The Scandal of Scientology, by Paulette Cooper | Next | Prev | Cites | Index

Chapter 7

The Sea Org

L. Ron Hubbard, flanked by the powerful, highly trained O.T. of the Sea Org, has forged through gigantic barriers ... has identified the true enemy of Mankind on this planet.
-- from a Scientology mailing piece{1}

Hubbard himself is never at any of these home Orgs any more. He now lives on the mysterious Sea Org, a trio of secret ships that sails the Mediterranean.{2} Hubbard lives on the flagship, the Royal Scotsman (also called The Apollo),{3} a 3,330 ton 320-foot converted Irish cattle ferry with LRH (L. Ron Hubbard) floridly painted on the funnel.{4} LRH, or Hubbard, has the title of "Commodore"{5} and his beautiful twenty-two year old daughter Diana, who is also on board, has been given the unlikely title of Lieutenant-Commander.

Along with them are Hubbard's present wife, four of his seven children from his three marriages, his dog, and two cars.{6} In addition, the Sea Org is a training fleet for at least 200 white-uniformed Scientologists and their children who range in age from six months to sixty years.

With the exception of the children, the rest are said to have signed a billion-year contract{7} with Hubbard (presumably to include their thetans in future lives) to help him help the world.

To accomplish this goal, Scientologists not only work for Hubbard gratis, but it appears that they may even pay to be on the boat, as many of them there are in training to become Operating Thetan VIII -- the highest level in Scientology,{8} and to reach that level costs a few thousand dollars more than it does to become a "clear."{9}

Their dedication is reflected not only financially. Sea Org Scientologists work a difficult eight hour day{10} and spend their evenings studying Scientology. Even the children on the boat work for Scientology as messengers.{11}

Life on board is hard, and punishment is strict. It is said that someone might be an officer one day and for punishment be sent to swab the decks the next. The London Sunday Times carried an item about a wealthy Californian who was wearing an officer's uniform when he first arrived at the Sea Org, but for being late, he was given dirty blue overalls and made to work in the galleys.{12}

Although it's hard to figure out why any country would complain about a ship full of hard working people at her ports, at least one country was sufficiently displeased with them to kick them out of their harbour on twenty-four hour notice. In Corfu, Greece, where the Scientologists were said to be spending about $1,500 a day for provisions and boat repairs, it would seem that the government had little to complain about.{13} But after seven months there, the Minister of the Interior kicked them out. He gave no reason except that they were declared "undesirable."{14}

The country may have been displeased with the strange behavior of those living on the Sea Org. Local people complained about seeing Scientology children of eight or nine years old being made to walk the plank into the Aegean, and one Scientology publication depicts a similar punishment that was meted out to an older member.{15} (It is not known who saves them, but since Scientologists have jobs for everything -- Director of Success, Letter Registrar, etc. -- maybe they have a "Rescue Registrar.")

On another occasion, locals reported that twenty-four Scientologists left the ship one day and marched half a mile along the quayside in "military step," wearing no raincoats despite the pouring rain.{16} One outsider, Captain John Jones, reported to a London newspaper some of the things that happened while he was sailing with one of the smaller ships. "My crew were sixteen men and four women who wouldn't know a trawler from a tramcar," he allegedly stated.

He complained that he was made to run the ship according to the Sea Org Book and that electrical equipment, other than lights, radio and direction finder, and other advanced equipment he had on board could not be used. (Probably because the Scientologists feared it would interfere with the functioning of their E-meters.) He reported that "using the Org Book navigation system based on radio beams from the B.B.C., and other stations we were soon hopelessly lost."{17}

Mystery surrounds the ship. Hubbard is said to sleep during the day, rise at 6 P.M. and is almost never seen outside.{18} Most of the people on the boat don't see him either, except for his personal staff and officers.{19} The latter have meetings with him upon written request. Outsiders are not even sure exactly where on the boat Hubbard lives, although one reporter suspected it was in the middle of the upper part of the deck where "a corridor leads to what few cabins there are with a notice forbidding entry."{20}

It is said that most of the other people sleep in dormitory-like accommodations.{21} Captain Jones, mentioned before, said the men and women on his ship shared the same quarters with only a blanket dividing the sections.{22}

Hubbard also keeps the purpose of the ship well hidden. Although he initially admitted that the Sea Org was established as a mobile headquarters for setting up new bases or correcting old ones, he now seems to want people to think they're all there for "exploration" -- not Scientology. The stationery used by the ship is imprinted with "The Hubbard Exploration Company Ltd."{23} (no address given).

One spokesman for the ship said its purpose was "basically to search for oil and gas in the Mediterranean and elsewhere,"{24} and in one communiqué, Hubbard stated the ship was in Greece "to explore and study the decline of ancient civilization and so [learn] how this current one is going."{25} Hubbard has even denied to interviewers, in the earlier days when he talked with them, that the ship or he was connected to Scientology, although Telex reports from Saint Hill were directly in front of him.{26}

Another mystery concerns Linda Hicks, a very beautiful twenty-two-year-old British blond who joined the Sea Org and then disappeared. Her father, who had a heart condition, claimed that his only daughter had initially become involved with Scientology in Las Palmas, and that when he saw her afterwards, "she ... dyed her fair hair black ... she was filthy, and her mind seems to have gone off the rails." The News of the World, which printed the story, said that Linda allegedly sent the letter below to her boy friend at home, saying she had been hypnotized on the Sea Org and had been married without conscious consent to another Scientologist.{27}

Darling Oscar

So many terrible things have happened to me since I waved good-bye to you at Las Palmas. Oh why didn't you MAKE me leave that boat, Oscar? Did you know what was happening to me? I honestly didn't know.

But I feel sick for you in Las Palmas -- do you feel that way for me now? Was it holiday romance or will you always love me, how I love you?

Darling -- what did those people do to me. They changed me, you ... saw it, why didn't you make me leave?

They make people's minds sick, they influenced me, they tried to make me change against you.

I became sick and hysterical and they put me on one of those machines [probably the E-meter].... Then someone talked for two hours to me. [The News of the World reported a reference here to her marrying one of the boys on the boat.]

I can't remember very much about it, except that after two days at home I began to change back to the old "Mummy" that you loved and started to remember things -- they were evil.

Oh my darling, what a terrible mistake I made....

After Linda's father saw this letter, he went to the Sea Org with a News of the World reporter to try to locate his daughter. But neither were able to board the ship, reach Hubbard, or find Linda. A Scientologist on deck said that Linda had had a "beautiful romance" with a fourth mate on the 414-ton Sea Org trawler, the Avon River.

The next day, the Scientologists allegedly issued a statement to the reporter saying that Linda's parents favored another suitor and insisted their daughter leave her husband. They also stated that the parents wanted her removed and sent to a psychiatrist for electric shocks (a favorite accusation of the Scientologists), and that Linda, fearing kidnapping, left the ship and fled. They added that the parents "detest Scientologists and tried to use Scientology as an excuse to break up the marriage."

What happens on the Sea Org may forever remain a mystery, since those on the ship stay for quite a while and have little or no contact with their friends and family back home. One story did leak out, however, that adds to the intrigue. It suggests that although joining the Sea Org may be voluntary, leaving it may not always be.

When one of the Sea Org ships was docked in Corfu, the London Times reported that a number of people on shore had seen a female Scientologist and her two children attempt to run off the boat -- screaming -- and they then saw her dragged back in by uniformed Scientologists on the ship before she could reach the roadway.{28} The harbor master in Corfu, a friend of Scientology, said he saw "no reason for an investigation."

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Citations & Notes

{1} initial quote [141a]
{2} ships in LA [146]
{3} Royal Scotsman is Apollo [241, 72]
{4} details of Apollo [240]
{5} Hubbard is commodore, etc. [189]
{6} Hubbard's family and cars [212a]
{7} billion year contract [187]
{8} OTs [51]
{9} may have to pay [256]
{10} 8 hour day [24]
{11} children messengers [241]
{12} discipline & story of man [241]
{13} £700 in Corfu [241]
{14} kicked out [233]
{15} walking plank [241, 50]
{16} Scientologists marching [241]
{17} Captain's story [191a]
{18} Hubbard schedule [241]
{19} who sees him on boat [240]
{20} where he lives [212a]
{21} dormitories [240]
{22} men & women same room [191a]
{23} Hubbard Exploration Company [240]
{24} search for oil & gas [191]
{25} study ancient civilization [226]
{26} (27) telex reports [174]
{27} (28) Linda Hicks story and letter [196]
{28} (31) girl who tried to get off [241]
Extraneous citation notes:
{29} (26) quote on England [226]
{30} (29) how you get on boat [177]
{31} (30) only beautiful women [177]