Down the memory line

General banter about diving and why we love it.
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Joshua Smith
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Re: Re: Down the memory line

Post by Joshua Smith » Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:32 am

Norris wrote:I so love it when I open NWDC and see that this thread has new content!


Best thread we've had in ages! Truly epic. Thank you for sharing all this with us, Jan!
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Norris
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Norris » Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:20 am

I so love it when I open NWDC and see that this thread has new content!
**Pinch it, don't stick your finger through. You're just pinching a bigger hole.
CAPTNJACK - 2012**

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Jan K
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Jan K » Fri Nov 19, 2010 9:00 am

Thanks Ben, but no coffee cups. Yet :) We did have a old whiskey barrel aboard for fresh water storage.
Our coffee had an interesting flavor thanks to it..
With the frost and possible snow coming to Whidbey, it is time to head to the South Pacific
aboard the Christian Rose :pirate:
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It didn't take long to be tossed around a little, time to acquire sea legs in hurry.
There were moments, when standing alone in the darkness, only the only muted light
was the compass powered by a car battery. angry sea rolling by only few feet away, I was
wondering, what am I doing here ??? But your buddies sleeping below decks depend on you
standing the watch, steering the boat towards distant goal, so no goofing off ! The rainy
nights were the most difficult, for there was no protection from the elements and looking
at the compass was hard on eyes after while. And it was important to stay on course, for getting
broadside to the swell was not a good prospect, and resetting the square sails would require
the entire crew....
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However. when the weather is nice, what a beauty. No noise of engine, no smell of fumes,
just the wind and swooshing of following seas passing under the hull. And steering
at night is easier too, just pick a star, line it up with the mast or piece of rigging and
only check the compass time to time, when star moves, pick up new one ...
But it is the days of smooth sailing which are the real joy. Great company and open horizon
full of promise...
Image
Of course, there is always something needs to be fixed, we were having problems with the
steering cable breaking strands as it went through pulleys under the main mast. We had a backup
rigged to a tiller, but that was very inconvenient. Our original plan was to sail all the way to Majuro
Atoll in the Marshall Islands, but since there is a tiny chunk of land with civilization along the way.
We decided to try our luck there. Johnston Atoll, depository of chemical weapons, off limits to
private yachts. We figured, if nothing else, we could use the leeward side of the island to anchor
and use the calm waters to make some better repairs to our steering system. What we found at
Johnston Atoll was unexpected. Wonderful people who not only took us in, but helped us with
materials, supplies and treated us like royalty and not a quartet of raggedy sailors.
These two flat, low laying islands ( 17 feet elevation ) have some interesting history. Among other
things, twelve thermonuclear warheads were exploded in all, one of which failed when the missile
failed to launch and scattered plutonium debris over the island. Agent Orange, dioxins, sarin nerve
gas, PCBs, PAHs and whatever else deadly enough was stored there too. ( all this I read off Wikipedia).
They didn't tell us any of this, just gave us gas masks in pack which contained different stuff,
and told us which one to inject of we see this color or that color cloud coming our way.
Thankfully, we did not need to use any of that stuff and all we experienced on Johnston Atoll
was unbelievable hospitality.
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PS Now the Johnston Atoll is clear of all the chemical weapons, in 2003 the legal jurisdiction
was transferred from American military to US Fish and Wildlife Service, all the structures removed
and the runway closed. If we sailed in today, we would not get a cold beer there as
we did back in 1974 :partyman:

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airsix
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by airsix » Thu Nov 18, 2010 10:38 am

:luv: This thread is bigger than Harry Potter and Star Wars. I want the T-shirt and mug. I want the collectible action figures. I want to pre-order the book on Amazon and camp outiside the box office to buy tickets to the movie. :luv:
"The place looked like a washing machine full of Josh's carharts. I was not into it." --Sockmonkey

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Jan K
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Jan K » Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:52 am

Thanks Calvin. Gathering old pictures, notes and memories :)
Although I did not have any commercial diving endorsements, I dabbled in diving
for wages a little bit, nothing too heavy duty, scuba was sufficient. From cleaning
boat bottoms, changing props and zincs to a deckhand on work boats.
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With the Energy Crisis messing with my daily life in California, letter from my friend Nick
aboard the Christian Rose in Hawaii was just what I needed to get out of the mental malaise.
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The boat was far from finished when we left California two years ago, and it was
great to see, that Nick kept on working on Christian Rose since we last saw her in
October of 1972.
Image
Time to load the groceries ! :pirate:
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Tangfish » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:13 pm

This thread is one for the ages - as is Jan's story. I am in disbelief as I look through all of this. Keep the story coming, Jan!

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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Blaiz » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:39 pm

geez jan, you look awfully crispy in that first photo... the sun in that area has got to be very harsh, yes?
The student was ready.


it's nice to have low expectations, sometimes - lcf

I said keep going, not start whining -airsix

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Jan K
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Jan K » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:24 pm

So with our big dream shattered, we decided to see at least what the other Bahamian island have to offer.
The only way was to fly from Freeport to the capital of Bahamas, Nassau on New Providence Island. On our excursion of the city, walking across the bridge to Paradise Island where the tourists and rich play, we stumble onto a place called Potter Cay, located under the tall bridge from where all kinds of small vessels depart to all the other islands in the Bahamas carrying supplies to the small settlements there. Called the Mailboats even if mail is not even a fraction of their cargo, they provide
cheap transportation if one doesn't mind to travel in crowded quarters and without any luxuries. After what we went through, it was not a problem. We knew about the Blue Holes at Andros Island, so there is where we head first. We had no idea what to expect. In our packs we each had only mask, snorkel, fins, towel, minimum clothing, sleeping bag, few dollars.
I had Nikonos camera with few rolls of B&W and slide film, my logbook, pencils, watercolors.
When we disembarked at Kemps Bay, we were the only white people around, and there were not too many people there to begin with.
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There were no motels, no restaurants, only friendly locals, and we managed to make friends, join them in hunt for land crabs. There were no Blue Holes anywhere near, no way to find out here at Kemps Bay. Nobody in this village had a car, nobody came here on the road which led who knows where. We were stuck and so we snorkeled around the shore, which had nothing to offer for a diver, since it was exposed to prevailing winds and all there was to see was broken up sharp rock.
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We took the boat back to Nassau, the only way for us to escape :) There was an airstrip somewhere out in the jungle...
Once back under the Nassau bridge, we reload our packs onto next boat, which was going to Exuma's George Town. It didn't make any difference to us, since we had no idea what to expect anyway. This passage was even longer, we spent most of the time on the cabin roof, the food they served on this mailboat was much superior to the one we had on Andros trip. BTW, food was include in the fare. Not bad for 6 dollars.
George Town on Great Exuma Island shows much more prosperity, there were white faces in the crowd, but they smiled less then the people on Andros. The houses were fancier, and there was a store when we could buy more varied food.
Being on meager budget we soon left the town and hitchhiked away. Here we decided to break up the group, easier to get rides, Ivo and Helena head south to Little Exuma Island, Jan and I head north. When the ride, usually in the back of small pickup, left us close to the water, we jumped in, snorkeling around to see, if diving is any good. It wasn't much.
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On the very top of Great Exuma Island, we run out of options, so in the bar, over rum and coke, we made a deal with local fisherman :
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Seeing my first shark was the highlight moment and we head back to George Town. My buddy Jan had enough and books a seat on Outer Island Airways and leaves not only Exumas, but also Bahamas and head home to California. The mosquitos, no-see-umms and frequent rain showers are problem, I concede.
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Ivo, Helena and I stick it out, catch the next mailboat back to Nassau, there we give Andros one more chance, get on boat to the northern Andros, maybe the Blue Holes are there. Well, we tried.
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It just wasn't in our cards. We flew out of Andros back to Nassau, and in ten minutes after landing, we were checking into a flight back to Florida.
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OK, so it was not the dive trip of lifetime we envisioned when we laid our hands on that old boat in San Pedro junkyard. But we got memories. And all the mosquito bites are somehow forgotten even if they used to drive us all crazy.
The trip back to California was fast, not a tow behind, we gave the trailer away in Fort Lauderdale, it was piece of junk anyway.... :)

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Jan K
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Jan K » Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:44 am

Remember the Gilligan's Island allegory ?
After actually making it across the treacherous waters of the Gulf Stream and reaching
the Bahamas, the dream of scuba diving the islands ended before it even began.
All that work for nothing :pale:
Image

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Jan K
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Jan K » Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:42 pm

The crossing from Florida to Grand Bahama Island was not as easy as we envisioned. But we
did manage to make it. Arriving just after Independence was declared complicated things a little,
the Immigration officers had no clear idea how to handle four Czechs with US re-entry permits,
but no passports. We all just had Green Cards. But since we had a boat, we were viewed as OK
guys :)
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by nwbobber » Fri Nov 12, 2010 8:39 am

Jan this is great. Thank you so much for putting this up here. It is incredibly interesting to me, to hear of your travels, and of your beginning behind the iron curtain. It is a rare and valuable perspective.
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading - Lao Tzu

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Jan K
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Jan K » Fri Nov 12, 2010 8:25 am

GetWet wrote:Jan,
What everyone else said. As a relatively new diver I learn so much from you. But now I have to thank you for giving me a glimpse into your personal history. I am thankful for you and your brothers tenacity. Your stories, as young divers, are entertaining and educational. Thank you for your contribution. Melissa Wilkie

Melissa, thank you for your kind words. I don't know about the educational value of all this. But I would like to encourage especially the young divers, to keep a log of their dives for the joy which it might provide much later, when the memory starts to fade :rawlings:
With today's digital cameras and computers, it is so much easier to keep track of things.
I wish I was a better writer, I did not even have a camera for most of the years, so only crude sketches (not an artist neither) had to suffice. But it sure helps now, when I can dig into the piles of dogeared logbooks and assemble some kind of a story of what I did with my life. And reading your comments, it entertains more then just myself in old age :smt024

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Jan K
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Jan K » Fri Nov 12, 2010 8:14 am

John Rawlings wrote:So....who plays Mr. Howell? Or did you not have a "millionaire" on board? ;)

John, Mr. Howell took one look at our craft and boarded to the nearby SS.Minnow instead...:)

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Re: Down the memory line

Post by GetWet » Fri Nov 12, 2010 7:53 am

Jan,
What everyone else said. As a relatively new diver I learn so much from you. But now I have to thank you for giving me a glimpse into your personal history. I am thankful for you and your brothers tenacity. Your stories, as young divers, are entertaining and educational. Thank you for your contribution. Melissa Wilkie

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Re: Down the memory line

Post by John Rawlings » Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:40 am

So....who plays Mr. Howell? Or did you not have a "millionaire" on board? ;)
“Don’t pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he’ll just kill you.”

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http://www.advanceddivermagazine.com
http://johnrawlings.smugmug.com/

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Jan K
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Jan K » Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:15 am

The lure of distant horizon calls. With only meager resources (money) at our disposal,
but great appetite for diving, we concocted a plan to make a dream of diving in
the tropics reality by fixing up an old boat and tow it across America, zip over the
what looks on map as a short distance to Bahamas, and then dive, dive and dive !
The junkyards around San Pedro and Wilmington were full of wrecked cars, and
also boats which already outlived their function and rested among the abandoned
vehicles. There is where the "California Dreamer" story begins. If it worked for the
Christian Rose, why it would not work for this one, was our logic. And so we applied
some of the knowledge acquired from converting the Rose from surplus hulk to a sailing
vessel and toiled on weekends and whenever we could in the backyard of Ivo's rental
house preparing the boat for summer vacation. When July came, we felt it was good
enough. One quick sea trial in local harbor and we secured it to the trailer, and loaded
it with dive gear. We even had a small portable air compressor to fill our scuba tanks.
With four divers, the load was "little" heavy, but that did not stop us. On July 3rd, we
got underway. It was a slow trip due to the load we were trying to get to Florida, but
eventually we made it! Bahamas, here we come... :clap:
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Three of us were from the last year's voyage to Hawaii, another Jan, not a "sailor", but
also a diver joins us, and since he was a car mechanic, we figured, real asset aboard
boat powered by a gas engine...
Image

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Re: Down the memory line

Post by airsix » Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:50 pm

Jan K wrote:Please note how much it cost to top off an airplane in 1972 :rofl:


The same $ buys less than a gallon and a half today.
"The place looked like a washing machine full of Josh's carharts. I was not into it." --Sockmonkey

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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Gill Envy » Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:43 pm

Wow, a treasure trove, seriously Jan, you would be feeding the hungry with your generosity if you published this!!!! I couldn't stop reading!

I spend way too much time hunting for things half as interesting, such things are few and far between.

thanks for sharing this with us! Keep it coming, if you don't mind me asking...

George
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Jan K
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Jan K » Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:13 pm

Thank you all for encouraging words. I have to admit, I enjoy it myself, going through my old log books,
sure brings back memories... I wish I had kept a better care of the negatives and slides, the old ones got lost
as I moved around a lot. Before I launch into another boating venture, I will take you on trip to celebrate
a New Year in the far North. At least that was the plan ... :nutty:

Image
Image
Please note how much it cost to top off an airplane in 1972 :rofl:

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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Norris » Thu Nov 11, 2010 10:15 am

:notworthy: :notworthy:

I read every word and even zoomed in on many a picture.

wow
**Pinch it, don't stick your finger through. You're just pinching a bigger hole.
CAPTNJACK - 2012**

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Tom Nic
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Tom Nic » Thu Nov 11, 2010 9:35 am

I thought that the Whidbey Island Critters thread was the best thread on NWDC, but it has now been officially topped.
More Pics Than You Have Time To Look AT
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Penopolypants » Wed Nov 10, 2010 10:47 pm

Joshua Smith wrote:
airsix wrote:Jan, this is the best NWDC thread ever. :notworthy: =D>



I completely agree! Jan, I LOVE reading about your adventures! This brought a big grin to my face after a very long day. Thank you!


What they said! This has been a fascinating thread, I'm anxious for its continuation!
Come to the nerd side, we have pi!

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Joshua Smith
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Joshua Smith » Wed Nov 10, 2010 7:06 pm

airsix wrote:Jan, this is the best NWDC thread ever. :notworthy: =D>



I completely agree! Jan, I LOVE reading about your adventures! This brought a big grin to my face after a very long day. Thank you!
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Jan K
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Jan K » Wed Nov 10, 2010 6:21 pm

Blaiz wrote:Jumping around in the story, perhaps, but tell us the story of how you met and wooed your wife!

Also, you said the train hid Helena's dash to freedom. So, was there no hue and cry at all?

What did you have to do to get US/Italian permissions to emigrate? Was there ever a chance you might be returned to the Communist countries?


1. The wedding is still far in the future in this story, I will try to continue chronologically so I don't get too confused myself :)
2. The dash across the Yugoslav border was so fast, that nobody notices, they did not have guards there...
3. Once in the refugee camp and get checked out by Interpol, one had to apply for country to emigrate to, go through lot of interviews and checkups. After being accepted, I got an Italian passport for refugees, and in US got Social security number so I could work, after I proved that I can support myself for two years, I got the Green Card. And I had to pay back the airline ticket for the trip from Italy to New York. I was sponsored by the International Rescue Committee.
4. As a political refugee, they would not send me back to Czechoslovakia, I would be returned to Italy if I could not make it here... Hope this answers it for you :)

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Blaiz
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Re: Down the memory line

Post by Blaiz » Wed Nov 10, 2010 5:22 pm

Jumping around in the story, perhaps, but tell us the story of how you met and wooed your wife!

Also, you said the train hid Helena's dash to freedom. So, was there no hue and cry at all?

What did you have to do to get US/Italian permissions to emigrate? Was there ever a chance you might be returned to the Communist countries?
The student was ready.


it's nice to have low expectations, sometimes - lcf

I said keep going, not start whining -airsix

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