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March 26, 2018

Photo Quiz

Today’s mystery ship. Click on the photo to enlarge it. Thanks to Jeff Berman for sharing it.

© Jeffrey Berman

This tall ship was spotted in the San Francisco Bay Area on Friday. Who can tell us her name, her hailing port, and her mission here?

Snickers, the Castaway Dog, Part 1

Almost exactly 10 years ago, we told you about a couple named Jerry and Darla Merrow who spent 95 days adrift in the Pacific on their 48-ft motorsailer Darla Jean before it washed up on Fanning Island after leaving Moss Landing. The couple has two pets with them: Gulliver, a five-year-old Macaw parrot, and Snickers the dog. "After spending nearly two weeks on Fanning with literally just the clothes on their backs, Jerry and Darla hopped a ride on the interisland supply ship Nei Momi and made their way back to California," we reported in a March 24 2008 ‘Lectronic Latitude. "Unfortunately, the Nei Momi wouldn’t allow them to take their animals along so they remained in the care of some islanders."

The Darla Jean being dismantled by locals on Fanning Island.

© 2018 Roland Klein

Cruisers Robby and Lorraine Coleman had been on Fanning for several months on their ketch, Southern Cross, and contacted Latitude after local officials said the animals either had to be sent off the island, or euthanized. Jack Joslin eventually answered the call and helped rescue Snickers. He contacted us in early March, a day after Snickers passed away. This story has received national attention over the years — the Merrows ;made an appearance on the The Montel Williams Show, while the LA Times and USA Today reported on Snickers; the Las Vegas Review Journal also recently ran an article. Joslin shared the following story with us, written in the ‘first person’, from Snickers’ perspective. This is an abridged version. (In a story full of anniversaries and milestones, Joslin turns 70 today):

I was born in Modesto, California, in the summer of 2007. When I was just five or six weeks old a woman came and took me away. She said something about living on a sailboat and sailing to the Cook Islands. And she named me Snickers. I hadn’t been living on the boat in the marina for very long when the man said, "It’s time to go." We ran into trouble not very long after we left the land, though. A big storm came along and damaged our boat. I heard the man tell my mom that the mainsail was messed up and the engine didn’t work very well. He said we’d have to go back. But we didn’t go back to San Francisco. We went to a place called Moss Landing.

We were only there for a little while and the man got us a new boat. Except the man hadn’t bothered to learn about his new boat before we left, or even learn how to sail at all from what I could see. And sure enough, we were in trouble again! Before very long we had no working sails, no electronics and a flooded engine room. The man said that meant we were on our own unless someone came along who could help us. Well, no one ever came along. So we drifted, day after day. It turned out that we had drifted for 95 days before that last crazy day on the boat in early December, 2007.

It turned out we had drifted onto the reef that fringes a place called Tabuaeran Atoll, or Fanning Island, about 1200 miles south southwest of Hawaii, in the Republic of Kiribati. There was a lot of noise from breaking fiberglass, grinding coral, everything being thrown around inside the boat, and the man yelling at Mom that we had to get off the boat and try to swim to the island. He put Gulliver [the parrot] on his shoulder and his passport in his shirt pocket, told Mom to get in the water, then dropped me down into the water beside her.

Snickers had some serious sea (as well as air and land) miles under his collar.

© 2018 Jack Joslin/ Las Vegas Review Journal

That was pretty scary, because my mom couldn’t swim very well so she couldn’t hold onto me. Poor Gulliver was pretty scared, too! But we all got onto the beach, and the boat was eventually washed over the reef and into shore, too. They tried to save some of their stuff, but the man said it was a lost cause. So there we were, on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with nothing! The local authorities came along and told the man that he was technically under arrest, because he had entered Kiribati with animals and because he had lost his passport when we were swimming ashore.

There was a nice man and woman who had sailed their beautiful Angelman ketch Southern Cross from Hawaii a few months earlier. When they heard what had happened to us, they offered the man and woman I was with any help they could, but they refused all help and said they could take care of themselves. I thought a little help sounded like a real good idea! Two weeks later, the interisland supply boat came to Tabuaeran and the man and woman who had brought me there got on it and left . . . I never saw them again.

There were about 2500 people living on the island, and there were dogs there, too. But they don’t keep the dogs as pets — the dogs have to take care of themselves. So that’s what I had to do, too. Except it was December 2007 and I was only 5 or 6 months old! It wasn’t easy, let me tell you! Then the authorities in Kiribati learned that the man and woman were never coming back for their pets — Gulliver and I had been abandoned! That was a real problem, because Kiribati strictly forbids the importation of any animals into the country.

The word was sent that the local policeman would have to round up Gulliver and me and kill us! Luckily, the local policeman really didn’t want to do that; he asked the nice cruisers from Hawaii if they could do anything to save us. Their options were limited, but they put the word out among cruisers that our outlook was pretty grim unless someone did something. A sailing magazine in San Francisco called Latitude 38 picked up the story. A man in Las Vegas decided to see if he could help. Actually, many people got involved after hearing about Gulliver and me and what was going to happen to us unless something was done fast!

On Wednesday, we’ll bring you Part 2, as Snickers makes his escape from Fanning Island. 

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