76 Days Adrift - Could You Survive?

By Steve Brand | August 15, 2019

Man adrift in raft

The value of real world experience and events

At Seahaven Maritime Academy we appreciate the value of real world experience when training our students in sea survival. Our founders and training staff are experienced maritime professionals. We have spent much time ourselves out at sea, working for many years in the industry. We truly appreciate that the best training courses are based on established wisdom and delivered by trainers with expert knowledge and solid sea-going experience.

To this end we believe there is nothing like past, real world events to demonstrate what can happen in an emergency and how important training can be when things go wrong at sea. This month we take a look at the case of Steve Callahan who, back in 1981, survived alone for 76 days adrift on the Atlantic Ocean in a life-raft with minimal supplies.

I Shouldn’t Be Alive - One man’s desperate story of survival at sea

Always be prepared for the unexpected

Steve Callahan’s story began ordinarily enough, and he could never have imagined at the time the extreme events that awaited him and how this would change his life forever. Steve, an American, was 29 and already an intrepid seafarer. He had sailed from the USA to the Canary Islands and was on the return leg, back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.

Seven days into his journey, Steve’s boat, the Napoleon Solo, was mysteriously holed overnight during a gale. It is thought that the damage was quite possibly caused by a collision with a whale. He was able to launch a six-foot life raft and return to the boat a short number of times in order to retrieve numerous provisions, including a piece of cushion, some food and a few solar stills.

A wide range of supplies in such dire circumstances are absolutely essential to survival and most definitely had a critical impact on Steve’s ability to survive in the days following his being cast adrift.

With good training you can survive

It is often in moments of high stress and danger, during emergencies, that split-second decisions might have to be made which can drastically alter outcomes. Emergencies situations while at sea are prime examples of such situations. What Steve Callahan’s story teaches us is that, despite some mistakes during his time cast adrift, he made a number of decisions that ensured his survival, even though the odds were stacked against him.

Here at the academy we train you in the various aspects of sea survival that you will need to in order to provide you with the best possible chances of survival should the unthinkable happen while at sea. Maritime training ensures that you will know what to do in an emergency and be able to take appropriate action should it be required. Knowing what to do, rather than relying on guesswork when you have a very narrow window of time in which to act can make all the difference and mean the difference between surviving and being lost at sea.

Lessons learned from the experience of others

Good maritime training is vital for a career at sea and a requirement for many roles. We appreciate the benefit of learning from the experiences of individuals who have been tested to the limit in genuine emergencies. We encourage all of our students to watch, listen and learn from the experiences of survivors such as Steve Callahan. Take note of what worked for them and what didn’t and analyse the way that these experiences relate to your training.

Steve Callahan

The video above provides a detailed account of the sinking of the Napoleon Solo and the 76-day struggle for survival that followed.

During this time Steve came very close to losing his life. In this case he survived but only through being extremely resourceful and determined to get through his ordeal.

He went on to hold three maritime related US patents and became an authority on sea survival. He is now in his 60s and still lectures to students to this day.

Our Maritime Training Courses

Seahaven Maritime Academy, based at The Port of Newhaven in East Sussex, is the ideal establishment for Maritime Training at all levels. The links below will provide you with more information:-

RYA Courses
Professional Courses

If you would like further information then please feel free to get in touch.

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About The Author

Steve Brand
Managing Director

Steve is a highly experienced instructor with a long and impressive track record in safety-critical working environments. Training is much more than a job for him, it is a vocation and his dedication and care for his valued students is second to none.


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