Thursday, October 17, 2013

Book review: "Adrift" by Steven Callahan

I mean no offense to author Steven Callahan, but if anyone had to be lost at sea, I'm glad it was him.

After reading Callahan's "Adrift," I have to believe that he is probably the ONLY person who could have survived for 76 days alone on a raft in the Atlantic.

Callahan was cast adrift when his sailboat suddenly sunk near the Canary Islands. He didn't survive by chance. As the book shows, he was smart, inventive, determined and persistent.

At first, I wondered if this book might get monotonous perhaps it would be just day after day of idle drifting with no sign of rescue. In fact, Callahan does an excellent job showing how each day brought fresh problems and challenges.

He struggles at first to catch fish, then triumphantly succeeds. When the point of his spear is lost he improvises with a butter knife. He struggles to collect fresh water, trying and modifying several devices. He fights off sharks, and then wrestles with hallucinations, nightmares and depression.

At one crucial point he spends four days trying to fix a nearly disastrous hole in his raft.

Callahan may go into too much detail at times, describing for example, the intracacies of how his solar sill worked. But readers can skim past these parts if they wish.

I admire Callahan for his humbleness and I appreciate his brief moments of philosophy. Midway through the book he writes:

"The freedom of the sea lures men, yet freedom does not come free. Its cost is the loss of the security of life on land. ... Sailors are exposed to nature's beauty and her ugliness more intensely than most men ashore. I have chosen the sailor's life to escape society's restrictions and I have sacrificed its protection. I have chosen freedom and have paid the price."

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