Rare photo of Dr. Hilstrom without a cap and new owner Dean Strawn

Scene that greeted the fishing boat crew after boarding.

The chief forensic expert, Dr. Joel Hilstrom, hired by the family in a effort to establish if some kind of foul play was involved, arrived in Honolulu to examine  the Marara. Famous for his work on the O J Simpson case, Dr. Hilstrom feels he will be able to establish the time of death and cause, even though the remains have been scraped up from the cabin sole. Using a technique, acquired after years of research while working in Japan, Dr. Hilstrom expects to arrive at some solid leads in the case. He is having his former girlfriend, a registered nurse now living in New Mexico, fly over to assist him in using his technique to establish beyond any reasonable doubt, the cause of death, and if foul play involved. Mrs. Collins, his former girlfriend now remarried, is a world renown expert. She and Dr. Hilstrom will try and duplicate the same conditions by sailing down to the Equator. It is not known at this time if the new owner of the Marara will charter the boat to them. He is not sure of Dr. Hilstrom’s qualifications as a skipper even though he will be accompanied by his assistant, Mrs. Collins, a renowned sailor in her own right.

Ms. Collins, she was my 2nd wife, Mexican/American and has gained significant weight. 


Dr. Hilstrom, using all his forensic skills, concludes head   located here.

 Dr. Hilstrom and Ms. Collins will be making a full report on their findings and conclusions. A slight problem has arisen between them. Dr. Hilstrom thinks it is PMS which Ms. Collins  vehemently denies, claiming her menstrual cycle has nothing to do with it and claims she  has never suffered one day from PMS in her whole life. This is contrary to what her present husband, previous husbands, and Dr. Hilstrom himself, who has experienced and suffered through many bouts of them during their intimate relationship. The report follows:




My conclusions of what occurred aboard the Marara are one of two things. The skipper was struck on the head by the boom at night during an accidental jibe, resulting in a massive blood clot. He was probably knocked unconscious and after he came to, proceeded below and collapsed in his bunk where he died. Another cause of death could have been from a massive staph infection. Staph is very prevalent in all lagoons in the Pacific islands and any small cut or fish puncture can cause a severe infection, and if not treated properly, can result in blood poisoning, causing a very painful death. Of my two findings, I think the last is probably the correct one. I am inclined towards this one from the report that when the fishing boat’s crew first saw the remains, they said the person looked like they died in severe agony by the look on the face. This was written in the local paper. My experience has been that most remains have this pained expression, but still think it is the most logical. Ms. Collins has a different conclusion which follows.

While eating her lunch, some ground termites emerged from behind a partition and fell into her sandwich box. Reporting this to the new owner, he removed the paneling and discovered some huge ground termite nests that probably became established during the yacht’s stay in Tahiti. These ground termites, which can only survive if they had fresh water, attacked the skipper since he was the only source of fresh water, killing him. It is a well known fact the human body is composed mostly of water. All other available sources of fresh water were in sealed tanks. This would be the first case ever recorded of termites killing a human.

Dean Strawn searching for more ground          termites behind paneling. The Marara was tented to eliminate the dry wood termites which were also present.

One of many ground termite nests the Dean found and removed. Had boat tented soon after.

And then the story turns bizarre. On July 25th, the Korean fishing boat Neptune 101, operating out of Pago Pago, American Samoa, encountered a drifting sailboat approximately 800 miles north-northeast of Pago Pago. They reported their find , which included the skeletal remains of a person in the cabin, to the Coast Guard Liaison Office, but surprisingly they did not take the boat in tow and make a salvage claim. Maybe superstition prevented them from boarding a Flying Dutchman. The Coast Guard searched the area with a C-130 Saturday and Sunday, finally spotting the boat at 6:15 p.m. Sunday. The plane tried but failed to make radio contact with anyone on the boat. The plane’s crew could not make out the boat’s name or numbers and there was no sign of human activity. The boat has a white hull and is about 40 feet long, similar to the Marara, and it mainsail and jib are fallen and draped over the deck and cabin. The C-130 flew on to Pago Pago where it remained until it returned to the search area the next day, but no trace of the vessel could be found. In the meantime the Coast Guard buoy tender was dispatched from its base at Sand Island in Honolulu on Monday and was expected to reach the search area by Saturday. The Marara could not be found again and the search was suspended until a Japanese fishing vessel came upon the vessel and confirmed it was the Marara and confirmed that there appeared to be human remains in the cabin. The Marara was adrift in the conversion zone, a area of low visibility and heavy rains. This area is caused by the North Pacific High meeting the South Pacific High.

Marara cabin35.JPG (17973 bytes)

This is the interior of the Marara after Dean restored her to Bristol condition.

His Jack Russell Terrier still refuses to go aboard her, maybe sensing the specter of death. Chevy, Dean’s dog has to reside aboard his father’ boat, The Time Out until this aura fades away.

Chevy looking for ghosts

When Dean got the chance to trade slips so could be next to me the Marara was not long enough. Slip size is 45’ to 55’. He was only 42’. I made these dinghy davits and hung a plastic dinghy in it and re-measured so now OK. I think all would be torn off if the Marara ever got pooped. (a wave coming over the back)

Remains being offloaded at the Coast Guard station for a sunset service in lieu burial at sea.

Scene that greeted the Korean fishing boat.

Marara next to Sitting Duck

The Japanese placed a locator beacon on board so the vessel would not be lost again. The Coast Guard reached the Marara on August 2nd and took her under tow with the remains of what were believed to that of skipper, Manning Eldridge of Garden Grove, California, returning to Honolulu on August 31st. The remains were then scraped up from the cabin sole. It should be noted here that there are no flies out in the middle of the ocean. The life cycle of flies is very short and therefore the body just disintegrated and mummified rather than be eaten by maggots. There was about 3 or 4 inches of water sloshing around where the body was located and floating around for 7 months in high heat and humidity, did little to preserve the body. The remains were taken ashore to be examined by the Medical Examiner’s office which confirmed they were of Manning Eldridge.

Transom finished ready to    cover with glass


The old rotted tramsom

One of the bad areas after stripping off old glass

New patch of area above

Where my foot went through

Covered  with mat and layer of fiberglass + barrier  coat

Chris Good, the new owner, hauled Marara, removed all the old fiberglass from the bottom, replaced all bad plywood and recovered with new fiberglass matting and cloth.  Photos below some of the before and after.

Search and Rescue Efforts in Vast Pacific often

 ‘Mission Impossible’

The yacht after being towed to the Coast Guard Station on Sand Island, Honolulu.


The time to think about the unthinkable is before you start on your cruise. When you are outfitting you boat and getting ready for the adventure of a lifetime, you should prepare for the unthinkable possibility of being ‘posted missing’. Along with your other considerations of medical problems, fire, grounding on a reef, and hurricanes, give some thought to mysterious disappearance. Why? Because it can happen and does happen and people you left behind are put through traumatic predicament. Take the case of Manning Eldridge, a single hander from California, after two years of sailing in the Pacific, went missing on a passage from Papeete, Tahiti, to Honolulu, Hawaii. He cleared his boat, Marara, with the Papeete Port Captain on January 8th, 1987, but never arrived in Honolulu. Relatives reported him overdue on February 15th. It was believed that he was heading for Christmas Island with a stop at Caroline Island along the way. But some one else thought he was sailing via Rangiroa Atoll to get his Easting. The French searched their corner of the Pacific to no avail. The US Coast Guard made a comprehensive communications check using telephone, marine radio, ham nets, and other two-way radio systems to scour all possible landing place North of the Equator. A initial air search was made from Christmas island to Honolulu, but to no avail, in the mean time, worried relatives and friends were trying other means to locate him, including posting a $40,000 reward for information. No takers.