Thursday, March 6, 2003

Max Besenbruch, left, Don Rudd, Herman Allerstorfer and Peter Pohl will leave Waikiki Yacht Harbor today to embark on a 6,000-mile voyage to points in the South Pacific.

Seniors set sail
for South Pacific

Four friends over 70 have discussed
going on the three-month
adventure for years

By Pat Gee

Call it the old men and the sea.

Four friends over 70, three of them from Oahu, are sailing today from the Waikiki Yacht Club for the South Pacific on a three-month voyage that some might call crazy.

A couple of the men view the 6,000-mile trip to Papeete, Tahiti, the Marquesas, Bora Bora and back as their last great adventure.

But not Max Besenbruch, 79, the captain and owner of the Orion, the 42-foot cutter on which they will sail.

"Maybe none of us want to say that the excitement and adventure of life is over" by making this trip and, perhaps, others in the future, he said.

His comrades are experienced sailors and have sailed with him before in short trips, Besenbruch said, and all are members of the International Federation of Yachting Rotarians. They have talked about the long-distance South Pacific trip for years.

"It's a bit of an adventure ... and a lot of little challenges," Besenbruch said. "You're directly involved with the elements. You're always dependent on the wind. ... You never know, something can always go wrong.

"My wife thinks I'm a little nuts. At our age anything can happen. We can drop dead any day," said Besenbruch, a retired English language instructor.

Herman Allerstorfer, 77, noted: "This is probably our last big trip. One of these days, we all have to go. Why not go in a nice way? We have lived our lives."

But everyone is "in pretty good health -- that's why we're doing it."

Allerstorfer, a watchmaker who has serviced the Aloha Tower clock since 1967, said he looks forward to seeing "the ocean in a different light every day. It's beautiful, quiet, relaxing -- nobody who tells you what to do like at home. Then there's the blue sky, and we sit in the cockpit and talk story."

Don Rudd, who was the statewide manager of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and is the youngest at 72, has always wanted to sail the South Pacific.

His wife, Barbara Ann, calls it his "last hurrah," and Rudd laughs although he does not disagree.

The group will try to make between 100 and 125 miles a day and finish the trip in 90 to 100 days, stopping to enjoy the islands along the way, he said.

To pass the time on board, they will snorkel, swim, fish for meals, play bridge and study navigation charts. They will take turns keeping watch at night, steering and cleaning the boat. Rudd plans to take his Bible and other reading material.

Retired businessman Peter Pohl, 74, who lives in Iowa and Germany, traveled to Hawaii to sail with the other three. He will be the chief cook and has taken an oven so they can enjoy freshly baked bread and pizza, Besenbruch said.

Only Besenbruch and Allerstorfer have made long-distance trips. Besenbruch sailed to Hawaii from Chesapeake Bay in 1992 to take up residence here; Allerstorfer's last long trip was in 1978.

Both served with the German navy in World War II.

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