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Ch 08: Sailing

Loren loved the water.  It was Loren’s dream to sail around the world until Phyllis got pregnant.  He saw this dream slipping away with the birth of Gary.  Marrying Jody and having Kerry, combined with the hustle and bustle of raising a family, meant his dream had to be put on hold for a number of years.  Anyone with children knows it is difficult to find time to take a shower, let alone chase a grand dream of sailing around the world with five small children in tow.  He didn’t let go of his dream; he just tabled it until the children were older.  While his kids were growing up, he kept the dream alive by spending time on the water when he could.

Loren’s dad, Ira, instilled in him his love of sailing.  When Loren was nine years old, he built a kayak by hand under his dad’s tutelage.  They would spend days together working meticulously, sanding and shaping the wood into a vessel they created from their imaginations.   This project cultivated Loren’s passion for boats and working with wood.  After they married, this love was soon transferred to Jody.  She became an avid boating enthusiast. Loren also passed his love for boats on to Larry. None of the other children seemed to have inherited his passion for woodworking or sailing.

While the kids were growing up, my grandparents would go motoring on Great-Grandpa Edwards’ steel-hulled boat.  It would only go about six knots (about seven mph), which is slow for a boat.  My grandparents owned a fourteen-foot motorboat for water skiing.  They would take the kids out on the weekends to ski on Lake Sammamish. The motorboat was also used to go fishing in Puget Sound and boating on Lake Washington. Boating was certainly a large part of the Edwards lifestyle.

One year, when Little Jody was fourteen, Bobbie thirteen, and Kerry eleven, my grandparents decided to borrow Great-Grandpa Edwards’ boat to take a sailing trip sponsored by KVI radio to Alaska.  Little Jody begged to be excused and spent the month with her aunts and grandparents.  Larry and Gary had already moved out of the house, leaving Jody and Loren with their two youngest daughters to make the voyage.  A parade of boats left Seattle in a long line headed north up the coast of Canada.  The line of boaters would stop each night, but not my grandparents.  The boat was slow, so Loren and Jody would have to catch up each night in order to be ready to start out with everyone else again the next morning.  This gave them their first taste of what an extended sailing trip would be like and they were hooked, even with playing catch-up every night.

The year before they left for the South Pacific, the Spellbound was sufficiently complete for short trips.  My grandparents had a wonderful time sailing around British Columbia. I am sure this experience further encouraged their South Pacific trip. But, they sailed without their children as crew.  This probably made the trip more romantic and left them thinking an expedition on the South Pacific would be paradise, trading rain and wind of the Pacific Northwest for the heat and exotic beaches of the Pacific Islands.  Somehow they didn’t factor in the family politics of having the children along.  Loren certainly was a romantic!

Not one event occurred during the building and initial sailing of the Spellbound to mar the vision and romanticism my grandparents felt for the boat and all she represented to them.  There was one incident, tangential to the Spellbound that bears mentioning, as it pertains to the family politics within the Edwards clan.  Gary once borrowed the scuba gear my grandparents stored on the Spellbound.  My grandfather later found marijuana in the air tanks and blamed Little Jody.  He knew Little Jody smoked marijuana, and he couldn’t imagine Gary doing such a thing.  But Gary was into drugs just like all of their kids were, with the exclusion of Larry.  My grandfather never saw, or at least never voiced, any fault with Gary.  Little Jody emphatically defended herself, claiming she would never be so stupid as to store her drugs on his boat.  Loren begrudgingly believed the logic of her argument but still couldn’t blame Gary. 

For their three-year trip to the South Pacific, they definitely needed a crew to help sail their 53-foot boat.  For short trips, my grandparents could handle the Spellbound, but not for such a long journey.  Loren thought it would be good to bring the family back together after all of the problems their kids experienced during their teenage years (and some were still experiencing). The family had drifted apart, and he hoped a long trip would break the bad life cycle some of his kids were pedaling on. 

My grandparents extended an invitation to their kids to join them in paradise if they could save enough spending money for the journey.   My grandparents never wasted an opportunity to instill a good work ethic in their children.  “Nothing is ever free” was the unofficial motto of the Edwards family.  Both Larry, who had been working as a schoolteacher, and Gary, who had received money from a car accident settlement, had enough savings to meet their parents’ spending-money requirements. Kerry didn’t have any money, but she was exempt.  My grandparents really wanted her to come to interrupt the string of undesirable men in her life.  Plus, Kerry was the baby of the family; often excused from the hard-work standard the older children were held to. My grandparents sold their car so Kerry could have the money she needed for the trip.

After a slow sail down the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California, they arrived in San Francisco on August 18th where Gary, the airline pilot, departed.  Gary’s departing thoughts were not flattering.  He had doubts that the Spellbound crew could make it down the rest of the Californian coast, let alone across the Pacific Ocean. It was everyone’s lack of sailing experience that caused his concern. However, less than a week later, the Spellbound did arrive in San Diego, with all crew on board and in tiptop shape. The plan was to stay in San Diego for a couple of months to finish working on the boat, get provisions for their month long voyage across the Pacific Ocean, and obtain their visas for Tahiti. 

Loren and Jody estimated that each child would need a few hundred dollars for spending money along the way.  Of course, there would be nothing to buy during their days at sea, but plenty of opportunities to spend money in the Pacific Islands.  Sailing across the Pacific Ocean and throughout French Polynesia would require at times a dangerous traverse of pirate-infested waters.  These were not the pirates of movies.  They were violent young men with speedboats ranging off the coast of many islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, from Tahiti to Kenya.   My grandmother didn’t like guns, but she understood the need for protection against modern-day pirates.  So, my grandparents brought a shotgun and a .22 rifle along, which they stored under the floor in the galley, on top of the water tanks.  Someone in San Diego gave them another rifle, which they kept in the same hiding place. 

Uncle Gary arrived in San Diego on September 18th, large sea bag in tow.  In the large blue duffle bag, he brought another gun, a Walther PPK 9mm automatic pistol.   Right before Gary left Washington, he bought the automatic pistol at a hardware store in Bellevue.  My grandparents had asked him not to bring it on the trip.  When they found out he had it in his sea bag despite their objections, they made him store it with the other guns in the hiding place.  The guns were always concealed unless they took them out for target practice at sea. That was the rule and it was strictly enforced, as many nations do not allow people to bring weapons into their country.  If discovered by local authorities, the Spellbound could be confiscated.

DID YOU KNOW . . . About the Walther PPK?

The crew of the Spellbound now consisted of Captain Loren, First Mate Jody, and Crew: Gary, Larry, Kerry and Lori.  Kerry’s room was in the bow, but the rocking motion of the boat was intensified in this cabin, so she often slept on the couch in the main cabin. Lori slept in Larry’s old berth, right outside Kerry’s room.  Kerry had to walk past Lori’s bunk to get to the little door to her room.  Next to Lori’s bunk was a door to the lavatory and the galley. From Kerry’s room, she would walk past Lori’s bunk and the dinette, through the galley, and up two stairs to the main cabin.

Gary slept on the bunk in the workroom near the aft of the boat. You had to walk through the main cabin into a hallway that contained a washing machine and their bicycles to access a door to his room on the right.  There was a workbench in Gary’s room where all of the tools were stored.  Loren and Jody’s room was at the end of the hallway in the aft of the boat.  It had a double berth as well as a private lavatory.

The Spellbound crew spent many of their days in San Diego working.  They had more than 80 projects to complete.  Loren usually got up first and then Larry (before he’d left the expedition). Early on, they made it part of the routine to write in their journals each morning.   After a while, Jody, Kerry and Gary rose.  Together they would have coffee, a late breakfast, and then begin the day’s projects.  They painted the deck with eight gallons of paint and adhered over 100 pounds of walnut shells on the deck.  This would prevent slipping when the deck was wet.  They fixed the steering gear, painted, stained, and sanded.  They worked into the late afternoon and then stopped for dinner.  The evening was filled with puzzles, games, and socializing with many of my grandparents’ friends who had moved to California over the years.  When Larry moved out and Lori joined the crew, the routine continued much in the same way; only Loren no longer had a journaling partner.

They had to buy provisions for at least a month to make it across the Pacific Ocean. It takes a lot of food to feed five people for 30 days.  Plus, they stocked up on items that might be hard to find in the South Pacific.  They purchased canned meat, vegetables, and stored 500 eggs in the engine room.  It took a while to find a chicken farmer in San Diego with that many fresh eggs.  They didn’t have sufficient space to refrigerate the eggs in their tiny cooler on board and once you refrigerate eggs, you have to keep them cool or they go bad.  Each egg had to be individually dipped in Vaseline before being wrapped in tissue and placed in a large container under the main cabin in the engine room for storage.  There was so much to be done. 

Soon, Jerry and Randi arrived in San Diego on the Restless Wind to prepare to leave for their trip across the Pacific Ocean.  Russ and Flo arrived shortly thereafter on the Drummer.   The Restless Wind would sail to Mexico first and then meet the Spellbound in the Marquesas Islands after Christmas.   The Drummer would leave not long after the Spellbound and sail straight for the Marquesas.  Everything was going according to the plan they’d dreamed up together in Seattle.

While in San Diego, in mid-October, the crew of the Spellbound decided to take the boat out for a week to travel along the West Coast to have some fun and test the many repairs and upgrades before leaving the mainland.  Two major events occurred during that week that changed the fate of the Spellbound and her crew.  First, Larry announced he’d had enough brotherly discord and would move ashore as soon as they returned to San Diego. While Larry’s decision was a difficult one, he felt his parents would have a better time without the constant clashing. 

Second, the daughter of one of my grandparents’ lifetime friends flew down to say goodbye.  Like Kerry, Lori was trying to leave a bad relationship, but hers was a bad marriage.  She hitchhiked down to San Francisco, where her brother paid for a flight to San Diego.  This was Lori’s first time on a plane.  Loren’s romantic idea of sailing through paradise was contagious, and once on board the Spellbound, she came down with a sever case of the travel bug.  My grandparents had known Lori since she was a baby. Now that Larry’s bunk was vacant, my grandparents invited her to come along.  Lori’s parents wired her $200, plus some extra for a passport.  With that, Lori became a member of the Spellbound crew.  If Larry had stayed, would things have turned out differently?  It’s likely. Would they have turned out better?

After waiting for a couple of months for their visas to be approved by the French government, the Spellbound finally left San Diego on November 17th.  Jody vomited the entire trip across the Pacific and lost a lot of weight.  The other ladies on board actually put on a few pounds since there was little to do but eat during the month-long voyage.  As the Spellbound did not have a self-steering vane, someone had to always be at the helm.  The crew decided to take two-hour shifts.  Thus, for two hours at a time, day and night, there was always someone navigating the boat.  Once a crewmember completed their shift, they had eight hours off.

The trip across the Pacific seems to have gone quite well.  The water was crystal blue and everyone was excited to finally be on their way.  To entertain themselves during their month at sea, Loren and Gary threw cans in the air for target practice.  Lori and Jody, who do not like guns, stayed indoors or moved to the other end of the boat.  Sure, it was loud, but it provided a needed reprieve from the monotony of their days.  They also worked on puzzles, played cards, read books, and watched the dolphins.  While bored at times, they seemed to have enjoyed themselves.  Loren spotted land on December 14th, 1977.  They had arrived at Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands. 

I am impressed they made it across the Pacific Ocean to such a tiny island.  Their navigation skills consisted of my uncle Gary’s past military experience in land navigation (which was slight), my grandparents’ classes, and their small sailing trips.  It is a wonder they weren’t lost at sea.  The Spellbound crew spent more than a month traveling around the Marquesas Islands.  I am sure Gary (the airline pilot) was surprised they made it.  They met people from all over the world, visited with the locals, ate sweet fruit every day, and truly felt they had indeed arrived in paradise.  In mid-January, Jerry and Randi arrived on the Restless Wind and joined the fun.  The trip was going well, likely better than they had dreamed.

The Spellbound crew on Huku Niva from left to right: Gary, Lori, Jody, Kerry, and Loren.

Elections were scheduled for early spring in the Marquesas and the candidates needed a means to make campaign appearances in the outlying islands. The Spellbound crew decided to earn some extra money by ferrying officials around the islands.  The boat was soon crammed with Polynesians.  They traveled from island to island, waiting while their passengers campaigned.  Their guests often chose to sleep on land.  Each morning, they would join the Spellbound and sail off to a new place for more campaigning, and more waiting for the Spellbound crew.  Once they were finished taxiing politicians, they planned on heading to Hiva Oa, a relatively large island about 85 miles southeast of Nuku Hiva.

The ongoing politics of the boat, not the Polynesian kind, but the family kind, was starting to take its toll.  The women on board felt that Loren gave Gary too much power and control.  Jody, Kerry, and Lori were often left with only menial tasks.  There was bickering and hurt feelings.  The women wanted a chance to steer while entering a harbor or to participate a bit more in the decision-making process.  Loren just didn’t see how Gary teased the women, including Jody, and how condescending he could be.  The “kids,” as my grandparents called them, fought more and more, as the already cramped conditions got even tighter while ferrying local politicians.  Having to accommodate guests also meant less time for partying on land for Kerry and Lori, which likely contributed to their irritability.

On February 10th, the Spellbound received news on the Ham radio that Loren’s dad, Ira, was in the hospital dying of cancer. The doctors said he only had a couple of months left to live. This left the crew with a decision to make.  This news, combined with the general feeling of discord, led to a family meeting.  The first thing to decide was what to do about Loren’s father. They knew they couldn’t easily sail back to Seattle in time for Loren to say goodbye to his dad.  Furthermore, they’d lost their big anchor about a week earlier and had some small repairs to do on the boat.  Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, was the closest city with an international airport where Loren could fly back to Seattle.  It was decided that the money earned from ferrying the politicians would be used for airfare for Loren.  They would sail to Papeete post haste and Loren would fly home to say farewell to his father. 

The next item on the agenda was what to do when Loren returned.  Things couldn’t continue with the status quo.  Jody gave Loren an ultimatum: “Either the kids go or I go.” There was no record of what was decided that day with regards to the crew after Loren’s return.  Were the kids – Gary, Kerry, and Lori – to be left in Papeete after Loren’s return? Loren and Jody did need some help to crew the boat, as they couldn’t manage a cross-Pacific trip alone.  But, they couldn’t pick one child over the other.  My grandparents could hire a crew if needed.  I wonder if my grandmother regretted building a boat too large for her and Loren to crew themselves.  I am sure she missed their solo cruises around the San Juan Islands.

One Polynesian politician noted that the Edwards seemed to get along quite well.  He never saw them fight, do drugs, or act crazy.  However, he was concerned with their navigational abilities.  It took the crew of the Spellbound a long time to find the different islands he needed to visit.  At one point, he offered Loren an airplane ticket to fly from the island they were visiting to Papeete so he could speed up his return to Seattle to see his dad.  At first Loren accepted the offer, but later changed his mind, concerned that the other members of the crew would not be able to navigate to Papeete without him.  I am sure he was also worried about how everyone would get along at sea in his absence.

DID YOU KNOW . . . About the Origins of the French Polynesian Atolls?

They departed for the island of Ahe on Wednesday, February 22nd.  Before leaving, they took the time to make the needed repairs on the Spellbound and Jerry from the Restless Wind agreed to meet up with them to help Loren dive for the big anchor they had lost. Luckily, they found it.  Loren thought it would take about five days to get to Ahe, where they planned on spending another couple of days with Jerry and Randi, if time allowed.  Then they would sail to Papeete.  Russ and Flo, on the Drummer, agreed to meet them in Papeete.  Jerry and Randi wanted to spend a bit more time on Ahe before leaving for Papeete.  I am sure my grandfather thought his friends could help keep an eye on the Spellbound, Jody, and his kids in Papeete while he was gone in Seattle.

During this time period, the crew of the Spellbound tried to talk to friends in Seattle every night via the Ham radio to check on Great-Grandpa Edwards’s condition.  One evening, they learned that Loren’s father took a turn for the worse and wasn’t expected to live much longer.  On the 21st of February, Loren asked his sister to make plane reservations for him to fly back to Seattle earlier than he had originally planned. He was so distraught that he might miss his father, he confirmed the next day with his niece that he did indeed have a ticket to return as soon as he made it to Papeete. 

At about 7:00 pm PST on Thursday, February 23rd, Loren checked on his dad’s condition again.  He felt strongly that he needed to say goodbye to his father.  Hearing that things were getting worse, he radioed Jerry to let him know he decided to head directly for Papeete rather than stop at Ahe.  Loren told Jerry he expected to arrive sometime after 11:00 pm on Wednesday, March 1st.  He asked Jerry if they would mind meeting them at the Capital rather than Ahe.  Jerry readily agreed.  At this point, the boats were 100 miles apart with the Restless Wind trailing behind.  This is the last time anyone outside of the Spellbound crew spoke to my grandparents.

Map of the Spellbound's travels from Washington State to French Polynesia.