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post #26 of Old 10-06-2010
The Elephant
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Okay, I just finished reading another stuck-in-the-damn-liferaft-for-months book called "66 Days Adrift" by a guy named Butler. This one was about this dude's wooden cutter being holed by pissed-off pilot whales 1200 miles west of Costa Rica. Their yacht went under in 30 minutes and he and his wife took to a coastal-rated life raft (rated to about 2-weeks of usefulness) - because he'd cheaped out on the purchase. This rating was immediately threatened by a 3-inch tear in the main tube by the pushpit rail as they were loading. They patched it with a couple of these things:

Which worked surprisingly well for a very long time.

Overall, this book wasn't as good as Callahan's as these people were not nearly as likable. But it was a bit more current and, therefore, a better perspective on gear and technique.

After reading two of these now, there seem to be some very interesting lessons:

1. You most likely won't starve. Fish are always around, as are sharks, so there seems to be a pretty constant supply of sushi. Callahan (Atlantic) used a slowly decaying spear gun throughout his 76 days - and Butler (Pacific) simply put on a glove and grabbed trigger fish out of the water! Amazing. They all lost over 1/3 of their body weight, but were in remarkably good condition at the end of it.
2. Sharks are always around, and often very aggressive, but rarely do they just eat the raft and it's yummy, chewy center. The Butlers were harassed by mid-sized sharks far more than Callahan was, with those sharks continuously smacking the raft with their tails (enough that they thought the raft would come apart) and spraying the raft to mark it (which was a new one to me). But, even as the Butlers became too tired to beat the sharks away, the sharks didn't become any more aggressive than they had been. The most damage done to the raft by a beastie was actually by a dolphin when a pod of them were feeding on the hundreds of trigger fish under the raft.
3. A WATERMAKER IS LIFE! Callahan only had 2 inflatable water stills. These were effective, but really sketchy and not very durable. They produced just enough water to barely keep him alive. The Butlers had a hand-pump watermaker. They never, ever complained of not having enough water, and actually had plenty stored. The difference in the level of comfort and health in this regard was HUGE.
4. Water ballast bags are freakin' amazing. The Butlers were in a Switlick 4-man (which, again, was not quite big enough for 2 to be comfortable). The ballast bags were rectangular (not triangular) with chain at the bottom of each bag. They went through some huge storms with breaking seas up to 25' and never rolled once - WITHOUT the sea anchor in the water.
5. Carry a CRAPLOAD OF FLARES AND A HANDHELD VHF. They had OVER 30 SHIPS PASS WITHIN SIGHT OF THEM WITH A COUPLE OF THEM VIRTUALLY PASSING WITHIN FEET ALMOST RUNNING THEM DOWN and none of those saw the raft - even with smoke and flares. Those big freighters don't seem to post watches at sea at all. They had no VHF.
6. EPIRB - cuts 65+ days down to 2-5. Serious no brainer.

Go to and click on the "Look Inside" link for this book. They have the full "Appendix" which is his "lessons learned" section with a lot of great info.

They've been fun reads.

S/V Dawn Treader - 1989 Hunter Legend 40

Last edited by smackdaddy; 10-06-2010 at 09:38 AM.
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