Pastor Chris Baker, Centralia First Baptist Church
Hope is an important thing. A man named Steve Callahan lost hope. Steve grew up fascinated by the ocean.
In his late 20’s, he build his own sailboat. It was just over 21-feet long and he named it the Napoleon Solo. He sailed it alone from Rhode Island to Bermuda, and from there all the way across the Atlantic to England. Feeling confident, he set out for Antigua in the Caribbean by way of the Canary Islands.
In early February 1982, about a week into his journey, things were going well. Steve was a seasoned sailor by this point and the Napoleon Solo performed exactly as she was designed. One day, bad weather caused rough seas. Large waves rocked the small vessel, but she continued slowly moving southeast toward her destination.
But, if Steve successfully reached Antigua, I wouldn’t be telling you his story, would I? Catastrophe struck. The boat collided with something solid one dark night during a storm. Steve was jolted awake to water gushing into the area in the hull where he was sleeping.
He only had time to grab a few emergency supplies and toss his life raft into the water before it sank. He had traveled 800 miles and was now completely alone with nothing but open ocean surrounding him.
His emergency kit contained a few solar stills, inflatable plastic devices that used heat from the sun and condensation to create clean drinking water. Using multiple stills, he could produce about a pint of water per day. He used a spear gun to fish for his own food, and, on at least one occasion, to scare off a shark.
Depression and hopelessness quickly crept into Steve’s mind. At one point, he said he regretted every decision he’d ever made.
Two weeks into this ordeal, a container ship passed so close he said he could smell the diesel. He fired flares, but they didn’t see him.
Two more weeks passed. Then two more. His supplies ran out and the raft itself began to deteriorate.
‘By day 50, I’d been struggling for 10 days to keep the raft afloat with a pump after part of it ripped. I was at my lowest. I broke down and gave up. But then I got scared by the thought I would be dead in a few hours; I found a way to fix the raft and it felt like the biggest victory of my life.’
That victory, though, was short-lived. Almost four more weeks passed and there were still no signs of rescue.
For the complete column, see this week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard