Merton Olin being assisted from the Brigantine Yankee
after running aground at Avarua on July 24, 1964


The Personal Journals of Merton F. Olin
Narrative researched, written and edited by Tom Olin, Jr.

The Last Voyage of the Brigantine Yankee

Punishing northerly gale winds pounded the Yankee as she lay helpless on the submerged Beverage Reef just yards from the beach at Avarua, Rarotonga.  The world-famous brigantine Yankee was dying.  The tumbling seas poured into the harbor, pushing the ship broadside and higher onto land with each surge.  The vessel was listing heavily onto its starboard side - its masts leaning nearly forty-five degrees toward the shore.  The Yankee was more than sixty feet from deep water now - pulsing as each wave slammed her deeper onto the reef.  There was no hope for her.  A rope had been tied to the Yankee that ran onto the dry land.  It served as a rescue line for those evacuating the ship.  It had now become a salvage effort; the crew pulling whatever supplies and belongings they could from the heaving beast.  It was an ignominious end for a legendary sailing vessel.  

Among the crew on this voyage was fifty-nine year old Merton Olin - my grandfather.  He stepped aboard this vessel in hopes of high adventure as the Yankee was attempting another year-long circumnavigation of the world.  What he got, however, was much more than that.  He became part of history – a story worth telling for many generations to come.   Mert kept a personal diary, in surprising detail, of the many adventures (and misadventures) aboard the Yankee.  This record was lost until nearly forty years later, when it was unearthed in the personal effects of his son – Thomas F. Olin, Sr.

Please keep in mind that the account was authored in 1964 and has some stilted and dated language.  I have chosen, however, to leave it in its original state, rather than update it.  In addition I have edited some of Merton's color slides and 8mm film footage and included them in this blog. 

I hope you enjoy Merts’ story.  He would have loved the title.

Introduction - The First Voyage Of The Yankee
(Resource: The Circumnavigators – By Don Holm)

The Yankee was created in the minds of Irving McClure Johnson and his wife Electa.

Born on the fourth of July in 1905, Johnson owned and sailed a sloop before he was eighteen.  He loved the sea, so much so that he dropped out of school and volunteered to crew ocean vessels whenever he could.  At twenty-six, he had accumulated more than ten years of experience in seamanship and bluewater sailing. In 1929 and 1930, he signed on for a 93 day voyage around Cape Horn to Chile in the four-masted German bark Peking, bound from Hamburg to Talcahuana for nitrate.  The following year, Johnson signed on as mate aboard the Shamrock V, Sir Thomas Lipton’s America’s Cup contender, for the return trip to England.  This voyage included a severe encounter with a hurricane.

In 1931, Johnson sailed as mate with Captain Warwick Tompkins on the Wander Bird, sailing from Newport on European excursions, returning via the West Indies.  In 1932, he was skipper and navigator aboard the 43 foot schooner Twilight in the Bermuda race, coming in second in Class B.  In September of that year, he married Electa, a young woman that he had met aboard the Wander Bird a year earlier.  During the winter following their honeymoon, they spent days with charts spread out on the living room floor, in correspondence with yacht brokers, and in planning the ship they wanted, the ports they wished to visit.  They had this idea: to sail around the world with a crew of young people selected for skills and compatibility, with Irving as skipper-owner, and a paid hand or two but everyone else would be amateurs sharing expenses.  Everyone would have regular duties on aboard and would stand regular watches.  The first and second mates would always be experienced men, but aside from that, sailing experience would not be a prerequisite.

The plan was an adaptation from Tompkins and the Wander Bird, and they both agreed that the ship would have to be one of those superbly seaworthy and comfortable North Sea pilot boats.

Most of these pilot boats were in the 90 – 100 foot overall class, built heavily to last, with 7 by 7 oak frames, with 3 inch thick oak planks.  The pilot boats had to spend two weeks at sea in all kinds of weather.  With the passing of the tall clipper ships, the old pilot boats were replaced by steam and motor launches.  A few wound up a yachts, such as Wander Bird and the former Dutch Loodschooner 4, which was owned by Captain Claude Monson of Ipswich, England.

The Johnsons went to Germany as a result of negotiations with a broker named Erdmann, who claimed to be sole agent for the Gluckauf.  This proved to be a long and frustrating experience, during which Erdmann flipped his lid and accused Johnson of trying to kill him.  In the meantime, Captain Monson was rumored to be in mood for selling his pet, the Loodschooner 4, now named the Texel.  Captain Monson accepted the Johnsons offer and within minutes they were off to England.  The Captain, as turns out, had met Irving before and liked the Johnsons.  He felt his ship would be well taken care of and sailed as she should be.

It was now the spring of 1933.  The Johnsons went directly to Ipswich and got ready to sail.  They changed the name to Yankee, and the registry from British to American.  They sailed for Hamburg and the small yard of Herr Porath on the Elbe at Finkenwarker for the final rigging and outfitting.

The sail plan was changed somewhat, and a new foretopmast was obtained from the Bremen, which was being dismantled nearby.  Other crewmembers began to show up, until the little inn at Finkenwarder began to look like a college dormitory.  Here the Johnsons acquired one of their greatest assets, a German cook named Franz, who was a confirmed Nazi, but an otherwise loyal and dependable hand.

On July 5th, they were ready to sail.  Yankee had a new rig, a new coat of white paint, and a rearranged interior.  The owner’s cabin was aft, with two small cabins starboard, one double and one single cabin, and engine room, and bathroom to port.  Forward of these were the main cabin with an upper and lower tier of bunks.  Along one side of the cabin was what would become a Johnson trademark – a swinging teakwood table that always remained level no matter how the ship keeled.  Forward of the main cabin was the galley, then a companionway to the teak deckhouse, with bunks, chart table, and storage for several thousand charts.

As outfitted, the Yankee was 92 feet overall, 76 feet at the waterline, 21 feet wide, and drew 11 feet of water.  She had four water tanks holding 2,000 gallons, and oil tanks with a capacity of 350 gallons.  On November 5, 1933, the newborn Yankee sailed from Gloucester, Massachusetts with a crew of seventeen people on its first eighteen-month circumnavigation.  After some initial rough seas near Hatteras and an appendicitis attack with a crewmember near Panama, the cruise became a smooth running organization.  Their first stay in the Galapagos was delightful.  Christmas was celebrated at Chatham.  A quick stop in San Salvador and soon their bowsprit was turned toward Pitcairn, three thousand miles away.

They visited Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, the New Hebrides, the Solomons, Borneo, and finally to Indochina.  The Yankee plowed up the chocolate waterway of the Chao Phraya River to Bangkok and become the first American yacht to visit that city.  Next came Singapore, crossroads of the Pacific.  Here they installed new teak floors and made other improvements to the Yankee.  Then it was on to Sumatra, Bali, Java, Krakatoa, and the Indian Ocean.  

Christmas of 1935 was spent at sea.  New Years’ Eve brought the coast of Africa.  They continued around the Cape in record time – 234 miles in one day.  They were denied permission to land at Devil’s Island.  This turned out fortuitous because another crewmember’s appendix flared up and surgery was performed in Georgetown.  It was the third appendectomy of the trip.  

While at Georgetown, an American bush pilot named Art Williams flew Irving and several others on a spectacular run into the jungle where one waterfall, 840 feet high, was discovered and named Yankee Falls.  Next came the West Indies, which they had missed on the out-bound trip. They stopped at Trinidad, Antigua, Saba, and the Virgin Islands.  On May 5th, they sailed into Gloucester harbor, accompanied by a fleet of boats sent out to meet them with flags flying and whistles blowing.  Their first circumnavigation had been completed after traversing more than 40,000 miles.

In the years prior to World War II, Yankee made two more voyages around the world with amateur crews.  The Johnson’s two sons were born and learned to walk on heaving decks.  By mid 1941, Irving was an officer in the Navy and he was assigned to Honolulu.  Yankee was sold to the Admiral Billiard Academy.  Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Irving went to sea on the survey ship, U.S.S. Sumner, charting the islands and passages where the fighting became hot and desperate – Guadalcanal, Tawara, and Iwo Jima.  Irving landed with the marines on Wallis Island, where he had once landed the Yankee.

Johnson retired with the rank of Captain, U.S.N.R., after the war.

Weblinks for Irving and Electa Johnson: 

The Brigantine Yankee Is Born
The clouds of war had barely settled by the time Irving and Electa began looking for a new Yankee.  They found her, with the help of a friend, the movie actor Sterling Hayden, who had been mate on the second world cruise.  The Duhnen was the last North Sea pilot schooner the Germans built before steam took over.  It was built in 1912 at Emden.  It first served as a school ship for the Hitler Youth and during the war; it had been a Luftwaffe recreation ship.  The British found her in the docks at Schleswig, Germany and took her over as a prize.  She ended up as an RAF recreation ship.  

Master mariner Alan Villiers saw the Duhnen at Calshot, England and told Johnson, “She looked like a treasure the dog brought in.”  After three months of convincing, the Air Marshall agreed to sell to the Johnsons.  The ship was refitted and renamed Yankee at the Brixham yards.  Topmasts and yards were dubbed out of North American pitch pine.  The new Yankee was 96 feet overall, with a waterline of 81 feet, and a maximum draft of 11 feet.  She was fast, with top speed of 12 knots, a pair of diesels with plenty of tankage, and electric power for lights, refrigeration, and hot water.  She even carried an electric welder.
Years of sailing had taught Johnson what was needed in a ship to circumnavigate the world with an amateur crew in comfort and safety.  The Duhnen’s original schooner rig had been best for coastal navigation, variable winds, and handling with a small crew.  But as Yankee, she would sail for long periods in the steady unvarying trades.  For running before a stiff breeze, square sails were more efficient, as well as safer, as there is not danger of an accidental jibe.  On the other hand, for beating to windward, fore-and-aft sails are superior, as they permit the ship to sail closer to the wind.  To have the best of both worlds, Johnson changed the rig to that of a brigantine with eleven sails totaling tremendous 7,775 square feet of canvas.

Irving was most proud of his new brigantine.  He said:

“Look at her.  Those high bulwarks keep us dry.  The long keel keeps her steady.  She has such an easy motion that you can go aloft to handle sail in any kind of weather.  She displaces two hundred tons.  She is really comfortable.”

The first crew included the wife of General William (Wild Bill) Donovan of OSS fame, who had sailed around in the old Yankee.  The Johnsons two sons were now veterans – eight and eleven years old.  There was a total crew of twenty-four people, which included a Hollywood doctor, an engineer, an actor, a professional cook, a former secretary, and a columnist for Ladies Home Journal.

In the next eleven years, between 1947 and 1958, the Johnsons made four circumnavigations with amateur crews in the brigantine Yankee.  On one trip, Irving raised the anchor of the infamous Bounty of Pitcairn.  On another adventure, the crew came face to face with the headhunters of New Guinea.  Along the way, they discovered and charted countless new islands in the South Pacific – naming five of them.  Between voyages, the Johnsons published several books and lectured extensively.

At last, after twenty-five years of voyaging around the world, the Johnsons sold the brigantine Yankee.  The Johnsons were among the most unusual and competent of all voyagers who have undertaken a circumnavigation, and certainly hold the record for the number of times around. More important, all these voyages have been made with consummate skill, with unending attention to detail and vigilance, and good old-fashioned judgment.  

The Brigantine Yankee at full sail

Brigantine Yankee: Under New Ownership

The Yankee changed hands three times between 1960 and 1964.  The first owner was the New England Vendaway Corporation, which did Caribbean, cruises from Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to the Bahamas, San Juan, the Virgin Islands, Aruba, and Kingston, Jamaica.

Mike Burke, Publicity Photo 1965

The second owner remains unknown, but the third owner was legendary.  He was Mike Burke of Windjammer Cruises, Inc

In 1947, Mike Burke’s name was Mike Schwartz and he was fresh out of the Navy after serving four years in submarines.  He moved to Miami and he recalls that after a few drinks, he woke up on the deck of a 19-foot sloop that he can’t remember purchasing.  He called the boat Hangover.  He worked as a small-time building contractor and eventually bought a 48-foot sloop for weekend recreation.  He became locally famous for his “entertaining” shipboard parties. Soon, he had more friends than he had room for, so he sold his business and bought a 94-foot schooner called Tondeleyo, changed his name to Burke and went into the cruising game.  

He combined his love of tall ships and entrepreneurial skills to found Windjammer  Cruises, Inc.  His first company boat was a 150-foot schooner that had been run aground.  He fixed her up and renamed her Polynesia I.  He said that his secret to success was to buy ships in bad shape and fix them up.

Burke instinctively knew that everyone has a little Errol Flynn inside of them just dying to come out.  Captain Mike also recognized the need to fulfill escapist dreams and romantic fantasies.  In 1964, Time Magazine once said of Mike Burke’s cruises, “They emphasize the adventurous – a hankering for hardship, seamanship, courtship, or strong drink.”  Each cabin cost $210 per person for a Caribbean cruise, and this included a daily ration of 140 proof rum.  

The crews were usually “balanced” between boys and girls, thus enhancing the social environment.  Burke also gave each crew all the work they wanted – polishing brass, taking the wheel, and standing watch.  Burke said, “They love watches.  Its so shippy when they are awakened by a crewman at 2 am saying ‘It’s your watch.’”  Indeed, the notion of being a real seaman and world traveler appealed to many.  The Windjammer Cruises brochure put it this way:

Text of the Windjammer Cruises Inc.
“Around The World” Sales Brochure
(Circa 1964)

Burke may have had an abundance of entrepreneurial spirit but, at times, seemed to lack common sense.  One Christmas cruise in 1963 on the Polynesia (promptly dubbed the Polynausea) was complete with 12-foot waves, several broken bones, and a passenger that went berserk and jumped overboard.  On another cruise, three missionaries were washed overboard.  

Burke himself once said, “Every time you go out there is a risk.  That’s part of the beauty of it.  When you’ve got a bone in your teeth and you wonder…  that element of danger.  It’s a good feeling – if it holds together.”

Confirming the notorious reputation of Windjammer Cruises and perhaps prophetic of the future, Pacific Islands Monthly magazine published the following article in June of 1962:

YANKEE TROUBLES:  The 96 foot brig Yankee, which has had more than her share of publicity, appeared to be heading for a better record when she left Port Moseby for Koepang early in May  -  with her third skipper.  Yankee got the full brunt of publicity when she arrived in Cairns in March, and most of her “crew”  -  tourists who paid for the privilege of sailing her – walked off.  The brig is operated by a syndicate, Windjammer Cruises, Inc. She left Miami of July 15, 1961 with 30 aboard – the skipper, first-mate, and cook being the only members who were being paid.  By the time she reached Cairns the complement was 20, with only 10 of these the original crew.

One of the owners, Captain Mike Burke, flew out from the states to help clean up the trouble and the result was that Captain Arthur Kimberly lost his command; and Captain Gordon Keeble, a former RN (Royal Navy) man, took over.  Yankee sailed from Cairns to Port Moresby in late April but the bugs hadn’t been ironed out of her officer-and-crew relationship even then.  At Port Moresby, Captain Keeble left and Captain P.J. Sullivan, of Sydney, a member of Torres Strait Pilots Association, took over.  Captain Sullivan made it clear that at the beginning that he would only take her as far as Singapore, only about 10 weeks away.  His relationship with everybody was very good, said a Port Moresby report, which added he was “taking a fatherly interest”.  Captain Sullivan said he expected Mike Burke would meet the Yankee at Singapore and he hoped Burke had another captain with him.
Meanwhile, Yankee is expected soon to get a burst in the American Press.  One big-circulation magazine has spent a lot of time collecting information on the Yankee’s voyage.  General opinion aboard was that Captain Kimberly was a first class sailor, but his term ended unhappily because he did not know how to make everyone pull together.  There were also food and water troubles.  Roughly here is Yankee’s record on her Pacific crossing:

By the time she had left Panama and entered the Pacific, five crew members had left her and three more had come aboard.  At the Galapagos Islands, a boy left with a nervous breakdown.  Three others left too.

Next visit was Pitcairn, where the Yankee remained three weeks, and then on to Tahiti, where she remained a month.  During that time Captain Kimberly and a woman crew member took time off to fly to Honolulu and get married.  One discontented crew member got off at Tahiti.  Next visits were made at Bora Bora, Rarotonga, Palmerston, Pago Pago, and Apia.  One more left the group at Apia.  The Yankee then headed north to the Tokeaus, to the Ellice Group and then on to Honiara, which was regarded by many as the “breakdown point”.  Two more left, including the engineer.  The engines gave trouble, the wiring was condemned, the propeller was damaged, something went wrong with the refrigeration and the sails.  When she headed for Cairns across the Coral Sea she became becalmed, which didn’t help tempers, and also she was short of water.  Thus at Cairns there was the shore-bound “mutiny”.

About 13 members of the 20 people who were left walked off, including the medical officer, Dr. Richard Cardinez.  They said they wanted to finish their cruise there and be sent back to the States.  Most also wanted a refund.  But when Captain Burke flew out, there was much discussion and some changed their minds, especially after Captain Kimberly resigned.

The Yankee was given an overhaul at Cairns and some new crew members of the type who get paid were signed on, together with a new captain.

When she left Cairns on the seven days voyage to Port Moresby in April, Yankee had aboard only eight of the 20 who had been aboard on the trip form Honiara to Cairns, but the total complement was now 21.  Three people got off at Port Moresby, including Captain Keeble, who was replaced, and two others who had only to go as far as Port Moresby.  At Port Moresby, the crew reported the food was excellent.  First-mate John Cronholm told the newspapers he was personally happy, because he was going to marry fellow passenger Ann Knowles when they got back to the United States.

Merton Olin: Navigator’s Helper

Merton Olin, of Grove City, Pennsylvania, jumped at the chance to circumnavigate the world.  Born in 1905, the same year as Irving Johnson, Mert had just retired after working for the J.C. Penney Company for more than thirty years.  He wanted to get as far away from his pedestrian life as soon as possible.  The romantic notion of being a salty sea-dog was one that Mert dreamed of his entire life.  The exotic locales of Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Singapore were far from the stores he managed in Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie, and Grove City.

The notorious reputation of rum consumption and “shippy” way of life of Windjammer Cruises seemed to fit perfectly with Mert Olin.  A man of intellect, he was well-read and knowledgeable of world affairs.  He could be very direct and businesslike when he needed to be.  He enjoyed being perceived as an authority on whatever topic he was discussing – and he usually was.  He also possessed a prickly sense of humor that was used as a weapon on occasion.  Physically, his prematurely bald head and less than Adonic physique belied his boy-like charm and devil-may-care attitude, as did the fact he had recently suffered a mild heart attack (which some considered the reason for his early retirement).  His wistful white mustache, wicked smile, and youthful self-image contributed to his personality – which was something similar to that of a perennial college sophomore.  I think that he saw himself as a modern-day Ernest Hemingway of sorts.  He shared his philosophy openly in an introduction to his journal as follows:

The thought of making an extended cruise immediately after retirement often plagued me.  It would take something drastic to successfully change my way of life from that of a driving chain store manager to that of a man who planned never of necessity to work again. Compulsory retirement for a man of 60 is perfectly alright if a satisfactory retirement is available.  However, complete idleness is a waste of time and a killer for a man who is healthy and still wants to be active.  There is only one answer for that man, as I see it.  He must find a hobby that is completely to his liking and one in which he can lose himself.

I have always longed to sail the ocean.  For years, I have dreamed of retiring near water where I could have my own boat.  Now the time has come when I must learn to do well that which I want to do.  I must learn to handle and care for a boat so that I can go cruising when I please.  The opportunity to learn presented itself when I read of Captain Mike Burke’s scheduled “Round-the-World Cruise.”  After some correspondence, a doctor’s note stating my physical fitness, and the payment of the required fee, I was accepted.

While he was heading out to sea for the next twelve months, Mert was also in the process of building a house in south Florida.  After making a few initial contacts with a developer in Boca Raton, he dropped the whole matter into the lap of his wife Ann and son Tom to iron out in his absence.  In addition, Ann was recovering from surgery and was convalescing slowly.  

He was in such a hurry to abandon his “old” life and begin his new life as Merton Olin – Adventurer, that he literally and figuratively left his old life behind in order to feel that salt spray in his face.

Preparing For Adventure

Merton sent the following letter to his son Tom on Thursday, January 23, 1964:

I am taking time off this a.m. to write you a note so that you will know I have not forgotten you and that I am thinking of you and your wonderful family.

I left Grove City a week ago and arrived in Boca Raton Sunday.  I rented a room here, no private baths, but the rooms are clean and neat.  Good toilet facilities at the end of the hall.  I was very lucky because the motel rooms are about $12.00 per day around here.  

I went to Miami yesterday and checked in with Capt. Mike Burke.  It seems that there will be another delay of sailing time – about I week, I presume.  The “Brig” Yankee has to have her bottom scraped and it seems that they are a little slow getting it done there in Nassau.

However, Cpt. Burke seemed to be impressed with me, and saw me as a potential asset to the crew as a Navigator’s helper.  He was surprised at my preliminary study and progress in the field of navigation.  So --- he has arranged for me to sail to Nassau Tuesday night, January 28th on his ship Tondeleyo as part of his crew.  When we get there apparently he plans on turning me over early to Capt. Derek Lumbers, the Englishman for early indoctrination, before sailing time and before the rest of the “Round-the-world” crew gets aboard.  This plan suits me fine, as I am quite sure my room has been reserved for the period beginning the 1st of February.  I have looked at several co-ops and they just do not compare with the deal I have going at Caribbean Keys (the developer).  I know that for the present period in my life I just wouldn’t be cooped up in a small apartment and be happy.  Maybe later when I have NO life whatsoever it might be allright.

I sold the VW to Captain Burke for $1,300 and he takes possession of it on the sailing date.  I am turning the money over to the builder for the new home.  The construction can be started at a moments notice from Ann.  I surely hope she sells the Grove City house soon and moves in this direction.  She could be all moved in and living here when I get back.

I will send you an itinerary of sailings and stop-overs as soon as I know what and when and where they are.  Will close for now and will try to keep you informed of all future movements and developments.

Love to all, Dad.

This letter was received and Tom responded accordingly on January 28, 1964:

Well, tonight you sail on the Tondeleyo – the first leg on the new adventure.  It sounds terrific to us.  I picked up a brochure on Windjammer Cruises so we have available for ready reference beautiful pictures of Capt. Mike’s entire fleet, including the Tondelayo and the others.  Remember to send us your itinerary and other information concerning our ability to correspond with you.  We shall do our best to see that some information concerning events from this branch of the Olin clan reach you from time to time.  I hope to hell that there is no additional flare-up in Panama before you get through.  Also, it would appear that Zanzibar will be dropped from the intinerary - unless Captain Lumbers is planning on issuing cutlasses and sidearms.

We will repeat our invitation to Ann to spend her convalescence with us.  I hope that she accepts.  I think that it could be beneficial to all.  I think that she already realizes the necessity of cutting ties with Grove City and the house.
Concerning you, Dad!!!  This is a guy whose presence you are going to experience in depth over the coming twelve months.  Really make an effort to get to know him well.  I think that you will find this enlightening.  When you have analyzed his basic accomplishments in life – in light of the difficulties encountered along the road; when you realize what an inquiring mind and adventurous spirit that he has – the many different pursuits that he explored and developed proficiency in – you must inevitably conclude your assessment with a heightened appreciation for this guy.  Neither Gloria nor I were surprised to find that Capt. Mike was impressed with this man – we have known him all along.  Furthermore, we are already anticipating your return with stories to be enjoyed and experienced at length.

Good luck! God speed you safely! Have yourself a real trip, SAILOR!!
All of our love from all of us.

Mert prepared to leave on Monday, January 27th on the Tondeleyo from Miami.  This plan was changed, as the Tondeleyo was unfit for sail that day, and he was scheduled for the Yankee Clipper to shuttle to Nassau. As it turned out, Mert had failed to sell the Volkswagen.  He left it up to Ann to pick up the car.  She arranged for a family friend, Jeri Eakers to bring it back to Grove City.

The BrigantineYankee was docked in Nassau because she did not have the proper paperwork and licenses to be permitted in U.S. ports.  Her registry had been changed from U.S. to British when she was purchased from Windjammer Cruises by a Bahamian syndicate.

And thus begins the Merton F. Olin journal of the ill-fated “Round-the-World Cruise”:

The “Round-the-World” Journal of Merton F. Olin

Monday, January 27
Sailing time for the beginning of the “Round-the-World Sailing Trip” is seven o’clock tonight.  There are five of us who will board the Yankee Clipper at that time as members of her crew.  This has to be done to get us out of Miami, Florida and into Nassau where we will eventually board the famous Brigantine Yankee.

The Yankee Clipper is one of Captain Mike Burke’s fleet of sailing vessels.  She was originally to be used for the “Round–the-World Cruise” but due to the fact that sixty passengers could not be located for such a trip, a change in plans was made and the Brigantine Yankee was brought into the picture.  The Brigantine Yankee is no longer owned by Captain Burke but by a group out of Nassau headed by Captain Derek Lumbers.  Captain Lumbers will skipper the ship on the cruise.  I met him in Captain Burke’s office.

The prestigious Yankee Clipper

Captain Burke’s ten-day Bahama Cruises leave Miami every Monday night.  The passengers are flown to Bimini in the Bahamas at the beginning of the cruise and board their sailing ship there.  This is done to get the passengers out of Miami as the sailing fleet flies the Bahamian flag; consequently the cruise passengers cannot board ship there.

The Yankee Clipper is a beautiful sailing vessel and at one time was owned by the Vanderbilt estate.  She is completely air-conditioned and is rigged fore and aft.  In addition to her sails she has two very powerful diesels.  When under sail she is a beautiful sight to behold with the sea at her rail on the windward side.  Her skipper’s name is Captain Ingmar Engdahl.

Tuesday, January 28
Instead of seven o’clock it was closer to midnight when we sailed last night.  The group of ten-day cruisers that will board the Clipper at Bimini had a get-acquainted party at the Windjammer Inn.  Cocktails were served and everyone was certainly well-acquainted.  Soon thereafter, they all boarded a plane for Bimini.  Captain Burke took me down to the Clipper and introduced me to Captain Engdahl.  Together with four other “Round-the-World” passengers, I signed on as part of the crew of the Clipper, so we were allowed to board her here in Miami.  The late sailing time was due to engine trouble.

The diesels were used on the over-night trip to Bimini.  We raised only two sails, a staysail and a jib-sail, mainly for the purpose of steadying the ship as it was very rough.  We anchored shortly before noon in thirteen fathoms of water in Bimini Bay.  Soon thereafter, the fifty-five passengers were brought aboard to start their ten-day Bahama Cruise.

At 4:30 PM, “swizzles” were served (a Windjammer special – rum with juice), the anchor was raised, and we were on our way to Gun Cay.

"Swizzle" time aboard the Yankee Clipper

Wednesday, January 29
It was very rough during the night and almost every one aboard got sick.  I am surely glad I don’t get seasick.  These Windjammer cruises are everything the name implies.  Last night the generator went out so we had no air-conditioning for a while, and of course, no lights in our cabins.  My cabin is forward near the crew’s quarters and we don’t have water, so I carry my water just like the rest of the crew – in a pitcher.  I am rapidly getting my sea legs and have promised myself that I will not complain regardless of how many hardships are encountered.  No one at sea likes a complainer.  So far the food has been very good.  The chef’s barbequed chicken is out of this world for taste.

I have started a beard.  It seems to be the proper thing to do at sea.  I am wearing tennis shoes for the first time since I was a kid.  Unless you go barefooted, it is the only type of footwear in use on a sailing vessel.

Dropped anchor about noon in Gun Cay.  There is nothing here except a beautiful beach for swimming and skin diving, and a U.S. tracking station.  A few natives are selling seashells to tourists.  For a dime the kids run up a coconut tree, get a coconut and break it open for the tourists.

Thursday, January 30
Made way about eight o’clock for Bimini again.  It took us all night of very rough sailing to reach Gun Cay, but here we are back at Bimini in a little over one and a half hours.  I think the Captain loitered in the rough sea going to Gun Cay just to give the passengers a taste of real rough going.  I went in to Bimini on the third boatload and am very glad I did.  The island has recently received its independence but we hear that now they don’t know what to do with it.

Typical of the Bahamas, the streets here are narrow and dirty with an abundance of night spots that get going late in the afternoon and stay open all night. There is an interesting fish aquarium here, a large landing field, and a weather and tracking station.  Also, there are several excellent marinas which are mostly filled with yachts from Florida.  They were being held because of rough weather – couldn’t get out.

A fishing party from the Clipper went out to try their luck.  Came back with two 18 pound groupers, a large barracuda, and a snake fish.  Not bad for a few hours.

Some of the crew members of the Clipper got hair cuts and changed their appearance considerably.  They are a great gang of strong fellows, all very accommodating and intelligent, who work for very little pay to get this experience.  Got back to the ship about two o’clock and had a delicious fish lunch.  The chef is tops.  He makes bread, muffins, rolls, pies, etc.

Friday, January 31
Sailed all night long from about 3:30 PM yesterday.  We are at Wood Cay, the extreme west end of the Grand Island of Bahamas.  It is 10:30 AM and we are about ready to drop anchor.

One of the couples had a wedding anniversary yesterday.  The cook baked them a beautiful cake, everyone joined the fun last night and we had a real party.  Two of the colored group from the galley joined us.  One played guitar and the other played bongo drums.  One of the passengers, a doctor, rigged up a bass fiddle by taking a wash tub, a piece of rope, and a stick, turning the tub upside-down and mounting the others on it.  It did sound amazingly like a bull fiddle!!  Blanco, the steward, joined in the fun by singing several islands songs.

Many peculiar things happened today and among them was the fact that we drifted for over an hour while our fuel tank was pumped full again.  A member of the engine crew allowed the gravity feed fuel tank to become empty.  The engines stopped and no one knew the trouble until an investigation was made.

Went ashore at the west end of the Grand Bahama Island.  Landed by dingy at Grand Bahama Marina and visited the hotel by that name. The Jack Tar Hotel, one of the most famous hotels in the islands and without a doubt the most beautiful, made a complaint to the Captain.  They sent a launch out with a police officer to complain about the intrusion upon the hotel’s privacy by the Clipper’s passengers.  I got pictures of the hotel and grounds.  Surely hope they turn out well.

Six more passengers went ashore, apparently having had enough of the cruise even before it is half over.  Some passengers expect too much and are easily disheartened and disillusioned when things go badly.

Two young photographers from the Saturday Evening Post came aboard to get pictures for an article which will be run in the Post in a couple of weeks.  It will be on the life of the Caribbean People and their islands.

Saturday, February 1
Today is glorious.  The first real sunny morning we have had.  Everyone is in very good spirits; the passengers all seem to be happy and contented and the crew is busy scrubbing and cleaning up the ship.

Just passed a huge Russian tanker that appeared to be about 600 feet long – headed toward Cuba. 

I had my first turn of “trick” at the helm a few minutes ago.  Mary, one of the passengers, was steering when she called for help.  I, being the only one near, stepped to the wheel and very nonchalantly brought the ship back to its course of 115 degrees.  Everyone thought I was a veteran sailor by such proper procedure in bringing the ship back immediately to its course.  I must confess, it was mostly accidental.

Went ashore and did not take my swimming trunks which proved to be a mistake.  When we took the launch for the Clipper the tide was going out very rapidly and I got wet to the waist wading out to the boat.

Sunday, February 2
Arrived in Nassau.  The Captain called us all together and gave us a briefing on the habits of this island, its taxes ($2 per head when you leave), and its rules pertaining to dress, especially for the women.

The Reverend Sparks from Connecticut (The First Church of Christ) conducted the Sunday morning service aboard ship.  His sermon was about astronomy as it pertained to the birth of Christ and to our calendar.  Very interesting and enlightening.

Monday, February 3
I went into Nassau last evening and had a most delicious dinner of assorted seafood.  Something kept me from sleeping well, so it must have been too rich for me.  It was either the food, the Swizzles, or the noise all night long from late comers coming aboard the Clipper.

The Brigantine Yankee upon arrival
The seafood consisted of such goodies as crabmeat salad, lobster tail, turtle steak, and others.  Listened to calypso music for an hour or so and then several of us took a taxi to dockside.  We waited from 10:30 until 2:40 for the boat from the Clipper, during which time the Captain was growing angrier by the minute.  There was not much he could say when they finally came to pick us up because the motor broke down and the tide had carried the boat far down the harbor.

Today, I went into Nassau again, this time to buy razor blades, a straw hat, and a metal tub in which to wash clothes.  Bought a lovely pair of calypso carvings, male and female, for three dollars.  Took a few 35 mm pictures.  Returned to the Clipper in time for lunch.  

At about four o’clock, I finally boarded the Brigantine Yankee after moments of great anticipation, having heard many rumors about the latest trip of the Yankee.  There is much speculation as to who the crew will be.  Getting a balanced crew for such a trip is not easy, especially since there is little, if any, pay involved. At present, the ship looks mighty cluttered, but the Clipper looked that way too when we left Miami.  In a day or two we will begin to see some semblance of order. Chester Pharo is my bunkmate ( I got the upper bunk).  Sorry to say this, but I’m afraid Chester is one of those messy and dirty 65 year-old guys.  His gear is strewn everywhere.  He puts nothing away.  However, this is a minor detail.

Did not go into town nor back to the Clipper for farewells – too damn tired.  Sacked out at about 8:15 PM.

Tuesday, February 4
Aboard the Brigantine Yankee in Nassau Harbor.  It is surprising how easily one loses track of time.  Already I find it difficult to keep the days straight.

I finished unpacking my gear.  The chest locker was left on deck over night because it was so heavy.  One item had a broken portion, but I believe I did that when packing the astro-compass at home. Right now there is one stinkin’ fly bothering me and not one swatter aboard!  In the future, this little incident will probably be looked upon as part of the good-old-days.  Come what may, I feel that I will be able to adjust and cope with circumstances as they arise.  This is no luxury ship and was never intended to be, but it is very seaworthy and this enough for me at the moment.

I have been helping the engineer get the engine room in ship shape.  Also, giving the deck hands a lift with the fresh water.  It is being brought out by dory in three large twenty-gallon tanks, hoisted aboard and then dumped into the tank.  Sometime later we will take on the complete supply of water and fuel. Five more passengers came aboard this afternoon and were assigned cabins.

I am glad I brought navigation instruments, especially the compass.  I can lie in my bunk and read it.  I am sure that I will be able to make good use of the pelorus, sextant, and the computers.

Wednesday, February 5
Today, we had a very disheartening bit of news.  It seems that $700 worth of new 12-volt batteries were mishandled in the process of getting them ready for the full charge and, as a result, we are without electricity.  So, all day it’s been cold food and cold liquid.  It is a question at the moment whether those new, expensive batteries have been partially ruined.  Being “penny wise and pound foolish” the high wages of a competent engineer were dispensed with during the anchorage at Nassau harbor; consequently, some of the equipment has been neglected too long – equipment such as generators, pumps, batteries, and diesels.  The Assistant Engineer from the Clipper, Walter Ehrenhardt, has taken the job as Chief on the Brigantine Yankee.  This makes me very happy, not because he is a fellow Scandinavian, but because he has impressed me as one who knows his job well.

One of the fellows celebrates his 53rd birthday today so that means a party tonight.

The Captain passed the word that there would be a few day’s delay in sailing time due to the badly rundown batteries.  Meantime, the sailmaking goes on, the fresh water detail goes on, the accumulating of supplies goes on, and I am convinced now that the process of indoctrination goes on.

Thursday, February 6
One of the passengers is reading Yankee’s People and Places by Irving and Electa Johnson.  The book is in the ship’s library and I want to read it at the first opportunity.  Rereading Two Years Before The Mast and seeing the movie Mutiny on the Bounty helped tremendously to prepare me for this trip.  During the last six months I have been thoroughly studying Weem’s text on Marine Navigation, Chapman’s book on small boat handling, and Bawditch.

We had our party last night for which the chef baked a beautiful birthday cake.  His efforts were almost in vain.  Grace, the stewardess, dropped the cake on the galley floor.  After some salvaging, smaller pieces were cut from what remained.  Then the tray that contained these portions was dropped in the sink by the chef, so the only portion that remained was the small piece for the honored guest with one candle on it! Captain Joe and his wife, friends of our Captain and owners of a 42-footer, came over for the birthday party.  They showed 35mm slides of their sailing voyage throughout the Far East.

Friday, February 7
Last night at dinner the ship gave a soft jolt or two and the Captain remarked that the keel of the ship was riding on the bottom of the harbor.  When the tide is out at Nassau Harbor, the water is only ten to twelve feet deep outside the channel.  In the channel, the depth is about nineteen or twenty feet.  Some of the larger ships cannot come in to dock because there is insufficient room in which to maneuver.  They anchor outside the harbor and passengers are brought in by launch.

We learned that we have a very good amateur zoologist and botanist on board.  A moving object was seen in the water from the after deck and Chick nailed it with his water spear – first attempt.  The object turned out to be a sea hare.  Jean Apfelbaum with her dissecting instruments soon extracted the shell from the body, leaving what looked exactly like a large hunk of liver. The swimming process was accomplished by expanding and contracting its body, thus a propulsion motion was set up whereby it lazily glided through the water.  Later, another larger sea hare was speared and its shell was removed.

Another serious blunder was committed last night.  Either a passenger or a member of the amateur crew turned the wrong valve in the shower and allowed salt water to mix with the fresh water in the forward tank.  Five to six hundred gallons of fresh water, which required two days of steady hauling, was spoiled for drinking.

The sailing boat Mandalay arrived at midnight and is docked across the harbor from us.  She is need of some minor repairs, having had two days of rough weather and high seas.  However, the scuttlebutt aboard is TERRIFIC – the last word is that we sail on Sunday the 9th.

Walter and Lyle are going over the electrical circuits, getting the fans ready for the hot weather we will experience in the tropics.  Chick is putting a small batteried light on the transom of the dory.  It seems that running back and forth from ship to shore at night without a light is verboten.

Saturday, February 8
A great amount of anxiety and apprehension prevails.  This morning, in the name of Queen Victoria and defender of the faith, the harbor police arrived with a summons and plastered it on the wall of the Captain’s chart cabin.  It was a notice to appear before Her Royal Highness's Court to satisfy a $15,000 lien against the ship.  The mortgage owners had not received their interest and were determined to get it before we sailed.  The trouble was settled before lunch.

This morning the Captain asked me to help Chick clean up the deck, separating supplies of various plumbers’, machinists’, and carpenters’ tools.  We had to go ashore to locate some heavy boxes for these tools.  Fortunately, I encountered a dark-skinned, white-coated corporal of the shore police and, after greasing his palm with a buck, he took me to the leading rum and whiskey importers of the island.  There, a Mr. Higgs took me into the receiving department and I had my choice of any number of wooden boxes.

I am working on Light Lists and Sailing Directions for the Captain when I have time.  The lists for this area of the Atlantic must be completed before we sail, but the rest can be done later. The Captain has been plagued by numerous obstacles – one damned thing after another.

Last night, the Polynesia pulled into harbor and anchored about 300 yards away.  She had a great deal of supplies for us; but the food supplies had not been properly refrigerated, I supposed due to lack of space or possibly due to poor organization, and hundreds of pounds of meat and fresh vegetables were spoiled.  Throwing that much food into the sea has a peculiar effect on one, knowing that it will be needed later in the trip.

Sunday, February 9
Early this morning, the Skipper went over to the Polynesia and apparently without authorization of their Captain, dickered with two of the crew to come aboard the Yankee.  One is a cabin boy who wants to see the world; the other a Mulatto of about 22 who shows more experience about sailing than anyone else aboard.  His name is Carlos – a first mate, maybe.

It wasn’t long before Captain Ivars from the Polynesia came storming over to the Yankee in a dory, complaining about the hi-jacking of two important members of his crew.  He put on a good act, but truthfully, I think there was connivance or collusion between the two Captains.  There are both Englishmen and have much in common as it pertains to the sea.  Later in the day, Chick and I and another dory full, went over to the Polynesia and got hundreds of pounds of ice, a spare generator and various parts for it, belts, pulleys, etc.  I heard Captain Ivar tell our Captain that there was a Genoa sail in the locker which he could have.  He said it hadn’t been used for nine years.  It is a beauty and will come in handy in the quiet air of the tropics.  Actually, Captain Ivar was most friendly.

It is a thrill to watch Carlos work.  His ability as a seaman is immediately noticeable, even to a landlubber like me.

At 1:30, we hauled anchor to go to dockside for fuel and water.  We got the water but not the fuel because it was Sunday. So again, the sailing was delayed.  Going to dockside Carlos handled the Yankee as you and I handle our cars that we have driven for so long.

After dinner, we were told that we must leave the dock and anchor in the harbor for the night.  Carlos and the Captain had the ship away from the dock and into the harbor before most of us at the table knew we were moving.  The anchor chain stuck – seems that it hasn’t had much grease lately – but eventually with much effort it was sprung loose and the anchor settled to the bottom.

The doctor who came from Miami on the Polynesia and boarded our ship last night brought me a letter from son Tom with four beautiful photographs of the children enclosed.  I wrote a letter home while at the dock and took it up town for mailing.

I spent part of today and a great deal of yesterday helping to make gaskets for the lower boom and mainsail.  There are only three aboard who can properly whip the ends of the rope, so I had myself a job.

There’s a big farewell party aboard the Polynesia tonight.  Captain Joe and his wife are going to show their pictures.  Having already seen them, I don’t plan to go.

Monday, February 10
Went again along dockside for fuel.  There was a fresh breeze blowing about force 2.5 or 3, I should say, making it impossible to get a line to the dock as desired.  After three attempts, we gave up and headed for Prince George Wharf where we made it the first attempt.  Fuel and oil were brought aboard by Shell Oil Company.  We filled all tanks.  We have now finished lunch and are ready to put out to sea.  The word is that it is very rough outside and we should make everything secure in our cabins.  Some of the gang are already worrying about getting seasick.

From time to time, I shall interject personal comments prompted through general observation and experience.  Here is one such observation: At Nassau, and I presume the situation is the same throughout the islands, there seems to prevail a state of complete and utter confusion, as every day brings in thousands of new tourists by plane, excursion ship, and private yacht.  The islanders accept this state of confusion as one of the problems brought about by the tourists, and I get the feeling that they are sorry for the white man who is caught up in such a rat race.  These are their islands, however, and I don’t believe anyone is going to change that situation.  They are in complete charge, although very friendly, congenial, and considerate.  They perform their duties and everyday functions in a manner, which I believe, the white man should observe. A friendly smile and a cordial hello with obvious sincerity is their stock in trade.  They do, without a doubt, enjoy life.

It is now 7:00 and we have finished dinner.  The sea is very rough but the ship has high freeboard, a beautiful shear to its sail, and a great flare to the bow, so it is dry; we are taking very little of the sea aboard.  Of course, we tightly hauled and not under complete sail.  The motors are being used chiefly to get a line on their efficiency and output.  For the last several hours, we have been alternating the two General Motors 600 LP diesels.  The fumes from the engine room are bad mainly because of the paint being burned off the hot moving and stationary parts.

The Captain is busy with his log.  We have been on a course of 005 since leaving Nassau and I would judge that we are now about forty nautical miles from Nassau. Lyle, the second engineer, has been busy trying to rig up a light for the binnacle.  I hope his efforts are not in vain; otherwise we might have to use a flashlight to see the compass.

At the table, I sit immediately to the Captain’s right.  In addition to recording the log, he is making up a list of watches.  He asked me if I would stand one of the watches tonight.  I was only too happy to answer in the affirmative.  There is a very fine feeling between the Captain and me.  A strong feeling of mutual respect is building up and I believe we are both aware of it.

Four of the women passengers are getting their bridge game under way here and they insist I am in the way!

For dinner, we had hamburger steak with rice.  The meat had a peculiar taste and very few ate it.  I watched the doctor and the nurse.  They ate theirs, so I ate mine.  I believe most of the passengers recalled the spoiled meat that was dumped into the harbor at Nassau a few nights ago and were slightly leery of the condition of that which they were about to eat.

The Captain has just posted the list of watches and instructions to be followed while on watch.  There are to be four watches over a twelve-hour period; eight over a twenty-four-hour period.  My watch is from 12 to 3 AM (three hours on; 9 hours off) together with Carlos (Charlie), Cardena, and Mary.  It is 8 PM, so I think I will turn in and get some rest so I will be able to do a good job for the Captain during my first watch.  My alarm clock will be used for the first time tonight.

It is quite cold on deck tonight and I am certainly glad I have warm long pants, a heavy sweater, and windbreaker to wear during my watch.

Tuesday, February 11
My first watch was quite a thrill.  I took the wheel at 2400 and started the charted course of 005 for about three-quarters of an hour.  A light was sighted about two points on the port quarter and the Captain was notified.  He immediately arose from his bunk and together with Charlie, my watch-mate, identified the light as the lighthouse at Southwest Point, better known as the “Hole in the Wall” by mariners in these parts.  When the light came abreast of the port beam, we changed course to 050, having cleared the dangerous shoals on the south side of Northeast Providence channel.  Sometime during the 300 to 600 watch, the course was changed again to 120, meaning that we had quite well cleared all dangerous obstacles in Northeast Providence channel and that we were well out to sea.

At about 1300, it started to rain and Eddie Vinson, the soft-spoken passenger lad from Atlanta, lent me his slicker.  How a man could be in the retail clothing business for 40 years and overlook oilskins, I will never know.

This morning, at breakfast, we had an opportunity to see how the famous Johnson Table, with its gimbals, works.  It is positively amazing!  The surface of the table remains perfectly level with all its food and liquid.  As long as no one leans on it with his elbows everything is fine, but a couple forgot themselves and their elbows and away went the coffee and the milk. After breakfast, I sacked out for a while.  Running up and down the companion ways, breathing the fresh sea air, and the terrific motion of the ship makes one tired and sleepy.

At the present time, the ship is rolling and pitching so violently that it is impossible to stand up without holding onto something.  In another three-quarters of an hour, I go on my 1200 to 1500-hour watch and it is raining like hell out right now.

Just finished my second watch of the day.  The weather has cleared and the sun crept out at about 1400 o’clock.  The Captain seized the opportunity to gain a line of position.  He apparently was successful.  It is always hazardous for an amateur to venture a guess on the weather, but my prediction for tomorrow is fair weather.  That is based on the fact that it looks as if the sun will set in clear blue sky tonight.  The wind is out of the SSE at about twelve knots, and we have five sails to the wind.  The sails that are set are, reading from bow to stern: jib topsail, fore staysail, main staysail, fisherman, and mainsail.  The sails as well as both diesels are working and I believe our speed could safely be estimated at about eight to ten knots per hour.

The deck crew and everyone else that knows how to thread a needle is sewing rope into the new Genoa that we pilfered from the Polynesia.

Repairing sails was an ongoing activity during the voyage

Wednesday, February 12
Oh brother!  Did we have a night!  At 1500 when I left watch, I told the new mate that the wind was rising and that the ship was becoming hard to steer.  I suggested also that the helmsman should keep a close watch on the wheel and not let his wife try her hand at it, as it was becoming a man-sized job to stay within ten to fifteen degrees of the prescribed course of 120. When I went below, I couldn’t sleep.  I began to worry about the situation because going below gave me another version of the increasing velocity of the wind.  At 1630, I again went on deck.  The watch was having a ball.  They seemed to be unaware of that a squall was in the making.  All they knew was that the engines were shut off, we had big sails set, and we were sailing like hell!  The stars had disappeared from the sky, the wind was howling out of the north, and we were really sailing as they said.

When I suggested that we call the Captain, the mate commented that this is what we were looking for – a sailing breeze.  I told them of the conditions below deck, that no one not already asleep could possibly go to sleep.  Way too rough.  I again strongly suggested that we arouse the Captain.  This time, the wife of Bob Addison concurred, and Chick went below to get the Captain.  Having had so many hectic days prior to sailing, I honestly think that the Captain was in a very deep sleep and totally unaware of what was happening.  He, no doubt, went to sleep with the though that his orders would be obeyed as he so implicitly requested.  A special bulletin had been put on board to the effect that anytime the wind changed or increased, or if any problems of any kind arose, he was to be awakened. When the Captain finally arrived on deck, we had a first-class blow on our hands.  The squall had come very quickly out of the NNE.

All hands started getting the sails down.  The sheets parted on the outer jib sail, the fore staysail, and the foresail.  One of the gallants broke loose and swung wildly in the wind.  Fortunately, it was gathered in and saved.  Things began to break loose on deck and it was bedlam until lines were lashed around barrels, chests, etc.  As a result, we all had a bad night.

Thursday, February 13
The weather broke clear with a fresh breeze blowing out of the NNE.  However, our progress was slow because of the sails unavailable from the night before.  The mainsail, main staysail, the top gallant, lower topsail, and the jib sail are all we could put up.

We have not had a definite fix yet.  Expected to make the light at San Salvador sometime during the night, but never did.  It is 11:45, almost time for me to go on watch again, and still no land. The Captain seemed quite congenial at the lunch table.  I believe he got a good fix on out position at 1200.  Our course is 180, but still no land in sight.

Last night, about 23:30, the Captain decided to furl the lower topsail and the top gallant, due to a change in wind direction.  These deck hands went up to do the job; checked the clinometer and it showed sporadic rolling from side to side of up to thirty degrees from center.  What the pitch in degrees was, I don’t know, but the swells were terrific.  The foremast holding the yards of the two sails that were furled was rotating in a circle, which I would guess to be eighty to ninety feet in diameter.  Chick, Pete, and Charlie went up to do the job.  It frightened me to watch those three young men out on the footropes, furling the two uppermost sails on the foremast.  Sure enough, Charlie lost his footing and dangled in mid-air for what seemed endless moments.  Through sheer strength, he swung his right leg up over the yard of the top gallant and saved himself.  There was a moment when those of us who watched hoped that if he fell, he would land in the ocean instead of on the deck.  But I don’t know how we would have ever found him, had he fallen in the water.

Finally got two sails furled and headed the ship into the east and drifted all night.  The Captain was afraid he might go by the island if we kept on going.

Friday, February 14
Yesterday morning began bright and clear.  The ocean had its cloak of brilliance that is so familiar to everyone in these parts when the sun is shining.  Now we can see the bottom clearly for a depth of fifty feet or more. The Captain got a fix on his position and ordered the Yankee ahead straight south on a course of 180.

Yesterday at about 1700, Chick climbed the foremast and reported San Salvador ahead about two points on the port bow.  When it got dark, Rocky Point light was visible.  This is a powerful light, which is visible twelve to fourteen miles from sea.  It is a flashing light – two flashes one second apart, then eight seconds of darkness.  The light is very easy to identify from the chart information given.  As Columbus had done some 470 years previously, we rounded the rocky point and approached the beautiful sandy shores of the west side of the island where the waters are calm and the anchorage facilities are excellent.

We dropped anchor at 2200.  That called for more Swizzles, beer, and highballs.  Everyone was tired and in bed before midnight

This morning at 500, the anchor watch reported the ship was drifting.  The Captain was called and sure enough, he estimated that we had drifted from the island about three or four miles.  It seems that the anchor was placed just over the shelf where eight fathoms of water prevail.  Before the anchor had set itself, it had dropped into deep water and we began to drift.  The easterly trade winds died down, but were still strong enough – thank goodness!  Thus we drifted away from shore instead of toward it; otherwise, we would surely have grounded. Every time the anchor winch has been operated so far, they have had trouble with the clutch slipping.  Some inexperienced hand had greased the clutch plates, not realizing what the consequences would be.  At any rate, the Captain again came to the rescue.  By tossing sugar into the slipping clutch, it began to operate fairly well.

The crew is lowering a dory and most of the passengers are going ashore.  There is a U.S. tracking station here, but I don’t believe there’s much else.  It is said that the total of native inhabitants would not exceed 350.

Saturday, February 15
Yesterday, after doing my washing, while most everyone else went ashore, I began to feel wobbly in the legs and my head started to ache.  I guess I worked so hard trying to get my washing to come out white that I forgot about a hat and the hot sun.  Also, the physical strength that it takes to operate the helm is more than I realized.  All my muscles above my waistline are sore.  I understand that one’s legs are usually affected too; but having spent so many years in retailing I believe my legs were conditioned for the ordeal.  The moderate type of exercise involved here will be beneficial to me.

Eddie donned his scuba gear and was fishing with his deepwater spear gun.  We could see every movement below the surface.  The bottom can easily be seen at eight fathoms, the water is so clear.  Eddie came up with a three and a half foot barracuda, which in the Atlantic Ocean is poisonous, so we could not eat it.  That, however, is not true of barracuda in the Pacific, as some of the best restaurants on the west coast serve it.

Charlie has the boys on deck doing a scrubbing job.  The first mate is handling the hose, which is considerably easier than handling one of those back-breaking brushes.

The Captain had three guests from the base for dinner last night.  In turn, they invited the entire group of us to a party.  I did not go because of semi-sickness, which was undoubtedly good judgment on my part, since it was payday at the base and they really whooped it up.  There are not many boats that come this way and the boys at the base are especially happy to see people from the USA.  I wrote a letter home and turned in at about 2200.

Sunday, February 16
A month ago today, I left home to go to Florida from which point this adventure was scheduled to start.  The time has passed quickly – it doesn’t seem that long.

We have now reached San Salvador, which is home to nearly four hundred very dark-skinned natives, almost as many goats, but no chickens.  These people seem to fish for their food.  The large barracuda, which Eddie speared was taken ashore and they were eager to get it for food while we would have none of it.  A few deep wells around the island supply natives with drinking water, but from my observation there is a lot of beer, rum, and Coke being drunk.  There are no inside toilets and the people do not pay much attention to cleanliness as we know it.  They are not exactly filthy, but their living quarters and personal cleanliness leaves much to be desired according to American standards. The weather here is ideal.  Every day seems to be brighter and more beautiful than the day before.  The mid-day sun is very hot, but as the sun sets and the trade winds continue to blow moderately, it cools off.  By morning, it is very comfortable and bed covering is necessary.

I met the Postmaster who is a native of the island.  I have seen no other officers of the law.  These people seem very happy and possibly there isn’t much crime. There are about a thousand government and civilian employees on the island.  Captain Spark of the Air Force maintains a well-equipped tracking station.  There is a Navy tracking station on the other side of the island.  It is involved with Polaris missile tracking.  Pan Am maintains a civilian crew here, also.  I haven’t found out for what purpose, although I believe they run mail, rescue, and equipment operations.  There is daily mail service.

A service man from the base, driving a Chevy pickup truck, took us on a paved road where we took pictures of a monument commemorating the landing of Columbus in 1492.  As usual, the boys in the service have found a name for the island – “San Slavador.”  Captain Spark and the entire outfit have all been mighty hospitable to us.  They supplied us with ice cubes this morning so we would have cold drinking water for a while.

This morning, the eggs were rationed.  We got only one instead of the usual two for breakfast.  I don’t know when or where we will be able to replenish our supply.

It is 1100, and the anchor is being hoisted out of the sand.  In a few moments, we will be underway for Haiti.

We passed South Point of the island at 1300.  We are now far south of that point as it is 1600 and I have just come off the afternoon watch.  There is no land in sight.  We have gone to the regulation four-hour watches, so in the future while sailing there will be an eight-hour workday for everyone who wants to do his share.

There are three on watch at a time – one of the mates and two passengers.  It is the responsibility of the watch to steer the ship, make all entries in the log every half hour, and keep a lookout.  The log we keep is quite lengthy: first, the course, then the wind direction and velocity; the estimated speed and state of the weather.  If the engines are running, the engine log must be kept regularly, the same as the sailing log.  There are two 600 LP diesels and the oil pressure of each has to be recorded, the ammeters read, and the RPM of the engines logged.

Eddie has kept a heavy hook and line in the water and about the time we passed South Point, the reel began to whine.  He was on that rod almost instantly and brought in a twenty-pound dolphin.  So, tonight, we will have fresh fish.  The dolphin put up quite a fight, but Eddie knew how to handle him.  The Captain slowed the ship by shutting off the diesels.  He grabbed the gaff hook, and when Eddie had the fish along side of the boat, the Captain gaffed it and hoisted it aboard.  The coloring of the dolphin is gorgeous.  All shades of green and blue comparable to the coloring of a peacock.

The chef is boiling the head, eyes and all, and I’m not sure what he has in mind, but I think he plans to fool the passengers with soup of some kind and then later tell them what it was made of.

Monday, February 17
At 3:00 last night, we passed the lighthouse at Bird Rock Point of Crooked Island.  Visibility - sixteen miles.  At 1400 today, we came abreast of the Castle Island Light at the extreme southern point of Acklins Island.  Visibility – twelve miles. The weather is very mild and the air is light. The boys got one of the balloon jibs up and it has helped our sailing speed tremendously.  The sea was very calm last night during my watch, midnight to 400.  Even the stars reflected their light upon the water.  The phosphorescent living matter in the ocean was unusually bright at the turbulent waters of the bow.

Now hear this:  About twenty minutes ago, another dolphin was landed on the Captain’s line.  It weighed about twenty-five pounds.  By fastening one end of the line to the rail, when there’s a strike, you know it by the action of the line.  Last night, the chef broiled Eddie’s catch and it was delicious.  This promises more of the same.

At dusk, we are all busy on deck with various projects.  Sails are being patched, a dory is being scraped and painted, parts of the deck are being caulked, and the charthouse is being sanded.

Eddie Vinson was an accomplished fisherman 
and snagged dinner on several occasions

Tuesday, February 18
Sailed all night in a fresh breeze in a southerly direction from 150 to 170 degrees.  Passed greater Inagua Island at about 900.  We picked up the 130 foot lighthouse beam which is visible about seventeen miles at 400.

Yesterday was a great day for the fishermen - two large dolphins, eighteen and twenty-four pounds each, in addition to a four-foot barracuda.  We had fresh fish for breakfast.  Everybody aboard enjoyed beautiful weather and a great sailing day.  We are now in the tropics, having crossed the 23rd parallel and the Tropic of Cancer.

Wednesday, February 19
Still sailing in a southerly direction.  Due to bad sailing conditions, we will not put in at Haiti but will sail directly to Jamaica.  I scraped and sanded the charthouse today.  I also scraped and applied fiberglass to the dory.  Repair and patching of sails continues.  We passed Castro’s Cuba on the starboard side.  We are heading south in the windward passage.  We saw a large Russian cruiser which looked as large as any ship in our Navy.  No doubt it contains atomic missiles and rockets.  It seems to be patrolling the windward channel.

Around 1300, about two hours after we spotted the Russian ship, some US planes buzzed us.  Probably from a carrier or Guantanamo Bay.  Soon, a large US carrier emerged on the horizon and, believe it or not, came in close to take a real good look at us.  They made a 360 degree circle on our starboard side.  Hundreds of boys aboard the carrier stood at attention while she passed us not more than 250 feet away.  The Captain, or officer on duty, hailed us through his loud speaker and complimented us on a fine ship and crew.  We all took pictures.  It was announced that their photographer had taken pictures of us and that he would send us some.  The carrier was the Franklin Roosevelt.

Thursday, February 20
The mountains of Jamaica can be seen about forty nautical miles away.  Some of these mountains of Jamaica are close to seven thousand feet high.

We expect to anchor about 1600 today.  The dory we are to use today was put in shipshape last week.  I printed BRIG. YANKEE in red on its bow.  Everyone thought I did a good job, but it didn’t satisfy me.  The undercoating was very ragged in spots, especially over pieces of fiberglass that had recently been applied.  Also, the roll and pitch of the ship made the job doubly hard, but the mission was accomplished.

We dropped anchor at Port Antonio, Jamaica at 1320.  We are waiting to be cleared by the port authority.  The big news is that we can get washing done here.  Everyone has dirty clothes.

Windjammer Cruises, Inc.
January 27  - February 21, 1964
1964 “Around The World” Cruise

A stowaway came aboard in Jamaica … a puppy named Duke

The Lost Month
What happened between February 21 and April 8, 1964 can only be recalled through the oral recollections of Mert’s family.  Although Merton kept a journal of the voyage throughout that period of time, for reasons that will soon become clear to you, those pages were confiscated by the Ecuadorian navy.

Gloria Olin, Mert’s daughter-in-law, has the most complete memory of what took place in the weeks leading up to and during the Brigantine Yankee’s passage through the Panama Canal:

Even at that early point, things were getting miserable.  Since there was so little money to fund the cruise, the Captain took on hundreds of gallons of rum for the purpose of bartering for food with natives at various stops along the way.

And the Panama Canal …  what a mess!!  The boat got caught in a canal wall.  The bowsprit was caught in the side of the canal wall while the water was lowering and in a moment of high drama, the Captain chopped off the bowsprit before the boat flipped over.  The damage had to be repaired after the Yankee had passed through the canal … but there was no money to fix the thing because they had spent everything on rum.

During April, Mert rarely communicated with anyone back home.  The only record we have is a letter that his son, Tom, had sent to him on April 30, 1964 which was the following:

April 30, 1964

Dear Dad,

Well, it sure seems that it has been some time since I've been able to sit still long enough to write you a letter.  I hope that this letter will reach Tahiti in time to catch you.  
A friend of mine loaned us the book "The Yankee's People and Places" written by the Johnsons and one of their crew during one of their cruises.  I'm sure that you must have a copy in the ship's library.  at any rate - we now feel much closer to you while you're on the trip.

Say, did the Alaska earthquake tidal wave come by your ship?  I tried to figure where you would be and then estimate whether you were on-watch when it came by - but it proved a fruitless, academic exercise.  I have wondered if it had any effect where you were.  Fill us in on this will you?

We are looking forward to the next installment of your log.  Everything that we have read so far sounds just "terrific".  I'm sure that this can be built into something worthwhile with very interesting reading characteristics.  I think that the best bet will be to wait for your return and then attempt to do something with the whole journal, don't you?

All our love,

Tom and family

During those forty-three days between February 21 to April 4, 1964, the Brigantine Yankee had sailed from Port Antonio, Jamaica to the Galapagos Islands.  And then the adventure really began!!

Windjammer Cruises, Inc.
February  -  April 1964
1964 “Around The World” Cruise

Tragedy In The Galapagos

On the first week in April of 1964, the Brigantine Yankee sailed into the Galapagos Islands.  The Galapagos are famous for the research that Charles Darwin conducted there regarding the evolution of animal species.  Lesser known, but perhaps more important for Mert, was a curse that existed on one of those islands – Floreana Island.  Here is the story of that curse:

The tale began to unfold more than seventy years ago, in 1929, when Dr. Friedrich Ritter, a German physician, and his lover Dore Strauch arrived on Floreana in search of paradise.  They built a home at the base of an extinct volcano crater, in a natural basin dense with tropical vegetation and quenched by a clear spring.  Dr. Ritter continued his medical practice, ministering to the island’s few inhabitants.  Dore lived as his wife (his real wife had moved in with Dore’s husband.)

Dr. Ritter and Dore Strauch
on Floreana Island
By all accounts, Dr. Ritter and Dore Strauch were quite eccentric.  They both had all of their teeth pulled prior to leaving Germany, to avoid painful dental crises in the field, but had only brought one pair of dentures with them to the Galapagos.  Perhaps that explains why Dr. Ritter was a vegetarian, and an avid gardener to boot.

In any event, the notorious lovers and their bohemian lifestyle soon began to make headlines the world over.  They were portrayed in the international press as a modern version of Adam and Eve who had found their own Garden of Eden, and visitors who sailed to Floreana did so much to introduce themselves to these German role models as to view wildlife and the volcanoes.

All seemed well until 1932 when another German family, the Wittmers, arrived on Floreana.  Heinz, the patriarch, had been inspired when he’d read of Dr. Ritter’s idyllic escape from Europe, and decided to follow suit.  He brought with him his pregnant wife Margret and Heinz’ twelve year old son Harry from a previous marriage.  The two couples did not become fast friends, but neither were they enemies.  In fact, at one point, when Harry was particularly sick, Dr. Ritter intervened and possibly saved the child’s life.

The plot thickened two months later, when an Austrian woman wearing leather, spike heels, carrying a whip, and calling herself the “Baroness” landed on the island with a retinue of three men.  They set themselves up in some abandoned buildings on the shore at Post Office Bay, and began laying plans to build a luxury hotel.

The Baroness did not endear herself to the local Floreanos.  She appropriated the island’s fresh water and intercepted the residents’ cheap food supplies, then charged a hefty price for both.  Before long, there were reports of theft, mail tampering, and other harassments, mostly aimed at the Baroness.

At some point, the relationship between Dore and Ritter began to deteriorate.  A drought had turned their paradise into a psychological prison, and Dore evidently had had enough of Dr. Ritter’s growing inability to be anything other than ruthless and even violent.

One day, the Baroness showed up unexpectedly at the Wittmer’s to announce that she and one of her minions were leaving immediately for Tahiti on a boat awaiting them in the Bay.  So off they set.  But they left behind almost all their earthly possessions.  And they were never heard from again. Some time later, a second of the Baroness’ minions, a German named Lorenz, sailed out of Floreana on a ship named the Dinamita.  Ultimately bound for Guayaquil, the Dinamita never arrived…  Several months later, Lorenz’ dessicated body was discovered on Marchena Island, along with the corpse of the Dinamita’s captain.  Both had died of thirst and starvation.

In December of the same year, the vegetarian Dr. Ritter died from food poisoning he contracted after eating spoiled chicken ... Hmmm.

Ultimately, Dore Stauch returned to Germany.  Margret Wittmer wrote a book entitled: Floreana: A Woman's Pilgrimage to the Galapogos.  But at ninety-three, still alive and relatively well, and still living on Floreana, she is is writing her own full account of the entire mystery, which is not to be published until after she meets her maker. 

Wednesday, April 8
Woke as the sun was rising over Floreana Island.  We left the Yankee at 7:15 for a hike to Wittmer’s Gardens.  This was supposed to be a two mile walk, was actually more than four miles.  I returned at 11:30 with Jay Dee and Pete.  Everyone was back on board by 1:30 except Saydee (Sara Reiser).  Saydee had wandered off and was not seen by anyone from our ship since early morning.The Captain left for shore with a hunting party at about 2:30.  At 6 o’clock, when darkness fell, they returned, but without Saydee.  A slightly uncomfortable pall fell over the ship.  At 7:30, all hands went ashore again with searchlights.  By 9 o’clock, the night was given up.  It was evident the Spanish legend of the island was again taking toll – “El camino de la muerte.”  Sara Reiser was lost, and many of the passengers on board feared that she may be dead.

Thursday, April 9
Everyone was up at 5:30am.  A new search for Sara started again at daybreak.  All inhabitants of the island joined in the search.  At 12:05, the Wittmers suggested that we contact the base and authorities at San Cristobal before 1800pm for help. Chick took a boat at 3:45. We do not know if the suggestion was carried out as the searching party did not return to the ship until 1700. The Captain picked up natives from the island at 7pm.

Friday, April 10
Searching for Sara Reiser continued this morning.  The crew left the ship at about 930am for the southern end of the island with three islanders.  We picked them up at 3pm at that location.  We returned to our original anchorage at 4pm.  More crew returned to the ship at 6pm.

At 9:15, the port captain came over after signaling.  At 9:30, preparations were made for the crew to sleep ashore.  At 9:45, we were making ready to sail, but the binnacle light gave us more trouble and we tried unsuccessfully to fix it.  At 10:15, several Ecuadorians boarded the ship.  At 10:40, the anchor was raised and the Yankee was again under sail.  However, we were now under the direction of the port captain, who had taken the wheel for himself and set a course of 80 degrees.  Both motors were running at 1500 rpm to help increase our speed. 

We dropped anchor at San Cristobal at 12:30am.

Saturday, April 11
At 1300, our Captain, Chick, and the pilot from San Maria went ashore at Bahia Wreck.  A bad storm put two ships aground in Bahia Wreck harbor.  One was a fishing boat, the other was an Ecuadorian naval vessel.  There were dozens of men working frantically to free the naval vessel.  We could not make radio contact with San Maria.

We will be sailing tonight back to Floreana with additional personnel to help us continue our search.  We now had the involvement of the Chief of Police of the islands, one police officer, one professional guide, two navy personnel, and the Captain of the Port of San Maria.

We left San Cristobal at about 2100.  The port side motor went out at 2300.  We discovered a bad valve.

Sunday, April 12
We finally dropped hook at Black Beach at 800 or thereabouts.  At 1330, the ship started to drift or drag toward the rocks.  In trying to raise the anchor, so we could reposition the ship, the chain from the motor to the gear box broke again for the third time on this trip.  The chain is in terrible condition – the links are rusted completely through in several spots.  It was been broken in six places, previous occasions, it flew apart with hunks of chain damaging the box.

An examination showed sprockets of both motor and gear box very badly worn.  These should have been fixed long ago.  At 2030, both the Captain and Davy were in the charthouse taking code.  Dave seems to be very good at it.

This morning, the search party took an emergency short wave radio and sender into the woods.

Monday, April 13
Dave was taking code by earphone now.  It is impossible for me to hear the signals.  Jay Dee left for more food supplies at 700.  He hopes to find some canned goods, flour, coffee, shortening, etc.  Jay Dee reported to the Captain that the crew had tried twice to send messages with the old portable radio but it was old surplus signal corps equipment that was not in functioning condition.  We have hardly any food left on board except flour, ham, beans, and some macaroni.  Tonight, we had lobster again that the Captain had bought from the natives.  Davy and the two girls are doing the cooking this morning.

At 1130, Dave and Jim took a box kite, lunch, and binoculars and went to South Beach in a small dory.  I stayed on board to help with repairs to the anchor chain, a project that seems futile now.  It keeps breaking in new places.

Tuesday, April 14
Three of the search party came back to the Yankee last night.  After sleeping here, they loaded up more supplies and went back at 5am this morning for the base or highland headquarters of the search party.  Today will end the search, so they say.

At 1300, after lunch, a complete inventory of food stuffs was taken by Eddie, Alma, and me.  We had lots of wax paper, saltines, tea, and beans.  The ice box has been empty for five days now.  We also took inventory of other assets as well.  We had plenty of dirty pillows, sheets, towels, shirts, etc.  All of our tools were in poor shape – especially carpenters tools.  No cold chisels, except cheap ones!

We put the charthouse in shipshape – the best since coming aboard.  I have had one change of sheets and cases since the cruise began – almost two months ago.

Wednesday, April 15
We lifted anchor from Black Beach at 1000 and sailed on one motor for twenty-four hours.

Letter of appreciation from Captain Lumbers to the Wittmers
 Statement of passenger Martha Hurt

Thursday, April 16
We arrived at San Cristobal at 10pm.  All members of the search party were afraid of the rocks in the bay at night. We had traveled seventy miles in a full day's sailing against a strong current.

Friday, April 17
There was an inquest about Sara in the naval commander’s office.  Everyone from the Yankee was present as was a priest.  Attorney Burbano acted as legal counsel.  The commander speaks fairly good English.  Each of us had to fill out a sworn statement and it was all done in private so we could tell our own story as we each believe it happened.  Everyone was treated with the utmost of respect.

Saturday, April 18
At 10am, we went ashore for a visa to return home.  The Yankee is being held by authorities indefinitely as the investigation into the disappearance of Sara Reiser continued.  Several passengers planned to return home, possibly to rejoin the ship once she was underway again.

Also, while ashore, I gave the naval commander a letter from my records showing the ownership of the Yankee.  I am planning my trip home by carrier via Guayaquil.  Cristobal Carrier.

Sunday, April 19
Making arrangements for reservations aboard the carrier.  I checked cabins and prices for Mrs. Hurt and myself.  I cancelled the reservations at the last minute when the cook came back with some supplies.  Fish was served for dinner.  It was the first good meal for over a week.  We gave a Japanese crew a bottle of scotch in trade for the fish.  We aren’t sure, however, if it was tuna or shark.

Monday, April 20
Saw pictures last night by Lunde.  I spent most of the day writing and watching Sara’s clothes being packed for shipment home.  I went ashore and mailed a package home as well.

Tuesday, April, 21
We were all called ashore by the Ecuadorian government to make sworn statements before officials for Senator Ball of California.  As it turns out, Senator Ball is a relative of Sara Reiser’s and he was determined to give us a good thrashing for what happened.

Eddie says that the leftovers of last night’s fish, which we had again for lunch today, was shark meat.  The cook did trade for some tuna in the deal… but the Captain ate it.  The Captain entertained the Ecuadorian commander and his wife for dinner last night.

Wednesday, April 22
The commander will not permit us to sail yet.  We were able to get our laundry done on shore by trading scotch for it.  We were also able to get a valve job on the ship’s motor the same way.

We ate the balance of the fish today.  We have no other food now except a few small sweet potatoes and some rotting bananas and oranges.

Thursday, April 23
The captain sent a boat ashore at 700 and brought back a shoulder of beef.  This was paid for, no doubt, with scotch.

We are still not permitted to sail.  I heard that there will be an Ecuadorian patrol boat in from Guayaquil tomorrow.  I have, once again, decided to go to Guayaquil on Cristobal Carrier. It is due here on Friday.  I have made arrangements to room ashore.

Friday, April 24
A patrol boat cruised into harbor and anchored at about 1230 today.  There were many students and officials aboard.  Four of the students swam over to the Yankee for free tequila.  They were very friendly.  The officials went ashore at about 1300.

The Captain, once again, borrowed more money from my roommate, Chester, and took three twenty gallon containers in for boilable water.  Chester tells me that the Captain now owes him $440.  Too bad it had to come down to this!  The Captain also owes, the cook, Jay Dee, four month’s pay.  No one has any money on board the Yankee.  How can you run a business like this without money?

At 1330, the Captain returned in a hurry to say we can sail immediately.  I demanded that a boat go ashore to corroborate the release.  I went to do this myself.  Being siesta time, I couldn’t do a thing until after 1430.  I went to the officers’ club and met all the important men of the island.  I learned that the search is going to continue for at least another day by the men of the Ecuadorian navy ship Jambeli.  The ship has a crew of forty men and is captained by a man named Olmedo.  In the meantime, the Yankee will go to Santa Cruz.  There, we will meet the Jambeli and it will deliver us to Guayaquil.

We cranked the chain up at 1530.  We are sailing to Santa Fe (Barrington).  We are going there to shoot some wild goats for food.  

It was a calm, moonlit, night.  We did not use our running lights for some reason.   We arrived in Northeast Bay around 2100.  At 1am, we used the starboard engine to continue along the shore.  I could hear the seals all night long.

Saturday, April 25
The shore of northeast Santa Fe Island is covered with seals and sea lions.  A small herd of black goats were seen at about 900.  A party went ashore at about 945 to shoot goats.  It consisted of Captain Gordon, Mary, Chick, Eddie, and Dave.

While we were waiting for the group to return, we caught a small shark, which we pulled on deck as a last resort meal.  I would rather not eat than to eat shark.

The goat shooting party did not get back until 1530.  All but the Captain returned.  At 1730, the Captain was seen traipsing the hills on the heels of an ugly black goat.  In just a short while, he had the thing slung over his shoulder and was coming out to the ship.  He carried the carcass two miles.  We gutted it on deck.  It looked pretty old and not so healthy.  We shall see.

I got deathly sick with diarrhea and fever right after dinner.  Morning wouldn’t come soon enough.  At 5am, we would leave Santa Fe for Santa Cruz to meet the gun boat.

Sunday, April 26
At 5:30, we raised anchor.  I am in bed, still very sick in the stomach.

The crew worked for over eight hours, trying to get the anchor up.  No one could hand crank it and the chain on the motor kept breaking.  We finally got away at 1330.  It should be only a four hour run to Santa Cruz.  It will be interesting to see how long it actually takes us.

It is now 1500, we are still sailing.  The starboard engine has been shut off and the port engine is still out of commission. I found out today that the Captain is into almost all of the crew and passengers for loans.  This is in addition to Chester and Jay Dee.  And Chester is using this to his advantage, throwing his weight around in the galley for special favors and always hanging about the quarter deck, sitting where he does not belong.

Well, since it took eight hours to get the anchor up, we arrived at Santa Cruz at 7pm, half a day late.  We immediately boarded the military ship, Jambeli, at 830pm.

The Yankee would remain here, seized by the Ecuadorian government until their investigation is completed and the Yankee pays restitution for investigation costs.  No telling how long that will be. It seems that the Windjammer Barefoot Round The World Cruise has been put on indefinite hold.  Many passengers, including myself, are heading home until the situation is resolved.

Monday, April 27
We left Santa Cruz at 5:30am on board the hulking Jambeli.  We soon met with a foreign ship that would not identify itself.  We tried code, lights, and even shots to stop the ship but they turned tail and out-ran us.  We have no idea what country the vessel was from.

The Jambeli anchored at Santa Maria at 12:30.  We met with the Wittmers and some of the men that helped us search for Sara during the first few days of the event.  The officers aboard the Jambeli have been most gracious to us.  They don’t have much but they give us the best they have.

Another search party is leaving the ship.  Forty students and three professors are here to further their education but I understand they will have little participation in the search - it will be done by members of the crew only.  Well equipped with flares, guns, lights, compasses, etc., they left the ship at 1:30.

Everyone came back on board tired and exhausted by 1900.  The vessel’s whistle was blown to get the last of the crew off the island.  I gave Lt. General Jorge Barriga, Executive Officer of the Jambeli, my spyglass and you never saw a more pleased man.

The ship’s medic gave me pills and medicine for the diarrhea and I am feeling much better tonight.

Tuesday, April 28
We got underway for San Cristobal at 6:30am.  I shaved and showered before we left, at 5:30.  This was my first fresh water shower in two months.  The Captain turned the ship north so the students aboard could cross the equator.  It was many miles out of the way, but the ceremony they put on was something to behold.  It lasted almost two hours and was really rough on the boys.

I should tell you now about how clean these men are – they shower and shave every morning and it seems they are always running around with a toothbrush in their mouth.

The Jambeli dropped anchor in San Cristobal (Bahia Wreck) at about 1700.  The food we get is ample but the meat portions are small by our standards.  The taste is different also.  Although the passengers are clean, the ship is dirty.

Wednesday, April 29
At 6:30am, we moved over to the fuel dock fuel and a few supplies.  The crew could not negotiate around the dock posts and tore out several portions of the dock.  The port side of the Jambeli was moderately damaged and somehow, we broke the main six-inch fuel line from the tank.  On leaving the dock, we almost went onto the rocks – in fact, we did damage extensively the stern anchor winch and we lost the anchor.  All in all, it took us eight hours to accomplish what should have been done in two hours at the most.

The big celebration ashore last night must have been a success, as most of the boys didn’t get back to the ship until 4:00am.  And perhaps this explains our trouble parking the boat this morning.

Today, Professor Burbano and his assistant took the students for a hike into the mountains.  I had the opportunity to spend some time with Professor Burbano.  He really is a character.

Merton Olin - Adventurer
Standing in downtown San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands

Thursday, April 30
Last night, the commander and his assistants came aboard.  There was a huge party held on board the ship for these VIPs.  I was not part of the dinner festivities and played rummy with the crew. After the private dinner, we were all called on deck to share in the continuing entertainment, which was put on by the students.  Two in particular were very good – natural comedians.  They put on one show that lasted an hour.  Then the commander presented all members who had taken the ceremony of crossing the equator with official certificates.  Dr. Burbano accepted this award on behalf of the students and offered a few words of thanks.

We, the “important” ones, then retired to the Captain’s cabin and again indulged in a several rounds of drinks.  I got to bed at two in the morning.

Friday, May 1
Yesterday, we sailed.  We should have left at 1400 but it was 1600 before we got away.  About twenty thousand beer and soda bottles were put aboard, along with one hundred fifty empty fuel containers.

At the last minute, someone had discovered that Sara’s belongings had been forgotten.  After they were put aboard, a message flashed from the capital building that there would be an additional passenger.  It turned out to be a sick woman on a stretcher who had recently given birth and developed some medical problems afterward.  They brought a bed for her and she is on deck under the big canvas with her family.

There are about forty students, twenty crew, and twenty additional passengers that seemed to come from nowhere just before pushing off.  They have their chickens and ducks with them.  Some of the ducks are hanging out in the shade underneath the sick woman’s bed.  This morning at 6:00am, the roosters began crowing their heads off.  Our progress is slow, about eight knots, due to head winds, current, and the towing of the naval vessel.

The food is very strange but good.  They use a lot of oil and Tabasco sauce.

The Ecuadorians take good care of their own and are very considerate and helpful at all times.  They take care of problems as they arise without fuss or botheration.  They never seem to become disturbed about anything.  To be sure, their animated way of expressing themselves leads us to believe that they are an excitable lot, but having watched them work under pressure, I have the greatest respect for them.

I did not go to the movie last night for two reasons: 1. It was too cold on deck and 2. The movie had no sound.  I have watched two movies aboard their ship now and both of them were eighteen years old.  They dub the Spanish in at the bottom of the pictures and everyone seems to enjoy them very much.

The daytime weather is sunny and warm, but under a cloudless sky at night, the breezes kick up and make it quite chilly on deck.

Saturday, May 2
The weather is overcast and cold.  I was up early this morning to shave and have my shower before anyone else got up.  The time was about 0530.  As I said before, there is no hot water, but there is fresh water available for showering.  Every one of any importance on this ship – all the officers, professors, officials, wives, etc. are using one head, so it is very hard to get in at busy times.  In fact, I have on occasions used the crew’s head.  Neither one can possibly be kept very clean due to the crowded conditions of the gunboat.

The sick lady seems to be somewhat better this morning.  They are no longer feeding her intravenously, and she gave me a smile as I walked by the opening in the canvas-covered deck.

I felt sure that it was going to happen, and it did.  At 0900, the clamps in the cable towing the smaller naval vessel let go and the vessel was soon left far behind stranded in the broad Pacific.  This caused a great stir on the gunboat, but nothing frantic.  After two hours of circling and fishing for the big houser that had been made fast to the smaller boat, we again had it in tow.  A small line took the harness to the small craft and the houser in turn brought the inch cable back to the gunboat where it was re-clamped in place on the quarterdeck.

Today, it is rather chilly on deck, especially in the shade.  The winds and currents are still strong and eight knots seems to be the fastest time we can make. The latest scuttlebutt has us in Guayquil early Monday morning.

The students at every opportunity surround me and are most eager to hear about the United States and to learn a little English.  I speak some Spanish and find that it is not at all difficult to get through to them. Today, the student that so kindly got me a blanket the other night offered me his last orange.  I divided it with him and later gave him a small gift to remember me by. I also gave a small gift to the student that taught me how to play their style of rummy.  We play for one suchre per game – that is about six cents in our money.  And do they enjoy it!  They all seem to be wild about playing cards.

The small naval vessel in tow is having it rough – the sea is somewhat choppy and at times, the bow of the vessel buries itself in the water.  There are eight men aboard her and at various intervals signaling takes place between the two boats by flags.  The Ecuadorians surely take care of their own, two men are at our stern constantly watching the smaller boat in tow, day and night.

Sunday, May 3
The weather is clear, but quite cold and windy.  The sea is choppy.  Still, the vessel in tow is doing very nicely so far since the incident of its getting loose and going adrift yesterday.  We are doing about seven or eight knots and will be in Guayquil sometime tomorrow morning early.

Sleeping quarters and eating:  
In a room or space no larger than twenty four foot square, there are twenty seven people.  Five women, one girl (two years old), sixteen men (three professors from Colegio de Mejia de Quito), three technical assistants, four male passengers including myself and six students.  We all sleep and eat in this space.

The six officers are adjacent to us in a compartment separating us by steel lockers.  Their space is about twelve foot square, at the most.  This group includes the Captain.  They also eat and sleep in this space.
Thank God for the know-how of American naval engineers – this L.S.M. was provided with a ventilating system second to none.  Six large fans on deck provide a change of air below very frequently and makes the tight living conditions bearable with a continuous flow of fresh air.

By now, after having spent six days aboard this ship, I can tell you something about the meals.  For breakfast (desayuno) – usually an apple or fruit juice or both.  Bread and butter, a small piece of meat (either hot or cold) and one egg (either fried or boiled).  This is followed by coffee in the continental style (cup of hot milk – you supply the instant coffee to your own liking).

For dinner (almuerzo) – the largest meal of the day, a large bowl of potato soup, then a vegetable salad, usually followed by a small portion of meat and large portion of rice.  Fruit juice with a dessert of fried banana or a small piece of soft pastry, similar to cake.

For supper (comida) – the lightest meal of the day, more potato soup, then a large disk of rice with corn.  A cup of juice with a banana or piece of pastry.  No more.

The entire menu is flat, flavor-wise, but sharpened and seasoned with olive oil, Tabasco sauce, or catsup and salt.  I would call the food typical of what the Ecuadorians eat the year around.

The Head:
The wife of one of the officers, Mrs. Hurt, myself, the professors, and the officers all use one small head for officers only.  It is so crowded that quite frequently, I use the community head for the rest of the crew.  The crew head is twenty-eight feet long and seven feet wide.  It is separated into two sections with a four-foot square shower between.  The first section is used for washing clothes, hands and face and for showering.  The second section is used for evacuation purposes – accommodations for six people.  With the crowded condition of the ship, it is impossible to keep the heads clean.  The amazing or astonishing feature of the whole arrangement is that both male and female passengers use this head at the same time.  Apparently, necessity overcomes many handicaps.

The Ship:
Two hundred and six feet long.  Thirty four foot beam.
Crew of forty-four (normally fifty).  Three professors, thirty-five students, split almost evenly between men and women.

Monday, May 4
Landed at Guayquil Monday evening at 9pm after a delightful trip up the Guayas River.

Too late to catch Braniff Airlines’ Tuesday morning flight to Miami.  Checked in at the Palace Hotel and stayed four nights, taking the 1:35am Braniff flight on Saturday.  I will make three stops – Panama City, Miami, and Pittsburgh.  

Very disappointed, I was heading home ... but still want to complete the voyage – despite all of our problems.  Every day, I would wonder where the Yankee was.  Was she somewhere in the vast South Pacific or still held up in Ecuador?


The Unfortunate News Reaches Home 

Back home, the news of Reiser’s disappearance had everyone in a tizzy.  Merton’s son, Tom wrote a letter to Windjammer Cruise Inc. owner, Mike Burke, not knowing that Merton was already on his way home:

May 7, 1964

Dear Capt. Burke: 

I am writing on behalf of my mother and myself.  My Dad is M. F. Olin, currently somewhere near Tahiti, aboard the Brigantine Yankee on her trip around the world. Last week my mother sent me a clipping from the Los Angeles Times that described in fragmentary fashion an incident concerning the mysterious “loss” of a Miss Reiser on one of the Galapagos Islands. Apparently, she had been left behind for some reason not explained in the article. 

I have tried to reassure Mom that the item was not at all detailed or complete and without the entire set of facts she should not concern herself unduly with worry about Dad until the situation is known more fully. Would you kindly send me some information on this matter? Im sure that nothing serious could have overtaken the Yankee or we would have been so informed about it.However, I would like to know if they have had an incident that would change the planned itinerary, etc. I would have been less surprised if the article had stated that Dad, a retired merchant, had found the perfect place to forget about past “Christmas rushes” and had decided to stay. Any assistance that you can extend to us will be greatly appreciated. 

Very truly yours, Tom Olin 

To which Mike Burke replied: 

May 11, 1964

Dear Mr. Olin:

Let me assure you first that your father is perfectly safe. Miss Reiser’s disappearance is a mystery  however, the accident did not occur on the ship.She was in the company of some other people and simply disappeared. A recurrence has never happened and will probably never happen again. Search parties are continuing to look for Miss Reiser. 

We all grew to be very fond of your father before his departure and maybe he can find an island. Who knows? In any event, the Yankee is making a good voyage and there is no danger involved.Please assure your mother of this. 

Sincerely yours, Capt. Mike Burke


Perhaps the most interesting, and complete, assessment of the situation  was captured in a letter written by Margret Wittmer to Miriam Reif (Saydee Reiser's sister) shortly after the events took place:

Isla Floreana
Galapagos Ecuador S. A.

Mrs. Miriam (Ben) Reif
San Francisco
California   USA

Dear Mrs. Reif:

As a result of the “Voice of America” and the “Voz de America” announcing on the radio that your sister, Miss Saydee Reiser, went missing on the Wittmer's farm, I take the liberty to explain the events from first hand, also in the name of the other settlers who have lived here for decades.

On 7th April the yacht “Yankee” dropped anchor at Black Beach. I will explain the exact events of the affair following my sighting of the yacht; I have known the “Yankee” under her former owner [Irving Johnson] since 1933, and whom we had missed seeing four years before. [They] had heard of Rolf's birth and wanted to come up to the Asilo de la Paz, but the baroness put them off.

The yacht itself, normally a magnificent object, gave a strong impression of neglect. At 3 p.m. four ladies came ashore and visited me in my house. We talked about the surrounding area, about the yacht and the voyage, and I showed the ladies a picture of what the yacht had formerly looked like. These four ladies were: Miss Saydee Reiser, Mrs. Martha Hurt, Miss Alma Flynn, and Miss Mary Watson.

The ladies wanted to take a short walk to the nearby "La Loberia". Mrs. Hurt did not wish to, and went back aboard while the other three ladies went to Loberia, with one of my employees to show them the way. Before the ladies departed, they looked around my guest-house, and Miss Reiser wanted to try out her Japanese Olympia camera (which she had recently bought in Panama) by taking pictures from the top floor.

An hour later the ladies returned, clearly filled with enthusiasm, and some time later four gentlemen from the yacht also came by. I gave some fresh cucumbers from the farm to Miss Reiser; she was very pleased and stated that they got no greens at all on the yacht.

They decided to return the next day at 7 o'clock and make an excursion to the “Ritters' place.”

At 7 a.m. on 8th April three ladies and three gentlemen came and said that they preferred to go up to our farm and then to pass by the Ritters' place. I objected bacause it would take two hours (eight kilometers) and asked if Miss Reiser would not stay behind. She said no, she was a good walker, and as there was nothing to see on board, it was necessary to pass the time somehow. I then said “Have a nice time, and I will see you when you return.”

Off went Mrs. Hunt, Miss Reiser, Miss Watson and three gentlemen, one of whom (I later learned) was the cook.

At 10 o'clock a Japanese fishing boat, the “Maru 7” arrived. The captain came to us with his speedboat, and after loading it full of bananas and other vegetables my son Rolf went with him back to the large fishig boat. On his return at 12 o'clock he rowed his small boat over [to] the “Yankee” to greet the captain who hadn't yet shown himself. While our son Rolf was atill aboard the yacht, two of the three gentlemen came back.

At 3 p.m. a man came ashore and asked if the old lady was with us. We said no.

At 5 p.m. my son Rolf went to the farm. On the way he met the ship's captain and engineer, who said that Mrs. Hurt had returned from the walk and had said that Miss Reiser had lost her way.

How Miss Reiser had got lost they could not explain. As soon as my son Rolf arrived up to the farm, he and my daughter Ingeborg searched all over our property. They shouted and fired shots but there was no reply and no trace of where Miss Reiser had gone.

The next day a search party set out, consisiting of 5 persons from the ship, the head of the Ecuadorean Navy Station, the nurse, two further settlers (Messrs. Cruz), my son Rolf, and Ingeborg. From dawn to dusk in a temperature of 30 degrees, they searched Miss Reiser's assumed route, the length and breadth of the bush, shouting, blowing horns, shooting, firing flares as it got dark, with the end effect . . . nothing.

On Friday, three further men joined in, a settler named Paredes, his son Santiago and our employee Eloy Quentano, and the search went along the coast with the yacht while another group crossed straight through the bush to the coast. End result . . . nothing. At 9 o'clock in the evening the captain came and told me that he could not wait any longer as he had to pick up more passengers in Tahiti and he would get there too late.

As a result of our protests, the Navy chief of the island ordered the yacht's captain Mr. Derek Lumbers to go to San Cristobal and to inform the Governor of the islands and to bring more help.

We could not inform San Cristobal by radio, as the Navy Station has no radio and my daughter's husband, who was also a radio-operator, was on the Continent. Captain Lumbers explained that his radio equipment was only set for coastal reception, and as the Galapagos Islands are 500 nautical miles distant from the coast, the operatiing radius was insufficient. This meant in effect that if something should happen aboard the yacht, the captain could not obtain any help, because after all Tahiti lies 3,000 miles from the Continent.

The next day the search continued with 5 people from the yacht staying here. And once again the end result . . . nothing.

On Sunday morning the “Yankee” returned bringing a police officer, a doctor and a further three men. All the gentlemen immediately went up in order to organise the continuing search on Monday. The bush was thoroughly combed from a height of 300 meters down to the sea. The search continued until Wednesday, then everyone came down and the police officer took evidence from the settlers living here.

While these were being recorded, Mr. Olin and Mrs. Hurt came ashore and asked if they could live with me until our island steamer “Cristobal Carrier” would drop anchor here in Floreana. This would be in 10 days time, and both tourists wanted to pass these days in Floreana, because, they said, the atmosphere on the yacht was not good. When I asked Mrs. Hurt how it was at all possible for an old lady to be left alone, she replied “She is gone, it is nobody's fault, she was a very demanding person.”

We here had assumed, as we were always being told, that Miss Watson and her boyfriend Ed Vision  had been the last to have been with Miss Reiser. Now Mrs. Hurt recounted, and she also gave it in writing to the police officer, that “ she (Mrs. Hurt) had had a stone in her shoe, and on account of this she had told Miss Reiser to wait a moment, but Miss Reiser had declined to do so on the grounds that she would break her stride. When she had removed the stone from her shoe, Miss Reiser was no longer there, and she (Mrs. Hurt) thereupon returned to the coast.” Mrs. Hurt further recounted that she had already heard the hens on our farm, and the cow-bells too, which meant that she was only a few minutes away from the farm.

To that I would like to say that there are absolutely no stones at all in that district, and when someone has marched for two hours, he will certainly go for the further 5 minutes to be able to sit and drink water or coffee, that is, to rest a little before striding a further two hours back down to [the] coast.

Mr. Olin and Mrs. Hurt could not stay in Floreana because the “Yankee” and her crew together with the tourists, had to return to Chatham as prisoners until the Governor had recorded the statement and evidence.

Some more unhappy figures in this unhappy business were Miss Watson and the boyfriend Ed Vision. Together they had arrived at my daughter's farm. Ingeborg asked them if any more tourists would come to the farm. The answer was “Yes, one lady more.” How could Miss Watson and Vision know that only one more lady would come, when as they declared, they had left both elderly ladies behind?

The record stated that these two were the last to have seen Miss Reiser, Mrs. Hurt equally maintained that she was the last.

Be that as it may, the affair is quite shady and in my opinion really dirty.

The American authorities got moving, a jet came in and in the jet was a helicopter. The helicopter came to Floreana and Rolf my son flew three times each one hour and 15 minutes almost never above 30 meters height over the whole district, what the pilot and Rolf saw were donkey bones, very small cow bones, but they did not find a body.

On 28th April an Ecuadorean warship came with 28 men all of whom went on the search, and again nothing.

Captain Derek Lumbers was advised by the Governor that he would have to pay for the search and also for all the meals and accommodation which Ingeborg, has made for all the men and in addition she had participated in the search.

Walter Cruz, who was leading the search on the coast, was put ashore with the other island people and two from the ship at a place which we call Saddle Point. As the “Yankee” had no small boat, the people had to swim from the ship to the shore, as a result of which Walter Cruz lost his watch, another a pair of shoes, and someone on the yacht almost lost his life. Santiago, the other searcher, lost two nails from his hand as he clung to a lava-block in order to survive the next wave.

After all the evidence had been recorded from the people who live here and who barely make a living with great difficulty, the police officer presented their evidence to the settlers and to the travelers.

The captain, who had taken the yacht to Chatham and had not once asked how (it was going) said right away that he had no money and that he would not pay. He would of course inform his “Windjammer Company” but doubted whether the firm would pay.

As the Windjammer Company has such a “good” reputation I assume that one has to turn to you.

I enclose exact copies of the original invoices presented. In total they come to 413 USA Dollars, and to prevent the Windjammer Company sending you a higher bill, I am forwarding you the complete details.

Please let me know if you couldn't decide to come here for a few weeks, to satisfy yourself on the spot about what happened. You can easily reach the Island from Guayaquil with the island steamer “Cristobal Carrier” which comes every 3 weeks. The exact address of the shipping company is “Cetuga” Guayaquil Malecón, and you can obtain precise details, so that you do not need to wait too long in Guayaquil after your flight.

Here in my guest house you will be very well looked after; all the scientists from the Darwin Foundation who were here were very satisfied. The owner of the San Francisco Chronicle, Mr. Perlmann, can give you the best information about my guest house.

It would always be beneficial to talk to others of Miss Reiser's family, and also for you to continue the search, for you are certainly the most interested in clearing up this affair.

I have taken the liberty to write to you in German, on the assumption that the names Reiser and Reif are of German origin, and that you have a command of the language. I could just as easily have written in Spanish or English, but in a translation one cannot say everything which one can in one's mother-tongue.

In expectation of your reply, I greet you, whilst expressing our deepest sympathy for you and your family. Six months ago today I lost my life-long companion after 32 years of marriage, and thus I am particularly able to judge what such a loss means.

With best wishes,

Margret Wittmer


That same week, on May 15, Windjammer Cruises was featured in a Time Magazine article entitled “Down to the Sea”.  The article attempted to explain why certain people choose to go a little on the wild side:

And for the adventurous meaning those with a hankering for hardship, seamanship, courtship, or strong drink there is something called a “Windjammer Cruise.” Schooners like the Yankee Clipper, Polynesia and Mandalay fill Bahamian waters every week. They are loaded with sun-peeled cargoes of businessmen, secretaries, airline stewardesses, honeymooners, sexagenarians, and swingers. Sometimes, of course, things can get a bit too “shippy.” One recent cruise last Christmas came complete with 12 foot waves and several broken bones. On another hairy occasion, three missionaries were washed overboard, but the only passenger who seems to have been lost permanently is Miss Sara Reiser, 70, who disappeared last month during a walk on one of the Galapagos Islands a port of call on Burke’s round-the-world cruising brigantine Yankee.  

… But in a time when the Bahamas and the rest of the West Indies are suffering from creeping civilization … Burke offers the uncertain pleasure of putting the escapist back in touch with elemental nature.

Merton returned home and developed the film that he had taken on the trip, and this is what he saw:

The Last Voyage of the Brigantine Yankee (Part 1)
(Caribbean through the Panama Canal to Ecuador)

Return To The Yankee

Despite the harrowing experience of his first four months on-board the Yankee, Mert once again, heard the siren call of the sea and rejoined the cruise in Tahiti.

Mert's journal continues ...

Thursday, June 30
I was informed by Dee Hurt from California through letters sent to her by the Addissons, who had spent almost three months on Tahiti, waiting for the arrival of the Yankee.  It did finally arrive after a thirty-two day sail to the Marquesas Islands.  Two days in port there.  Then eight days to  Papeete, Tahiti, arriving there on June 19th.

Forty-two days travel on limited rations, eating diseased goats that the crew had shot on the Galapagos Islands before leaving on the big sail.

I was informed that the four-hundred dollar levy against the Yankee was never paid and that the ship slipped away from the Galapagos Islands in the middle of the night, without authority of the Ecuadorian government.  No use was made of the Naval Zone #2 Commissary on the capital island of San Cristobal, although I was told by Commandante Alvear that it’s facilities were at his disposal.

The sea still beckons me ... and I cabled the captain of the Yankee of my desire to return to her.  I also inquired about a doctor.

Wednesday, July 1
I have decided to rejoin the Yankee at Papeete, Tahiti and made flight arrangements to leave Youngstown, Ohio on Saturday, July 4th at 5:20pm.

Thursday, July 2
Today, I completed flight arrangements and finished work around the house.  I called the Captain of my decision.  I sure hope things have improved aboard the Yankee.

Friday, July 3
Packed the gear and made ready to leave Grove City, Pennsylvania.

Saturday, July 4
Boarded United flight #763 for Chicago at 5:20pm.  Boarded United flight #117 for Los Angeles.  Boarded Pan American flight #815 for Papeete, Tahiti at 11:59pm.

Sunday, July 5
Arrived in Papeete fifteen minutes late at 5:30am. Within one hour, I had cleared immigration and customs.  I took a cab to the harbor and to the Yankee.

I boarded the Yankee at 6:45am in the harbor and witnessed the most deplorable sight I had ever seen.  After being in Papeete three weeks, the ship was still out of rations and was still in need of many repairs.  The situation was most depressing – the crew and passengers were still emaciated from lack of food.  Most having lost twelve to fourteen pounds each.

Conditions had deteriorated dramatically.  

Only a handful of passengers remained on board. 

Jim Townsend, the Engineer, and Mary Watson were both sick.  Mary has a very bad cough and could be seriously ill.  The rest have all seem brainwashed and show definite signs of mental deterioration as well as physical deterioration.  The Addissons and Dee, who had also just rejoined the ship, all agreed that we walked into a disaster.

First lunch on board – beans and bread.  Dinner – chicken wings and egg plant. Later that night, I went to Quinn’s, the famous native beer tavern.

Monday, July 6
I went to the authorities, along with Dee and the Addissons, to see about stopping the ship from sailing without food and without a doctor.  A delay of one day was obtained through the Port Captain, the Surete of Police, and a lawyer.  However, the vessel could not be delayed longer and the sailing date was set at Tuesday – 1100 hours.

Some food was brought aboard – pork chops for dinner.  I saw the head at Quinn’s.

The Yankee finally reaches Tahiti in the South Pacific

Tuesday, July 7
More food was brought aboard and twelve barrels of fuel lashed to the deck.  The fresh water tanks were filled for the first time since leaving Panama in March. Sailing was delayed until 1500 hours.

Some of the crew decided to leave the cruise in Tahiti.  Pete and Big Dave both left.  Chick wanted to leave, but he did not have a passport.  Three new crew came aboard – Don, Mike, and Joe.

Wednesday, July 8
Sailed all day in a north-northeasterly direction at about four to six knots toward Bora Bora.  A beautiful day.

Thursday, July 9
We docked at the pier of Vaitape, Bora Bora Island shortly before noon.  The island of Bora Bora is known as one of the most beautiful islands of the French Archipelagos.  I went ashore with Maxie, Joan, and the Addissons.  We visited the Hotel Bora Bora for drinks and a swim on the most attractive crescent beach in the world.  The hotel is gorgeous – the bungalows for residents are all thatched roofed with patios facing the beach, and everyone is shaded by huge palm trees.  The bungalows run about fifteen dollars per person per day.

In the evening, we took a short walk down the roadway of Vaitape.

Friday, July 10
I rented a motor bike for three hours for four hundred Francs and went to Bora Bora Beach again.  The rate of exchange is eighty-seven Francs for one dollar.  I also visited the Hotel Tahiti and had refreshments on their patio facing the sea where several large private yachts from France were anchored.

Everyone on the island, same as at Papeete, is busy getting ready for the Fest or Bastille Days, which begin tomorrow and last for two weeks.  The islanders are building booths of native bamboo and fawns.  The roofs are all thatched.

I went into the village to see the native singers and Tahitian dancers practice for their festival.  The men of the village are also practicing for the canoe races.  Each canoe has three occupants and they paddle a prescribed course – very interesting.  All of the villagers live in a very primitive way.  For the most part, the homes are on stilts and of thatched roofs with no doors or windows – completely open.  The backdrop consists of huge coconut palm trees and a steep slope to the high-jogged peak of the mountains in the center of the island.  A road encircles the island and it is thirty-two miles around.  There are some automobiles on the island, but hundreds of motorbikes.

A French gunboat arrived and anchored at the naval pier about two miles from the village.

The temperature here is divine both day and night.  The people truly live in paradise.

Saturday, July 11
The steamer Flavia arrived with over a thousand passengers aboard – just in time for the celebration of Bastille Days.

The refrigerator on board the Yankee went out during the night.  All of the meat spoiled, again, and was thrown overboard.

Jim and Joan both went to see the doctor aboard the French gunboat.  Jim has stomach pain and Joan has a stye in her eye.  The Captain took Mary to the doctor on his motorbike.  She is in a very bad way – all the symptoms of Tuberculosis.  The doctor said she must stay in bed until we get to a hospital, where she can be x-rayed.  He is very suspicious of her condition.  

We sailed away from Bora Bora at 1700 hours.

Sunday, July 12
A beautiful day for sailing.  We have a light wind and it is very balmy.  We are sailing a course of 210 degrees.

Monday, July 13
We are still sailing a course of 210 degrees, but the sea is ugly, and there is a very fresh breeze blowing from the south.  It is a totally different day than yesterday.   This southerly wind is quite cool as it winter here at this time and the wind from the Antarctic regions blow cold.  However, we are making very good time, about six or seven knots.

A short time ago, the Addissons, Dee, Max, and I were huddled together on the quarterdeck and a huge wave broke over the bow.  Brother, did we get soaked – drenched to the skin!  I must add, however, that this does not happen too often as the high freeboard of the Yankee keeps it a very dry boat.

Tuesday, July 14
Sailing at 210 degrees with a wind force five out of the south-southeast.  Took moving pictures of the ship.  Waves were twenty feet of more in height with some waves coming in over the port quarterdeck.  Just got a soaking and had to change.  Half of the passengers are sick and not moving about.

The refrigerator is still not functioning properly.  The port motor is being used to charge the batteries as the generator in the launderette is burned out.

The ship is heeled over to starboard so far that it is impossible to stand up on deck.  Writing is very difficult too.

Rockin’ and rollin’ on the big blue sea

Wednesday, July 15
We are now sailing at 220 degrees with winds from the south-southeast at force five or six.  Very rough!!  It was so rough that I could not stay in the bunk last night.  We all enjoyed rotten meat for dinner again tonight.  

Even though the sun shined most of the day, it was quite chilly.  We are at the twentieth parallel below the equator.

Thursday, July 16
I was greeted by a bright morning today.  The Cook Islands are visible on the horizon. It is not so rough or windy and we should be arriving at Rarotonga some time this morning.  We anchored at 1230 hours and at 1400 hours, customs and immigration came aboard and cleared us.  This is a British island and looks to be the most exotic we had visited so far.

Mary Watson has been terribly sick since leaving Papeete – she went ashore on the first launch and had x-rays taken.  She will know tomorrow what is wrong.

Friday, July 17
The islanders speak English and Maori.  The women are lovely.  Everyone is most friendly and they all greet you with a hello and a smile.  Tahiti girls can’t come close to the girls of Rarotonga.  These girls are not so sophisticated and are much more charming in their own natural English type of way.

I went into town this morning at 10am to mail letters and to sign one being sent back to the states to our own Senator Hugh Scott about the abominable conditions aboard the Yankee.  The Californian passengers did the same thing.  At breakfast, the cook, Jaydee, had a maniacal hangover, having been ashore all night.  He went berserk and started looking for a gun, saying he was going to teach somebody (anybody) a lesson.  His language in the presence of ladies was not fit for words.

The Addissons, the Aphelbaums, Dee, Jim, Alma, and I have a date with the Port Captain to enter a complaint, as before in Papeete, about conditions aboard the ship.

Saturday, July 18
Yesterday afternoon, I visited the family of Mola Apera, out about two miles from town near the airport.  They treated us royally in their native style – giving us oranges, tangerines, bananas, coconuts, and arrow root.  When I left, they gave a stem of bananas and a sack full of oranges.

Afterward, six of us hired the hotel station wagon for a trip around the island – twenty-four mile trip.  Two games of rugby were being played at two fields on either side of the island.  Tonight, I ate so much fruit from my stash that I got sick.  I had diarrhea and severe abdominal pain all night long.

Sunday, July 19
I went ashore at 2pm and met five local girls coming aboard the launch to attend a party for the crew aboard the Yankee. I returned to the ship for dinner at 6pm.  There was no chicken left (other than two hearts) and no baked potatoes.  I had to settle for bread, spinach, and boiled onions.

The party on board the Yankee was now in full swing – everyone was high on beer and local liquor.  I decided to go back ashore at 8pm for a short while.  When I looked to return at 10pm, there was no launch available, it was being used to bring more booze on board.  I waited until after midnight, but still no launch.  I checked into the Hotel Rarotonga for the night.

The temperature dropped quickly to fifty-eight degrees and I had to put the floor rug over myself to stay warm.  I did have a good night’s sleep, however.

Monday, July 20
Jim, the Engineer, quit the Yankee today.  He is the fourth crew member to leave the ship on this cruise.  He will work ashore until transportation is available to Australia.  Before getting off, Jim got a promissory note from Captain D. for $275 for wages due.  Apparently, he was never paid during the trip.  

Bob Addisson is using knowledge of this note as evidence as he tries to tie up the ship here in the island capital town of Avarua, Rarotonga.  Bob is determined to stop this cruise at all costs.  He has everybody hating him.  He talks too much, but we passengers have to go along with him if we expect conditions to improve aboard the ship.  

Returning on the launch at 8am, I discovered several people still partying on deck.  There was still a half a basket of beer left.

Tuesday, July 21
The generator having been out for three days, with no electricity on board, we have been eating cold meals.  However, this morning, Jaydee unlimbers a small primus stove and set it on the gimbaled table.  We had hot coffee and fried eggs for breakfast.
We hadn’t seen the native guests that were still on board, but soon two of them crawled out of crew bunks and the third crawled out of the head.

Wednesday, July 22
The conditions on board ship continue to deteriorate – our guests practically live aboard now – it seems to be a way of life with them.  They come out to the vessels, come aboard, and stay there until sailing time.  I went to the movie house and saw the color film Romanoff & Juliet.  We sat on benches with the natives, who smoked during the whole show.

Seven of us; Bob, Jan, Max, Joan, Dee, and myself (Alma being sick and in bed at the hotel) together with Mary, Chester, and Eddie met with the Harbor Captain and the Captain of our ship at 1430 hours to see about removing Jaydee from the ship and to improve discipline on board.  Mary, Chester, and Eddie sided with the Captain.  How much will result from this action remains to be seen.  The prospects do not seem too good.

Jaydee seems to have taken over the ship – no discipline anymore and everyone has to bow down to his fancy – he does as little as possible in the galley.  He does nothing toward cleaning the heads or the dining room.  The further we seem to get from home, the less consideration seems to be given to the welfare of paying passengers.

Jim served the Captain his IOU note for wages of $275.

Thursday, July 23
NO MONEY seems to be the entire crux of the situation.  No money to buy food.  No money to pay wages.  No money for repairs.  No money for anything!!

This morning it rained and the skies remain heavy.  The harbor is unbelievably rough.  The wind is blowing from an easterly direction.  Since we are on a lee shore, the situation could become dangerous, especially if the motors can’t be started and if the wind velocity increases.

The Captain did get the generator functioning an hour ago, so we have a little electricity.

The crew is working on worn-out cables and shackles.  One shroud was completely rusted through at eye end where it fastens to the rail.  The chain on anchor winch was being repaired, but the project was never completed – they could not get it fixed.  Even had the chain been repaired, I am sure that the two worn-out sprockets, one on the motor and the other on the reduction gear box, would soon have reduced the chain to twisted and broken metal.

I stayed aboard all day – the harbor is too bad to get in to shore.    I spent most of the day reading Chapman’s book on “Small boat handling.”  The chapter on anchoring was read and re-read.  I am very much concerned about our own anchorage.  The need for the readiness of a third anchor was apparent.  Cable was available.

The supply depot.  Food at last!!


Friday, July 24
The inevitable happened.  The Brigantine Yankee went on the rocky reef off the shores of the capital city Avarua in the Cook Islands!!!

The Brigantine Yankee died a little after daybreak.

I awoke at 2:30am and went to the head.  I could not get back to sleep.  I was alarmed at the roughness of the sea and the constant pounding and grating of the two anchor chains.  I did not go on deck but lay wide-awake in my cabin listening to every sound.  There was no communication on deck until around 0330 or 0400 hours where there was a terrible thud or jolt.  I felt certain that something serious had happened.  Shortly thereafter, footsteps and hurried activity could be heard on deck.  The sound of additional scope (anchor chain) being let out could be heard.  Apparently, at this time, one of the two anchors broke and from then on it was impossible to keep the ship from going on the reef.

“All hands on deck,” was given shortly before 0500 hours.  More chain was let out, but the one anchor would not hold and we were gradually being swept toward the reef.  Finally, with a thud, the stern hit a large submerged rock and that was the beginning of the end.  The one remaining anchor did well in keeping our bow headed toward the sea, but it was only a question of time until, it too, would let go.

Flares and SOS signals were sent in the direction of the village.  Our predicament was quickly recognized but nothing could be done.  A large boat at dockside was available, but I understand that it was under quarantine due to the Typhoid epidemic raging on the island.  Before the ship could be released by the officials for rescue work, it was too late.

Jaydee, the chef, went ashore in the life raft before daybreak for help.  Our two launches had lost their pointers and were cast upon the reef in the pounding surf.

With each surge of the sea, the ship would raise up…and then come down with a terrifying thud, each time a little closer to shore.  Everyone was calm as we all knew what the outcome was eventually going to be if the towing ship didn’t come soon.

At this time, there were three fully paid passengers aboard – Mary, Chester, and myself.  The crew was the Captain, Chick, Don, Eddie, and Jaydee (who had gone ashore).

As dawn arrived, a line was pulled aboard from the shore and any one of the passengers who desired, could go ashore.  We all stayed aboard with our life vests on.  The Captain told me that the ship would not sink.

All through this ordeal I took movies.  I shot more than a hundred feet of 8mm film.

The Last Voyage of the Brigantine Yankee (Part 2) 
(South Pacific and grounding of the ship)

Around 0800 hours, several men from ashore came out to the Yankee by using the rope line in a hand over hand method.  They helped to pump out the bilges.  They also worked with the remaining anchor chain.  By this time, we had lost our rudder and were taking a terrific beating from the sea.  At any moment, I expected most of the standing rigging to give way.  However, it held even though the masts and spars were greatly loosened.  Some of the running rigging did fall and nearly hit those helping on deck.

About 0845 hours, the second anchor let go and the ship swung broadside to the shore line and over she went on her side. The native girls aboard now panicked and started to cry.  These girls had been aboard every night for several nights and were the common property of the crew.

The Captain ordered us all off – girls and passengers – and into the sea we went, holding onto the rope and going hand over hand until we touched bottom.   I put the movie camera and film in my coat pocket and I am afraid that all is lost.  I am sure the camera is.

We were put up at the Rarotonga Hotel.  My three suitcases that I had packed so hurriedly this morning were brought ashore.


 In this black and white photograph taken for the local newspaper, 
Merton Olin is helped ashore near Avarua, Rarotonga by one of the islanders 
while the Yankee pounds against the infamous Beverage Reef in the background.

Saturday, July 25
I sat down this morning and began documenting the various contributors to the current state of affairs.  Here is the list of issues and problems with the Yankee: (from the beginning)
  • Bow damaged, not fixed (The bowsprit was cut off by the captain when it got stuck in the wall of the Panama Canal and threatened to submerge the ship)
  • Anchor, chain, gears not functioning
  • Galley stove – very dangerous. 
  • Soot coming into cabins.
  • No running water in any rooms
  • Constant trouble with heads
  • Binnacle light trouble
  • Generator worked about 50 percent of time
  • Bilge pump trouble
  • Complete loss of one motor
  • Second motor - Drive shaft bearing loose, knocking and leaking
  • Running lights off at times during the night
  • Lack of safety features – lifeboats in poor shape
  • Refrigerator broken – no fresh food
  • No up-to-date charts
  • No doctor, as promised
  • Rum running and borrowing money from passengers
  • Fumes in showers and sinks
A court of inquiry was held from 0930 hours until noon.  The inquiry will continue on Monday at 0830 hours.

The Captain was first to give testimony, then Chick, Don, and finally Eddie.  There was considerable testimony given about the apprehensibility of the crew in connection with anchoring.  And there seemed to be much conflict between them.  The court also was very interested in the watches and who was responsible for the first knowledge of the anchor dragging and at what time.

I gave Jaydee my typewriter, a pair of shorts, and two dollars to get my locker, books, instruments, etc. off the ship.  This he did in fine shape and I have everything of importance with me.

It is a gruesome sight to see the Yankee out there on that reef.  At low water, we can almost walk out to it.  The propellers are badly damaged, the rudder is gone, and the keel looks twisted. I talked to the Captain and he said salvage operations would be started as soon as possible and that the Yankee would be raised, towed to Suva and put in dry dock there for repairs and that eventually the Round The World Cruise would be continued.  I doubt this all very much.

Sunday, July 26
I walked down the beach today at low tide and saw the Yankee again at close quarters.  I had no desire to go aboard.  Some of group who had already been living at the hotel went aboard out of idle curiosity.  The sight made me sick to my stomach – I will never go on board again.

 The Brigantine Yankee founders helplessly on the reef

The food is typically English here at the hotel.  The accommodations are good and only two pounds per day including meals ($5.30).  On a monthly basis the rate is one pound ($2.80).  We had roast beef for dinner today and we get a lot of meat – lamb – chops – beef – etc.  

The rooms are without baths, but the shower facilities are very handy.  The rooms are also well ventilated and the nights are cool.  The fragrances of the flower “Queen of the night” is very distinct.  It is a flower that comes to life at night, but goes to sleep during the day.  I attended the Congregational Church services at 0730 hours and heard a young preacher from Wales give a good sermon on sharing and giving.

Monday, July 27
The court inquiry was continued at 0830 hours.  Jim Townsend was the first to read his testimony, taking about an hour.  Immediately after recess, the high court passed judgment on the wages of Jim Townsend.  After considering the evidence, the judge ordered the Captain to pay Jim his $257 plus the court costs, which were almost two pounds.

Mary’s testimony was very short as she said she slept through the ordeal until she was roused by the first mate at 0500 hours.

My testimony was next and I said the following:

I would like to preface my testimony with three pertinent facts in connection with the Brigantine Yankee – its voyage and the ultimate disaster the ship suffered.  I feel they are directly connected to the stranding.

- The Yankee had battery and generator trouble from the very beginning to the end.  At Nassau, one of the engineers told me (the Yankee had three before Jim Townsend) he thought that $700 worth of new batteries had been partially ruined because of improper charging techniques.  He said they would not hold a charge properly.

- Constant anchor and anchor winch trouble.  The anchor dragged on other occasions (San Salvador and Port Antonio).  Since leaving the Galapagos, the anchor had to be raised by hand, taking eight hours at Santa Fe.

- Finally, the issue of NO MONEY!  There was never enough money to properly provision the ship or to keep it in proper repair or condition for a voyage of the kind we were making.

If it pleases the court, there are few questions on behalf of the seven to nine paid passengers that I would like to ask Captain Derek.

- Has contact been made with Windjammer Cruises in regard to the welfare of the passengers?  If so, we would like to be informed of that reply.

- Has any provision been made for our support while on the island of Rarotonga?

- When can we expect to receive the reimbursement for the unfinished portion of the cruise?  If the cruise is finished.

- Should the voyage be continued, what arrangements are being made for our transportation to Suva or wherever the ship is to be repaired?

My testimony took about an hour.  I read from my diary, which fortunately was up-to-date (five girls on board).  Chester’s testimony was next and he being in his dotage – it sounded rather pitiful.

The high court consisted of the following:

Chairman –    T.H. Perry
Members –     G.E. Bourne
                       H. Borgholdt

Tuesday, July 28
I went to the hospital this morning to get a Typhoid booster shot.   I also got a prescription filled to stop the runs. On the way back, I stopped at the Union SS Lines office to get the schedule of steamships out of Rarotonga for the United States west coast.  There is a ship, the S.S. Waihemo, arriving from Auckland on August 24th.  It will travel to Vancouver, British Columbia on September 23 or 24.  It will cost L114 ($319.20).

Duke, the Jamaican pup was brought ashore and given shots.  He gets along swell with all the male dogs on the island.  Duke never knew what a flea was until coming ashore.

The local Rarotonga newspaper published a story about the shipwreck and subsequent court hearing (complete with pictures) ...

Wednesday, July 29
I pulled open the blinds and found a very gloomy, rainy type of day.  This being their winter season, the days are very short.  It gets dark by 6:30pm and it does not get daylight until 6:30am.

There is little to do on an island of this kind in the Southwest Pacific.  Breakfast at 7 or 7:30.  Tea and biscuits at 10am.  Lunch at 12:15.  Tea at 4pm.  Dinner at 6:15.  Coffee or tea at 10pm.  Then bedtime.

"Gilligan’s Island" in real life!!
The ill-fated passengers of the Brigantine Yankee 
“Around The World Cruise” of 1964

I went to the post office and sent a telegram to the postmaster at Fiji (Suva Fiji) to have our mail forwarded to Avarua, Rarotonga.  I also sent a letter to Ann:

Dear Ann:

By now, you have heard about our shipwreck and also that I am safe and healthy.  Yes, it sounds fantastic but it true.  I am shipwrecked on a not too desolate island called Rarotonga.  I am staying at the Rarotonga Hotel.  In as much as I was on the ship when the sea overwhelmed the Yankee - my board and room expenses are provided for.

The court of inquiry has already finished its work and we only have to wait to find out what the verdict is (regarding possible negligence on the part of the captain.)  In the testimony of last Saturday morning and the following Monday, everyone was heard from.  I read from my diary about the stranding of the Yankee.

I am afraid the movies I took were ruined by the water.  My movie camera is a total loss.  However, I got away with my life and that is the important thing… also I was able to save most of my stuff.  The rest of the passengers were already living here at the Rarotonga Hotel when the event occurred.  I will have another adventurous personal story to tell.  The mail comes today from Samoa and goes out tomorrow morning.  I hope to get mail today.  

As of now, the captain expects to refloat the Yankee and have it reconditioned in Suva, Fiji in drydock.  All of this is in doubt, but I must wait and see.  In the meantime, it is costing me nothing to stay here – so far.  

As there is no bank in Avaura, please contact our bank and have them transfer $800 in the following manner:

Pay to credit of Merton F. Olin
Department of Island Territories
Wellington, New Zealand

Please confirm this transaction with me so that I will know when the funds are available.

All my love,  Mert.

The Captain told me again today that he is still planning on floating the Yankee and continuing the voyage around the world.  He either needs to look out the window or stop dreaming!  None of the rest of us are so optimistic.

I checked again at the Union S.S. Lines Travel Agency for methods and ways to get home.  There seems to be no problem in this respect.  I must wait until the disaster is completely cleared, however.

Thursday, July 30
Same schedule as yesterday, except I also threw in a siesta at 1:30pm, just to keep things interesting!

The Novia Del Mar arrived from Tahiti where she finished second from Los Angeles in a yacht race opening the Fete (Bastille Days).  The yacht is owned by Mr. Script of the Script/Howard newspapers on the west coast.  He is a very friendly man and his son Pete is a chip off the old block.  They have a fully paid professional crew and they are really having a great time.

 By July 30th, news of the shipwreck had made it stateside

Friday, July 31
Bob Addisson is very mad at me because I would not write Senator Hugh Scott about a refund of fare from Windjammer Cruise, Inc.  The reason I wouldn’t was because Bob had a cablegram from the consulate that our best interests would be protected by the New Zealand government pending continuance of the voyage.

A strong westerly wind came up last night and may give the Novia Del Mar some trouble.  Then again, maybe not.  That gang arranged for their refrigerator to be set up in a private section of the hotel’s portico – cold beer all the time and ice cubes whenever needed for their drinks.

Four or five additional men are on the Yankee today, pumping out the bilges.  The Captain says we will be ready to go in less than two months.  With everything else that has gone on in this cruise, I will believe that when I see it ...

Onlookers watch the activities in Avarua harbor.  
The Yankee is the ship listing to starboard in the photo.  
(Note the large cruise ship in the distance)

I sent a letter to Tom, Gloria, and their kids.

Dear Tom, Gloria, and children:

I went on this voyage expecting adventure and I am sure getting it.  By now, you know that the Yankee went on the reef here a week ago.  There were only three of the passengers aboard at the time and I was one of them.  We had two anchors out, but a heavy wind came up during the night and one of the anchors broke.  The other one couldn’t hold the ship long and finally snapped and the horrifying experience of shipwreck in the darkness followed.  Our generator was broken and therefore the batteries too low to turn over the motors.  The generator had burned out in Tahiti and was never replaced or fixed.

You will find the stamps I promised my granddaughters in the last letter.  I forgot to include them.  They were in my pocketbook and when I had to jump into the sea to go ashore, they got wet.  Maybe you can separate them somehow.

The whole thing was pretty rough for about 6 or 7 hours.  Being winter down here, the sun did not come up until after 7am.  As soon as I could, I started to take movies of the stranding, but I am afraid the 100 feet of film I shot got wet also when I had to go over the side.  

I did get off safely and the next day, I had removed my gear from the ship and am now in the Hotel Rarotonga.

Love, Dad.

Saturday, August 1
The Novia Del Mar broke her anchor chain last night in the high wind and her crew on watch immediately took her out to sea with her engines.  They eventually put her on the lee side of the island.  It’s a good thing that her engines and batteries were working or she, too, would have wound up on the reef.  The boat lost two hundred fifty feet of anchor chain.

The owner is constantly in touch with his skipper by short wave radio.

Sunday, August 2
A Doctor Haroldson is here working out of New Zealand and Samoa, investigating the organizational set-up of the medical service rendered the islands by the government.  He is employed by the World Health Organization, located in Geneva.  He says the medical organization here is excellent – services, facilities, equipment, etc.  Venereal disease is practically non-existent, all infectious diseases seem to be under control such as leprosy, tuberculosis, syphilis, etc.  

The Novia Del Mar retrieved its anchor and two hundred seventy feet of chain today at 1:30pm, after about an hours’ work.  Two scuba divers were employed and they located the anchor in seventy feet of water after the second dive.  Soon, they were on their way to Tonga and Honolulu.

Monday, August 3
I am coming down with a cold.  We had a meeting again, relating to our predicament and cause of action.  It was again decided to write letters to whoever could help us.  We seem to be left in a peculiar position – all we apparently can do is sit and wait for something to happen.

I wrote several long letters and sent pictures home.  I also asked Tom for his help.

Dear Tom:

I need your help - so read carefully.  I am writing a shot note to Mom, but I expect you to really carry the ball for me.  No doubt Mom will call you.

We nine passengers feel that we going to get the run-around from Windjammer Cruises.  They say that they are paying our room and board here at the Rarotonga Hotel at the rate of $5.60 per day until the Yankee is refloated and re-conditioned for the continuance of the “Round-the-World Cruise.”  As you already know, the rate we pay aboard the Yankee is $12.00 per day.

The catch to this whole rotten deal is this:  The Captain says he can fix the boat and have it operational in two months.  This would be fine and reasonable if true, however, the best opinion of the islanders is four months at least, maybe even six.  We feel this is not a reasonable continuance of the voyage and should entitle us to a refund of our proportionate share of the voyage money, or about $3,300.

Our ambassador in Wellington has been informed, but can do nothing pending continuance of the voyage.

Our contract with Windjammer Cruises specifically states that if we leave the ship for any reason whatsoever, we are not entitled to a refund.  We think that Burke’s strategy is to let us sit here at this hotel until we give up in disgust or discouragement and, one by one, go home.  This action by us would exonerate him from any refund liability.

Several passengers from California have written to their congressmen, as has a passenger from New Jersey.

Please work with Mom and H.T. Limberg and Ed Young, if necessary,  (maybe even your personal friend Governor Romney) to see that pressure is put on Windjammer Cruises for a refund.  Senator Hugh Scott should be called again and reminded again of the Yankee and its troubles insofar as they concern Pennsylvania citizens and good Republicans.

Mike Burke and his organization smacks of crookedness, misrepresentations, and possibly using the U.S. mails to defraud.  We have reasons to believe that our own Captain Derek Lumbers has never read the Windjammer Cruise brochure with all its lies.

All of the expense and time you spend on my behalf in helping me to get a refund will be more than amply repaid (of this you may rest assured.)

Love, Dad.

Tuesday, August 4
I woke up with a very bad cold – stayed in bed most of the day.

Bob Addisson and his wife served a summons on Captain Derek through the local government (New Zealand) to recover their share of voyage money, which amounts to nearly three-quarters of the $4,450 paid.  This suit is based on the fact that the voyage cannot be resumed in any reasonable length of time beyond twelve months.  Bob presented this action to us after dinner without any previous warning.  We were given no alternative but to follow suit.

Wednesday, August 5
First thing this morning, I appeared at the Clerk of Court’s Office for forms to make application for suit against Derek Lumbers and/or Yankee Cruises Ltd.  Alma Flynn is typing up my copy.  The filing charges for this application are L2-10 ($7.14).  The hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Thursday, August 6
I left at 6pm for Aitutaki on the freighter Tagua last night.  The Tagua unloaded building supplies at Aitutaki today on launches that were about thirty feet long with nine foot beams.  The launches are pulled into shore through a narrow channel with a six knot current to the warehouse.  The current never gets less than two knots even at low tide due to the tremendously large lagoon.

I met with a Mr. Webb, the resident agent at Aitutaki.  He said that the population of the island is 2,582 people.  I had a truly wonderful visit on the island.  However, I have no film, so there will be no pictures.

Friday, August 7
We arrived on Manuae Island early this morning (population 18).  The crew loaded dried coconuts all day.

The transfer vessels are very small in comparison to those on the island of Aitutaki, and it took all day to complete the job.  The channel is so small and narrow that at low tide, the natives have to push the boats across the reef.  There are only eighteen men on this island, growing and cultivating palm trees for the sale of “copra” (dried coconuts).  They sign a contract for a year and have no contact with the outside world.

The Tagua is eighty-two feet long, with a twenty foot beam.  It weighs eighty tons empty.  It has an eight-cylinder diesel engine – 285 horsepower.  The ship was built in Hong Kong by Chang Lee to Silk’s and Boyd”s specifications for island trade.  They paid the duty on the ship but the New Zealand government gave it back to them and more so in the form of a subsidy.  The Captain’s name is Don Silk.

Saturday, August 8
We returned to Aitutaki and unloaded the balance of cargo, gasoline, copra, cement, etc.  Then the crew loaded oranges until 6pm and then we embarked for Rarotonga.

Sunday, August 9
Arrived at Rarotonga (population 16,600) at 0200 hours.  Very rough morning at sea.  I could hardly stand up on the ship.  There were five other tourists along with myself.  I was very tired, so I went to bed early.

The Saracen arrived with eight thousand tons of orange juice cases.  For $15,000, the skipper said he would pull the Yankee off the reef (guaranteed).

Monday, August 10
I bought a roll of film for $7.14.   This price includes development costs.  I took pictures of the Tagua unloading oranges.

Passage on the inter-island boats runs about seven dollars per day.  The voyage may be two to fourteen days, depending on cargo and where it must be delivered.

El Diablo left today.  She is skippered by a Mr. Wade, Chairman of the Board of a bank in Long Beach, California. 

The local government assembly begins meeting today.  They will be in session for three months.


 Meanwhile, back home, Tom was writing a letter to Mert:

Dear Dad:

I read the article in the newspaper on July 30th and thought you’d might want a copy.  It would seem to me that you certainly have grounds for legal action now  -  just for getting your money back on a pro-rata basis, if nothing more.

It sounds as though you have had quite a few adventures in the short time since we last talked.  I hope that you are planning to continue the trip.  Why in the devil don’t you hop a “tramp steamer” of a “freight-liner” of some sort and go all the way around.  This would bring you back slightly earlier and you could get into the construction of your new home in Boca Raton that much sooner.

Keep writing and posting us on your current whereabouts and plans and good luck.

Love from all of us,  Tom and family

Tuesday, August 11
The S.S. Saracen left last night and this morning, the Yankee is still on the reef.

I bought hair clips, grass skirts, and floral shirts.  I got a bargain on the grass skirts – two for five bucks.

Wednesday, August 12
The S.S. Moana Roa arrived this morning with forty-two passengers and one hundred-fifty tons of cargo and three hundred-seventeen bags of mail from New Zealand.

I heard from Chick that a tug is coming from Tonga to pull the Yankee off the reef at a cost of L3,000 (no guarantee).

Thursday, August 13
The S.S. Moana Roa is still being unloaded, twenty-four hours after it arrived.

Well, I have no definite news about our own situation, except that the hotel is beginning to wonder when the Captain is going to get money to pay the bill for our room and board.


Merton also took a few moments to write home to his son …

Thursday, August 13
Avarua, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Dear Tom and Family:

By now you have heard all the news about the Yankee and our predicament here.  Believe me, it sure is a hell of a mess.  Even our embassy and consulate in Wellington, New Zealand don’t seem to be concerned enough about our situation here to send over a representative to investigate.

Last Friday’s court session was adjourned until tomorrow, the one in reference to our claim against the ship for a refund of passage money.  As I told you in a previous letter the claim is based on the element of time – how long it will take the Captain to re-float and re-condition and renew the voyage around the world.  It looks to me like everyone is playing a “wait and see game”.  Those that give up and go home lose everything.  Those that stay here are embarrassed by the ever-growing hotel bill for room and board that rightfully is owed by Yankee Cruises, Inc.  In any event, I am not giving up yet.  I am going to see what the tug from Tonga does about pulling the Yankee off the reef on the 17th.  If that venture is successful, maybe the Captain can do as he says he is going to do – continue the voyage around the world.  

As I said before, I am afraid of the 100 ft. of movies I took in the early morning hours of the morning the Yankee went on the reef, were spoiled by the salt water when I had to go overboard to shore.  But we shall see.

Love to all, Dad 

Friday, August 14
The court convened this morning at 9am.  The judge ruled that the Cook Islands court had no jurisdiction over our case and that it would have to be tried in the Bahamas as the contract stipulates.

The Captain was right – this whole thing was a waste of time.  The only good news is that I got my application fee back.  If we want to continue our case further, we will have to appeal to the high court of New Zealand at Wellington.   Now I think it is a case of waiting to see what happens next.  I just heard from Bob Addisson that there is no tug coming to pull us off the reef.  

The local inter-island plane did not depart today either, the crew was sick and in bed.

Saturday, August 15
Believe it or not, they are still unloading cargo from the Moana Roa.  Today, it is mostly building supplies – boards, pipe, sheet metal, etc.

I got a haircut.  Cost me three shillings.

Sunday, August 16
I went to church at 9:30 this morning.  The services lasted two hours and were in Maori.  It was Children’s Day and the church was packed.  Every child had an opportunity to speak and after each class was finished, the adults would sing.  In fact, the singing was very impressive throughout the ceremony.  They sing loud and long…just like the Methodists.

The Moana Roa left at 8pm for Aitutaki.  I played lousy bridge with the Jacksons.

I got a wire from Ambassador Powell (US Ambassador to New Zealand).  He is sending a representative here, but the Friday plane has been delayed until further notice.

Monday, August 17
I heard a rumor, from Captain Derek, that a French warship from Tahihti was coming Friday to pull the Yankee off the reef.  I don’t believe it for one second, because I see the Yankee from where I sit right now.  It is devastated.
By this point, Tom had written a letter on Mert’s behalf to United States Senator 
Philip A. Hart in an attempt to remediate the situation:

Dear Senator Hart:

I am writing on behalf of my parents.  My father is “ship-wrecked” on the island of Rarotonga in the Cook Island group in the Pacific.  It sounds rather bizarre in this age, but it is nonetheless true  -  my Dad was aboard the windjammer brigantine Yankee when she was tossed upon a reef during a storm in the latter part of July.  

The Yankee is operated by a company known as “Windjammer Cruises, Inc.” of Miami, Florida.  As I understand it, the ship is owned by her Captain, Derek Lumbers, a British National from Nassau, who subcontracted the cruise from Mike Burke, of “Windjammer Cruises, Incorporated.”

The group of passengers sailing aboard the Yankee were mostly retirees such as my father who had contracted to sail around the world.  They had responded to an advertising brochure that had many wonderful things to say about the cruise.  Shortly after replying affirmatively they discovered that the small response dictated switching vessels from a 190 foot schooner, “Yankee Clipper”, to the 96 foot brigantine Yankee.  The cruise, however, was presented as being unchanged from that described in the brochure.

The voyage has been beset by difficulty from the start.  Conditions aboard ship have been extremely deplorable, particularly as concerned the shortage of food.  These circumstances were compounded when a passenger, a Miss Reiser from California was lost while hiking on one of the Galapagos Islands.  This delayed the voyage more than a month.  After a brief visit to his home in Grove City, Pennsylvania, my father rejoined the cruise at Tahiti after its delayed continuance from the Galapagos.  Now, of course, things have halted again for an indefinite period.

This brings us to the crux of the problem.  Apparently the contracts signed by the passengers are non-refundable for the uncompleted portion of the voyage, if they leave the ship.  Dad and the others have strong feelings that Mr. Burke will not expedite the continuance of the trip in the hope of “freezing-out” the passengers.  They feel, with justification, that “Windjammer” has already created a breach of contract by not replacing the ship’s doctor, who left in Panama.

Would you, Sir, be in a position to secure information as to the rights of the passengers involved to obtain a financial refund covering the uncompleted part of the trip or to ascertain whether immediate action will be taken to supply another vessel within a reasonable amount of time to enable them to complete their voyage?  If you can help us determine what steps should be taken to bring prompt results we shall be sincerely grateful.

I am enclosing a copy of my Dad’s letter describing the plight of the passengers, a copy of the original “Windjammer Cruises” brochure, and a copy of the Rarotonga local newspaper describing some of Yankee’s problems encountered on an earlier cruise.  These seem to be descriptive of similar occurrences on the present voyage.  If you require further information, perhaps Senator Thomas H. Kuchel might be helpful since he was involved in the earlier misfortune of Miss Reiser’s disappearance.

Hopeful to hear something of positive nature, I remain

Very truly yours,  Thomas Olin

The Moana Roa returned from Aitutaki this morning.

I went for a hike up the mountainside and was picked up by a wealthy Maori family in their truck.  They were on driving up to their banana plantation.  The tractor pulled us up the steepest part of the hill.  Later, at 11:00am, they took me to their home six miles from town.  Here, they owned a great deal of property including two orange groves.  The family’s name is Turua, and her great grandfather was a Maori chieftain.  She is a genuine Rarotongan, having all her ancestors born on the island.

We returned to town in the truck at 5pm.

I received a letter confirming reservations on the Waihemo heading to Vancouver.  I am afraid I will have to cancel them as to leave now I would lose all.  I must stick around and see what happens.

Just got news that the El Diablo, skippered by Wade, went on the rocks at Tonga.

Wednesday, August 19
I received a wire from Ambassador Powell that he was sending a consular, Miss Barrowdale to assess the situation.  She will arrive on the Friday plane, the plane in two weeks to visit the island.

Meanwhile on the home front, Mert's son Tom was getting some responses from people in high places ...  

Thursday, August 20
I basically did nothing today.  Got up late.  Ate breakfast late.  Ate lunch late.

I went to a “500 Party” at one of the new schools on the island.  It was put on by the local PTA group and was very enjoyable.  There were nine or ten tables and a new way to play 500 was used.  Totally different rules than what I was used to.

Friday, August 21
This morning, I wrote several letters home.  Miss Eleana Barrowdale, the consular from New Zealand, arrived on the plane.  It took her three days of flying time to get here.  A meeting is arranged for tonight after dinner.

Saturday, August 22
This morning, the consular paid a visit to the Yankee as it lay slanted on the rocks.  She did not like the situation at all.

The Yankee passengers met for an hour and a half with our consular last night in the dining room after dinner.  She was not too encouraged about our predicament here.  We may still have to pay our hotel bill, as there was no money from Burke on yesterday’s plane.  The hotel people are beginning to wonder who is going to pay it.  Some deal – the Captain has promised to pay, but so far – nothing.  We told the consular the entire story of the long, sordid cruise.

Sunday, August 23
We went to a native dance last night behind the hotel.  There were two bands playing.  Our entire group attended, including the consular.

A meeting is scheduled with Captain Derek and the consular for 2pm today.  Yesterday, he ignored an invitation to meet with her.

Monday, August 24
This morning has been a very gloomy one in more ways than I could say.  The meeting last night with Miss Barrowdale was most pessimistic.  The government, and the hotel which is owned and run by the government, are getting very concerned about us.  The Captain has not received any money from Mike Burke for the hotel bill and the hotel wants its money.  They don’t care who pays for it.   It looks like we will wind up on a special plane flight to American Samoa, where we will have to make our own travel plans.  In other words, we were being deported from the Cook Islands!

Tuesday, August 25
I had a walk and talk with the consular.  She said, “After reading the contract, I can’t understand how anyone could be dumb enough to sign it.”

I made arrangements to buy pictures, carvings, etc. and pay for them by check.

There is still no money for room and board from Windjammer Cruises, but the Captain thinks it might arrive tomorrow.  Right.  Lloyds of London is arriving next Friday to inspect the wreck.

Wednesday, August 26
Today, at noon, we all got a letter from the Executive Committee of the islands that beginning Friday, we would all be responsible for our own hotel bill, which included the tab that we had rung up after the shipwreck.  Captain Derek admitted that the money might never arrive.  He just didn’t know.

We were given orders in the letter to seek our way out of the Cook Islands by the quickest method.  If we do not report to immigration authorities at once of our intentions, we will have to put up a bond of L100.

Thursday, August 27
I checked at the Union Steam Ship Travel Office for booking on the Waihemo from Auckland, New Zealand to Vancouver, British Columbia.  The ship’s sailing date has been delayed to August 31st, from Auckland.

Don Nightinggale, a member of the Yankee crew, got a lift from the R.N.Z.A.F. last night to Wellington, New Zealand.  The ship was here on another mercy flight, tetanus on Aitutaki, and to pick up another patient from here.  It was the first night take-off ever attempted by a four motor plane from the local airstrip.  

Mr. Scott of the local immigration office told me to report back to him as soon as I had confirmation of the booking.  Most of the other passengers are going to American Samoa by special plane.

Back home, Senator Hugh Scott shared his thoughts about the situation with Tom ...

Friday, August 28
My ticket on the Waihemo has been confirmed.  We will be sailing from Avarua on September 6 or 7.  The medical team will be back at the hotel on September 10th, so everybody must be out by then.  The insurance man from Lloyd’s is coming on the Waihemo.  I found out today that Captain Derek was billed $700 for the rails he said he had borrowed from the public works.

Bob Addisson made the consul, Miss Barrowdale, furious by his constant pushing and organizing.

Senator Hart passed this letter on to Tom
from the United States Department of State

Saturday, August 29
I went to a private party given by the local general store owner (named Herbert).  I enjoyed many good drinks, including bush beer.  We were served a superb lunch at 11am.  Herb threw the party because his wife was in New Zealand.

Sunday, August 30
Herb took me to a friend’s house – a Mr. And Mrs. Ashley Roper.  The Ropers have a very modern home.  He is a meteorologist for the government.  They have five kids, four girls and a boy.

In passing the Victory theater, literally hundreds of young people were waiting outside for the show to start.  Knowing that there were no movies on Sunday night, I asked a group what the occasion was and they told me it was a Bible Picture being shown for young Seventh Day Adventists.  It was surprising how many people were interested in a Bible Picture.

Monday, August 31
Maxie and Joan had a cocktail party and invited the Captain.  He still thinks he is going to get the Yankee off the reef.  He needs a drink – maybe two.  Bob Addisson is becoming despised by everyone, including the officials.

Tuesday, September 1
The Friday plane will take off five passengers, mostly by overloading the ship at Aitutaki overnight.  That way, much less fuel will be needed.

My ship the Waihemo sailed from Auckland and is on its way to Rarotonga.  I pais my fare of $319.00, got my exit permit, and visited both the Chief of Police and the Immigration Officer, Mr. Scott.  Both men have been most kind and wished me a good journey home.  They also asked me to come back, under better conditions.   As is stands now, the ones to leave are Mr. And Mrs. Addisson, Joan and her mother, and Martha Hurt.

Wednesday, September 2
Everyone that is flying out on Friday got bills from the hotel today.  Wow!  Were they ever mad!   The plane will be here for only an hour on Friday – arriving at 2:35 and leaving at 3:35 for Aitutaki.

Thursday, September 3
I went to see three one-act plays put on by the amateur drama club of Rarotonga.  They were not too bad, but strictly amateurish.  They were sponsored by the Empire Theatre, the same place where prize fights are held.  The cost was three shillings.  The natives had a ball yelling and screaming – they are very easy to entertain. Bicycles and motorbikes are the most important means of getting around on the island.  The government workers use Land Rovers, a car similar to our Jeep.  There are about six taxis and a few private cars owned by Europeans.

Meanwhile back home, Merton’s son Tom was diligently doing what he could to assist with the situation.  In this letter, he shares with Mert some of the diplomatic progress he had made ...

September 3, 64

Dear Dad,

We were fascinated by your account of occurrences aboard the Brig.  After receiving your letter describing the disaster, I compiled a packet of information and sent it along to Senators Scott and Hart and to Congressman Johansen from Michigan.

Included in the info sent to these gentlemen was a copy of Mike Burke’s original brochure describing the exotic “cruise-to-be” aboard the schooner Yankee Clipper.  It is hoped that some people in the future will be saved the travail of a journey like yours.

Congressman Johansen has assured me that he will continue to prod the State Department for information and hopefully for pressure to bring some action to get relief for you.  

As I mentioned in my last letter, I hope that you use this opportunity to finish the trip around the world … even though it may mean finishing under steam.  You know Dad, except for the inconvenience of it all, you’re enjoying a terrific “retirement.”  I’m sure that it is the first one of its kind.  Be sure to keep that journal going.  It will be extremely valuable, if only to you and me.  I want to be able to relive every minute of it.

It’s an impressive thing to be able to say that you survived a ship-wreck on a Windjammer in today’s world.  

Love from all,  Tom and the family

Friday, September 4
The high court convened at 9:30am.  The case was “The Rarotonga Hotel v. Captain Lumbers” – a suit for L834.  The Captain wanted to exclude the Addissons on account of being trouble makers, but the judge ruled in favor of the hotel and the public works department for $700 worth of rails.  The rails were placed by the Captain and crew ostensibly for pulling the Yankee off the reef.

I received my hotel bill this morning.  It was for a total of L70.  

The plane came in at 3:30 and left at 4:30 for Aitutaki.  It was very heavily loaded and had trouble lifting off.  On it were the Addissons, Joan and her mother, and Dee.

I got two letters from home and, as expected, found Ann to be very worried about the mail.  That was mostly due to the plane being laid up for repairs a couple of weeks.

Saturday, September 5
The Waihemo is now scheduled to arrive at 1:00pm on Monday.  It is very quiet around the hotel now with the others gone, especially the Addissons.  I went over to Herb Pemberton’s house and had a couple of drinks.  Every day is just as beautiful as the last one.

Sunday, September 6
I did absolutely nothing today.  It was the greatest, most beautiful day of the entire adventure.  The breeze from the ocean was as cool as the sun was warm.  I played two games of gin rummy with Mrs. Dawson, the wife of the hotel manager.

Monday, September 7
The Waihemo arrived at 3:30pm this afternoon.  I had my hair cut, did the laundry, and went shopping today in preparation of leaving tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 8
The S.S. Dartbouk arrived during the night.  The S.S. Waihemo cruised around while they loaded five thousand cases of tomatoes for New Zealand.  The contract was for ten thousand cases.  Someone is going to get stuck.

Mr. Lowe, the representative from Lloyd’s of London, disembarked and went straight to the Yankee.  He will make a decision about the ship soon.

I lounged around this afternoon, enjoying the wonderful breezy weather before boarding the ship for Vancouver.

Wednesday, September 9
Rain. Rain. Rain.  The rain this morning made it impossible to complete the unloading of the Waihemo.  The sailing has been postponed until Thursday.  The yard man, to whom I gave an old pair of pants the other day, brought me a bottle of honey and his daughter is going to string me a lei.

The drizzling rain that occurred most of the day was very welcome as most things were getting quite dry.  Mrs. Dawson gave me two leis and a head dress as farewell gestures.

The Return Home

Thursday, September 10
Today is the day.  I am to board the ship in the afternoon.  I paid my weekend hotel bill of L26. At precisely 4pm, I was lifted onto the Waihemo by means of a basket and derrick. I opened one of the bottles of scotch that I bought for the trip and proceeded to get acquainted with it.

Later that night, I met the crew:

       Captain  James Lyon
       1st Mate  Herb
       Chief Engineer  George
       Purser  Dun
       Radio man  Sydney
       Chief Stewart  George

And there was one other passenger aboard, a Mrs. Iris Joyce.

Friday, September 11
First mate, Herb, and his gang, built a swimming pool on the deck of the Waihemo.  It is six feet deep and about twelve foot square.  He had it ready by afternoon.  The boys really enjoyed it.  Australian cod for dinner.

 The Waihemo deck pool

Saturday, September 12
Beautiful day at 6:30 am!  After an early-morning swim, a delicious breakfast and coffee.  Tea at 10am.  Lunch at noon.  Another dip in the pool.  Dinner at 5pm.  Supper at 8pm.  

True course 24 degrees.  Gyro 30 degrees.

Sunday, September 13
Beautiful day at 6:30am!  Same routine as yesterday.  Herb is starting to build a twelve foot long sailboat.  He asked me to help him.  The Captain and his crew are great – this could be the Captain’s last trip as he will be sixty-three years old in a month, and will be up for retirement.  He is an Aussie and will go back there to live in the bush when he hangs up his hat.

Monday, September 14
Beautiful day at 6:30am!  We have been averaging eleven knots since leaving Rarotonga.

Tuesday, September 15
Beautiful day!  Got up late – 6:45am.  A swim every morning before breakfast – then a hot cup of coffee in my cabin while drying and changing.

Wednesday, September 16
Beautiful day!  Same routine, day after day.  Plenty of deck-sitting and story telling.  A wonderful gang and a wonderful ship.

Thursday, September 17
Beautiful day!  Have been in Captain’s cabin several times upon his invitation.  He commands the greatest respect of everyone.  They call him the old man with reverence.

The Captain and crew of the Waihemo enjoy a pleasant moment on deck

Friday, September 18
Beautiful day!  It rained during the night.  The Captain showed me how to use a sextant and the first mate took his cue and taught me more.  I am going to open my trunk and get mine out tomorrow.

Saturday, September 19
The sky turned somewhat cloudy, so decided not to get the sextant out.  The weather stayed warmed, however, and I went swimming.  I also worked on the boat with Herb.

Sunday, September 20
Beautiful day!  I did absolutely nothing, except eat too much.  Fantastic chicken for dinner.

We are more than half way now from Rarotonga to Vancouver.  The total distance is four thousand six hundred miles.  Our true course is 22 degrees.  The gyro says 32 degrees.

Monday, September 21
Beautiful day!  The weather in the distance is looking to change.  It is already getting cooler due to the latitude.  We will be at the twenty-third parallel soon and out of the tropics.  It is getting too cool to swim.

Tuesday, September 22
Beautiful day!  Cool and windy.  A little roughness, the first since this trip, but it is not bothersome.  It is too cool, however, to swim.  We are experiencing a definite change in atmospheric conditions.  We are out of the tropics now.  When the ship left New Zealand, the temperature of the water was fifty degrees.  At the equator, it got as high as eighty degrees.  The temperature of the water is now seventy degrees.

Wednesday, September 23
A cool day.  The pool was dismantled this morning at six.  By seven-thirty, it was completely gone.  Our speed has been cut somewhat, doing less than ten knots during the past few days.  The boat-building project is coming along good, put the port side on today.  Tonight, I will play gin rummy with the Captain.

Thursday, September 24
Beautiful day!  Helped Herb with the boat.

Friday, September 25
I can’t beat the Captain or Miss. Joyce at gin rummy to save my soul!

Saturday, September 26
Wow.  It Is considerably cooler this morning.  It is plain to see that we have left the tropics.  In fact, we only have eleven hundred miles to go to Vancouver.

Sunday, September 27
Herb’s boat is about finished.  The ship has been painted practically from stem to stern and it looks great.  We ate a fabulous Sunday dinner.

Monday, September 28
We had a “thank you” party for the officers and crew.  Lots of gin, beer, and scotch.  But no one drank too much.  This is a truly professional operation.  The trip was absolutely great.

Tuesday, September 29
Well, it is my birthday today and I am thinking of home.  Vancouver is within sight.  



The rusting hulk of the Brigantine Yankee still lays dormant, almost fifty years later, on the rocky reef just off of Avarua, Rarotonga.  Today, the ship’s hull is in plain view, directly across from Trader Jack’s, the local watering hole and restaurant.  Its masts broken off and paint etched away by the salty sea, only the skeletal shape of a ship remains.  It is now a tourist site.  The island has claimed the Yankee as a celebrity of sorts.  The original bell and compass are proudly displayed at the Cook Islands Library and Museum.

 Photo of the Brigantine Yankee (taken in the mid-1980s)
Copyrighted Photograph by B. Johnson, Rarotonga.  
Not In Public Domain

 Photos of the Brigantine Yankee (taken recently)

Copyrighted Photographs by B. Johnson, Rarotonga.  
Not In Public Domain. 

The shipwreck is mentioned prominently in island lore and history.  Legend has it that the ship ran aground while the entire charter crew was partying below decks with the local bar girls. As it turns out, legend and truth are not far apart.  Mert’s 8mm movies, in fact, do show native girls lounging on the deck of the Yankee while the crew desperately tries to pull it off the reef.

In February of 1966, National Geographic Magazine presented a major television special and feature article on the Brigantine Yankee and its exotic worldwide sailing adventures.  The magazine article shows a two-page photograph of the Yankee in its death throes on the Rarotonga reef.

Windjammer Barefoot Cruises still operates today, with Mike Burke still at the helm.  It no longer offers “round-the-world cruises”, however.  And believe it or not, the shipwreck of the Yankee may have added to Windjammer’s mystique and popularity, the company gaining publicity for the event worldwide.  The idea of shipwrecking on a desolate South Pacific island has attracted many passengers who fantasized about that kind of adventure.  

The Yankee was not the only well-known vessel lost by Windjammer Cruises.  In 1998, the Fantome, the 282 foot schooner commissioned by the Duke of Westminster and once owned by Aristotle Onassis suffered a similar fate at the hands of Hurricane Mitch during a Windjammer cruise.

While searching the internet for more information on the Yankee, I ran across one of the passengers of that fateful 1964 journey of the Yankee.  Ed Vinson, mentioned several times as “Eddie” in Merton’s journal, still travels the world, looking for adventure.  He recently visited the Yankee in January of 2002 at Rarotonga.  From there, he proceeded to the Middle East, where his wife told me he was still traveling.  He claimed to have written an article in 1965 that was published in Yachting magazine about the trip, but I have yet to see it.

Merton Olin finally succeeded in sailing around the world in 1971, aboard the Orient Overseas Line ship the M.V. Oriental Esmeralda.  This time, he brought his wife, Ann.  The cruise took five months and was considered a great success.  Mert writes to his son Tom afterward, “I must say that if it hadn’t been for her serious case of double pneumonia in Hong Kong and Taiwan, your Mother would have had a wonderful vacation. I still did anyway.”

Merton died more than thirty years ago, in 1981, after many travels to far away lands.  His last trip was a long and arduous adventure along the Nile River in Egypt (on which he brought me along, because his wife Ann refused to go.  I served as Mert’s personal valet; a small price to pay for the opportunity to see Egypt).  I remember that he so desperately wanted to see the ruins of Abu Simbel, south of Aswan, along Lake Nasser.   

He was always looking forward to the next thrill.  He had little time or patience for reflection.

When Mert died, some family members remembered him more for his excessive drinking and the less-than-respectful way he treated his wife, Ann.  Mostly for these reasons, Mert’s story of the Brigantine Yankee was stashed away in cardboard boxes tossed into  the family attic.  Inside the boxes were his two original hand-written and salt-stained journals, a typed manuscript of the first two weeks of the trip (an early attempt at writing that book, perhaps?), two large black and white negatives of a life-preserver clad Mert walking out of the surf and onto the shore at Avaura, four hundred feet of 8mm film of the trip (including footage aboard the wreck as it happened), two slide carousels filled with 35mm slides, and the correspondence that his son had with various congressmen, officials, and family members.  I found these boxes while sorting through my fathers’ personal effects.  What a fascinating treasure trove it was!   

I decided that Mert’s story was worth telling.  I mean ... how many people get to travel around the world in a famous brigantine sailing ship?  Better yet, how many people have lost a fellow shipmate on the Galapagos Islands, ate rotten goat meat, and then shipwrecked in the South Pacific??  I spent several months sorting through the material and built as complete a record as I could of his entertaining and historic journey.  It will now be published on this blog for posterity.

As the Yankee slowly fades away with each pounding wave, I hope to have preserved this memory of her final voyage in the journals of one of her last passengers, Merton Olin—Adventurer. 

Merton Olin - Adventurer 


The Captain of the Brigantine Yankee, Derek Lumbers, never left the Cook Islands, taking up with an island woman and disappearing off the face of the earth.

The mystery of Sara Reiser's dissappearance was finally solved in 1980, when a settler who was hunting found her remains under a deep thicket of brush, where she had sought some shade, perhaps.  A complete account of the "Search for Saydee Reiser" (Chapter VI) is available in an web article "The Last Days of a Paradise", written by Jacob P. Lundh:

Sara Reiser was buried at the small hilltop cemetery on Floreana Island 


In February of 1966, National Geographic magazine published a feature article on the Brigantine Yankee.  Entitled "Saga of a Ship" the article profiled the history of the ship, from its use in the North Sea during World War I as the Duhnen, to its re-birth as the Brigantine Yankee by Irving and Electa Johnson and its many successful circumnavigations under their command.  The final photo in the article, "Majestic even in distress," aptly describes the Yankee as she dies upon the reef at Avarua.

On February 11, 1996, CBS Television aired the National Geographic Special "Voyage of the Brigantine Yankee".  Produced by David L. Wolper, sponsored by Encyclopedia Britannica, and narrated by Orson Welles, the special chronicles the Johnsons and their young apprentice crew as they sail the around the world.



(Irving Johnson's Son)

Hi Tom,

I think that your grandfather (and the others) were lucky to get out alive.  Considering the condition of the ship, it was a disaster waiting to happen.  If it had not been the reef at Rarotonga, something would have happened sooner or later, perhaps with disastrous results.  No maintenance and no money were the causes.  I cannot assess the ability of the Captain.  He was working under tough conditions (no money), but could have some more maintenance been done?  However, from the photos, I can see that the sails were not properly set.  When she went aground, the yards were braced square (At anchor in a breeze, they should have been braced around to reduce windage.).  Rarotonga has a known poor anchorage when the wind turns on shore.  The appropriate action is to get the ship under way before the wind increases.  Obviously not done and that is the Captain's responsibility.  In my opinion, Mike Burke was the real cause of the disaster.

When my son wanted to sail, I took a good look at the ship and its captain before I said OK.  He was lucky in that I was much better able to assess them than the average person would have been.  The ship was the Barque "Picton Castle" and the Captain was Dan Moreland, so my son sailed from Darwin, Australia to Lunenberg, Nova Scotia.  Given the condition of the "Yankee", I would have said no, obviously (regardless of who was Captain).  Both need to be good.

On the Schooner "Yankee", just forward of the owner's cabin was the companion way that led up "to the teak deckhouse ...".  There was also a companion way forward in the galley.  See the diagram in "Sailing to See".  The "Along the way, they discovered and charted ..." was on the First World Cruise on the Schooner "Yankee", not the Brigantine.  "Between voyages, the Johnsons" sailed along the New England coast and up to Canada with Girl Scout Mariners, "published several books ..."

Many things were different when my parents had the "Yankee".  The biggest difference was that they sailed because they wanted to sail.  The paying crew was just a way to make things work.  Mike Burke wanted to make a profit.  Sailing ships was a way to make money for him.  My parents sailed.  Mike Burke stayed ashore.

There was never any alcohol on board.  We never had any passengers.  Everyone was crew and worked.  Almost everyone (except the cook and the first mate) paid to share the expense.  Cruises were non profit.  If there was money left over it was refunded at the end of the voyage.  There were no signed contracts, just a hand shake and welcome aboard.  If anyone left for any reason, they got a pro rata refund.  In essence, you paid by the day.  If you were not happy, you could leave at any time.  A poor business plan, but great psychologically.  If you weren't happy, you could leave, but practically nobody did.  Our crew was almost all young people.  The ship was of U.S. registry.  We always got the anchor up by hand.  We never had pets on board.  (We never had ladies of the evening visiting on board.)  We never took couples.  We never had barrels on deck.

We sold the ship to Mr. Reed Whitney (legally it might have been New England Vendaway Corp.) who we hoped would continue the cruises we had done, but that did not happen.

I have the original ship's bell of the Brigantine.  It has Duhnen on one side and Yankee on the other.  It is interesting that the Captain never left the island.  I had never heard that before.

Thank you again for publishing this.  It is a very interesting first hand account.

Fair Winds,   Robert Johnson

The Olin Family Trilogy:

On The Rocks - The Last Voyage of the Brigantine Yankee.
High resolution 1500 pixel format.
(Click on images to enlarge)