SAN DIEGO — What's the craziest thing you've ever done? In this Zevely Zone, I met a former San Diego State University professor and Navy veteran with a stowaway story you've got to hear.
In the summer of 1966, Rick Frey, a California surfer, announced to his parents he was heading to Hawaii when his father said, "Hawaii is not going to be like here in the nest you know."
"In the nest? I'm 19. I am getting independence," recalled Rick.
The nineteen-year-old took his first flight ever to the islands with his father's words ringing in his ears. "He said, 'I'll be surprised if you're not home in two weeks,'" said Rick. "At that point there no way I was going home until the end of September."
In Hawaii, Rick was quickly down to his final $66 when his ship came in. The passenger liner called the SS Iberia was Rick's chance to prove his father wrong.
"Walked aboard. Walked aboard with a paper bag and the officer on the deck said, 'Good evening sir," said Rick.
Rick shared pictures of his trip. "That is where I spend the first night inside that compartment," said Rick.
The next day he tried to blend in with other passengers. "That is me blending in," laughed Rick who got bolder by the day.
There is another picture of him sunbathing poolside. "Can you see me in this picture? That is me right there with a pair of borrowed sunglasses," said Rick.
One day, he even took a tour of the bridge and came face to face with the first officer.
"I asked him if he ever got any stowaways on board and as it came out of my mouth, I thought, 'what are you saying?'" said Rick.
He eventually circumnavigated the world in 79 days. He spent 42 of those nights hiding in a bathroom stall. "42 days. That is 6 weeks. I spent six weeks on the throne, that sounds like a book title," said Rick who titled his memoir "Six Weeks on the Throne: The Tale of a Stowaway."
Readers can tag along with Rick as he learns the lessons of shipboard survival and how to circumvent immigration, customs, and port security officials. Rick traveled from Hawaii to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, the Suez Canal, Egypt, Spain, Portugal, and the ship's final destination, England, where he jumped ship.
"In the water, I had a little camera that took those pictures and I wrapped it up in a piece of plastic," said Rick.
He swam to shore with that camera in his mouth, the same mouth that was about to tell his dad 'I told you so'.
"Getting on that ship was the right thing to do at the time for me," said Rick.
Without a penny in his pocket and no passport, the stowaway surfer snuck aboard one last ship and sailed back to the states. "This is how I got home," said Rick showing me a picture of the SS Canberra. "Same company, P&O Orient lines," smiled Rick. "This story has had 50 years to marinate."
Twelve action-packed chapters and an epilogue provide a first-hand account of a truly remarkable coming-of-age story. Rick's memoir 'Six Weeks on the Throne: The Tale of a Stowaway' is available on Amazon. For a link click here.
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