Before penning “Adrift” or offering counsel to Ang Lee on “Life of Pi,” Steven Callahan was an experienced sailor. He designed boats. He designed his own, Napoleon Solo, a 21 foot sailboat.
Inspired by his childhood hero, Robert Manry, Callahan embarked on a personal odyssey to fulfill his dream of solo oceanic navigation. To prepare for this monumental endeavor, he diligently refined his skills through participation in smaller sail races. Ahead of his solo voyage, Callahan, accompanied by his friend Chris, conducted a trial expedition from Rhode Island to England aboard the Napoleon Solo, an experience that left them invigorated.
Upon his return, Steven Callahan set forth alone, commencing his journey from Portugal. Initially, the voyage progressed smoothly, characterized by idyllic sailing conditions during the initial week. However, the exigencies of solo sailing necessitated unwavering proficiency and discipline, with Callahan adapting to this demanding lifestyle by resting in brief intervals while meticulously managing his vessel.
On the pivotal night of February 4, 1982, as Callahan maintained a steady course, an unexpected encounter with a passing whale altered the trajectory of his voyage. The resultant collision precipitated a sudden and catastrophic breach in the hull of his boat, inundating the vessel with water within moments.
Reacting swiftly, Callahan salvaged essential supplies and deployed his life raft, reluctantly abandoning his cherished craft. Stranded in the enveloping darkness of night, bereft of his vessel and stripped of his belongings, he found himself exposed to the unforgiving elements of the open ocean.
Aware of the ephemeral nature of his emergency raft, Callahan confronted the stark reality of his predicament. With each passing day, his provisions dwindled, and the deteriorating condition of his raft mirrored his own physical and mental decline.
Despite being distanced by a seven-day journey from land, adverse currents conspired to draw him deeper into the expansive abyss of the ocean. Confronting starvation, dehydration, inclement weather, and the perpetual menace of predatory sharks, Callahan grappled with each day as a precarious puzzle of survival.
Over 76 agonizing days, Callahan endured unparalleled tribulations, navigating the perilous waters of the Atlantic Ocean until his eventual rescue… Finally, on April 5, 1982, after 76 days at sea, Callahan was rescued by a fishing boat near the Caribbean island of Marie-Galante. Emaciated and weak, he was brought ashore and received medical treatment before returning home.