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Ch 12: Lost & Found

Word traveled quickly among Loren and Jody’s friends in Seattle of Loren’s death.  When Tammy learned what happened, she shuddered that her worst fears had come true.  Her husband Chad was supposed to travel as the navigator on the Spellbound, but she had implored him not to go.  Tammy had a feeling, a sixth sense if you will, that something horrible would happen.  They argued most of the spring while Loren and Jody were preparing to leave.  To convince her husband not to go, she told him that if he would execute a will and buy life insurance, she would acquiesce to his sailing with the Edwards.  Her words hit home, as she knew they would, and he decided a long sailing trip was not in his future.

Tammy and Chad lived in a suburb on the Eastside of Lake Washington.  After getting a call at 11:30 pm that Loren was dead, Tammy threw her robe on and jumped into her car.  She drove fast over the floating bridge across Lake Washington.  Gazing out her window she could see the water was very choppy, splashing up over the sides of the bridge.  The bridge rocked as it was prone to do in high winds.  She headed towards the Coast Guard’s office located along Seattle’s waterfront at Pier 39.  A terror gripped her.  She sensed that Jody was in grave danger of dying too.  She had been right about the trip being filled with tragedy and prayed she was wrong about Jody.

When she finally arrived at the coast guard’s office, the watchman refused to let her in.  Here was this crazed woman in her robe, yelling about someone being in danger in the South Pacific, tears streaming down her face.  Tammy calmed herself.  She believed Jody’s life depended on her being able to find help.  She slowly explained that she needed to contact her friend on a boat in Tahiti, that it was a matter of life and death.  Somehow she managed to convince the watchman to let her in. 

Once inside, she drove to the main building and was met by a Coast Guard officer as she exited her car.  In the most sane voice she could muster, she told the officer of Loren and Jody’s trip to French Polynesia, how things had gone terribly wrong, that Loren was dead, and now she feared for Jody’s life.  The officer humored Tammy and invited her inside.  They tried to call Jody on the Ham radio.  The Spellbound did not answer. 

They tried a few more times, but silence filled the radio waves.  Tammy knew the officer wasn’t about to waste all night based on the whims of a clearly upset middle-aged woman.  She wanted tell Jody to lock Gary in one of the rooms aboard the Spellbound until help arrived.  But, her call wouldn’t go through.  Memories of Gary knocked against her temples.  He was manipulative, lazy, self-centered, and always sought instant gratification.  And  Jody’s missing underwear always disturbed her. 

No one on the Spellbound answered call.  She left the Coast Guard office downhearted and defeated.  The drive home seemed like she was driving in slow motion.  This time driving over the floating bridge the water was flat and deadly calm.  It seemed to her the dawn would never come.  It is too bad the officer she spoke with hadn’t been informed of Loren’s death.  Even if he had been, what could they have done in Seattle to help Jody aboard the Spellbound, thousands of miles from Seattle?

Saturday at around 8:30 am PST  on February 25th – the day after the original accident was reported, Gary again radioed Ron, the ham radio operator.  Ron thought the Spellbound should have made to Rangiroa by now, so he was surprised to hear from Gary.  Maybe he was calling to tell them there was something wrong with the boat.  Ron wondered how a boat could have such bad luck as he offered the standard response: “Spellbound, this is Ron, OVER.”

Gary stated, “Ron, there was another fatality. OVER”  Ron couldn’t answer.  He really couldn’t imagine that another fatal accident could have occurred aboard the Spellbound.  Assuming it was Kerry, he asked “Who?”  He had forgotten to say OVER.  It was the first time in years he’d made such a transgression.  “My mother Jody is dead,” Gary responded.  “How?  OVER,” was all Ron could ask.  Gary’s answer was heard by many on the net: “I cannot discuss the circumstances of her death over the radio.  I think we are 20 miles northwest of Rangiroa, about two to three hours sailing time.  OVER.”

Later that morning, Gary talked with the physician over the radio from Honolulu who diagnosed Kerry as having blunt trauma to her head.  The doctor warned Gary that she needed medical care immediately or she may die.  It was important that Kerry be kept awake, if at all possible, and nothing should touch her head.  Even the slightest pressure could be fatal.

The Spellbound was somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between the Ahe Atoll and the Island of Tahiti.  They needed to be rescued.  During the radio exchange, Gary informed Ron that the Spellbound was now under his control.  He said they were making seven knots under power and he was not using its sails due to a lack of wind.  Ron asked if Gary had any better idea of where they were, any geographical details to relay to the search and rescue team.  “No, just water everywhere,” Gary answered.

DID YOU KNOW . . . How a Knot is Measured?

Gary couldn’t get a fix on their location.  He told Ron that he hurt his right wrist on Tuesday, four days ago, and was unable to use the sextant to chart their position.  The only information Gary could offer regarding their location was that they left Ahe the day before and were headed for Papeete on Tahiti.  To make things worse, Gary told him the Spellbound was low on fuel and taking on water.  It was one calamity after another.  Then he ended the call.

DID YOU KNOW . . . What a Sextant Is?

Jerry aboard the Restless Wind heard the emergency call from the Coast Guard saying there was another fatality on the Spellbound.  He immediately radioed Gary.  Jerry could tell Gary was nervous, confused and upset, and his heart went out to him.  What a terrible thing to have happened, he thought.  He decided the events were too new and harsh to discuss any specifics.  Jerry’s only goal was to get the remaining crew of the Spellbound to safety.  As he had with Ron, Gary mentioned the lack of fuel and weak winds.  But Jerry clearly remembered filling both fuel tanks with Loren right before the Spellbound left Hiva Oa.  He reminded Gary to use the spare fuel tank up front.  In all of the emotional confusion of the past two days, he assumed Gary forgot about that tank.

Another boat, the Samarang, was sixty miles from the Spellbound.  The skipper on board was a doctor who radioed Gary to offer assistance.  He thought that if they both sailed their boats towards each other, they would meet up in five or six hours.  The doctor would then be able assist Kerry with her head injury.  Gary told the skipper that he would rather continue to port in Rangiroa.  It is likely that the Spellbound was about 150 miles away from Rangiroa (approximately 24 hours sailing).  The doctor relayed some first aid information to Gary to assist Kerry.  Gary also told the skipper that he could see an island near by. The skipper then radioed Ron, to tell him he thought the Spellbound had likely just passed Takaroa an island the Samarang had passed earlier when near the Spellbound’s current location.

The Tahitian Rescue Coordination Center (TRCC) radioed Gary and suggested that he sail to Takaroa or Manihi, as both islands had medical facilities.  Gary radioed that he would arrive at either island after dark and preferred to sail to Rangiroa as he originally planned.  He believed it was better to sail into Rangiroa during the day, as the passage into Rangiroa, or any atoll for that matter, can be treacherous due to the currents and coral reefs. 

Since Gary still had not arrived and continued to state he was unsure of his exact whereabouts, the TRCC sent out an aircraft to locate the Spellbound.  The boat was found about 50 miles from Rangiroa.  When they spotted the yellow Spellbound in the sea of blue, she was moving erratically. The TRCC radioed a request for any available large vessels to meet the Spellbound and guide her safely to Rangiroa.  The plane’s copilot could see that the dinghy, typically used by larger boats to row ashore, was upside down and misplaced on the deck.  They surmised that perhaps the crew put the bodies under the dinghy for protection from the sun. The TRCC radioed the Coast Guard to notify them that the Spellbound would soon be en route to Rangiroa once an escort was found.

In Rangiroa, a marine biologist named Kevin, employed by the Tahitian government, heard an employee at the Kia Ora Hotel talking about a yacht in trouble and that two of the crew died.  This of course peaked his interest.   He wondered if he knew the yacht in question, but didn’t ask which boat it was.  Later that day, at a cookout at the hotel restaurant, he heard some gendarmes debating the whereabouts of a missing boat called the Spellbound.  They were talking amongst themselves about how she had just been located by Air Tahiti.  The gendarmes were discussing the need for a boat to sail out to meet the Spellbound and some people to help bring her back to Rangiroa.   This time Kevin interrupted the conversation, offering to help with the rescue of the Spellbound.  There were plenty of people volunteering to help; they just needed to find the right boat.

The gendarmes had another eavesdropper – a German tourist who overheard the request for a boat.  Earlier that week, he’d chartered the Tervana, a sizeable boat, for a fishing trip.  Rescuing the Edwards family at sea would be the perfect end to his exotic vacation.  He volunteered his chartered vessel to help bring the Spellbound to Rangiroa.  Before the Tervana left Rangiroa, caskets were loaded onto her deck as well as extra fuel for the Spellbound to motor to Rangiroa.  The Tervana followed the plane’s signal and arrived at the Spellbound at around 6:15 pm local time after a few hours of motoring.

When the fishing vessel connected with the Spellbound, four of its crewmembers boarded the stricken sailboat: Kevin, a male nurse from the Rangiroa hospital, and two hotel employees from the Kia Ora. Kevin boarded and paused on deck.  He looked around briefly and saw the tired faces of Lori and Gary who were sitting on deck. “Hi,” was all he could think of to say.  The nurse headed into the main cabin, presumably to check on Kerry, and Kevin followed him down.  Lori trailed him inside and he heard her make a call on the Ham radio letting those who had been tracking their situation know that help had arrived.  She then moved back to her perch outside.    The two hotel employees stayed on board to look for the bodies and help sail the Spellbound.

The nurse immediately went to Kerry’s side, who was asleep on the couch, to check on her.  Kevin found the Spellbound’s main cabin in disorder.  There were pillows, blankets, and sheets on the floor near the couch.  He saw that Kerry was lying on a couch by the door, looking beat up and bloodied.  Blood soaked through most of the linens and the air was thick with a metallic smell.  It upset his stomach a bit, but there was work to do and he pushed aside his desire to turn away.  He did a quick search for the bodies and tried to refuel the Spellbound, discovering the front tank was full.  The air inside was becoming too much for him and he went back up on deck.  Gary and Lori seemed in no mood to talk and he didn’t want to impose himself.  As he walked back on deck, the Tervana sailed away with the Spellbound promptly following. 

While the Tervana crew guided the Spellbound back to Rangiroa, Gary and Lori sat in silence.  Gary left his seat only once to make a call on the Ham.  Kevin considered the tragic sight before him, the cool air brushing the sad faces of the Spellbound survivors, the sun setting behind them.  Under normal circumstances, this was the setting of another South Pacific idyll.  But today was different.  Kevin remained on deck during the return trip to Rangiroa thinking he was glad he could help in some small way.

Ron reported that around the time the Tervana arrived, a girl came on the Ham radio supposedly from the Spellbound and reported that “a boat is here” and “we’ve taken on four crew.”  Later, Gary came on to sign off and say he didn’t need any more assistance from the Ham radio operators.  It took three hours to motor back to Rangiroa because the Tervana was such a large boat.  It would have taken the Spellbound much less time if she had traveled on her own.  The boats and crew all arrived at about 9:30 pm local time, anchoring about 150 yards off shore from the hotel.  By 10:00 pm, the Spellbound was resting safely and peacefully and all went ashore.

When they reached the shore, Gary pulled Kevin aside. He asked quietly, “Could you please have the Spellbound cleaned for me tomorrow? It will be difficult for us to return to such a horrid reminder of what happened.”

 “Sure,” Kevin responded, as Gary handed him some money to pay for the cleaners.  Kerry, Gary, and Lori were then taken to the hospital.  After examining Kerry, the doctor told her she needed to be transferred to the hospital in Papeete as soon as possible.  He treated her wounds as best as he could, which meant he cleaned off the blood, put stiches in the cut above her eye, and tried to make her comfortable.  Gary’s wrist was examined and wrapped with gauze.  Kerry stayed in the hospital while Gary and Lori spent Saturday night at the hotel.

For some reason, Kevin felt compelled to return to the Spellbound that night.  Perhaps it was morbid curiosity.  Maybe Gary asked him to during their trip to Rangioroa?  Perhaps Gary’s request to have the boat cleaned peaked his interest.  Or, maybe he thought it would be easier to dispose of some of the more ghastly tasks in the dark.  Whatever the reason, he went back at about 11:30 pm.  He later told the FBI he returned to the scene out of curiosity, and to secure the contents of the boat.  Anyone who sailed out there to steal the contents of the Spellbound would have passed through something out of a horror movie set.  Security surely wasn’t the reason.

The first thing Kevin saw when he boarded that night was how bloody the cockpit area outside was.  He hadn’t noticed this earlier in the afternoon as he was focused on steering the Spellbound to Rangiroa.  To do this, you look out over the cockpit area.  It must have been quite bloody for him to see the red in the dark, even with the moon on the horizon.  Whatever his motive for returning to the Spellbound, Kevin went far beyond taking a closer look

Kevin tried to clean the drain by poking a clothes hanger through the small openings, but was unsuccessful due to the amount of matter blocking the holes.  Chunks of something were clogging the drain - did he wonder what he was poking at?  Perhaps the dark was a blessing to him.  He took the pillows and cushions from the benches around the cockpit and put them on the deck on the aft side of the boat.  If Jody had killed herself in this area, the cushions were likely more gruesome than the drain.   He could have been moving the cushions so he wouldn’t have to see them or perhaps he wanted to get a closer look by moonlight.

Once finished on deck, he explored the main cabin below, where the nurse found Kerry lying on the couch.  Kevin picked up the bloody sheets and placed them near the galley on the settee. There were dirty dishes and food scattered everywhere.  After looking around a bit more, he left the Spellbound to go home.  His dreams were infected by images of the Spellbound, Gary, Kerry, and Lori.

Lieutenant Smith, from the Seattle Coast Guard, called the Edwards family late Saturday evening to tell them that the Spellbound had arrived at 9:30 pm in Rangiroa.  This would have been 12:30 pm PST.  He reported that Gary was exhausted and Kerry needed be flown to the hospital in Papeete, Tahiti, as soon as a flight was available.  Lieutenant Smith also told the family that weather could not possibly have been a factor in the accident, as there were no winds and the sea had been calm for the past couple of days.  He hoped to have more information in the morning. 

The next morning, Sunday, Kevin again returned to the Spellbound, this time with a maid and two Kia Ora hotel workers. He’d come to clean the boat, as promised.   Two gendarmes, who had arrived earlier, greeted Kevin and asked what he wanted.  Kevin replied that he wanted to clean the boat for the family once the gendarmes were finished with their investigation.  About fifteen minutes later, he was given permission to come aboard and clean up.  The cleaning party proceeded to sweep the floor, wash the dishes, and clean out and wash the refrigerator and freezer.  They tidied the main cabin by stacking items next to the wood stove and on the chest in front of Kerry’s couch.  All laundry items, including the bloody sheets and pillowcases, were bundled together.  Kevin then hauled the load onto his boat, with permission of the Gendarmes, to be laundered at home later. Lieutenant Smith had no new information for the family in Seattle.

On Monday, Kerry and Lori flew to Papeete, where Kerry was immediately admitted to Mamao Hospital.  Later that morning, Kevin and Gary met at the hotel bar in Rangiroa for a beer.  The experience of seeing the Spellbound to safety seemed to push them together.  Gary told Kevin that he would have to fly to Papeete soon to see his sister.  He asked Kevin to be on the lookout for the Restless Wind, as he wanted to talk with Jerry before he left.  Gary was pretty sure Jerry would arrive before he left for Papeete Wednesday morning. 

It was 12:30 am on Wednesday when Kevin spotted the Restless Wind coming into the bay.  Though it was late, Kevin hopped into his boat and sped over to meet Jerry and Randi.  He relayed the message to Jerry that Gary wanted to talk with him before he left that the morning to fly to Papeete.  Jerry rode with Kevin to shore where he met Gary.  Gary and Jerry hugged and talked quietly for a bit while Kevin waited a discreet distance away.  When they were finished talking, Kevin motored Jerry back to the Restless Wind.

As the sun rose, Kevin stepped into his home exhausted by the night’s coming and goings.  He said goodbye to Gary at the airport, both agreeing to meet once Gary returned to Rangiroa, or perhaps in Papeete.  Kevin promised to look after the Spellbound in Gary’s absence.   Before he went to bed, he loaded his washing machine to wash the bloody sheets and pillowcases.   Kevin slept easy knowing he had done his part for the Spellbound crew.  Later, after life returned to some version of normal for Gary, Kevin lived for a while on the Spellbound.

Map of the Relevant Islands & Cities in French Polynesia.