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A Trip in a Trimaran
The Stuart News
Martin County, Florida
Volume 38, Number 220
Sunday, May 11, 1975
Story & Photo by Douglas Butler
VOYAGERS Taylor Vaughan and Debbie Smith still remember that "The Bear" carried them safely through a 10,000 mile trip that brought them close to whales, sea storms, and tornadoes.
In the style of the ancient Vikings, Taylor Vaughan built his own 31-foot boat and sailed on a 10,000 mile Odyssey that led him and his shipmate Debbie Smith into hurricane force winds, near dense jungles, and treacherous tornadoes at sea.
Vaughan is now the dean of the Chapman School of Seamanship in Stuart, but was about to receive his Doctorate in Medical Anthropology at the University of California when he decided to build his own ship and sail away from the San Francisco Bay area.
"I had what I call an existential enlightenment," said vaughan.
"I decided to create my own happiness working with my hands," he said.
"One of my faculty members built a boat and I decided I could do just as well,' said Vaughan.
He started building the boat while still working on his dissertation.
Within three months. he dropped out of school and decided to devote all of his time building his boat and to become a master carpenter.
Vaughan worked on his dream boat named "The Bear" for a year and a half. After it was completed, he learned how to sail by traveling the waterways of the San Francisco Bay area.
Vaughan financed his adventure by constructing a custom built home worth $70,000 in the San Francisco area.
Debbie Smith was one of 15 persons who inquired about joining Vaughan on his trip.
"She was the only one that didn't seem to be running away from something," said Vaughan.
Vaughan sharpened his carpentry abilities when he became the master carpenter for the yacht "Intrepid" which competed in the America's Cup Race held at Newport, Rhode Island last year.
"The 60 foot yacht didn't get to compete against any foreign yachts because it was beat out by "Courageous," said Vaughan.
"The race, which occurs every three years, is considered the most important race among the people who know about The "Intrepid" cost more than $1 million to construct.
Debbie and Vaughan jumped aboard their own boat, "The Bear" and started sailing south of San Diego after working on the Intrepid for three months.
In two days they reached Ensenada, Mexico, from there they went to Magdalena Bay where few people have witnessed whales frolicking off the Baja
En route to the southwest coastal area of Salina Cruz, Vaughan's "The Bear" ran into a "Tehuantepec" or 80-mile-an hour wind comparable to a hurricane.
"It's not a tropical depression so it doesn't qualify as a hurricane," said Vaughan.
"Our biggest worry was that we might be blown out to sea," said Vaughan.
"We were thrashed about for two days and one night," said Debbie.
The two had to relieve each other at the helm every 30 minutes because of the pounding waves and wind that jostled the craft.
The winds didn't die down for nearly a week but "The Bear" held up against the sea storm.
After escaping the Tehuantepec, or sea storm, the two sailed blissfully for 12 days without going ashore. During this period, which was the longest of the voyage, a freighter passed close to "The Bear."
"They waved and handed down cigarettes to us from a pulley," said Vaughan.
"The Bear" only has a 100-mile cruising range with gas, so they saved the gas except to enter and sail out of ports.
The two sailed through the Panama Canal and encountered new problems upon reaching the San Blas Islands which are near the Panamanian and Columbian borders.
One of the natives gave Vaughan a monkey. While at sea, the monkey bit Vaughan on the thumb and the next day, the monkey passed out foaming at the mouth.
The two took "The Bear" to Kingston, Jamaica to check out the bite for rabies.
"When we arrived in Kingston, there wasn't any rabies shot vaccine on the island," said Debbie.
"I was quarantined on the boat for a day, but through the help of the American Embassy, I managed to fly up to Boston. As it turned out, the monkey didn't have rabies, Vaughan said.
"Debbie speculated that the monkey was just sea sick," said Vaughan. Vaughan flew back to Jamaica to resume his voyage.
From Jamaica the two sailed through part of the "Devil's Triangle" and witnessed strange water spouts or tornadoes at sea.
"We could see them from a distance and we sailed around them. They looked blood red against the sky," said Debbie.
The two sailed up the coast by way of the "Windward Passage" and completed their voyage at the shore of Rhode Island.
Vaughan returned to Florida to sell "The Bear" which had proven its seaworthiness. The Bear now is harbored off the North Fork of the St. Lucie River at the Chapman School for Seamanship.
Vaughan is putting his carpentry skills to work renovating some of the buildings at the school which once were a part of the Miss Harris School for Girls. The 17-acre navigational and boat building school has been operational since August.
Vaughan is teaching a 26 week course to 20 students at the school. The course covers boat construction, meteorology and all facets of sailing.
The Bear, which is moored on the school grounds, is still for sale. The price is $18,000 but the adventures and memories gained from a 10,000 mile voyage cannot be bought - only lived.