Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

From Maupiti to San Diego and Other Reunions

It was November 2014. Mark and I were anchored in the remote, but beautiful atoll Maupiti in the South Pacific. Bora Bora’s sister island stole our heart and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there aboard Irie, in the lagoon waters, and on shore.

Mark and Liesbet on top of Maupiti

One day, a booming voice startled us.

“Hello! Are you American?” A man on a panga had seen our American flag and investigated.

“Yes! Well, one of us is.” Surprised to hear English in this French territory, we stuck our heads out.

“Hi. I’m Johnny Coconut,” the Caucasian man sporting a white beard and local tattoos introduced himself.

A new friendship was born and John proved to be as hospitable, generous and genuine as his Polynesian neighbors. We exchanged stories, had dinners together and stayed in touch.

Meeting John (who had moved to Maupiti in French Polynesia thanks to a Cruising World article he read in the eighties) and other expats who settled on this special island, resulted in an article I wrote and had published in the same renowned magazine. My claim to fame and the biggest check I ever cashed. 😊

A few times a year, we receive an email or a phone call from Johnny Coconut. Determined to remain in touch, he is terrible with gadgets. Whatever he wants to say – in telegraph style – is either split over several emails, or arrives in my inbox multiple times. When I reply, I don’t hear back for months, if ever. Phone calls are much more reliable, and effective. John lives back in the US now, in Morro Bay, California, where he works as a barber.

Morro Bay when visited with our camper in 2005.

Last week, there was a voice message: “Hi guys! Newsflash. My brother will be in San Diego for a job tomorrow, and I am coming out to meet him. It would be so nice to catch up. The Coconut… out.” Mark and I looked at each other and smiled. I picked up the phone and called our eccentric friend back with an invitation for dinner at “our” place the next day, which was the evening before Thanksgiving. That particular afternoon was spent cooking a few things for “Turkey Day”, since we had plans for those daylight hours already, and doing some prep work for the evening’s dinner to not waste much time in the kitchen while having guests.

Thanksgiving apple pie, made from scratch

John and his brother Ron showed up at 5pm and it was a wonderful reunion, three years later, almost to the date we last saw Mr. Coconut in Maupiti. We shared stories, laughter and good food. Then, we all went for a walk in the Liberty Station District, where Ron used to work as a painter while it was still a Navy base. Both brothers grew up in San Diego and have fond memories of it. They are healthy, happy, transient, adventurous people, still working full-time, while living a life less ordinary… at 76 and 73 years of age!

Mark, Ronny and Johnny in San Diego

A whole month of our three-month house sit in San Diego has passed already. Time is flying by much quicker than it did last winter, when Mark and I were taking care of Herk in Northern California for the same amount of time. The reason: San Diego offers more entertainment and social encounters than the suburbs of Rocklin. While we were socially deprived there, which really bugged us for the first time in our house sitting “career”, that will not happen in this city!

Amy cuddling Elvis

Our arrival in Southern California started off with a bang in the desert, meeting blogging friends on the way here. Our friend Amy, who we met on our year-long RV excursion to Mexico and Central America 12 years ago and who lives “on the other side of the hill”, came by twice already. She is a lifetime member (and soon to be conservation studies graduate) of the San Diego Zoo and gifted us four free passes to explore the two wildlife parks for my birthday. Isn’t she awesome?

Polar bears in San Diego Zoo

Last but not least, my blogging buddy and San Diego resident Janis visited me once at home. And, as the cherry on top, she and her husband invited Mark and me to a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner at her amazing home in the hills. Yeah… we will not be socially deprived, or miss out, in an amazing city like San Diego!

If you’d like to read about our visit to Maupiti on our sailboat, share our wildlife and scenery experiences and see some spectacular photos, click here and here.


  1. I’ve always enjoyed my visits to San Diego and sounds like it’s been the perfect house sit for you guys. That pie looks amazing!

    • We love being here, Ingrid, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is warmer in Phoenix right now, based on your last blog. I’d enjoy wearing shorts, but it is a tad too chilly for that. 🙂

  2. Coconut looks like a right old character 😎 Liesbet what amazing experiences you two have had!! Awesome!

    • He is a character, alright. 🙂 And, we enjoyed meeting him then, and now, despite the very different circumstances and locations.

  3. Sounds like a real social whirl you have this time! Time flies in the blogging world, I remember you writing about Herk and your “social deprivation” worries, but that doesn’t seem like a year ago.

    • Time does fly, unfortunately. I remember getting this 30 days for $30 yoga deal last year, in the hopes of meeting people before the holidays to, hopefully, not just be by ourselves. My attempt was successful when it came to exercise, but failed on a social level. Definitely, a year ago… 🙂


    December 1, 2017 at 15:06

    Anyone going by the name of “Johnny Coconut” has to be a real cool guy! I’m so glad that you are having a great social life in California. You very much deserve it!

    • Thanks, Donna. It is definitely a positive change from usually, but it also makes time fly even faster. 🙂 I have a feeling John is not called Johnny Coconut in California. Or, maybe he is…

  5. “The Coconut… out.” Oh my gosh! I can’t imagine the excitement you and Mark experienced when you heard that message. What a special Thanksgiving. I loved this post, Liesbet!

    • Thanks, Jill. We have met some characters over the years, while living on our boat. Still being in touch with Johnny Coconut is quite special. He is doing effort to keep it that way and it was nice to catch up in person, the other day.

  6. He sounds a right character! Great to make connections like that, Liesbet, and to be able to stay in touch, however spasmodically. 🙂 I enjoyed the story, and Maupiti looks beautiful.

    • Maupiti is a unique island in an already unique part of the world, Jo. We probably will never make it back there, so it is nice to have the photos and memories. And, contacts. 🙂

  7. After hearing your story about Johnny Coconut, I’m so happy to have a visual now… what a character (the world needs more characters). We sure enjoyed having you and Mark over for Thanksgiving! And, in case anyone was wondering, that beautiful pie was delicious!

  8. With experiences like this, and your ability to bring a ‘character’ to life, you’ve got your memoir sewn up, Liesbet!

    • Or, the next one… since Johnny did not make this memoir. I actually ought to write a short story book about some of the characters we met over the years!! Or, a novel based on these characters. 🙂 Lots of ideas, believe me.

  9. So fun – I can’t wait to meet my first blogging friend! (Not sure when or where, though!)

  10. My brother lives in Carlsbad. He texts me photos of beautiful sunsets regularly. It’s so beautiful there. And yes, so many things to do. I like the San Juan Capistrano Mission, it’s so peaceful there. Have a wonderful “sit”

    • I visited that mission by myself, earlier this year, when we had a short sit in Costa Mesa, near Huntington Beach. Very beautiful and peaceful, indeed! Sunsets over the ocean are quite something else, and, even after living on a sailboat for eight year, I never tire of them. My husband discards them much easier. 🙂

  11. Your memoir is going to be so great with stories like the one of meeting Johnny Coconut!

    • Oh Ellen… You have no idea how many things I would like to write about. Unfortunately, my memoir is getting out of hand already, the way it is, so I’m afraid the characters like Johnny will have to wait for another book. I’m glad that I did manage to write an article about him a couple of years, though.

  12. I’m so glad SD is treating you well! It’s a lovely place and because most of our family lives there, we go there 2-3 times a year. Heard you had a WARM Thanksgiving. Hope it was fun talking turkey again with Janis! A few short weeks and we will be there too! We’ll have to meet up at Coronado Dog Beach (and beyond)!

    • Lucky you to have family here in San Diego, Terri – it’s the perfect reason to visit often. Thanksgiving was amazing with a fun, hot day at the zoo and a very enjoyable evening with Janis and Paul. Hard to beat! We just went to the Coronado Dog Beach for the first time last weekend, to walk the pups. Very nice! Yep, we will definitely meet up there, or here, or elsewhere. 🙂

  13. How bizarrely wonderful to reconnect with special people you encountered half-a-world away and many years ago!

    • It actually happens quite often for us, because we met a lot of people from all over the world during our extended travels by boat and camper, and, because we live a very nomadic life now, passing through areas where previously made friends now live, visit family/friends or travel through. We love meet-ups like this! 🙂

  14. Wow, isn’t it amazing when we meet people on one side of the earth and they come back into our lives somewhere else? I loved the story about Mr. Coconut, lol. Seems you’re having a fabulous time. Enjoy Liesbet! 🙂

    • Thanks, Debby. San Diego is treating us well! And, it is nice to have friends around for a change… 🙂 Congrats again with the release of your newest memoir. Looking forward to snatching it up and reading it one of these weeks!

  15. Although I have not travelled extensively like you have Liesbet, I have moved quite a few times and have friends and former colleagues scattered all over North America, and a few in other parts of the world. Sometimes it just takes a willingness to make that call and reach out. On our recent trip to Germany, I was able to get together with a niece and her partner who are living in Warsaw. It was awesome!


    • Sounds like you had a wonderful time catching up with family in Europe! I do love those connections and the way meetings work out after getting in touch and a bit of effort on both sides. I do enjoy knowing people all over the world as well – hard to keep up with them all, but whenever we plan to be in “the neighborhood, it sure is wonderful to catch up!!

  16. Love that name, Johnny Coconut! 😀 I wonder how he adjusted to moving back to the States, after so many years in a small slice of paradise?

    • As long-term tropical cruisers, we understand that the “politics” and lifestyle on remote islands can get tiresome after a while. That is what happened to Johhny Coconut, before he moved back to the smallish community of Morro Bay in California. He is still living a very chilled life, only making money when he needs to and trying to save for the future, without having crazy spending habits. 🙂 He loves where he lives now, but I’m sure he misses some aspects of the tropics and “paradise”, just like us/

  17. San Diego has long been on my bucket list, and Maupiti looks absolutely gorgeous. What wonderful adventures you’ve had.

    (And you make a nice-looking pie too.)

    • Too many adventures to write about… 🙂 And, more to come, so I better get this memoir finished. I hope you get to visit San Diego one of these years. The city has so much to offer, and it is sunny! Planning a “things to see and do in San Diego” blog soon.

  18. I visited San Diego twice and had a fabulous time there, Liesbet. So pleased that you met up with Johnny Coconut again, and got the chance to meet his brother. They must have loved reliving their memories of San Diego again.

    • I had no idea you ventured all the way here, Hugh. Such a wonderful US city to visit and be for a while. And, we hope to see those brothers again one day, on our adventures throughout the country.

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