A review of Overboard by Micheal Touglas
This is the story of two sailboats, a storm, and two men tossed overboard. The incident took place in May of 2005. The 45 foot sail boat Almeisan was sailing from Connecticut to Bermuda when it, like the other sail boat, got caught in a massive storm.
As I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but compare the experiences of the people in this story with the people in my own book 35 Miles From Shore. Now before you start criticizing me for self promoting my book in the midst of writing a review for another book, just know that it’s the first time in several hundred reviews that I’ve done this. But the fact is that there are a lot of similarities. And as I was reading I kept flashing back to interviews I had had with rescuers and crewmembers about their experiences being stranded out at sea and needing to be rescued.
As in my book, violent weather is at the root of the tragedy that befalls the Almesian. And even though this story takes place some thirty-five years after the ditching of ALM Flight 980, the rescue is eerily similar. The weather. The problems with fuel. And the added conflict of dwindling daylight.
My sailing experience is limited to sailing in a calm lake in a two person Dolphin sailboat. I don’t think I would do well sailing in open water in anything smaller than a cruise ship. I’m a pilot, but I know I would be vulnerable to sea sickness. But I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to deal with thirty-foot plus waves non-stop for two days like these guys did.
Eventually the waves prove to be too much and a decision is made to abandon ship. However, this is easier said than done in the existing conditions. In the process of launching the life raft the captain and first mate are washed overboard with only a personal flotation device (PFD) to keep them afloat. Their chances of being found by rescue crews is practically zilch. A coast guardsman in the story describes it this way. “Imagine you take two coconuts and drop them in the ocean. Then fly back to land. Then fly back to where you dropped the coconuts and then try to find them. In a storm.”
The sea has taken countless sailors who have survived one calamity only to succomb to hypothermia or worst after not being found in time. There is only one way these two men could have been found. Each PFD had a strobe light. Finding two men overboard in the ocean is ten times harder than finding a needle in a haystack. But if you were looking at that haystack and noticed a sparkle or a speck of light pinpointing the exact location, well, that’s another story. That ultimately is what happened in this case. A fading light and a lot of luck.