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T.S.M.Y Apollo
The Apollo
Length 340'
Beam 48'
Draft 17'
Top Speed 18 knots

The Apollo was the main vessel of the Sea Org. It was bought in October of 1967 and sold for scrap in 1977.

For a history of it's wartime service click here.

The Final Days on the Apollo[edit | edit source]

By Paul Kawaller

The majority of the contents of the Apollo were removed in Curacao and shipped north to Daytona. We sailed to New Providence Island (Nassau) in the Bahamas and in October of 1975 made final preparations to mothball the ship and remove the remainder of the crew and all Scientology materials. The ship was anchored in South West Bay in about 60 feet of water. As the ship swung on the anchor chain the aft section was not far from the Tongue of the Ocean, which dropped off to 3600 ft.

The crew departed in December of 1975 leaving seven of us behind. Dave Murphy was the Captain of the ship keeping crew as we were known. The remaining members were Jonah Harris, Gary Press, Jim Neal, Ron Morris and myself. There was another crew member who blew from Nassau while on liberty. I don't recall his name. All in this group were engineers except for me. I was working on deck during the transition to the land base. I volunteered for the assignment. As the crew left I was told that the duration would be about three months, but I didn't believe that. I assumed that we would be there for at least six months. With everything going on, I expected at least six months. As it turns out, it was almost two years before we departed the Bahamas. At the time the crew left very few people that they were going to Daytona, and we did not learn about Clearwater for a very long time.

With the crew gone, it took a while for us to settle into a routine. Murphy needed to get com-lines established and funding for our activity. We needed to secure things on the ship so that they would need little attention. For transport we initially used the #3 lifeboat for transport because it had a diesel motor. It was a bit dangerous for everyday use however, because when you lowered it you had to crank over the engine by hand to get it started. At the same time someone had to unhook the heavy fall blocks while the boat was rising and falling on the waves. You had to push off from the hull and steer it away from the rubbing strake so you wouldn't get crushed. This is not something we wanted to do forever, so we eventually built a skiff out of plywood and fiberglass and got a Yamaha outboard engine for everyday use. It had only a few inches of freeboard but could plane and was a much better and safer method.

Customs Guards[edit | edit source]

We were required to keep a customs guard aboard at all times. These were very amiable men, but obviously didn't have much to do. They stayed with us for about a month at a time and filled us in on whatever gossip there was about the government and the island. Early on, one of them told us that he heard that there were people who wanted to buy the ship. Murphy relayed this to management and that was the start of the saga to sell the ship. Somehow a number of 1.2 Million dollars was set, based on a rumor, not reality. Within a month or so a mission was assigned to sell the ship with two missionaires. I don't recall their names and it's probably better that I don't. I don't know any of the management details. Murphy was our sole contact with the Flag Land Base and was responsible for reporting to management.

Daily Routine[edit | edit source]

It was decided that we would work to renovate certain areas of the ship to demonstrate what could be done with it. The usual procedure for touching up the ship for years had been to chip rusty areas by hand, use red lead for primer and to paint over with white paint. We decided to work on the poop deck and chipped the entire thing down to bare metal and primed and painted it. This took months of work. All the rails and all the doors on the ship were stripped and varnished. We worked a full sea org day of 12 hours for the entire time. We had liberty every two weeks and study time. Since there were no courses, I took the opportunity to read all of the LRH books. We were allotted an extra $5 per week hazard pay, making a grand total of $15/week. I found out early on that the snipes almost never spent their own money, so I decided to do the same. By the end of ship keeping, I managed to save $1,500 on Sea Org pay.

South West Bay was remote and we were pretty isolated from the outside world. Being the only substantial ship in the area, from time to time we found ourselves involved in sea rescue. During our two years, we rescued eighteen people in various kinds of trouble. It seems that many sailed (or motored) out from Miami without making sure their boats were seaworthy or even had gas. Sometimes it was local fishermen in trouble.

During that time a James Bond film was shot in the bay. There's a scene in Thunderball where a tanker is part of a fight scene. They used a forty-foot model and set it on fire, blew it up and sank and raised it several times. It was fascinating to watch.

If you google images of this area today, you will see luxury resorts, marinas, and homes. It was not like this in 1975.

The initial shore transportation was by motorcycle, but Dave Murphy and Gary Press were riding together one day and took a bad spill and got scraped up. That was when Dave decided to restore the mini. We had an interesting time loading it into the sea sled. We couldn't take it ashore at the dock but had to motor around the island until we could make landfall. The Chrysler outboards on the sled were notoriously undependable, so we had to accompany it with two other boats in case there was trouble.

Selling the Ship[edit | edit source]

During that time we had a parade of potential buyers come out to look at the ship. It was a strange group. Who knows where they got their money or even if they had any? The SO mission dug up their own prospects from who knows where. In the very beginning, I think the mission made contact with a {https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broker broker] in New York but decided to go it on their own. Part of that decision was based on a perceived need for "secrecy." Every couple of months someone would come out to tour the ship. In the end, when they decided to scrap the ship, they went back to the broker and he knew everyone who had visited and how much money was being discussed.

Eventually, we got about $125,000 for the ship. That was less than the cost of maintaining it for two years. This was particularly frustrating because it provided no direct benefit to the SO and we felt like we wasted two years.

Other projects[edit | edit source]

  • We managed to restore Mary Sue's Mini that had been dumped in the harbor at Madeira and using the Sea Sled on the aft well deck managed to get it ashore.
  • We didn't need much electricity and ran the small Enfield generator in the engine room to provide for all our needs. It ran the entire time.
  • We renovated the welding generator on the forward well deck and used it for welding needs.

Weather[edit | edit source]

Mostly the weather was cooperative, though we had a few storms. When August first arrived we were a bit concerned about the prospect of Hurricanes. We had a meter to measure wind speed and had a pool for the highest wind speed expected. I think it was Ron Morris who picked sixty miles per hour. There were only six of us aboard to handle a three hundred forty foot ship. 1976 was a rather mild year for hurricanes but we were relieved when the season was over.

Jan 16 1977[edit | edit source]

I was in the galley. We had a small chest refrigerator that handled all our food and as I stood there the ship suddenly listed at an alarming angle and the refrigerator slid across the deck. I had the hand-held wind meter and it registered seventy mph. I ran up to the bridge and Dave Murphy was already up there. The landscape was racing by and we were dragging anchor.

Murphy sent the engineers to the engine room to start the engines for the first time in over a year. We were getting into shallow water and waves were breaking onto the well deck. We started the winches to pull up the anchor but by now the bow was heaving in and out of the waves and there were coral heads as large as houses just feet from the bow. The anchor chain had been dragging through the sand for miles. As we pulled it in, though it was normally black, it was now a very shiny silver. We were getting nowhere winching it in so Murphy ordered the engines ahead full and we dragged the chain out over the drop off for the Tongue of the Ocean so that it could straighten out and we pulled it in and secured it.

This was a bad storm that continued almost twenty-four hours. I was at the helm for twenty-one of them. The temperature dropped to fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Having been in the tropics for a few years we were freezing. It actually snowed in Miami during this storm. The waves were about thirty-five feet and we circled out in the ocean all night. About daybreak, things settled down a bit and by nine am we were able to anchor again and get some sleep.

There was a headline in a Miami paper about a wedding in a nursing home. Apparently, the groom had promised the bride that he would marry her when it snowed in Miami, so he had to make good on his promise.

After this experience, we started pressuring the missionaires to get serious about selling the ship. None of us wanted to deal with a hurricane. In the spring when they came out with a prospect we took great pains to show them how far the ship had dragged anchor and how close we had come to losing the ship. Not much changed on this mission and we began to believe that they weren't even assigned to it full time. When August 1st, 1977 came, the start of the serious part of the Hurricane season, both missionaires went on leave and we went ballistic. Murphy called Flag and threatened to take the ship out into the Tongue of the Ocean and sink it. Finally, someone contacted the brokers in New York and arranged to sell the ship for scrap in Brownsville Texas.

The final voyage[edit | edit source]

Through all of this, we were mandated to maintain security so that no officials would know what was going on. We had to scrub the remainder of the ship for any references to Scientology. I recall going through all the charts with an eraser. We arranged to hire a Bahamian captain and six crew to assist with the voyage. This was now October of 1977. Once aboard we got provisions and finally weighed anchor for the last time. You cannot imagine the feeling of finally leaving South West Bay after two years.

When we decided to finally sail, we needed a licensed Master to move the ship and dock in the United States. That's the main reason we hired the Bahamian Captain, but Murphy was in charge and it was his decision not to call for an evacuation in the medical incident described below. There was still, very much an imperative not to disclose anything about the Scientology connection to the ship. That was definitely part of Dave's orders.

The voyage across the Gulf was uneventful except for one serious incident. One of the Bahamian crew developed severe abdominal pains and Murphy did not want to radio for medical evacuation. I was told to give the guy touch assists to manage the pain. I did this for over an hour but things just got worse. Ron Morris had been a medic in Japan during the Vietnam War and determined that the problem was most likely a kidney stone that was blocking the urinary tract. He rigged up a catheter and was able to provide relief to the man.

We arrived in Brownsville without further incident and departed the ship for Clearwater.

Picture Gallery
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File Usage[edit | edit source]

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