Lost at Sea- Part One

Joy Hollowell

Updated 11 months ago

Steven Callahan’s story of survival has made international headlines and turned into a best-selling book.The Lamoine man first learned how to sail when he was 12 and started building boats not longer after.In 1981, Callahan’s love of the sea would be put to the ultimate test. ===”I’d always wanted to go across the Atlantic or some ocean on a small boat.”When he was 29 years old, Steven Callahan set out to fulfill that dream.He had been at sea for about 10 months and was on the final leg of his journey toward Antigua.”I was just about in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between northwestern Africa and the Caribbean Islands,” explains Callahan.Suddenly, he felt a large bang against the side of the boat. It rapidly began filling with water.”So there’s this huge flood of water that came in and it was filling up very, very quickly.” says Callahan. “I thought I was going to sink out right.”Callahan ran up on deck and inflated his life raft. He managed to grab some supplies.”I had a couple of cans of stuff and grabbed like a cabbage that came floating out of the cabin,” says Callahan. “And I had about 8 pints of water.”Callahan also had some equipment, including a harpoon, solar stills to make fresh water, and a log book. He knew his chances of being rescued weren’t good. Callahan wasn’t due back home for another month.”I tried to adapt to the attitude that – OK, my voyage isn’t over, it’s continuing, it may be in a much more humble little craft, but I’ll do the same things.”That meant daily navigation plots, with the help of the stars and sun.”I had a chart, so I’d plot out on the chart where I was and I helped me plan out when should I keep the best lookout for shipping,” he says.An aquatic caveman is how Callahan describes his new life.”This ecosystem had developed around the raft, fish started gathering around it.”Those fish were what Callahan survived on after he ran out of food. “As you starve, your body adjusts and it adjusts your psychology as well,” he explains. “A lot of people go, ‘Eww, you ate fish eyes and fish guts and all this stuff.’ And it seems really horrible but actually by the end of the voyage, they were the things that I most looked forward to. It was like- oh fresh fish liver, dessert.’”About two weeks out, Callahan spotted his first ship.”It looked like they were steaming over towards me, and I had this great celebration,” he says, “I’m drinking water, carefully saved water. And they just, jhut, jhut, jhut, steamed by.”8 more ships would pass by, unable to see Callahan’s tiny speck of a life boat in the vast sea. As the weeks turned into months, Callahan continued to put life before death.”I had too much business at age 30. I think I really wanted to have a chance to come back and have a better life, be a better person.”On day 76, Callahan finally got that chance. He had reached land.”These local fishermen came out from the local island, Marie Galante,” he explains. “They were looking out and seeing all these birds hovering above the raft.”Thinking that meant fish, they came upon Callahan. He calls it an emotional moment.”And so they offered to take me into the island.”But Callahan said no, instead encouraging the fishermen to finish what they had started.”It really wasn’t a rational decision at the time,” says Callahan, “it was just this outpouring emotional thing of here’s something I can give these guys.”+++Callahan ended up being treated for dehydration, salt water sores and malnutrition.He had lost about a third of his weight. Turns out, he’d drifted just 60 miles south of his initial destination.Callahan wrote the book “Adrift” about his 76 days lost at sea.For more information, you can log onto www.stevencallahan.net


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