THE year was 1931. It was the heady days of Hollywood and film director Roland West in the thick of it. In the midst of his success, West decided he wanted a luxury ocean-going yacht.
In the shipyards of Los Angeles, construction began on a ship that was to later be the source of legend an ill-fated ship that was to be connected with at least 27 deaths before it was finally gutted on the shores of Levuka.
According to Joyita: Mystery Solved, a book by David Wright, the first death was said to have occurred during Joyita's construction when a Portugese shipyard worker allegedly died while working on the ship. As the story goes, the man's widow was said to have put a curse on the ship. That curse was referred to often to explain incidents that occurred on the ship.
The ship itself was named after West's wife Jewel Carmen Joyita means jewel in Spanish.
But according to Wright, soon after Joyita was launched, West became involved with actress Thelma Todd a woman who was to spend several years enjoying the luxury yacht with the Hollywood director.
When she died in suspicious circumstances of carbon monoxide poisoning, West was a suspect. One tale said that West had killed her onboard the Joyita before dumping her in her car in the garage.
The ship was then sold to a Milton Bacon, who kept it for five years before the US Navy took control of it in 1941 to use as a patrol boat in the Pacific. In 1943 it ran aground for the first time with he navy paying for major repairs.
It was then sold several times before coming into the hands of Katherine Luomala in September 1952. It was she who owned it during that fateful time in 1955 when Joyita would claim 25 lives at once. She chartered the boat to Captain "Dusty" Miller with whom it was said she had developed a relationship.
It was Miller who captained Joyita in October 1955 when all on her went missing.