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Adrift, 76 days lost at sea

Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by melbo, Nov 13, 2010.

  1. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    I read Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea yesterday and have to say that it was a riveting book. The day by day notes he took were great and the Mindset it took to stay sane was right up there with the survival mindset it takes to survive many other situations.

    I highly recommend this book if you haven't read it.

    From Wikipedia:

    Callahan departed Newport, Rhode Island, USA in 1981 on Napoleon Solo, a 6.5 meter sloop he designed and built himself, singlehanded the boat to Bermuda, and continued the voyage to England with friend Chris Latchem. He left Cornwall that fall, bound for Antigua as part of the Mini Transat 6.50 single-handed sailing race from Penzance, England, but dropped out of the race in La Caruna, Spain. Bad weather had sunk several boats in the fleet and damaged many others including "Napoleon Solo". Callahan made repairs and continued voyaging down the coast of Spain and Portugal, out to Madeira and the Canaries. He departed El Hierro in the Canary Islands on January 29, 1982, still headed for Antigua. In a growing gale, seven days out, his vessel was badly holed by an unknown object at night storm, and became swamped, although it did not sink outright due to watertight compartments Callahan had designed into the boat. In his book, Callahan writes that he suspects the damage occurred from a collision with a whale. Unable to stay aboard "Napoleon Solo" due to it being full of water and getting overwhelmed by breaking seas, he escaped into a six-person Avon inflatable life raft, measuring about six feet across. He stood off in the raft, but managed to get back aboard several times to dive below and retrieve a piece of cushion, a sleeping bag, and an emergency kit containing, among other things, some food, navigation charts, a short spear gun, flares, torch, solar stills for producing rainwater and a copy of Sea Survival, a survival manual written by Dougal Robertson, a fellow ocean survivor. Before dawn, a big breaking sea parted the life raft from "Napoleon Solo", and Callahan drifted away.[2]

    The raft drifted westward with the South Equatorial Current and the trade winds. After exhausting the meager food supplies he was able to salvage from the sinking sloop, Callahan survived by "learning to live like an aquatic caveman." He ate primarily mahi-mahi as well as triggerfish, which he speared, along with flying fish, barnacles, and birds that he captured. The sea life was all part of an ecosystem that evolved and followed him for 1,800 nautical miles (3,300 km) across the ocean. He collected drinking water from two solar stills and various jury-rigged devices for collecting rainwater, which together produced on average just over a pint of water per day.

    No rescue was initiated from Callahan's use of an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and many flares. EPIRBs were not monitored by satellites at the time, and he was in too empty a part of the ocean to be heard by aircraft. Ships did not spot his flares. While adrift, he spotted nine ships, most in the two sea lanes he crossed, but from the beginning, Callahan knew that he could not rely upon rescue but instead must, for an undetermined time, rely upon himself and maintaining a shipboard routine for survival. He routinely exercised, navigated, prioritized problems, made repairs, fished, improved systems, and built food and water stocks for emergencies.

    On the eve of April 20, 1982, he spotted lights on the island of Marie Galante, south east of Guadeloupe. The next day, his 76th afloat in the raft, fishermen picked him up just offshore, drawn to him by birds hovering over the raft, which were attracted by the ecosystem that had developed around it. During the ordeal, he faced sharks, raft punctures, equipment deterioration, physical deterioration, and mental stress. Having lost a third of his weight and being covered with scores of saltwater sores, he was taken to a local hospital for an afternoon, but left that evening and spent the following weeks recovering on the island and while hitchhiking on boats up through the West Indies. He found within his journey many gifts and profoundly positive elements as well as suffering, describing it at one point as "A view of heaven from a seat in hell." He still enjoys sailing and the sea, which he calls the world's greatest wilderness. Since his survival drift, he's made dozens of additional offshore passages and ocean crossings, most of them with no more than two other crew.
  2. Quigley_Sharps

    Quigley_Sharps The Badministrator Administrator Founding Member

    wow I think I will give that one a shot.
  3. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    He used a spear gun to catch Mahi mahi's that came to live under his raft. Shot flare after flare at passing ships and they didn't see him. Pretty cool read.

    The only thing that saved his life after he hit the whale (or whatever), and his boat started to go down was that he went back in to the sinking craft and grabbed his Go Bag. Without some of that stuff he would have perished.

    From researching him after I finished the book, it looks like he made a production life raft that would be better suited to the one he had. "The Clam" but it also looks like they stopped making it.
  4. vja4Him

    vja4Him Monkey+

    Thanks! I think I'll get the book for my dad. He worked at sea for many years, and was totally in love with the sea ... He survived numerous storms and even shipwrecks ....
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2015
  5. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    Callahan had a copy of Sea Survival, A Manual by Dougal Robertson with him. It was another 'must have' according to Callahan.
  6. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    Poon Lim, the record to beat

    Cetainly 76 days is a long time to stay alive after having to abandon ship, but as far as I can tell, 133 days adrift is the record to beat, set by Poon Lim during WWII. His story told in the book "Sole Survivor" is an astounding tale. I have the book, and although it has been aa long time since I read it last, it is a most remarkable story...good inspiration for any survival monkey.

    Poon Lim - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Sole Survivor: A Story of Record Endurance at Sea by Ruthanne Lum McCunn - Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists

    Sole Survivor by Ruthanne Lum McCunn on Audio Download, Audio CD, Audio Cassette, MP3 CD
  7. bigmuny

    bigmuny Monkey+

    This guy was experienced????

    I am always blown away by these people who take it for granted their experience can overcome stupidity...Out in the middle of the ocean in a Storm throwing your little craft every which way and he lays down to go to sleep??? Am I missing something here...he doesn't put on a life vest during this time, nor does he stay awake just in case mind you his boat is ripped apart and he needs his quick wits. He has no conscious plan about what he would do in any kind of scenario..his life raft is not properly equipped with food, water or radio and his WWII solar still he has no clue how to work it...then he has to go back to his boat to try and salvage some life sustaining equipment and almost gets caught in the locked door that was slammed behind him that he did not have the forsight to think about. Yeah Steve you were really prepared for this trip but not for any emergency. Why was that..I mean you are an intelligent guy and I am not playing hindsight is 20/20 here..My Jeep is always loaded for just about any emergency..caught in a storm, caught in a snow storm, in a vehicle accident, whatever, I am ready to help myself and others if need be..I just can't understand why someone like him would be so unprepared when one has no one to depend on but yourself and you let yourself down...you weren't there to help you. I hope you have learned a lesson in that venture...not only was your raft deflated so was your ego...
  8. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    I wouldn't be so hard on the guy. He survived. If ever there were a test of a man's ability to overcome (or woman), actually surviving is all that it takes to pass that test. It doesn't matter how or why, only that you win and the forces of nature lose. A person could be prepared for EVERY circumstance imaginable and mother nature can still throw a wrench in the gears. The true mark of a person's potential and will to survive is NOT located in their bug out bag or medic kit or car ensemble; the real survivalist is confronted with the unexpected and can perform well enough to survive. This means that there is no "perfect tool" for every situation. You cannot limit yourself to the equipment you have. One day, you just might find that you don't have your precious kit. This is what separates the men from the boys.
  9. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    Survival's a fight with what you have not what you could've

    Or the living from the dead!
    Well said, Brokor.

    Cheers from Chelloveck
  10. rondilliner@gmail.com

    rondilliner@gmail.com On Hiatus Banned

    Steve is a lucky man. Steve is an idiot. Did he really sail a boat without lifelines? Did he really not have an EPIRB? Did he really not know how to use a sea still? That Steve is still alive is (almost) an insult to all of the educated sailors who have sailed and died. Shame on Steve for making money on his ignorance.
  11. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    His boat wrecked in 1982... What EPIRB GunKid/Meyah?
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