Returning to the South Pacific

Kicking back on a sunny day aboard the Firebird in typical attire: sunglasses, bare feet and swimsuit, Grenadines, 1978.
Kicking back on a sunny day aboard the Firebird in typical attire: sunglasses, swimsuit and bare feet. Grenadines, 1978.

On July 1, 1978, I sailed into Emerald Bay, Laguna Beach, California, after circumnavigating the world on my 84-foot sailing boat, the Firebird. My then 11-year-old son Rod and his young friends were waiting for me on the beach wearing their cool Quiksilver board shorts.

I dove off the Firebird and swam to shore to greet them. As I came out of the water, tanned, muscular and in my European-style Speedos, Rod’s friends scattered like seeds in the wind as if they had seen a weird apparition. It was very, very funny and a perfect end to a wonderful three-year sailing sabbatical. All told, we covered over 40,000 nautical miles and visited 36 countries.[pullquote]“As I came out of the water, tanned, muscular and in my European Speedos, Rod’s friends scattered like seeds in the wind as if they had seen a weird apparition. It was very, very funny and the perfect end of a wonderful three-year sailing sabbatical.[/pullquote]

Shortly after I set my anchor ashore, I plunged back into my Nutrilite career with vigor, speaking three weeks later to a group of 25,000 distributors at the Long Beach Arena. I remember my shoes feeling so tight since my feet had spread two sizes in width after going barefoot for almost three years. My pants also almost fell off my body as I had slimmed down about 3 inches around my waist. So, preparing for the event also included buying a new wardrobe. At the convention, I spoke to distributors about my dream for the Nutrilite brand. Refreshed and recharged, I was ready for the opportunities and challenges ahead. It was great to be back and get to work.

Thirty-eight years later, Amway is the number one direct-selling company in the world, and Nutrilite is the number one vitamin and dietary supplement brand in the world with sales of more than $5 billion and growing. It has been such a privilege to be part of this great story, sharing the message of optimal health and being a product of the product. It has been a wonderful ride.

Now, I’m 80 years old and I’m ready to embark on another journey, one that I have been thinking about for a number of years. With the support of my wife Francesca and the encouragement of my children, I have decided to take another sabbatical. My plan is to retrace my steps through the South Pacific and see how the people and places have changed since my earlier voyage (for more details and photos from this earlier adventure, check out the Firebird Journey page).

Our changing planet

Significant changes have been made in navigational science and technology since my last sabbatical voyage. Thirty-eight years ago we were dependent upon the use of a sextant, a good clock and nautical charts to determine our location.

Now we have GPS satellite connections for communication and a seemingly infinite number of sophisticated electronic techniques to help guide our way. Thirty-eight years ago I was out of touch for two to three weeks at a time. Now we have instant communication, instant location and instant identification of objects above and below us. Thirty-eight years ago, the world population was four billion, now it has exploded to over seven billion. With population growth, there has also been a noticeable change in our environment, including the quality of our land and our water.

I find myself thinking a lot about these changes that have taken place in all aspects of our lives, and I’ve had an increasing desire to write about them in some sort of a book or blog, based upon a retracing of my steps through the South Pacific.

The realities

Unfortunately, I’ve done very little sailing in the last 38 years, except for a few charters where we rented boats in the South Pacific. We did a lot of swimming and diving, but very little sailing, just some occasional steering. So, my sailing skills have dwindled over the years.

Celebrating a successful 3-year voyage with Captain Bob (right) and the rest of the Firebird crew, 1978.
Here’s to an amazing adventure. Celebrating a successful three-year voyage with Captain Bob (right) and the rest of the Firebird crew, 1978.

I was very fortunate to be able to entice my skipper of the ‘70s and his wife to take on a three-year contract with me to find the appropriate boat and then get it ready for a revisit to the South Pacific. With over 400,000 nautical miles under his belt, Captain Bob is the person for the job. He looked for a number of years before he finally found the appropriate vessel, a 78-foot Kelly Archer Cutter, which we have christened Double X in honor of the product that made the Nutrilite Brand so famous.

Captain Bob and his team have been busy refurbishing the Double X and getting it rigged up from inside out to be ready for a long voyage from California to Tasmania, via the South Pacific.

It’s been a busy three years of planning and preparation, and I’m excited about sharing all the hard work that brought us to this point and all the adventures that lie ahead of us in upcoming blog posts. We are planning to depart from San Francisco on July 16th, which happens to be the same weekend that I officially embarked upon my voyage aboard the Firebird forty one years ago.

It will be quite different this time around. I was a young whippersnapper on the Firebird. Now, on the Double X, I’ll be more like the old man and the sea along with my buddy Captain Bob.

We will see how it goes. Lots to do. Hope you join us on this adventure!


Dr. Sam Signature



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5 thoughts on “Returning to the South Pacific”

  1. Sam,

    You have quite an exciting adventure (When I crossed the Pacific on a WW II Troop Ship in 1965 it was nothing like your current opportunity!).

    Best wishes to you and to your colleagues for “Fair winds and Following seas.”
    Norm Rich

  2. I am so excited to follow this adventure. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us! I am happy to be an armchair voyager.

  3. How fabulous, Dr. Sam. I’m so envious and look forward to following your exciting sailing adventures with great interest. I notice your adventures on Firebird did not include New Zealand, a sailing paradise! Should you plan to stop in my beautiful home country, I would make sure I traveled to meet up with you. We have a home there, manufactured from two 40 ft shipping containers.
    I wish you and your crew fair winds, blue skies and wonderful sailing.
    Best, Christopher

    1. Hi Christopher,
      Land Crew here. We would be happy to pass on your good wishes and invitation to Dr. Sam. And, your repurposing and reusing of materials, well, color us impressed!

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