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Gary Willoughby Interview by
Gary Willoughy
BladeZone Editorial Manager
As 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.

G: So, I guess what I really wanted to talk to you about is that adventure you had with your boat.
M: 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 didn’t 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 it’s 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 doesn’t 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 weren’t 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 don’t 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 wasn’t 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 didn’t 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 isn’t 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 don’t get very close, I mean there is no point. And they didn’t 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 weren’t Coast Guard or anything, they were supposed fishermen. And that didn’t 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 weren’t going to catch up, they turned away. But we had been warned about the pirates in that area before.
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 don’t 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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 doesn’t 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 wasn’t 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 wouldn’t have made a difference. But what the suspicion was that there was some drug trafficking and they didn’t 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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 o’clock 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 didn’t 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 didn’t say a word to them but they did say to us, "get on, get in." So we got in, but we didn’t 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 wasn’t 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 didn’t 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 skinny fellow.
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 high adventure.
Introduction by Gerry Kissell
Transcribed & edited by Jennifer Hendee
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