my cookie crumbled
seemed to be no memorable life prior to December 7th, 1941.
The chill I felt at the news of Pearl Harbor was no different
than that of a Nation. I thought my karma had arrived, and
I reached out to embrace our Navy’s retaliation. They
said seventeen, with parents’ consent. I had six months
was living in Los Angeles at the time, Hollywood in fact. I
had been born further north in the Bay Area. 1925, a Cancer,
and a real depression kid. My Mom died in 1932. Dad was forced
out to hunt. Was raised by a succession of friends and relatives.
I was a very disturbed child, as schools, no matter which, failed
me, and vice versa. I was a total scholastic failure, hated
sports, regimentation and Mrs. Mosgrove, my math teacher. There
was something scrambling my brain's ability to comprehend certain
things. Strangely, I excelled in all technical matters. Then
came the inevitable, I became a teen aged dropout.
my 17th birthday I took the oath. The Navy promised if I were
to survive, I would be out on my twenty first birthday. A week
later my hair was on the barber shop floor. Arms hanging limp
from injections, San Diego became my new home for the next few
months. Through mysteries that only God and the Pentagon can
explain, my aptitude test revealed outstanding scholastic abilities
while my mechanical skills failed horribly. I was shocked, especially
when I was told that I was to commence training to become a
contrary to government bureaucracy, things moved surprisingly
swiftly, and within a few months I was a navy doctor, hustled
aboard a troop ship bound for ?. More magic, I graduated medical
school in the top ten. I was still a fifth grade reader. All
49 of the other students were Georgia mountain boys.
was stationed in a strategic position and ordered to repel the
Japanese invasion of the Panama Canal. However, I found myself
defending marines against advancing venereal diseases. Still
dreaming of fast boats and thundering guns, I became the Chief
Medical Officer of the USS Persistent PYC 48, a 130 foot old
wooden yacht. I had just turned 19. The best part was the jungle
shore leaves. I marveled at the massive foliage, alligators,
birds, bugs and snakes. The yeoman aboard, Bill Reese, a Ph.D.,
found me dyslexic, and I become his challenge. He taught me
things the schools had ignored. He taught me about the typewriter
and, with considerable skill, taught me about girls.
A year later, a new job, the Philadelphia Naval Hospital. Now
20 and still the joker, sent beer to the lab instead of my own
urine and blood, just for fun. The results showed hops in the
urine and high eosinophiles in the blood. That caught my attention.
This was the first step that lead me to the discovery that I
had a terminal lymphatic cancer. Truman shot off his bomb, and
I got a medical discharge. Then everything started to change.
I was a believer in psychosomatics, and simply refused the disease
and went about the business of growing up.
1947, I was at the Los Angeles harbor where I kept a small boat.
Met a Dentist called Harlan. He told me that he was going to
become a deep sea diver. He had some mimeographed pages of instructions
for SCUBA. We arranged to swap boat rides for some dental work
and a try at this SCUBA thing. The Marine environment dwarfed
the jungles, and I became a hooked diver.
following years I thought a fortune awaited the finder, and
spent months on the Mojave desert prospecting for uranium. Later
started a small one man fix-it shop, and met a Charley Moriati,
whose dream of sliding glass walls had baited me into inventing
a screening device to match his dreams. I patented the idea
and within six years became famous in the screening industry.
For example, Sears & Roebuck was a major account. Bored
sick with quick success, ever thirsting for adventure, I took
a sabbatical and sought the Mississippi with a small boat. Bought
a portable typewriter and wrote my first novel. It was a pity
that Reese had never taught me to spell.
to the quest for adventure, I sold the company and purchased
an old 1912 wooden 70 foot topsail schooner, and convinced Hollywood
that I had an adventure scheme for them. Spent a fortune, had
a fine time, and wound up in the slush pile. Renamed the schooner
Valerie Queen after a Welsh girl friend, whom I married
in 1955. Then spent good years romping the California coast
as an illegal charter boat. Valerie had two children, a Kevin,
then a Gwen.
The Queen being a blue water boat, I put her to sea where she
belonged. On St. Patrick’s Day 1960, sailed south with
a crew of willing bohemians to
wherever. Valerie and the children went to Wales. Then on impulse
I took off for the Caribbean to become a pirate. Antigua, said
the manifest. A second novel was written. Percy, a young Aruban,
became my friend and mate and sailed with me into a new sort
of adventure. Latins, redheads and a loose cannon hurricane,
"Anita" in Jamaica. The ship damaged and sinking,
we ran for Columbia and repairs.
On the 21st of May 1962, my wonderful Queen leaking and its
crew exhausted, we came upon a small magic island deep in the
Dutch West Indies, its vast bay like a blue shimmering mirror.
We drifted in across its magnificence to discover the small
town of Kralendijk, on an island called Bonaire. No way of knowing,
but my rightful karma had honestly arrived. A small island,
only 112 square miles, maybe 4000 souls, with a large bay of
pristine waters and a massive field of living corals.
I was 37 then, with only 63 cents in my pocket and the ship’s
papers in the safe. Spear fishing and the exporting of small
tropical fish became a new way of life.
Governor said, “a bum you become, you’re out. However,
if my island is better off because of you...” A challenge
WW II German detention camp turned hotel, my karma shifting
gears. I hosted the Caribbean’s largest spear fishing
contest, like Americans killing buffalo. Later I had only shame.
God sank my ship and all I possessed, two finished novels and
my wonderful Olivetti to the bottom. As a born again conservationist,
my destiny set in stone, I made a promise that all within my
influence shall strive to save this sea, and my spear gun went
on the wall.
I founded under-sea tourism and dozens of other things. Designed
safeguards to protect us. Island, man and reef went public and
put Bonaire on the tourist map.
nine years my wonderful hotel was sold. There is a time to come
as there is a time to go. The best thing that had ever happened.
Now full attention to the building of a proper under-sea industry.
Aquaventure became the avenue to that end, a diving industry
second to none in the world. My mind ever expanding. A better
divers conduct-- the Council of Underwater Operators to unify
underwater procedures for Caribbean divers. Expanded the mooring
program, to protect the coral from anchors. And assuredly, a
better understanding of the man/sea concept evolved.
years now into the Challenge. I envisioned a total resort for
the Diver. 1976 saw my dream, Habitat hotel, the home of diving
freedom, become a reality.
introduced computerization to the island. Became involved in
a salvage project of an ocean going raft, Dutch Tiki,
seriously injuring my foot and ankle. A special swimming cast
was required, for six long years. Built the island’s first
shade houses, propagated plants, and reestablished my wet photography.
Then wrote Whores Horror, my fifth book. My typing getting better.
The next ten years saw three more books and a bundle of short
stories. Not a book published, nor even rejected, as none had
ever been submitted.
With the underwater world now running on automatic, I was free
to move in another direction. 1989 ushered in another new era,
that of the horticulturist. I built a sizable nursery and commenced
greening the island. However, my heart ever for the sea and
its safety. Thus this exciting book, An Island Adrift.
And so is life.