we had previously left off, our two heroes were embroiled in
an international plot to...
Sorry, I couldn't help myself. These interviews seem to remind
me of the old serialized programs from 1940's and 1950's.
Where we had actually left off was when Gary Willoughby (Ace
Reporter for BladeZone) had headed back to his home in Los Angeles.
He'd planned to call Morgan to continue their interview about
Morgan's adventure in sailing around the world. Some may recall
this adventure was mentioned in Paul M. Sammon's book "Future
Noir" as to why Morgan was unavailable for the book.
We begin our adventure... I mean interview, between Gary Willoughby
and Morgan Paull after a few minutes of general conversation.
PR & News Editor
Amazing Tale of the High Seas
Interview by Gary
Willoughy, BladeZone Editorial Manager
Gary Willoughby: So,
I guess what I really wanted to talk to you about is that adventure
you had with your boat.
Morgan Paull: I have thought about it and I have some notes in front
of me. We can just go from how I would come up from that...... It
has to be from genetics because it makes no other sense other wise.
All my life I have been drawn toward water, but I didnt know
in what way. I had sailed a lot back and forth to Catalina, I d
sail in New England, and Long Island South, and that sort of thing.
I just was always attracted to it, and now I live on a lake and
even have a little ski boat.
G: and how is it, was it Melissa that was the reason you moved to
lake arrow head.
M: no, it was actually the excuse because we had always wanted to
get out of Los Angeles. And I had wanted to get out of there for
twenty years. And when it came up that she was winning ice skating
competitions all over the country, and in Seattle, WA where she
stayed at the Sheraton and she won a competition there. I turned
out that the only training center of any note at that time was in
Colorado springs or lake arrow head. Where frank carol, and a lot
of other people. At that point they had a camp where you can board
your skater in to prepare for advance ice skating, or some people
moved here and had a second place here. And that was our final motivation
to get a first place here. To build a house and move here for good.
And so then anything I would want to do in LA. At that point I had
already taken a leave of absence from acting. That puts the screen
actors guild membership on hold. Honorable withdraw is what it is
called. I opened a talent agency in north Hollywood and so it was
just great timing. So I would commute in there and stay in an apartment
and come up here during the weekends, for the first five years.
But I had then decided that I was getting burnt out on the agency
and I had invested well w/ my character acting earnings, all my
life since I was fifteen and the agency was very healthy and doing
very well. So I announced one day that I had decided what my next
adventure was going to be. I said I was going to take a boat and
go around the world. And they went, "right, sure."
G: so how did you find the boat, now you decided that you are going
to go around the world in a boat.
M: it was so coincidental to my having made that decision in my
mind that I would do that one day, and my initial port would be
St Lucia in the West Indies in Rodney Bay. I had an editor friend,
a sailing friend who had a friend who owns Rodney Bay, and has a
house in it who was going to outfit it perfectly for my arrival.
And right during all of this discussion and thought process, an
actor who was an old friend of mine even b/f he then became a client
when I opened my agency, Jack Elium, called me out of the blue and
said do you know anyone who wants an eighty foot yacht. Like five
state rooms, dining room, and living room w/ full wet bar and big
upper deck w/ second wheel house. It is eighty tons, it is twin
Comings diesel 1954 Stephens. Anyone who is in the boating world
will know what we are talking about... there were only about twenty
of those made. They are all made individually. And this boat had
hand an experience of having made a world trip. However, it was
back in the late fifties. And so it had spent most of its
time since then doing little bay cruises in various places and now
sitting as a beach house for Jack Elium who had moved to Oregon.
G: so was it sitting out of the water dry-docked?
M: No. it was still in the water. It doesnt move... it is
too big, I mean once you tie it up it stays there. So Jack sent
me the specks on the boat. And I looked at it and I said, "this
is it." So I said I would buy it what do you want for it. And
he said that since it was me he would give me a deal for it. And
I am looking at a piece of paper right now and today to replace
that boat today, it would be between a million and a half to two
million bucks to make that boat as it was. I got it for in the neighborhood
of one-hundred thousand dollars. And then put a bunch of work into
it. We then had it moved to San Diego for repairs. So there it was
sitting in San Diego. And I had bought it with out seeing it except
for the photos. And I announced to my agency that I would be leaving
in the fall of 1994. And boarding this vessel for better or worse.
Back home we had repairs done on it. And check done and finally
we got on board in December of 1994. And prepared to set sail, but
apparently it needed to be hauled out which is lifting it literally
out of the water and refitting it, because it is an all wood boat.
So we had to check all of the planks to see if they were rotten,
check all of the screws had come loose, and replace as necessary.
Because we wanted this thing to be totally scooped out to be capable
of handling whatever might happen on the high seas. I mean we were
going to have two families on board and two crew people. We wanted
to be able to survive. But after several false starts, getting as
far a Mexico several times, we had to go back to Sad Diego getting
this and that fixed. We werent under any pressing schedule
except for spending my fiftieth birthday in St. Lucia in 1995. So
when we finally got underway in March of 1995. It should have taken
eight weeks to get to St. Lucia. I dont remember the exact
date, but in mid July we sunk one day away from a destination where
any repairs could have been done. And we sunk because some of the
re-fastening on the boat, had not been done properly. And when it
came apart it was like the domino effect. We went down in five minutes.
So there goes the thing about wood floats, I mean yeah it floats
but we are talking about eighty tons and you are fully loaded with
diesel fuel. And we had just re-fueled for the last leg of out trip.
G: so you were one day away from your destination
M: the port where we were going. I mean we were going to bring all
of our families over and then tour around the west Indies and Carribean
Islands for about a year before crossing the Atlantic and hopefully
go to Scotland where John Paul Jones came from. And tottle in there
and say, "Hey, your grandson is here." But we had along
the way to stop for weeks and weeks, in Port of Aorta waiting for
parts to come in. Auto piolet which was brand new went twice so
we had to have it shipped to us and we had to get somewhere that
had a fed ex in it. So we would wait for them to ship the new one,
then instal it and then, actually off of Honduras which was after
Mexico, around midnight, both generators went on us. So we were
dead in the water about fifty miles off shore, we were approached
by pirates, which have been a common spotting in that area. And
they masquerade as fishing vessels. By then in this case we had
picked up a Columbian captain. Who wanted to go to Mexico back to
his home in Columbia. And that is the way it works in ports. Someone
will come on for room and board w/ good credentials just to transport
them form point A to point B. And not require any salary. And he
was one of those. And he was terrific. At any rate we saw this rather
large boat not ship, but maybe a 30 or 40 foot thing, approaching
us. Looking like a fishing vessel, it had nets dragging behind it.
Well our Columbian guy was immediately suspicious. So we radioed
them. We made contact with them. And he talked to them in Spanish,
and they asked him if we needed help. We thought we were going to
be aided. It was clear we were dead in the water and it wasnt
a place where someone would usually stop. We were not moving. Both
generators were down, and one of our crew guys was down working
on them. And this ship was coming towards us and our Columbian guy
got off the radio and said that was not a fishing boat. We asked
how he knew and he said that they never turn when they have their
nets out and when he told them we didnt need help they kept
coming towards us. Now there is this rush to get one of the generators
going so we could get out of there. So he radioed them again asking
them not to approach us any further. And being in the water like
that it isnt an unreasonable request. It is like the airplanes
in the sky, they tell them not to get within a certain range. And
it is like that when you are in the wide open seas, you dont
get very close, I mean there is no point. And they didnt stop,
and at the very last when they refused any radio contact and they
were picking up speed coming toward us, we fired off warning shots
from guns we had on board. Just to let them know we were armed and
that we were not giving permission to be boarded. Because they werent
Coast Guard or anything, they were supposed fishermen. And that
didnt detour them. They kept coming and when they were getting
with in half a mile or less from we got the generator fired up which
got the engine up, and we hit it. And they turned and chased us,
and when we got up to speed we could apparently do about two knots
faster then them. And it was the fastest we had ever pushed this
boat and the idea was to not burn up this engine. We were cranking
it and smoking. And after about a hour, and it was clear we were
going to keep going and they werent going to catch up, they
turned away. But we had been warned about the pirates in that area
G: what had happened if they did, would they just rob you?
M: robbery was the most common thing that had gone on there but
others were injured, I dont know how, but we were fully armed.
We had been inspected by many ports and we had told them that we
had weapons on there. We may go hunting, we may shoot some skeet
off the back. So we had shotguns and .44 magnums. We didnt
have an armory, but for some protection and maybe for some sport
along the way. So if they had tried to board us we would have been
shooting. I mean we had every right to, it is just like breaking
into your house. But obviously we didnt know what they were
armed with, so rather than having a shoot out it is better that
we fired up just at the last minute and happened to have more speed
than they did. So that was one of our little adventures. And then
we had to stop in a port in Costa Rica. Which turned out to be a
terrific place, which I glad it was because we ended up being stuck
there for six weeks. Where going back and forth to shore we apparently
contracted parasites. One of the guys who was the captain who had
come with us from San Diego, who was a retired stunt man, who had
done a lot of ship work off of Washington somewhere. He had got
them both internally and externally. And I had got them internally.
And the only way to cure them is they give you strychnine. I mean
they literally poison you, but the idea is to poison you enough
so it just barely doesnt kill you but it kills them. Because
they will come back year after year. The captain lost forty-five
pounds, and I lost twenty-five pounds. And I was at my prime weight
when I lost the twenty-five pounds, so I was skinny after that.
What happens is anything you eat, they eat first. So it is a losing
battle. So you have to kill them, which we never managed to do until
we got back to LA. So we were fighting them all of the time. And
then we were a large enough ship that we could go through the Panama
Canal, alone. We were just at that edge where they could have put
us in with another one, but they decided to let us go in alone.
It was just exciting. So other wise they will tie several other
boats together and put them through together. Of course the cruise
lines will go in alone, and we were at that borderline size and
there really wasnt another boat to go w/ us. That went successfully,
and we made our turn for the West Indies. Which would cross the
northeastern tip of Columbia. And in calm waters. We had just been
through a hell of a storm a few days before. And by the way we had
refueled in a little port named Bahia Honda where we had asked if
we could spend a couple of days. And they curtly dismissed us. We
had heard of a coming storm and we needed to do some repairs but
they said they had some people coming in there and you have to leave.
I mean there was no one there, they could have had a couple of cruises
and it wouldnt have made a difference. But what the suspicion
was that there was some drug trafficking and they didnt want
anyone there. That storm turned out not to be too bad. And in the
calm waters we started taking in water. And the climbing guy, Renee,
went up and said we were taking in water. And I said could we take
care of it with some buckets, he said, no. By the time he finished
explaining it to me I went down to the next level, which was the
dinning room, which was the third level and it was clear that we
were talking in a lot of water and we were beginning to lift.
And sink, stern first. And we are starting to scramble above. We
are fortunately since we had just been in that port in Bahia Honda
we had our wallets and passports in a plastic bag which we did when
we went to port because we didnt know if we were going to
go to shore or wade to shore or what. But we always protect those
and take those together so that we would have that in case anything
went haywire. So luckily I was able to grab that I knew exactly
where I had put it. So I grab it and I was the last one off the
boat. The dingy is one of those electronically hoisted and is on
top and the electronics have now failed so now the captains are
up there trying to get it down manually before the boat would drag
it under with it. Which by then we would have no way to get ashore
without it because we are two miles or so away from the shore...maybe.
But that is far enough away because we were in shark infested water,
they were called golden hammer-head sharks in that area. So we drew
their immediate attention when we were going down. So they got the
dingy off and I almost broke my neck getting down to it, but they
helped me down. So it was really not fit for five people. So we
were really pushing it. We were puttering toward the shore and it
was fairly calm water. And the dingy was sitting right at water
level and any activity and we would have sunk. And then we see some
people coming out in sort of a large canoe, from shore. Turns out
they are these Indians who had lived there for hundreds of years.
They were the Gouhara Indians there has been five books about them.
With out a word they came over and jumped out into the water. And
at point we had reached in water you could stand in up to your neck.
And they just dumped us out. So we then made our way the rest of
the way to shore. We all get out of the water and turn around and
see the boat almost vertical showing about ten or fifteen feet above
water. Then as we hit the shore we said that at least we didnt
drown. Within a minute we were approached by about twelve or fifteen
of these Indians wearing what we would call loin cloths and they
had only one modern accessory and that was Uzi submachine guns.
And they looked at us and said something like "get off here
go away." And obviously we had loss any means of doing that
and partially because of their doing. But our Columbian was able
to communicate with them. And some how through their communication
they told him that we had until sunset. And it was eleven oclock
in the morning. And there was no place that we could walk to because
it was a desolate part of Columbia which had already been declared
off limits by the US state departments and the Columbia state departments.
We would have to walk to the tip of Columbia before we would reach
a city of any kind. So we sit there on the beach dehydrating and
baking because there is no shade anywhere. And they just sat there
watching us. We had already sent off all the emergency beacon and
we had radioed by the way as we were going down. And we had reached
a coast guard relay station who said they were two days from our
location. And that was the only human contact we had. And our emergency
beacon actually had worked. It is like those on airplanes that pulsates
a complete SOS. And apparently some freighter had picked it up because
around three that afternoon. I saw this dot on the horizon. It was
clear it was a ship. At first it didnt look like they were
heading for us, but at some point they did make a turn that would
aim them at us. About an hour later they stopped where our boat
should have been and they launched their own dingy which was considerable
larger than ours. There were about six of them or so and they came
to shore. They were fully armed. And three of them jumped off and
faced off the Indians. And clearly they were out numbered but they
didnt say a word to them but they did say to us, "get
on, get in." So we got in, but we didnt know who they
were for that matter. But they seemed better than where we were.
They turned out to be an oil tanker who had heard our SOS. And knew
where we were and knew it wasnt a good place to be. And they
took us back to their camp for the night. Gave us a nice meal, beds
and showers, without asking us for any compensation. Which was a
good thing because we were kinda limited in our cash because it
was wet and we were in our bathing suits. We had our credit cards
and our wallets. And the next day they transported us by car to
Bahrein Kea, Columbia to a five star hotel. Which was really an
incredible resort. They had told the manager the whole story already
and so they wanted us put up until we could make arrangements to
get back to the US. And there were people coming in for dinner in
dress clothes, and we were in bathing suits. So the manager gave
us tee shirts which was an improvement. And he said we didnt
have to worry about anything. That we could go to dinner and if
anyone complained about what we were wearing to send them to him.
They treated us royally. It was so sweet how they treated us, they
had been told what we had been through and they put us up for about
five days. It took that long to get our problems cleared up with
the Columbia state department. For example our visa to visit Columbia
had expired on the day that we had sunk. So we were trying to explain
why we were there and trying to explain that we had sunk. So finally
about a week later we had arrived in Burbank Airport where my lawyer
picked up the American captain and my self. And took us to the hospital
to be treated for the various illness we had pick up on the way.
I was in the hospital for about four days. So I came out a little
G: so what was your recourse with the company that did all the repair
work on the boat for you?
M: our recourse was to sue because we had a record of everything
that broke down. But on the lawsuit it was a catch 22. They wanted
proof about why we had sunk. We also did not have any insurance.
And we found out later that there had been a British airplane that
had an emergency landing a while before us and the Indians had taken
all of their belongings and killed them all. Well after we got our
health back we took a plane back there to where we had sunk. And
the ship was gone. So somebody with a lot of money had gone there
and taken it. My lawyer said it would take about $30,000 to get
it up and out of the water. But there is someone sitting in some
small port with my boat. But it is an easily identifiable as my
boat. So if it is seen it will be considered mine and they are supposed
to return it. The thing is you are never as good as you look when
you win and never as bad as you look when you lose.
And thus our heroes departed after a few more words of casual conversation.
Departed with grander plans of meeting soon in the magical city
of Seattle, where Morgan would surely soon share more stories of
Introduction by Gerry
Transcribed & edited by Jennifer Hendee