84-Year-Old Crossing the Atlantic on a Raft

Feb 15, 2011
Outside Magazine

The An-Tiki, courtesy of http://gasballoon.com/antiki/                         The An-Tiki, courtesy of gasballoon.com/antiki/

When 84-year-old captain Anthony Smith arrives in the Bahamas after successfully crossing the Atlantic in a 40-by-18-foot raft made out of plastic water pipes, he plans on announcing himself with a sense of humor.

"We're going to put a giant 'elderly crossing' sign on the sail," Smith told the Telegraph.

Smith took off for the planned 73-day crossing in January with a cane, a necessary accessory since he was run over by a van years earlier. He found his crew the old-fashioned way, by putting a classified ad in the Telegraph.

Fancy rafting across the Atlantic? Famous traveller requires 3 crew. Must be OAP. Serious adventurers only.

The truth is that Smith is no joke. He was the first Briton to cross the Alps in a hot air balloon, explored the Amazon in a dugout canoe, was in the Royal Air Force, and worked as a science correspondent for the The Daily Telegraph.

Smith set sail to prove that the elderly still have a sense of wanderlust they can act on. 

"Most people my age are happy with a trip to Sainsbury's every Tuesday, or maybe helping out fixing the church hall roof," he told the Telegraph in August. "What I want to show is that you don't have to be satisfied with a trip to the supermarket. You can do other things."

He also set sail to raise money for a non-profit close to his heart, WaterAid. The crew has been blogging since before their departure. Below are a few excerpts...

To be on a raft at sea is to be on a snooker table whose frame rests on a bouncy castle. The structure stays happily intact, but the actual angle at any moment is the castle's choice. As for the poor balls, they go wherever gravity dispatches them, be they a desired pen, a pair of specs, a pan of food or the mere human in pursuit.

Unfortunately it is only the four of us who can grab a passing handhold. The pen, specs, food and whatever are only halted when some other thing gets in their way, whether mast, cabin, water barrel or circumferential netting.

The human balls change their colour according to circumstance. A black period definitely ensued when I realised a pernicious pharmacy had sold me a stack of hearing aid batteries all empty of energy. From now on, I will live more with my own thoughts than those expressed by others. Further blackness ensued when the toilet roll, neatly encased within several plastic bags, managed to acquire water donated by a passing wave.


Fish, courtesy of http://gasballoon.com/antiki/                                             Fresh Fish, courtesy of http://gasballoon.com/antiki/

We have ‘caught’ our first fish and had it for lunch today. Although we have had a line off the stern for several hours over the last few days, we haven’t hooked a thing, and our unfortunate fish literally flew onto the deck overnight. He is the first flying fish we have seen, although we have seen one or two flying over the waves this morning. He did not provide much of a meal as he was only about 7 or 8 inches long, and by the time Dave had filleted and fried him there was not a lot left. But, he was fresh ! We attach a photo for the website.

If you want to know more about the ocean crossing, check out the captain's Web site. It's a pretty cutting-edge portal for an 84-year-old adventurer.

--Joe Spring


Filed To: Adventure, Sailing

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