Sailors find Walla Walla author’s book in S. Sea library


Since first mentioning the Bill and Becky Musick family’s high-seas sailing adventure, the Walla Walla clan mentioned the most amazing discovery while on a tiny island in the South Pacific.

In September they dropped anchor at Suwarrow, in the North Cook Islands. Bill describes the atoll as an extinct, collapsed volcano that’s now a national park.

“The remoteness is a great asset for the area, a healthy reef with clear water, loads of fish including sharks, turtles and mantas. It is easy to get stuck in a place like this, and venturing out into heavy weather sailing looks less and less like a good idea, especially when friends are arriving and the fishing is good,” Bill blogged at the time.

Much to their surprise, Suwarrow’s lending library yielded a copy of Patrick Carmen’s “The Dark Hills Divide.” “Patrick is a great author from Walla Walla. I guess you have really made it when your book is in the lending library on Suwarrow,” Bill said.

From there, they had a seven-week window to get to Southern Tonga as weather dictates every move they make.

“We need to be out of this part of the world by the end of November when the cyclone season starts up,” Bill said. They took off on a 450-mile sail to American Samoa, figuring on traveling about 6-8 mph, a good speed that would take them 150-175 miles a day.

About three hours after they set sail, they reeled in their first marlin, a 5-footer that bested an hour to wrestle aboard. They took pictures with it, then set it loose.

“The wind is good, about 20 knots on our quarter and seas under 6 feet,” Bill observed. Within 24 hours, they were powering along through 12-foot waves and a 40-knot wind.

“The kids are playing cards and are oblivious to even the idea of bad weather. No fish yet, even though I rigged one of the big flying fish that jumped on board last night. We are working with only a triple-reefed main but still making 170 miles per day so looks like a three-day passage is still good.”

By Sept. 19 they’d made it to Pago Pago, American Samoa, after “three very exciting days of sailing. Everyone kept their lunch down and their bodies on the boat,” Bill said.

Daughter Melody, 10, reported that brothers Joey and Ray, Bill and Becky toured the island and have their national parks passports validated “with the most remote stamp in the entire system.”

“I saw a dead mouse, papayas, bananas, coconuts and a flying fox ... the only mammal native to American Samoa. It is not actually a fox but a big bat with a 3-foot wingspan that comes out in the daytime. They help pollinate the forest. They are very noisy and fly in large packs,” Melody blogged.

“On our return we went to Tisa’s Barefoot Bar and Grill (that) Lonely Planet recommended and enjoyed a piña colada (virgin) and fried bananas. Tisa was very nice and told us how not to get lost the next time we go on a hike. (We) should have stopped there first.”

For those who missed the first installment of their journey in Etcetera, VA dentist Bill and optometrist Becky left their jobs, sold everything, took the kids, bought a boat in Maryland and are circumnavigating, including a planned visit with friends in New Zealand.

On Oct. 14, the Water Musick crew made Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga, following a smooth 20-hour sail. They hooked a blue marlin about 20 miles out, which “had us entertained for 15 minutes with the most amazing acrobatics I have ever seen.”

Even better, they cleared customs/immigration in two hours. The authorities “ate the whole tray of brownies but Ray forgot the sugar so no problems,” Bill wrote.

On the 13th, Ray told his dad they were entering the second-deepest water on Earth at Tonga Trench. It’s about 22,000 feet or 10,587 meters.

“If the weather calms down we will stop for a swim but currently we are sailing along about 8.5 knots in 8- to 10-foot seas, wind at 20 knots from the E-SE. The big debate now is when to cross the International Date Line. Tonga elected to have the same time zone and date as Fiji and New Zealand even though it lies east of 180 degrees.

“We will lose a day somewhere on this passage so my vote is for Friday. All prudent sailors know not to leave on Fridays, so good bye Friday, yesterday was Saturday and good morning Sunday. Becky does not like my logic (she is not aware of all the sailing rules) but I still might win out. No fish yet, I think the water’s too deep!”

And on Thursday, Bill noted that “Becky thought my stomach was growling, I thought the anchor was draging, but the sound and vibration that shook our boat and woke us this morning was an earthquake about 20 miles from our anchorage. No tsunami so all was good.”

To follow progress of the two-masted 49-foot Hallberg Rassy, see

An Etcetera item complete with photos of voluminous, big-hooped Civil War-era dresses a number of area women donned for the Kirkman House Museum Victorian Ball set Walla Wallan Susan Queen on a frolic back in time.

When she was a student in the early to mid-1950s, full-skirted dresses buoyed by hoop slips were all the rage for formal functions at Walla Walla High School and Washington State College, she said.

Wanting to avoid a social faux pas should her slip slide to her ankles, it paid to ensure everything stayed securely in place.

“I used safety pins to attach the hoop slip to an undergarment — hated those girdles!”

And grooving to the music, be it to dance the stroll, hand jive, Madison, Lindy Hop, Mambo, Cha Cha, Bosa Nova or West Coast Swing, was where it was at.

“Hearing the live dance bands play the always popular tunes of Glenn Miller was the highlight of the evening at WSC,” Susan said.

Her memories came into sharper focus when she found her scrapbook in a closet. “While looking at the many pictures (I) was reminded of the excitement of being asked on a date to attend the formal dances, proms and balls. Your colorful story brought back many wonderful memories made during those happy, carefree years,” Susan said.

Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at or afternoons at 526-8313.


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