Below is a an article about a speaker for our club. This meeting happened a few years ago, but I thought it was very interesting to hear his story. I hope you like it.
The Kiwanis Club of Marilla was the host to Ken Frey this past week, who spoke of his life-changing trip around the world with his wife Cheryl one year after they were married. Many slides were shown during Frey’s talk, which really brought the adventure right into the meeting room. Most of the pictures were taken by Cheryl. The trip changed from “we hope to some day...” to a reality after they mentioned their goal to a 94-year-old friend. He advised them to do the trip instead of talking about “someday,” and they realized he was correct. So they worked very hard to save money, purchased a 39-foot boat which they got sea-ready, christened it Hanna and left for their journey July of 1991. They began the trip along the Erie Canal, actually being pulled by a mule for part of the distance. The outbound route went along the Eastern Seaboard, where they encountered some extremely bad weather which gave a sudden reality check for these novices’ voyagers. Tying yourself to the various parts of the boat was extremely important in bad weather.
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) were not widely available for navigation at the beginning of their trip because not enough satellites were connected to the system. The original navigation method which they used was Celestial Navigation-using stars, the sun and a sextant to pinpoint their location. Toward the end of their trip, as technology advanced, a GPS was used which gave their actual location within 100 yards.
Fresh water while traveling on the saltwater Oceans was an important supply, and very hard to acquire. They did use a reverse osmosis system to convert water from salt to fresh. Showering was done with buckets of salt water, lemon Joy soap and rinsing with a precious small amount of fresh water.
They paid $300 to spend an entire day traveling through the Panama Canal toward the beginning of their journey, and in the canal they were dwarfed by large freighters.
Freighters were one of their concerns during the trip, since their size vessel might not be seen by a large ship. Even during the night, they would need to check the horizon every twenty minutes to watch for approaching freighters.
They decided that all of their stops would include a request from the locals to see any regional waterfalls or churches, sometimes these waterfalls really were large and powerful, sometimes the water barely trickled down a hill. Many of the churches were still being used, but some were overgrown with vegetation.
All the residents they came into contact with around the world were very welcoming to them; they were fascinated by their story and by Cheryl’s blonde hair and blue eyes-features none of them had. The children of the world especially were excited to meet them. The life they saw was a simple life for the natives, fishing, visiting with neighbors and making beautiful carved items and cloth. Many times celebrations were held in their honor because they choose to visit.
Because of the kindness shown by so many strangers to them, Frey has never charged a fee to do this presentation-it is his way of passing on this kindness.
A ham radio was their main source of communication, and it was very comforting to be able to call home to Alden New York from anywhere in the world. This was especially good when they would travel very long distances with no sign of life either in the water or the skies. Their longest stretch of this stark alone-time was 24 days on their way to Easter Island.
Many languages were used during their 4-year trip, their Spanish and French were passable, but other languages like Portuguese and Indonesian were more of a challenge.
Money was brought in American Currency since this was widely accepted, and in small amounts, with more funds being wired to banks as needed.
Stopping at the Equator, they followed tradition and had a celebration involving silly costumes and drinking a toast to their 94-year-old friend using some Cognac which he gave them.
A son named Gabriel was born to them in New Zealand in 1994, with the local medical doctors very willing to allow Frey to assist in the birth as much as he and his wife desired. This blue-eyed towhead was quickly the hit of the visits to small islands-he was looked upon as a rarity because of his coloring, and many cultures wished that he be carried while still less than two years old, so he had many different hands willing to hold him. They were always treated graciously during their visits to the villages, but this new baby brought a different sweet tone to their interaction.
Because of the birth of their son, they spent about four months in New Zealand, traveling around by car. They also used this time to spruce up their boat and acquire new charts for the rest of their voyage.
One part of their trip included a stop in South Africa, at the time when Nelson Mandela was recently released from prison. The part of the trip around the southern shoreline of Africa was too treacherous to take Gabriel on, so Cheryl and the baby went by car with friends across South Africa and later connected back with Frey.
Surprisingly, they made contact with some of the same people making similar voyages, along their travels, people that they never expected to see again would turn up at another island. These friendships were very important to the Freys.
Their trip continued on toward home, taking four years, covering 40 thousand miles and visiting a total of 28 countries.
They entered the Hudson River, traveling once again down the Erie Canal, arriving at Crawdaddy’s Restaurant in the Buffalo New York Marina to a large contingent of family and friends.
Their family now includes four children, and someday, maybe they will take another trip and share this adventure also with the members of the Kiwanis Club of Marilla who very much enjoyed this exciting account.
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