In June 2011 All At Sea published a remarkable front cover: an aerial shot of the ocean-going raft An-Tiki as she approached St. Maarten after a 2000 mile voyage from the Canary Islands. The raft’s arrival caused a media storm.
In April, An-Tiki left Sint Maarten to continue her voyage to Eleuthera in the Bahamas. I was onboard the boat that towed the raft out to sea and watched as the crew of adventurers, led by 86-year-old Anthony Smith, hoisted the single square-sail and sailed off to the north.
People have asked why An-Tiki’s arrival in St. Maarten generated such world-wide media attention. Well, here was a crew taking on the mighty Atlantic in a frail-looking craft. They were using the voyage to draw attention to the water crisis facing much of the Third World and to raise funds for the charity WaterAid. As if that wasn’t enough, the crew was led by a slightly eccentric octogenarian who, like Antarctic explorer Sir Earnest Shackleton, found a crew to sail with him by placing an ad in a newspaper.
Once the fuss surrounding the raft’s arrival died down, Smith and his crew dispersed and An-Tiki spent a year in the Simpson Bay Lagoon. On his return—with a new and untried crew— Smith found the raft in good condition, although there was some work to be done. Members of the St. Maarten business community rallied to the cause. An-Tiki was hauled out by the Krause Sea Lift at St. Maarten Shipyard for maintenance and repairs. Haul out and repairs were donated by the yard along with free dockage, water and electricity etc., up to the day of departure.
While the raft was in the yard, David Hilldred, her skipper from the Atlantic voyage, flew in from Tortola. He inspected the raft and pronounced her fit for sea. During the same week, Budget Marine presented Smith with a 40hp outboard motor in honor of his 86th birthday. The outboard would be an additional safeguard when the raft approached the rocks and cays of The Bahamas.
The raft’s navigation and communications equipment was serviced an upgraded and on Thursday April 5th, the night before departure, An-Tiki was tied to the dock at the St. Maarten Yacht Club where they held a farewell party and the raft went on display to the public.
The crew joining Smith for the voyage to Eleuthera was very different to the one that crossed the Atlantic. On the raft were Brazilian sailor and photographer Bruno Sellmer, and husband and wife Leigh and Nigel Gallaher, from Boston. Also crewing was camerawoman Alison Porteous, a friend of Smith’s for over 30-years.
Porteous, who owns and operates a hotel on Bulago Island in Lake Victoria, Uganda, spent many years as a camerawoman filming the wars in Africa. Filming the raft from the towboat, I asked Porteous if she was worried about the voyage.
“No,” she replied, “I don’t have a problem with fear. Anthony invited me by E-mail and I replied ‘yes, yes, I’ll be there’. I love filming and I feel this is a nice return to that old career.”
Porteous says she is also writing a novel based on her experiences on the raft.
Nigel Gallaher was rather more apprehensive yet claimed he and his wife were looking forward to the challenge. “We the think the voyage is potentially dangerous but we are getting older and how often does one have a chance like this. This is an opportunity we cannot possibly pass up,” he said.
For Smith, the voyage is more than an adventure. Smith is the author of over 30 books, including ‘Survived’, in which he wrote a vivid account of two sailors who survived 70 days at sea in a jolly boat (life boat) after their merchant ship was torpedoed in 1940. The two sailors eventually landed on a beach on the island of Eleuthera—An-Tiki’s destination.
Editor’s note: As the magazine went to press, An-Tiki had landed in Eleuthera. Look for the final chapter of this remarkable story in the July edition of All At Sea.
Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea. He is a presenter on Island 92, 91.9 FM, St. Maarten, and the author of the thriller/sailing adventure Caribbean High. To find out more, visit: garyebrown.net