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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Old salts not too old to shake a sea leg

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

How do you suppose Mrs. Polo felt when Marco said over breakfast, "I think I'll take a walk to China."

What did Mrs. Stanley say when her husband, Henry, skipped off for Africa in search of Dr. Livingstone?

I can now assure you on good authority that both wives just shrugged and said, "Goodbye, dear, have a nice time." It turns out that wives of daredevil adventurers don't worry about husbands away on perilous expeditions.

Take, for example, Ann Besenbruch, whose 78-year-old husband set sail for Tahiti with a geriatric crew in a 42-foot yacht. "I never worry about Max when he's at sea," she said.

Eva Allerstorfer, wife of 77-year-old crew member Herman, smiled serenely and commented, "At our age, it would be a good way to go. I enjoyed my time alone very much."

This is not to detract from the magnificent achievement of three ancient mariners — Don Rudd was the baby at 72 — who tied up at the Waikiki Yacht Club looking fit as fiddles after a 20-day return voyage from Rangiroa Atoll in the Tuamotus.

"Give me time to take a shower and I'm ready to go again," boasted Allerstorfer. Then he glanced at his wife and added quickly, "I didn't mean that, Eva."

Rudd stoutly insisted that they hadn't even considered another voyage although somebody did mention Alaska once or twice. "That means you spent the whole trip trying to figure out how to break the news to us," said Ann.

To be perfectly honest, the crew members did consider the consequences if one of them passed a kidney stone or suffered a heart attack or a stroke. Allerstorfer, a watchmaker who used to tend the clock in Aloha Tower, said they discussed burial at sea.

"I told them to put weights on my feet because I wanted to go out standing up," he explained. "Max said he wanted to be laid out flat, face down."

Psychiatrist Lothar Varaday, a longtime friend, admitted that Max's son sent along a Bible and instructions for last rites. Fortunately, nobody needed a funeral service although a fourth member of the crew had to jump ship in Pape'ete.

"He had only one kidney and he got dehydrated," explained Max. "We missed him on the way back because he was our cook and radio operator."

With no radio communication, the wives didn't know when to meet the boat on Sunday. A message said, "Arriving in the morning." Ann and Eva arrived 8 a.m. The boat showed up at 3:15 p.m.

All three explorers returned as changed men because they had grown beards. Barbara Rudd shook her head in dismay but Ann and Eva gazed in admiration. After a boisterous champagne welcome on the dock, Ann, in a quiet moment, said to her husband, "You look like Sean Connery."

What more can a sea captain ask at age 78?

Reach Bob Krauss at 525-0873.