- Tuesday, 10 April 2012
An 86-year-old grandfather and a plucky crew of over-50s today set sail from the Caribbean, bound for the Bahamas, on a raft made from water pipes. They hope to raise £50,000 for the international charity WaterAid.
Writer and explorer Anthony Smith last year made history by crossing the Atlantic Ocean, on the raft ’An-Tiki’, travelling 2,600 miles in 66 days.
Smith and his three-man crew of ‘mature and intrepid gentlemen’ arrived safely at the Caribbean island of St Maarten on 6 April 2011, proving you’re never too old to have an adventure. They had been blown off course from their destination, the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas.
One year on and the former BBC Tomorrow’s World presenter and science correspondent, together with a band of new senior sailors, is attempting to complete the expedition.
The crew consists of two men and two women aged from 50 to 62: Husband and wife Leigh and Nigel Gallager, from Boston; Ali Porteous from Uganda and Bruno Sellmer from Brazil. The voyage is expected to take around four to five weeks and a further 700 miles.
Eleuthera is where, in 1940, a small lifeboat called the ‘Jolly Boat’ finally landed after 70 days sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. It had been launched from a British Merchant ship, the SS Anglo Saxon, after its sinking by a German vessel. By the time the boat made landfall, only two of the seven survivors were still alive. Emaciated and de-hydrated, they had barely sustained themselves with long-exhausted supplies and intermittent rainfall.
In the late 1990s, Smith was instrumental in securing the Jolly Boat for the Imperial War Museum in London and wrote a book about the survivors. By arriving at the same island as they did, he hopes to pay tribute to the sacrifices of the Merchant Navy during WWII.
“There is a particular beach in the Bahamas I have in mind where two heroes of mine, two British sailors spent more time on their lifeboat than anybody else, after leaving their boat. I just want to land there,” said Smith.
The An-Tiki voyage is also raising awareness and funds for the charity WaterAid, which works with some of the world’s poorest communities to improve access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. One of the crew’s final tasks before setting sail was to fill five of the raft’s 18ft cross-pipes with fresh water for drinking, cooking and washing.
“Without food a man takes 60 days to die. Without water he lasts a quarter of that time. On An-Tiki we will have ample water for our needs, yet millions of people around the world are living in places without an adequate supply,” he continued.
On his 86th birthday last month, Smith was delighted to receive a motor for his raft, from the shipping company Budget Marine. The engine will help steer An-Tiki North West against North East winds. He aims to prove, in this next leg of the adventure, that a raft can be navigated.
An-Tiki required only minor maintenance to make it sea-worthy. To make the repairs, the ten tonne structure was miraculously lifted out of Simpson Bay with the help of a Sea-Lift and St Maarten Shipyard. “We were pleasantly surprised to find her in good shape, having withstood the ravages of sea water, weather and time very well,” he added.
The An-Tiki raft adventure began back in 2010 when Smith took out an advertisement in the Daily Telegraph. It read: “Fancy rafting across the Atlantic? Famous traveller requires 3 crew. Must be OAP. Serious adventurers only.”
An-Tiki takes its name from the famous Kon-Tiki, the raft used by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl to cross the Pacific Ocean in 1947.
The crew of An-Tiki are raising funds for the charity WaterAid. To make a donation visit: http://www.justgiving.com/AnTiki (UK)