An Improbable Trip Around the Globe

It started as a 4-month cruise but became a made-for-­Hollywood, 13-year voyage. Roger Moore recounts a once-in-a-lifetime journey with his wife, dog—and a monkey.

What started as a 4-month cruise to Mexico turned into a made-for-Hollywood, 13-year voyage around the world.

I’d met Roger Moore a few times in passing. The founder of Nautical Ventures–—a boat dealer powerhouse that sells some of the biggest brands—almost always has an easy smile etched into a trimmed, salt and pepper goatee along with a bright orange polo, a marketing tool he created to help his team stand out on the docks and at boat shows.

Roger Moore

The few times I met him, the master conversationalist had a glint in his eyes and slight smirk while offering hints about an around-the-world-trip he and his wife undertook years ago. I had a feeling that if we could sit uninterrupted, he would have an unbelievable story to share, so I set up an appointment to chat at his Ft. Lauderdale location (a converted BMW dealership on South Federal Highway).

Over the next few hours, Roger sat back and shared the story of his improbable trip around the world with a casualness that you and I might use when discussing the week’s weather.

He explained how he and his late wife, Samantha, originally set out to cruise from California to Mexico over the span of a couple months aboard their 63-foot Cheoy Lee motorsailer. Spontaneity, love, an openness to adventure and a heaping dose of luck turned that coastal jaunt into a 13-year, around-the-world adventure that, if not for the photo evidence, you would think he was making up.

Decades after his round-the-world-adventure, Roger Moore still has a passion for boating—and sharing it with others. 

What follows is but a taste of the once-in-a-hundred-lifetimes adventure he experienced. Let me warn you now, his story will likely inspire you to cruise beyond your own comfort zone.

Improbable Pacific Crossing

It was never my dream to go around the world. In 1986 we sold a business we’d built for 14 years and I said to my wife, “Hey, honey, why don’t we get a boat and cruise down the coast of California” And she gave me this rather strange look saying, “What are you talking about?” But she was phenomenal. She would follow all my crazy ideas. So we bought a Cheoy Lee Motorsailer.

The intent was to take four months and to just cruise down the coast of California, gunkholing. We hit every port, every anchorage that you can hit. And we loved it, absolutely loved it. I remember the first time we anchored, she was petrified, this 130-pound anchor with, I don’t know, three-quarter-inch chain and all this. When it started to lower, it made a lot of noise and it was a lot of power. And she learned how to do that. And she learned how to do everything on the boat, as you’ll see, as this story unfolds and what ended up happening.

But we spent the four months cruising down the coast of California, looked at one another and said, “This is great. Let’s go to Mexico.” And she looked at me and said, “I love it. Let’s go.” So we gunkholed our way all the way down to Acapulco. And if you look, I’ve got a globe here. If you look, it’s a long way down, and then what do you do?

Samantha would comment that NASA puts people on the moon with less planning than these people we met in Acapulco that were going to cross the Pacific. And when they mentioned it to me, I was not interested. It’s a 2,850-nautical-mile voyage with nothing in between. So it’s quite a commitment. I was not interested. That was not the goal. A month later, off we went.

The captains—there were originally four of us—and we determined that the way we’d start this trip was based on waterline length so that when we were in the middle of the voyage, we’d be in the closest proximity to one another, so we could help one another. So we were the last to leave, having the longest waterline length and the highest speed. One boat went down to try and pick up the southeast trades, another one went ahead of us, and the other boat opted out. They got nervous and didn’t go. So there were basically three of us that crossed. They all laughed at me because we had a motorsailer and they had pure sailboats. And I was over filling up what the generator burned the night before to make sure I had every drop of fuel that I could have on this voyage. And we held quite a bit. It was like 1,450 gallons or something, a lot of fuel.

We leave from Acapulco. The boat’s name was Good Grief, and we take Good Grief out. And we’re about 12 hours into this voyage at night, and Samantha took the first watch. She was the night person. And as we were switching watch, I went down, and I go to step on the bed, and the carpet’s wet in the master stateroom. And I go, “Oh my God. How can this be?” So I taste it. It’s salt water. And I don’t want to say I panicked, but I said, “We’re only 12 hours into this multi-week journey. Let’s turn around.” And Samantha, man, it chokes me up thinking. She said, “Why don’t we just approach this like we were halfway? What would you do?” I said, “Well, we’ll figure out where it’s coming from.” And that was kind of an interesting thing. I started tearing out the furniture in the master cabin. I had a battery-powered saw. I cut the back of the settee out and exposed that there was water coming from the aft bulkhead through a hole that they had produced at the factory. It had a six or eight-inch exhaust hose. And when they cut the hole, they just put a whole bunch of different holes and then punched the hole out. So there were all these sharp little triangles where the hole remained.

So, what we did is we shut down that engine. We turned on the other engine, and I got a patch. I had some rubber material and some silicone, so I patched it, put some big hose clamps on it, and I think to this day it’s the same.

Samantha was phenomenal. And we had biorhythms that were perfect because we’d do six on and six off. You hear of so many people, two on two off, and you don’t get any good sleep. It’s really tough on you. But six on and six off, it was perfect. We could have gone for six months.

It was phenomenal. We’d have breakfast together. Whoever was tired, napped. And she learned to do the engine room inspections.

So, here we are about halfway and I have to describe the three boats. We’re doing fine. The folks that went to pick up the southeast trades with a pure sailboat had all kinds of problems. They ran really low on fuel. They had to sail. They were in the doldrums. We had Ham radio contacts at noon and midnight every day to check on each other. And they were struggling. Then the other was a doctor and a nurse on a boat called Kahuna. And we were getting close to one another in the middle of the ocean. So we modified our courses, and we lowered sail. They swam over to my boat with line and a bottle of wine in the middle of the ocean. We had wine on the back deck, and their boat would disappear behind our boat. The seas are huge out there, but they’re big rollers. So they’d just disappear and then reappear. And here we are, two boats sitting in the middle of nowhere, and I said, “Well, how’s your trip going?” And they said, “It’s going great. But, man, we’re really low on water. It’s so hot. And we’re showering more often and trying to rinse off.” And I said, “Well, how many hoses have you got?” They had two. We had two. So we hooked the hoses together. I had a watermaker, so I filled their tank up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

So, they were elated. I said, “Do you need anything else?” “No, we’re great.” So off we go, and we sail away. And the next day at noon, in the radio contact Jerry says, “Roger, there’s a helicopter hovering overhead.” And I said, “Jerry, are you hallucinating? There’s no helicopter that can make it 1,500 miles.” He said, “Shut up, Roger, there’s a helicopter here. I’ll call you back.” So we find out that there was a long-liner fishing boat out in the middle of the Pacific. And they have a helicopter that they send out to spot fish, and then they send their launches out to go fish them. So, when they saw this guy’s American flag, they said, “Do you need anything?” Well, they didn’t have the guts to ask me for fuel because they laughed at me when I was putting fuel in the boat.

So, the longliner dispatched one of their boats to them and gave them 30 gallons of diesel for nothing. And they brought two quarts of chocolate ice cream for them. So, here’s a boat that gets water, fuel and ice cream delivered in the middle of this journey—for free.

Tonga

Tonga is in the north island group called Vava’u. And we put down a mooring in a very safe place, considered a hurricane hole. And we spent seven months in Tonga. The stories about this were some really meaningful life stories.

Where we were anchored, in order to get fuel or food or whatever, we have to launch the dinghy and go ashore. So if you want to get fuel for the dinghy, you can figure six or seven hours by the time you get it over there, take the tank out of the boat, hike up to the city, to the village and get the fuel and come back. So nothing happens quickly. But what else are you doing? You’re living this adventure. And when I first got there, we really enjoyed watching videos on the boat. So we brought a whole bunch of VHS tapes. Dating myself, right? And so, I went to the video store and I met the owner of the video store. I said, “Hey, I got a deal for you,” because I like deals. And I said, “We’ve got a pretty nice video library, but I’ve seen them all. We’re going to be here for several months. I’m going to bring you my whole library. You can rent it, do whatever you want with it. And I get to pick whatever I want and I’ll use your library, and you don’t charge me anything. So, we both win.”

So, we became really good buddies with this guy and his family. And so, we made this deal. It was fun. So, he introduced us to his brother-in-law who owns the grocery store. And when I say grocery store, this is basic stuff. So, we became very good friends, they had us over to eat and there’s dirt floors, kids running around naked, they eat and there’s food all over them and it’s a slice of life that we don’t really see, but normal for them. And at one point they were so good to us, so nice to us, that I said to Samantha, I said, “Let’s have them out to the boat and have a nice Western dinner for them. Let’s show them another slice of life.” So they agreed, “Well, we’ll come out on Friday night.” I said, “Okay, great.” So, I go that day and they say let’s do next week.” So the next week comes, they can’t do it next week. And finally, I said, “Come on, we’re friends. What’s the problem here?” They said, “Well, you’ve invited us, but you didn’t invite our kids. We don’t go anywhere without our kids.” And I said, “Well, in America, if you’re invited to dinner with your friends, the kids are not invited.” I mean, this is an adult thing, an adult experience. And I’m imagining these kids on our boat.

Three kids and we’ve got white carpet in the boat, and to have these kids walking around with food and I didn’t want to do it.

We finally came up with an idea that we would take the boat to a close resort, and they would come join us and they’d swim out to the boat, so they’d all be clean. They come out to the boat, we had dinner on the boat and they swam back.

And the next thing that was amazing is when I told them it’s unusual for us to invite kids when it’s an adult party, they said, “I heard that when your parents get old, you put them in a home for somebody else to take care of them.”

I said, “Yeah.” He says, “How could you do that? They wiped your butt. They took care of you. They loved you. They gave you everything you wanted. And when they need you, you let them go be with somebody else that doesn’t love them, and that’s just caring for them. How can you possibly treat your family like that?” I go, “Wow.” Perspective. And they’re about family. And we’re about getting ahead and making more money and doing more things. And that was kind of eye-opening.

Fiji

Fiji was an amazing, amazing place. To get a cruising permit in Fiji, you have to go through a class on how to respect the native Islanders there, because they own the water. So, you have to go ask for permission to anchor. And the way you do that is you bring a gift of kava, which is a pepper plant root that they make a drink out of, and you present that to the chief of that village, and they give you permission to stay.

That was a license to meet all kinds of cool people and to embrace their culture. I had a guest on the boat, who’s a good friend of mine, who was our physician, and we go to this kava ceremony. So we go into this hut—grass hut. A lot of the villagers are circled around. The ladies are on the outside, the guys are in the middle, and they’ve got this ceremonial kava bowl, which is a wooden carved bowl. And they take the pepper plant root, this kava, and they pound it into a powder, put it in a sock, literally a sock. And then they knead the sock in the water to get the kava to dissolve. And it looks like dirty dishwater. Now here are these socks that don’t look that clean. Then they take an old artillery shell with a steel rod to pulverize it. And then these guys, if you looked at their hands, they hadn’t been to the groomer, hadn’t had their nails done recently and they’re kneading this and I’m sitting next to this doctor who is like, “Roger? You are not going to drink this. You’re not going to drink this.” And I said, “I’ve got to.” I couldn’t insult them. So, the chief comes to me with this, and of course the bowl is half a coconut. So, he asks if I want “half tide or full tide?” Do I want a half a bowl or full bowl? So of course, I say, “full tide.” So, John, the doctor, he’s cringing. He says, “You can’t do this.” And of course, I did. And I had some reaction to it the next day.

Bali

In year two of the trip, we went to Bali and we stopped at almost every island. And we had to make arrangements to go see the Komodo dragons. They’ve got them in a park. It’s kind of an open park, but it’s a designated area. So, we decided we would buy a small goat because the dragons love goats—eating them, that is. So, we’ve got a guy that’s taking us up there and he’s got the goat over his shoulders. We bought the goat, we went up there with three or four people. And as we’re going up, the guy’s got a stick and he’s controlling these 12-foot lizards. I mean, they look like alligators. But they’re lizards. And we get up to the pen, it’s maybe 18-inches tall. And we go inside the pen, and then he takes the goat and very delicately puts a palm leaf over its throat and cuts the throat of the goat and then gives it to the Komodo dragons. That goat didn’t last 20 seconds. It was amazing. These things are just plodding along. And then they went feverishly and everything bones, fur, everything gone. Ate the whole thing. So that was feeding the Komodo dragons.

New Friend from Djibouti

Djibouti is at the mouth of the Red Sea on the east side, a very small French territory. And I went with Samantha into a little store and I see on the floor this little monkey that’s got a little belt around its waist. And we’re looking around the store. I asked the guy, “How much is the monkey?” He says, “The monkey is mine, it’s not for sale.” I said, “Man, I really like that monkey.” It’s really a cute little baby monkey. It was a Vervet. Cutest little white face and whiskers. Really cute monkey. Fifty dollars later, I leave with the monkey. We had the monkey about four and a half years, but what a four and a half years. That monkey was a riot. It really was fun. We named her Djibouti, after where she came from.

Saudi Arabia

We arrive and ask to seek refuge. They’ve got a brand new, 50-million-dollar control tower that looks out the Red Sea and we’re at the base of this thing, beautiful facility, not a yacht facility, no other boats. We’re there about five minutes and a forklift comes out and deposits a guard shack about 50 feet from the boat and there’s a military guy there with a machine gun.

About 20 minutes later, up pulls this big Oldsmobile and two guys get out with the whole Saudi get up. I find out this is the secret police watching the military watch us. This is crazy. This is really, really crazy, but again, no intimidation, no nothing. They ask, “What do you need? Why are you here?” I told them, “We’re running a little low on fuel and water. We hit some bad weather on the way up here.”

They deliver fuel to us. It looked like champagne. No charge. They fill up the boat. I asked if I could get a couple of drums and I got a couple of extra 55-gallon plastic drums. They filled those up for me.

It was so nice of them to do that. Meantime, I’m up there sitting down, eating with the guards, with your hands out of the common bowl and all that sort of thing. The captain of the port police says, “Hey, Commander Byers of the U.S. military is here.” This was just after Desert Storm. He said, “He saw your American flag and would like to know if he could come down and visit?” We said, “Absolutely. Come on down.” Commander Jamie Byers comes down to visit us and he says, “Let me see if I can get permission for you to come up and use our host phone.” I said, “What’s a host phone?” He says, “The Saudis give us a phone line and a phone so that we can call home anytime we want. I’m sure you haven’t been able to get to a phone for a long time.” Of course, we’ve been doing ham radio the whole time, so Samantha and I get permission and go up there and we call all our friends and family and all this and say, “Hey, we’re in Saudi Arabia.”

We’ve been there for four or five days now, and our hosts were winking at me saying, “Samantha, don’t you need to go visit [a doctor]; she had a little eye problem. Don’t you need to get your eye taken care of? Maybe we can get you into Jeddah, into the clinic to take a look at that eye.” They got a medical reason for us to go in and we toured around Jeddah on the way to the clinic and then back to the boat and we decided, “We’ve imposed on these people enough.” They were really nice people, so I said, “We’re going to depart.” They said, “No, no, give us another day.”

They send the secret police out to interview us and the guy comes up to the boat. The monkey’s tied on the back deck. They’ve got the thobe and ghutra and the monkey pulls up this guy’s skirt, the thobe, and starts pulling the hair on his legs and he’s dancing on the back deck, laughing and having fun with this monkey. He comes in the boat, and I figure, well, that just shot all our chances, but they were in love with the monkey. We start talking and he’s asking us, “What are you doing here, why, where have you been, where are you going?” Nicely, respectfully asking these questions and they said, “We’ve got good news for you. When will you be ready?” I said, “Ready for what?” “Prince Nayfe has made a reservation for you at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. You’re guests of the Saudi government.” I said, “What? We can’t accept.” They reply, “It would be very rude of you not to accept.” Samantha interrupts and she says, “Whenever you want, we’ll be ready.”

They posted guards to take care of the pets and they take us to the Hyatt Regency Hotel. A suite, as guests of the Saudi government, the two secret police guys are now our tour guides.

“What do you want to see? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?” They said, “Tomorrow morning, we’re going to take you to a tailor, if it’s alright with you, Mr. Moore. We’re going to take you to tailor and we’re going to have a thobe and ghutra made for you and an abaya for Samantha. You don’t have to wear them, but we’re going to take you to some places where you’d be less conspicuous if you didn’t. It’s up to you.” I said, “Let’s go.” They take us to the tailor. They fit us out with lovely thobe and ghutra and abaya and the black thing for that. We can’t pay for anything. We go into the store. We want to pick up a couple of things. Can’t pay. We are Saudi hospitality. I never understood the term. We’re doing all these things with them. We’ve been there for four or five days and they said, “Is there anything else you’d like?” I said, “I understand that the Kuwaiti’s ruled from Taif up in the mountains. Could we see that?” We go up to Taif and they show us all around, up in the mountains there. They said, “What else would you like to do?” I said, “I’d love to ride camels in the desert.” Next day, they rent a Jeep, they pick us up and we’re driving, driving, driving, and here’s this Bedouin tent. They drive up near the tent. They get out and they said, “You wait here, Roger”, and they go over and they’re talking to the Bedouins because there’s a bunch of camels there.

I’m in the thobe and ghutra. I’m tan. I had a black mustache and I looked Saudi. I should have been Roger Moore. I should have been a spy because I can be Mexican, I can be Saudi. I can blend in and all of those different things and they want to know what tribe I was with and why was I out there? Bottom line is, we get to go for a ride on the camels. We get to drink camel milk and do all this stuff. It was really a hoot and by now we’d been there a couple of weeks and starting to feel really embarrassed that we’re consuming all this time, but it was fun. I said, “We’re going to leave. We appreciate all of you and we would like to invite you all to dinner.” We had all of these people that helped us as our guest at a restaurant and still I couldn’t pay.”

Moore unpacks memories from what seems like a lifetime ago.

Israel

We’re about 20 or 30 miles from Tel Aviv and a patrol boat comes out. They radio us and say, “Everybody on deck, let’s see your hands.” They circled the boat and there’s a guy with a 50-caliber machine gun in the front. It’s serious. So they said, “Where are you going? Where are you from? What are you doing?”

We said, “Well, we’re going to Tel Aviv.”

“Okay. Follow us in.” So we follow them in. And again, the Cheoy Lee was pretty big for the port of Tel Aviv. So, we’re at the police dock. They’re obviously on high alert at all times. So I’m on the back of the boat. There you get customs, immigration, health, police and the bomb squad. So, all of these guys are descending on the boat. And here we are—I’m on the back deck filling out all these forms. Do you have any weapons? No. Do you have any ammunition? No. Do you have pets? Yes. Dog and monkey.

And we’re filling all this out and the other guy says, “Can I look inside the boat?” I said, “Absolutely. Samantha, take them through the boat.” So they’re going into the boat. And they go down to the master cabin, open a cabinet and they take out a briefcase that I had there. And the briefcase had 12-gauge shotgun ammo in it because I had a SPAS semiautomatic shotgun. I had a couple of weapons very well hidden on the boat that we never declared because it’s really a problem to declare them. If you declare them in one place and you’re leaving from another, you have to go back and get them.

So, the guys open up the case and it’s full of ammo and I’m on the back deck, just signed: I don’t have any ammo. And Samantha says, “Rog, come on down.” She didn’t even have her glasses on. So, she didn’t know what was in there. So I walked down and here’s this guy with a case open with a couple hundred rounds of shotgun ammo in it.

He asks, “What is this?”

I said, “Shotgun ammo.”

He says, “You just signed that you didn’t have any. Why?”

I said, “Because I lied. I’m sorry. We’ve never declared them. We have them for self-defense.”

And he says, “Go back upstairs.” So I go up, they all leave. They say, “Do not get off the boat.” And they had a 40-foot ocean container there that was an office right on the dock. And I’m sitting there with Sam and I know they can confiscate the boat. They can arrest me. This is really serious stuff. So I’m waiting 10 or 15 minutes. Seemed like an eternity. I got off the boat. I walked up, opened the door to the police thing. I fell to my knees literally. And I said, “I can’t stand it any longer. What are you going to do to me?” Then they all started laughing.

So they said, “You really shouldn’t have done that. Bring the guns up here, take the ammo back. We don’t have room for it.” And oh, the thing I missed is they said, “Where’s the gun? I’m trying to think of “where is the gun that isn’t next to another gun?” So, I go to the place where there’s a nice Remington pump 12 gauge. I pull that out and one handgun and give it to him. I had an Uzi with a silencer and all this other stuff they never found.

That’s the end, that scary part. And we spent the next five months, six months on the police dock, not under arrest and we absolutely loved Israel. The monkey, everybody loved the monkey. The monkey ended up starring in a movie there.


Editor’s note: After 13 years, Roger and Samantha returned to Ft. Lauderdale. He says that their assimilation back to life in the states was easy but that years of wear on the boat was anything but. The Cheoy Lee would undergo a major refurbishing and eventually be sold. Boating, and his trip, have become a permanent part of his life. He lives aboard a boat to this day and finds the most pleasure when helping to bring new people into boating. You can hear Roger share the full, unflitered version of this story on the Power & Motoryacht podcasts below or wherever you get your podcasts.

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This article originally appeared in the March 2023 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

Source: https://www.powerandmotoryacht.com/voyaging/an-improbable-trip-around-the-globe