The Circumnavigators - by Don Holm


- 12 -

Hurricane Leaves a Ribald Wake

         It would be as natural, I thought, as eating
         breadfruit, to drift into the easy logical Life of
         Polynesia, and I said, "Gerry, it would be too
         bad if those girls fell into the hands of the

of the Pascagoula River, just west of the Alabama-Mississippi bound-
ary, on a seven-acre site subdivided over the generations since it was
first homesteaded, lived Sidoine Krebs and his family sort of a
bayou version of Ma and Pa Kettle, except that the Krebses had
been master shipbuilders since the first one cleared the ground and
built the ways on the banks of this tidal slough. Now it stood idle,
in the depths of the Great Depression, a seventy-foot fishing smack
built on speculation still on the stocks, the boiler tubes rusting in the
  It was the autumn of 1934, and for months two young and easy-
going buddies from Des Moines, Iowa, named Ray F. Kauffman and
Gerry Mefferd, had searched the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to
Tampa looking for a dream ship to take them around the world.
Prior to that, they had planned, saved, and prepared for years even
to the point of practicing celestial navigation in nearby cornfields
where they could see the horizon.(2)

    ~ 117 ~

  From a previous trip to the Gulf, Kauffman remembered the
Krebses. In fact, he recalled, who could forget them?
  "Sidoine Krebs was an honest man, building ships today as his
grandfather had done a hundred years ago, but slowly conforming to
the demands of the present-day owners and skippers."(3)
  The dream ship that Kauffman and Mefferd had in mind was
largely the work of Kauffman, who had some technical knowledge.
When they gave the specs to Sidoine, the boat builder filled his jaw
with Beech Nut and allowed as how blueprints sure made pretty
pictures, but he'd left his glasses up at the house and couldn't read
them figgers nohow. Jest tell me how long you wants her, an' how
wide an' deep, and I'll model her out.
  The boys decided to take a chance. After all, Sidoine had thirty-five
fishing boats working on the Campeche Banks, all of them sound and
successful. The price Sidoine gave them for the complete hull,
launched, was $2,000. When Kauffman offered to pay half down,
Krebs said he didn't want to get paid until the work was done all he
needed was a few dollars to replace those boiler tubes. And, no, he
didn't reckon they needed to draw up no contract. There was no
getting Mr. Krebs down on paper, Kauffman observed.
  The two buddies then moved in with the Krebses, paying Ma Krebs
$3.50 for room and board. In a few days, the model was ready, neatly
laminated of red cedar and cypress in alternate layers, 21 inches long
and to the scale of a half inch per foot. It was a thing of beauty, and
the boys fell in love with it right off. Then, while the boiler was being
repaired, Sidoine took them inland into the piney woods where trees
for the masts, keel, and planking were selected, cut down and towed
downriver to the mill.
  The mill ready, they finally got to work in earnest on the project.
Chips, smelling of turpentine, began to fly in the crisp fall air. Smoke
belched from the tall stack as the Negro fireman shoveled in wood
and the pressure came up on the gauge and live steam hissed from
the many leaks. The bandsaw began its whining crescendo and soon
the frames were cut. Meanwhile, large timbers had been dragged to
an open patch and the men went to work with adze and chisel. The
Krebs shipyard had come to life again.
  Into the winter the work progressed, interrupted at times by
chilling blue northers, as Kauffman and Mefferd grew progressively
more impatient. But the Krebs compound was a continual source of
wonderment and merriment. There were Ma and Sidoine; the un-
married offspring, Bertie, Leo, Marietta, and Rosie; eldest son, Roy,

  ~ 118 ~

next door, with his wife and three small children; Hilda, the eldest
daughter, married to a northerner, an ex-Coast Guard sailor named
Stanley, better known as Hacksaw, and their two mischievous small
boys; Sylvester, Sidoine's brother, known as Uncle, who lived back of
the mill; the black dog, Nigger; various chickens, pigs, calves, and
neighbors and hangers-on. The shipyard also boasted a pecan grove, a
stand of satsuma trees, a few yellow pines for shade, and a garden.
  The round-the-world adventures of Ray Kauffman and Gerry
Mefferd actually began the day they moved in. The building of the
boat and the launching was the first adventure.
  When the cold northers blew, Sidoine would stamp in from the
shipyard, his visored cap with the paint company trademark on it, his
mackinaw collar pulled up around his neck, blowing his big red nose
into a big blue handkerchief, and work would stop for a few days
until either the weather moderated or the customers went to town
for some bootleg moonshine.
  At last came the day when the shutter planks were scheduled to be
installed It seemed that the custom in the Krebs shipyard called for a
celebration on this occasion, and canny Sidoine approached the
subject obliquely saying he was having trouble getting good ship
carpenters to work these days without some incentive. Ray and Gerry
got the message. Besides, they were always ready for a party anyway.
On a trip to New Orleans, Ray found a supply of good-quality booze,
and to further enhance the celebration, promised that when the
shutter planks were in they would knock off for a day's fishing on the
Bayou Battre.
  But the cold rains continued and they couldn't work, and cooped
up inside, there was nothing to do but sit around while the women-
folk boiled chicory coffee and baked corn sticks, and everyone got on
everyone else's nerves. So they had the celebration anyway, which was
a strategic mistake.
       That evening, as ambassadors of goodwill we made the
       four corners of Krebsville with disastrous results. Hack-
       saw went into town and never showed up for two days.
       Uncle's wife chased poor Uncle off the front porch with
       a broom. Sidoine fell over the dinner table and stuck his
       nose into the hot grits. He then staggered off to
       bed.. (4)

  After that episode, Ray and Gerry determined never again to speed
the wheels of progress with corn likker.

  ~ 119 ~

  Finally, all was ready for the launching. The customs man came to
measure the boat for documentation and was told that the vessel,
now named Hurricane, was 43 feet long by 13 feet wide. Instead, the
official measurement turned out to be 45 feet long by 14 feet wide.
No wonder, Ray said, he could make nothing fit in the cabin.
 Sidoine, it seemed, had measured everything with a two-foot rule, 
marking each measure with a squirt of tobacco juice. Confronted,
Krebs feigned surprise. But Roy chuckled: "Papa always builds 'em a
little bigga than the model." Then Sidoine owned up to it. It seems
that years before a man had ordered a fishing smack which when it
was launched turned out to be nine inches shorter than the contract
called for. Sidoine had been penalized $100 for those nine inches.
Ever since then, he had been building all his boats "bigga than the
model" to make sure there were no complaints.
  During the construction that winter, Ray and Gerry continued
their planning, and advertised for paying guests to accompany them.
The only place they could find privacy in the Krebs shipyard to
discuss their plans was in Sidoine's two-holer backhouse, which was
equipped with last season's Sears Roebuck catalog. For weeks, the
Krebses shook their heads over the funny habits of these northerners 
who had simultaneous bowel movements. Then there arrived one day
a freelance herpetologist named J. Morrow Allen, who had been
selected from many applicants to join them. Allen, a tall, blond, 
handsome young scientist, had contracts for collecting snakes, frogs,
turtles, and jaguars from various museums, which he would share
with Ray and Gerry. When Allen arrived, however, it broke up the
backhouse conferences, because there were only two holes.
  The construction took six months, and when ready for launching,
the Krebs family, the man who had rebuilt the old Cleveland tractor
engine found in a cotton field, the plumber who installed the tanks,
the sparmaker, the caulker with the long, flowing moustache, friends,
onlookers, neighbors, in-laws, and all the local hands who regularly
attended funerals and lynchings, showed up to watch and to circulate
around the stone jugs of likker cooling at the pump under the live
oak festooned with gray moss. Even Nigger, the dog, was there to lick
the tallow from the ways. An ancient tug showed up, moored its bow
to a tree, and raced its propeller to churn up a hole in the mud of the
bayou to make it deeper. As the tide reached the high point, the
wedges were knocked out and the vessel swayed gently; then it began
to move backward, sailing out on the water and across the bayou to

  ~ 120 ~

come up in the saw grass on the other side, floating high like a
  Baptized with corn likker and anointed with tobacco juice, Hum-
cane became twenty tons of beautiful ketch although when Sidoine
saw the sail plan, he called it a "backwards schooner." He had never
heard of a "sketch."
  The outfitting and supplying was done at the village wharf among
the fishing boats. Then, in the late afternoon as the local people
crowded the dock to watch, Hurricane, with the three young adven-
turers aboard and with Sidoine and his son Roy as guests, moved out
through the pass under power. Outside Horn Island Pass, they
hoisted the sails. The easy swell of the gulf met them. A light breeze
came up and Hurricane heeled sweetly and hurried along toward
Florida. Three days later, they were hit by a black northwesterly, with
rain and gale winds. They hove-to comfortably, with only one man on
  At Cedar Keys, Sidoine and Roy left for home. Ray's relatives
came down to see them off including his father, various nephews, and
friends. His father gave Ray a letter of credit to use in an emergency,
and then they sailed to Key West where they cleared for Cozumel in
Yucatan, via the Dry Tortugas. On the fifth day, they entered their
first foreign port.
  For the two young Iowa lads, it was the culmination of two years
of planning and six months of hard work. And a more compatible
crew could hardly be found. Kauffman and Mefferd never at any time
took themselves seriously, yet never acted irresponsibly. Kauffman
(known as "Coppy"), the financier of the expedition and its leader,
combined a high degree of intelligence with mature judgment, and a
knack for seeking out interesting people and getting along with
everyone. He was a handsome young man with a superb physical
build, but in a rugged way that pleased both men and women. Gerry
Mefferd, young, curly-headed, somewhat slighter in physical build,
was unfailingly bright and happy of mood, had complete confidence
in Ray's judgment, and was always game for anything. He had taught
himself to be a skilled navigator in that Iowa cornfield, and was
writing a book.(5)
  Allen, although young, was an experienced scientist and collector
of tropical specimens, a determined man who was not easily thwarted
by jungle obstacles or petty officialdom. In Cozumel, where they
stopped to do their first collecting in the coastal jungles, they also
  ~ 121 ~

  They made the canal transit without incident, in spite of the
engine which had no clutch or reverse and required continual starting
and stopping. At Balboa, they completed their outfitting, obtained
more charts, and put another coat of copper on the bottom. On the
morning of September 23, they sailed out of Balboa for the Gala-
pagos Islands. Landfall was made on Pinta Island, but they visited
Santa Cruz, Albamarle, Tagus Cove (of Svaap's adventures), Post
Office Bay on Floreana, spent some time pig hunting with the
Witmer family, and then left for the Marquesas, hoping to get to
Tahiti by Christmas.(l0)
  The last day before sailing, Ray posted a handlettered menu on the
galley bulkhead:

       Fresh orange juice, pancakes, fried strips of fish, coffee.

       Fresh vegetable soup stewed with pork, barbecued ham
       with baked potatoes, radishes, cinnamon rolls, and hot

       Fresh lobster cocktail, broiled Galapagos Islands duck,
       hot corn bread, orange marmalade.

  They had learned, Ray said, that a successful voyage depends upon
a satisfied stomach.    
  At Ua Ituka in the Marquesas, they got their first taste of a South
Pacific island and liked it. Ashore, they met Ray Meliza, a retired
navy man from California and, Michel, also an ex-navy man, who had
retired to the islands and married a fat vahine. Mike had been in the
Veracruz action and professed a hatred of Mexicans, which made
him a mortal enemy of Hector. Vulgar, profane, lascivious, Mike,
however, was good company for Ray and Gerry, who liked characters.
Mike deserted his wife and sailed to Tahiti with them, proving
valuable as a navigator and a man who knew the natives well. They
stopped at Takaroa in the Tuamotus, where they were met by
friendly natives and Hooty Park, another beachcomber who was
married to a native. The boys became heroes when Gerry Dr.
Mefferd, that is cured the chief's constipation with an oversized
dose of Sal Hepatica. The latrine was built out over the water, and
every time the chief had a bowel movement, watching native boys
carried the news to the Hurricane where the beginnings of a wild

  ~ 123 ~

party was making up, with the help of Hooty, the chief's son-in- 
 Hooty, when asked to get girls for them, wanted to know if they
wanted Mormons or Catholics. What was the difference? Well, it
was simply a matter of taste. The atoll's natives were divided between
converts left over from missionary days. The Mormon girls would eat
dog meat; the Catholics would not.                    
 At Papeete, Hurricane joined the company of several other yachts,
including Director from Manhasset, L.I., with the irrepressible
Fahnestock brothers and their equally fun-loving crew.(11) Others
were Four Winds from Pittsburgh, Viva from the West Coast, and
later the Yankee arrived with the Johnsons and their crew of
amateurs, followed by Dwight Long in Idle Hour, and Alain Ger-
bault on Alain Gerbault.
 Mike had given the boys good advice about Tahiti: Don't trust the
Chinese storekeeper, buy drinks only at Quinn's Bar, don't criticize
the French, and don't even spit without permission from the gen-
darmes. The Christmas season on Tahiti was a round of merry-
making, during which Ray and Gerry spent the last of their money.
They, as usual, fell in easily with people, regardless of rank or station,
even being invited to lunch by James Norman Hall and his wife.
Then came time to find a place to "winter" while waiting for the
trade winds to start. This meant some remote island or village to
leeward. There were farewell celebrations and all of Papeete came
down to see them off.
 They tried several places, finding them pestholes or populated by
thieving natives, or not good anchorages, until at last they came upon
the village of Vaitape on Bora Bora. Here they were taken in by
Marii and his young wife, Pepe. The flaw in this paradise was the
Chinese storekeeper, to whom everyone on the island was indebted,
which gave him the pick of all the choice young girls. On a voyage to
a nearby island to get bamboo for Marii's house, they were taken by
the flirtations of Marii's two young nieces. When they got back, they
asked Marii to have the girls move in with them. Thence followed
months in which Ray and Gerry went completely native in an idyllic
existence of the kind Melville must have had in Typee.        
  The voyage would have ended right there, had not the fancy cruise
ship Stella Polaris showed up with a load of tourists who were
anxious to see the South Pacific islander in his native haunts. The
villagers, however, put on their best Mother Hubbards before they
paddled out to the ship to trade. The only two "natives" who were

  ~ 124 ~

dressed like natives were Ray Kauffman and Gerry Mefferd. Then
from the deck came a woman's voice: "Have any of you seen Ray
  It was a girl from Des Moines, Iowa, who had been asked by Ray's
parents to look him up in Tahiti!
  The two erstwhile voyagers were invited aboard for dinner.
  Ray, dancing with well-dressed white women, smelling of perfume,
realized how much he had longed for intimate contact with his own
race. Soon after the Stella Polaris departed, they readied Hurricane
for the next leg of their circumnavigation. But their departure was a
tearful and even poignant one, for Marii's family had by now
adopted them as their own. During their idyllic months in the village,
the domestic life had seemed as complete as anything in paradise.
Food was plentiful, no one worked seriously, everyone drifted along
in the warm lazy air. Ray and Gerry had become Polynesians in habit,
color, and taste, permeated with the scent of coconut oil, frangipani,
and fish. They had lost track of time, and their upbringing faded
away in Gauguinian euphoria. Others had done the cooking. The
girls took care of their clothes and their sex life. A food surplus meant
more pigs, and more pigs meant more feasts.
  They had, in those months, come to an understanding of the
Polynesian concept of life, perhaps more so than any of the other
circumnavigators before or after them. But, inevitably, their Anglo-
Saxon roots had proved stronger, when the Stella Polaris had sailed in
one day, and they had once more held in their arms a woman of their
own race and cultural background.
  But farewells were not easy. As departure drew near, the girls
turned sad and lapsed into periods of staring out toward the barrier
reef. "When the moon is full we dance, sing and laugh. You leave,
we will be in darkness and shame. Why do you go?''(l2) There was no
  It was now April and the winds were fresh. Kauffman, plagued by
infections from coral cuts and boils, had to go to Papeete for medical
attention on the trading schooner while Gerry stayed with Hurricane
at Uturoa. Returning to Hurricane, Ray brought with him some
recruits, including Michel, and Bob Burrell, an American living in
Tahiti who wanted to see Singapore. They were reunited with
Director, and for months after they raced the other yacht from island
to island and adventure to adventure. Penrhyn came first, where they
traded for pearls with the natives, went diving and fishing, and made
love. In Samoa, they looked up a buddy of Mike's named Milton J.

      ~ 125 ~ 

Cruze, otherwise known as Johnny, finding him as predicted in a
Pago Pago bar, going home with him to his huge native wife and
large family of happy kids.
 Repairs and alterations were made to Hurricane here with the help
of the navy shops. Also in Samoa, they encountered one of the few
instances of native thievery and perfidy, which left the two Iowa lads
with a rare feeling of disillusionment. Here also they met Sam Elbert,
a friend from Des Moines, who had been in the islands for years and
spoke the dialects. He sailed with them to the Fijis, on the way
stopping at a remote village never before visited by white men. They
were received coldly at first, but Ray and Gerry's unfailing manner
along with Sam's knowledge of the language brought an invitation to
spend the night, followed by exchanges of gifts, feasting, entertain-
ment, dancing, and later a platoon of native girls to rub them caress-
ingly with oil when they retired for the night. On the run out across
the reef the next day, Ray's canoe capsized in the surf and he nearly
lost his life The coral cuts he suffered later brought on infection and
more boils.
 In Fiji, there were parties ashore with Director's crew, explorations,
races to the next group of islands, stops at remote plantations to visit
traders and their wives, as they lived mostly on gin and tonics. During
calms on the high seas, they would rendezvous with Director for
 In the New Hebrides, Ray's boils and carbuncles had become so
bad that he needed hospital attention. Brisbane was 1,200 miles
away, so they parted with Director and headed for Australia. They
had now been in the South Pacific for eleven months. In Australia,
they found many friends, liked the country and the people, and
before they knew it, had put down roots. Here they rebuilt Hurri- 
cane, removing the centerboard and case, tearing out the darkroom to
enlarge the main cabin; they added a thick ironwood outer keel,
changed the sail plan, raised the cockpit sides and replaced the tiller
with a wheel. Here, also, they painted the hull black, which horrified
Hector. It was bad luck, he said. Malo.
 After nearly a half a year in Australia, they departed for Lord Howe
Island. Hector's warning proved accurate from here on, they were
plagued by bad luck and misadventures. At Lord Howe, they were
delayed two months instead of the two weeks they had planned on.
Their former shipmates had already left them and returned to
Tahiti's charms. Leaving Lord Howe to sail through the reef-strewn
western Pacific, they learned that their compass was in error and that

   ~ 126 ~ 

they had sailed one hundred fifty miles off course. In Papua, they
visited ashore with Harry Morley, a seventy-year-old prospector who
had been looking for a gold vein for thirty years. Months later, they
learned he had finally found the vein and had become immensely
wealthy and miserable, now that his quest was over.
  One night, chugging along on a glassy sea with the engine running,
with Ray at the wheel, the yacht suddenly lurched gently, then
stopped and leaned over sickeningly. The others rushed up on deck
in alarm. They were fast on Uluma Reef. In the morning, they
loaded what they could, including the instruments and ship's papers,
into the ten-foot dinghy, and rowed the twelve miles across to Wari
Island, praying that the wind did not come up. Crossing the fringing
reef, they got ashore and enlisted the help of the villagers led by the
chief whose name was William Street, after a place in Sydney where
he had spent some time.
  They went back to the wreck in the morning with the native
launches, removed everything that could be taken off, and stacked it
on the beach at Wari, where Hector was stationed to guard against
pilferage. Then they went to Samarai, a small island and Papua's
second largest port where about fifty Europeans lived. They secured
boats and help from the mission station, went back and patched the
Hurricane's hull before she broke up on the coral, got her off in an
almost super-human effort, and limped back to Samarai. Here, with
continued Yankee luck, they were able to hire carpenters to haul her
out and repair the damage.
  Meanwhile, they visited local plantation managers, and some on
the other islands, and prepared for the next leg. At Port Kennedy in
Torres Strait, they encountered the Johnsons on Yankee again, and
obtained much information on Singapore and the East Indies. The
next day, they slipped out the pass into the Arafura Sea.(l3)
  During the next few months, they adventured and romanced in an
entirely different world, visiting Timor, the Dutch and Portuguese
settlements, where they joined in drinking matches with colonial
planters. In Bali, they found the true romance of the Indies, and
waxed ecstatic about the island life and especially the delicate and
beautiful women. They also fell under the spell of spices, the
Oriental atmosphere, the crowded harbors, and shallow straits filled
with picturesque praus. They reached Singapore and met a yacht they
had accompanied off and on, the Kewarra, with its Australian owners,
and another American yacht, the So Fong.
  In the Indies, Ray and Gerry suffered frequent attacks of malaria
   ~ 127 ~

and dengue fever, and Ray's boils recurred from time to time.
Their food supplies became low, their flour and rice filled with
weevils, and the ship's hull encrusted with barnacles.
  In Singapore, at the Yacht Club, they hired a Chinese cook who
soon ruled the galley with an iron hand, but who turned out fantastic
meals for only $25 a month. They hired native craftsmen, including
Ah Gin, the carpenter, a real artisan but also an opium addict. Soon
Hurricane, born in a Mississippi bayou shipyard, was transformed
into Oriental splendor with teak decks, exquisite carvings, new sails,
skylights, trim, and colorful paint (the hateful black had been
scraped off and replaced.)                     
  Ashore, the adventurers made friends, went exploring, attended
parties on estates, danced at bistros with beautiful Eurasian girls with
sloe eyes, jet black hair, soft creamy skins, and slender bodies
sheathed in satin dresses with split skirts.
  Leaving Singapore finally, they visited an outlying plantation at the
invitation of the owner, a character named V. W. Ryves, who kept a
pet tiger around for kicks. At Penang, they shipped aboard the vice-
consul, John Peabody Palmer, who was on leave and wanted to go to
Ceylon. They sailed to Colombo via the Nicobars, where Palmer left.
In his place, they took on Bill Cross, a merchant seaman who wanted
a ride home. While on Ceylon, Ray and Palmer took the train to the
six thousand elevation station where they shivered in the unusual
  On New Year's Day, they sailed for Africa, after first shanghaiing
Cross from the bar where they had celebrated all night. When they
were seventy miles at sea, Cross woke up to find that they had not
been kidding when they offered him passage home. The next stop
was Zanzibar and more adventures ashore. On the way, they had
encountered some bad storms, and at least one close call with
whales.(l4) But now they felt the pull of home, and the subtle begin-
nings of channel fever. By this time, they were out of the steaming
East, where they had spent so many months enduring the weevils in
the flour and rice, the cockroaches, and the rats that were so bold
that they would come out and eat the calluses off Hector's feet at
night. The bouts with malaria had eased up. And the ship herself was
in better condition than even at the start of the voyage.(15)
  In the Mozambique Channel, they encountered gales, calms, and
contrary winds after leaving Zanzibar. During a Force 6 blow one
night, both main shrouds parted and looped around the mast. They
put into Mozambique, about sixty miles away, where the local Portu-

  ~ 128 ~

guese government offered their shops free for repairs and sent two
riggers to help. Leaving again, they thrashed about for a few days,
then on an excuse to get some eggs, put into Lourenco-Marques.
They stayed five days and returned to the ship with hangovers. A
carnival had been in progress ashore. By the time they reached
Durban, Hector was seriously ill, with a fever of 104. The harbor
was closed due to a rough bar, and so they heaved-to all night outside.
Just after daylight, they followed the pilot boat in. The port doctor
came aboard, and they carried Hector to the hospital with malignant
malaria, dysentery, and hemorrhoids. It would be two weeks before
he would be well.
  Repairs were made to the rigging, and the ship was fumigated
again. As usual, Gerry and Ray were warmly welcomed to the local
yacht club, and many new friends were acquired. When they sailed
from Durban, they had aboard two members of the yacht club. Bill
Cross left here to take a job in Johannesburg. A farewell banquet was
held for them at the Royal Natal Yacht Club, complete with
speeches and endless toasts.
  The tough leg around the bight of South Africa put most of the
crew in the bunk for days at a time. Much of it was beating to
windward in bitterly cold weather. They put into Simon Town
where Ray was forced to accept an invitation to dine aboard a navy
ship, while the others took the trolley to Cape Town. Returning at a
late hour, Ray saw Hurricane anchored in a different place. She had
dragged her anchor, and not being able to start the engine, Gerry had
to take her out and sail back in, tacking back and forth for an hour
trying to pick up the dinghy which had come loose.
  In Cape Town, the two Durban crew members left, and after a
week or more of idleness ashore, they left for St. Helena with a
passenger, George Mason, one of the survivors of the yacht club's
anniversary dinner in Durban. At Jamestown harbor, they fell in with
the officers and crew of an Argentine freighter, and for five days
feasted and celebrated Empire Day, Argentine Independence Day,
and Napoleon's banishment.(16)
  They then sailed for Barbados, one last ocean to cross to complete
the world cruise. The passage was uneventful. They passed Fernando
de Noronha, then the brownish water off the Amazon River, picked
up the South American coastline, and, on June 28, arrived off Bridge-
town, having sailed 3,800 miles in thirty days.
  The next major stop was Mujeres Island, Yucatan, where Hector
tearfully departed, having circumnavigated the world on Hurricane.

  ~ 129 ~

They anchored in the same spot they had three years before on
reaching their first foreign port. The same customs officer in the same
boat and uniform came out to meet them. Out came the rum bottle,
and before long the officer had forgiven them for Hector, who had no
papers or identification of any kind to prove he was Mexican.
  They said good-bye, and then departed in a series of rain squalls.
Shorthanded, they could not take in sails fast, so they fairly flew
homeward. On the last day of July 1938, off Mobile Bay, they made
the final entry in a 1,215-page logbook. The pilot boat and customs
officer came alongside. The pilot handed them a letter of invitation
from the yacht club. They then moved into the harbor, finding their
families waiting for them. Also waiting was Sidoine Krebs.
  "I knowed it was the Hurricane as soon as I saw that backwards
rig," he said.
  Later, they brought the ship into the Pascagoula River and into the
bayou at the Krebs shipyard where Hurricane had been born. There,
under the huge moss-bearded live oak where the launching whiskey
had been kept in cool jugs, she floated motionless as if at peace with
the world she had circled.
  But this child of the cypress swamps and saw grass was not quite
the same. Her decks now had come from the jungles of Siam; her
keel, from the hardwood forests of Queensland; and her sails, from
the hands of Chinese artisans in Singapore.
  Ray wrote:

        I wonder if her crew has changed beyond the deep teak
        tan which would fade in an Iowa winter like the decks of
        a ship in the sun. Would we retain the lessons we had
        learned? For the long night watch under the mystery of
        space had given us a quieter mind, the long hot calms
        had taught us patience, and from the close association in
        confined quarters we' had learned a great tolerance. If we
        should forget, then three and a half years would have
        gone from our lives in utter futility.(17)

  Who knows what the future brings? For the two Iowa cornfield
circumnavigators, just around the corner waited World War II, and
after that nothing would ever be the same again. Hurricane had been
the last of her kind.(18)

  ~ 130 ~

 - end Chapter 12 -

To Chapter 13.


AUTHOR's NOTES Chapter Twelve 1. Hurricane's Wake by Ray F. Kauffman (New York: Macmillan, 1940) . 2. Another famous Iowa sailor was Captain Harry Pidgeon, who twice sailed around the world alone on Islander. 3. Hurricane's Wake. 4. Hurricane's Wake. 5. The Cruising Manual by Gerry Mefferd (New York: Whittlesey House, 1941). 6. Hector, like Robinson's Etera, was paid a small salary, in this case $5 a month which was usually blown in one extended drunk at every port of call. But, unlike Etera, he never had to be bailed out of jail. 7. Nowhere Is Too Far, ed., John Parkinson, Jr. (New York: The Cruising Club of America, 1960). 8. On Robinson's second voyage on Svaup, he had a similar ex- perience up the Sambu River in Darien, where it took weeks to salvage the stranded yacht. 9. They had departed from the States with Hurricane still un- finished in many respects. Work continued on the vessel all around the world. 10. Neither Kauffman nor Mefferd make mention of Svaap, which left New York on June 11, 1933, with William A. Robinson, his wife, Florence, and cousin, Daniel West, on an expedition to Central America and the Galapagos Islands. Only months before Hurricane reached the Galapagos occurred the famous race to save Robinson's life when his appendix burst, which made head- lines all over the world. Also while Hurricane was there, Robinson's Svaap was confiscated and wrecked by some petty officials. 11. Director's crew included Bruce and Sheridan Fahnestock, Dennis Puleston, the English voyager (see Bibliography); Ned Dair, an artist; and a Panamanian Negro prize fighter, Hey Hey, who was cook. The Fahnestocks' equally irrepressible mother also joined them here. 12. Hurricane's Wake. 13. Aboard Yankee on her second circumnavigation were Irving and Electa Johnson (see Bibliography), their two-year-old son, a paid cook, and about twenty paying guests ranging in age from sixteen to twenty-five two of whom were girls. "If I owned her," Ray commented, "I would sign on a crew of ten-bob-a-month Pauans and fish trochu shells out of the Coral Sea, and I'd never go ashore except twice a year in Sydney." 14. In this same area, the Hiscocks on Wanderer III and the Crowes on Lang Syne also reported near-disastrous encounters with whales. 15. As it turned out, they never saw Director again the Fahnestocks sold her in the Philippines but they did meet Bruce and Sheridan in New York two years later and held a reunion. While in the East Indies they also received word of the disappearance of aviatrix Amelia Earhart and her navi- gator, on their Right over Japanese-controlled islands a mystery that has never been solved. 16. They were the first voyagers to report on the character of James- town, where they found a mixture of races that could be traced to Portuguese, English, French, Dutch, Chinese, Indian, Malayan, and African St. Helena for centuries being a waystation for ships before Suez Canal was built. They found it one of the most promiscuous islands on earth, the streets filled with children who did not know who their fathers were, and the town overrun with prostitutes, the most persistent one being an African they called "Midnight Molly," whose pleadings could be warded off only by physical violence. 17. Hurricane's Wake. 18. As a final note to the story of Hurricane, bluewater aficionados will be glad to know that she is still sailing somewhere in the Caribbean. Ray Kauffman told me, in March 1974, that he had sold the ketch after their return from the world cruise just before World War II. From 1945 to 1950, Hurricane was used by the U.S. Navy for a recreation vessel at Quantanamo Bay, Cuba. Wrecked once, she was later salvaged by the navy and sold. Since then she has been owned by at least two different parties, and been restored to her original condition. Kauffman said it was his understanding that the name had been changed, but she was just as sound as the day she was launched at Sidoine Krebs's bayou shipyard and the owners were just as proud of her as were Kauffman and Mefferd. Kauffman, incidentally, is now retired and living in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he keeps a 49-foot Alaskan diesel motor cruiser, and makes periodic trips offshore and to southern waters.

To Chapter 13.

Return to Table of Contents.