John Stall or Cap’n Squall, or “Squally”’ as he was affectionately known, was a legend in these parts, and probably best known for co-founding the Samui Regatta. But how did he end up in Thailand the first place? Well, Mad Mike Hoar, a mercenary, set up a company in Singapore called Coastal Surveys, and recruited Aussie technicians because American ones were too expensive back then. Or so says John, a Perth native, who became one of those technicians. He had just spent nine years in the Australian Navy, leaving in April of 1968, when he jumped on a boat called Nomad and headed for Singapore; ending up in Loyang, the base for rig boats and Coastal Surveys; the Changi Sailing Club happened to be right next door.

John was based in Singapore for four years, and during that time spent four years working on seismic survey boats, among them Western Geophysical, Delta Exploration and Eastern Marine who had a converted freighter that measured seismic activity while cruising the Fly River, which he entered from Daru, in Papua New Guinea. Their guide was a well-known crocodile hunter George Craig with a ferro cement supply boat named Nardi Pelican and over the years he had amassed one of the world’s largest collections of primitive art. George later moved his collection and most of his largest crocodiles to Green Island off Cairns. In 1970, he started building his first boat Songkran out of ferrous-concrete (the craze at the time) at Singapore’s Hoe Ah Lam shipyard.

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At the same time, Harold Stephens was building The Third Sea out at Jurong with the help of Peace Corps volunteers with the same material. John says that some of the other characters with ferro-cement yachts back then were Bob Stevens who was building ferro-cement yachts at Prapadeang in Bangkok and Jack Hargreaves a Kiwi with a beautiful 55-ft Herreshoff, a copy of Ticonderoga. (Jack, by the way, sailed into the Caribbean port of St. Martin one evening, spotted the mighty Ticonderoga, stealthily tied up alongside creating an uproar the next morning when the harbor awoke to see the two lookalikes side by each.)

The boat was completed in August of 1972, fitted with a Perkins diesel sold to him by visiting adventurer John Calvert, the seagoing illusionist who was installing larger engines in his motor yacht. You may recall John Calvert was washed up on the beach during Cyclone Tracy on his schooner Sea Fox with a bevy of Philippine actresses and singers. John sailed Songkran into Pattaya in November of that year. For the next decade or so, he did daily tourist trips to Koh Larn though an embassy or international school might rent the boat for a week at a time. If he was ever short on cash, he’d take Songkran down to Singapore for a proper haul out and then do some work for Coastal Surveys, or other seismic companies.

John, however, never registered his business officially, so in 1977, Thai officials told him his fun was over and he would have to start paying taxes like everyone else. John decided to sell the boat instead for US$20,000 earning back his investment, but not much more.

John was then approached by his Thai friends Manat and Rachanee Saiyud to start a tour company, called Pattaya Ocean Tours. John took the money from the sale of Songkran and bought two Thai sailing junks and four 50-ft motor boats and the company set up an office in the Pattaya Palace Hotel. With a couple of other friends, they opened a restaurant on Haad Tien on Koh Larn, and the tours would stop there every day, so the restaurant could expect an average of at least 40 people a day. The company had a minibus, a tour bus and even did country tours. John started the Koh Si Chang tour, an island he compares to a Greek island, and he had an English sheep farmer named Farmer John to take tourists on a tour of the island. Father John raised mutton for Muslims in Bangkok and his father had been the warden on a Thai island prison on Koh Pai.

In 1990, he started importing four 40-ft containers of sailboats (Prindles from Santa Ana, California, and Nacras and Lasers from Australia), introducing three new sailing classes to Thailand. He would sell them out of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club (RVYC), who held races on the weekend. When he wasn’t working on the tour company, or selling boats, John would race setting a record of 7 hours and 45 minutes while delivering a Nacra 5.0 from Pattaya to Hua Hin without accompaniment (John and his wife Wunwelai represented Thailand by sailing Prindle catamarans in World Championships in South Carolina & Hawaii and a Laser in Sardinia).

In 1982, John and his wife purchased some land in Samui and built four bungalows. But the island was somewhat lawless then and a group of nine thugs took over the property brandishing M-16s and hand grenades. John’s wife’s uncle happened to be the governor of Surat Thani province, so he helicoptered in and with 5 jeep loads of commandoes, who took the property back. The problem was that if John and his family wanted to stay on the property they would have to live under armed guard. John’s wife had just given birth to a daughter (today she works in the Australian Embassy in Bangkok, while John’s son works in the British embassy) and the couple decided it would be better to raise her in Pattaya.

So Samui settlement plans were put on hold and John leased the property to another couple for a decade who totally rebuilt it (there were only five beach resorts on Chaweng Beach back then). They then returned in 1997, when John handed over his Pattaya business, which included a chandlery, to Gary Baguley, who had set up Blue Sea Watersports at the RVYC.

In 2002, John who been racing in regional big boat regattas this whole time decided that it would be terrific if Koh Samui staged its own international regatta. So with help from his buddy Bill Gasson (who would later go on to form the Top of the Gulf Regatta) they set up the Samui Regatta, staging it in late May because there was a gap then in the regional regatta calendar, strong westerlies prevailed and the anchorages were good. Gary Piermain from Coconut Land & House came on board as the principal sponsor and the Centara Grand Samui Resort & Spa (with GM Jacques Mury), which became the base of operations from the beginning.

A number of people have managed the regatta over the years, but John feels he’s finally found the man to do it properly in Simon James, who with his Regatta Asia crew did a superb job of organizing and running the regatta this year.

There are enough stories floating around out there to fill a book about Squally. Whether it’s been starting a regatta, exploring unchartered waters, racing competitively around the world, dealing with armed thugs, John Stall has certainly lived an action-filled life.

Sadly, John Stall passed away at the end of July, 2018. Peter Cummins wrote the following tribute:

Sailor & Survivor John Stall Crossed his Final Finishing Line

by Peter Cummins

John (Frank Leonard) Stall passed away last month, at the age of 76. Too young for anyone to die - especially a "living legend" like John. I think of his life as a book: born British; lived Australian and died Thai was the index to a table of contents that spanned a panorama of the challenging life he embraced.

Among his many achievements, John was a superb sailor, winning many events in the northern Gulf at the Royal Varuna Yacht Club in Pattaya and again off his "adopted island", Koh Samui. He always aimed to be first across that elusive finishing line in a yacht race - or, in life itself.

In this obituary, I have called on the sharp memory of his lovely daughter, Jom, and freely interpose my own recollections with those of Jom.

John was born on April 17, 1942, at Retford, Nottingham- United Kingdom. In the 1950s his family relocated to Perth, Western Australia where he. no doubt, gained his pronounced Aussie accent, his unique sense of humour and a somewhat cynical perspective of many of the ridiculous features of life. (From my own experience, I can safely say, that one MUST have these two latter attributes, to survive Australian "culture").

His main contribution to Australia was enlisting in the Royal Australian Navy in the submariners service, for which he earned a number of medals and awards, in regional conflicts. Thus, John was competent above - and below - the water!

He came to Thailand, where he established a travel company called Pattaya Ocean Tours and chartered one of the rare Chinese junks ever seen in Pattaya waters. Married to Wunwelai Jiamsungtong (Pang), John and Pang established the Pattaya Sailing Center, which imported Prindle Cats from the USA, boat gear and Lasers from the UK and Australia. He dabbled in a sailing school and even established an open-air movie theatre in South Pattaya, much to the chagrin of the local mafia who "escorted" him off the premises at gunpoint.

The pioneering spirit took over and John moved to the then-pristine Koh Samui, established (and helped build) one of the first resorts, the Tradewinds Cottages on Samui's prime piece of real estate, at Chaweng Beach. Now, some decades later, Chaweng looks like Waikiki Beach in Honolulu - or, worse - Coney Island. As he had done for the residents of Koh Larn in Pattaya, John contributed much to the people and children of Koh Samui, through sailing, training and scholarship awards.

I always enjoyed sessions with John, covering a range of topics and an equal range of wines, over the Royal Varuna bar. He was exceptionally well-read and hilariously funny in his ridiculing so-called prominent figures, politicians. "hot-shots", in fact, anyone with pretensions. No public figure could escape his irony.

He even chided ME, once, for using the expression "John is a stal(l)wart in the Pattaya sailing arena", in one of my columns. That comment cost me a glass of wine and a huge laugh.

Life eventually caught up with John who had never slowed down - on land or at sea - and a dreaded metastasis cancer finally took him from us.

John leaves his lovely, good-natured wife, Pang, his equally-lovely daughter Jom and his son Patrick, to carry on the Stall tradition and his ashes were scattered on the Gulf of Pattaya on August 5th. Now, he will be forever a part of the sea he loved so well and will be a fond memory for his fellow sailors.

It was an appropriate tribute to a great sailor who avoided many a reef in his life's journey, read the wind well and knew when to tack on the numerous wind-shifts along the way!

 

 

 

 

 

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