Forty years after the rescue

Published on May 12th, 2021

When Steven Callahan left Maine in January 1981 on Napoleon Solo, a 6.5-meter sloop, for a solo sail to the Canary Islands and back to America, he was planning to fulfill a childhood dream and thought he had prepared for all contingencies.

Callahan was 29 when he started what he later described as an “exhilarating crossing” of the Atlantic and made it safely across the sea. On January 29, 1982, Callahan left the Canaries for the sail back to America. The first week of the return journey, Callahan said, “was smooth trade-wind sailing, and when a gale started, I wasn’t too concerned. I knew the boat, and I’d been through much worse.”

Later, on the night of February 4, 1982, something—”­probably a whale or a large shark,” Callahan ­recalled—smashed into Napoleon Solo with a deafening bang and opened a hole in the hull.” Callahan was forced to evacuate to a life raft and spent the next 76 days lost at sea, an ordeal he described in greater detail in his book Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea.

Callahan’s life since being adrift at sea has been a mix of highs and even more life-threatening challenges. “While I was stranded at sea, I had a lot of time to think,” Callahan recalled recently from his home in Maine. “I regretted every mistake I’d ever made. I was divorced and felt I had failed at human relations in general, at business, and even at sailing. I vowed that if I was found at sea, I would do a better job with my life.” – Full report

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