"They were just getting rolled by these sea swells far greater than anything the vehicle was designed for. At one point, the wire that controls the rudder breaks. On their third day the propeller comes loose," Twomey said.
After three days of trying, they pulled up on an isolated tropical beach with a broken Duck. Stuck in the jungle, their first human contact was a black man who comes canoeing across the lagoon. "What are you fellows doing here?" he asks in perfect English.
"They said, 'Well, what are YOU doing here?' And he told them that he had murdered someone in Bluefields, Nicaragua, and that basically he'd come to the jungle to live and get away," Twomey said. "So you can imagine this didn't make them feel much better."
They were determined to stick with their mission. One of their number hitched a ride on a passing coconut trading vessel. Their story got into the press. It worked its way up the governmental food chain.
"It eventually rose to the level of the president's office and JFK ultimately intervened so these guys could continue," Twomey said.
The Valiant Duck was repaired and its mission reconvened.
"They continued on for tens of thousands of miles more through South America," Twomey said. "When they went to campuses they developed some kind of silly skits. A couple musicians put on musical presentations. They also played basketball with the school team.
"It was part of this kind of friendship outreach. Of course, in some places the students were hostile -- this tended to be a minority of the students they met. But for the most part, they were received very warmly and were happy some American students had come down there to learn about them."
The Duck proved so valiant that upon its return to America the young men took it on a cross-country tour in 1962 from California to Washington, D.C. They raised enough funds along the way to be able to help pay college expenses in the United States for three Latin American students.
In telling this tale, Twomey said he usually doesn't mention his dad was a part of it until the end of the telling, thinking some people may think he's just pitching some kind of glorified home movie.
Creation of the documentary, which had a budget of about $30,000, was indeed helped by the fact that the young men on their trip shot 16-millimeter film along the way, but "my personal connection to it is somewhat incidental to me," Twomey said.
"To me it was always the power of the story that made it worthwhile," he said.
The story packs a twofold punch for him.
"One is the importance of intercultural outreach. And secondly the power of total commitment. Because so many times on this trip they ran into situations that seemed impossible to get out of -- they had mechanical breakdowns, they had no money sometimes. They had officials that were against them and wanted to stop them.
"They faced roadside bandits, some drunken soldiers had stopped them. Then, marooning in a tropical jungle. But they never considered stopping and going back. When you're truly committed to a goal or a mission, you can be amazed by what you can overcome."
It would be hard to measure the impact these fellows had on the thousands of people they encountered along their travels, Twomey said. "But it had a profound impact on each of them and really shaped their lives."
One founded a company devoted to agricultural development in developing counties. Two later served in the Peace Corps, which was just in the process of being formed then. In recent decades, Twomey's father started a program where he takes students to Costa Rica to teach sustainable development practices.
"They started out as fairly unsophisticated farm boys. But having this life-shaping experience had profound effects on their lives for decades to come and how they looked at the world and how they interacted with the world."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.