Mustang Sally

Mustang Sally by Thomas Calabrese

Mustang Sally, I guess you better slow your mustang down
You’ve been running all over the town now…

–Song Mustang Sally by Wilson Pickett (link to the song at the end of the article)

Well now Mustang Sally, forget what Wilson is sayin’. You better Speed Your Mustang up or you gonna be in serious trouble girl!

Sally Connors had been working at the Carlsbad Airport for three years and even though she was only fourteen years old, she knew more about flying than pilots much older than herself. She had been taking flight training lessons since she was thirteen and planned on flying solo when she turned sixteen and getting her pilot’s license when she became eligible on her seventeenth birthday. Sally first saw an airplane up close on her fifth birthday at the San Diego Airport and has been consumed by anything aeronautical ever since. She read everything she could find about female pilots which included; Amelia Earhart, Harriet Quimbey, Pancho Barnes, Bessie Coleman, Amy Johnson, Jacqueline Cochran, and Willa Brown among others.

Her job chores at the small North County airport included walking the runway every morning at sunrise to make sure that it was completely clear of debris, running errands for pilots, washing down aircraft, and various janitorial services. Sally would do any task without complaint or hesitation as long as she was able to be around airplanes. If she was lucky, one of the local pilots would take her up for a ride and if Sally was really lucky, the pilot would give her temporary control of the aircraft.

It was May 16, 1980, and the airport was preparing for the Memorial Day air show. The main attraction was going to be James Stewart, actor, pilot, and World War II hero. He was going to fly his vintage P-51 Mustang fighter down from Los Angeles and perform at the show. Sally could hardly contain her excitement as she familiarized herself with the P-51 and James Stewart’s flying history. She even compiled a list of questions to ask the iconic actor and familiarized herself with the development of the legendary airplane. To most people it was just boring details, but not to Sally who found it captivating; The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II and the Korean War, among other conflicts. The Mustang was designed in 1940 by North American Aviation. The Mustang was originally designed to use the Allison V-1710 engine, which, in its earlier variants, had limited high-altitude performance. It was first flown operationally by the RAF as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bomber. The replacement of the Allison with a Rolls-Royce Merlin resulted in the P-51B/C model and transformed the Mustang’s performance at altitudes above 15,000 feet, allowing the aircraft to compete with the Luftwaffe’s fighters. The definitive version, the P-51D, was powered by the Packard V-1650-7, a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 two-stage two-speed supercharged engine and was armed with six .50 caliber M2/AN Browning machine guns.

James Stewart’s wartime P-51 Mustang was modified to civilian use by adding a taller tailfin, wingtip tanks, and a tight second seat that was placed in the space formerly occupied by the military radio and fuselage fuel tank. The real coincidence of the situation was that he named his plane, ‘Mustang Sally’ not after Sally Connors, but after his granddaughter, Sally, the second child of his daughter Kelly.

Memorial Day could not come fast enough for the precocious teenager and in the week prior to the holiday, Sally was at the small airport by the crack of dawn to do her assigned chores before heading off to school. When class was out, she rushed back to the airport, worked for two more hours then biked home before nightfall. Her father, Bill was a former Army Ranger and World War II veteran and encouraged his only child to pursue her dreams, and even though he was concerned for her safety, he knew that trying to restraint her would be a serious error in parenting.

His wife Margaret wanted a more traditional life for her free-spirited daughter, “She is so focused on flying that I’m worried she is missing out on other activities,” Margaret said.

“She gets good grades, is involved in sports, doesn’t do drugs or cause trouble,” Bill said, “Most parents would be thanking their lucky stars for a daughter like ours. Maybe we should support what she is, instead of wishing that she was somebody else.”

“When you put it that way,” Margaret smiled.

It was May 24th when one of Sally’s friends, Shannon approached her as she was leaving school, “What are you doing for Memorial Day weekend…a bunch of us are going to the beach.”

“I’ll be working at the air show,” Sally responded.

“You’re always at the airport!” Shannon snapped back.

“James Stewart is coming in,” Sally responded.

“Who’s that?”

“Seriously, Shannon, you don’t know who James Stewart is?” Sally responded in amazement, “He’s coming with his Mustang.”

‘Big deal, my brother has a Camaro.”

“P-51 Mustang…never mind,” Sally shook her head and walked off.

Sally asked Andy Howard, the airport manager every day if James Stewart was still coming to the air show, “How many times are you going to ask me that question?”

“I just want to be sure,” Sally flashed an impish grin.

“You’ll be the first one I tell if anything changes,” Andy promised.

It was Sunday, twenty-four hours and counting to the Memorial Day show and Sally was up before dawn. Her father was already in the kitchen when she walked down the stairs.

“Do I need to ask where you are going today?” Andy asked.

“You don’t need to, but I’m happy to tell you anyway,” Sally smiled.

“I hope you’re not expecting too much from James Stewart,” Andy cautioned his daughter.

“What do you mean?”

“He’s a famous actor and a lot of people are going to want to talk to him. His time is limited and he’ll be in his plane, then he’ll probably be gone,” Andy explained, “What I’m trying to say is that he might have not had as much time to spend with you as you would like.”

“I considered that possibility already, so I plan to be at the airport when Mr. Stewart arrives and I’m staying there until he leaves. If I see my opportunity then I’ll take it, and if I don’t then I also realize that life is full is of disappointments, this will just be one of them. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try, does it?”

“How old did you say you were?” Andy smiled and was obviously impressed by his daughter’s grasp of the situation.

“Remember one thing, I’ll never be old enough to stop having breakfast with the best dad in the world,” Sally leaned over and kissed her father on the cheek.

It was almost 1400 hours on the Sunday before Memorial Day when one of the airport workers turned to Sally, “Everything is done, why don’t you go home.”

Before Sally could answer, she heard something in the distance and listened more closely,” Hear that?”

“Hear what?” The airport worker responded.

Sally took off in a full sprint for the airport tower and ran up the stairs, found a pair of binoculars, and looked to the west. Suddenly there was a radio transmission, “Carlsbad, this Mustang HO624J requesting permission to land.”

The tower operator was not there, since no incoming aircraft was scheduled for take-off or landing. It only took Sally a second to realize what needed to be done, so she picked up the radio, “Mustang, this is Carlsbad, you are clear for landing, approach from the east, crosswinds six to seven knots, visibility clear.”

“Affirmative,” came the distinctive voice of the pilot.

As Sally rushed out to meet the aircraft, she bumped into Ben Littlefield, the tower operator, and almost knocked him over, “What’s going on?”

“We have a plane landing,” Sally replied as she kept running.

“Nobody told me.”

“It is James Stewart!”

Sally knew the sound of every aircraft that flew regularly into Carlsbad Airport, but nothing sounded like the high-pitched whine that grew ever louder until the afternoon sun reflected off the silver fuselage of the P-51 Mustang that quickly came into view. It was like a sliver of light as it sliced through the skies and then landed so softly that it barely seemed to touch the pavement before it taxied to the hangar area. Sally guided the Mustang to an area that had been reserved especially for it. It dwarfed the Pipers and Cessnas that were parked nearby.

James Stewart opened the cockpit and stepped out, he was an older man, his hair was gray and tousled and had the style of several generations earlier. His flight jacket was faded brown, creased, and worn and the American flag was prominently sewn to the right shoulder. There were also several other squadron emblems on it as well.

As soon as James Stewart’s feet touched the tarmac, Sally said with utmost enthusiasm, “Welcome to Carlsbad, Mr. Stewart, my name is Sally Connors and I’m here to help you in any way that you need.”

“Did you say that your name is Sally?” James Stewart asked, “I like that name,” and gestured to writing on the plane, Mustang Sally, “my granddaughter is named Sally.”

“We weren’t expecting you until tomorrow, sir,” Sally said.

“Call me Jimmy, I was planning on leaving in the morning, but it was supposed to be overcast with light drizzle until early afternoon, so I thought to myself, what would I’d rather do; take a nice ride along the coast in the sun today or fly in the ‘May Gray’ tomorrow.”

“I’m glad you chose today,” Sally smiled.

“I’ve booked a room at the Carlsbad Inn so I’ll need a cab to take me there,” James Stewart said.

All of a sudden, a thought flashed through Sally’s mind, “Why don’t you stay at my home?”

“Thank you, Sally, but I’ve already made my reservation,” James Stewart replied.

My dad was in the 82nd Airborne, the ‘All American Division’ and served in World War II, the same time as you. My mom and dad are big fans of yours, me too of course. Please, Mr. Stewart, we’ve got a great guest room and it’s a lot better than a hotel. My mom is a really good cook and she’ll make you anything you want.”

James Stewart hated to tell the young girl no, “Do your parents allow you to invite strange men to your home?”

“You’re not a strange man, you are James Stewart!” Sally was exuberant.

“Call your parents and see what they say.”

Bill Connors was in his car and on his way to the Carlsbad airport in less than two minutes, once he got his daughter’s phone call.

Bill Connors and James Stewart shared stories about their military service and like most men of the ‘Greatest Generation’ they only spoke in generalities while choosing to ignore the horrors of war that they experienced. Sally was riveted by their conversation and when her father was done speaking; she began asking James Stewart technical questions about the many aircraft that he had flown in his life.

Three hours later, Margaret Connors intervened, “Mr. Stewart has a busy day ahead of him tomorrow, why don’t you let him get some sleep.”

“I’m sorry Mr. Stewart, I didn’t mean to ramble on,” Sally apologized.

“It has been my pleasure to talk to a young person that is so passionate about flying.”

On Memorial Day, the gray clouds were heavy and dark and there was a collective sense of disappointment from the people at the airport that they would not burn off in time for the air show. James Stewart methodically went through his pre-flight check as Sally watched every one of his movements and committed them to memory. He handed Sally a fire extinguisher with specific and simple instructions, “If you see a fire, put it out.”

“Affirmative,” Sally responded, “You can count on me.”

James Stewart climbed into the cockpit and gave the thumbs up. The air around the exhaust manifolds shimmered like a mirror from fuel fumes as the huge prop started to rotate. One manifold, then another barked, several people, backed up, but Sally stood her ground mesmerized by the sound. The Packard-built Merlin engine came to life with a thunderous roar and blue flames knifed from the manifolds with an arrogant impatient snarl. It was as if the heavens were listening, for as soon as the P-51 Mustang began to taxi, the skies began to clear. By the time James Stewart reached the end of the runway, the skies directly above the airport were bright blue and the sun focused its attention on the Mustang. Like a banshee freed from a hellish prison, the plane shot upward, swallowing altitude like a voracious predator.

James Stewart made several passes over the field, the last one in the inverted position and only fifty feet above the ground tearing the air to shreds at 500 mph, the wingtips of the P-51 spilling contrails of condensed air. It glistened, screamed and the buildings shook. The anticipation of waiting for James Stewart to arrive paled in comparison to the reality of these glorious moments. Sally’s emotions were coursing through every fiber of her being and she didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or scream in jubilation.

Over the next three years, James Stewart kept in touch with Sally. His P-51 Mustang was hangered at the Santa Monica airport and whenever he was taking it up, he called to see if Sally wanted to take a ride. Andy would drive his daughter up Interstate Five and wait until they were finished then returned to Carlsbad. At the age of sixteen, the actor allowed Sally to fly solo.

After graduation from high school, Retired Air Force General James Stewart and Congressman Ron Packard recommended Sally Connors for admittance to the Air Force Academy. In her first military deployment with the 76th Tactical Fighter Squadron Sally flew 611 sorties in her A-10 Thunderbolt during the Desert Storm campaign which lasted from August 1990 to February 1991. She was later assigned to an F-16 fighter jet squadron in 1994 and was stationed at Aviano Airbase in Italy. While there, she received the bad news that James Stewart passed away on July 2, 1997. She was given emergency leave to attend the funeral and when she returned to California, she was informed that his P-51 Mustang had been left to her. As the first actor in Hollywood to serve in World War II was being laid to rest, Sally flew 10,000 feet above the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California, and wrote Jimmy across the clear blue sky.

Later in her career, Sally flew with the Air Force Thunderbirds air demonstration squadron and later was accepted into the program to fly the SR-71 Blackbird stealth fighter. This plane can attain speeds over Mach 3 (2300 mph) and reach altitudes of 80,000 feet. There were times when Sally was flying on the outer reaches of the wild blue yonder that she could swear that he saw the face and heard the voice of James Stewart echoing down from the heavens, voicing his approval.

Sally remained on active duty for twenty-five years and reached the rank of Colonel before transferring from active duty to a reserve unit at Edwards Air Force base. She was promoted to Brigadier General, the same rank that her mentor and role model, James Stewart held at the time of his retirement from the Air Force. Sally became a test pilot for several aircraft manufacturers, and as a hobby began entering Red Bull air races. She won enough times to become the number one pilot on the tour. Throughout her entire career, Sally used ‘Mustang’ as her call sign. Most people thought she came up with it because of her name, she just let them go on thinking that was the answer.

It was May 28, 2018, and Sally was asked to perform at the Memorial Day air show at the Carlsbad airport, something she had done on numerous occasions whenever her military commitment did not prevent her attendance. Her P-51 Mustang was already hangered there and she was living in Bressi Ranch, a nearby neighborhood because she loved living close to the airport where everything started for her.

She made a few modifications to the P-51 Mustang for racing, but the most noticeable one was the writing on both sides of the tail fin, Jimmy. When asked about it, Sally responded simply, “Whenever I fly, I know that Jimmy is right there with me.”

Memorial Day weekend was her favorite holiday and it held special significance to General Sally Connors for several reasons; it gave her the privilege to honor the men and women and their dedication, sacrifice, and devotion to duty in service of our country. These patriotic Americans are always willing to go into harm’s way on hostile lands or into dangerous skies and make the ultimate sacrifice if need be so that others can enjoy the precious gifts of liberty and freedom. It was also when she met James Stewart for the first time, but there was also something unexplainable, spiritual, and surreal that happened to her this weekend.

Sally taxied to the end of the runway and saw the vague image of James Stewart in the glass canopy and heard his distinctive voice; “Mustang Sally, you better speed your Mustang up.”

“Roger that,” Sally pushed the throttle lever down and raced to the heavens to play among the angels.

The End–Thomas Calabrese

To see a special six minute feature video of Jimmy Stewart…CLICK HERE.

Mustang Sally, think you better slow your mustang down
You been running all over the town now…
Click to play the song by Wilson Pickett
featuring Mustang cars & pretty Sallys

CLICK HERE to see the story on the source website

Sailing Hawaii Part-2

The Hawaii Adventure Continues

MONDAY, July 5th (Sailing day number 2)

It is morning and I have just spent my first night aboard a sailboat at anchor in the ocean. This is yet another milestone for me. As I awake, I am presented with the delightful smell of Linda’s breakfast. I hurry topside to see what the island looks like at dawn. Wow…what a treat. The air is warm and crystal-clear and the morning light reveals a landscape of green that appears untouched by humanity. The warm turquoise water is in constant rhythmic movement against the shore and produces a delightful relaxing sound. I am extremely happy to be here and I feel the trip is easily living up to my expectations. However, I do have one complaint. I had wanted to lose some weight on this trip, but with Linda’s cooking being what it is… In fact, if all the meals are like this I may even gain a little. Sailors have a term for weight gain at sea. It is known as “float and bloat.”

The Quiet Coast

After breakfast, we raise the anchor and get under way. Today we are sailing in the lee of the island and the waves are not nearly as big as the ones we encountered yesterday. Rob lets me take the helm again. Linda has put bandages on the blisters I got from the last time and this time I am wearing my sailing gloves. Between her and Rob, I feel I am in good hands.

Not long after our departure from the cove, we see two other sailboats. Seeing other boats is not such a common sight when sailing away from populated areas. In fact, it is possible to sail for days without seeing another boat. No doubt, like us, these boats spent the night at anchor along the quiet south coast of Lanai.

We have been sailing for over an hour past an area that appears totally devoid of human life. It seems strange that we do not see any evidence of life on such a big island. Most of the island of Lanai is a pineapple plantation owned by Dole Pineapple. For some reason, demand for pineapple is decreasing so fewer people live on the island now.

I keep a constant watch for any sign of life. I do not see any until we sail past a dock that is used to load pineapples onto cargo ships. It turns out that this

In addition to looking for signs of life on land, I am also looking into the water searching for a glimpse of some marine life. I would especially like to see a Dolphin or a Whale. I would even like to see a (gulp) Shark. Rob assures me that before the trip is over I will see some marine life, and probably a shark. I hope he is right.

Red skin is not “in”

The warm sun and the fresh sea air feel good to me, but it has been a long time since I have had this much exposure to the sun. I am already sun burned from the two days I spent at Waikiki Beach and there is concern among the others about the bright red color of my skin. I assure them everything is okay, but I take their advice and seek refuge in the shade. I really enjoy being at the helm, so only reluctantly do I turn it over to Bill.

After a very relaxing sail, we arrive at a place called Manele Bay. There are several berths available here and that means we will not need to anchor. There is a nice park next to the dock and a fantastic beach nearby.

Soon after our docking duties are completed, Linda leads us to Hulapoi Beach. It has fine textured light colored sand and a forest of coconut palm trees surrounds the area. The waves are gentle but large enough for body surfing. We jump in the water and take advantage of the waves, but much of the time we just sit looking out at the pastel colored ocean from whence we came. I am now beginning to get into the relaxation phase of the trip.

Not many people come to Lanai because it lacks many of the mainstream tourist facilities. In fact, today there are only a handful of people on the beach. I cannot help notice that the people setting next to me are speaking French and I am curious to find out where they are from. I say hello in French and they smile and reply in French. After my introduction, I have kina exhausted my French vocabulary so I start speaking English. I am happy when they too switch to English. I find out that they are from Canada up near the Arctic Circle and that the Hawaiian climate is about as different from theirs as you can get. In fact, they tell me that when they left to come to Hawaii it was 30 degrees BELOW ZERO! It is 82 degrees today so that means a difference of 112 degrees for them. It is hard to imagine how they feel about that, but like me, they are sporting bright red skin—a gift to all of us from the intense Hawaiian sun.

Before we leave the beach, everyone takes a cool freshwater shower. When we get back to the boat, we are delighted to find out that Rob is in the final stages of preparing a wonderful barbecue. I make up for the dinner I did not eat last night!

Now you see it ‑ now you don’t

Tonight because of the predictable movements of the cosmos and a great deal of luck on our part, we will have the chance to view one of the best lunar eclipses for many years to come. After dinner, we climb to the top of a Lava bluff and reserve a front row seat for the lunar eclipse about to appear in the sky.

We watch the eclipse develop to the sound of Rob playing his harmonica softly in the background. This is very special. The eclipse, the stars, and the satellites reflecting off the sea below create a truly dramatic effect. I boldly make the pronouncement that the five of us are sitting at the exact best spot in the whole world to view this eclipse. Everyone laughs at this, but I am not so sure that I am wrong. I had the good sense to bring along the recorder and thus capture the sounds of the evening on tape.

With the eclipse fully developed, we all agree that it has been an exciting show. We also agree that we have been sitting on hard lava much too long and that we should return to the boat. Without the moon to light our way it is now very dark, and in the blackness Mae trips on the lava and falls down. The lava rock is hard and jagged and so we are concerned about her, but to our joy, she bounces back quickly. What could have been a disaster turns out to be just a minor incident.

The light in “my room”

It is very warm inside Super Star tonight so I decide to sleep on shore in a grassy area about 100 feet from the boat. This turns out to be a mistake because when the eclipse is over an extremely bright full moon lights up the sky. I do not sleep well because it is like trying to sleep with a bright light on in my bedroom.

TUESDAY, July 6th (Sailing day number 3)

It is hot at Manele Bay and I am drained of energy. To make up for my lack of sleep last night I nap until noon then manage to drag myself topside in time to see my ship mates returning from their trip to the beach. It is very hot and everyone looks forward to getting back out to sea again where the air is cooler. It is only the third sailing day, but for me, time seems to be moving much too fast.

Lake Who?

Our destination this time is the town of Lahaina on the island of Maui, but because there is very little wind today, getting there under sail could be quite a challenge. Occasionally there is a day with very little wind in the channel between Lanai and Maui, and when this condition exists, the local sailors refer to the channel as “Lake Lahaina.” It turns out that the sails alone do not provide enough speed so we resort to the engine. As we get closer, the features of Maui come into better focus, and it is beautiful. The engine noise is unpleasant compared with the quiet of the sail. Until now, we have only used the engine a little everyday to recharge the batteries, and allow the refrigerator to operate at maximum output for a while. I for one will be glad when we can get back to sailing again.


Everyone is happy to see Maui looming larger and larger beyond the pitching bow of Super Star. I am anxious to set foot on Maui because so many people have told me that it is a magical place among all the islands of Hawaii. Linda and Rob both seem to be especially excited about going there and the rest of us are beginning to feel their excitement. So far, every place I have been to in Hawaii has been great, so Maui must really be something.

Maui is called the “Island of the Valleys,” and as we get closer, I find myself straining to make out the details of the lush green landscape. We can see a tropical rainstorm hanging suspended over the west Maui Mountains drenching them with water, and to our delight, producing a beautiful horizon-to-horizon rainbow. It is little wonder this place is so green. The continuous flow of water from the mountains will no doubt keep things growing for a long time.

Although I have never been here, the island of Maui has always seemed special to me. Arriving by sailboat makes it even more so. In fact, I have looked forward to visiting here for so long that our arrival is like a religious experience for me.


Our level of excitement rises even further as the old Whaling town of Lahaina comes into view. In the old days, the harbor at Lahaina was filled with great wind powered Whaling Ships. Today with my imagination turned up to number 10, I can visualize those great old ships at anchor.

We anchor Super Star about 75 yards off shore then lower our rubber boat (called a Zodiac) into the water. I have developed a real respect for the fact that there is a lot of work associated with sailing, but I am enjoying this experience and I feel it is well worth the effort. After attaching the outboard motor to the Zodiac, we climb in and head for Lahaina Town.

Lahaina is an old Whaling Village with a rich and interesting history. On the way in Rob reminds us that we are coming ashore in much the same way that the men from those Whaling boats did many years ago. Well, almost the same way. They used a human powered “long boat.” We are roaring toward the dock in a rubber boat powered by a gasoline engine. Still, at this point I do feel a somewhat connected with the past.

My thoughts are jerked back to the present when the Zodiac bumps into the dock. There are several rubber boats tied up here and they look like a herd of strange gray sea creatures. Finally, with some effort we find a place to squeeze in and then make a shaky exit to the dock. (Have you ever tried to stand up in a rubber boat?)


Leaving the dock our first stop is the world famous Pioneer Inn. Rob points out that it can be somewhat difficult to get past the Pioneer Inn without stopping for a drink or two. In fact says he, it can be even harder getting past there if you do stop for a drink or two!

It is at the Pioneer Inn that I first notice that although I am no longer on the boat everything is still rocking. (This is before I have a drink.) I cannot believe this. I had to develop “sea legs” for the boat, and now I have to get use to being back on land. I hope the liquid in my glass will solve my problem.

After our brief stop at the Pioneer Inn, we continue on to the Ocean View Restaurant and have dinner. While we are eating, I look out the window and see Super Star gently rising and falling with each passing wave. I find it hard to believe that I finally made it to Maui, and that I arrived on the wonderful boat that now lies at anchor beyond the window. I ask Linda to pinch me because I want to determine if this is only a dream. Ouch – she took me seriously, and it’s clearly not a dream.

During dinner, we discuss how best to spend our time on Maui. We decide to rent a car and drive to the top of Haleakala Crater in the morning. Haleakala (pronounced HA‑LEE‑AK‑A‑LA) is 10,000 feet high.

I volunteer to go for the car while the others set out to see more of Lahaina. Rob is feeling the need to relax a bit so he decides to return to Super Star. Linda goes with him so she can bring the Zodiac back to pick up the three intrepid ocean voyagers after their night on the town. We chance to go into a local bar, and they have a really good house band playing. We cannot believe our luck. It is Fleetwood Mac preparing for their world in front of a live audience.

WEDNESDAY, July 7th (“Sailing” day number 4)

Today we get up early so we can spend the entire day on Maui. I did not sleep well last night because Super Star was really rolling around. At breakfast, Rob tells us that the movement was caused by a “strange” swell pattern. Good grief Charley Brown, this boat has been rocking’ and Rollin’ ever since I arrived. How am I supposed to tell a strange swell pattern from a normal one? With warm gentle breezes and a clear blue-sky, it is another “boring” day in paradise.

After breakfast, we climb back into the Zodiac and return to Lahaina. We will head for the top of Haleakala Crater if I can remember where I left the rent-a-car last night. Soon we we’re driving past sugar cane fields, and I cannot help but notice that some of them are on fire. It turns out that they burn the cane fields to make the harvest easier. The fire clears away the slash and clears the fields of insects and rodents. Fortunately, the smoke is quickly blown away by the famous pacific trade winds.

Maui is beautiful all over. On the way up the mountain, I see several places I would like to live. Since this is a tropical island, flowers grow here in abundance. The humidity and the sunshine make this a perfect place for growing flowers and every house has a beautiful garden.


Haleakala means “House of the Sun.” We begin our trip up the mountain in a soft rain falling from a cloud that appears to be stuck to the mountain. This condition is normal because in Hawaii you often find a cloud hanging over a mountain. It is caused when the warm humid air is forced up the side of the mountain by the wind, and then when it meets the colder air above it condenses and forms a cloud. (Please remember this, because it will be on the test.) Haleakala being 10,000 feet tall is no exception to the aforementioned phenomenon.

We soon pass through the cloud layer and into the cool dry air above. The sun is extremely bright at the top of Haleakala, but the air is cool. This is quite a dramatic change from the warmth below, and we have to keep reminding ourselves that we are still in Hawaii. This has to be one of the most dramatic changes in temperature I have ever experienced. All of us (including the car) feel the effects of going from sea level to 10,000 feet in such a short time. It is a fact that the ride up this mountain is the fastest assent by car to 10,000 feet anywhere in the world. (Remember this because it will also be on the test.)

The view from on top is well worth the trip up. We are standing at the rim of a volcanic crater that looks like it belongs to another world. From this lofty vantage point, we can see the island of Lanai where we were yesterday. We can also see the largest island in the Hawaiian chain. It is the island named, Hawaii. It is known locally as The Big Island. On the island of Hawaii, we see what looks like steam coming from a famous active volcano there. Because Haleakala has been dormant for hundreds of years, there is no steam or any other activity occurring, but while we stare into this strange pit, clouds begin to creep through an opening at the far end. This gives the appearance of activity in the crater ‑ it also makes this place seem even stranger. I am really glad we decided to come here.


Climbing to 10,000 feet (even in a car) makes one hungry, so we decide to descend the mountain and seek out some food. The under powdered rent a car comes down the mountain much easier than it went up and soon we reach the town of Makawao. (MACK-AH-WOW) We are encouraged by Rob to stop at Poly’s Mexican Restaurant for lunch. Poly’s is a vegetarian restaurant, and as such, they do not use meat. Rob does not say anything about this at the time so I think I am eating real meat in my Taco.

After our meatless meal, we continue on to the lush Iao Valley. (Pronounced E‑OW) This valley is probably best known for the tall pointed rock formation called “The Iao Needle.” It is very green in this valley, and as you might imagine, very wet. Because California gets little or no rain in the summer months, most of the natural vegetation turns brown. I just came from there and I am overwhelmed by the deep shades of green that I see here. We take several pictures of this lush garden valley then move on.

It is now mid afternoon and we are all getting tired. On the way back to Lahaina, everyone falls asleep in the car. (Well not everyone, I am driving.) Could it be that they do not want to hear the rest of my detailed explanation on the inner workings of a computer? I wonder how long have I been talking to myself?

Upon our return to Lahaina, everyone wakes up and we set out to explore more of the town. However, we soon end up right back at the Pioneer Inn. “The Pioneer Inn, again,” you say. You must understand it is hard to get past that place without stopping. They serve such good rum drinks there. AARRGG!!! I must admit my memory of the remainder of the evening is a bit fuzzy. I do remember that when return to the boat, we get into an hour of jokes and continuous laughter. Of all the nights aboard Super Star, we will no doubt remember this one.

THURSDAY, July 8th (Sailing day number 5)

We conclude our stay in Lahaina and set sail for the northwest end of Maui. I do not remember if the “strange” swell pattern returned last night because I slept like a rock. It is a beautiful morning and it feels good to be back at sea again. As they have done all along, Rob and Linda work hard to insure that we all have a good time. Linda is a good cook, and has had a way of making our shore excursions a lot of fun. In short, the trip is going well, and except for occasional talk of feeding me to the sharks if I tell just one more joke, all of us are getting along real well.

Leaving Lahaina, we have to use the engine for the same reason we did on the way in ‑- very little wind. This time it is ok because just a short distance up the coast we can see the wind line on the water. Crossing over the line we find the wind blowing steady and the waves are meeting us almost head on. (My kind of sailing) I love the salt spray in my face and the wind in what little hair I have left.

When we arrive at our destination, we discover that we cannot spend the night where Rob had originally planned. The direction from which the wind is blowing makes the anchorage impossible. This is unfortunate because Rob has generally had good luck seeing, indeed even swimming, with Dolphins in that area. We sail to an alternate cove (Honolua Bay) which is not far from the first choice. When we get there, we find another sailboat at anchor. Slowly the movement of the ocean swings it around, and we see by the name and city painted on the stern that it is from Sausalito California. Hey, that is where I live. Well how about that. It is not such a big ocean after all.

Rob tells us again about his good luck in the past finding and swimming with Dolphins in this general area. However, thus far we have not seen any. I really want to see (and possibly swim with) a dolphin, but it looks like it is not in the cards. Everything else is great so I can’t complain. Oops, I spoke too soon. We are at anchor close to a road used by large trucks going back and forth to a construction site and we can hear the rumbling of their engines. If that is not bad enough, every time they come around a “blind” curve in the road, they give a blast of their horn. Tomorrow, maybe we can sail to a place that has never heard of trucks or horns.

FRIDAY, July 9th (Sailing day number 6)

After breakfast, we depart Honolua bay and head for the north shore of Molokai (the last island we will explore before returning to Honolulu.) Immediately we can see that the crossing between Maui and Molokai will be exciting and in sharp contrast to the crossing between Lanai and Maui. We sail in and out of rain showers all the way across the channel and we are in the middle of a moderate rain shower as we round the east end of Molokai. I always seem to be at the helm when it is raining and today is no exception.

From the very beginning of the trip, Rob has been telling us that the visit to the north shore of Molokai would be the highlight of our voyage. I really can’t see how this trip could get any better, but now I am thinking about what Rob said about Molokai. I peer through the rain and the mist and strain to make out the details of the island. We soon sail out of the shower and the dull gray curtain of rain lifts to reveal the most dramatic landscape that I have ever seen. Towering green mountains covered with white waterfalls rise majestically from the restless ocean. I begin experiencing Deja vu and I find myself sailing in a dream that I had as a child. Rob was right when he said this was to be the high light of our voyage.

Anyone who knows me will testify I am not often at a loss for words, but right now, I am finding it difficult to say anything. Indeed, as we drink in the scene that slowly passes before us there is complete silence on Super Star. The silence is finally broken as each of us tries to describe the sights that pass before us. However, words just do not seem to work in this situation.

The mountains that rise from the sea on the north coast of Molokai are said to be the highest coastal mountains in the world. Our attention is captured by the numerous waterfalls that cascade down the face of almost every mountain. At one point, we count as many as eleven waterfalls on the face of a single mountain. With all the rain in this area, the falls will no doubt be active for some time to come. We sail along the north coast of Molokai and because of the winds in the rain squalls, and the following sea, we are moving at a healthy pace for a sailboat. The rain showers continue to come and go as we sail, and at times, they lend a phantom‑like quality to the island.

Finally we arrive at the cove Rob calls Kie Ava Nuie. It is pronounced KAY‑AHVA‑NEW‑E, which means Land of the big Ava. Ava is the Hawaiian word for Kava. It is here in this dramatic setting where we will spend the next two days. Now I understand why Rob was so excited about coming here.

We turn into Kie Ava Nuie and I am mesmerized by the lush green jungle spreading back from the ocean. Rob quickly points out the large rocks that present a constant threat to us and he attempts to focus our attention on making a safe anchorage. I am trying to help him anchor the boat, but my attention is constantly diverted by the beauty of this place. We do not get the approach right the first time. We turn back out to sea and try it again. This time we all give Rob the assistance he asked for and we make a successful approach. We drop both anchors. Rob dives into the water to wedge them securely in the rocks. By hooking our anchors into the rocks, we will have a better chance of not drifting into the big rock formations that comprise the shoreline. If we were to break loose and drift onto these rocks, Super Star would be destroyed!

During the dive to secure the anchor, Rob comes face to face with a large eel. The only thing he can do is to kick his orange swim-fins in the face of the eel and hope for the best. The eel does not think the orange rubber fins look very tasty, and he retreats back into his cave. After Rob climbs back aboard Super Star, we lower the Zodiac into the water and attach the engine to the transom. Rob starts the engine then invites everyone to join him for a tour of the area.

Our first stop is a large sea level cave. It is a lava tube about thirty to forty feet across and fifty feet high created by volcanic activity in the geological past of Hawaii. The coral inside is a pastel color because it has never been exposed to sunlight, and dozens of crabs are set scurrying about as we approach. Also, several birds known as Sooty Turns fly around in an excited fashion reacting to the noisy invasion of their normally quiet domain.

We inhale as much of this experience as our senses will hold, then roar out and continue along the coast. Outside the cave, we encounter large swells and I begin thinking about the fact that I am not a great swimmer. I have complete trust in Rob so I don’t give it much thought.

After a short ride, Rob takes us into another cave. This one is actually a tunnel and inside it is filled with the most beautiful turquoise water I have ever seen. (Eat your heart out Walt Disney.) I quickly begin taking pictures of the water. However, our enthusiasm is dampened when Rob tells us that, in the past, people with very expensive very sophisticated camera equipment have tried and failed to capture on film the beautiful water in this cave. I feel that he must be wrong, but when I get the pictures developed, I find out he was right. My pictures of the water in this cave didn’t even come close to what we saw so I don’t keep them. What a shame. The sight was unbelievable.

After a short stay, we leave the cave and head for a place where there is a beautiful waterfall. I take several pictures of this place and they turn out great. Rob suggests that we swim ashore in the surf and romp around in the waterfall. No way Jose! Riding around in this raft is enough excitement for me. The surf is crashing wildly against the shore, and we wisely decide to pass on the waterfall. On the way back to Super Star I take some pictures of the strange rock formations that have been carved through the centuries by the wind and sea. I did not know it at the time, but when I get home, I find a picture that has captured what looks to me to be the likeness of the famous Hawaiian chief, King Kamehameha. I am extremely pleased and fascinated with that picture.

Rob takes us back to Super Star then goes ashore to speak with John Wilson, (that’s not his real name) one of the few inhabitants of the area. While we watch from the deck, the young Hawaiian boys that live in Kie Ava Nuie put on a diving show for us by climbing up the rocks and plunging into the ocean below. They are having fun and no doubt, like kids the world over, they enjoy showing off. I tell my shipmates that I would not dive from those rocks if you held a gun to my head. However, I must confess that later I find myself thinking that I might like to try it just to see what it was like. (I never do.)

Rob goes over to the rocks and asks the kids if they would like to go aboard Super Star?” Without hesitation, they jump into the Zodiac. They are thrilled to be invited on board and are talking a mile‑a‑minute to each other. I quickly discover that they are not necessarily speaking the same language that I speak. They are speaking “Pidgin English” and Rob says we may not understand all the words. He is right, but I find I have little trouble talking with them. Well, that is when they stop talking long enough for me to say anything.

John Wilson comes aboard with the kids and stays long enough to share a beer with us. He lives in a hut that he built himself, and along with these kids and their parents, are the only inhabitants of the area. Only nine people live here. I try hard to imagine what it would be like to live in this remote place, but I cannot. I love this area, but I do not think living here in such isolation would be my cup of Java Juice.

During the time we are anchored here, a helicopter is bringing supplies to the family that lives above on the bluff. They have been away for a few months, and have just returned to build a better home for themselves. Here we are in a quiet jungle area listening to the sound of a helicopter every hour or so. Oh well, it does beat truck horns.

With the sun getting low on the horizon, we have dinner and view yet another magnificent sunset. After the sun goes down there is not much to do so we turn in for the night. Once again, the sound of the surf against the rocks is a constant reminder that danger is not far away. I trust Rob’s skill and judgment, but my military training taught me to be alert for the sake of everyone concerned. As I did at Lanai, I wake up every couple of hours during the night. I never have trouble falling back to sleep, but every time I wake; I cannot help but stare at the thousands of stars that are beyond the open hatch above me. Since stargazing is a love of mine, I really enjoy the opportunity to look at the beautiful night sky in Hawaii.

SATURDAY, July 10th (Sailing day number 7)

Today we are scheduled to go ashore and explore this strange and fascinating place. I am anxious to get going because Rob has been telling us about the geography and history of the area. There are many interesting things about Hawaii and we find comfort in at least two of them. In Hawaii, there are NO snakes and, there are NO poisonous plants. In fact, until the white man came to Hawaii there were not even plants with barbs or stickers. I am told that the early “Christian” missionaries brought the barbed plants to the island to force the native Hawaiian people to wear shoes. Now that’s really special.

We come ashore on the big rocks and work our way along a stream that flows past John Wilson’s hut. John is up above helping unload the Helicopter. We take a minute anyway to look into his dwelling. It is simple and it looks comfortable. Outside is a stream that provides us with fresh sweet drinking water and later a refreshing shower. We are told that soon the running water will produce electric power to make life in this remote jungle area more comfortable. From my point of view, I feel that this primitive life style is better in some ways than my life in the big city. Then again, I have only been here for two days. We continue up a wet narrow path until we reach the plateau where the family lives. The place is overgrown with foliage and it is clear that no one has tried to stop the advancing jungle for quite some time. These folks have their work cut out for them.

After a pleasant 45-minute visit with the family, we continue up the mountain to a large rock that Rob has named “Energy Rock.” Upon reaching the rock it becomes clear why Rob gave it that particular name. Our journey has been all uphill in a hot humid jungle so we sit on the rock for a while to get our energy back. I guess it does work somewhat, but what I really want is a cold drink.

After our encounter with “Energy Rock”, we move into a dense wooded area where I find another rock. This is a very special rock because carved in this rock is a picture of a man tossing a net over a fish. These rock carvings are called petroglyphs and are historical records of activities that took place here over a thousand years ago. The air temperature today is over 80 degrees but I develop goose bumps when I realize what I have just discovered. I want to take several pictures of this exciting find, but I have only one exposure left in my camera. When I develop the film, I am disappointed with the picture. The flash washed out most of the detail. However, I do end up with a picture that in the future will no doubt draw my consciousness back to this event, and if I am lucky, I will recall the feeling I experienced this day. It is exciting for me just knowing that in a way I shared something with a civilization that had been here a thousand years ago. I can’t help but wonder if they would understand the world I live in or if I could relate to theirs. Too bad the rock cannot literally bring us together.

Except for the wet slippery spots, where I am forced to call upon my skiing skills, the trip down the mountain is much easier than the trip up. When we get back to John’s hut, we take turns standing under a natural shower. It is a most welcome way to wash away the warm humid Hawaiian jungle before returning to Super Star.

SUNDAY, July 11th (Sailing day number 8)

Time is moving much too fast for me now and the thought of leaving Kie Ava Nuie is not a happy one. Rob and I bring the Zodiac aboard and lash it to the deck while the others clean up, pack up and stow everything that needs to be put away. After the Zodiac is secure, we begin raising the anchors that have dutifully held us in place during our stay. Rob starts the engine to help us raise the anchors. More importantly, the engine is needed to keep us from drifting onto the rocks. After what seems like an endless struggle, the anchors are finally up. The anchor drill is punctuated by broken bowsprit but now we are again headed for the open sea.

As we depart, I catch sight of a shark swimming along side the boat and loudly announce my discovery to the others. Rob estimates its length to be about 10 feet. I reach for my camera to record this event, but because I had to change film, it is in my cabin below. Rats, I wanted to have a picture of a shark, but there is no way I can get below and back up in time to take a photograph of this shark. Oh well, at least I did get to see it.

Shortly after leaving Kie Ava Nuie, we pass the famous leper colony of Hawaii. This colony has been there for over a hundred years, and it was for many years, a testament of man’s inhumanity to man. Then one day a Catholic Priest by the name of Father Damien came along and over the years built a beautiful town. He also improved the harsh life of the people inflected with the disease. Leprosy (also known as Hansen’s Disease) has long been eliminated, but the town remains. It will soon become a park, and no doubt introduce thousands of people to the North Shore of Molokai.

Looking back at Kie Ava Nuie, we see a rainsquall engulfing the beautiful cove. Somehow, we managed to depart at just the right time. I am back at the helm and enjoying my lot in life when my eyes begin to play tricks on me. I think I see a Dolphin leap into the air about 100 yards in front of the boat. I consider telling the others, but I decide that it is probably just a reflection from the intense Hawaiian sun on the waves. Besides, everyone knows how much I want to see a Dolphin, and I do not want to be accused of “crying Dolphin.” (If you’ll pardon the expression.)

The wind and the swells, both coming from almost directly aft, are pushing us along at a good clip. I now feel right at home with Super Star’s large wheel in my hands. I let my thoughts run wild as we sail effortlessly along with the rhythm of swells. In my mind, I try to recall scenes from sailing movies where the hero was at the wheel of a magnificent sailing vessel on an exciting voyage. I recall how dashing the hero looks as he slowly scans the horizon with squinting eyes. Well I don’t know if I look dashing, but because of the sun and the wind, I too am squinting as I scan the horizon. Then through my squinting eyes, I see not one, but two Dolphins leap into the air almost directly ahead of Super Star. Rob also sees this beautiful sight so I do not have any hesitation about yelling “Dolphins ahead!” Linda and Mae rush topside and Bill comes out from under the canvass cover we call a dodger. Rob goes forward for a better look then yells back, “let’s follow them.” I feel my pulse rate rise as we begin the chase, and I stand ready to comply with Rob’s every command.

My spirits soar when I become aware that we are closing the distance between them, but suddenly they are no longer going in the direction that we want to go. Rob told me to follow them no matter which way they went, so I turn Super Star to the appropriate heading and we slice across the waves in wild pursuit of “my” Dolphins.

If you know about sailing, then you know that when you change direction in a sailboat you have to adjust the sails to accommodate the angle of the wind. Well wind be damned, we change direction as required and deal with the sails as best we can. It is a wild pitching and rolling ride as we constantly meet the wind and the waves from different angles in our reckless pursuit of those beautiful Dolphins. To their credit, Linda, Mae and Bill do a marvelous job of managing our sails through the demanding situations of the chase.

After what seems like much too short a time, the Dolphins vanish. For a time, everyone keeps their eyes searching the sea in an attempt to relocate the playful pair, but it soon becomes apparent that our new friends have decided to play elsewhere. “They can’t do that to us,” I yell aloud. I am taking this personal, and I feel disappointed that we did not get even closer. No matter we are all happy to have had a brief encounter with a life form that in some ways is very close to humans. My interest in Dolphins has been enhanced by the kinship that Rob seems to have with them. He always refers to Dolphins as, “our Dolphin brothers” I am beginning to relate to the way he feels. We finally catch sight of the Dolphins about 150 yards ahead of us and now I know our encounter is over. They look so small against the backdrop of the endless sea.

I wave a symbolic good‑by to the Dolphins as they disappear beneath the waves. Rob suggests a new heading back to our original course, and after casting one last glimpse in the direction of the Dolphins, I respond with the helm.

The activity level aboard Super Star now seems quite low after the excitement of the Dolphin chase. However, in the food department things are moving along as usual. Somehow, Linda always manages to keep a constant flow of food and drink coming from the galley. I have totally given up on losing any weight.

We reach the west end of Molokai in the late afternoon. It is flat with a very long stretch of beautiful beach and is in sharp contrast to Kie Ava Nuie. Actually, there are several beaches here. There is also the Sheraton Molokai Hotel. It is modern looking, and from my point of view, it has an advantage over many of the other hotels because it is situated in a beautiful remote location.

We drop anchor about 75 yards off the beach and relax for a while. I am now very relaxed. I begin to wonder if I can ever return to the “life in the fast lane” existence I left 10 days ago. Again, we finish the day with a magnificent sunset. I am now taking these sunsets for granted, but I always watch them.

MONDAY July 12th (Sailing day number 9)

After breakfast is over everything is stowed. The anchor is returned to its proper place on board and again we are under way. Today we sail to the island of Oahu, which means that our adventure will be ending soon. This will be the final transit of the trip. I can recall several occasions in my life when I wished that time would stand still. This is definitely one of those occasions.

As we sail, we attempt to recap the events of the trip for each other and the conversation conjures memories of events that took place only a few days ago. Already they seem carved in the distant past. I hope my tape recorder will help me recall the details of the events we experienced.

As we get closer the island of Oahu slowly grows. It is clear that the odyssey is ending, but approaching the island is a beautiful sight. This takes my mind off the short time left on the trip. All the way to Oahu, I look for Dolphins. Unfortunately, I never see any.

We enter Kaneoai Bay and sail past the Marine Corps Air Base where the incredible sound from the departing F-4 Phantom Jets in full afterburner destroys the quiet of our sail in a noisy, but somehow fitting, welcome back to civilization for this aviator turned sailor.

On the way in Rob and Linda discuss the channel markings. I listen to Rob’s discussion and I feel that I could bring Super Star in without any help, but as always, Rob is keeping a watchful eye on our progress.

Our destination is a small sand island (sand bar) where we encounter several local families enjoying a day in the warm Sun. We drop the sails and coast until the sand rises to gently meet the keel of the boat. After we make contact with the sand and come to a complete stop, we back away and anchor in water deep enough to accommodate the draft of Super Star. Linda dives in the water and drags the anchor closer to the island. I dive in too then walk to the island made of sand. The water is very nice and I feel so good after getting wet. Now let me see; do sharks swim in shallow water?

With the approach of night, the locals leave the sand island and again we are alone. We are only about a mile from the island of Oahu, but we have the feeling of being much farther removed. What a great place to live!

TUESDAY July 13th (Sailing day number 10 ‑ The final day)

All things must end and this trip is no exception. Aware of that reality, I vault (ok crawl) out of my bunk. We have our last delightful meal from Linda then take a trip around Kaneoai Bay. Finally, our trip has ended. It starts to rain again and I feel the rain is simply an extension of how I feel inside about this trip ending. It is raining so guess who is at the helm? The rain clouds resting against the mountains provide a magnificent backdrop for the final chapter of my time aboard Super Star.

Throughout the trip, Rob always had an answer to the endless string of questions we ask. Even in the final minutes, he continues to answer our questions and provide us with an interesting tour of the area. We sail and eat, and eat and sail, then as quickly as it began, the trip has ended. It is time to dock Super Star and for us to part company. For the last time I relinquish the helm to Rob so he can bring us into the dock. After all lines are secured, I go below to collect my belongings. I am sad at the prospect of parting company with Rob and Linda and it feels strange to be leaving Super Star after our fabulous voyage. On shore, Bill, Mae and I say good‑bye to Rob and Linda. These two people provided us with 10 fun filled and memorable days, and in the process took very good care of us as well. I wish that our time together was not over, but it is.

As we walk toward the highway I want to turn around and take one last look at Super Star, but I cannot bring myself to do it. I know that from now on, she will just have to live in my memory. (I didn’t realize it then, but I was to be wrong about that.)

The bus ride back to Honolulu is interesting, but it is in sharp contrast to the last ten days. We pass shopping centers, residential areas, and busy streets, showing us yet another side of Hawaii. The most dramatic part of this is the view of Honolulu as we come over the mountain pass known as the Pali. In the past ten days, we have seen these islands in a way that most people, including the inhabitants, will never see them. I know that I shall remember this experience for some time to come!


Unfortunately, there is a sad postscript to my log. Several months after my trip aboard Super Star, she went aground when the owner (not Rob) and some friends were sailing her in the Honolulu area. Rob got the news when a friend called to tell him about the story that was playing on the 10 o’clock news. It was no doubt very painful for him to see Super Star being pounded by each incoming wave and slowly turning into a pile of rubble. It appears that my plans to sail aboard Super Star again will never be realized.

In March of 1983, Rob came to the San Francisco bay area to pickup another sailboat to be used in the charter program in Hawaii. The name of this boat is “Contessa.” Like Super Star, “Contessa” is a fifty-foot boat. However, she is of a different design. Rob invited me to sail with him when he brought her out of the boat repair yard in San Rafael. It was good to sail with him again if only for a few hours.

Linda returned to San Francisco in the fall of 1982. We got together several times and then she departed for a two-year sailing adventure around the Pacific Ocean. I have not had seen Bill or Mae since the trip. However, I enjoyed their company on Super Star, and hope I see them again some day.

As for me, I was deeply affected by my experience aboard Super Star. It created within me the desire to sail and explore the many interesting places that can be reached by boat. Ask anyone who has experienced a sailing vacation and they will no doubt tell you that in today’s jet powered, computerized world, sailing offers an interesting combination of excitement and relaxation. I highly recommend it to all that seek a fun vacation. In fact, not only can a sailboat transport you to another place; it could be a vehicle to take you to another time!


I returned to Hawaii in February of 1984. This time I had the opportunity to sail with two delightful hosts, Vince Kelly, and Junita Oros on a boat called “Mid Night Sun.” In addition to taking me back to some of my favorite places, they showed me some interesting places that I had not visited before.

At the beginning of this cruise, I told my new shipmates the story of my trip aboard Super Star in 1982. This helped prime all of us for what was to come. However, it did not prepare me for what would happen at Lahaina.

Approaching our anchorage to the west of Lahaina, I saw a vision that made me think that I may have been in the sun too long. I am looking at Super Star! This cannot be possible, I am thinking–am I to believe my eyes? After all, I saw pictures of Super Star after her demise. Fortunately, the others with me see her too. Thanks to the fine work of a man named Gary Shipp, (that’s really his name) Super Star lives again. Gary purchased the damaged Super Star and rebuilt her.

Later in the evening, we make contact with Gary. I told him that several months before she went aground I had spent 10 great days sailing aboard her. To the delight of everyone, we are invited on aboard to inspect his restoration job.

Just being aboard Super Star again brings forth a flood of happy memories. I am amazed at the fine restoration job Gary did. To me it seems fitting that a boat Rob once called “the pride of the Hawaiian fleet” is in such good hands. Gary is a very pleasant person and is a wonderful host aboard his boat.

The crowing glory came as we were leaving. In honor of my being a Super Star alumnus, I was given a coffee cup that has Super Star embossed in gold letters on the side.

I feel that Gary would be a good skipper and a good host for the Ocean Voyages charter program so I encourage him to contact them and again make Super Star available. If he does then maybe, just maybe I will have the opportunity to sail aboard her again.

Oh yes one last bit of unfinished business. Remember the “mice” in my drawer back at the first anchorage. Well the sound I was hearing that sounded like mice scurrying around in my “chocolate drawer” was actually made by shrimp eating the sea growth from the hull of the boat. I had never experienced that sound before. When I found out what it really was, I felt a little foolish about trying to capture mice that were not even there. Honest guys, it did sound like mice!


Jim Sayers

Sailing the Islands of HAWAII
Super Star
A GulfStar-50 Sailboat
By Jim Sayers
July 2nd ‑16th, 1982

Sailing Hawaii Part-1

…The Adventure Begins …

When I was a kid growing up in Michigan, I use to read books about the sea and the many exciting places where one could sail. I would often dream of sailing away to an exotic island that held the promised of great adventure. One day, with the prompting of a good friend, Susan Alexander, and a worldwide charter organiza­tion, Ocean Voyages, my dream became a reality. This Log is the story of a novice sailor and the ten fun days of adven­ture he shared with his shipmates as they sailed the warm tropical paradise known as the Hawaiian Islands.

Day 1 ‑ Friday, July 2nd

Its late afternoon and we have just arrived at a beautiful sun filled cove where we will anchor for the night. Above me, the loud voices of the crew signal the excitement of our arrival so I hurry topside to see what could invoke such a reaction. The soft afternoon sunlight reveals a landscape of lush green landscape still untouched by man and a gentle sea breeze softly caresses my skin as it flows into the billowing white sails. Below the boat, the turquoise ocean is like a liquid gemstone in constant rhythmic movement against the shore. We waste little time dropping the anchor then secure the boat for an overnight stay. The drone of the crashing surf on the beach adds to the relaxation of the rocking sail­boat, but everyone finds a sudden burst of energy at the prospect of snorkeling in such a magnificent setting.

The next order of business is to choose someone to remain on the boat to help insure the safety of those in the water. The captain produces the duty roster and the name at the top is mine. Rats, Like it or not, I will have to stand the first watch.

I look on with envy as my shipmates adjust their snorkel equipment then plunge into the clear water. I peer into the water to watch the others head for a coral reef about 100 yards away. Alone on the deck I feel like a jilted groom left standing at the altar. I really wish I were out there with them.

Suddenly, my spirits improve when it occurs to me that I can take a quick dip to cool off then climb back aboard before anyone even knows I was in the water. No one can see me so I take a deep breath and dive. The water has the desired cooling effect upon me as I glide effortlessly toward the bottom of this beautiful aquatic world. The pastel blue and green watercolors fill my senses and add another dimension to this underwater paradise, but before I can climb back aboard to resume my post, I see someone swimming toward me. From this distance, I cannot tell who it is, but it does not matter. It is just my luck to be caught goofing off while I am supposed to be keeping an eye on things. Maybe I will have to walk the plank for leaving my post.

My cavalier attitude quickly changes when the clear water allows me to recognize the unmistakable shape of a shark. I had seen the Hollywood versions of shark encounters and there were times when I had thought about just such a moment as this, but I am truly not pre­pared to deal with the menacing specter of the approaching shark. What do I do now? The thought that I should not be diving alone crosses my mind, but it is a little late for that now.

I may be a city boy, but with that shark heading toward me, I know that I must get out of the water. The situation is rapidly becoming even more desperate as the tightness in my chest signals that I also have an urgent need for air. I think about trying to sig­nal the others, but they are too far away to help me. No time to dwell upon it, I must have air so I head for the surface.

Fear prevents me from taking my eyes off the shark–even for a second. With my total concentration on the shark, I crash headfirst into the bottom of the boat. I become disoriented and there is a loud buzzing in my ears. Is this the way it is going to end for me?

The approaching shark and everything else around me begins to fade rapidly as the buzzing fills my ears. In my lightheaded condition, I realize that my options are few so I decide to do what anyone in my situation would no doubt do–I reach over and turn off the alarm.

Through two squinting eyes, I glance over at the clock and manage to see that it is 5:30 in the morning. The events of my dream have my heart beating rapidly as I drag myself out of bed and stumble to the shower. The dream is still fresh in my mind so I inspect the showerhead for signs of shark activity. In a few hours, I will be in Hawaii sailing among the islands the wonderful tropical paradise–my dreams of adventure will turn real.

The Real Thing

The jumbo jet roars down the runway and leaps into the cold San Francisco fog as we begin the search for the warm breezes of Hawaii. The spirits of everyone on board are already higher than the plane will ever get. Four minutes into the flight, the Farallon Islands appear below us. They are located 26 miles off the San Fran­cisco coast. It is said that the largest collection of Great White Sharks in the world to be around this island. They are attracted by the large heard of sea lions living in on the islands. Sadly, several years ago the Government dumped radioactive waste material in the water close to the shores of these islands and some people claim that the fish in the area actually glow in the dark. I hope the return flight is at night so I can see if this is true. Okay, what I really hope is that the marine life around these islands is not adversely affected. Dumping radioactive waste here was a foolish act of man.


The in‑flight movie is not quite over when I feel our flying theater slow and start its controlled fall from the sky. I raise the shade, and to my delight, I see Honolulu below. Because I am sitting on the right side of the plane, I have an excellent view of Waikiki Beach. From my vantage point, the island of Oahu (OH‑WAH‑WHO) looks like a sparkling green gemstone set in the blue Pacific Ocean. I will soon know that ocean a little better.

I am amazed that the real water looks even better than the water I conjured up in my dream. I stare at the island below and I wonder if somewhere among all the people down there is a person about 4 feet 6 inches tall ringing a bell and yelling “Da Plane-‑Da Plane.” (Sorry, my mind just works that way.) The captain in­ter­rupts my thoughts with the announcement that Honolulu is directly below us. This brings on cheering and applause from the passengers and makes the flight seem more like a sporting event than an airplane ride.

Waikiki Beach

I spend the first two days relaxing at the world famous Waikiki Beach. I do my best to avoid acting like a tourist, but I finally give in to the routine of taking pictures of the sights (mostly of the bikini-clad girls on the beach.) Finally, it is time to fly to the island of Molokai where I will join the 50-foot sailing vessel, Super Star to begin the cruise around the Islands.

Within three minutes of calling a cab, it arrives. The driver is extremely knowledgeable about the island and he keeps up a run­ning commentary as we roll through the heavy Honolulu traffic. I told him I was in a hurry to get to the airport and apparently; he has taken it to heart. From my back seat view, it appears that we are about to set a world speed record from Waikiki Beach to the Honolulu Airport. If we arrive in one piece, there will be a nice tip for this fellow. In the blur outside the window of the speeding cab, I notice that parts of Honolulu look just like any other big city. This is disappointing to me because I only want to see paradise. Sadly, before my encounter with Hawaii is over, I will learn that the early explorers and the missionaries almost destroyed these beautiful islands and the wonderful people who lived in childlike happiness here. Leave it to man to screw up a natural Paradise.

I came to Hawaii to sail, but once again I am in an airplane. This time my destination is the island of Molokai (MO‑­LO‑­KI‑­E) and my rendez­vous with Super Star. As we taxi out for takeoff a voice comes over the public address system. “Our flight time to Molokai is twenty minutes. “Your Captain today is Fred Sorenson. He may look familiar to you if you saw the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Well how about that–he is indeed the same person who flew the plane in the movie. The jungle scenes were filmed on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. (KA-WHY-EE)

The flight from Oahu to Molokai is only 20 minutes so we stay low. When we reach Molokai we are flying very low, and it seems like we are actually following a dirt road. To the delight of everyone on board, Captain Sorenson keeps us enter­tained as he describes the passing scene below. Like school kids on their first field trip, many people have their noses pressed against the windows of the plane. They are in awe of this unique opportunity. No doubt, this is the first time many of them have flown so close to the ground. I am having a great time and it occurs to me that this would be a fantastic way to see all of the Islands. Suddenly we are on the ground and I cannot recall a shorter 20 minutes in my life.


My instructions are to rendezvous with Super Star at the dock in Kaunakakai. (Pronounced KA‑NA‑KA‑KI) It should be easy because ground transportation to the dock was pre-arranged by Ocean Voyages before I left California. However, once I get into the terminal it does take me a while to figure out my next move. I wander around for a bit not sure whom I am to contact, but while I am wandering, a very large Hawaiian man approaches me and asks, “Are you Jim Sears?” “Jim Sayers,” I quickly correct. “Mr. Sayers, I have been hired to take you to the harbor. Your boat is Super Star, no?” I pause for a moment; surprised to hear my name spoken by someone I have never met before in a place that I have never been before. “Why yes, yes it is,” I reply. I am impressed that he knows about the boat and he knows me. I am also quite impressed at how Ocean Voyages has made the connections so easy for me. The large man picks up my heavy bag as if it was empty and instructs me to follow him to the van parked outside. Now my only concern is, how will I locate Super Star among all the yachts in the harbor?

Inside the van, I quickly realize that I am riding with the same people that were aboard my flight. Everyone except for me is going to the Sheraton Hotel. (The largest hotel on Molokai) Without prompting, the driver provides a mini tour of the sights we are passing. However, at one point, we have four cars in front of our van and the driver is beside him­self because of the “traffic jam”. Is this guy for real? Everyone in the van is in hysterics because of his reaction to only four cars. I ask him if he has ever been to the mainland and he tells me that he has not. Then with an almost strange sense of pride, he also tells us that he has never even been to any of the other Hawaiian Islands. It is hard for those of us who just traveled thousands of miles to be in Hawaii to under­stand why this man (in his late 30’s) has never even ventured the short distance to Honolulu. As my odyssey unfolds, I will encounter several Hawaiian people who have never been off the island of their birth. I guess when you live in paradise there’s just no need to go elsewhere.

As we drive past the lush green fields, I tell our driver and the others that I am from California. I explain that my reason for coming to the island of Molokai is to join up with a boat called Super Star to cruise around the Hawaiian Islands. The driver seems more interested in where I am from than where I am going. He asks me what it is like to live in California. In an obvious joking manner, I suggest to him that for a real thrill he should visit Los Angeles and find out. This comment starts the others laughing again. I enjoy getting them to laugh, but I cannot believe I just told this poor man to do that. Why would I tell anyone to visit Los Angeles let alone someone who is doing me a favor and cannot even deal with four cars? What would he ever do in Los Angeles?

The town of Kaunakakai looks much like a typical small American town. However, the dock is a different story. Except for two boats, it is completely deserted and to me, it feels like one of the most remote places on the planet. I laugh aloud when I recall my earlier concern about finding Super Star among the “hundreds of yachts.” At this point, I come to the stark realization that I understand little of what I am actually about to face and I feel very much alone.

Super Star

In person, Super Star is even more impressive than the pic­tures I had seen of her. I stand there in a trance like state for a moment. While I am looking at the boat and the ocean, the “limo” driver grabs my attention with, “that will be ten dollars for the ride.” After a quick check of my wallet, I inform him that, in cash, all I have is nine dollars, but I do have a folder full of $50.00 traveler’s checks if he has change. With a slightly pained look on his face he replies, “Okay, the fare will be nine dollars.” How comforting it is to discover that I have arrived in Paradise on bargain day. This is paradise–right?

With a snappy “aloha” and a famous Hawaiian smile, the driver jumps back into the van and zooms away. During the drive, I told the people in the van about the cruise. I am not surprised at the look of envy I see in the eyes of the others as they stare back at the sailboat and me. A man in his early sixties gives me a “thumbs up” and a big smile. I can tell that he wishes he were going with me. His wife smiles too, but no doubt she is happy to be going to a hotel on dry land that has big beds and tourist shops.

I stand there staring at Super Star while a brisk gust of wind swirls around me. Looking out at the ocean I see it boiling with big waves and white caps. A fifty­-foot boat is by far the largest sailboat that I have ever sailed, but it seems so tiny against the backdrop of the ocean. Am I really going to get on this boat and go out on that ocean? I came here seeking an adventure, and judging from what I see; it looks like I will get exactly what I came for.

I approach the boat but I do not see anyone. I wonder if there is a proper procedure for going aboard. To my delight a suntanned figure emerges from below deck and I quickly decide on a simple “Hi, my name is Jim.” “Oh yes, Jim Sayers, my name is Rob Barrell,” he replies. It is certainly uncanny how the people I meet on this island seem to know me. “Pass me your bag and climb aboard,” he says. “I’ll show you your home for the next ten days.” Ten days ‑ now I am convinced I am off the deep end. (Pun totally intended.)

Below deck, I meet Bill O’Donnell. Like me, Bill is taking his first cruise aboard a sailboat and he will be sharing the aft cabin with me for the duration of the cruise. My immediate feeling is that in the close quarters of the boat I will get along well with Bill. As it turns out, he is a very pleasant shipmate with a good sense of humor. Poor guy, he will need that sense of humor to put up with my endless string of jokes for the next 10 days.

I inspect my new home then go topside when I hear a car pull alongside the boat. A woman in her forties hands her sea bag to Rob then climbs aboard. She is sporting a pleasant smile, and introduces herself as Mae Silver. She is from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and it is immediately obvious that she too will be an outstanding shipmate.

Last, but not least, I meet Linda Lopez, our cook and first mate. She is a “vision of loveliness.” She is wearing baggy pants and her hair is wet because she has just come from taking a shower. When Bill remarks about how happy she looks, she tells us that in a few days we will all come to understand the simple joy of a fresh water shower on a humid tropical island.

Rob finishes helping us get the rest of our gear aboard then announces that this is the group for the voyage and we are ready to depart. Only five of us–five people on a fifty-foot boat. This is indeed going to be paradise. Well, on the other hand, my shipmates have not heard my first joke yet.

The Shopping Trip

Rob reminds us that we will be traveling for 10 days. Everyone seems to feel that is a long time to be away from the corner store so we all decide to walk about a mile into the town of Kaunakakai to do some last minute shopping. While we are walking toward town, a car pulls up alongside us. The driver asks us if we would like a lift. Mae tells us she knows the gentleman driving. He is introduced to us as David–Father David, a Catholic Priest on temporary assignment to the island of Molokai to fill in for the regular Priest who is on vacation. Hmmm… He looks too young to be a Priest.

In Kaunakakai, we start playing tourist. We walk from one end of the town to the other. That is a short three-minute journey. Along the way, we stop in front of the Catholic Church and Father David indulges us by letting us take pictures with him at his place of employment. At this point, I am still not convinced he is a Priest, but he is for sure a fun guy. After the big photo session, we walk into a store and shop for the “few” last minute things we think are important.

Shopping Frenzy

Once inside the store, all of us (except Father David) are caught-up in a wild shopping frenzy. It is as if we have come under some strange spell. When I get to the check-out counter, I have a pair of Hawaiian sandals that Linda assures me I will need, five candy bars, three bags of M&M’s and a half a dozen packages of gum. I also have an ice cream bar that has begun melting down my arm. I look at the others and their story is just about the same. I cannot believe what is going on here. All I wanted to do was to buy some gum. Can it be that each of us secretly feels that we may not be coming back to civilization again? We are all standing there laden down with our “few” last minute items, and everyone begins laughing like crazy at this.

With our new purchases in hand, we head to the car, but we don’t quite make it. We discover one more store to ransack. However, this time we are much more controlled. I buy a can of pop and a visor for my sunglasses that has “Hawaii 82” stamped on it. Another visor has the saying “Born Again Virgin” printed on it. I hold this up to show Father David, and in a totally serious tone he loudly exclaims, “that’s not possible!” Maybe this guy is a Priest after all.

When we get back to Super Star, we invite Father David on board our floating home to check it out. Before coming aboard we take off our walking shoes so we will not scuff the deck of Super Star. It is in that moment that I become convinced Father David is a Priest. It is hard to imagine any­one except a Priest (or maybe a CIA Agent) wearing shoes like that in Hawaii.

Father David and I may not wear the same kind of shoes, but like me, he is quite impressed with Super Star. I ask him if he would bless our voyage, and (while making the sign of the cross) he immediately provides a truly appropriate blessing. Then after a short pause he holds out his hand and jokes, “that will be twenty dollars.” Everyone, including Father David is laughing at this. Yes Virginia, Father David really is a Priest. He is also a very nice person. We thank him for his help and his blessing then bid him farewell.

The Briefing

Before casting off for 10 days, Rob gives us a complete safety briefing. We also examine the navigational charts to get an idea of where we will be going. We find out that we will begin our journey by crossing the Kalohi (KA‑LO‑HE) channel to the island of Lanai. It does not take us long to find out why Kalohi is the Hawaiian word for rascal.

The briefing is completed and our departure for the island of Lanai is at hand. However, before we can depart we have a slight problem to overcome. Super Star is held hard against the dock by a driving wind and waves, and that means it will be hard to move off the dock. If we are to get underway, we must pull ourselves away from the dock using the anchor. In anticipation of this, Rob has set the anchor about 25 yards off the windward side of the boat. I am the biggest person on board so Rob chooses me to do the crank­ing. (Big people are usually always chosen to do this kind of thing.) On Rob’s command, I start cranking and the boat begins to move slowly toward the anchor. Linda, Mae and Bill cast off lines and push against the dock while Rob uses the engine to guide us away from the dock. With a final burst of energy, I get the anchor up and we glide free of the dock. I am exhausted from cranking and I realize that I am not in very good physical condition. When does the “relaxing” cruise actually get relaxing?

I am really anxious to experience my first sailing adventure on the ocean, but I have some concerns about taking on this aggressive channel. Rob gave us an excellent briefing and handled the boat very well leaving the dock, and I feel confident that he knows what he is doing and I relax behind that. The un­certainty about my first encounter with the sea begins to melt away.

We motor around to the calmer lee side of the dock to finish stow­ing the loose gear. We close all the hatches and I quickly discover that once they are closed it gets very hot below. Like people fleeing a house a fire, we all retreat topside to seek the comfort of the cool ocean breeze. I don’t really under­stand why we even bother closing the hatches. This is a big boat and the hatches are high above the water. My lack of inexperience with ocean sailing is clearly showing. My previous sailing was all on San Francisco bay, so I was not yet aware why one would want the hatches closed. I would soon find out why.

Finally, everything is ship shape (if you will pardon the expression) and we are ready to go. Rob engages the engine and we begin to move slowly toward the open sea. Our first task is to hoist the sails. As soon as they are set, they fill with wind and we make the transition from motorboat to sailboat.

Over the sound of the wind and the engine Rob yells; “Does anyone want to drive the boat?” Since much of my motivation to take this trip came from my desire to enhance my sailing skills so I yell out, “I do” and I move quickly to get be­hind the wheel. Immediately, I notice how good it feels in my hands. I am pleasantly surprised at the respon­siveness of Super Star.

With the sails up Super Star leans to the side—a normal condition with a sailboat. It’s called “heeling over.” Now I really do not mind “heeling over,” but about the same time we begin to heal, we are being hit with waves that must be 20 feet tall. Oh boy this is fun–I think! Holding the wheel is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I do have something to hold on to, but what am I supposed to do with it? I glance over at Rob; my eyes asking for some guidance, but all I get from him is a reassuring smile as he slowly sips some Guava Juice. I smile back, but behind the smile, I feel unsure about my current situa­tion. It is clear that Rob is on top of things so I relax a bit. In five years, I will become a Captain, but for now, I am in dire need of guidance.

The waves hit us broadside and it seems to me that each one is a little bigger than the one before. Most of them are only about six to eight feet with an occasional 12 footer thrown in for good measure, but to me they all look 20 feet tall. I know that this is Bill’s first cruise too and I watch him for a minute to see how he is doing. To my surprise, he is smiling. Mae is smiling too. I start smiling again and I even manage to hold my smile as I watch another wave approach Super Star. I sure hope this boat lives up to her name.

Window to the Sea

For two hours, I fight the sea and much of time the starboard side (for you land lubbers, that is the right side) of the boat is in the water. It is a good thing we closed the windows and the hatches before we left because half the time they are under water. OK, that’s it; I want to look at the sales brochure again. I do not recall it saying anything about sailing with the windows under water! My hands are getting blisters and I feel a little foolish about that because, just below deck in my cabin I have a brand new pair of sailing gloves. I bought them to prevent getting blisters. I keep thinking that I should go down below and get them, but with the hatches closed, it is hot down there. Besides, there is no way I am going to let go of this wheel.


Linda finishes serving the first of many snacks then she offers to take the helm. A while back I thought there was no way I was going to let go of the wheel, but now I’m thankful for Linda’s offer because I am really tired from fighting the waves. If I had more experience in these conditions, I would not be getting so beat up by the sea.

After having a snack, I find that sitting is just too passive for me. The challenge of steer­ing Super Star is wonderful so I decide to go back to the helm. soon we are approaching to the shore of Lanai and I begin to feel a bit uncomfortable about maybe get­ting too close. I ask Rob for some guidance in choosing a course, and after looking around, he tells me that I am steering the correct course. This makes me feel good and I actually relax a bit. Clearly, Rob must be a great skipper if he thinks I am doing such a good job.

We round the West Coast of the Island of Lanai and that means that I have just made my first open ocean crossing. Okay, it’s not like sailing around the world, but it is a milestone for me. I feel good about the accomplishment, but I am really exhausted from fight­ing the ocean for such a long time. I am happy to hand the helm to Rob so he can guide us into a safe anchorage.

In the Lee of Lanai

We are safely at anchor in a beautiful cove, and now it is time to think about food. I am exhausted from my time at the wheel so I decide to take a pass on dinner. Instead, I stay on deck and drink in my sur­round­ings. Right now, that is more refreshing to me than eating. I am tired, but I am also floating on air. The beauty of the island and the power of the sea have me completely in awe. The trip is already more enjoyable than I had ever imagined it would be.

After dinner, I invite everyone to come up on deck so I can make the first of several tape recordings. The recordings will help me remember the events of the trip and give me the opportunity to learn more about my new shipmates. I am so pleased that everyone seems to be such a good sport about having a microphone thrust into his or her face. After I review the results of our first recording session, I am glad that I decided to bring the recorder.

I learn from Bill that this is his first experience on a sail­boat, and he tells me that he had some concerns about “going to sea.” I have more sailing experience than Bill so I am impressed at how quickly he has adapted to living aboard this tiny boat. On the other hand, Mae has been on several ocean voyages before and it shows. I can see that she is no stranger to a sailboat, and although I never tell her, I am envious of her sailing exploits.

After the recording session, we listen to the results and have a good laugh about it. I am extremely delighted to find out that Rob knows so much about the history and geography of the islands and that he is so articulate. Through the recordings, I will be able to relive this experience repeatedly.

The Night and the Sea

In Hawaii, everything is beautiful, but the Sunsets are magnificent. Our final act of the day is to watch the sunset then we go below and prepare for bed. As soon as I lay down, I discover that my bed is moving! How does one sleep when ones bed is moving? I am very tired, but the moving bed is such a strange ex­perience that I wake up several times during the night. Every time I wake up, I poke my head out of the hatch above my bunk and look around. Now that may seem a bit odd, but we are at anchor only about 30 yards from some large jagged rocks and I can hear the wind howling through the shrouds. I can also hear the thunder of the surf crashing against the rocks. I am somewhat concerned about what I perceive to be a potential danger here. One time when I stick my head out the hatch, I see Rob looking around and surveying the situation from another hatch. He seems to be satisfied with everything so I return to my pitching bunk and rest easier. Although I have not been with Rob long, I can tell that he is an excellent skipper.

My Kingdom for A Mouse Trap

It is pitch black in my cabin and there is something-strange going on. It sounds like mice are scampering around in the same drawer where I have stashed my candy bars. Several times I jump up and quickly pull open the drawer thinking that I will surprise them. Unfortunately, I am the one who is surprised. How do they manage to get away so fast? Finally, I am just too tired to care anymore. If those mice want to eat my candy, I hope they all get cavities.

In the morning, Rob tells me that there are no mice anywhere on the boat. Well now, if there are no mice, then what was last night’s drawer pulling drill all about? For now, I will not tell you what I was hearing. If you do not already know, keep reading–I will tell you in part-II what I was hearing.

*** END PART–1***
Sailing the Islands of Hawaii by Jim Sayers
July 2nd‑16th, 1982


 …Click Here for Part-2

Whale Bay


Exploring Costa Rica – Bahía Ballena – Part I

This weekend I am going to Bahía Ballena (Whale Bay) to spend a couple of days at a resort on the Pacific Ocean. My goal is to make a video and take still photos for the owners.  I understand that it is about three and a half hours in a bus from San Jose to Playa Ballena (Whale Beach.) As always, if there is something worth seeing, and if I get some decent video, I will post it on the web.

Playa Ballena is part of Bahía Ballena–a stunning stretch of coastline located on the Pacific coast in what the Costa Ricans call the southern zone.  In addition to a great view of the magnificent blue Pacific Ocean, it offers one a great view of the lush green coastal mountains that spread down to the Pacific coastline.  Like so much of Costa Rica, this area is incredibly beautiful.

There is no surprise that “Whale Bay” gets its name from the numerous whales that migrate into the area each year to give birth in the warm tropical waters. The whales that come here make whale watching a very popular tourist attraction. These whale watching tours are among the most popular activities in the area. Sadly, now is NOT the migration season.  However, what is unique about this area is that when the whales do come, they come from both the northern and the southern hemispheres. It is easy for me to get to Playa Ballena so I will make it a point to return when the whales are here. We’ll have a party! It will be a Whale of a time. (Okay, no more bad puns.)

In addition to whales and dolphins, many species of land mammals also inhabit the area.  If I am lucky, I will encounter one or two while I have my camera in my hand.  If I do have a bit of luck, I will share it with you.

Stay tuned for Part II.


To see my route of travel, follow the thin red line to the push pin in the lower right of the picture.  That is about 130 miles, and it takes about three hours by bus.  The buses are usually very comfortable so that’s not too bad.Ballena-1

Here’s a closer view of the area.  It is easy to see the bay and the beaches. Ballena-2

Below is a more traditional map of the area.  You can see how the road follows the ocean, and off to the east (to the right on the map) is the coastal  mountain range.Ballena-4

Click Here to go directly to the stories archive

Mr. Gilligan

In my first week at Flamingo Beach, I probably met fifty characters, but for me, Mr. Gilligan stands out the most. He is not tall, but certainly an impressive sight. He has what I would call a compact body, and both men and women are impressed with his muscular form. I understand that he has never owned a car, so he usually walks everywhere. His body is proof that he is into exercise and physical fitness. He likes to walk, but never refuses a ride if it is offered. On many occasions, I have seen him jogging effortlessly on the beach, and it did not take me long to come to respect him. I decided that I would even try to emulate certain aspects of his lifestyle.

Gilligan can be seen almost anywhere at any time in and around the beach area. He loves to swim and I think that it is fair to say that he is an accomplished body surfer. He is for sure far better than I am. He has never held a steady job and mostly gets by on the kindness of others. He is a lady’s man–the proof of that is evident everywhere in the community. On more than one occasion I have been introduced to one of his offspring with; “This is one of Gilligan’s kids.” What is surprising to me is that most people point to that fact with pride. I think that if I had been the one with such a reputation it would have been hard for me to hold my head high when I walked through town–not so for Mr. Gilligan. He has a certain look of pride in his eyes when someone confronts him about his questionable exploits. You have to admire him. Maybe I’ve just missed something in my own life.

Gilligan is truly a party animal. He always knows exactly where to go, and it seems as if he has a preset schedule of events planned for each day. It is usually breakfast at Marie’s Restaurant, and then off to the beach to check out the new crop of tourists. If the pickin’s are good he will hang around there usually trying to impress the ladies with his great body surfing ability. If he is lucky, he will curry the favor of some “friendly” lady. The rest I’ll leave to your imagination.

Often after the beach scene played itself out he would return to Marie’s for some lunch, or go over to the house of his good friend Jenny Crissman. She is always kind to him and is seldom judgmental about his activities. He knows how to keep the welcome mat out at several places. Jenny is the cook at Tio’s bar and restaurant, and when she is heading off to work he will usually go with her. If it is a good beach day he will go back to the beach for a while then walk to Tio’s later. In any case, he never seems to miss a day at Tio’s.

If Tio’s is happening he will try to get someone to play softball with him. Of course, there is always the “big” softball game every Sunday, but during the week he will usually settle for a game of “catch” or maybe just shag a few balls for one of the players during batting practice. It is almost impossible to get a ground ball past him.

Evenings usually find Gilligan at Tio’s, but when the weekend rolls around he often likes to go to Amberes to check out the live music, and of course, the ladies. He is always as welcome there as anywhere in this beach community. On a good night, he will hang around and close the place. That usually happens around three or four o’clock in the morning. Sometimes he’ll have a snack, but often he is just plain exhausted from the events of the day, and he will lay down anywhere he can find a spot. He isn’t that particular about where he sleeps.

I like Gillian, and on more than one occasion I have told him so. I do have a strong sense that he feels the same way about me. However, he has never actually told me, or anyone else for that matter. Should he ever actually tell me that he likes me then I’ll probably leave Flamingo Beach as fast as I can. You see Mr. Gilligan is a Labrador Retriever, and I’m not yet ready for a talking dog, not even Mr. Gilligan. 

Jim Sayers
August 1993

In December of 1993,  Mr. Gilligan was chosen as “Story of the Year” by the Tico Times of San Jose, Costa Rica

An Angel’s Hand

The morning sun filters down through the trees to create a neatly woven patchwork of light and shadows on the forest floor. The rushing sound of a nearby brook invades my consciousness as I try to rub the sleep from my eyes. Today I will break camp and return to “civilization.” Before I crawl out of my sleeping bag, I stretch and do my best to sound like a bear. Last night I heard the bears thrashing about making similar groaning sounds, so it does seem appropriate for me to do so as well while I am in their “house.”

When I backpack I usually pack in more than enough food for the number of days I expect to be out on the trail, but on this trip, I was too conservative. I discover that the only food that I have left is a single can of noodle soup. I had some leftovers yesterday, but last night I did not hang my bag of food in the trees. so the bears were the beneficiaries of my laziness. As I walk over to the brook to wash my face, I wonder why I didn’t do the right thing last night.

The brook looks pure and inviting, but the onslaught of humanity in Yosemite Park has affected the water quality. I know that I must purify any water I care to drink. I fill my canteen with the crystal liquid then drop in one of the purification tablets. The directions are specific; shake vigorously for 5 minutes then let stand for 15 minutes before drinking. I follow the directions to the letter then when the time has expired, I drink deeply of the chemically altered water. It seems a shame that I had to ruin the taste of nature’s finest water with an iodine purification tablet.

After I pack up the tent, I light my propane camp stove and heat the last of my food. It is delicious and the extra salt found in most canned soups gives me a burst of energy. Eating my remaining food now seems like a great idea because that means that my backpack will be lighter by one can of soup. However, later in the day, I wish that I had waited longer to consume my remaining stores. If I am ever again faced with similar circumstances I will choose to wait before I consume the last of my food.

The heat of the day is now in full swing as I labor up the hill with my backpack. Another lesson that I learned on this excursion into the wild is that when one goes camping in a mountainous area then one should choose a path to start that goes up so that when one comes back out then one is going downhill—not up! Until this trip, that is the rule that I always followed.

I know that I have to make my water last so I take small sips as I make my way up the seemingly endless path. I also chew gum and that not only helps me feel a little less thirsty, and it neutralizes the aftertaste of the iodine-treated water from my canteen. Unfortunately, it also makes me feel hungrier. Hmmm… why had I been so generous last night with the bears? Bears have to eat too I suppose, but I wish that I had just one more can of soup stashed away in my pack.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity to me, a large meadow comes into my view and my goal is finally in sight. I can see cars on a distant road, and I experience a renewed burst of energy upon seeing that I am close. However, I am aware that my car is still a fair distance away. When I come upon at a dirt road it occurs to me that I can lay my burden down, and finish the trip to the car without my pack. Whew, that is literally a load of my back.

I walk the rest of the way to the car minus the pack. It really does feel good to be rid of it. Once in my car, I drive to a nearby general store, but I still have a problem. I only have a few cents with me and ATMs have not yet arrived in this part of the universe. To make matters worse, my stomach is telegraphing my brain that it is being severely neglected. This is a somewhat sticky situation because I must drive for almost two hours before I will arrive at a place that will take a credit card for food. I will just have to console myself with some water from a nearby drinking fountain.

I pull up to a drinking fountain. A man is just leaving. He is licking an ice cream cone and I clearly envy his situation. I climb out of the car and in a slightly weakened condition walk to the fountain to drink my fill of the pure water. While I am drinking, I wonder how I am going to drive for almost two hours on a severely empty stomach. I hear voices behind me so I take a few more quick gulps of the precious water then turn to offer the fountain to whoever is behind me. There is no one there, but in the distance, I see a young couple that had apparently walked past while I was drinking. I go back to drinking my fill.

My thirst finally satisfied, I turn and start back to the car. As I do an object on the ground catches my eye. For a split second, I look at it in disbelief, but then I bend down and pick it up. It is too good to be true! It is a ten-dollar bill. Here I stand, hungry and very tired with only 33 cents in my pocket, and seemingly, out of nowhere, I am presented with a wonderful gift…but from who or from where?

I quickly look around to locate the young couple that passed about a minute ago, but they have vanished into the woods. In fact, there is nobody anywhere near me. I am a bit in shock about my good fortune and confused about it as well. Nonetheless, I am thankful. When I walked from the car, I opened the door and strode directly to the fountain. Because I was tired, my head was hanging a bit and I was staring down at the ground. Had the money been there before I would have surely seen it because it was right there on the path that I took to the fountain.

The shock of my unexplained good fortune wears off, and I head directly to the store. I buy a sandwich and a soft drink then after consuming it I walk over to the counter and buy an ice cream cone. I just had to have that Ice cream cone. Now I am energized, and I thank heaven for providing so abundantly in my “time of need.”

With my newfound energy, I drive over to where I had left my backpack. I put it in the trunk of my car and set off down the mountain to a place where I can get a motel room and a nice dinner. While I drive, I ponder how, and why the ten dollars seemed to appear from nowhere. I never did figure it out, but the memory will stick with me for a very long time.

I am still not sure if I have ever actually encountered an angel in the physical sense, but I believe that there is something extraordinary at work around us all the time that often seems to defy explanation by ordinary means. Moreover, I cannot always define the extraordinary things that from time-to-time that seem to happen to me. I may not always understand it, but like the ten-dollar bill, I recognize it whenever I see it.

Jim Sayers
January 2002

Lapa Rios Resort

The soft rays of the morning sun strike the land below the vintage DC-3 airplane to allow my first look at the countryside of southwestern Costa Rica. From up here, the densely wooded mountains stretch out as far as my eyes can see, and the fields flaunt a carpet of green that reminds me of the countryside of Ireland. Five hours ago I was looking at a dreary mantle of white on the snow-covered fields of Michigan, so the deep green below is candy for my eyes.

Today I am on my way to a new Ecotourist Resort Hotel called Lapa Rios. It is located in a remote area of Costa Rica called The Osa Peninsula. To get there from North America I must fly on three different airplanes, each one smaller than the one before. I left the United States aboard a very modern “Jumbo Jet.” In San Jose, I boarded an ancient, but well-maintained Douglas DC-3. It is a true adventure flying over the mountains in a plane that is vintage 1930’s. When I arrive in the old “Banana Republic” town of Golfito I board, or shall I say, climb into a small single-engine Cessna. Four other travelers from North America are crammed into this little air machine along with our luggage, and the pilot. One of my fellow passengers nervously wonders aloud if this tiny little craft will even fly with such a load. I decide not to speculate about our chances but to just keep my video camera rolling during the entire flight.

The flight across the gulf peninsula lasts only 7 minutes but it is very pleasant. However, given the diminishing size of the airplanes, I am extremely happy that there is not a fourth plane in my immediate future. We land on a gravel runway located in the town of Puerto Jimenez where I see a small, flatbed pickup truck. This truck, among other things, is displaying a sign that reads “taxi.” It is not at all like any taxi that I have previously known, but that’s okay with me, just as long as I do not have to fly in it.

Puerto Jimenez, the largest town on the Osa peninsula, is somewhat reminiscent of a North American frontier town complete with an interesting mix of cars and horses kicking up dust from the dirt streets. The town is only about eight square blocks long, and as we pass through, I see a couple of modern-looking houses. Everything else is made out of wood and looks as if it has been around for some time. I am not sure, but my imagination tells me that life here must be similar to what life in the western United States was in a bygone era.

We head south and bump along for about 35 minutes, occasionally driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid a “pothole.” There are holes everywhere so I am not sure why we try to miss some but go into others. I guess this is what is called “local knowledge.” The taxi driver informs me that the United States Army Corps of Engineers will be arriving soon to resurface the road and replace several of the aging bridges. This is very good because some of the bridges are damaged. We must ford several streams to get to Lapa Rios. I decide that the condition of the road simply enhances the adventure of going into a rainforest.

The incredible beauty of the countryside along the way makes the trip seem shorter than it is. I am finally beginning to feel comfortable with the road when suddenly, from over the crest of a hill; a thundering herd of cattle appears. I stare in disbelief at the rapidly approaching sea of fierce-looking bovines descending upon us. The dust cloud and the noise are intimidating to me, but the calm demeanor of the “taxi” driver reassures me that all is well. It is never a problem for us because the herd splits apart and passes around the vehicle while I get some good video footage of the entire event.

When I arrive at Lapa Rios, my senses go into overload. A truly unique resort hotel stands where a year ago only a barren 350-foot mesa existed. It is a beautiful piece of architecture and it looks like something that belongs in a rainforest.

The large main lodge is a giant “jungle hut.” Inside is a restaurant and bar with a dramatic spiral staircase that leads to an observation deck. Outside there is a swimming pool, and 14 luxury cabins spread out over the mesa. I am in awe by what has sprung from the jungle in just over a year.

The name Lapa Rios translates loosely into English as “Rivers of the Scarlet Macaw.” The Scarlet Macaw is the bright-multicolored parrot-like bird indigenous to the area. When viewed in flight from the 350-foot mesa these birds appear to be a river of moving color — thus the name Lapa Rios. Because it has just opened, the resort is not very crowded during the time of my stay, but this situation will no doubt change as word of the incredible resort spreads throughout the land.

In the past, most of the people who came to see the rain forest jungle were the adventurous backpacker-camper types who liked the idea of pitching a tent in the wilderness. That has changed now. Oh don’t worry, you can still pitch a tent and camp along the beach, but now there is another alternative. Lapa Rios was constructed to be a luxury resort in the rain forest. It is a place with 14 luxury cabins, each complete with twin queen size beds, modern lavatory facilities, a garden patio, and electricity. If that’s not enough, how about a place that also has a five-star restaurant and bar. All of this was accomplished in keeping with the principles of good rainforest ecology. In fact, during construction, not one live tree was cut from the site where the hotel now stands.

John and Karen Lewis created Lapa Rios, but it is Karen who is most responsible for the beautiful tropical gardens that adorn the complex. They contribute to the decor of each cabin. One can easily get the feeling of being in the jungle without leaving the enclosed patio of their cabin.

My days at Lapa Rios are filled with bird watching and observing the other types of wildlife including the flora and fauna. I also like to visit the nearby beach or walk along the Rio Carbonera. This river is what most people would call a large stream. It features several dazzling waterfalls and during my hike, I stop frequently to stand under the cascading water and cool off.

I walk many of the jungle trails within the rain forest, but much of what I encounter is within just a few meters of the hotel. In a single week, here I have seen an overwhelming abundance of plant and animal wildlife. The list of what I have seen includes; a family of three-toed sloths, four different types of monkeys, over 100 different species of birds, and several types of butterflies including the large “electric blue” amorphous butterflies called “morphos” by the locals. All this I see without ever leaving the hotel grounds.

Although I’m living in a tropical rainforest jungle, life is quite comfortable. The air is humid, but there always seems to be a soft fragrant breeze washing over the mesa where the Hotel Lapa Rios stands. This provides a comfortable environment in which to view the land and waters of the adjacent Golfo Dulce. (Sweet Gulf) Actually, on the Osa Peninsula, one can find an unlimited number of places that offer a sweeping view of the ocean waters.

From the beginning, it has been an effort for me to absorb the abundance of the tropical diversity that exists here, but no matter how many times I enter the rain forest I am still in awe of the beauty and tranquility that I find there. When I slip under the canopy, I encounter a different world teeming with life. Yet, for me, it is very much like being inside a giant cathedral.

One thing that I like about Costa Rica is that winter, as most North Americans know it, does not exist here. (Snow Bunnies please skip the rest of this paragraph.) There are only two seasons in Costa Rica, wet and dry. On the OSA Peninsula, that translates into “Mud or Dust.” However, there is but one temperature here all year round–HOT! January is in the dry season, but to my delight, this year there have been a couple of good tropical rain showers. I like tropical rain because it is often quite dramatic. The sky opens up and quickly the giant cumulus clouds dump millions of gallons of water onto the jungle. Then, as if by magic, the clouds vanish to permit the strong rays of the sun to reach into the dripping jungle and summon the water back to the sky. The ascending pillars of water vapor give rise to the term “steaming jungle.” If you have never been witness to this process then you have a wonderful experience awaiting you.

The rainforest in this part of Costa Rica is among the last remaining low land tropical rainforest jungle left in the world. My trip here to see it has been everything that I had expected it to be, and more.

Jim Sayers
Costa Rica February 1993

Rain Forest Adventure

Fabiola Fabbian came to Costa Rica from her native Italy to help her boyfriend Lorenzo build a house at the edge of the rainforest. Although she has been living right next to the unique jungle for several months, she has never ventured very far inside. 

Andreas Krieger is a wilderness tour guide at a resort hotel in southwestern Costa Rica. The rain forest is a very special place to him and he has lead many groups of Eco-tourists along its familiar trails. Today he is happy to be giving his good friend Fabiola a personal tour of the jungle he knows so well; unaware that what is starting as a perfect day for a pleasant walk in the jungle will soon take an unexpected twist. 

Andreas cannot locate his machete and is slightly concerned because it is considered a good practice to carry a machete anytime one enters the jungle. However, it is an otherwise perfect day so he decides that if he and Fabiola stay on the well-groomed trails they will be safe. Without hesitation, he places his binoculars around his neck then he and Fabiola descend the steep path into the rain forest. 

Once under the jungle canopy, they begin to encounter the abundance of wildlife living within the 1200 acres of this tropical rain forest. They both have binoculars to enjoy a close-up view of the hundreds of bird species and other animals, which populate the area. At one point, they encounter a rare sight–three different types of monkeys playing in a single tree. They stop for a while to laugh at the crazy antics of the lovable primates then continue pushing deeper into the forest. Along the way, they pass several dramatic waterfalls. The cascading showers form pools of fresh cool water creating an excellent place to swim and neutralize the heat of the jungle.

The rain forest of the Osa is among the last remaining wilderness of its kind–a truly wonderful place, but it can be a place of danger as well. As they move deeper into the forest Andreas pushes, aside a small spine-covered tree for Fabiola, and one of the spines slices deep into his finger. This is an omen of things to come.

After about an hour of hiking, Andreas and Fabiola approach a large tree next to the path. Suddenly, Andreas hears a strange rustling sound in the leaves. Instinctively he steps in front of Fabiola to halt her forward progress. The jungle here is a patchwork of bright sunlight and dark shadows so at first the source of the strange sound is not evident to him. He peers intensely into the dimly lit area from where the sound is emanating and in the shadows; he sees the body of a snake. Fabiola does not see the snake, but she reacts in horror when Andreas points out the snake that is slowly moving through the leaves. It is clear that the snake is aware of them as well because it begins smashing its tail into the leaves as if to say, “go away.” 

There is no easy way for them to pass around the snake so Andreas suggests that they avoid a risky confrontation and go back the way they came. Fabiola does not wait for a second invitation and she begins retreating but Andreas stands fast, curious to see what the head of the viper looks like so that he can try to identify the species. Methodically he follows the dark black body with his eyes, but it disappears around the tree. This puzzles Andreas, but his dilemma is short-lived when he catches sight of a large serpent head rising several feet beyond the tree. The snake is over 13 feet long with a body in the shape of a triangle three and a half inches wide; a creation straight from “The Devil’s Workshop.” Whatever the species, it is larger than any snake that Andreas has seen in his previous trips into the rainforest.

Andreas stares in awe as the large serpent head slowly rises and turns toward him. Now there can be no doubt that the snake knows that he and Fabiola have invaded its territory and it is not happy about the intrusion. The unexpected close encounter has brought together two humans and a snake, each now being driven by instinct.

Andreas wants to flee, but the creature before him has mesmerized him. Experience has taught him that the simple act of leaving the area of a snake encounter will cause the viper to show little interest, but this snake seems to be the exception to the rule. His senses tell him that something is different about this snake. 

Pure instinct is directing Andreas now. He yells at Fabiola to hasten her retreat, and then he turns and begins to move away as well. Too late, the large head of the viper is facing them and the expressionless eyes have made contact with the two human forms now in retreat. Twenty-five feet separate them from the snake–normally a comfortable distance but not this time. Suddenly, as if propelled by some unnatural force, the snake accelerates to attack speed. Fabiola, already running as fast as she can, loses sight of the path where it turns and falls in the confused growth of the jungle floor. Andreas can only watch as she rolls out of control down an embankment. 

Andreas is a physical education teacher in Switzerland and a very fast runner. On one occasion, I watched him outrun a dog in a short sprint on the beach, so it is lucky that the snake continues to pursue him and shows no interest in Fabiola. However, this time Andreas is faced with formidable competition. In just seconds, the snake has eliminated the twenty-five-foot head start as well as the additional thirty feet that Andreas has managed to cover in the same time. With Fabiola down, and the heavy sound of the snake coming from behind him, Andreas knows it is here where he must turn and face the nightmare that pursues him.

For Andreas, everything now seems to be happening in slow motion. The snake is coming fast, but with his senses somehow accelerated Andreas has time to analyze the course of the attacking viper. Time itself seems expanded for him now but even so, the snake is right there only a few feet away and in full pursuit. He is experiencing the full intensity of the attack, and there is no doubt in his mind that he is the target.

With a movement that starts with the grace of a ballet dancer, Andreas spins around. As he spins his hands grasp the straps that hold the binoculars around his neck. He pulls them over his head, and then with all his strength smashes them down squarely on the head of the snake. The serpent receives the full force of the binoculars on his head and immediately falls to the ground. Andreas, his body pumped full of adrenaline, whips the binoculars around in a large arc as if returning a tennis ball. He yells at the snake as the binoculars find their target again. The force of the impact is so great that it causes the binoculars to explode into several pieces. The shoulder strap separates from what is left of the binoculars and it is all that Andreas has left in his hand. Again, the binoculars have struck the head of the serpent, which now lies completely motionless on the ground. Andreas is filled with primal fear, all of his attention is focused on the dazed creature at his feet. The events of the last few moments dominate his thinking. For him what has just taken place seems like a nightmare, but fear is a very real emotion, even in a nightmare. 

Slowly his fear begins to subside as he realizes that the snake is stunned barely moving. His fear changes to anger toward the serpent that purposely stalked and attacked him. Why was he attacked? He did not bother the snake or even go close, but by its actions, the snake defied all that Andreas had learned about snakes during his many incursions into the rainforest.

In the now silent forest, Andreas becomes aware that Fabiola is calling to him. She had fallen below the level of the path and did not witness the attack. She heard Andreas yell his rage at the snake as he struck out at it, but now there is only the silence of the rain forest and the sound of her own pounding heart. Cautiously Andreas releases his attention from the stunned viper and hurries over to aid her. She is scared and shaken, but unhurt. He reaches out to help her up, and her eyes betray the fact that she is happy and relieved that Andreas has survived the attack untouched by the snake. 

Andreas is exhausted but he wants to bring the snake back to the lodge. He picks up a nearby stick but the wood is old and full of ants; it crumbles in his hands. He uses his Swiss Army Knife to cut down a small sapling tree, then fashions a forked stick to hold the head of the snake. When he approaches the snake, the viper starts to revive and twist on the ground. It is too risky now to continue this course of action because if the snake recovers Andreas will have little defense against another attack. He decides it is best to leave the area now and return later with his machete.

Andreas and Fabiola leave the snake and return to the tree where earlier they had encountered the monkeys playing. The monkeys have long since moved on, but the two shaken humans sit under the tree to discuss their feelings and vent some of the pent-up emotion. The quiet of the jungle and the calm of the moment are exactly what they need. 

After a short rest, they start back to the lodge and continue to relive the events of the recent past. Suddenly without warning, a large light-colored snake slithers across the path just in front of them. They both recoil in terror as the serpent quickly flashes past. They stand there stunned while they watch it climb a tree just beyond the path. Now in the dim light of the forest, and the dark recesses of their imaginations, every vine becomes a snake, and there is a predator in every shadow. The once warm and friendly environment has become a forest of dangers in their minds and now they can only wonder — where might the other vipers be lurking?

Andreas walks Fabiola to her dwelling then returns to the lodge where he excitedly recounts to all in attendance the events of the unusual day. We are all captivated by the story and each of us vows to never venture into the rain forest again without a machete. When he finishes the story Andreas locates a machete and a flashlight then starts back to retrieve the snake.

When he arrives at the spot of the encounter, it is nearly dark so he approaches the area with caution. He finds the broken binoculars so he is sure that he has returned to exactly the right place. He pulls out his flashlight and scans the area, but there is no snake to be found. Could it be in hiding just beyond the tree waiting for another chance to attack him? Suddenly there is a rustling sound in the leaves. With his machete poised for action he spins around to face the danger, but what has just made his heart pound like a jackhammer is only a small harmless green lizard scampering across the leaves.

Darkness finally envelops the rain forest so reluctantly Andreas gives up the search and returns to the lodge. He would have liked to come back with the proof of his nightmare, but it is not to be. The broken binoculars will have to suffice as a symbol of the attack.


 For some people, the physical appearance of a snake is at best, unpleasant. Many species are known to bite, and some are venomous. While it is true that not all snakes are dangerous, the thought of being stalked and attacked by a snake, poisonous or not, is for most of us, unimaginable. The snake attack did not dissuade Andreas or any of us at the lodge from enjoying the magnificent rain forest. He told me that he feels the attack was an isolated event that will never happen again. He continues to take people of all ages into the rainforest, including a woman in her nineties. Andreas has trained his body to move swiftly and gracefully. His physical conditioning and coordination were no doubt his salvation from the snake. He has now spent almost a year in the various jungles of Central America and as I hear him relate the story of the attack for a second time I am aware that if I had been there in place of him I would have had to find another way to avoid becoming a victim of that snake.

If like me, you find this story a bit scary then consider this. Every day hundreds of people walk the trails of the rain forest and never even encounter a snake. I spent months wandering the rain forest trails of the Osa Peninsula, and during that time I have only encountered three small snakes; none of which showed any interest in me–not even the one that I almost stepped on during a rare night excursion. The beauty of a rainforest filled with abundant wildlife is something that I feel everyone should experience at least once in his or her life. It is far more beautiful and much less dangerous than the streets of a big city.

Jim Sayers
First published in The Tico Times of Costa Rica in 1993

Shoelaces and Other Cultural Differences


 When the customs or behavior of people in a foreign country differs from those in your native country, it is often referred to as cultural differences. Occasionally, the differences in Costa Rica are quite interesting and for me, the motivation to travel is partly due to a desire to experience some of them. Since coming to Costa Rica, I feel that I have identified a couple of unique cultural differences between The United States, my native country, and Costa Rica. Case in point:

On more than one occasion, I have needed to ask someone if I was standing in the correct location to board a particular bus. Whenever I would ask a Costa Rican person that question, the answer was often: “NO.” Granted it was always a very polite, very friendly “NO,” usually delivered with a warm smile. However, I seldom got anything more than “NO.” The bus stop may have been just a short distance from where I was standing when I asked, but for some reason, that information was never offered to me. In the USA, I would have most likely been told: “No this is not the bus stop–it’s in the next block or something to that effect–not just “NO!” In Costa Rica, the culturally correct thing to do is to simply answer the question. Okay, so maybe it is my fault. You see I failed to ask the proper question. I should have said: “Excuse me, where is the bus stop for San Pedro?” 

Now think of a shoelace–a white shoelace–a white shoelace that has just broken. Normally that situation would not pose much of a problem but I am in Costa Rica now. I tried hard to remember if I had ever seen a shoelace for sale anywhere. I could remember seeing Tee Shirts, Watches, and even high-pitched “Musical” Instruments made in the shape of animals, but I had no recollection of ever seeing shoelaces. Then again, why strain my brain? Shoelaces must be sold in shoe stores, I reason, but before I can find a pair I enter the culturally different “Shoelace Zone” where finding a shoelace will prove to be an adventure not unlike something Indiana Jones might have faced while looking for a lost treasure.

I enter a shoe store and I am politely told we sell shoes, no shoelaces.” No problem, there are five more shoe stores on this block alone so I will just go next door and get the laces. Wrong: “We sell shoes not shoelaces,” they tell me. San Jose, it seems, has more shoe stores per capita than any other city in the known universe, but for some reason, I cannot buy a stinking pair of shoelaces in any of them. It must simply be a “Cultural Difference” I am thinking.

Undaunted I move over a couple of blocks and go inside a shoe store there. The result is the same: “We sell shoes, no shoelaces.” I get the same story in store after store and I am beginning to think that there is a serious flaw in my logic. “Please, where do I go to buy a shoelace?” I wonder. 

Sometimes the most obvious solution is the one you think of last. The answer, it turns out, is quite simple. Just ask someone who lives here where to buy the laces. An elegantly dressed woman is standing on the corner so I go over and ask her. In response to my question points to a store across the street. “Go there, they sell everything!” she says in Spanish. You cannot imagine my delight upon hearing that news. I feel a little silly for not asking someone in the first place, but wait, why didn’t even one person in any of the shoe stores tell me about this store? Cultural Differences, I decide. No matter, in just a few minutes, I will have solved my problem and I will not have to “clomp” around San Jose anymore.

When I enter the store, I marvel at the thousands of items they carry. The woman was right; this place has everything. At first, I do not see the laces but I do encounter a nicely dressed sales clerk who is wearing a necktie with two leaping dolphins at the wide part. “Do you sell shoelaces?” I inquire. “No,” is all he says. “No,” I say as I look around. “I can buy a wheel for a turn of the century baby carriage, or a grill for a 1958 Edsel, why not a lousy pair of white shoelaces,” I demand.

This young man could sense that I was unhappy with the situation so he offers a solution. “Just one block south there is a store that is sure to have the laces,” he tells me. I am pleasantly surprised that he freely offered the information to me. I thank him then head for the store that is about to put an end to, what for me, is beginning to feel like the quest for the Holy Grail.

“No–we don’t sell shoelaces,” I am told yet again. “Well, who does?” I blurt out. “Just two blocks east there is a store that should sell that type of thing,” the kind salesperson tells me. “Clomp–clomp–clomp.” It was becoming my trademark sound. 

I am sorry, that is not something we carry. However, I have a cousin who works in a store one block to the north. I’m positive’ they sell shoelaces there. “Clomp–clomp–clomp.” Now I am walking the way Walter Brenen walked on the TV show “The Real McCoys.” No problem, finally I know exactly where I can buy the shoelaces and I’m closing in on ’em fast.

“What da ya mean you don’t sell shoelaces here! Your cousin Miguel said that you do,” I say in a not so calm voice. “No, not here, that was in the last place where I worked,” he tells me. “Okay, I’ll go there–where is it?” “In Cartago,” he said. CARTAGO! I repeated. Okay, I give up. I think I will just buy a new pair of shoes. After all, new shoes come with laces. No, wait a minute, this time I’m going to buy loafers,” I say aloud.

This man clearly understood that I was unhappy, and to calm me down he assures me that he knows of a store that is guaranteed to have the laces I so desperately seek. Lucky for me it was only two blocks west at the next corner. “Are you sure?” I asked in a pleading tone of voice. “Yes, everyone knows that they carry ‘everything’ there,” he said while nodding his head up and down to give more credibility to what he was saying.

I lost little time “clomping” my way over to the store that would finally put an end to the odyssey, which had now consumed most of my afternoon. The minute I entered the store I could tell that I had arrived at the end of my search. This place had everything from soup to nuts. I had no trouble locating the shoe polish so I knew I must be close to the illusive laces; I felt like a wild animal closing in for “the kill.” 

After a minute or two of looking around near the shoe polish, I do not see any laces. However, I spy a clerk stocking the shelves at the end of the aisle. I decided to spare myself anymore-needless grief and simply ask the young man to direct me to the shoelaces. As he turned to face me, I noticed that he had a pleasant smile and that he was wearing a necktie that had two leaping Dolphins at the wide part.

Now I may not be the brightest bulb on the marquee, but I quickly figure out that I am back in the store where I had started. Unknowingly, I had entered from the side entrance. The clerk immediately recognized me and asked if I had found the laces. “No, not yet,” I tell him, but then again it’s not that important after all.” What I need to know now is: “Does the bus to Pavas stop in front of the store?” “NO,” was all he said.

Jim Sayers
Published in the Tico Times of Costa Rica February 1994

Leon’s Song

In high school, I played the drums and enjoyed playing in the band. As time went by I learned to read melody notes and a metamorphosis occurred–I changed from a drummer into a percussionist. In the orchestra, I was in the company of two other percussionists, Gary and Leon. Gary could read melody notes too, but Leon had not yet ventured into that domain. In fact, at times even the rhythm notes actually seemed to confuse Leon as well. Nevertheless, he was a great guy–very good-natured and always gave his best in everything that he did.

One day our musical director and teacher, Mack Pitt, a famous man of note in his own right, came to us and told us that we were going to perform the theme from “Around the World in Eighty Days.” That was music to my ears, because I knew that it had some real meaty parts for the drummers, I mean the percussionists. We would have a chance to play instruments such as the Marimba and the chimes–instruments that actually produce melody notes.

Shortly after reviewing the musical score, we determined that there could be a slight problem for us. Since Leon did not play any of the melody instruments, that meant that Gary and I would have to share the honors in that department. It was not long before we devised a workable plan. Gary would start out on the Marimba; Leon would play the cymbals and I would be on the Tympani drums.

Around the World in Eighty Days” starts with a roll on the Tympani’s that builds to a crescendo capped with a cymbal crash whereupon the rest of the orchestra joins the musical tour. The horns in the brass section trumpet majestically; the woodwinds create orchestral energy, and the string section softly binds it all together.

For reasons that escape me now, it was determined that after the opening crescendo I would move quickly to my right to play the chimes and Gary would take over the tympani. This should have been an easy maneuver except that Leon and the cymbals were standing between us.

At the first rehearsal, we came up with a plan to make it work. Gary would come past Leon first then I would repeat the process in the other direction. To allow us to pass, Leon would turn the cymbals sideways and hold them against his chest during the move. At the rehearsals, we perfected the drill; our timing was perfect. It should be, after all, we were drummers, I mean percussionists. On the other hand, good old Leon sometimes marched to the beat of a different drummer. (Pun clearly intended.) In fact, he had the strangest sense of timing I have ever encountered.

In those days, I was really into complicated rhythm and syncopation, but try as I might, I could not match the esoteric time signatures that Leon’s mind invented. He would occasionally stick in beats where it was hard to fathom they would fit. Conversely, he sometimes lost track of the count and would miss an important cymbal crash. Gary was mindful of this and always set a cymbal on a stand just in case Leon missed the timing while counting to four and 13/32nds or some other strange time signature. If Leon actually made the cymbal crash on time, the effect of the two cymbals resonating together made a rich stereophonic sound. If, on the other hand Leon was a tad late, this produced an echo chamber effect caused by the two crashes coming slightly out sync. Either way we seemed to be covered.

After several weeks of practice, our high school orchestra was ready to present “Around the World in Eighty Days.” In anticipation of the grand performance, we carefully setup the percussion instruments on the highest tier of the risers. As we made our final adjustments, we could hear the sounds of the audience filling the seats. Once everything was in place, we did the final run through of our movements to verify that we have it down pat. It worked like a charm. Now the three percussionists were ready for a command performance.

For most of my life, I have been pleased with that fact that I had broad shoulders. However, it gave my mother fits trying to buy clothes for her teen-age son. On the night of the performance, my large shoulders would present an unintended problem.

Finally, the big moment had arrived, the instruments were tuned, and the signal went out to open the curtain. Even before the applause died down, I received the cue to start the roll on the timpani drums. It is a powerful sound and I felt good producing the smooth roll that lead to the crescendo and the famous cymbal crash that would ignite the rest of the orchestra. At the precise moment, Gary reached over, and with a drumstick and hit the cymbal on the stand. Leon was about 11/32nds of a beat late, so in actuality there were two cymbal crashes that resulted in the echo effect of which I spoke earlier.

As you may recall, Gary and I had to change places right after the cymbal crash. Unfortunately, neither Gary nor I were aware that Leon was upset about missing the cymbal crash and was preoccupied with reliving the past four bars in his head. Consequently, he forgot to rotate the cymbals 90 degrees and pull them into his chest. Gary slipped by, but as I rushed past him, my right shoulder made a direct connection with the still outstretched cymbals. I was clearly aware of what just happened, but I could not dwell on it. I had just seconds before I had to play some important notes on the chimes, and no time to contemplate why Leon did not turn the cymbals sideways.

As I played the notes on the chimes, I looked up at the conductor. I would later regard that as mistake. He was still waving the baton, but he had a look of terror in his eyes. I did not understand his expression, and for a second I averted my eyes to the audience. I focused on the people sitting in the first couple of rows, which was also a mistake. With the exception of the young boy with blond crew cut hair, and the sly grin on his face, everyone else had the same look of terror that I saw on the face of the conductor. I finally summoned the courage to turn around and to this day, I regard that as a mistake as well.

I can honestly say that I have never before been witness to what was transpiring behind me. When I bumped the cymbals in Leon’s hands, I forced him to take a slight step back, and the heels of his shoes went over the edge of the riser. To regain his balance he was now moving his arms in big circles. At the end of each arm was of course, a heavy metallic cymbal. The resulting motion made him look like one of those big ungainly birds you see from time to time on the nature channel. You know, the ones that can’t seem to figure out how to land.

In a way, Leon was preparing for a landing of sorts, and I could already tell that it would be just about as graceful as the birds on the TV show. I thought about attempting a rescue but with those cymbals in motion I would have been risking life and limb to get anywhere close to poor Leon. Suddenly, with his arms still in full swing, Leon disappeared below the riser making contact with the floor. I am sure that the resulting cymbal crash was heard in the farthest corners of the auditorium. I was afraid to look down or even contemplate Leon’s fate, but for dear Leon this was actually a watershed moment because the cymbals crashed precisely on the beat. Leon had finally mastered the music.

The show must go on, as they say, and so it did. The conductor was still waving the baton and the band played on—sans Leon. Did I already mention that Leon had just soared almost five feet down to the floor? This may have had something to do with the moaning emanating from below. Thankfully, the sound of the music prevented the audience, indeed even the rest of orchestra from hearing Leon’s moaning. They were very involved with the wonderful rendition of Around the World in Eighty Days or as I have since dubbed it—“Leon’s song.”

Leon was up and around even before the last notes of “his” song had died out. Thankfully, he was not seriously hurt. However, I was clearly unhappy that he had taken the plunge because of my shoulders. When it was all over, Leon received more attention than ever, and as it turns out, in a way, I may have helped him become the star of the show.

It has been a very long time since that fateful performance, but I shall never forget that evening. All that is left now is to cue the cymbals one more time then fade out. Leon’s Song” is over.

Jim Sayers

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