Don Saunders lived and traveled as an executive for Eastman Kodak (in the day when they were on the cutting edge) in about 26 different countries. He was planning on retiring from Kodak and go sailing full time. Don was fortunate to visit so many countries as he was the world wide Director of Technical Education and Support.
“the good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries.”
It was not long before I succumbed to the fact that 24 hour days offshore, required at least two more hardy crew members. Thus was the beginning of many later adjustments to plans. Once we hit the open ocean some of the “rats” were anxious to abandon at the first landfall and they did. This forced me into coasting down the east coast of America with minimal crew finding nightly anchorages or berths.
By the time I had reached Key West, having obtained a dependable crew, we headed for the Bahamas for a trial run. We then proceed to the Turks and Caicos. Turning north again we headed to Nova Scotia as the hurricane season was something I did not want to deal with on that vessel. One crew being from the Canadian Maritimes, was happy to head home. I added a very young but experienced girl who had previous experience on the famous BLUENOSE out of Halifax.
Back down to the States to avoid the Canadian winter...at that point I was ready to downsize. I had time for a lot of reading and was fascinated, changing my mind about the kind of vessel that I wanted when I read "Voyaging Under Power". In due course I was able to find a buyer for HAIKU.
I started a search for an ocean going motor vessel. I had been writing for a couple of magazines on a monthly basis, such as Ocean Navigator. They had the usual run-of-the-mill power vessels advertised. Nothing like my dreamboat though. In Miami, Florida I searched around. Same old thing. Finally I was about to give up when I contacted a broker and described I wanted to have something like Beebe's PASSAGEMAKER.
He said “you won't believe this I just took a listing on her this week”. Carl and Joyce Jurgens, were the present owners (shown below) Carl Jurgens had lived aboard an amphibious float airplane for several years in the Caribbean before it finally gave up and he purchased PASSAGEMAKER. Now they were ready to go flying once again. Their dream was to fly from Oregon all the way down the west coast of South America to Punta Arenas. Serendipity!
Our introduction to PASSAGMAKER
PASSAGEMAKER was somewhere south of where I had to meet the purchaser of HAIKU. There was a long dock capable of accommodating both vessels. I arrived before Carl Jurgens and was already shifting those personal things off HAIKU onto the dock. And there it was! It just silently slid up to the dock. With a line in hand Carl stepped ashore, secured it and came over and introduced himself.
Passagemaker and Hiku.
What little remained of the afternoon we spent looking over PASSAGEMAKER. It's hard to be objective when you've already fallen in love with “Voyaging Under Power”. Carl was anxious to make plane connections to Oregon so I fell to sleep aboard PM with a new set of smells.
Next morning, in the cold light of day I started a stem to stern careful exam. My anxiety began to rise when I went into the engine room. There seemed to be numerous leaks of diesel fuel around tanks, below the engine, transmission, and injectors. I tossed out a pile of oil soaked rags. As I went up on deck, for the first time I noticed one mast on the foredeck, but I thought there were two. I found a second mast laying on the starboard side with a rotted out bottom. All of sudden I felt like the honeymoon was over. Euphoria lapsed into depression.
The clipboard notations were building into more pages than I could have imagined. For instance, I got a couple of electrical shocks probing around in the engine room.
My second night on PASSAGEMAKER and I could hardly get any sleep wondering what I am going to find next. Where should I start? I even wondered if Carl and Nancy Jurgens would ever fly an airplane as they planned, as maintenance was paramount. I had been an owner of an airplane in the 50's and knew the care and scheduled maintenance that is required to stay alive.
Morning suddenly came alive and the next day was full of chores. I finally started the engine at the dock. The exhaust appeared smoky and a film formed on the water below, but that was what moved the boat into place when Jurgens sailed up, so I made up my mind that tomorrow morning I would take her out for a trial run. I eased the throttle in reverse and she backed out along the dock. Once in the Intercostal Waterway which runs along the east coast of the United States she just swung north as I applied the forward throttle. As engine access is easy, I swung open the door, not seeing anything, closed it right away.
I turned my attention to a device on the wheel, pressing a button the wheel froze in position, Fortunately it was where I wanted to go, Ah, it has an autopilot. How nice. My anxiety level began to recede, except for where to spend overnight anchorage or dock. The Intercoastal Waterway was mostly too narrow to anchor and have enough room to swing because of tidal reversing currents. So I always stopped early in the day when the opportunity presented it's self.
We had the pleasure several times being recognized as Beebe's PASSAGEMAKER and invited to private docks, of course, and an on board tour was always part of the bargain. And we met some wonderful people which stayed in touch with us even after we sold PASSAGEMAKER. One person, though, was exceptional in his knowledge and help. He had retired from Ford Motor Company and thought Beebe had made an excellent choice in the engine because spare parts were available throughout the world. He asked me how many hours were on the engine, I couldn’t guess. His final suggestion was take the engine out and put a new one in it's place, it's a drop in, even to the transmission. He said, “by the way, to keep your costs down, when you reach Crescent Beach Bridge stay close in-shore for another 7 or 8 miles and you will find yourself well protected and maybe even aground in the yard of Bob Bonner, who would rather be building rockets than working on boats. He would be happy to have you there, and its OK to use anything he's got.”
Refitting Passagemaker in Bob Bonner's Yard
We followed directions to Bob Bonners help yourself boat yard. As we pushed PASSAGEMAKER into the low tide mud we were greeted by the welcoming committee.
I made one gigantic leap into the mud. The search for Mr. Bonner was indeed a most unique experience. I wandered about the various sheds and open spaces. Huge planners, steaming boxes for plank bending, presses, paint shop and a sheds full of cables and ropes in various bunches. But no where to be seen was a single sole. A large crane pointed skyward. Retracing my tour I was surprised when I ran into a live person. I barley had the words “Bob Bonner” out when he said, “come on, you gota see this.”
On an almost full run with a can of something in his hands, I followed him out into a field and there were about a dozen men surrounding a 6 foot high tube. “OK, all hands back” and the rocket launched into the air with fire streaming below it. It almost went out of site, deployed a parachute, the breeze coasting it over and behind some of the sheds. That was my introduction to the Bonner Shipyard (and playground). Bob, as it turned out was a man who liked to play more than work. He explained, “You can use any of the machinery you want. When you need to use up things like timbers or coatings etc. Just keep track of what you use. You can pay me when you're all through.”
It was a fun place to be around. I soon took the aft mast and epoxied a new section where the rotted foot was before. We then reset the aft mast in its place. Soon the flopper stoppers were fitted. In the meantime, Katina did a thorough cleanup of the interior from stem to stern.
The hull of PASSAGEMAKER is covered with Casscover bonded over the planks below the waterline. Cascover was also fitted over the deck at one time but it apparently didn't work out somehow. On the hull it is always underwater while the deck is subject to the sun and occasional water. So some previous owner stripped off all the deck surfaces and epoxied the decking, covering it with paint. There were a number of places that required repair and I went after them with a vengeance. I was very sensitive to preventing rot damage.
It would be several weeks before the engine would arrive. We had done as much as we could for the moment. On high tide I backed out into open water. Free again we exited through the wide harbor at St. Augustine leaving behind the historic site of the Spanish arrival in 1513 into the Atlantic ocean heading south to the Grand Bahamas, Nassau, and Eluthera as our first real feel for how she performed in open seaways.
We learned a lot! For instance, deploying the flopper stoppers was easy, retrieving them was difficult even with two persons try to hit the small opening on the cross trees of the aft mast. That meant, no single handing, getting crew out of bed to assist, bad news. Got to do something about that!
The anchor was another problem it had a small amount of chain on a single anchor followed by a large roll of heaving rope fed from a roller below deck. That meant major work to shift from one anchor type to another. Coral reefs could grind away on the rope. I just did not like that. Got to due something about that!
So after a very restful visit to Eluthera where their were no other boats in site we headed back to take care of what we had learned. There were many other less important things on my accumulating list.
Back to “home” port Bob Bonner welcomed us. Still the engine had not arrived. OK. Now to get the engine out? Did Beebe put the engine in and build the boat around it? “No problema” Bob said as he walked away. I didn't see him for the rest of the day, nor the next day or the day after that. More rocket nonsense I guess. In the meantime I turned my attention to the flopper stopper problem. Automate as much as possible. Make it a single handed foolproof process. Use readily available replaceable materials. How about those winches on the front of those mega-trucks you see? Two of those, one for each side with push buttons even a small child could run up and down the flopper stoppers. Off to the truck store. Sure enough. I brought two of them home and the next day had them mounted on stainless steel beds ready to receive the best paint Booner had in stock.
I was making my breakfast and Bob's feet appeared and hen his head through the galley window and he announced the old engine was coming out. He had a use for it driving a belt of some machinery I didn’t understand. Seems while I was shopping the other day at the truck store Bob had figured how to drag the engine out thru the door into the aft cabin and lift straight up and out thru the open door of the rear cabin.
Now this is all before breakfast. Bob and two other men were now down in the engine room taking things apart and all I could think about was, “what comes out must go back in.” When the new engine arrives at least we won't have to practice on it. Two hours later the old engine was out on its way to the Bonner yard.
After the engine was out I suddenly realized that the fuel filter on the forward engine room bulkhead would shut down the engine down as it became clogged.. Now do I want to do that surprise in a storm at sea! In my plane I had years ago, I had a vacuum gauge on the panel in front of me indicating when a filter was clogging and a switch that enabled a back up fuel filter to go on line. OK! That's what we'll do as part of the new engine installation.
Bob was full of fun. He had three pretty girls and an equally attractive wife who had crazy sense of humor to match Bob's. She kept Katina in stitches.
In the meantime I was going thru all the electrical circuitry, part of which was imbedded in moldings and not assessable. Bit by bit I drew electrical diagrams for all systems. These turned out to be very helpful during some of our voyages. That also was the beginning of a large black binder with information on all systems.
I began construction of a completely different mast, discarding the original stern mast. Bob did help to the extent of showing me how you use long pieces of timber to make a boxed mast, hollow on the inside to keep weight down and the special trick to splice pieces and gain greater strength. The unique thing on the cross trees of the stern mast were electric lights fully illuminating the aft deck and passage ways both fore and aft. Now the ends of the cross trees were very wide so the dispatch and retrieval of the flopper stoppers were simple, easily handled by one person. With all the work done the crane rolled up and up went the masts and PASSAGEMAKER was all ready to sail. Only the engine did we wait on.
The foremast was fitted high up with the new radar which prevented some potentially dangerous situation later on. The pilot house now had a screen identifying other traffic as far away as 25 miles. A high seas radio was mounted in the wheelhouse along with a short range VHF radio. On the wheelhouse top outside was a radio antenna and a transmitting wind speed indicator showing near the wheel. All those little things that had been on my list, which included a 6 person self inflating raft on the starboard rear deck with an EPRIB signal which would identify our ship in case of distress. On the stern were two 4 x4 with pulleys from which hung an inflatable raft with a small outboard motor. Also on the aft deck was a beautiful mahogany row boat that Katina had made herself removed from HAIKU.
The only thing left to do...install the engine...when it arrives.
The long awaited engine arrived.
“What came out, must go in”. And so it did. A brand new, Ford 6 cylinder, 135 horse power engine with zero hours was fitted almost as fast as taking the old engine out. In the meantime Katina began to put food stores on board for sailing out.
We planned leaving St Augustine prior to the arrival of a replica of the ship sailed by explorer and admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565 into the harbor we are leaving...but we didn't quit have time to be out first, now we will have to wait for the bridge opening so will be the first though on the next opening...and then north we will turn.
I had been a member of the “Seven Seas Cruising Association”, principally because a mail forwarding program was very helpful in keeping in touch with family and friends, obtaining parts and other ship's business. They also sent along a monthly journal from various members dealing with problems they may have encountered and suggestions of nice cruising grounds from all round the world.
We made our fist land fall in Savannah, Georgia. After all the sea food we could eat we castoff headed for Cape Fear. PASSAGEMAKER was such a delight to sail we decided to continue on well clear of Cape Hatteras because of very strong currents
Everything was going so well, we continued off shore, swing NW toward Norfolk. We really appreciated the HBO watermaker that we had installed during the refit. Having enough fresh water to wash clothes, take showers and to cook with was heaven.
Norfolk was to be our next port of call, but I began to wonder if there might be a more secure place because there was already chatter on the radio about an early hurricane season. We turned back toward South Carolina. There appeared to be a place we could tuck into at Charleston. The whether radio was warning of approaching tropical depression headed to the Bahamas.
When we sailed into Charleston area there were a lot of boats, sports fishermen, tugs, and trawlers all with the same idea. I could not find any dockage. What was worse their was a bridge which would be closed if the winds exceed 35 miles per hour. Our wind gauge was already reading 26 mph and I still had another half hour to reach the bridge. OK. See if we can hold our place, Katina on the helm. I will lower the main mast so that we will be able to slip under the bridge.
On the other side of the bridge which we easily past was an accommodating haul out yard for sport fishing vessels. He made us a deal. “We will take down your aft mast on condition you hold down my lift from getting carried away.” “I have a house you can stay with me and my family. We'll just have to hope we're all alive after this is over”
The eye of the storm came ashore at Charleston Harbor. The storm pushed a wall of water, as much as five feet high, across low lying areas, such as Downtown Charleston, Daniel Island and the Barrier Islands sweeping a number of boats inland.
Oh, all of this work and now....
That night our gracious hosts who had more at stake than we did, feed us well and it was as if we had known each other for a long time. At one point, I decided to take a little walk outside. I soon changed my mind when I was violently hit across the face with flying debris, causing my nose to bleed. I went inside and directly to bed wondering if I would end up like Judy Garland swirling around and around in my bed. Is there really a Wizard of Oz?
Hurricane Hugo 21st September 1989
What we didn't know is what we couldn't see!
The next morning our hosts wanted to check on there business assets and we hopped into their car. It was difficult to get there. Most streets were impassable. They somehow got down to the their yard. Many of the boats stored there were laying on their sides. But sitting proudly in their big lift was PASSAGEMAKER with no apparent damage...this time with lots of water under her. I don't remember who did it, but someone took the dinghy off the boat and loaded it up with some heave granite rocks. She was full of water of course, but in no time we were ready to move out of the lift. They would be very busy righting those fallen boats that looked, as we moved away and into the river, like a bunch of chop sticks that had been thrown up in the air.
While Charleston received a lot of aid from other parts of America, it was the only recipient. North as we carefully and slowly edged our way along, we encountered several communities with devastation equal to Savannah, but with no relief. Our HBO watermaker served our relief effort. We spent an afternoon just pouring out water into the endless jugs, empty pop bottles and kettles. Their wells were not potable, spewing out mud. Next day a little further north we experienced the same. Katina ran out of treats for the little ones.
After a short stop in Charleston we sailed up to Wilmington, North Carolina keeping a close eye on the weather. We certainly did not a repeat. Then we continued on inside Cape Hatteras into Pamlico Sound, a spacious body of water. As we motored north in calm zephyrs I finally relaxed delighting in a lunch underway of my favorite sushi.
We continued into the Chesapeake Bay where we made a number of good friends and found the best crab cakes ever. They froze well also, so we loaded our freezer with them.
Once the threat of the hurricane season was over we headed south toward the Gulf of Mexico. A weather blew across the Florida Keys and we tucked in north of Key West and let it blow out. For a short time that night I applied just enough power to avoid dragging boats. By dawn I was ready for a good snooze, after we shared the last two crab cakes. That evening, with a clear head and no wind we decided to change plans and head for the Bahamas and points south.
CLICK Here to
see a lovely description of meeting Passagemaker by Mary Osterling in 1991
CLICK Here to see a lovely description of meeting Passagemaker by Mary Osterling in 1991
CLICK Here to see full article on Passagemaker in the Spring 1997 issue of Passagemaker Magazine
Spring 1997 Advert in Passagemaker magazine shown below where Don is selling Passagemaker due to health problems.