamaran Maluhia. We first met them in the tiny harbor of Hiva Oa where they hosted an incredible Thanksgiving dinner for a large number of cruisers. Dave was probably the most knowledgeable and helpful captain we met; it seemed every time I turned around he was there helping us with something. Thanks so much, El Capitan.
|We met Ryan and Nicole on Naoma in Fakarava Atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago. We were at a 4th of July party when the host said "Why don't we all give a brief description of ourselves." I remember Nicole looking over at Ryan and saying "This should be interesting." Even at his relatively young age, Ryan has had an eventful life. A super athlete, he rode on Lance Armstrong's cycling team in Texas, ran a kiting school in San Francisco, was an EMT, was on the Para Olympic Sailing Team, and is the poster boy for the National Muscular Dystrophy Association. He never let MD control his life; he found ways to compensate. He is a truly remarkable man. He's still out sailing in Tahiti with Nicole, a super swimmer and former Baywatch ocean lifeguard in San Diego. What a remarkable couple!
|We ran into Huzzah in the Tuamotos when Captain Jerry and crew Fred and Ken were coming into a tricky pass and I served as Net Controller on the high-frequency radio net the cruisers used. Turned out Jerry and I had been competing skippers when we raced Thunderbird sailboats in Seattle, and Ken was crew on another T-Bird. Also in the picture on the right are Lili and Steve on Liward. Steve is an accomplished guitarist and singer and entertained everyone in various bars and other venues. Lili was a rocket fuels engineer with NASA.
|At the same 4th of July party where we met Naoma, we also met Mark and Cheryl (also from San Diego) on their Beneteau 50 French Curve. Mark is an architect and Cheryl is a graphic designer. She also had experience working as a stewardess on superyachts. We hung out with them in the Tuamotos, Tahiti, and other South Pacific ports. We crewed a 6-man ocean racing canoe with them during the Pacific Puddlejump party in Moorea and even came in first in our heat.
|We met Charlie and Jenny on a Catalina 50 Lady in Shelter Bay, Panama. Charlie was a former Oklahoma oilman and a complete character. I loved his deep southern accent compared to Jenny's very proper British accent. We enjoyed exploring the environs of Shelter Bay and continued to meet up in Fiji and other spots, just generally hanging out and laughing with them.
|Jeff and Katie on Messaluna were true "cheeseheads" being Green Bay Packer fans and having come from Wisconsin. Jeff was a great guitarist and we had a fun time in the small Marquesan village Hapatoni celebrating New Years' with the locals. Katie was one of those women who could cook and make just about anything. They are still out cruising (but temporarily on hiatus in Wisconsin until COVID is over).
|We met Mark and Aileen on Wavelength anchored in a small bay on Ta'haa, French Polynesia, during a rather bad storm. Mark was an anaesthesiologist and Aileen had a nursing background. We ended up snorkeling the fabulous Coral River and exploring the vanilla farms on Ta'haa. They even later visited us in our new home in Bend, OR.
|Neil on Pandora is the first truly famous sailor I'd ever met. He was a skipper on the BT Global Challenge Round the World Yacht Race. Neil also worked as a superyacht skipper and his wife Heather was a chief stewardess. We met them in Vanuatu, where Neil helped me through Customs (he speaks fluent French) as well as Customs in New Caledonia. They were anchored near us in Pittwater, Australia when we were selling Flying Cloud, and treated us to a wonderful day-sail aboard Pandora in Sydney Harbor as our going away gift. They are now in COVID-free New Zealand and continuing to enjoy the cruising lifestyle.
|We became good friends with the Austrian boat, Plastic Plankton, in French Polynesia. Katharina is an Austrian doctor, and Wolfgang (Wolfie) is an architect. Katharina kept busy helping locals and other yachties with medical issues along the way. We enjoyed snorkeling with them at various locations and even ran into them in Sydney during our final days. They completed their circumnavigation a couple years ago. After we sold Flying Cloud, we traveled to Vienna, Austria, and enjoyed a delicious traditional Austrian dinner with them. They are recently married and are now back to their careers.
The final thank you is to my daughter, Christa, and her husband, Nash, along with kids Quinn and Conner. Most children would be mortified to have their 60+ year-old parents setting off to sail around the world, but Brad and Christa said, "Go for it!" World travelers and adventurers themselves, they have been totally supportive of our trip from Day One. When we traveled back to the US to visit friends the Nash-Webbers generously let us use their car (on numerous occasions). We traveled to Hong Kong over four times during our six-year voyage and they were always consummate hosts, taking us on outings, introducing us to their friends, and exploring exotic restaurants. In 2012 we met them in Neisko, Japan for some great skiing. They tried to visit us in the Marquesas, but the scheduling was difficult, so we all met in Okinawa where they hosted us and we all had a great time. We visited them at their summer place in McCall, Idaho in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and enjoyed hiking, waterskiing, and SUPing. Finally, when we decided to move to Bend they let us stay in their newly purchased home for over six months, even letting us use their car while we searched for a new house and a new car. They have always been there for us, and for that, we are forever grateful.
I sailed an ocean, unsettled ocean
Through restful waters and deep commotion
Often frightened, unenlightened
Sail on, sail on sailor
I wrest the waters, fight Neptune's waters
Sail through the sorrows of life's marauders
Unrepenting, often empty
Sail on, sail on sailor
Caught like a sewer rat alone but I sail
Bought like a crust of bread, but oh do I wail
Seldom stumble, never crumble
Try to tumble, life's a rumble
Feel the stinging I've been given
Never ending, unrelenting
Heartbreak searing, always fearing
Never caring, persevering
Sail on, sail on, sailor
I work the seaways, the gale-swept seaways
Past shipwrecked daughters of wicked waters
Uninspired, drenched and tired
Wail on, wail on, sailor
Always needing, even bleeding
Never feeding all my feelings
Damn the thunder, must I blunder
There's no wonder all I'm under
Stop the crying and the lying
And the sighing and my dying
Sail on, sail on sailor