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The Last Voyage of a Vollmer Twins

Van Vollmer, photographed in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in August. Photo by Simone Wilson

The flyers began appearing on walls and doors in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, during a initial week of August.

“Brooklyn Sea Captain seeking crew!” they announced. In smaller print, subsequent to an picture of an aged sailing ship, a ads explained that a “longtime Brooklyn contractor” was seeking 12 robust group and women to join him for a two-year outing around a universe aboard a Peacemaker, “a 158-foot three-masted Barquentine.” The vessel would set cruise on approximately Aug. 31, a ad said, and anyone meddlesome should email a lady named Van Vollmer.

“The tour of a lifetime,” a ads promised. “No believe necessary.”

Navigating a streets of Williamsburg dual weeks later, Mr. Vollmer’s vast grey eyes grew wider as he talked about a organisation he designed to put together for a excursion of a lifetime.

“I’ll sight them to feel a boat. we don’t caring what’s adult here,” he said, drumming his temple, that was red with sunspots. “When we cruise a boat, we feel a wind; we feel a tide; we feel a rudder. It’s like being one with a vessel in a water.”

At initial meeting, Mr. Vollmer competence seem an doubtful organizer for such an desirous trip. Eighty-five years old, stiff-jointed, precarious yet improbably upright, he shuffles like a crab opposite a upsurge of hip, younger residents who’ve taken over a area where he and his twin hermit Carl lived for 40 years, commencement in a 1970s.

“I wish to go down a trench into a H2O and float with a fishes for eternity.”

The twins have been labelled out of a area — these days, they live together, as they have for a final 4 decades, aboard a 42-foot cabin cruiser docked in a Bronx — yet they still cruise Williamsburg and Greenpoint home. The locals, many of them 5 or 6 decades younger, commend a Vollmers in a travel and hail them with adore as they make their approach around a neighborhood.

“Here, have some chocolate cake!” Malin Landaeus, a owners of a selected wardrobe boutique circuitously a Bedford Avenue transport stop, pronounced to Van as he stepped into her shop, that he helped build a decade ago. She snipped a lax thread from his shirt button.

Somewhere among Brooklyn’s newer residents, Van said, he believes he can find 12 to 16 souls estimable of a grand tour he has planned. The channel will embody hopping a Greek Isles, training unfamiliar languages, scuba diving off a Great Barrier Reef and acid for bullion in fallen Spanish galleons. And somewhere along a way, years from now, if all goes according to plan, a organisation of a Peacemaker will be called on to perform a honest task: that of shifting a Vollmer twins’ bodies into a ocean.


The Peacemaker. Photo by Don Gunn

That’s given once a Vollmer brothers set sail, they don’t devise to return. “I wish to go down a trench into a H2O and float with a fishes for eternity,” Van pronounced over a pint of Blue Moon in Williamsburg.

“We wish to spend a rest of a lives on this boat,” pronounced hermit Carl, who systematic red wine. “We wish to get thrown overboard.”

But before a Vollmer twins can embark on their final voyage, they have to neat a few lax ends. First, they need a crew. That’s where a flyers come in. Specifically, Van is acid for a mechanic, a nutritionist, a cook, a personal tutor and a scientist, among other group and women with useful trades. And he’s not penetrating on settling.

“One chairman can destroy a outing if they don’t fit,” Van said.

There’s also a matter of a ship. The Vollmers don’t technically possess a Peacemaker — yet. It now belongs to members of an problematic Christian group formed in a Southeastern U.S., a few of whom are still vital aboard a Peacemaker in a small bay in St. Mary’s, Georgia. They’re seeking during slightest $3 million.

Purchasing a Peacemaker, convention a organisation and provisioning a vessel for dual years during sea competence seem a high sequence for a span of self-described poverty-stricken 85-year-olds. But Carl pronounced this is usually a kind of splash in that a Vollmer twins flower — and always have.

“We have a apart talent than many people,” he said. “We’re problem solvers.”

The ‘Hood

On a new Monday evening, Van Vollmer sat behind a circle of a Toyota Corolla he’d borrowed from a friend, pushing down a side streets of his aged neighborhood. Every now and again, he’d indicate during a building and say, “I built this place” — referring to his years as a woodworker — or, “I lived there once.” When Van points during things, he does so with a stub of a right index finger. The rest was chopped off in a seminar accident. Carl, too, mislaid half his left pinky to a vessel engine while lobster diving.


Van Vollmer on a streets of Brooklyn, where he lived for 40 years with his hermit Carl. Photo by Simone Wilson

In a time a Vollmer twins have lived and worked in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, a area has changed, altered and altered again.

“There was a male who ran that motorcycle emporium on a corner, named ‘Slick,’” Van pronounced as he drove. “He used to contend that when he grew adult he wanted to be like a Vollmer twins.” Slick, Van said, died years ago.

“We’ve outlived everybody,” he said.

The Vollmers’ family with new residents have been fake from a informed pattern: A internal faces a logistical hardship of some kind or other, and a Vollmers find a approach to repair it.

When a owners of a grill called Cantina Royal, for example, were carrying difficulty unresolved a Fiat-sized candelabrum in a categorical dining room, Van devised a devise for hoisting it adult with bondage hung from beams. His twin hermit Carl executed a plan.

Julio Mora, a restaurant’s immature executive chef, pronounced that when he incidentally gunned his automobile into a garage doorway during his girlfriend’s mom’s house, it was Mr. Vollmer who put it behind together.

“I brought it to Van in a hundred pieces,” Mora said. “I owe that male my life.”

“It’s a approach of thinking,” Van said. “You solve problems.”

The Dream

The Vollmers grew adult in Greenwich, Conn., a sons of an designer and a late ballerina.

They lived in a palace with a servant and maids until a Great Depression hit, during that time they changed into a circuitously quarrel house. The family after sparse — a relatives to Florida, Van to a Navy and Carl to a Army. But not before a Vollmers schooled to sail. When a boys were seven, their father built them a tiny wooden sailboat that a boys used to try a shallows of a Long Island Sound.

“I never suspicion I’d be means to do something like this. But when my crony said, ‘I got a income to buy a boat,’ that’s when we started dreaming.”

“I’ve review substantially somewhere between 200 and 300 books about sailing given we was a small kid,” Van said. “It fascinates me.”

In a past 20 years, Van estimates he has delivered 15 vast sailboats for clients who indispensable them ecstatic adult or down a East Coast. He and Carl, too, have owned a series of boats in varying states of disrepair, including a powerboat they now call home. However, Van said, nothing of his life’s adventures during sea review to a “pleasure trip” he’s dreamed up.

“I never suspicion I’d be means to do something like this,” Van said. “But when my crony said, ‘I got a income to buy a boat,’ that’s when we started dreaming.”

Van’s crony — he declines to name him, for fear of jinxing their arrangement, nonetheless others impute to him as “Felix” — is in his 60s, he says, divorced, with a daughter, and a plant of a same nautical wanderlust that afflicts Van. He’s one of 20 brokers concerned in a $4 billion understanding involving Venezuelan holds that will come by any day now, according to Van. This friend, he says, has affianced to put a apportionment of his take toward a $3 million Peacemaker and a maintain as it circles a globe.


The overpass (above) and a disaster (below) of a 158-foot Peacemaker. Photos pleasantness of Larry Clinton

At first, Van explained, Felix wanted to buy a trimaran. Van had no believe with that kind of boat, so he positive Felix to let him do a shopping. For a final dual years now, Van pronounced he’s been looking during yachts online; along a way, he checked out a German lightship, a three-masted schooner and “several Turkish ships.”

“None of them meddlesome me,” Van said.

A few months ago, Van said, another crony in Key West told him about a vessel in a internal bay temperament a “For Sale” sign. It boasted an enclosed wheelhouse — a pivotal underline for Van, who doesn’t wish to be unprotected to continue while during a helm. The yacht had stained-glass appointments and 5 staterooms, any richly paneled with mahogany millwork. Van remembers revelation Felix he had found a one.

“The woodworking is superb,” Van said. “The vessel is so clean, we could eat off a engine room floor.”

Van claims his crony will send him a income for a vessel as shortly as a Venezuelan bond understanding comes through.

“I pronounce to him 3 times a day,” Van said. “The understanding is done. He wants to cruise away.”

The Boat

Larry Clinton, a male tasked with offering a Peacemaker, calls it “a 4,000-square-foot mansion.”

Like a Vollmer twins, a Peacemaker has a abounding past. A Brazilian nobleman built it in a late 1980s as a pleasure craft, afterwards sole it to a Christian group that calls itself a Twelve Tribes around a year 2000. Sect leaders repurposed it as a goodwill vessel for companion work.

“We’ve used it to bond a communities all over a world,” pronounced Clinton, 64, a higher-up in a Twelve Tribes. “We also go places to deliver people to a life in a community.”

According to Twelve Tribes legend, a Peacemaker once survived a 100-knot microburst in a Gulf of Mexico that bloody it handbill and sloping a vessel 50 degrees. “Had a vessel been a opposite ship, one reduction stable, it wouldn’t have survived,” Clinton said.


Twelve Tribes members aboard a Peacemaker. Photo by Cathy Smith

These days, Clinton said, a younger members of Twelve Tribes aren’t as meddlesome in a sea as their elders, so it’s time to sell.

Rick Ross, an author on cults and a longtime censor of a sect, is some-more asocial about a story of a Peacemaker. He points to a 2001 New York State Labor Department review anticipating a Twelve Tribes guilty of putting underage children to work in upstate soap factories. The Peacemaker, he said, is expected so artistic interjection to tough labor — “virtual worker labor,” Ross called it — that Twelve Tribes members perform in lapse for room, house and village inclusion. He voiced regard that deduction from a sale would go directly to Twelve Tribes leaders instead of those who “scrubbed and scraped and sanded and finished it.”

The Vollmer twins don’t seem to mind. “Our dream is a genocide of another dream,” Carl said.

Clinton and a group have offering to sell a vessel to Van for $3 million, down from their strange $3.4 million seeking price. The dual parties have also worked out a deal, Clinton said, whereby a handful of seasoned Peacemaker crewmembers from a Twelve Tribes will accompany Van and his organisation for a initial leg of a 2015 trip, to assistance them learn a vessel’s quirks. The usually transaction left, Clinton said, is a tangible remuneration and send of a ship’s title.

“He keeps revelation us that a supports are going to be accessible any day,” Clinton said. “I don’t know what kind of pleasure he would get out of heading us on.”

The Crew

Anyone anticipating to oldster Van Vollmer online before requesting to cruise with him around a universe will be disappointed. He doesn’t have many use for Facebook — or what he calls “Tweeter” — so a usually hunt formula Google finds for his name are a few comments posted to internal blogs by discontented business of his constrictive work and some of Van’s possess wayward posts on regressive Web forums.

“We’re so distant right, we tumble off,” Van said.

His miss of an online participation hasn’t disheartened during slightest 12 immature group from requesting for organisation positions on a Peacemaker.

“A partial of me has to trust this is a hoax, given we never illusory an eventuality like this would ever exist.”

Within a few days of his flyer campaign, emails from intensity crewmembers began to seem in his inbox. Most are from group in their 20s and 30s who live in New York City. There’s Collin, an partner during a New York-based eventuality formulation company; Chad, a 29-year-old freelance film producer; Zea, who says he works during a lobster grill in Greenpoint and wants to assistance prepare and clean; and Gregory, 30, a medical partner with CPR training who’s also worked as a barber. (Gregory promises to give a organisation “great haircuts.”)

Scott, a author and app developer in his early 20s, wrote in an email to Vollmer that he has wanted to turn a soldier given he was a small boy, to follow in a footsteps of his dual great-grandfathers, both sea captains, he wrote, who sailed a Caribbean and South Atlantic in a 1800s.

“A partial of me has to trust this is a hoax,” he wrote, “because we never illusory an eventuality like this would ever exist.”

Van’s hermit Carl skeleton to offer as a Peacemaker’s master-at-arms. In this role, he’ll keep a vessel protected from uninvited guest and enemies during sea. “I was in a Korean war,” he said. “If somebody [hostile] comes aboard, I’ll fire ‘em.”

Van thinks he competence have found a initial mate, as good — a 36-year-old “girl magnet,” he said, named Steven. (Van some-more mostly refers to him as “my protégée” or “my guy.”)

“I wish to make him initial partner given during his age, he’s got a
lifetime to use a knowledge,“ Van said.

On a new Friday evening, Steven took a automobile from Manhattan’s Financial District to accommodate a Vollmer twins during a tapas bar in Williamsburg.

Steven, who descends from a sly Southern California real-estate fortune, asked that his final name not be used in this story. Thin, around six-feet-four, with a somewhat concerned manner, he arrived during a tapas bar with his cuffs rolled behind to his elbows. On his arm was a 25-year-old lady with pompous lips who wore her brownish-red hair swooped behind from her forehead, like Katherine Hepburn. She was a PhD candidate, she said, study a Mennonites. Although a immature lady kindly incited down Van’s steady invitations to join his organisation as an anthropologist-in-residence, Steven positive Van he was all in. How could he exclude a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he asked, to “live like a beatniks”?

“Van kind of brings it adult and he’s like, ‘I wish to learn we all we know so when we dump me into a sea we can take over.”

Steven recently bought a sailboat of his own, Carl had claimed before Steven arrived, yet has no idea how to cruise it.

“He knows no some-more about sailing than we do,” Carl pronounced to this reporter. “He’s a immature — what’s a word? — a millennial. He’s a trust account child. But we theory Van has taken a resplendent to him.”


The Vollmer twins, Carl (left) and Van (right), during a tapas bar in Williamsburg. Photo by Simone Wilson

Steven appears to be equally smitten with Van. “He’s my buddy,” he said. “He’s a many engaging male in a world.”

The initial partner pronounced he has invariable faith in Van’s ability to helm a Peacemaker. “He’s surprisingly robust — it amazes me,” Steven said.

Steven is not so keen, however, on a devise to chuck a Vollmer twins overboard when they die.

“They keep referring to that,” he said. “It’s a small weird. Van kind of brings it adult and he’s like, ‘I wish to learn we all we know so when we dump me into a sea we can take over.”

“I’m anticipating that’s usually some kind of expression,” Steven said. “It’s not something we unequivocally wish to consider about.”

The Voyage

As Friday night wore on, Van non-stop adult about a set of singular manners he skeleton to make onboard.

No drugs or tough wine will be authorised on a Peacemaker, he pronounced — solely for rum. “No French fries,” Van said. “Only good, healthy food.” Crewmembers will be compulsory to enroll in one or some-more Great Courses on a Internet — a vessel will horde several wifi hubs, he pronounced — and learn what they’ve schooled to a rest of a crew. All crewmembers will be compulsory to move aboard during slightest 20 books, a entertain of them non-fiction, in sequence to build a library. Language classes will be hold in a afternoons.

The organisation will also be supposing uniforms — out-of-date soldier pants fixed with 13 buttons and, on top, yellow-and-white striped shirts — to wear whenever a Peacemaker pulls into harbor. This way, Van said, a vessel can acquire entrance fees. All gain will be distributed uniformly between crewmembers per central excursion withdraw cards.

The some-more Van talked, a some-more vehement he became. He described a gym he designed to build onboard, a aquaponics system, a desalination appurtenance for purifying seawater and a peep freezer for preserving uninformed fish. To secure a ship’s intelligent mechanics, he said, he would build a Faraday Cage to sentinel off probable electromagnetic warfare, should family mellow between a U.S. and Russia while a Peacemaker is during sea.

“Yes, he has vast dreams. “But we consider that’s how he’s gotten by this long.”

Van talked until 10 o’clock.

“Bring me a bill, and I’ll pointer it,” he afterwards pronounced to a manager of a tapas bar, a immature lady in a buzz-cut and Bettie Page eyeliner who did not seem to commend him. She asked for his credit card, yet Van left usually his autograph.

“I built this place,” he pronounced on a approach out, to no one in particular. The manager usually watched him leave.

The Love Story

Those tighten to a Vollmer twins pronounce of them protectively, and with an atmosphere of astonishment for their optimism. At a same time, they seem to share a regard that a twins’ skeleton for their final excursion competence not vessel out.

“Yes, he has vast dreams,” Landaeus, a Williamsburg boutique owner, pronounced of her aged friend. “But we consider that’s how he’s gotten by this long.”

Next to Carl, a chairman who knows Van best — and who competence have a many to lose, if his skeleton vessel out — is an 85-year-old lady named Jun Raymond who lives in Atlanta.

Their attribute is a covenant to his persistence. The dual knew any other flourishing adult in Greenwich as kids, Raymond said, and fell in adore as teenagers. But when Van left for a Navy, Jun married another male — a matrimony that lasted scarcely 6 decades.

A few weeks after her father died 6 years ago, she perceived a call from Van. “I was sitting there and a phone rang, and he said, ‘Are we Jun Ferguson?’” she recalled, regulating her lass name. “I hadn’t seen him in 60-something years. He said, ‘I’ve been looking for you.’”

“We talked a while, about what we’ve been doing,” she said. “He said, ‘Do we mind if we call we tomorrow night?’ He’s been job ever since.”

“I never stopped amatory her,” Van explained.

The integrate still speaks roughly each dusk by phone. They make revisit trips, Van to Georgia and Raymond to New York, to revisit one another. Ferguson even stopped by a powerboat where a Vollmer twins live, yet she chose to spend a night elsewhere.

“I’m usually praying this thing will go through. Because he’s got his heart set on it.”

“They live like bachelors,” she said. “He calls adult Carl and he says, ‘Carl, I’m bringing Jun home — purify a bathroom!’ And Carl runs into his room and straightens all up.”

On a doubt of a voyage, Raymond is torn. If anyone could lift off something this grandiose, she said, it’s Van. “He’ll say, ‘Oh, we can do that’ — and he does it,” she said. “If we say, ‘I wish we had a lamppost,’ and we go out offering for a while and come home – I’ve got a lamppost.”

The thing that has her worried, Raymond said, is a business with Felix and a Venezuelan bonds. She’s never met a man, she said. And while she’s always famous Van as someone who finishes what he starts, she’s also famous others in his life to be reduction reliable.

“He has to count infrequently on other people, and if they don’t come through, afterwards it falls through,” Raymond said. “And he gets so vehement he tells other people about it, and afterwards they get vehement about it. That creates it harder.”

“I’m usually praying this thing will go through,” she said. “Because he’s got his heart set on it.”


The Peacemaker underneath sail. Photo around Wikimedia

Steven, Van’s initial mate, echoed Raymond’s concerns. “I wish it happens,” he said. “If it doesn’t happen, we wish he doesn’t get too discouraged.”

Carl — a some-more unsentimental of a twins, they both contend — has his worries, as well. “He has a good understanding some-more faith in a male than we do,” Carl said, referring to Van and Felix. “If it happens, it’s going to be nice. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t change my lifestyle.”

Van pronounced he’d strech out to Felix and set adult an interview. But as of publication, Felix hasn’t concluded to talk, and Van still prefers to keep his financier’s full temperament underneath wraps.

Setting Sail

Van Vollmer, a veteran can-do man, doesn’t worry himself with a doubt that surrounds him. He puts a contingency of Felix entrance by during precisely “eighty-nine and a half percent.”

With usually dual weeks before his scheduled depart on a excursion of a lifetime, Van has been regulating around town, finishing adult peculiar jobs. He’s in a final stages of figure a set of window frames for a landmarked building, he said, and assisting a owners of Williamsburg’s Miyako Sushi, recently shuttered, sell off his tables and chairs and find a customer for a space.

But mostly, Van is regulating this time to concentration on what he calls his “adventure into a furious blue yonder.”

He has drawn adult a master list of organisation field and their individual
skills and has been interviewing them, one by one, both by phone and in
person. He has also designed a 30-day training march in Florida for his
crewmembers before they set sail, and has mapped a initial leg of their
itinerary, that will take them by a Panama Canal, to American
Samoa, a Philippines, Australia, a Suez Canal and a Mediterranean,
continue permitting.

“This is my swan song,” Mr. Vollmer said. “I have no height on that to mount other than a fact that I’m doing it.”

“You can’t have a dream come true,” he added, “if we don’t have a dream.”

Article source: http://patch.com/new-york/williamsburg/last-voyage-vollmer-twins