Book Review: Adrift, Seventy Six Days Lost at Sea

Adrift is not your typical book review that you will find @ Survival Cache.  Most of the books we review here are written by people who have researched survival and prepping and tested themselves up to a certain point.

Adrift is a true story written by Steve Callahan, who was somewhat of a survivalist but had no formal training in survival.  He was thrown into a situation where he had to rely on his Survival IQ and the gear he was able to grab as his small sail boat sank in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  The event took place back in 1982 but the lessons for every survivalist & prepper are as real today as they were back then.  Even if you have no interest in sailing or boating you still can appreciate what this man went through for 76 days lost at sea.

The book starts out with his dedication – “This book is dedicated to people everywhere who know, have known, or will know suffering, desperation, or loneliness.

Quick overview

Steve is an avid sailor who has taken to designing and building boats.  He Photo by Raymond Olascoagadecides to take a break from this work and design and build his own boat to do more adventurous sailing.  He sails his new boat from Maryland over to England to enter a sailing race that stretches from the UK to the Caribbean.  That race ends badly for him and he is forced to make repairs in Spain.  He then leaves Spain and sets out for the Caribbean again, solo.  A few days into his trip he encounters a terrible storm.  He goes to sleep that night only to wake up as his boat is being smashed apart in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  He only has seconds to grab what he can before the boat sinks into the black icy waters (consider what you might grab in a situation like this whether on a boat, in your home, car, etc., do you have your Bug Out Bag ready to go?).

He somehow manages to inflate his survival raft and grab a sleeping bag and an Photo from emergency/survival bag he personally prepped.  His raft is equipped with an additional small survival bag but it turns out to be mostly junk.  Luckily, Steve’s self-prepped Bug Out Bag is full of goodies including a small spear gun that saves his life (I think I need to get one of these).  For the next 76 days he battles sharks, weather, thirst, hunger, and his own mind while floating in a 6 ft rubber raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Oh, did I mention that he is naked the whole time?  Yes, in the middle of the night when his boat went down, old Steve was sleeping in the buff and stayed like that for 76 days (I wonder if he had sunscreen in his Bug Out Bag).

Lessons to be learned:

1.  Get packed and be ready. Luckily for Steve his Bug Out Bag was packed and he was able to grab it before he headed down to Davey Jones’ Locker.

2.  Spread Load. Steve did not just rely on the emergency products that came with the life raft.  He spread loaded some of the same items in his Bug Out Bag and it saved him.  For example, the fishing kit provided in the small emergency bag on the life raft turned out to be good for two things…Jack and Sh*t.  Luckily for Steve he had packed other fishing tools in his Bug Out Bag.  One of my favorite sayings is “If you buy cheap…you buy twice.” In a survival situation you can’t afford to have cheap stuff that does not work.  Test your gear then test it again.

3.  Estimate how much food and water you will need in an emergency situation….then multiple that by 8. Steve had food and water….but only about 10 days worth, he was out there for 76.  There are a lot of Survivalist & Preppers who spend the majority of their survival budget on guns & ammo, make sure you have adequate food & fresh water as well.  Steve had to devote the majority of his energy to catching food and making fresh water.  This almost killed him in the end.

4.  Get a good Survival Book. Steve happened to pick a survival book on sale a few years before his accident, in his words “It’s worth a king’s ransom to me now.”  Check out our list of survival books, get one….someday it might be worth a king’s ransom to you and your family.

5.  Don’t rely on governments or other people for your survival. Steve had a EPIRB Photo from (Emergency Beacon), a Flare Gun, and a Radar Reflector.  None of which worked out for him as he watched several boats sail right past him.  Steve also had a family who knew his planned route and notified the Coast Guard when he was overdue.  This also failed and the Coast Guard declared that he was most likely dead.  Please take note all of the survivalists who think “I just need a mirror and magnifying glass to survive anything.”

6.  Have a back up of all of your critical gear. Steve was extremely lucky and had several key back ups.  He had two solar stills to make fresh water, one of which broke within the first few days, and he had two survival knives and a back up fishing method which saved his life.  There’s another great saying, that’s been repeated over and over to me through the years, and that is: when it comes to critical gear… “two is one and one is none”.

All in all it was a good book.  I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it as something worth checking out to get yourself in the survival mindset.  Steve Callahan had an incredible Survival IQ and “Will to Survive”.  Several times during the book he had to use critical thinking to come up with fixes to dire situations using only the tools he had aboard his 6 foot life raft.  MacGyver would be proud.

You might also like “6 Dangerous Urban Myths About Water”

Photos from:
Steve Callahan & Houghton Mifflin Company
Raymond Olascoago

Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.

11 thoughts on “Book Review: Adrift, Seventy Six Days Lost at Sea”

  1. Can't say enough about the B.O.B. I have mine ready to go at a moment's notice, and it gives you peace-of-mind. I agree about the "Don't rely on government or other people for your survival." If you are not ready, that is YOUR fault! We are all given the same 24 hours in a day, use it to prepare for what could happen… you'll be glad you did.

  2. I read this book in the 80's when I was in school. It has been in the back of my mind since.
    I would also suggest reading up on some of the old ways of living off the land – Tom Brown, Jr has many books and Ragnar Benson. And for your long haul all the Fox Fire books are great.

  3. I've also read this book years previous… and it's always been in the back of my mind also. Survival gear is important no matter which mode of transportation you prefer.

  4. I read this book back in the 90's. If you haven't read it do so. It is a great survival story. I would rather be in the middle of the Sahara desert than lost at sea unprepared. The things this guy goes through gets really bad. He can't even sleep because fish constantly bump into the base of his raft. So read it, especially if you do any ocean travel in small boats.

  5. now you might be stuck with 3 mates in a survival situation and think some thinks are easier: read about the 'rose-noelle'…119 days in/on an upturned triamaran at sea…

  6. This is a great book! The only thing that I didn't understand was why he didn't use a fish net (drag-net) instead of a fish spear in his kit which (thanks to a fish) poked a holed in his raft, nearly finishing him! Also, why don't they supple life rafts with oars (and oar locks); there can't be anything more frustrating or demoralizing than seeing an island or a ship and not being able to propel yourself toward them! AND, why don't life rafts have solid bottoms or floors, made of/from the plastic container they are contained in. Hot or cold, being wet all the time (especially from sea water) is miserable!

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