Sailor’s Story: Stranded At Sea Off The Bahamas

Tuesday 12th, October 2010 / 08:27 Published by
in Travel

For 10 years, Bill Archer daydreamed and planned his voyage across the Atlantic Ocean and back. In none of those dreams did watching his boat sink in a stormy sea off the Bahamas figure into the itinerary.

“It really defies description,” the 32-year-old mariner told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer in New York on Wednesday. “The wind was howling, the waves are slamming into you, especially on the makeshift rig that I had. It was all I could do to stay in the same place.”

He came dressed for his interview in jeans, an earth-toned sweater and a knit hat. A sea-dog’s growth of ungoverned beard decorated a face that showed the effects of losing 18 pounds during his ordeal.

During the last seven days of his battle with the sea, he had no solid food to eat and only water to drink. For the final four days, he had no food at all.

The final storm he described was a monster that hit his battered, 39-foot sloop, “Alchemy,” on New Year’s Day off the Bahamas, two days before he was rescued by a passing oil tanker just as his boat was sinking. He said he was told it was the worst winter storm in those waters in 30 years.

It was the knockout blow to his ship, which had been hammered by repeated storms for six weeks as he tried to complete the last leg of his odyssey from Cape Verde north of Africa to the Caribbean island of Antigua.

“On any long-distance cruise, the boat starts to deteriorate,” said Archer, who makes his living as a sailing instructor in Fort Lauderdale. “You start losing gear from the first day. But things really started getting bad a week out of Cape Verde. Storm after storm hit, the boom broke, and then the spinnaker pole I rigged up for a jury-rigged, makeshift boom ended up breaking. It was one thing after another.”

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