What is a summary of Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea, sailing enthusiast Steve Callahan details his account of being stranded in the Atlantic Ocean for 76 days with no formal survival training.

Callahan had designed and built his own boat, named Napoleon Solo, which he successfully sailed from Maryland to Massachusetts and then from Massachusetts to Bermuda. After reaching Bermuda, he then successfully sailed to England where he entered the Mini-Transat, a sailing race with a course from England to the Canary Islands and then to Antigua. However, gale-force winds hit Napoleon Solo and damage it, forcing Callahan to dock for repairs in Spain for two months. He sets out again for the Canary Islands all alone in January.

Unfortunately, the Napoleon Solo proves once again to not be able to withstand gale-force winds and breaks apart when accosted a second time. As his boat rapidly sinks, Callahan has just enough time to grab and inflate his life raft, grab his sleeping bag, the emergency bag he had prepared himself, and his spear gun.

The rest of the book narrates his 76 days in solitude adrift his raft. He is able to use his spear gun to fish, but fish does not provide all the nutrients he needs. His muscles become atrophied; the saltwater creates flesh wounds; at one point he has to repair his spear gun; at another point he has to drain his raft of water; he has no way of signalling passing ships for help; and his mental state frequently shifts from feeling optimistic to total despair. He becomes more optimistic though as he begins to enter warmer waters.  

It's in late April that Callahan first sees land. A day later, on the 76th day of his ordeal, he is seen and saved by fishermen near the Caribbean island Marie-Galante. He dedicates his book to "people everywhere who know, have known, or will know suffering, desperation, or loneliness."

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