I had waited for this moment all my life. I set off at 3 a.m. on a black and
rainy morning. My friends gathered to watch my raft sail into the open sea. My
raft was 34 feet long and 20 feet wide. Australia lay ahead, only 75 to 90 days
away. My friends waved for the last time as I disappeared over the horizon.
For the first day, I pushed steadily to the west, getting the feel of the new
rudders. Then, my first test came. The wind died. It was a terrible start for a
long voyage. As a result, I drifted south for two days. But the worse was yet to
come. While I was testing my gear, I felt a sharp pain. An old abdominal wound
was opening up again. I tried not to make it worse. I lay very still and tried
to relax. The next morning, I felt feverish and desperate. I took some
medication and tried to rest. Finally, the sails made a rustling sound. It was
sweet music to my ears. The wind had come up again, increasing quickly.
For the next few days, more trouble was brewing. The wind had developed
steadily and a storm was inevitable. Night and day, as the wind roared and the
raft pitched like a toy, I struggled with the wheel and the sails. I was blown
off course. I knew that I had to sail north to escape the rocks looming ahead of
me. Then, when I was sure that the course was clear, I finally fell asleep,
One morning, as I began the long haul of steering west again, a block on the
deck gave way and I fell. My back struck something and I lay there for more than
an hour. I could not move my legs. I used my arms to pull myself into the cabin.
I lay in the cabin for more than three days, opening a can of beans for food
from time to time. I drifted helplessly for six more days and I was sure that
death was imminent as pain spread over my back and hips.
Then one afternoon, I found that I could feel my toes. Soon afterward, I
could move my legs. I massaged them furiously and started exercising. But I
could still feel the pain. I was not sure whether my body could hold together
against the pain along the spine and the tear in my abdomen. However, what was
more important was that I could sail again. The wind helped me to make a course
to the west.
For sixteen days, I sailed west. Then, one morning, I saw what I had been
hunting - the Great Barrier. I sailed toward it, looking for an opening. I
managed to sail over the reef. After half a day, I was in deep waters again. I
calculated that I could be some 30 miles from Australia. The wind was rising as
darkness came. I dozed off, thankful that I was in deep waters again.
Suddenly, I could see a light, beckoning me to come. As I sailed towards it,
I could see that it was a lighthouse atop an island. After sailing the whole
night, I saw a long, low line of trees. I knew it had to be Australia.
Gradually, the scene became clearer. Tears blurred my vision. Through my
binoculars, I saw that it was a sandy coast. About noon that day, I sailed up on
the beach. I had come 10,500 miles and I had reached Australia. I slumped on the
beach, barely able to breathe a word of thanks to the Almighty.
I walked a mile or so to the end of the beach. A couple was honeymooning on
the beach and I shouted to them for help. They were alarmed when they saw me, a
strange old man with white beard, wearing torn and tattered clothes. They told
me that I had reached Queensland. Soon, the reporters heard that I had arrived
and the raft was shipped back to New York. For me, my
dream had finally come true and I am content with the knowledge that the
Pacific is mine.