What happened to the crew?
Post #03: 2021-06-25
Since publishing Oakum Strands, readers have asked many questions, and by far the most repeated is ‘what happened to the crew?’ Apart from the ship’s owner, Rick Miller, all rest of the crew was young with a lot of life ahead, and as happens, when our trek together was finished, each of us went our own completely different way.
One member continued to have significant influence on my growth. Upcoming ‘Part Two’ of Oakum Strands begins four years after the last scene upon our safe return into the Singapore small craft harbor. It would be Rick Miller, who yet again, lures me to join him on a sailing ship. This time, a new (Chinese junk design) being built in Amsterdam, for a maiden voyage across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. That first Atlantic crossing for me led to helping set-up a charter business in the Bahamas to compete against the popular, and well established, Capt. Michael Burke’s Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. Our niche was to take tourists on specialized weeklong trips, originating in Nassau, to various destinations around the many islands making up the Bahamas.
Following several exciting months discovering new-to-offer reefs, beaches, and diving locations from the junk-rigged Vella, our role as Rick Miller’s handpicked team came to a predictable end when the holding company needed to change out our specialized, and more expensive, ‘delivery crew’, with local Bahamians. Our original crew then disbursed.
Our navigator on the Vella, who was responsible for safely and precisely charting our way across the Atlantic using only a sextant and dead reckoning - no GPS mind you, returned to a vessel he had been intimately attached to for years = the Jylland, (a three-masted, topsail, gaff rigged schooner), that was in drydock at the French island of Martinique in the lesser Antilles. After a quick trip back to the states to visit my parents, I simply could not get out of my mind the calling to join that very ship, and the lifestyle it encompassed, which the navigator often described during late night watches on the Vella while crossing the Atlantic.
So, one afternoon not long after my arrival into the embrace of my loving Mother following those many months on the Vella, I called a phone number the navigator had scratched on the back of a box of matches. Not sure it would be a working number, I discovered it connected me to a very temporary sleeping quarters the crew of the Jylland was using located on the grounds of the drydock in Port-de-France, Martinique. I felt relief when the phone even rang, and then joy when requested to wait a moment while the navigator was fetched. When finally connecting with the navigator and asking if I could come to Martinique to join the efforts reviving the ship to be able to sail into the Pacific; the answer was that with their financial situation at that time, there was no way they could afford taking me on in a paid position. However, if I really wanted to be involved enough to show up there at the dry dock, they would put me to work covering room and board. So, with that assurance in my pocket, I purchased an air ticket to Martinique, and with anxious best wishes, again, from my mother and father, I left for new adventure within a few days.
That subsequent approximate one-year experience in the Caribbean involved being the member of the crew on three different sailing ships. The last included a second, but very harrowing, Atlantic crossing from Denmark to the Windward Islands during the height of hurricane season. Most of that year involved a long refit of the Jylland, at the lovely island of Saint Lucia, in preparation to deliver her to Washington state to be their official “Tall Ship” to participate in the groovy sailing ship venues those western USA coastal cities wanted to be involved with. That effort did not turn out the way we expected, but certainly added to the seafaring stories and adventure that color my life! But not to get ahead of myself, all of this will be in the ‘Part Two’ of Oakum Strands.
Now back to the subject of this post, specifically, about the crew of the Four Winds--most males want to know about my nemesis, Captain Kurt (not his real name), while other readers have expressed interest in what happened to Kurt’s eight-month pregnant wife Bridget.
Following our return to Singapore, Kurt, Bridget, Dave, and Judy went into Singapore city to pick up supplies, enjoy a good restaurant, and have some beers. I insisted staying on board alone to allow them such deserved time off. While performing one of the chores left to me, I was in our Avon Inflatable painting aft at the transom, when suddenly approached by a small power boat with two enormous, muscular, gorilla-looking American thug-type characters.
I learned later that the night before, from New York, Rick (as the seaman’s union VP), had contacted an American flag ‘union’ ship anchored in the Singapore Straight, and arranged with these two loyal seamen members to do him a favor. They were to locate the Four Winds in the small craft inner harbor, and present Kurt an offer he could not refuse! Watching these scary guys directly approach me without hesitation, and in response to their gruff order to identify myself, I quickly blurted my name, and told them that I was presently the only one onboard. They obviously made a mental note recognizing my name as category ‘OK’, but gruffly answered, “we will check that out ourselves”, and proceeded to inspect every possible available space a human could hide!
Unknown to anybody else, Rick Miller had secretly ordered Dave to take over command if Kurt did something irresponsible. Well, the Captain had proved to do several stupid things. Dave never took over absolute control as captain, though, without his authoritative actions against the pirates, our lives would have turned out much differently!
He did however have important information to pass on to Rick. Sometime during that first evening upon our return, Dave was able to access a telephone and called Rick to report what happened during our trip (leaving out entirely in his report our clandestine trip to the Anak, Krakatau volcano). Rick was not pleased at all with other parts, especially when learning how the Four Winds and her crew were so unnecessarily subjected to extreme danger when running aground!
Later that evening, when the crew returned to the ship after their wind-down time in the city, I reported to all the visit from the aggressive strongmen, and their threat to return. Kurt and Bridget listened intently, then raced to pack-up their sea bags and departed the Four Winds in less than 30 minutes - driven off in fear we guessed of broken limbs, never to be seen or heard from again. The outcome of the unborn child remained a mystery. I have looked on the internet using their real names, and one lead has Kurt being arrested for drug smuggling and thrown in jail. But that is from an internet search, and we all know you cannot believe everything you read on the internet.
Judy and Dave did much more crewing on sailing craft all around the world, and eventually bought a place in Massachusetts to turn into a Bed and Breakfast. They ran it (and still do), during the summer, and in the winters, headed to prime sailing locations to crew on boats.
Some years later, my dear friend and role model, Rick Miller, was washed overboard from his personally owned coastal trading sailing ship during a storm off the US Atlantic coast. He was never found. What a loss in my life!
I subsequently kept up closely with Dave and Judy. They contributed greatly to this book by providing some photographs and helping with certain details. We both unfortunately had most of our photographs severely damaged in storms, and in my case, lost forever when one of the later ships (described above), sunk out from under us in the Caribbean Sea. Fact that so many pictures were still able to be rounded up between us after all these years, to spread around in the book, is amazing good fortune. I hope you enjoyed the images and recognize that in the ‘Illustrations’ section at the very end of the book contain important descriptions and enhancements to the stories.