To Easter Island
In the 1950’s the imagination of a child was often inspired by National Geographic, both the magazine and the TV program National Geographic Explorer. TV was a new diversion in our home but it did not substitute for playing childhood’s made-up games. My sisters and brother & I often played “orphans” where we survived parentless on a deserted isle, ala Swiss Family Robinson. National Geographic expanded my horizons to continents like Africa and to islands in the South Seas. One island which fascinated me was Easter Island. How could I possibly go there?
My parents must have read about the Brigantine “Yankee” in the local papers as she was home ported in Gloucester, MA in the 1950’s. It was in the late 40’s and 50’s that this 96’ sailing ship circumnavigated the globe four times with a crew of 18 or so college aged kids. The owner and his wife, Irving and Eleckta Johnson, were lifelong adventurers who led seven around the world expeditions lasting 18 months each. This lifestyle would have plucked the romantic strings of my father’s heart but with four children to feed…he probably thought it would have been a fun way to spend a few years of one’s youth. I absorbed his ideas like a sponge. Little did he and Mom know that they were inspiring my dreams of visiting Easter Island and Polynesia by boat.
My first brush with Easter Island and the “Yankee” occurred off an island near Martha’s Vineyard, south of Cape Cod, MA. It was a small uninhabited island called Naushon Id. with a sandy beach called Tarpaulin Cove. We were anchored there on my father’s 40’ lobster boat called the “Phyllis” on our way to Maine. Young kids like my brother and I, 6 & 8 years old, needed to stretch our legs a little and do some running on the beach. Off in the distance, a large sailing ship appeared in the light breeze with a squares’l set above the jib.
“Let me see! My turn with the binoculars, “my brother begged as our rivalry played out to be the first to identify the ship. Dad recognized her as the “Yankee” with a bunch of kids on board. He regaled us with the stories he had read about her. It was 1956; a year after the book was published by Eleckta Johnson, “Yankee’s People and Places” which chronicled their sixth circumnavigation. The idea was planted, and the seed of a plan grew in the heart and mind of this eight year old girl. When I turned eighteen, I would ship aboard with the Johnsons and sail around the world on the Yankee, stopping at Easter Island, Pitcairn, and Tahiti.